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Meanderings of a Gaijin

Foreword

The story begins in the last century, way back in 1990 when I first met my partner,
Yumiko Hayashi, and tells of how we set up our unique Inbound tour company,
D.Y.Travel. (D for Duncan & Y for Yumiko)

D.Y. Travel specialized in the Japanese market and conducted


nature tours, astronomy tours, gambling tours, cultural tours,
technical visits and the like.
This is more a book of amusing anecdotes from our 10
years as inbound tour operators and of my visits to Japan over
the last 20 years, with no embellishments whatsoever, told exactly as it is.

The stories are not in any particular order, but just as they come to mind.

The first part of the book concentrates on my visits to Japan


and the characters that I have met over the years and the wonderful experiences
that I have had and will give you some insight into life in Japan thru the eyes of
a Gaijin. The second part of the book concerns our Japanese clients and some of
their adventures on their tours with D.Y.Travel in Western Australia and it would
never come to fruition without the help of a few people who contributed to the
success of D.Y.Travel such as, first and foremost, in Australia,Dept. of
Conservation and Land Management (C.A.L.M), now known as D.E.C, the Banksia Man,Mr.
Alex George, and two botanists extraordinaire in Mrs. Anne Newman and Mrs.Pauline
Wooley and of course my wonderful partner and wife, Yumiko Hayashi,and in Japan,
Mr. Yao of Best World Japan, Mr. Kuranishi formerly of KNT, Mr. Tomiyama of Shinwa
Tourist and many others to numerous to mention.

Without the assistance of the aforementioned none of these


adventures would never have even been remotely possible.
A special mention to my partner, my friend, and the love of my life, Yumiko, It is
only thru her dedication to me, to her work
and to our clients that we where as successful as we were, she never once
complained at having to spend 12 hours a day, seven days a week giving a
commentary, translating for the botanists and for ME, making morning and afternoon
teas and bending over
backwards to make sure that everything went like clockwork
and never missing a beat.

This had been a wonderful, unforgettable adventure for 12 years or more and I often
pinch myself to make sure that it was all real, the great times with wonderful
people both here in Australia and in Japan.

Finally, when we have related some of the following stories to


friends and the like, they have all said that we should write a book about it, well
to all of those friends, here it is and I only hope that you will read now that we
have written it and to those people mentioned in the book, I hope you take it as a
compliment that after all of those years we can still look back and remember with a
smile or laughter the wonderful times that we spent with you. Only some names have
been changed to prevent any embarrassment to anyone, but if you do recognize
yourself in this book, please take it as compliment.

Duncan Mitchell & Yumiko Hayashi -Mitchell


First the serious stuff !

I first traveled to Japan in May of 1991, the reason being that my partner and I,
Yumiko Hayashi had just started our own Japanese tour operation in Perth Western
Australia, aimed solely at the Japanese market. I should mention at this point that
previous to establishing D.Y. Travel, I was an operations manager for a local tour
coach company and Yumiko was a senior tour guide for a Perth based Japanese tour
company, two rather ordinary working people.

I only mention this as we ran into some rather fierce opposition


whilst trying to set up D.Y. Travel.
I was the operations manager for a leading West Australian
tour coach company and Yumiko was a senior Japanese speaking
tour guide for a multi national Japanese tour company based in
Perth.
We had just returned from my first trip to Japan and when we
arrived home there was a fax awaiting us (this was before the days of email), from
my employer at the coach company, requesting us to be at the Burswood hotel in
Perth at 9am the next morning for a breakfast meeting. We had only arrived home at
10pm that evening after a 10 hour flight from Tokyo and thought we would have a bit
of a sleep in next morning after a hectic two weeks in Japan but no such luck.

We were confronted at the hotel by my employer and the company


accountant and we where immediately told that they were not
happy at all that we were starting our own business and that I had until 4pm that
day to change my mind or resign. Now this seemed to me to be a bit silly as it was
common knowledge throughout the industry that Yumiko and I had gone to Japan with a
view to starting our own Inbound tour company and had already been approached by
agents and clients alike to visit them when in Japan, and that even before leaving
Perth we had put down the basic structure of our business plan. I should also
mention that even before leaving for Japan, my employer had the manager of another
Perth based multinational tour company, call me at work and ask me to convince
Yumiko to take over her managerial position as she was pregnant and thought that
Yumiko would be the ideal replacement for her. I thought at the time that this was
a bit strange and it did not occur to me (I don't have a suspicious nature), that
this was a ploy to prevent us from starting our own business.
Another thing that was told to us later was that when we left for Japan, Yumiko`s
employer had someone shadow us to find out just who we were talking to, you may
think this is a bit far fetched but if you knew the company that she worked for
then you would not be at al surprised.
However , to get back to the ultimatum, as I said, I was given until 4pm that day
to make up my mind about what I was going to do, but I had already made up my mind
before the breakfast meeting had even finished but decided to play them at their
own game and keep them waiting. So at 4pm that day I went to the office and
officially resigned and told them that we were going ahead with our plans to start
our Inbound company, regardless of what they thought. Well, we were told that we
would not get anywhere in Perth, and life would be very difficult for us.
So here were two companies, one a multinational who were afraid of an operations
manager and tour guide going into competition with them and may they well have been
as the multinational did not last long after that, they went into receivership and
the the coach company has also departed the scene, both now out of business but we
are not so vain as to think that we had anything to do with that, OR DID WE ?

JAPAN

Now lets put the past to behind us and come with me on an


unforgettable journey and let me guide you thru my Japan, a
country of mind blowing experiences and taste sensations, a
country of mega cities and some of the most picturesque scenery in the world, a
country of the old and the new living side by side in complete harmony, a country
where young people still respect their elders and look after their aging parents, a
country, where given the chance, I could quite easily spend the rest of my life,
and fully intend to do so.

We arrived at Narita airport early one morning and I personally


was feeling a little apprehensive not knowing anything about the
country and the only Japanese people that I had met previously
had been tourists to Western Australia, whom in the majority, I had found to be
quite serious and demanding people. So here
I was in a strange country, no idea of the language and about to
meet the parents of my partner for the first time. I wondered how they would react
to their daughter bringing home a Gaijin !

I remember vividly the touching down on the tarmac at Narita


airport on an overcast drizzly morning I had never seen so many
aircraft in one place at one time, it was unbelievable there must have been
aircraft from every corner of the globe it was like a car dealers yard, all that
was missing where “ for sale signs”.

Once inside the airport immigration was just as I had imagined it,typically
Japanese, foreign arrivals queuing in an orderly fashion, immigration officers
efficient, non -smiling non-talking persona,intent on keeping the flow of people
moving.

Once through immigration it was down to the arrivals hall where


our luggage was already moving around on the carousel just
waiting to be picked up,and once through customs it was out into
the main arrivals hall where Yumiko`s sister, Machiko, whom I had met before on her
frequent visits to Western Australia, and her father, Kenjiro were waiting to greet
us.

Getting to the car park was an adventure on its own, so many


levels and Machiko had forgotten which level she had parked
on, so we waited patiently while she tried to find our vehicle, (the car park was
not marked by floor numbers but by animal pictures and Machiko could not remember
if she had parked on the
Elephant floor or the Hippo floor !).
Eventually she found the vehicle and we were able to make our way out onto the
freeway and head for downtown Tokyo.
The journey into Tokyo was amazing, just wall-to-wall traffic, there was no chance
of speeding, everyone drove in an orderly manner, trucks keeping well to the left,
they had no chance of overtaking anyway and digital signs all the way into the city
forewarned of congestion, accidents and the speed limit ahead.

After an hour or so we reached our destination of Yotsugi, the home of Yumiko`s


family in downtown Tokyo. we had already dropped off Yumiko`s father and we were
now at her sister's home.
The Shibuya family lived above a workshop, which was run by Mr.
Shibuya, Machiko`s husband and their son Hajime. The Shibuya
family built and repaired speedboat motors and even travelled as
far as the U.S. to service their clientele

This was my very first experience of a Japanese home and the


staircase was only wide enough for one person I had to carry the
suitcase out in front of me, the staircase was also very steep with narrow steps.
the house inside was very, very small with a kitchen big enough for one person
only, very cramped indeed and the bedrooms were not much better. the most
interesting feature of the house to me was the bathroom, there was a flexible
shower hose fixed onto the tiles on the wall and in the corner was a rather deep
hot water tub. I would like you to imagine that the whole bathroom was like one
large shower recess from the ceiling to floor, there was no actual shower screen as
such, just a small plastic stool and basin and the idea here was to sit on the
stool , soap yourself up and rinse off with the a basin full of hot water or with
the shower hose, all of this had to be done before soaking yourself in the
extremely hot water tub, it is a definite no-no to enter bath in Japan until you
have washed your self thoroughly and rinsed all of the soap from your body, then
and only then may you climb into the bath. The bath is so relaxing, more or less a
deep square bath and when you sit down the hot water comes up to just below your
chin and there is no chance of the water getting cold as the heater is constantly
on and the water is constantly being recycled so that you do not need to refill the
bath for each person, a great water saver,
very civilized indeed, even the toilet cistern was a first for me, it doubled as a
washstand , so after flushing the toilet you washed your hands in the cistern lid
which was inverted and just like a small washstand and as you washed your hands the
water ran through the hole in the lid and refilled the cistern, no water wasted
here, very ingenious.

So here I was, my very first day in Japan, tired but happy, and after a 10 hour
flight from Perth, just wanting to jump into that bath, have a cold beer and relax,
after all tomorrow is another day and we were here for the best part of three weeks
anyway.

What now who you may well ask, we had come here officially on
business, but of course there was so much that I wanted to see and do that my head
was spinning but business came first .

I would like mention at this point that my first visit took place in the month of
July, a very bad mistake as July is one of the worst months, weather wise, to visit
Japan. July is the start of the rainy season and the humidity is a killer, forget
Hong Kong or Singapore,Japan beats them all hands down.

The Shibuya home is air-conditioned of course and that first


morning, after breakfast, I had put on my nice fresh clean clothes and felt that I
was ready to step out into my first encounter with Japan and the Japanese people,
what a shock I got when I stepped out into the street, the heat hit me like a ton
of bricks and within seconds my shirt was soaking with sweat and my head felt as if
someone had tipped a bucket of water over it, (another bad hair day !). The worst
was yet to come, after we had walked about 10 minutes to the station, we then
jumped onto a train and it was absolutely freezing, one extreme to the other, the
air-conditioning on the trains is so efficient but so cold, I could literally feel
my wet shirt drying
on me, it was so uncomfortable I wondered how I was going to get thru this day
feeling already jaded, but get thru it I did.

