Sunday, May 21, 2006

found in translation

tokyo: monday, may 22
utah: sunday, may 21, 2:45 p.m.

it is about 15 minutes before 5 a.m., and dad and i are up and awake. our hotel is 36 floors above tokyo, and the view from our bay window is as awe-inspiring at it is serene.

how do i describe 'yesterday'? we left minneapolis on saturday morning and arrived in tokyo on sunday night,with an amorphous mass of time in the middle. such a flight is an experiment inmeta-physics itself: when we are up in the air, what time is it? where are we? those questions are irrelevant.
to pass the time, we were presented with 'cheaper by the dozen 2' and 'the chroniclesof narnia.' i was somewhat disappointed when i saw what other flights got: bangkok to tokyo got 'capote'; l.a. to tokyo got 'the new world'; and nagoya to manila got 'syriana', THE movie i wanted to see last year. granted, i stated that 'narnia' was the best movie i saw of 2005, but only becausei hadn't the opportunity to see those listed above. nevertheless, it is a great movie and one i thoroughly enjoyed the second time around. especially the beavers. i think they look and act absolutely fantastic.

with three hours to go on the flight [it's the same travel time whether flying from l.a. or from minneapolis, thanks to a round earth], i wandered back to visit my parents and sister; becky and i have a policy--she by determined choice, me largely by nature--of not using airplane bathrooms. i don't remember it ever being that much of an issue on previous trans-pacific flights, but, standing up, i was reminded of the effects of gravity on pressure. my beloved sister strongly encouraged me to hold to my principles, and remindedthat if i lose, she wins.

in a cultural effort to be more in tune with the land of the rising sun, i started reading japanese novel called 'i am a cat', one of the greatest works ofthe modern nation [thus replacing jane austen and 'the da vinci code' as my literary company on this journey]. a commentary on human nature through the eyes of a cat,the first fifty pages of the book were fascinating. sadly, the next hundred havebecome dull. i am currently a quarter way through the book and hoping to finish itbefore returning to the occident.

traveling with my full family is a different experience than when it's just me andbecky, and getting from the airport to the tokyo conrad hotel, which appeared on no neighborhood maps and was unknown to anyone, proved more difficult than i thought.
yet walking in the door, tired, dirty, and carrying plenty of luggage, the kind and regal welcoming of the dignified attendant brought with it a fresh flowing of gratitude akin to the arrival at the hard rock cafe in bangkok last year [i never did write down the account of our last days there, which were, in my opinion, the best part of the trip].

never have i been in such a beautiful hotel. further, i do not think i will be in such accomodations many more times for the remainder of my mortal life.

the man in the lobby took all of our bags and had us escorted to the main check-in on the 28th floor. this floor contains an exquisite lounge of dark and gold decor, overlooking tokyo bay and the rainbow bridge; while it is not the park hyatt hotel [reportedly the best place in japan], one could just as easily sit down here to run in cirlces from life's problems. the advantage is that the girl singing in front of the quiet piano is passing over any tacky simon and garfunkel cover versions.
but once i tell them my name, we do not check-in here. we are again escorted up another 9 floors on elevators so smooth and quiet that only the changing pressure on your ears alerts you to movement. we are taken to the executive lounge. as my dad and i sit and work out the room arrangements, mom and becky sit in the designer furniture and are offered drinks. tim maintains his world inside his ipod.
longtime readers may recall that finding hotels for this trip was somewhat of a massive struggle. the vast majority of this trip is provided for by years of my father's hard work and endless traveling, during the course of which he amassed hundreds of thousands of frequent points in hotels and airplanes. and that got us two good rooms in a hotel like the tokyo conrad; yet last night i was informed that we were upgraded to executive class, the cause of which i do not know and do not care.

the room is delicate, refined beauty. a small marble table presented us with a welcome card with our name written on it and two glass plates of fruit and confectionaries whose aesthetic value outweighs their taste. the bathroom looks strikingly like a room from the final scene of '2001' and supplies us with the latest in japanese toilet technology.
outside, high rise skyscrapers of all architectural feats grow above a living city. the forest of iron and cement, everchanging, covers the world below. thousands of shops and establishments of every kind line the streets in neon colors, while businesses and residents occupy the space in the stories above. at first glance it may look likea complete mess, yet every one knows their place and duty, producing a mosaic far more intriguing than any planned design could hope to be. near and far, the behemoths of the cityscape blink red lights around their silhouettes, offering a dreamlike safety to the scene.

mom and becky went straight to bed [around 8:30], which the three of us went out to look around.
one of the things i really need to keep in mind is that this is my dad's first trip outside the borders of the united states. what is common to me is utterly fascinating to a man who has paid for every other member of his family to see nearly all the continents of the world. we ate at a little chain called 'yoshinoya', where we got a good bowl of food for under $5. you really can't beat that anywhere, especially in downtown tokyo. best of all, they serve sukiyaki with a raw egg. that makes all the difference.

and so i sit, by the window, as soft grey light pours in, overlooking a city that spans as far as i can see in every direction. a few office workers are already in their cubicles adjacent from me, but largely the streets are quiet. a few stops down the train line, the giant fish market is in full swing, where giant tuna aresold for thousands of dollars to vendors from all over the country. but largely, the city that is at the center of the greatest population concentration in the world, is still asleep. it is the blessing of a jet lagged minnesotan to sit above it all and to watch the enigma that is japan.

like 5 years future
sprawling neon and concrete
view alone worth it

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