Enough about Japan Already!

A country with a hero that looks like he borrowed your mom's canasta glasses is all right to me.
I'm NOT one of those American's who goes on and on about how great Japan is, how much better it is than America, blah blah.  It's different.  There are good and bad about both countries, and even though Tokyo remains my favorite city in the world and I love my time in Japan I'm not a blind Japan devotee.

It's cleaner here than the East Coast of the US or Europe.  I've found the Midwest and West Coast's of the United States to be relatively cleaner compared to the East Coast.  I.e. Seattle is cleaner than New York or Boston.

People are respectful not just of each other but of their surroundings-- so in Japan you'll find very little trash, very little graffiti, virtually NO pan handling and the homeless people keep pretty much to themselves.

In Japan the subways and buses are spotless and run virtually to the second here.  In fact stops usually have a countdown clock telling you when they will arrive and they stick to it.

Bus and Cab drivers wear full uniforms, complete with ties and white gloves, and they (like all the workers I've encountered) are devoted to fully performing their jobs.

Clerks in stores don't check their phones or even have chit chat with co-workers.   I'm not saying when it's busy-- I'm saying NOT at all.  They are focused on their jobs.  In unison they greet you when you walk into some stores and say thank you as you leave.   They don't flip open their phones or talk about a date they had to their baggers while you're being checked out.

The service level is ridiculous here in Japan.

For example, two purchases I made today-- the first an oversized backpack to help get back the art supplies I bought while I was here.  Bought at a Duty Free shop in a mall for 1075Y (about Ten dollars).  They had a display up and then behind the bag was the selection of ones you could buy-- they didn't have the color I wanted so I brought the display towards the front counter to ask if I could buy the one on display.

Instantly, two young men in suits (yes SUITS) approached me, and rather than try to use my pig Japanese skills this time I opted to just use English.

"You don't seem to have this in this brighter blue..."  I started.

The first young man;  "What color do you want?"  His English, better than my Japanese but pretty broken.

I point to the color of the bag I'm holding and explain there are no more.

Both young men run, yes RUN to the section of the display and pour through it, producing the bag in the color I wanted still sealed in plastic.  The first young man hands it to me, I nod and the second young man takes the display model from me and hangs it up again while the first rings me out on the register.

They bow as I leave and thank me for spending my $10.

Down the road a bit I notice that a pair of shoes I had looked at earlier in the day for 3990Y was now marked down to 2000Y (about $19.25).

The clerk, this time a young woman wearing a uniform bows to me and asks if I know my size in Japan.   I do not, and she apologizes to me.  Looks at my feet and says "big big size".  My American Shoe size is 11 or 12 and my European shoe size is 46.

She digs through the boxes and pulls out a 28.5 walks me over to a chair and seems generally alarmed that I'm taking my own shoes off to try them on.  She unlaces the shoes I'm going to try on, helps me get them on and then laces them up for me.  It's like shoe stores when I was 7.

They fit like a charm and she's delighted that she could help me.  Again, rings up the order and I'm out as they all thank me, bowing and grateful that I stopped in.

Previously at Mandarake, Rulers of Time (the greatest store in Japan) I asked a clerk if he had any old Gee Gee Kitaro comics-- he quickly unlocked the display case, took out a book, slid it out of it's protective bag and placed it in my hands to look at.  It was a first print from 1967-- worth about $600 and yet here I was manhandling it.   Luckily I know how to handle old comics but this kid was delighted to show this to me.

That's the bottom line here, in Japan people seem to genuinely love their work, or if they don't, they opt to completely throw themselves into it when they are there.

I think that's a huge thing I'll have to adjust to back in America.

Japan has its faults.  Men pretend to sleep on the subway so they don't have to give their seat up to a woman.  Women in general are treated pretty poorly.  My brother's sister in law seemed honestly shocked that I was doing the dishes when she walked into the house, taking a picture like I was wearing a lampshade and bamboo skirt.

There's a certain weird element of men in Japan, advertisements for Girlfriend apps make me think there are a lot of lonely dudes here who don't know how to talk to women.

But I love Japan and I always will.  Already planning my next trip.

Oh Man Japan!

Japan is a country of masks.

No not that kind of mask-- one of the first things that hit you when you arrive is the groups of people walking around with masks on;

Surgical masks.