We had made some appointments with the Japanese people whom


we had both met whilst they were in Western Australia on tour.
The first of those people was a very nice gentleman who we will
call Mr. Y. Now this Mr. Y. owned cutlery business in the middle of Tokyo and he
had invited us to meet with him late afternoon on the second day of our visit, the
idea of this was that after our meeting and a quick inspection of his factory we
could adjourn to a restaurant, with the factory staff, for something to eat and
lots to drink. Now Mr. Y. explained to Yumiko ( in Japanese of course), that as
this was my first visit to Japan he wanted to get me drunk so he asked Yumiko if I
liked Sake, to which she replied, he most certainly does, Oh! that is good he
exclaimed, how about Japanese beer ?, yes he also likes Japanese beer, she replied.
That settled it he proceeded to order warm Sake with cold beer chasers, this will
really get him drunk, he remarked. After a couple of hours of eating and drinking,
Mr. Y. wanted to know how I was feeling, and after asking me, Yumiko told him that
I was feeling fine and enjoying myself, ah !, he exclaimed, that will soon change
when he gets out into the cool night air he remarked. A short time later we made
our way out into the street and suddenly Mr. Y. had a little stumble and he looked
as if he had rubber legs and had to hold on to the nearest wall for a bit of
support, before admitting that he
himself was feeling a little worse for wear, so between us we had to help him to
the station to catch his train home.
On the way to the station he kept mumbling in broken English,
"bloody Australians", this was apparently in reference to me
because he was the one that that was the worse for wear . Little did he know that I
was not a " bloody Australian", but a "
bloody Scotsman", who lived in Australia and was used to drinking whisky with beer
chasers!

Next on the itinerary was a visit to Kyoto, here we would mix


business with pleasure and what pleasure it was. The station at
Kyoto is a beautiful modern structure, a shoppers paradise and here they even have
interpreters booths for Gaijins such as I.
When you step out of the station into the street it is like stepping back in time
into this beautiful old world city and you can immediately feel the history all
around you.
My very favorite city in Japan, where the old mixes with the new, city of the
Geisha and the Maiko , (Maiko is what the Japanese call “before geisha” or
apprentice geisha), city of old world, narrow cobblestone streets, beautiful
temples, and the home of one of the oldest and most exclusive restaurants in Japan,
Owner of this restaurant is Satake-san and the restaurant has been in his family
for over 250 years and has been frequented by American presidents, movie stars,
politicians and
generally the upper echelons of society, and then, now added to list of course,
there is I , Duncan. How did I manage to dine at one of the most expensive
restaurants in Japan ? well the answer is that Mr. Satake, along with a few other
Japanese restauranters, had previously been to Perth on what was called,
“ The Best Restaurant Tour”, not as you might think, a culinary tour of Perth's
best restaurants, but the name of the tour came from the group itself, all of whom
where owners of exclusive restaurants or hotels in Japan, and D.Y Travel had the
pleasure of conducting the tour for the group whilst in Australia, but more of that
in part 2.
Mr. Satake and I struck up an instant rapport, even though he
spoke very little English, we seemed to have very little trouble
communicating, the upshot being that before he left Perth he
made me promise that when I was next in Japan, I would call
him and visit his restaurant, so here we where, in Kyoto and about to have a
culinary experience, second to none.

First mistake we made was, on the evening that we had booked to


dine at the restaurant we called a taxi from our hotel to take us to the
restaurant, this was a bad mistake, when we arrived at the restaurant, Mr. S. came
out to greet us, along with the rest
of the restaurant staff I might add, (very embarrassing for a couple from the
backwoods of Western Australia), and we were told that we should have called the
restaurant before leaving the hotel and that a private limousine would have been
sent to pick us up, silly us, we should have known better !.
We were shown to a private room, where Mr.Satake. joined us and we where given a
welcome drink and after some polite conversation,the meal commenced.
This meal consisted of about 11 or 12 courses, all beautifully
presented and each and every course was fully explained to me by
our host. Half way thru the evening, Mr. S. asked Yumiko if I knew what a “Maiko”
was, and of course she explained that although I was familiar with the geisha, I
did not know anything about the Maiko, so thru Mr. S. it was explained to me all
about the mysteries of the Maiko, very interesting indeed, but the best was yet to
come, I was asked if I would like to be entertained by a Maiko ?, what could I say,
I just about fell of my zabuton (this is the cushion that you sit on, on the
floor), and said that I would be delighted to be entertained by a Maiko. At that
Mr. S. clapped his hands as if to summon someone and as if by magic, not one, but
three beautifully adorned young ladies, complete with white makeup and immaculately
done hair, literally floated into the room and sat beside me. The room was
immediately filled the beautiful but faint odor of perfumes and powder and not the
least overpowering. A Maiko sat at each side of me and one knelt behind my back and
proceeded to massage my shoulders, the other two proceeded to feed me with my
chopsticks and hold the beer glass up to my mouth. Yumiko and Mr. Satake seemed to
take great delight in this and
had a good laugh, as for me, I was loving every minute of it and
thought that I had died and gone to heaven, certainly I had three of my own
personal angels, an experience that I will never forget, this was one of the best
30 minutes that I could ever have dreamt about and I would hazard a guess and say
that not to many gaijins would have had the honor to experience this,
I felt very honored and privileged indeed.

After I had come down from cloud nine, it was time to depart,
so Mr. Satake. escorted us from our private room and proceeded to give us a
conducted tour of the premises, including the kitchen area which was cleaner and
more sterile than most hospital operating theaters !, everything was white tiles
and stainless steel and the chefs stood at attention then bowed as we walked past,
now I know how royalty must feel !. The rest of the restaurant was as spotless as
the kitchens, there were private rooms for small groups, larger rooms for parties,
in fact every configuration of rooms that you could imagine, all in that
traditional Japanese style Next was a visit to Mr. Satake`s personal bar in his
office, usually reserved for visiting VIPs, where we had another drink while he
summoned his driver to take us back to the hotel. I still wonder how a person such
as myself, from the slums of Edinburgh in Scotland and who barely finished school,
could possibly be so lucky to experience what only a privileged few would ever
experience.

FUKUI:

Fukui city lies over on the sea of Japan and is the headquarters of large country
bank, who at one time owned property at the Vines resort in the Swan Valley region
of Western Australia. The bank would send 12 staff members, twice a year, to their
property at the Vines. This was an all expenses paid trip, including pocket
money,what was know as an incentive tour. Once again D.Y Travel had the privilege
of looking after the bank staff on their bi-annual trips to Western Australia and
we had a free hand to organize the activities such as sightseeing, restaurants,
golf etc. Now of course when we went to Japan, we were asked to visit The bank
president in Fukui and enjoy their hospitality for a couple of days, how can one
refuse such an offer !.

We arrived in Fukui early one morning, after catching a train from Osaka, it was so
early that almost nothing or no-one had even stirred. Our appointment was not until
10am. so it was even too early to book into our hotel so we proceeded to look for
an early morning cafe to have some breakfast. Having found a cafe we took a seat in
the window, mainly because I am nosey and like to people watch, so here we where,
waiting for our breakfast to arrive and just watching the city beginning to stir. A
gentleman walked past the cafe window and as he did so he glanced in the window and
obviously spotted me, now Fukui is quite a small city by Japanese standards,
approx. population is 250,000, and I would say that they do not have many tourists
or gaijins (foreigners), so for this gentleman to see someone like me sitting in
the window of a cafe must have been quite a shock, for as he had no sooner passed
the window, when he slowly appeared again, walking slowly backwards and just
staring at me, suddenly he realized that he was staring (Japanese are not big on
eye contact), and quickly bowed and scurried off again, I often wonder what his
thoughts where atseeing a gaijin sitting in a local cafe having breakfast.
Later that morning we had our meeting with the bank president, complete with
morning tea and an introduction to the bank staff, some of whom we already knew
from their visits to Western Australia and some whom we would meet in the future.

Now another part of Japanese culture that I love is their need to give gifts, and
the bank president was no different, we were given a set of traditional, lacquered,
Japanese dishes, very expensive I am led to believe, along with some other
beautiful souvenirs but the gift that tickled me most was the sunglasses !. The
president produced what was like a briefcase and when he opened it, it was a
display case full of designer sunglasses. I was not exactly sure what was going on
here, was he giving us a case full of sunglasses ? I wondered, but no, we where not
being given the case of glasses but had to choose a pair each as a gift, I still
could not work out the connection between the bank and the case of sunglasses until
Yumiko explained it to me later, it seems that Fukui city has a claim to fame in
that it is famous for its glass used in making lenses and
sunglasses and it is a fact that a majority of the designer sunglasses are made in
Fukui and they just put the designer name on them and ship them all over the world,
you certainly learn something new every day.
On another visit to Fukui, we were given another set of Japanese
lacquered bowls and dishes and Yumiko was not to sure whether
they were the genuine article or not, so when we took them back to Tokyo with us,
she showed her mother, who immediately lifted one of the bowls up to her nose and
sniffed it and declared that they were very expensive and indeed the genuine
article.

After being driven round the various branches of bank to meet the local managers
and staff, we were dropped of at our hotel and told that we would be picked up at
approx. 6pm by the bank limo, for an official reception, this was the first we had
heard of this and quite a surprise. At 6 precisely we where whisked off in the limo
to a restaurant where there must have been at least 70 to 80 people, (I tried to
count be they kept moving around), and Yumiko and I were seated between the
president and some of the senior staff and after a couple of short speeches, we
commenced eating and drinking, and what a feast it was, mainly seafood, dish after
dish of crabs, lobster, octopus, you name it, if it was seafood it was on the
table. After the meal everyone moved around, the other staff did not want the
president and his hierarchy to hog us all night for
themselves, so we where constantly being asked to join one group
or another for photos or a drink, funny thing about those very
serious Japanese bankers, after a few drinks the decorum goes out the window !. one
very funny staff member approached and told us that we should eat and drink as much
as we could as the bank was paying for it ! why not, I remarked, I am with you on
that one.

Later in the evening we were asked to follow the president and his entourage to the
lifts, where I was told that the bank had their own private drinking club upstairs,
so being unaware of the protocol, I unwittingly invited some of the lower echelon
of the staff to come ith us, another mistake, when we piled into the lift and my
new found friends tried to join me, there was a very firm loud NO and the lift
doors promptly closed, apparently it is one thing to have a company gathering, but
when it came to the private club upstairs, this was definitely not on, this was for
the boss only and the staff were told that they could continue drinking at the
restaurant bar.
We only spent around 30 minutes having a drink with president
and his senior staff and with a sudden clap of the hands it was all over, and time
for the president to go home. We trooped out to the elevators and down to the
ground floor and lo and behold, some of the staff where still at the bar, and when
they saw us, asked us to accompany them to a karaoke bar, now I am not one for
karaoke, cant sing anyway and it does nothing for me, but it would have been
impolite to refuse so off we went with one of the senior managers coming with us, I
think he must have been responsible for us getting back to the hotel safely. We had
met this manager in Perth before, his name was Mr. Okubo and he had been
instrumental in setting up the Vines, Western Australian operation for the bank. So
off we trooped to a karaoke bar. Luckily it was full, people were queuing up
outside waiting for someone to leave, not so luckily, they had private karaoke
boxes, one of which the bank staff managed to secure. So here we where in this
private room, music that was very traditional Japanese music and of course
everything was written in Japanese, so even if I could sing, there was nothing for
me. Mr. Okubo was first to sing, here was this very straight laced,
bespectacled gentleman, serious to the core, taking off his jacket,rolling up his
sleeves to "get down and boogie “!. The song was quite a long and serious song, or
that’s what it sounded like to me,and Mr. Okubo. really put his heart and soul into
it and when he was finished, the staff applauded loud and long, as you would if it
was your boss up there, well wouldn’t you ?. After the song Mr. Okubo. came and sat
with me and asked me in his halted English, what I thought of his performance, what
can one say ? I just trotted out the old cliche and said,” don’t give up your day
job”! I do not know if he
understood me or not but he shook my hand vigorously and said
thank you,
taken like a man Mr. O.

