(October 1999) by Maudie Lee
Subject: Japan Trip
From: Maudie Lee. ledavisbr
Date: Mon 25 Oct 1999
Hi Bibbet and every one!
I'm Back-k-k-k! Wow! What a trip! I feel like a took a crash course in Japanese culture.
I spent two weeks in Japan and am still whirling from all the activity my queen was asked to do. We spent the first four days in Tokyo. Tokyo was the busiest city, the city I have ever been. All I saw was millions of people running from one end of the city to the next. I don't think I saw one person just ambling along. Everyone rushed with a seemly purpose. It is so crowded there, the office buildings are now building higher and higher. The streets were crowded with cars, bumper to bumper, and thousands of people bustling in every direction. The architecture was inventive. In the shopping areas, there were thousands of brilliant flashing neon signs, with large screens on the walls of the building. At night the neon signs burst in to vivid colors, they poured beers, barked Japanese ads, and splashed rainbow colors in every direction. The signs went up the entire buildings and covered the entire building. The architecture creativity was incredible. You walked the bustling streets with your head tipped backwards trying to absorb the lightning of colors, and the curious, but artful shape of the skyscrapers.
The prices of clothes, food, bedding, and jewelry were exorbitant. I could barely afford a handkerchief. Breakfast at the hotel was $25. You spent a $100 for dinner, $10-20 for lunch. Thank God we were guest of the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival or else Shannon and I would have gone hungry a few nights. We were astounded at how much everything cost. I saw a nice looking purse in a window, and had our translator ask for the cost. It was $930! I thanked the clerk, "Alligato!" and rolled out the door.
Our Queen was presented to the Prime Minister, Mr. Orbuchi, the Speaker of the House (Diet), and three ministers. We were invited to a reception that the Speaker of the House was the honored guest and many of the representatives in the DIet were present. Our Queen, a young lady who is an aide in Senator Dodd's office performed elegantly and with great poise. She is 25 and that helped. We, also, were presented to the Governor of Yokohama, and the Mayor of Yokohama. Our Queen received gifts from all the above, and she presented gifts to them. This is a custom in Japan. So if you plan to go there, take lots of small gifts, preferably about your locale. The Japanese structure is very rigid. Each gift must be according to the station of their profession. Take lots of business cards. It is an art to how the business cards are presented. It took me about three days to get the hang of it. You have to learn how to bow. Bowing is a sign of respect! Not subservient. The deeper you bow, the more respect. I was told to look out of the corner of my eye and watch how low the other guy (woman or man) was bowing and bow lower. This was not easy! O I forgot! No tipping! No where! Everything is so outrageous in price, that all the service people have their tips included. This means, airport baggage guys, hotel, and restaurants. They will probably take the money and think you are a dumb for giving it to them.
The city was clean. No smells! The trains were clean! No smells! The bathrooms were clean! No smells! I thought something was wrong with my nose, so I asked the Queen who is about 30 years younger than I, she said, "Your are right, no smells! They have Japanese bathrooms and Western bathrooms! Japanese bathrooms are in the floor. Just like India! Except! You step on a button, and it flushes away. No overhead chains!
The people are very polite, and try to think of everything that you might need as a foreigner. When we were in a taxi, they made sure the Queen and I were comfortably seated. It took me three days to realize that there are humps in the middle of the back seat. Either our translator or the Japanese Queen sat in the middle the whole trip. You get out only on the side of the sidewalk, never into the traffic lane. So scooting became an everyday occurrence for me. Transportation is by trains!
Commuter trains, subways, and bullet trains are the norm! The bullet train goes from city to city at a 125 miles an hour. When an another bullet train passes, it feels like lightning has struck you. The trains are very clean and quite comfortable. The subways are crowded. The stations are labyrinths of tunnels, some are written in English, but not always. It is the first city in the world that I have felt lost in when our translator wasn't with us. Shannon and I took the subway to Ginza, a main shopping area, and actually managed to go there and return to the hotel without any mishap, but we had use sign language several times.
I thought English was widely spoken! Wrong! You are in their country! If they speak English, they will only speak it, if they are truly fluent. The people will not take the chance of being embarrassed. Form is the truest of meaning in Japan.
I was surprised though at how friendly every one was. Most of the time th e Queen wore a sash with a small Mikimoto crown, the sash in bold letters said the United States Cherry Blossom Queen. We were accompanied by a translator (a past Japanese Queen), the present 1998-9 Japanese Cherry Blossom Queen, and the Executive Secretary of JCBA. The Exec being a gentlemen! When we were received, he always spoke first, then our Queen, then the Japanese Queen, and maybe me. Our translator always stood to the side, but was always recognized and a respective bow was given to her. We were entertained almost every evening. Restaurants, sushi bars, receptions. The days were long, starting at 6:30 AM and ending at 10 PM. The government buildings were huge, paintings hung on the walls, and full security was in attendance. We were received with great respect and interest in our Queen.
THAT WAS THE FIRST FOUR DAYS! I WILL CONTINUE TOMORROW WITH OUR TRIPS INTO THE PREFECTURES (STATES) TOMORROW. DON'T WANT TO OVERLOAD YOU.
JUST REMEMBER TAKE MONEY!
PS. The Japanese culture is unlike any culture in the world!! I had only three days to prepare, and they were spent getting my clothes ready. I depended on our Queen to lead me through some of the culture paths, but even then, I know I made mistakes. Asi est la vida!
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