They are worn because they don't want to spread sickness-- i.e. if someone is wearing one they likely have a cold.  It seems fruitless to me because the masks are those thin dentist like masks and I can't imagine they're doing much to keep the germs at bay.

My brother suspects that it's all show-- the Japanese want to show their bosses how dedicated they are to show up for work while they are sick-- and I have to say that seems likely to me.

It would be a heck of a lot cooler if they wore those Kabuki masks instead.

Now these masks would scare away germs.

The Japanese Jack Black

A few days ago I lamented the fact that Honey Boo Boo was appearing on Japanese Television, and that it was an embarrassment to Americans, well the Japanese appear to be no stranger to comedians who are basically one note, will be popular for a while and then like Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey and Jack Black will fade from the collective pop culture to be regulated to trivial pursuit editions in the future.

This guy sticks his hand down his pants and jumps around to uproarious laughter. Hey I'm a Pee Wee Herman fan so what do I know?

Sorry I've been neglecting the blog, this is a working vacation and I've been busy with client work.  Having basically a month off due to the surgery essentially ate up my vacation time.

But I want to wish all of you a happy new year, and thank you for stopping by the blog when you do.

Today is my birthday

So I'm up with breakfast watching Anpanman which is the adventures of a superhero made out of red bean roll.  He is likely delicious.

Japanese TV

Japanese TV is a lot like CNN and THE VIEW combined on steroids.
Stuff is flashing at you, hosts are present on shows that last hours, and there is often a panel of commentators who might be there because they are a cross dresser or a westerner (term for Jon Japanese) who happens to be fluent in Japanese.

Currently I'm watching Japanese survivor which seems more like the Amazing Race but without the race part, teams stand around a lot.  It appears the last challenge was to find their way out of an apartment building at a slow a d reasonable manner, all while a live studio audience watches and responds, think of it like a laugh track but with a lot of "ehs" in it.  The Japanese would love Canada, eh?

The commercials are my favorite part.

Tons of animation and wacky characters, it seems everyone has a cute mascot.

Christmas In Japan (Osu specifically)

Christmas in Japan adapts many of the traditions we American's are used to.  Christmas carols and beloved (as well as dreaded) Christmas Songs play everywhere you go-- signs remind you to buy your Christmas stuff and you play rock paper scissors against Santa at the mall while Rudolph comments on the battle with his portable microphone and a young woman dressed as an elf provides music on her saxaphone.

If you win, you get a big bag of snacks, if you lose you get a little snack.

And if you're American the Reindeer will come to you and ask you if you'd like to seek revenge if your wife loses the rock paper scissors battle.

Osu is Nagoya's crazy shopping district, home to Mandarake (Rulers of Time and Toys) and literally hundreds of different shops and food stands.

I was able to get a Taiyaki (the pancake fish I showed a few posts ago filled with red bean) this time filled with Custard, and it was so good I'm willing to jump on the subway to go eleven stops to get another one right now.


NATIONAL KID appears to be a popular superhero TV Series from the late 50s early 60s and an equally popular Manga from the time.  He was inspired either by the George Reeves SUPERMAN Tv Show or the Adam West one depending on who is right.

I found a bookstore that was carrying reprints of his original Manga adventures and the covers alone look wild.  The character was created as a business mascot (electric company?) and given his own book and show.

In the TV Series he seems to be played by a much older guy than the title would imply.   But still he's a sort of interesting hybrid between Superman, Batman and Flash Gordon.  He seems to be a bit on the obscure side.

GEKKO KAMEN on the other hand is likely the biggest Japanese costumed hero I'd never heard of.  Star of his own late 50s TV Show he's Japan's first serialized adventure series.

Clad in a turban which covers his whole face and a pair of sunglasses that complement his two automatic pistols this daredevil rides around on a motorcycle and dispatches some of the craziest bad guys short of Ultraman.

There is a TON of merchandise produced, although most of it long out of production and now relegated to the collectibles market.  Still another great character and after all, this trip is also about learning more about the Manga environment.  So much for thinking Manga is not about superheroes, they certainly have their share.

Random Japan

Don't know if it is the actual Little Best Cafe but I will try it and let you know.

They advertise hamburger sandwich and egg and cheese, I've yet to find a decent hamburger in Japan, although I've also not looked very hard since I've pretty much given up red meat.

I like this place, it's rumored the Motorcycle in this salon belongs to the owner and she rides it in there every morning.