Next morning I had some kind of hangover, (it must have been the
seafood the night before), and I did not feel like getting up for breakfast, but
the bank had organized for two of the senior
managers, Mr. Okubo and Mr. Shimada to take us sightseeing
in the company limo, so I had no options here, I had no doubt that they were
possibly suffering as much as me, but they would be to proud to show it.

We traveled to a town called Tojimbo on the sea of Japan


coast, famous for its gap, ( we have one in Albany on the south
coast of Western Australia) where, I was informed, that many
people come to commit suicide, this I really needed to know, what with my hangover
and all, however it was also famous for its Kani (crabs) Just to explain, the
previous evening at dinner, we had lots of Kani, it was of course the height of the
Kani season here, so here we were again, Kani for lunch, how many Kani could one
eat, I had really had my fill the night before, but it would have been nothing
short of impolite to refuse.
I was horrified when the lunch was served, here was not one crab
but THREE crabs on each platter, it looked all the world like the three bears,
mummy, daddy and the little one, I would have trouble finishing the little one,
never mind the mummy and daddy ! However I struggled thru the lunch and managed to
eat one of the large crabs and the small one. I felt terrible about leaving one
whole crab on the plate but however Mr. Shimada made me feel better when he said he
would have it wrapped and take home to his wife.

Lunch finished, we completed our tour and headed back to Fukui to check out of our
hotel and catch the train back to Osaka, (about a three hour journey), along with
Mr. Okubo, who was manager of one of the Osaka branches of the bank. So early
evening we arrived at Osaka station and were met by some of our other clients, the
Yokohata family, who informed us that they had booked a restaurant for dinner and
we would be going direct from the station to the restaurant then later to our
hotel.
The Yokohata`s had booked a restaurant called, Osaka Joes, now little did I know,
but Osaka Joes was seafood restaurant and specialized in KANI.

Three times in 24 hours, my main meals had been crabs, I was just about all crabbed
out, in fact I had started walking sideways !. I would be glad to get back to Tokyo
and some of Yumiko`s mothers home cooking, or so I thought,
Next day when we arrived back at the family home in Yotsugi and
sat down for dinner with the family, we had, you guessed it, KANI, Yumiko`s mother
had decided that I would enjoy a nice crab
salad !!!!! HELP !

The Hayashi home in downtown Tokyo is about as small as


they come, it consists of one room only, approx. 6m x 4m (including the kitchen ).
There is no bath or shower, only one
small room off the main room which has a wash hand basin
and toilet, and the toilet is in the floor, not the type
of toilet bowl that we are used to but a ceramic squat toilet, bit hard on the old
haunches and a bit hard to read the newspapers !

Although the home is small, the Japanese are masters of storage


and there are sliding doors,( just imagine built in robes, )
everywhere around the walls, you can slide one door and low and
behold there is your futon mattress, (your bed) which you just
roll out at night and roll back into the space in the morning, and the amazing
thing is that they can open a door and know exactly where to find what they are
looking for, well Yumiko`s mother can anyway.

At mealtimes you sit on the floor and put your legs under the table called a
Kotatsu, in the winter time they can put a cover around the table, just goes on
with press studs and is just like our quilts or doona`s. The reason for this is
that fixed on the underside of the table is a heater and on a cold day there is
nothing better than to put your legs under the doona, pull it up to your chin and
feel the warmth of the heater on you feet and legs, certainly makes you feel warm
all over.

I always end up in trouble whenever I go to the toilet in Japan,


whether it be in someones home or a restaurant, and the Hayashi
home is no exception, the reason being that, as you probably know, you have to take
your shoes off indoors and put on slippers, provided by the host of course, but
when you go to the toilet you have to change your slippers at the toilet door and
put on a pair of rubber toilet slippers, (just in case you splash your feet !),
this is fine, but I almost always forget to change my slippers when I leave the
toilet and usually here a very loud, “DUNCAN”, followed by “SLIPPERS, oops ! here
we go again.

As there is no bath or shower in those older houses, it is the


usual practice to go the Ofuroya-san or public bathhouse,
not as bad as it sounds. Public baths in Japan are scrupulously
clean places and before you enter the boiling hot bath you have
to be also scrupulously clean and that means that when you have
divested yourself of all your clothes, you enter the bathhouse and pick a small
stool and a basin, you seat yourself, usually in front of a mirror where you can
have a shave if you wish, and you proceed to soap yourself up, hair and all, and
scrub yourself clean. You use the basin to fill up with clean hot water and pour
over yourself to make sure there is no soap left anywhere on your body,(there is
also usually a shower for people like me !). When you have finished your ablutions
you can then enter one of the many boiling hot tubs, and if you have ever wondered
how a lobster or prawn feels when they are thrown into boiling water, this is it,
by the timeyou come out you are pink and part cooked, but they say it is goodfor
your health, so I go everyday when I am in Japan so between being cooked in the
bath and drinking Saki I have a lovely pink kin, just like a Sumo wrestler, ( but
not so large I might add).

Some of the baths have spa functions, some have electricity in the water, (sounds
scary, but feels great) and just to let you understand, these baths are large
enough for a dozen people or more and you just sit and soak to your hearts content
or until you are cooked.

Also you meet some very nice people, I have made many friends in
the local Yotsugi baths, they are very happy that a gaijin knows the protocol and
is able to come to the baths alone even though he does not speak the language.

I met a member of the Yakazu (Japanese mafia), in the local baths one afternoon,
how did I know that he
was yakazu ? easy, his body was completely tattooed and yes he
did have top of his small finger missing. This gentleman espied me sitting in the
bath and decided to come and sit opposite me. For a while he just stared at me,
unusual for Japanese, but I got the feeling he wanted to say something to me and
sure enough a few minutes later he leaned across and said, “ home country”, at
first I was not sure what he had said, so I looked at him and said “sumimasen” or
excuse me, so he said again, (in a much louder voice so that I would understand !),
“home country” , ah, I exclaimed, I am from Australia, he just grunted and looked
puzzled, so I said again, (in a loud voice, so that HE would
understand me), A-U -S –T-R -A –L-I -A. Well he just glared at me and said, believe
it or not, RUSSIA. I wanted to get out of the bath right there and then, perhaps he
thought I was part of the Russian mafia trying to infiltrate his territory, but I
decided to tell him once more, so I said very, very slowly and deliberately, A-U-S-
T-R-A-L-I-A, which to my
great relief, he understood and said in reply, “hot country”, and that was the end
of that conversation. “

never did see my yakuza friend again, but a week later we went to an Onsen (hot
springs resort) in Hakone, a beautiful spot
surrounded by mountains and a unique zigzag railway up to the
top.
We where with the Hayashi family, mum, dad, and Machiko,
Yumiko`s sister. Now these onsen`s are wonderful places, when
you arrive, you leave your shoes at the door go to you room, take all of your
clothes off and put on your yukata (Japanese style dressing gown), and this is your
mode of dress as long as you are in the confines of the onsen. All of your meals
are served and cooked in the room for you, after dinner they come and roll our you
futon mattress and make it up for you while you go to the bar in your yukata, (this
is a great leveler, as everyone is dressed the same, so you do not know who you are
talking to), magic places, you cannot imagine what is like until you experience it
A majority of the onsens have an outdoors hot spring and there is nothing better
than sitting in natural boiling springs when it is snowing, with a cold beer and
listening to the snow hissing at it hits the hot water.
While we where at the onsen in Hakone, I of course spent a lot
of time in the bathhouse, mainly because my wonderful father
in law, Kenjiro, spends nearly all day in the bath, he is the cleanest person on
the planet, I swear. So on this day I was sitting on my little stool busily washing
myself in this very large bathhouse and there was only myself and Kenjiro there at
the time when the door opened and in walked another member of the Yakazu,
beautifully tattooed, his chest area was like long sleeved waistcoat, open at the
front and tattoos down to his hands, amazing stuff.
This gentleman could have chosen anywhere to sit and scrub
himself, but no he did not, he espied this gaijin and decided to
put his little stool next to mine and commence to have a shave.
I got up and went into the bath and sat beside Kenjiro, I don’t
know what good that was going to do me as Kenjiro, nfortunately,
is legally blind, he can only see shadows and has been like this
for many years, a legacy of his boxing days I believe, so he would not be able to
tell if this gentleman had tattoos or not, however I felt better just in case this
gentleman wanted to strike up a conversation with me, although once again it would
not done me much good as Kenjiro did not speak any English either.
After a while the Yakuza gentleman lowered himself into the bath
and actually smiled quite pleasantly at me but did not say a word, so I was quite
relieved, and when I left the bath he actually stood and bowed to me. I did see him
once more the next day and he once again bowed to me and said goodbye. It is times
like these that I do wish I could speak Japanese, he might have been a very
interesting gentleman to strike up a conversation with, who knows I might even have
been invited to join him for a beer, now THAT would have been an interesting
conversation.

Another Onsen that I spent some time at was on the Izu Peninsula, this was a five
star onsen, I could tell because they had a picture of Jimmy Carter on the wall,
(the peanut farmer who became the U.S. president), and it turned out that he had
stayed there for a few days, so I suppose I could say that I slept in Jimmy Carters
bed !.
While we where at the onsen in Izu, we wandered down to the bar
in the evening in our Yukatas and it was quite full. Apparently
there was a company gathering and the boss of the company and
all of the employees had gathered in the bar for an evening of
Karaoke (again). Most of the group were seated on chairs around
the screen so we decided to take a seat at the bar, have a quiet drink and watch
the proceedings for a while.
An elderly gentleman and his wife sat opposite us at the bar and he tried several
time to strike up a conversation with us, but I could see that he was getting the
evil eye from his wife and the odd dig in the ribs with the elbow, perhaps she
thought that he was annoying us.
After a while the elderly gentleman fell asleep on the bar, he
had obviously had a few to many, much to his wife’s disgust.
A short time later it must have been the turn of this gentleman to sing his song
and a few members of the staff tried to get him off thestool and up to the Karaoke
stage, they pulled and pushed and already the song had started. Eventually after a
bit of cajoling, they managed to get him to the stage, gave him the microphone and
off he went, just in time to get the last couple of lines of the song in before it
ended. Everyone applauded rapturously his effort, even though it was only a couple
of lines, I deduced from the reception he got that he was the company boss.

