Sunday, March 25
Planes, Trains and Very Small Automobiles

One of the channels on the personal TV sets has a real-time flight plan... complete with ground speed, altitude, pilot blood/sugar level, outside temperature and a topographically correct flight map. It looked similar to the effect you see in Indiana Jones movies when they travel to far away places... except taking thirteen hours to complete instead of a twenty second montage of superimposed trains and single-prop airplanes.

Osaka's Kansai Airport is an elaborate marvel of modern technology built on a man-made island. Colourful "Bring the Olympics to Osaka in 2008" banners are hanging everywhere. They have my vote. Another notable technological advancement in the airport is a train to take the poor saps stuck on a plane for thirteen hours to Customs. Toronto Pearson would have you believe that a four kilometer walk is a good idea no matter where you're coming from.

Customs, baggage claim, full body cavity search, duty-free check, pretty uneventful in all. We met up with John and Seiko and proceeded to hop several trains to the mainland and through Osaka at night. Every city block looked like a scale model of itself. I've watched a lot of movies in my life. Around 97% of my knowledge of Japanese culture derives from Godzilla movies and anime. I couldn't get past my perpetual expectation that the whole street would be destroyed at any moment by the mighty foot of a radioactive lizard, a giant mecha warrior, a giant moth or a Battle Royale between all three.

After the trains we arrived in Kyoto and met up with Seiko's parents and our hosts for the next two weeks - Akihiko and Miharu Sakata. We stuffed all the luggage, the three travelers, my brother John, his family, and the Sakata's into two small cars. I've concluded that Japanese cars make use of every cubic inch of the car, and explains how they can successfully be so small yet comfortable - even for all 5'10" of me.

And we're talking small. Some of the side roads in the rice fields would never hold the full width of an average North American car. My Escort back home would look like a friggin' Buick!

We arrived at the Sakata home to a big, traditional Japanese dinner. My extensive study in the art of chopsticks usage paid off. However, while securing myself an A+ in Canadian "chopsticking", I believe that I would be stuck in remedial class here.

Continuing on the educational theme, we were given a lesson on how to use the washrooms (*warning* toilet humour). Heated toilet seats are underrated - especially for a Canadian whose parents leave the bathroom window open at night during the Winter. Most other controls were handled by between five to twelve buttons - depending on the toilet and the features. And don't worry about flushing - it does that for you when you get up. Each toilet has a faucet and sink on the top (yes, it's clean water) that starts and stops with the refilling of the tank.

Naturally, there is a bidet inside the toilet. For those uncultured, a bidet (unsure of spelling) sprays water at your bottom to cleanse and freshen. I haven't decided whether it's terribly comforting or pleasurably violating. However, it is very nice to leave the bathroom with a spit & polished bum.

*NOTE* Don't mistake it for a water fountain.

It's apparently bad luck to step on the threshold of a room. I figured that I would make a conscious effort to avoid it, but not to freak out when I do. I was wrong. Apparently you should not step on the threshold of a room because the top of your head will slam into the trim of the doorway. Much of the next day I could still feel the shock to my head. It was one last lesson before going to sleep.