Some tall apartments not far from where we are staying in Nagoya.

Yakatori man sets up across the street from the Hiribari subway stop. I don't eat breaded octopus balls, but I'm told they are good.  I tried octopus many years ago and found it chewy and fishy, a taste and a texture I don't enjoy.  Now the Goyza man set up about a mile down the street, he knows my name and calls to me when I walk by.

Nice little steakhouse.  Some restaurants in Japan still allow smoking, now I am well known as an anti smoking Nazi, if you ask me if you mind if I smoke at our table after a meal I'll ask if you mind if I spit in your drink because it's equally vile.  Smoking sections in restaurants don't work, the smoke is still there and it makes your meal gross.

If we walk into a place that has smoking we turn around and walk out.  One of the biggest things I miss about America is the anti smoking police.

BOOK OFF! Manga for 105Y!

BOOK OFF, There are a couple in America but they can't come close to the ones in Japan! Floor after floor of Manga and much of it only 105Y!  I think I go three  times a week and they great me by name.

Tiger and Bunny..Awesome and a bit strange.

Tiger and Bunny is amazingly designed with some really great characters.  It might be based on a boy boy romance manga but that's the joy of not being literate, I can enjoy its overall look without the baggage.

Traveling in Japan 8- THINGS AMERICANS SHOULD KNOW....

Taxi drivers wear suits, ties and white gloves!

If you're thinking of traveling to Japan there are a few differences I've observed that will help you to be less obnoxious even if, like me, you can not speak the language.  There are also some myths that I'd like to address I've heard over the years.

There is quite a bit of English spoken and written in Tokyo, in fact I was able to get along there just fine by myself with no translator.  I do have an app that gives me the phonetic spelling of words so that I can give a cab driver a location or ask someone which way is the subway.

Outside of Tokyo I've found much less English.  Although many of the signs are written with international symbols and still a lot of wriitten English, much less people speak or understand it here. Something as simple as mispronouncing "coffee" will get you a blank stare.

ENGLISH: cough-ie
JAPANESE: co-hee

So memorize those words that you'll need to use over and you should be fine.

MONEY: you can go to your bank and have them process some Yen for you in America, but I find just hitting the ATM at the airport in Tokyo works just fine.  Make sure you let your bank know you'll be out of the country though, or your ATM won't work here.

They are a cash based society, so if you're used to paying for everything with your ATM card as I am you're in for a shock.  

Bills are slightly larger than US ones, and they start at 1000Y and go up.  Anything under 1000Y will be a coin.

If you think of a yen as a penny it's easy to keep the exchange straight in your head, so something that is 4200Y is $42USD.

Because they are cash based they will not roll their eyes at you when you pay with change.  It's expected.

When you are at the register there is a little tray there, you are supposed to put the money there when you are paying, it's not polite to hand it to them directly.  They will either put your change there after counting it out to you or they will hand it to you.

Don't panic when the cashier greets you with a long batch of words, she is likely saying welcome to the store did you find everything you need? Just like we do in the US.  I always say konichiwa (hello) when I get to the register.  If the cashier asks me something and looks at me, I respond with "hi" (yes) which will get me one of the following;

1. A pair of chopsticks.  Likely if I bought a package of food.
2. A smile and a nod leading to the ringing of my items which means I said I found all I needed.
3. A continued blank stare which means she likely asked me if I have a club card or if I need something else.  Shake your head no if this happens and she'll ring you up.

They will either bag your order or put it back in your basket, if that happens there is a bag station nearby that you should go to once your order is done.  Arrigato means thank you. Say in and nod or bow slightly.

FRIENDLINESS: I've often heard the Japanese are not a friendly people-- I have to argue that nothing is further from the truth.  I am amazed at the warmth and patience extended to me as I visit a place, and when I revisit they remember me and greet me as Mister Fish.  I think the misconception is in their politeness and it's often mistaken for a coldness.

PHONES AND WI FI: you can rent a phone at the airport, since your American phone wil not work here, or you'll get hit with crazy roaming charges, it will cost you about 1500Y a day for a phone.  You can rent a dongle which connects to your laptop or tablet if you want wi if because you are not going to find much public wifi outside of the airport in Japan.

PRICES:  They list the price including tax-- so you know how much it's going to be without having to do some calculations.  Try paying the price at the register at Dunkin Donuts sometime-- it's always off by at least 15%.