Getting to Izu was an adventure on its own, most people would go


by Shinkansen or bullet train, well we did go part of the way, but my esteemed
father in law had already decided that we would
break our journey and change to the “Royal Box” train, talk about a slowboat to
China, this was the slowest train to Izu, but what a remarkable train, it was not
called the royal box for nothing, it had those wonderful old re-furbished
carriages, beautifully fitted out with double seats on one side and single
revolving seat on the other side so that you could swivel around and watch the
ocean and the islands drift by or swivel the other way and talk to the people on
the other side of the isle. Each carriage had its own conductor and hostess, if you
wanted a drink or something to eat you pressed the button and some white gloved
attendant with those typically American conductors hats on, would suddenly appear
and take your order.

This train stopped at every station and siding there was to stop at, but the view
was magnificent, but the best feature was yet to come. s we got close to Izu we
went thru lots of long tunnels and the carriage was in darkness, but not for long
for as soon as we entered the tunnel, the roof of the carriage lit up in a
celestial scene, it was just like being at the planetarium, there was stars and
planets drifting lazily by.
The sun would rise and set, the moon would come up, comets
would streak across the roof, unbelievable stuff, each tunnel
seemed to have a different view of the heavens. Coming back from
Izu, I decided that we would have the Royal Box this time, I wanted to experience
this event again, and to my surprise, going back they had a different scene, it was
an underwater adventure
with sharks, stingrays, coral, you name it, they had it, just like going scuba
diving but on a train. ONLY IN JAPAN.

Whilst on the subject of my father-in-law, Kenjiro, a couple of


amusing little stories about he and I in public baths. When I first started going
too the public baths with Kenjiro-san, I found it odd that we were, on some days,
the only two people in the place, nice and private, and on the way out, Kenjiro-san
would leave the money on the counter. Now this intrigued me and after a few days I
mentioned it to Yumiko who in turn asked her father what I was talking about, to
which he just smiled and said that the baths did not open until 3pm each afternoon,
but we went at 2pm, (the doors where not locked at all), had our baths and left the
correct money on the counter on the way out. I often wonder what the employees must
have thought when they started work and found the money on the counter, most
importantly how honest are those people, who was to know that we had ever been
there.

Next episode concerns seniors day at the public baths, on a


Wednesday, this day is completely free for seniors, so as you can imagine it is
packed to the rafters, people are waiting up to half an hour before hand and when
the doors open it is a free for all.

One particular day I was waiting with Kenjiro –san and as usual
when the doors opened it was one mad rush to get inside and being partially blind,
Kenjiro-san just ploughed straight ahead and bowled over and elderly lady, who's
path he happened to cross.
Now this was like something out of a movie, the lady started to fall, in what
looked like slow motion, towards me, so I put out my arms and managed to break her
fall and put her back on her feet and when she looked around and saw me I think she
got a bigger shock, here was a gaigin holding her up. When she recovered from the
shock she politely bowed and thanked me.
Kenjiro-san ? well he was already in the mens locker room,
unaware of the drama.
Having briefly just mentioned the planetarium on the “Royal box”
train, we do have some clients who are amateur
astronomers and who have visited Western Australia on what
they call, “star watching tours”. I was never much interested in
astronomy until I met these particular people and their leader,
Mr. Muriyama, who is the president of the Goto planetarium in
Shibuya. Mr. Muriyama invited us to the planetarium and had
an interpreter sit next to me to explain everything that was going on, actually he
was not an interpreter but one of the group and a friend of ours, Professor Ohki,
but he did do a great job as a translator, however this part is about what happened
after the planetarium.

Now Mr. Muriyama is quite a serious person


as you can imagine, he is a confidant of the Emperor and mixes
with very important government people, so I was quite surprised to find out that he
did have a sense of humor.
The group had booked a very nice restaurant in Shibuya, top floor of a multi story
building with view over Shibuya park, very pleasant. When we arrived and were
seated at our table, (there were 10 of us in the group), we were handed menus for
our perusal and unbeknown to me, most of the group had already decided what they
were having, so it had been agreed that we would all have the same, except me, as I
said, I had no idea of the conversation taking place around me and just continued
studying the menu, ( it had English sub-titles), so after a few minutes I announced
what I was having, this caused a bit of confusion, as Mr. Muriyama. had already
announced what we were ALL having, but after my announcement it was decided that
they would all have what I was having.
Now while this was taking place, Mr. M. had instructed the waiter to take my
chopsticks and replace them with a knife and fork (this usually happens
automatically to me in Japan) and so
as not to make me feel too bad, he ordered a knife and fork for
himself, very kind man, however when the waiter came to me
and proceeded to take my chopsticks, I put my hand out and said
please leave my chopsticks where they are, which he did of course.
No one noticed this event and in due course the food arrived and
we started eating and after a few minutes I noticed Mr. Muriyama
looking around the table then looking at me and then he exclaimed loudly, “why is
everyone using chopsticks and I am using a knife and fork” ! The table just broke
up and even Mr. Muriyama saw the funny side of it.

We spend most of our time in Tokyo in the downtown area,


not just because Yumiko is from there but it is without a doubt
the best place to be, downtown people are the salt of the earth
and after nearly 20 years of going to downtown Tokyo, most shopkeepers and local
people recognize me and have accepted me as one of them. As an example, the local
coffee shop, owned by the Suzuki family,is one of my favorite haunts, not only
because of the owners but because of the great coffee and snacks, my favorite place
for breakfast.

I have to be careful when I go to the Suzuki`s coffee shop


as Mr. Ssuzuki is an excellent photographer and on his day off
usually goes to the mountains to photograph flowers and wildlife
and he has some excellent photos that he has taken, and they hang proudly on the
wall of the coffee shop. One particular photograph that he had taken was of Mount
Fuji, taken in the early morning with the snow drifting lazily in the breeze. I
used to sit and look at the photo , it intrigued me somewhat and then one day Mrs.
Suzuki asked Yumiko if I liked that photo, to which she replied, yes. Next day we
went in and the photo was gone, but not for long, Mr. Suzuki came around with a
package in brown paper and said to me, “present”, and when I unwrapped it, it was
indeed the missing photograph.
A year later when I returned, he had another stunning photo of a
deer coming out of the forest in the early morning mist, it was more like a
painting. Once again I was caught studying this particular photo and once again,
next day I was presented with it, both photos have pride of place in our lounge
room .
Now when I go to the Suzukis's coffee shop, I keep my sunglasses on for obvious
reasons.
Another of my favorite eating places downtown is “Mush's” beer
restaurant”, not only for the food also the characters who frequent the place.
There is “Mike” the local real estate agent, (I don’t know
his real name), he does not speak English so he told Yumiko that I can call him
Mike !, he also said that he did not like me when he first met me, I wanted to know
why so I had Yumiko ask him and he replied that he was jealous of me, now I
automatically thought that he meant that he was jealous of Yumiko and I, but this
was not the case, it turned out he was jealous because I have a “TALL NOSE”, this
was a fact, he said that all Japanese have this rather squat flat nose and he was
envious of someone who had a tall nose, as he liked to call it, and that one day he
would have enough money to have a nose job!, I am still waiting to see this.

Mush's restaurant is a place that I can go on my own, I cannot


communicate with anyone, but most are regulars and want to sit
with me and also the owners look after me very well. One evening
I went to Mush's about an hour before Yumiko, (she was shopping
with sister ), so we had agreed to meet here. There was a vacant
stool at the corner of the bar, so I sat myself here and ordered my customary beer.
After a while, a gentleman that I had not seen before came in and sat further down
the bar, but seemed very interested in me, but still did not say a word. After a
while when Yumiko and her sister turned up, I mentioned that the gentleman down the
bar kept staring at me and that hoped it was not another case of the tall nose
syndrome otherwise I would be getting a complex.

Inquiries were made on my behalf and it turned that when the


particular person came to the restaurant, he not only had his own bottles of
spirits behind the bar but he also had his own stool and I was sitting on it. When
I found this out, I bowed to him and said sorry and offered him his stool, he just
beamed and said it was O.K. he was not really upset, just giving me the evil eye
for a bit of fun.
Turned out he was a hairdresser, had four salons and his name was Isimura -san
Now Mr. Isimura wanted to talk to me but we had this communication problem again,
so he said that he had a friend
who could speak English and that he would call him and he could
come and meet me. I heard the name Tom Hanks mentioned a
couple of times, so I was curious of course and wanted to know
what Tom Hanks had to do with all of this and I was told that
Mr. Isimura`s friend who could speak English, was known as Tom Hanks.! Tom Hanks in
a Tokyo downtown restaurant ! I don’t think so.

About 30 minutes later, in walked a Japanese gentleman with


an American marine haircut, you know the kind, shaved at the
sides and a sort of tuft on the top, well he was introduced to me as Tom Hanks, I
could have fallen of the stool, he was nothing like Tom Hanks, turned out that his
favorite movie was, “Saving Private Ryan,” and his favorite actor was, you guessed
it, Tom Hanks, so at his request, Isimura-san, the hairdresser
gave him a haircut just as Tom Hanks had in the movie. I did not
know what to say at first when he introduced himself so I stuck out my hand and
introduced myself as Tom Cruise, they both shook
their heads and said NO WAY.

I have another friend called Mr. Suzuki, no connection with the


Suzuki coffee shop, but there is a similarity in that this Mr.
Suzuki is a professional photographer and I first met him when
he came to Perth to do a photo shoot for a magazine. The shoot was on the first
ever Telstra Rally Australia in Perth, Western Australia and we had to follow the
Toyota team for the duration of the rally and I found out then that Mr. Suzuki was
a very unusual person, this has since been confirmed on our visits to Japan when we
meet up with him.
When I first met Mr. Suzuki he told me that he was not married and could I help him
find a nice wife, preferably a blonde. I took this with a pinch of salt, little
knowing that he was serious, I have in fact had similar requests before from
Japanese, both male and female. Next time we saw Mr. Suzuki in Japan he told us
that he was now married, he had gone to Hawaii on holiday and met Japanese lady
from Tokyo and married her and at the same time had bought a condominium in Hawaii
as an investment, so much for wanting a western blonde lady.

A couple of years later we met up with Mr. Suzuki again and whilst we where having
a few drinks he told us that he was having trouble with his neighbors. Now Mr.
Suzuki does not live in downtown Tokyo,in fact he lives in quite an upmarket area,
so I was interested to find out what sort of trouble he was having with his
neighbors.

The story he told us was that he decided to paint the outside of his double story
home, but what color ? after some
deliberation he decided on bright orange, so herein lies the problem with his
neighbors, they are complaining about the
gaudy orange color and he cannot understand their attitude.
He told us that he has explained to them that even on a cloudy
day, when the open their blinds each morning, this beautiful
orange hue will coming flooding into their homes, just like sunlight !, makes sense
to him .

Now he has an even bigger problem in that he intends


to build a third story onto the house and this has caused even an bigger furore,
but he is going ahead anyway. I suggested he
just buy a three story home somewhere nearby, but he was not
keen on that suggestion and went on to say that he would have to
paint the extension to his home orange also, more trouble on the
horizon I fear, stay tuned.

