When I realized that this was not comedy, I did my civic duty. I tried to explain to the management, who were wearing hats similar to Captain Crunch, that their multi-lingual menu had major blunders in its spelling. They smiled and listened carefully as I tried to explain this oversight. Then they walked away unconcerned with my corrections. As I was the only native English-speaker for miles, I ordered the ironic sandwich with flies with a pocket full of yen. I assumed a Japanese dignitary was the pawn of a demonic translator, and watched the world go by, quite literally, at the Aichi World Expo’s food court in 2005.
My first trip to Japan was memorable and included many other notable moments: Sumo wrestling, soft pink powdery candies that tasted like eggplant, a plate of chicken tongue appetizers resting on a lettuce leaf, robots, Buddhist simplicity, a complicated game show featuring two guys in white spandex unitards swimming in gray ooze, a thoughtful tea ceremony, and a brown crusty blob with red warts that was candy.
Now, I am preparing to return to Japan at the end of the month for a press trip. The plus side will be seeing the highlights and having first class accommodations. The downside is – and it is a big one – the limited amount of down time I will have to absorb the experience. It will be go-go-go for the entire trip – although this is an assumption based on my previous trip.
Here is my complete itinerary, which speaks volumes about my understanding of Japan coming from their tourism board: “We will show you around Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa.” That’s it! No more detailed explanation for a seven-day trip. What am I, crazy? Actually, this is exactly why I am going – Japan’s cultural mystery is my lure. I realize how interesting Japan and its society is to me. There is something so distant, vague and confusing, yet fun, different exciting. It is like Japan’s NTO is saying to me, “Don’t worry, you will see the dichotomy of 5000 years of tradition and cutting edge technology, and eat a basket of tuna faces in the process. Congratulations and welcome to Japan.” I might be crazy, but there is no way I can pass this up.