TIPPING: NO TIPPING!  It's a cheapskates paradise!  They are honored to do their jobs well and a tip would be insulting.  I did manage to get a taxi driver to accept a tip but only after he went well above and beyond normal service.  And in actuality "normal" here is exceptional in America.

JAPANESE DON'T LIKE AMERICANS, ESPECIALLY OLDER JAPANESE: WRONG here too.  I have had literally dozen's of older folks come up to me and say that they are thankful for America and that they consider Boston a very smart area, so I must be smart too.  Ha!

I asked one man how he knew I was American and he said-- and I quote-- "because you don't smell like perfume like the Europeans do, you weren't loud like the Europeans and you walk like John Wayne."

Now I've seen THE BIRDCAGE so I'll have to re-examine my John Wayne walk, and sorry Europeans-- but he was right at least then, because no sooner than we finished our talk than two Greek or Italian young men walked past us, talking loudly with a cloud of aftershave clinging behind them.

More soon.

An American in Japan Part 6- Walking on Your Own...

Veronica is fluent in the Japanese language, so is my brother and his wife (she is Japanese) so I'm the only one with the language skills of a 18 month old yet I find it's not all that hard (or scary) to get around.

Like a protective Sister though, my sister in law gets nervous if I decide to go out on my own.  Veronica recently split off from us to attend a Taiko Drum lesson about 2 miles or so away.   So while Al and Tomoko and I went to downtown Osu where I could visit my very favorite non art supply  story in the world MANDARAKE (with it's slogan RULERS OF THE WORLD) Veronica headed off for her lesson.

We got back around 8pm and the note she left said she'd be out at 9 so I decided to walk up to find her and walk back with her,  Tomoko protesting that I would get lost.  Now to be fair,  Veronica and I have Japanese friends who sometimes visit us, and they have language skills far superior to mine and I get anxious if they go out on their own when they come to America so it's fair.  I also don't have a cell phone or the address of where my brother lives or his phone number so I think it's reasonable to be concerned.

But I like heading out on my own-- and this seemed like a pretty simple walk.  The one thing I was concerned about was that Veronica might leave early and come back a different way and there would be no way to reach me so I accepted the offer of taking one of their cell phones with me.  No matter that the text is all Japanese, I knew what button to press to call back home if need be.

The lesson was in a community center above a post office up a pretty steep hill and I stopped at a little market to pick up some gum (which can take a while unless you don't mind Melon or Ocra flavor) and asked them where the post office was.

They pointed me across the street where I found a little picture of a man with a mail sack, but I knew this wasn't the symbol they use for post office so I was skeptical I had the right place.  It was also completely dark, so I opted to continue up the road another half mile or so.

The neighborhood was beautiful, changing from a bustling neon clad area to a very rural looking old village type with an absolutely stunning park and a view of the city that was breathtaking.

Coming to an intersection I saw a large building which was lit up and headed towards it.  At the front door I saw three pairs of shoes sitting there-- and one of them I recognized right away as my wife's ankle boots.

I kicked off my shoes and spent a few minutes trying to find a pair of slippers from the rack that might fit my size 12 feet with no luck so I opted to climb the stairs in my socks.

Walking in the room I found Veronica with the Sensei and his assistant (wife?) and they were picking up the room.  She'd been the only student so she got a private lesson.  They were extremely nice and set everything up so I could see what she learned, and she was amazing.  Taiko drumming involves a synchronized performance with a drummer on your opposite side (or at least this method does) and Veronica was like an old pro.  I honestly think there is nothing she can't do.

We walked back through the quiet streets with the drum sticks the Sensei had given her and admired the view all over again.

Gaijin Traveling in Japan 2013 Pt 5- VENDING MACHINES

Yes that IS Tommy Lee Jones in that ad.  George Clooney is there too.

One thing I really like about Japan (and there is a lot-- and don't get me wrong, there is some bad here, and I'll get to it) is the vending machines.

Walking the 2-3 miles in 40 degree weather with a strong wind it's nice to be able to find a vending machine dispensing HOT COFFEE in cans-- some of it quite good.  Some of it gourmet even.

Each row has a color tab beneath it-- blue means its a cold, red means its hot.  Can't get much easier than that can it?   While I don't usually take sugar in my coffee-- I like the one called 90%--- 90% of what I don't know, but it's good.