Last year when we met up with Mr. Suzuki. again and we were sad
to learn that his wife had suffered a stroke and was paralyzed down one side and
had great difficulty talking, all the sadder in that they now have three young
children but as usual Mr. Suzuki was able to put a positive spin on it, he now has
a disabled sticker on his Mercedes so he does not have to worry about parking when
he is out and about on photographic assignments in Tokyo, his words not mine,what a
great character.

Staying in the up-market area of Tokyo for the moment, we


were invited to the home of Mr. & Mrs Kawai. whom we had
first met on the Best Restaurant tour, mentioned earlier in the book. The Kawai`s
lived in Setagya-Ku , a very upmarket
area and Mr. Kawai owned a hotel and French restaurant in
which he presented floor shows imported direct from France.

We duly presented ourselves at the K. residence, dressed rather


casually, polo shirt, pants and casual shoes and were shown into
this magnificent home. A 2 story structure with imported Italian
marble floors, hand crafted staircase, and original paintings on the walls by some
of the worlds best masters, did we feel a little under-dressed ? out of place
perhaps, that would be an understatement.
When we arrived Mr. Kawai. had already left for his office in the hotel so we were
entertained by the lady of the house and absolutely charming lady. After we had
finished our afternoon tea, Mrs. Kawai asked to stay and go to the restaurant with
her for dinner and watch the latest floor show from Paris. We explained that we
were not exactly dressed to go to a five star restaurant and that we did indeed
have another appointment that evening. The lady pleaded with us to change our
plans, stating that her husband would be bitterly disappointed that we did not see
him and she even went as far as to suggest that she would have the chauffeur take
us home and wait until we had showered and changed and bring us back again. I was
sorely tempted but we did have plans and it would not have been fair to change them
at such short notice, so we promised next time.

Finally convinced that we could not go to the hotel, Mrs. Kawai excused herself and
disappeared up the staircase and asked to wait a moment.
While she was gone I had a better look at the house and was
fascinated with this beautiful marble floor and I remarked to
Yumiko that although stunning to look at, it must be very cold in the winter. Now
Yumiko mentioned this to Mrs. Kawai. when she
returned and she smiled sweetly at me and told me that is was not a problem, they
had under floor heating throughout the house, SILLY ME AGAIN !.
As we were about to take our leave Mrs. Kawai handed Yumiko a
beautiful gift and then she turned to me and bowed and said she
was sorry but she did not think to get anything for me. I assumed that the gift
that she had given Yumiko was for the both of us, which it turned out was right,
but she wanted to give me something personal, so she handed me six pairs of socks,
not just any old socks, new of course, but sheer nylon black gents socks, obviously
taken from her husbands drawer, you know the kind, you can see thru them, all with
the Yves Saint Laurent brand on them, and I thought it was only family who gave you
socks and jocks for Christmas and birthdays.

I was truly overwhelmed by this very kind gift, this lady was
genuinely worried because she had not thought to buy me an
individual gift . We never did see Mr. Kawai again unfortunately, he died suddenly
a few months later, just after asking us to look for a house on the Swan river in
Perth, for him, as a holiday home where he could bring his family each year.
Mr. Kawai had fallen in love with Perth and we did in fact find his dream home but
by the time we contacted him he had already gone.

Trains in Japan truly fascinate me, I do not mind fighting the


crowds in the rush hour, being squeezed onto the train to allow
the doors to shut, standing nose to nose with a complete stranger, they are usually
asleep anyway, I have seen so many people asleep standing up, there is no chance of
falling over anyway.

People read books standing up, the novels in Japan are half the
width of our standard novel, this allows the reader to hold the book open with one
hand and read whilst holding onto the strap with the other hand.
I play a game on the trains, I usually stare at the person that
I am nose to nose with, usually they are reading a book or rolled up newspaper and
I suppose it is the same with anybody, but sometimes you get the feeling that
someone is watching you, so usually they lower the book or paper and find me
looking at them. Some people just bow their head to me and continue reading other
people become quite embarrassed and find themselves wanting to look at you over the
top of the book quite frequently to see if I am still watching them.

One thing I am disappointed about on the trains is that in the past few years it
has now become illegal to brush against a female, (I am not sure about a male). I
will explain this, as the trains are so crowded, it has always been accepted that
it was near impossible to avoid touching someone whilst getting on or off the
train, of course it depended on where you touched them, so I suppose some people
did take advantage of that, (don’t look at me, honest),but from what I can gather
not many people, or females if you like, seemed to complain but having said that ,
there must have been a certain percentage of the female population who did complain
so it has now become illegal and you can be arrested and charged with lewd
behavior, so I keep my hands in my OWN pockets when I am on the trains,
particularly in rush hour.

As an aside to this story, they have just recently added female only carriages to
some trains in Japan.

Another train story, the Shinkansen and Bullet trains are another marvel of Japan,
fast and sleek and a delight to travel in. These trains are so quiet inside,
spacious, spotlessly clean and you have no sensation of speed, the country side
just seems to drift lazily by at around 200kms.

The service on the train would put any five star hotel to shame,
trolley after trolley comes thru the carriages, pushed by
immaculately dressed young ladies, selling food, drink,
newspapers, books, and gifts, yes beautifully wrapped gifts, after all if you are
on the train you are going somewhere on business or pleasure, so you will be giving
someone a gift, it is built into the character of the Japanese people this culture
of giving, and I love it !.
The conductors on the trains are also immaculately dressed
individuals, usually complete with cap and white gloves and those trains are always
on time, arrive on time and leave on time and the doors open onto the yellow lines
on the platform, no running to the nearest door, queue within the lines and you
cannot go wrong. Come with me now on a visit to Tokyo station, A very
serious,imposing building, but inside it would have to be one of the biggest and
best stations that I have ever been in. It is a shoppers paradise down there in the
bowels of the earth, you shop all day long without going outside, not only shop but
eat and drink as well, everyone is catered for. I found a liquor store in Tokyo
station, it has the largest range of whisky that I have ever seen anywhere, even in
Scotland, where I come from. I have bought some exclusive scotch in the store and
also some rare scotch that I have never seen anywhere else and guess what, it is
cheaper than even the duty free shops at any airport, that is even if you can get
it in a duty free shop, now that appeals to a Scotsman.

Another amusing story is about the toilets in the stations. I had occasion to visit
the toilet in Tokyo station one day and of course like most places in Japan, it was
pretty crowded and I had to queue for a urinal. When I eventually reached the front
and proceeded to do my business, I felt a nudge from the side and saw a hand come
across in front of me. When I looked around here was this cleaning lady, in the
gents toilet, polishing the chrome pipes that connect to the urinal. Now this lady
did not even bat an eyelid, she was obviously used to cleaning in the gents toilet
and I was obviously the only one in there that was surprised, everyone else just
went about their business and left, I bet this lady could tell a few stories around
the dinner table !.

Another toilet that I visited in a station was a unisex toilet, I had no idea when
I walked in, it was not until I reached the urinals that I spotted a lady checking
her hair in the mirror that I thought I had made a mistake and started back
peddling and on reaching the exit Yumiko asked me what was wrong and I said that I
thought I had gone into the ladies toilet by mistake. It was then pointed out to me
that the sign above the door showed a lady and gentleman together and this was
indeed a unisex toilet. I believe that there are also still
some unisex public baths around, although this I have never
experienced, the closest I came to that was a few years ago in the Yotsugi public
baths I observed a lady, fully dressed with rubber apron and Wellington boots on,
bathing her husband whom had suffered a stroke and was unable to wash himself. This
lady was completely unfazed by all the naked gentleman around her and just went
about her business as if no-one was there.

Until a few years ago there was not much signage in English in the stations,
whereas nowadays most of the larger stations have digital signs which give you the
train times and destinations in Japanese and in English. This is fine but sometimes
the translations are a bit confusing, for instance we where standing on the
platform waiting for our train and I was watching the digital readout and was
amused to see the words “dead head train” coming thru occasionally, so I asked
Yumiko what a “dead head train” was, at first she wondered what I was talking about
until she looked up at the sign and when it came thru again she started to laugh
and explained to me that the Japanese translation was, “not in service”, explain
that one !, here was me thinking that they had a special train for deadheads !.

Down in the bowels of the station, in fact in most big stations in Tokyo, you will
find Japans homeless people. These people sleep in cardboard boxes during the day,
no one moves them on. They have to leave at night of course as the stations close
at midnight. The homeless people are not beggars, I have never seen any of them
asking the thousands of passers by for as much as a cigarette and from what I have
been told, a majority of them are drop outs from society as I will tell you next.
We were in Osaka central station early one morning and although it was early there
was still lots of people about. Yumiko as usual had to purchase our tickets so she
stood me against a pillar and said, “do not move”, she did not have to tell me
that, I was well aware of the consequences if she had lost me, I would end up with
the homeless people. As I was standing at the pillar, people watching as usual, I
spotted a homeless gentleman heading my way, he was dragging his cardboard house
behind him and obviously getting in early to find the best position for the day. I
watched in horror as he headed straight for me, after thinking that they never beg
or ask for anything, I thought there is always a first time. So there he was, right
in front of me and looking me in the eyes and then he spoke, your are an American
he said, (I had a crew cut at that time), his English was perfect and I was
dumfounded and managed to say no that I was a Scotsman living in Australia, then he
proceeded to ask me which part of Australia to which I answered, Western Australia.
He stroked his matted beard and said, oh that is quite a hot place I believe and I
replied yes indeed it was. Next minute he said thank you to me and disappeared into
the crowd. Next thing I know, Yumiko is standing there demanding to know why I was
talking to a homeless person, I cannot leave you alone for one minute she said. I
had to explain to her that she told me not to move and that this gentleman
approached me but what puzzled me is that he spoke immaculate English, obviously a
very educated gentleman. Yumiko then explained, as I have already mentioned, that
he was probably some well educated business person who had just decided to drop out
of the rat race for no particular reason or due the stress of life in Japan.

The very next day, in the very same station , we were making our
way to the platform when out of nowhere came about a dozen
screaming young schoolgirls, all heading for us, I thought perhaps that they had
taken me for a film star or pop star, (well everyone needs there 30 seconds of
fame), but no, they were on an assignment from school and had to interview as many
foreigners as possible and have their assignment books signed by the person whom
the interviewed. So here they were, they asked Yumiko if they could interview me,
so she asked me and of course I said yes, then they asked Yumiko where I was from,
“Scotland originally but now living in Australia she replied”, what was I doing in
Japan ?, they asked, hang on I said, shouldn’t they be interviewing me in English ?
that’s right said Yumiko, you have to ask him the questions in English. There was a
deathly silence in the group, looking at each other and whispering, trying to find
out who had enough courage to ask the questions. I could see that they were in
trouble so I took one of the interview pads and found out that the questions were
indeed in English, so being the good guy that I am, I filled in the questionnaire
for them duly signed (signed all of their exercise books), and said good luck, and
told the others just to copy the one that I that I had already filled in, after all
I cheated at school when I was a kid, didn’t you ?

