I don’t go to Tokyo all that often, maybe just twice a year due to the high costs both physical and financial. The 20 total hours of transit time do very little to get me excited about it. Of course I want to see Kanako, but when she can fly to my doorstep for a fourth of what it costs me to go the other way, its nearly impossible to justify. On top of that, cramming everything into a painfully short weekend is brutal. There has to be something really special to get me disillusioned enough to make the journey. So what was it this time? In addition to the first time opportunity to meet Kanako’s parents, she was also hosting a large party where I would finally be able to meet a lot of her friends.
I zoomed into Utsunomiya in in the evening aboard the Bullet Train, which I had to opt for due to some time constraints back home. Sure, its about 3 times faster than going by bus, but the price difference is a major deterrent. I was running late, so I had to go directly to the hotel where her family was waiting. I would be joining them for a banquet being held by the Porsche Club of Japan, of which her father had recently become a member. I was excited both to meet her parents, and to schmooze with Japan’s highfalutin. When I arrived, I changed into some slacks and a button up in the bathroom, and then made my entrance. Timing was OK, having just missed the start of dinner, but I could tell immediately I was a bit out of my league. These people were all wearing very nice suits, some opting instead for suede sport jackets.
Here was me with all but her mom, who had shyly run away.
The event itself was pretty cool, and the meal of course fantastic. I sat next to Kanako’s dad, and made sure to be very Japanese by pouring him a fresh beer every time his ran low. This is the essence of work parties, so I felt comfortable with this task. Throughout the dinner there was plenty of chatter among us and the other family we were with. It’s always times like this that I wish I was better at Japanese, but we managed. Her dad is pretty decent at English so communication wasn’t any problem, though her mother speaks almost none. I’ve Skyped with them before, so this came as no surprise. For entertainment, there were flamenco dancers and a big game of Bingo. It was a good round, where everyone would win something, and all the gifts were pretty high class and entirely Porsche related. I walked away with some limited edition model car. Eventually it was time to leave and head home, which I was fine with. On our way out, we enjoyed a total lunar eclipse, which was my first. The moon takes on a red color, as that is only wavelength of the visible spectrum that reaches it.
A bit blurry, but you get the idea.
At home we didn’t do much, just chatted a bit, and then headed off to sleep. It was strange as always to finally be somewhere I had only ever seen on the other side of a Skype connection. Everything seemed so familiar but was of course new to me. We had a quick turnaround and didn’t really see much more of the family the next day. Finally meeting them was great, but I think we all agreed we need to do something where we can all chat a bit more would be good. We took the bullet train back down to Tokyo and started getting things sorted for the party.
This was my first party of this nature, but Kanako has hosted a couple of these hotel bashes before. The concept is simple: rent a nice hotel room no one could every stay in on their own, invite a bunch of friends to pool their wealth, and finally party till morning. We booked a room at the Nikko Hotel in Daiba, Tokyo. It was certainly a nice place, and when we got to our deluxe tier room, she immediately said it wasn’t going to be enough. I would have made it work myself as, but she was confident at the number of guest and called the front desk to book a larger room. Now, this luxury suite we managed normally goes for $5,000 a night, which is insane, but we got it at a steep discount as it would otherwise sit empty. Incredible. I can’t really describe the feeling to you plebeians, but just walking around the lobby knowing you have the key to the nicest room in an already stately hotel is evokes a sort of swagger from within. For that price you would really have to expect one heck of a room, and truly, it was incredible. There were two bathrooms, an 8 person dining room, a massive living room, a master bed wider than it was long, and access to a big walk out garden with a Jacuzzi. Beyond the luxury of it all, the view was second to none. The crystalline sky was as perfect as I’ve ever seen Tokyo to be. We could see the full expanse of the incredible skyline set against an elaborate spectrum of sunset shades. Even Mt. Fuji’s perfectly conic figure far off in the distance was made visible against the colorful backdrop.
Ho Ho Ho
There was a steady stream of people coming in, until we capped at about 55 people. Everyone had brought nice champagne and wine which we worked our way through. Initially I was a tad shy. I didn’t know any of the first several people who had come, so I just acted as Kanako’s shadow and tried to look anything by helpless. Eventually I got my legs about me and went on to meet a number of her friends, who had been eager to finally meet me. A lot of the people that she invited were students at Meiji Gakuin where I too studied for a month. Recognizing these people and rekindling connections felt good. But, beyond those people, there were a couple friends of my own that I had invited as well. I was able to reunite with a few buddies I met on the North Korean tour and also Kei Mamiya, who had studied at Hope. Seeing these people was equally satisfying, as we had many stories and memories to recount and bemuse ourselves with. Among those present were a television actor and a professional singer, who has worked with the likes of Akon. Here is a link to his music, a mix of Japanese and English R&B.
The group shot. Some people were left out
The party raged, and it roared, and finally came morning. After a couple hours of sleep, Kanako, Kei and I took advantage of the free breakfast that came with the room before parting ways and officially bring the event to a close. After checking out, we had the afternoon to enjoy the area, which has some scenic areas and is a nice place for couples to walk around. Our first stop to that effect was the Statue of Liberty. I can not fathom why it was decided to inexplicably dump a replica of such an American icon here, there was no explanation given on any sign. If the purpose was only to be a photo spot, than I might put in a request for a sphinx. We also walked around a mall, and the uniquely crafted Fuji TV building’s courtyard. We eventually ended our day at a Hawaiian burger restaurant, where I was overjoyed to pay 14 dollars for the first burger approaching satisfactory that I’ve had in a long time. I can’t wait to return home and just go to a place like Red Robin (yummmm) where I can get a big tasty burger at what will now seem like cheap prices. I was also truly pleased both to be eating and Heinz ketchup and to actually have mustard as an option. I slathered both indiscriminately.
Finally, I had to board the night bus for my return trip back to Kagawa. While the idea of riding a bus for 10 hours, and arriving at 5:00am with work that same day sounded pretty horrid, I was able to let my exhaustion knock me out for the duration. It was a jam-packed weekend, and was more than enough to justify the journey. Finally taking care of meeting the parents and friends felt good and makes me feel a bit more initiated into this whole Japanese relationship thing. I’m not sure what will will return me to Tokyo, perhaps the next syzygy too will draw me from my cozy home.