But I recently spotted THIS-- and had to take a second look.

Yes you are not seeing things.  HOT Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea.  I've drunk warm ginger ale when I was sick, and even FLAT ginger ale for the same reason, but never once did I think "I should just pop this in the microwave for a second!".

So I didn't try it-- but my brother did.

We were at a subway stop with his wife (Veronica was off on her own) and both laughed as I got a coffee and noticed it.  Ever the enterprising fellow he popped in his 120Y and picked up the can-- he popped it open and started coughing the second the intense ginger smell floated up out of the can.

I shook my head when he offered me some, and like the days when we would be out on our own and he was about to do something I thought was wrong I gave a half hearted attempt to stop him.

He took a sip and declared it was the worst thing he's ever tasted.  I leave it up to you.  But I suspect somewhere in America a Coca Cola executive is laughing that you can sell anything to the Japanese.

Gaijin Traveling in Japan 4- Some things I've noticed....

A few things I've noticed, some new some same as last time I was here, some different....

1. Nobody jogs.  I was going to bring a running suit-- the flat roads of Nagoya are perfect for running and I need to build up the muscle I've lost from surgery recovery.  But my suitcase was literally so full I couldn't fit them.   It's probably a good thing-- NOBODY jogs here.  I've yet to see a single runner or a person in workout clothes.

Despite this-- NOBODY is fat.

How politically incorrect is that?  I really don't care, it's a fact.  I have not seen a single obese person.  I've seen people my size who would likely be considered overweight so there's hope for me buying clothes here if I need them, but there is not a SINGLE person over 180lbs-- NOT one.  And I've yet to see a woman over 140lbs-- and even that is extremely rare.

This is a fit country.

2. There is less smoking than before.  When I was here a few years ago I was struck by the number of people who smoke and that they still allowed smoking in restaurants.  We'll see as I venture into downtown today, but so far it's considerably less.  This excepts MISTER DONUT which I now refer to as SMOKEY DONUTS which is just ridiculous-- nothing says pass on a donut than a cloud of second hand smoke hovering over it.

3. There are no homeless.  There are no street people.  This is a country that values pride in work, that still uses shame if you don't accept personal responsibility.  This is a country where if YOUR child is misbehaving (and I've yet to see that either) a stranger will tell them to stop and the parents are apologetic to the stranger that they had to speak to that child.

4. There is pride in appearance.  Nobody, and I mean NOBODY looks like they just rolled out of bed and wandered into public.  Counter that with a recent visit I had to my local Price Rite back in the Woo where I guy actually looked half dressed with bed head and his shirt unbutttoned down to his navel just stumbling around doing his shopping.

Seriously, in that regard America sucks.  I respect our ideal of personal freedom, but we take it too far.  Stop wearing pajamas in public, stop dressing solely for comfort and consider how you present yourself.  Stop looking for the government to provide a living for you-- get a freakin' job and take some pride in earning your own way.

5. They take pride in their work.  I'm not kidding here-- this is a really amazing thing.  Cashiers do NOT gossip with other cashiers or bag boys-- EVERYONE is just working while they are being PAID to work.  And they are proud to do their job perfectly and professionally.

Imagine a McDonald's clerk that behaves like you see in the commercial.
Imagine store clerks that perk up when you walk into their business (even if they are just part time workers), who acknowledge you instantly and welcome you.
Imagine garbage men working at top speed from their trucks.
Imagine policemen and city workers NOT standing around doing road work, but actually DOING the road work.

Man, we can learn a LOT from the Japanese.  I wish we had learned some of their cultural standards at the end of the War.  Personal responsibility goes a long way towards making life better for all of us.

Gaijin Traveling in Japan 3- They Love Veronica!

Ah the Land of the Rising Sun-- not really sure why it's called that-- the sun doesn't come up until about two in the afternoon (might be a slight exaggeration) and it sets at about four-- I've said it before and it bears repeating here; there are MANY countries around the world that still feel like you're in the United States when you walk through their neighborhoods but not here.

Everything reminds you this ain't Kansas-- and I mean that in a really good way.

From the tiny cars and trucks to the architecture my favorite country outside of the good ol' USA (and trust me it's close-- one too many Snookie's in America) is a blend of the future and the past.