Still on the subject of stations, we were actually in Tokyo on the morning of the
Sarin gas attack by the Aum group.
We normally stay with Yumiko`s sister when in Tokyo and
on the morning of departure we usually have to arise around
5am to get ready for the journey to Narita. I don’t know, but call it fate, call it
intuition, but on this particular trip we decided on the eve of departure to stay
at one of the many hotels at Narita, thereby saving a few hours next morning. This
decided we talked Machiko into coming with us for the evening so that we could have
a farewell dinner and a few drinks together and a good nights sleep before our
journey back to Perth next day.

Early next morning we arose and had breakfast in the hotel


restaurant then readied ourselves for the shuttle bus across to
the terminal, only a few minutes away. When we arrived at the
entrance to the terminal there was a huge traffic jam and police and armed forces
personnel everywhere.

A short while later armed soldiers boarded our bus and ordered
everyone off after which they proceeded to search the bus and
before being allowed back on we had to produce our passport and
ticket. I asked Yumiko what she thought was going on but of
course she was as much in the dark as I was and said it was just
probably just one of the periodic security checks that they ran at the Airports
from time to time.
After the incident we eventually reached the terminal and checked in for our
flight.
On arriving in Perth that evening, we were met by my daughter
Kerry who was in tears when she saw us. I immediately thought
that something had happened to the family whilst we had been
away and was surprised to hear from Kerry that there had been
a gas attack on the subway in Japan that very morning and we knew nothing at all
about it and suddenly it all made sense, the armed police and military.

We must have had a premonition or something the previous


evening when we decided to stay at an airport hotel, otherwise we we would have
been on the subway that morning, perhaps not on
the particular lines of attack, but nevertheless we may have been held up in the
confusion and missed our flight, or worse still, we may have been on the targeted
train.

We stayed with the Yokohata family in Osaka, as well as being clients they are very
good friends and we keep in regular contact with them. This time in Osaka the Y.
family had booked a weekend at an onsen and on the way to the onsen we stopped off
at a place called Iga. Now Iga is supposedly the home of the Ninja and of course
Mr. Yokohata felt that I had to visit a typical Ninja house. It was everything that
I ever had ever heard about Ninjas, secret panels everywhere, they would drop out
of the ceilings, jump out of the walls and up from
under the floorboards, only thing is I always thought that the
Ninjas wore black, here all of the Ninjas wore pink ! they were all females, but
every bit as lethal as their male counterparts.

From Iga we went to our onsen and it was beautifully situated in


the snow covered mountains, like something out of a picture book. Next morning
after breakfast it was suggested that we take a walk trail, approx 4kms around the
base of onsen, crossing over small creeks over very old wooden bridges, tramping
thru the snow, the scenery was stunning. We came around a bend and in the middle of
nowhere was a small shack or hut with the front propped up with a branch and in
here was a lady and gentleman
selling hot tea and Amazaki. Now I had never heard of amazaki
before so I was curious, what was it ? It was described to me a
a rice wine drink, a bit like Sake but with the rice still in it, so I decided I
would try one, boy was it good, steaming hot and tasty with it, I had to have
another one. Mr. Yokohata warned me that it was quite potent and I should take it
easy on the amazaki, but I could drink plenty of this stuff. Trouble is that it is
only a winter drink in Japan so from now on I have to make sure we go in the winter
time.
Most locals cannot believe that I actually like amakzaki.

Back In Tokyo, and we had a date with Sumo, and if it is on when


we are in Tokyo then I am there also. We have been lucky enough
to obtain a private box each time, (they are much like our corporate boxes) thru
some of our business contacts. The private boxes seat 4 people, on cushions of the
floor of course, and what an experience it is, you do not have to move a muscle,
drinks and food are in abundance and served in your box, you can never run out, if
you are thirsty or hungry, just raise your arm and a waiter will appear and serve
you. As if all of this was not enough, at then end of the tournament you are given
a gift bag full of Sumo souvenirs, not cheap souvenirs, but quality dishes and
glasses with Sumo wrestlers on them and all sorts of other goodies, talk about
being treated like a king.

Last time we were in Tokyo I was asked if I would like to attend a training session
at the Oishima Bear stable, would I indeed. ? I wanted to see those pink giants up
close and personal and I got my wish.
We trotted of the the stable, (unlike boxers, Sumo do not belong to a gym, but
belong to a stable), at 6.30 in the morning and were welcomed by the stable master
and seated on a platform so that we could see everything very clearly. Here I
watched in awe as these 200 kilos plus giants, slapped, crushed and threw each
other about, this looked more dangerous than the actual event itself and I felt
sorry for the young apprentices, they bore the brunt of the more senior wrestlers
wrath and some of them would not have weighed 100 kilos, they looked positively
skinny compared to their more senior stable mates. I watched in awe as one young
apprentice was slapped, pushed, thrown and abused by one of the senior wrestlers,
anywhere else I suppose this type of treatment would be frowned upon, but here it
achieved the desired result, as after a few minutes of this the younger man had had
enough and ran at his opponent, picked him up and threw him, all of the punishment
that he had to endure did eventually pay off, he attacked his opponent with such
force and venom and managed to upend him. This was an experience that I will never
forget.

Late afternoon after the Sumo at the Ryogoku Sumo stadium, we


had gone to the hospital not far from the stadium to visit Yumiko`s nephew whom had
just gone thru a nose operation, we were in the lift after visiting Hajime and also
in the lift were three young Sumos, all with various degrees of injuries, one was
on crutches, one with his shoulder strapped up etc. and by the look of them they
were quite curious to see a gaijin in the hospital lift.
Obviously they had a sense of humor as one of them looked at me
and pointed to the other two and said, “famous Sumo wrestlers”,
of course I could not resist this so I said that I was famous
Australian Sumo wrestler, all 70 kilos of me. This went down well with them and
when we reached the lobby, they asked for a photo with this famous Aussie Sumo.

An agent we deal with in Tokyo has one of the most exclusive tour companies in
Japan, which also has offices in New York and Paris owner is Mr. Y. (We will just
call him Mr.Y.) Now when we first heard about Mr. Y. in Australia, we were warned
that he was a most difficult gentleman to deal with , but more of that at a later
date. We had dealt with Mr. Y. a few times and of course he told us that when we
visited Tokyo, we had to visit his office and take lunch with him, which of course
we did.

Mr. Y. had booked a French restaurant for lunch and had invited
Professor T. (we will just call her Professor T to save any embarresment) to join
us. Now professor T. is a leading
surgeon in Tokyo and we had met her one of her visits to Perth with Mr. Y.`s group.
At the appointed time, we met at the restaurant and were duly seated and given a
menu. This was a very exclusive and expensive restaurant and Mr. Y. was apparently
a regular customer, so he was well know to the staff, so I suppose I was not really
surprised when he ordered curry and rice for lunch,I thought this was typical of
him to choose something that was not on the menu, and the staff did not even bat
and eyelid After we had placed our orders I could not contain myself and had to ask
him why he would come to a French restaurant and order curry and rice, why not go
to local Japanese restaurant instead. Of course he explained that he wanted to take
us somewhere nice and also Professor T. was with us and also he loved this
restaurant and the staff knew that he may order something that was not on the menu
so being who he was they did not argue and just sent out to the
nearest restaurant and ordered his curry and rice to be delivered.

This was not the only incident at lunch, I noticed professor T.


whispering in Mr. Y.`s ear and him nodding in agreement with something. Next minute
he called over the waiter and asked him in English, where is the toilet ? the
waiter pointed in the right direction and Mr. Y. said, again in English,
O.K. the lady, (pointing to the professor), wants to go pee pee.
I could not believe this, here was this very quiet,demure lady, trying to find out
quietly where the toilet was and now the whole restaurant knew where she was going.
When I looked across the table at her she just smiled demurely at me as if to say
it was O.K. I should have known better. That is Mr. Y. at his best (or worst) !
When we visited Mr. Y.`s office for the very first time and walked in, we were
shown a table and chairs overlooking the office. No one stirred or looked up when
we entered, everyone seemed to extremely busy. A young lady served us with some
green tea and we waited and waited, unusual for Mr. Y., he is a stickler for time.
After a while a gentleman in a white shirt sitting just in front of us looked
around and smiled and said, Oh you are here, it was of course Mr. Y. He told us
later that people expect the president of the company to have his own plush office
but not him, his philosophy is if that the staff can see him working hard then they
will work hard as well, no one dare look up unless he talks to them, he can here
every phone call and there are no private calls aloud in our out.
Mr. Y. is first there in the morning, so no-one dare be late and he is last to
leave in the evening, so no-one goes home until he says so. slave driver ? or
astute business man ?
who knows, all I know is that he runs a very successful and
lucrative business. It is a fact that most of his clients will not go on a tour
unless he is the tour escort and believe you me, we have heard the way he talks to
his clients when they are in Australia, unbelievable, they either love him that
much or they are masochists.

Mr Y. told me about his wife one day, he said that he rises at 5am each day and has
his bath and whilst he is doing this his dutiful wife is up preparing his breakfast
and getting his office clothes ready and all the time she is doing this, she is
singing like a bird as she is so happy to be looking after him. After telling me
this he asked me if I believed this story, to which I replied,” not a word,” he
just smiled at me and said “smart man”.
Most recently I have confided in Mr. Y. that I wish to live in Japan and that I
would like to work with him and when I said this he asked me if I was joking and of
course I said no so he said, “you want to work for me ?” no I replied, what I said
was, “ I want to work with you NOT for you” at this he just smiled and said OK just
give one months notice before you arrive, so I will take him at his word one day.

Whilst we were in Osaka, our friend and client, Mr. Yokohata,


decided that he was going to take us to his private club.
We had just been for dinner and were dressed rather casually, just pants, polo
shirt etc. when Mr. Yokohata told us that you had to be dressed with jacket & tie
to get into this club I wondered why he would even bother taking us there. When we
arrived at the club the doorman stepped forward of course and put up his hand to
stop us, then Mr. Yokohata stepped forward and motioned for the doorman to let us
in, which to my surprise he did without any argument. I asked about this when we
were inside and Mr. Yokohata explained that he
had been a member here for over 20 years and they would not dare
refuse he or his guests entry.
Now I should mention that this was a hostess club and there were
hostesses a plenty, only trouble was that I was with Yumiko and
Mrs. Yokohata was also there, but that did not stop the girls, they just pushed in
between Yumiko and I and proceeded to pour my drinks and even hold the glass to my
mouth, of course Yumiko
understands about hostess clubs and as long as she was there I
could not get up to anything could I !.

