6 Hours in Japan

Day late flying out to Taiwan as a result of completely bewildering ineptitude on the part of Northwest. Due to a leak in the fueling line they switched us over to a new 747 where we waited for 5 hours before being told that the flight had been delayed for the following morning. Got put up at the Four Points Sheraton… quite nice, except that upon arrival at the hotel the power was off. Had to navigate to room with dual iPhone/Storm screen light. Came back on after 10 minutes. Gaffe by Northwest more than made up by the amenities of flying business class on the upper-deck of this Boeing 747. After two mimosas, a hot towel, we’re now on to hot nuts (literally). Very much looking forward to finally getting to Taiwan, though, would have much preferred to have stayed a night in Tokyo over Detroit, but it seems highly fitting to be exiting the continental United States en route for Asia while listening to Shigeru Umebayashi masterful score for The Curse of the Golden Flower. Japanese beer ‘Asahi’ tastes wonderfully light in comparison to the relatively tasteless offerings of Miller in the Delta Skymiles lounge. Met an interesting Taiwanese couple yesterday during the delay over sushi at a Japanese restaurant in the Detroit airport. Husband had escaped China with parents in 1948 to flee to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. Fascinating what that experience must have been like as Mao and the Communists pushed the beleaguered forces of Chiang Kai-shek out of mainland China. Positively thrilled to be exposed to Asian history. Every time I try to turn the channel on the tele there’s a damn announcement broadcast in Japanese.

Finished reading Jason Goodwin’s The Janissary Tree… fantastic read. Must make note to investigate possible historical similarities between Janissaries and Iranian Republican Guard – integration into facets/functions of society/control of state apparatus.

Japan has been very interesting so far. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about a culture from its airport. Arrived at the Delta Skymiles lounge in Tokyo where I took a shower in an extraordinarily ornate bathroom tiled with granite. While alcohol and liquor are free just like the U.S.-side lounges, tea literally flows like water here. It’s iced, it’s hot, its green, and its damn good. Walked around the airport – model of efficiency. Immediately when I stepped off the plane where I had to go through security to ‘enter into Japan’ I was fascinated by even just the Japanese man checking the boarding passes at the security checkpoint. Almost bowing to each person and saying “zank you” while holding out the passport and ticket with two hands, almost as if it were a gesture of some offering. I nearly became so excited that I wanted to pull the man aside and start interviewing him about Japanese customs and traditions. Delta should really hire a Japanese historian just to give lectures in their lounges. I was amazed when we were flying over the Japanese countryside just how green and verdant it is. You can really see evidence of years of stringent environmental protection policy in action. Deforestation is almost nonexistent. It’s fantastic – and to think that the entire country is like that – I’ve barely seen a fraction of its astounding beauty. If anything this trip is definitely not going to be enough in terms of historical/cultural exposure – I’ve barely scratched the surface of the mochi ball. Speaking of which, I tasted some delicious green tea caramels in one of the airport shops.

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