A LOT of it seems like it's out of the 1960s back in the states-- supermarkets open at 10am (can you picture that back home?), and people are ALWAYS dressed well.  Nobody walks around in sweat pants or pajama pants or even a baseball hat.  I've not seen one single Wangster and the Japanese equivalent is the Bon Jovi boys-- young men with legs that look like twigs with Jon Bon Jovi style hair.  But at least they are still polite.

Veronica is 7 feet tall in Japan, must be the altitude.
Veronica is huge in Japan, and I mean that figuratively and literally-- I've stopped counting how many strangers have come up to me and remarked how pretty she is or that she looks like a movie star-- I can see why she likes it here.  Understand, I'm not disagreeing-- I love her too-- but it's funny how it just keeps happening.

That's a fully grown man in front of her in line there.
Veronica is about 5'6" so you can get an idea of the relative size of things here.  I think it's directly related to the lack of dairy consumption for breakfast.  The stores have TONS of eggs but they don't seem to eat them for breakfast.  I'll explain further in a minute.

At a local supermarket-- the amazing Piago-- which is two floors of everything supermarket, food court, food stands, kiosks and a full on department store on the second floor I arrived at opening (10am) and decided to get a bite of breakfast.

First stop, a little food stand called MICKEY'S which enticed me over as he was making what appeared to be a giant OMELET on a grill right in front of me.  When asked, he explained that this was being prepared for a noodle dish served later and that breakfast options included soup with a lot of stuff in it.

The next stall over, McDonald's.  Back home I don't eat there, here a Bacon Egg and Cheese biscuit would be just about right-- only they don't serve breakfast.  You can get a hamburger, a chicken sandwich or anything else on their menu, just no breakfast.

Veronica had gotten a hot sweet potato from Lawson's 100 Yen Store (more about that in another post-- also a great store) and decided to sit and eat it while it was still hot.  I opted for a bakery stand that had a few breakfasty looking items-- including a twisted kind of roll that had bacon in it.  It looked just a little greasy so I opted for a ham and egg roll.

Or at least that's what it looked like to me.
It was actually a Cod, cream cheese and some king of gello potato roll.  The thing in the wrapper is a snack food that tastes like corn on the cob that a demo lady handed to me as I walked by.

I don't know if the Cod was raw or cooked-- and it was certainly an interesting breakfast choice, just not the one I would have made.  Put some apples and cream cheese in this amazing bread roll and you've have a nice danish.

The store is similar in some ways to Supermarkets we have back home, but with a bunch of independent vendors set up selling their wares inside.  I love looking at the packaging of even the most pedestrian of items-- the graphic design is amazing-- and the store is bustling with shoppers who are patient enough to allow a guy to keep stopping to look at the packaging of everything from candy bars to sponges.

The second floor is a full on department store-- with clothes, shoes, household items, a full newstand loaded with Manga, art supplies (every store has them) and TOYS down in the back.   There were aisle after aisle of Voltron, Ultraman, Anapanman and I even spotted two Batmobiles in what looked like old matchbook style cars-- a Keaton one and a Bale Tumbler model.

I opted for an Ultraman magazine that came with a pink Ultraman figure and an Ultraman villain from the new movie.  Both very cool.

More soon, and check my Tumblr blog in about 12 hours for a load of pictures from my travels around the city-- the link is at the top of the page.

Gaijin Traveling in Japan 2; Why they rule the world.

While Americans sit glued to their TVs watching Duck Dynasty or wait with baited breath over Snookies latest mishap the Japanese are watching cool shows about 8 foot robots built by teams of talented students with teachers for coaches battling each other in a sort of boxing ring.

While the students take it very seriously and these robots are amazing bits of technological marvels, the show is done with a sense of fun.

But isn't it amazing to watch a show that celebrates how SMART people are instead of how dumb? No Honey Boo Boo on this show.

A Gaijin Returns to Japan

Traveled this time via AIR CANADA and I can't say enough good things about them.  From the completely on time flights to the friendly staff-- not one of which uttered the words "eh" they showed what quality service is all about.

Months ago when we got the tickets, Veronica requested low fat meals due to my new diet and unlike the American carriers we've flown with before not only did they remember this they actually served high quality low fat food.

We left Boston at 9am and arrived in Toronto at about 1030 and then caught the flight to Tokyo at Noon.