The table next to us was quite noisy, lots of suits, (as they call businessmen in
Japan), and lots of girls of course. There must have been some bawdy jokes being
told, I could tell from the way they were all laughing. After a while I got up and
excused myself to visit the mens room and at the same time one of the gentleman
from the next table followed me in and stood next to me. I could feel his eyes on
me and he suddenly asked me in a rather gruff voice, WHO ARE YOU?, now I thought
this was not very friendly of him so I bounced the question back at him and said,
“who are YOU ? I did not receive a reply, he finished his business and went back
to his table. A little later this same gentleman suddenly stood up and clapped his
hands and everyone else got up and started to leave and as he walked past our table
he came over to me and shook my hand and said goodbye. I did not pay any attention
to this until the owner of the club came over and sat with us and had a
conversation with Mr. Yokohata and Yumiko, (I was busy drinking
with the girls of course), and they interrupted me and
asked me if I knew who the gentleman was that shook my hand. I
had no idea I said and related what went on in the toilet, why what was the problem
? I asked, Oh he is only the president of
Matsushita or Panasonic as we know it, oh that’s O.K. I said, he
doesn’t who I AM.

Previous to visiting the hostess club, Mr. Yokohata had taken us to a “Shabu Shabu
“restaurant, now shabu shabu is a Japanese dish where you are served a plate of raw
beef and a bowl of very hot dipping sauce, the idea being that you pick up a piece
of the beef with your chopsticks and dip it in the sauce, beautiful. After watching
how Mr. Yokohata and Yumiko done it, I tried it, I picked up my piece of beef and
dipped it in the sauce until it looked cooked, NO,NO,NO, said Mr. Yokohata, not
like that, you don’t want to cook it, you pick it up, dip it in the sauce and say,
"shabu, shabu" quickly and eat it, so that is how it is done and delicious it is,
it did
not take me long to finish of my plate and on seeing this, Mr. Yokohata asked me if
I would like another plate, to which I replied that I would indeed. At hearing
this, Yumiko kicked me and whispered in my ear that I did not want another plate of
beef as it was (at that time), Aud$96.00 per 100 grams for this Kobe beef, but too
late, Mr.Yokohata had already ordered another serving for me.

One of our oldest and best friends in Japan is Mats, We both first met Mats in
Perth when he worked there as a Japanese speaking guide and hotel receptionist.
Every time we go to Japan we have at least one night out on the town with Mats,
always it is somewhere different or new.
Once we went to a fairly new area called Odaiba, which is a whole new concept for
Japan, it is just like a satellite city. To get there we took the driverless train,
yes that’s right, driverless. This train is fully computerized, no driver, you just
purchase your ticket and off you go. Each station is announced before arrival and
every thing is automated !. Once at Odiba we went to the Sega game center, now this
is something else, every game here is interactive, for instance,
we went bob-sleigh racing, you climb into an actual bob-sleigh,
strap yourself in and when everyone is ready, just press the buttonand the race is
on. The bob-sleigh that you are in actually rock and rolls, just gives you the
feeling that you are hitting the walls and crashing into other sleighs and all this
is on a full size 3D screen in front of you so you actually get the feeling that
you are there. Here you can go motorbike racing, formula 1 racing etc.
A game center for adults.

We had a break for lunch after the game center, went to a great
Italian restaurant, ate too much of course, so decided to have a walk around this
great new place, and do a bit of exploring.
Not far from where we had lunch, we came across a beautiful new
hotel, (Hotel Nikko), and outside there was a sign that said, dessert buffet, all
you can eat for 1800 yen (at that time approx: Aud$20.00),
so we thought why not, we had just had lunch so better have
dessert. Believe it or not we spent nearly two hours having dessert buffet, never
seen so many cakes, jellies, even sandwiches (for dessert ?), and unlimited coffee,
people came and went all around us and I believe the staff thought we would never
leave, for a Scotsman it was a bargain, I certainly got my $20 worth.

We always seem to make pigs of ourselves when we go out with


Mats. Our most recent adventure with him we decided to go to a
beer garden on top a multi – story building for a few ales and a
snack. That was fine, we spent nearly two hours there, eating and drinking. When we
left the beer garden we walked a short way in Ginza and went to a Kaiten Sushi bar
or Sushi train as they are commonly known. Here we had more to eat and drink,
although
we did not spend a lot of time here, Sushi trains are traditionally fast eating
places, great for a quick snack. So feeling quite full by now, we decided that our
next stop would just be for a drink, we could not possibly eat any more, or so I
thought. We had not gone far we met some friends on their way to a Yakitori
restaurant and they did not take long to convince us that we should join them. More
food, I do not know honestly where I put it all, I am not a big eater at the best
of times, perhaps it is just the Japanese food.
Well after this lot, there would definitely be no more eating this evening, just a
couple of beers then home.
We ended up in a very nice bar of the main drag in Ginza, my style of bar, (well
ANY bar is my style of bar I suppose). We could sit near the window and watch the
throngs of people passing by and directly opposite was geisha bar or hostess bar
where we saw a very well dressed gentleman come out and kimono clad lady followed
him. These two talked a bit, just outside the window where we seated, they had a
bit of a cuddle and peck on the cheek etc. then suddenly the geisha turned and
slapped the gentleman on the face. That was it, other geisha's came out of the club
and started remonstrating with the gentleman and quite a large argument ensued. A
few minutes later it was all over, the man handed the geisha some money, everyone
bowed to each otherand disappeared. I deduced, rightly or wrongly, I am not sure
that the gentleman had not been to generous with his tip and that the initial
foreplay had been a try to wheedle more money out of him, which after the slap on
the face seemed to do the trick.

Yumiko`s sister Machiko used to work for a lady in Japan whose name I have never
found out, we called her Madam, as she was a very refined lady and lived in the
very best part of Tokyo in what the Japanese call a mansion and what we call and
apartment. I met madam a few times and took a liking to her, although she was very
wealthy she seemed to be very down to earth and always made us very welcome. One
day madam asked Yumiko what I liked about Japan, as she was curious that I knew so
much about the country and its customs, so Yumiko replied that I liked just about
anything and everything about the country but in particular it was the simple
things that I enjoyed
the most, for example, she said, he loves going on the rush hour
trains, he finds them fascinating, he also loves stand noodle bars or “tachigui-
soba”. At this madam seemed to be amused and was asking Yumiko lots of questions
and it turned out that she had led such a sheltered life and had always had a car
at her disposal so had never traveled on local trains and had never heard of
“tachigui-soba” hard to believe but apparently it was true.

On another occasion, a crowd of us had arranged to go to a Mexican restaurant that


was managed by a friend of ours, and on hearing about this, Madam asked if she
could come with us and bring her friend. It was explained to her that perhaps our
crowd would be a bit uncouth for her, but she insisted and eventually we agreed
that they could join us. I believe that this was a real eye opener for Madam and
her friend, she had never been in the company of people of our ilk before, but I
believe that she truly enjoyed herself.

During the evening Madam struck conversation with our good


friend Mats and found out that he worked for Amex in
Japan, to which she replied that she was a gold card member with
Amex. Mats asked Madam if she had heard of the Platinum card
to which she replied she had not and what was a platinum card ?
It was explained to her that you had to be invited to hold a platinum card and you
could only be invited if you had X amount
of money. Before the evening was over, madam had asked Mats to
make sure that she would receive an invitation to become a member of the elite
platinum card holders group, so I guess she must have had the required funds to
even be invited.

Another very good friend of ours is Kinomiya-san he is a gentleman that I met in


Perth approx. 20 years ago (like Mr. Suziki, the photographer, he came to report on
the Telstra Rally Australia), and he is a very successful
businessman in Tokyo. When we are in Tokyo he usually has us
over to his house for a few drinks and to get there we just catch the local train
and he picks us up at the local station in his prize possession, a Jaguar. Now this
is my type of car and I hope one day when he is finished with it that he will pass
it on to me, as that is the only way that I will ever own a Jaguar.

Last time we visited his home, he came to the station to pick us up and as we made
our way to the car park, he started to apologize to me profusely about his car. I
did not understand completely at first what he was talking about until we got to
the car and found out that it was a BMW. What he had been trying to tell me was
that his Jaguar was being serviced and as he knew that I liked the Jaguar, he
wanted to apologize to me for having to bring the BMW which belonged to his wife.
What could I say ?, with tongue firmly implanted in my cheek, I said although
disappointed, the BMW would have to do on this trip.

Kinomiya-san drives to work each day in peak traffic, when he could quite easily
take the train and save himself at least an hour, not to mention the exorbitant
parking fees in Tokyo, however when I suggested this to him he told me that he
prefers to drive the car so that he can practice his English lessons whilst stuck
in traffic. Quite simply he puts on his English tapes and holds a conversation with
himself in the car !.

Apart from Kyoto, I must tell you about my second favorite place
in Japan, Disneyland. The Japanese have done a great job in
creating this Disneyland, it has all the features of the
U.S. Disneyland and more. I have literally spent days here, mainly due to the fact
that it is always packed and you have to queue as much as two hours to get on a
ride. When we go to Disneyland we usually stay at the Sheraton Tokyo bay and the
first time I ever went here I was surprised ( I never cease to be surprised in
Japan), we went looking for a bar in the hotel and saw a sign saying , "Budweiser
bar downstairs", so I thought this is great and off we went. When we got down to
the bar another pleasant surprise, this was a country and western bar and they had
a live group of American C & W musicians playing. I had a drink with them during
one of their breaks and it turned out that they spent 7 or 8 months a year at the
Sheraton Tokyo Bay and the rest of the year
touring Europe. The band members told me that it was a great
lifestyle and beat working for a living !, they did not seem to
bothered about getting back to the U.S. to often, what a great life, I asked them
if they needed a road manager ! One can dream I suppose.

I had occasion to visit the dentist recently whilst in Japan, I had lost a filling
and as Yumiko was,. for a few years, a dental assistant, she managed to get me an
instant appointment with her old employer. Dentists in Japan work a bit differently
from dentists in Australia in that they have up to three chairs in the surgery and
will work on three people at any one time. The chairs of course are backed onto
each other so you cannot see what is happening to the next person but basically the
dental assistant does a lot of the work. In my case the dentist himself drilled and
ground my teeth and the assistant done the packing or filling and the general
cleaning up and whilst the she is doing this, the dentist himself will be drilling
or extracting from the person or persons next to you, this seems to
work quite well and although I was a bit apprehensive at first, I did not have a
problem with it and quite enjoyed my subsequent visits, (I had to make three visits
in all as they decided that some of my older fillings needed replacing), first time
in my life that I have ever admitted enjoying going to the dentist.

There was an amusing incident at the dentist with the young dental assistant, she
had been told by the dentist to pack my filling, which was duly done and when she
had finished she said to me, “tongue” so being used to doing as I am told, I poked
out my tongue, no, no, she said,
( by this time sweat was beginning to appear on her brow),
“tongue” so I again poked out my tongue once more only to make
her more frustrated. The dentist, who was working on a patient
behind me duly turned around and smiled at me and said, “please
bite”, meaning to bite down on the filling that his assistant had just put in my
tooth, the poor girl did not speak English of course and was confused by the word
tongue and bite !.
Gives a whole new meaning to the saying, “bite your tounge”.