It's thirteen hours on the plane-- with three meals, several snacks and in seat movies to keep you entertained.  I watched Hitchcock's PSYCHO (twice),  THE BIRDS, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, several episodes of PARKS AND RECREATION and THE BIG BANG THEORY, DRACULA (1931), a good portion of WOLVERINE, enough of IDENTITY THIEF to write the ending myself and several other films both good and mediocre.

I'd also brought with me several hours of old time radio loaded on my iPod and episodes of KOLCHAK and THE OUTER LIMITS on my iPad.  I had several books loaded and sketchbook materials with me to occupy my time.

I did manage to sleep about two hours combined over the course of the flight and if I can offer advice to fellow Gaijin traveling to the land of the rising sun take a daytime flight which will get you there just as the evening is settling in-- you'll have been up nearly 24 hours but can basically go to sleep around 10pm local time (around 8am Boston time) so you get over the jetlag relatively quickly.

I tried it the other way last time-- taking a night flight and arrived in Tokyo seeing blue gargoyles who came and told me I should get some sleep.  Not a good thing.  We were only in Tokyo about two hours before leaving for our last hour long flight to Nagoya.

The Tokyo Airport is one of the nicest I've been in, but it can't hold a candle to the Nagoya Airport which is laid out like an vintage Japanese village on the second floor and in full Holiday decor in December.  It's really beautiful.  The mascot appears to be a stubby little flesh colored fella, I'm not going to ask what he's supposed to be, but he's all over the place and available as a stuffed animal and several different figures.

There is enough here to keep you entertained for hours-- if I lived here I would volunteer for nonstop airport pickups.  Why can't Boston recognize people want something to do while they're waiting?

The roof of the airport is decorated with thousands of lights-- really an amazing sight.  You can walk up  among them and even though it's December and night time it's about 30 degrees, cold but not frigid like the weather I left which was hovering around 12 degrees.

Last time I was in Japan I almost had shorts FedEx'd to me because I was so hot (mid-October) this time I may have someone send me a hat!

Hot off the plane we were hungry and spotted a Subway-- now I'm NOT one of those people that goes to New York City and then eats at Wendy's -- but all of the American chains are completely different here in Japan-- as evidenced by this sign;

Yes, SUBWAY Japan has air cooked potato wedges-- something I've been harping on for YEARS about my favorite American sandwich chain.  I like Subway, I like that they have very healthy options, I like that the food is kind of fresh and they make it the way you want it-- but I've always whined that they don't offer a decent side- and I don't like chips.

Air Fries, like you can get near Fenway Park would be perfect-- and of course Japan has 'em.  They also have better sandwiches;

Scrambled Egg Beef Pastrami Sandwich is out of this world.  I would order this everyday if it was closer and unlike America the ingredients seem completely fresh.  I've had one too many cold eggs and stale flat breads at my local Subway, but I keep going back-- I just wish they could offer this in the USA.

The following morning I was up about 5 and decided to visit my old friend MISTER DONUT-- I like a donut shop that demands respect, and I'd like to think Sidney Portier would handle the voice of the cartoon mascot "Call me MIIIISTER Donut!"

Sadly, we've parted ways.  I walked in and was hit with a cloud of cigarette smoke-- MISTER DONUT has a glass partioned SMOKING area right out of 1967 but they appear to have removed the doors to it and forget that smoke doesn't honor open boundries, so I was out of there as quickly as I walked in.

Have I mentioned my vehement dislike of cigarette smoke?  Not only do I think you look like a fool with one hanging out of your mouth, and I recognize its YOUR choice to smoke, but I find it gag inducing and prefer you do it somewhere away from me, preferably on an island somewhere.   Oh wait, I guess Japan is an island somewhere-- so I prefer that you do it on a deserted island somewhere, okay, I prefer that you just quit and keep us both healthy- but that's enough of my fascist tendencies for today.

My new favorite drink while I'm here is Calpis-- yup pronounced CAL-PISS -- might have something to do with its inability to break into the US market.  It's delicious though, tastes like oranges and I don't know, maybe watery milk?  Yes it sounds hideous but it's quite good.

Nearby where we're staying with my brother and his wife is the Lawson 100 Yen Store-- I absolutely love this place-- you can get fresh chicken, steamed and charcoal broiled hot potatoes and black Q-tips all in one place.  They've also got pots and pans and like every store here in Japan, art supplies.

More tomorrow.