Going to the movies is another unforgettable experience,


of course you have to queue first all, then when the doors
open there is a mass exodus from the theater and at the same time you have to push
your way in to get a seat, no joking, I was carriedalong by the crowd, everyone
desperate to get a seat, even climbing over rows to get the seat that they wanted.
We managed to get into a row and just as I went to sit down, a gentleman came over
the row behind and I very nearly sat on his lap but after telling him in my
best polite English that this was my seat, he got the message and moved on. What
amazed me even more was the fact that they
allow standing around the walls and along the back, reminded me
of when I was a kid at the Saturday matinees in Scotland, standing room only !.

Pubic transport in Japan is really unbelievable, I have used it all, local trains,
local buses, taxis etc. everything and everyone is so efficient, we have a lot to
learn from the Japanese as far as this goes. Bus drivers of course wear a uniform,
but they also wear white gloves, taxi drivers wear white gloves, truck drivers wear
white gloves. You cannot enter or exit a taxi until the driver opens the door for
you. The doors in the taxis are opened automatically by the driver
from the inside, there is no way that you can get in our out of the taxi unless the
driver says so, great idea.

You do not see any old or dirty trucks on the road in Japan, all
trucks look new and are immaculately clean, also at night it is
spectacular to see a 16 wheeler on the road and all of his wheels are lit up,
sometimes all the same colors and sometimes all different colors, just like a
christmas tree driving along the road.

Eating and drinking in Japan is by far and away my favorite


pastime as you may have already guessed. The aroma of the food and smell of the
coffee whenever you pass a cafe etc. is unbelievable, even if you have not long
eaten and
you get this wonderful whiff of curry or yakitori, it makes you feel hungry all
over again, there is always this strong smell of brewed coffee drifting out into
the street and you feel immediately that you want a coffee, a very simple
advertising ploy I suppose.

Vending machines are another amazing feature of the country,


you can get cold food, hot food, cold drinks, hot drinks, cigarettes, beer, and all
this is on street corners 24 hours a day, can you imagine in any other
country( especially Australia) the vending machine would be gone the next
morning !.

Tokyo Disneyland:

10am in the morning and I am queuing up with a few thousand


other people, waiting for the gates to Disneyland to open, and when they do it is a
free for all, push , shove, climb over anyone, but lets get in there at all costs.
On a most recent visit to Japan I was standing in a station and an announcement
came over the loudspeaker that if you were waiting for a train to Disneyland,
please don't bother if you don't have an entry ticket as it is already sold out,
this, believe it or not was only a mid-morning weekday !!.

Once inside Disneyland you make a beeline for your first ride,
enjoy it while you can because as soon as you get of the first ride and make your
way to the next one, the queue is already 200m long and the average wait for each
ride is 2 HOURS ! I kid you not, I have waited in those queues just to enjoy a 10
or 20 min. ride on Space mountain or on the Jungle cruise.

I have spent all day at Disneyland ( it closes at 9pm from memory), and have not
experienced all it had to offer, so I have had to go back a couple of times just to
make sure that I have missed nothing, well that’s my excuse and I am sticking to
it.

So there we are, that is just a small sample of my Japan and you


have met a few of the wonderful friends, and heard about some of
the places that I have been fortunate to visit, a different planet for sure and a
place that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime, and as your are
reading this, I am most certainly in Japan now, starting the 3rd. phase of my life,
and what will we be doing ? well Yumiko and I will be doing the reverse of what we
have been doing in Australia for the past 10 to 15 years, we will, hopefully be
bringing western tourists into Japan and showing them the real
Japan, so keep this in mind when you read the next part of this
adventure and you can find our contact details should you wish to join us on a
Japanese odyssey.

Journey with me now to Australia and meet some unique and crazy
people with whom I have had the pleasure to show around this
wonderful country of ours and some of the characters I have
worked with.
PART 2 Australia:

We started D.Y. Travel in May of 1991 and we had our first


Japanese group to Perth in September 1991. This was a bank
group, who had their headquarters in Fukui City, which I
mentioned in part 1. of the book. We had just recently signed a
contract with this bank to take care of their staff whilst they were here on
holiday. The bank had a property at what was then the “Sanwa Vines Resort”, built
and owned by the Sanwa Tatemono
company in Japan.

This property was a 4 bedroom / 2 bathroom house and twice a year the bank would
send 12 employees for a free trip to Western
Australia, 10 males and 2 females,( the two females were to keep the 10 men under
control I suppose.)
These groups usually consisted of 1 senior manager (group leader
of course), 1 accountant and the rest were made up of people with various positions
in the bank such a the younger members of the group who were usually bank salesman.
This holiday was free for the employees, what you would call an incentive tour,
they even had spending money given to them, hence the reason for 1
accountant with each group.

My memory of the first group is the most lasting, not only because it was our very
first job as D.Y. Travel, but because of a certain incident. I will first explain
that on their first night at the Vines, we had to have a welcome barbecue dinner in
the backyard. During the first day, we always had to take the group first to a bank
to exchange money and have a brief inspection of the bank.
Changing money always presented a problem in that as soon as
they had received their Australian dollars from the teller, they
would invariably walk outside and count their money again by
arranging it like a fan in their hand (this is normal in Japan, they fan out the
money like a pack of cards and count it this way),so there they would be, standing
outside the bank display hundreds of dollars in front of passing shoppers etc.,
enough to give you a heart attack, we could never get thru to them that this was
Australia and not Japan and that anyone could come along and snatch the money out
of their hands, it would almost never happen in Japan of course.
After the money changing exercise we had to take the group to a
typical, local supermarket to buy supplies for that evenings
barbecue. That first evening was a very balmy evening and we all enjoyed our
barbecue and a few drinks and were just sitting about chatting and watching the
kangaroos grazing on the golf course, such a beautiful clear night, not a cloud in
the sky and so quiet.
One of the gentleman disappeared inside and came back a short
time later, having changed into his “Jinbei” or lounging pajamas. He also had with
him a “Shakuhachi”, a Japanese style bamboo flute, which he proceeded to play. Not
my style of music, very traditional Japanese music, but quite pleasant nonetheless.

During a break from playing he asked Yumiko if I had a favorite


tune or piece of music that he might know, now this was an easy
question as I am sure that he had never heard of the Eagles or
Lonnie Donegan and the like, but Yumiko told him that I was
originally from Scotland if that was any good to him.
Well next minute you could have floored me, here was this very
traditional Japanese gentleman, whom I had never met in my life
before, playing a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, on his
Japanese flute. Now with such a balmy evening, a glass of scotch in my hand and the
strains of Amazing Grace wafting across the golf course, it brought a lump to my
throat a tear to my eye and
something I will never ever forget. Neither will the kangaroos I
suspect !

During the bank group`s week in Perth, we where responsible for


arranging the itinerary for them, we had full control over which
venues and restaurants that we used. Usually that last night
farewell party we had at five star restaurant in Kings Park in Perth called Frasers
restaurant. We had a couple of amusing incidents here with different groups. One
incident was when we went in for dinner and the senior member of the group decided
he was going to order the drinks, so he asked Yumiko to find out what the most
expensive bottle wine was on the menu. We asked the waiter how much the most
expensive bottle was and he replied $270 for a bottle of red. Without batting an
eyelid, the group leader told us to order two for starters, (keep in mind that the
bank is paying for this), but Yumiko told him that she would not do this and went
on to explain to him that although it was not our money but was the banks money, it
was a waste of money as the Japanese do not know enough about wine to appreciate a
bottle at $270. Our guest was none to happy about this, so he asked what the most
expensive bottle of white wine was. This was slightly better at about $145 so we
split the difference and let him have a couple of bottles of the white,. Funny what
you will do if someone else is paying isn’t it ?.

Another evening another bank group, same restaurant.


Group leader asked for nice cocktail, never tried one before, so he asked if I
could find out a nice one for him. The barman suggested a Toblerone cocktail, quite
sweet but potent, so I said we would have one of those. Now this gentleman loved
the Toblerone cocktail, and literally guzzled it down and promptly ordered another
one and all he could keep saying was “oishi, oishi” which means nice, nice. After
the second one I could see he was beginning to show signs of having had enough, so
it was with reluctance that I let him order another one, bad mistake. By this time
the food had arrived and we had all started to eat and this gentleman looked at one
of his junior staff opposite him and said that he must try this beautiful cocktail,
the young man declined politely, pointing to his beer. Now this was no good, he
should not have refused, as a couple of minutes later this gentleman was banging
the table and demanding that his junior taste the cocktail, before anything else
could happen, I intervened and told him that this was a five star restaurant and
that he was causing a disturbance and people would complain. That seemed to quieten
him down in the short term as a bit later he got up from his chair, after consuming
the rest of his cocktail and walked around the table and started to pat his staff
on the head, now Japanese do not like being touched on the head or face, but here
was this gentleman, a senior staff member, walking around ruffling hair and
annoying everyone, so Yumiko jumped up and took by the arm, back to his
chair and told him in no uncertain terms not to move again or Mr Duncan would put
him in the coach and lock the door.
That done the trick, we never heard another word from him all
evening and when we eventually left the restaurant, he promptly
fell asleep in the coach before we even got out of the park.
The next morning it was a very sheepish gentleman that came to us bowing and
apologizing for his behavior the previous evening .

One more about Frasers Kings park restaurant, another bank group
and again too much to drink. One of the junior staff this time got a bit drunk, but
he was not obnoxious or annoying to anybody so we did not particularly worry about
it to much until on of the young ladies in the group, who worked at the same branch
of the bank as this young man, told us that when he got like this he would suddenly
stand up and take all of his clothes off, she had seen it happen before in Japan.
Now THIS worried me, so I told Yumiko to tell him that if he as much as loosened
his tie, I would take him to the nearest police station and he would not be going
home tomorrow.
It worked a treat, he never made a move the rest of the evening.
Another young man in the group approached Yumiko one evening
when we returned to their accommodation and said that he would
like to ask me a question. Yumiko told him to ASK me,he does not bite she said, and
you can speak enough English. He seemed a bit
hesitant and beads of sweat began to form on his forehead and
he began to stammer slightly as he said that he had a friend in
Japan (here we go I thought), who had asked him if he could bring back some videos
from Australia. I inquired what kind of videos, ( I knew what kind of course), did
he want outback movies, comedy movies, what did he want ? After a bit of thought he
said his friend wanted some videos with girls in them. Ah I
you want some adult movies, (for want of a better word), at this he became even
more nervous and could not look me in the face so I said to him that even if I
could acquire the movies for him, they would possibly be of no use to his “friend”
as they had the NTSC system in Japan and basically they would not work, problem
solved and an end to that conversation.

Another restaurant we used was my favorite restaurant, Haskins


restaurant, sadly now gone. We where having dinner there one
evening with a bank group and two of the group asked Yumiko if
they could order a bottle of Moet Chandon . Now this was just over $100 per bottle
so we decided that we would let them have one bottle, thinking that everyone would
have a small taste, but no these two gentleman kept it for themselves and would not
share it, even the accountant with the group, (he was paying for it with the banks
money), asked them if he could have a taste, they just told him to buy his own.
Needless to say when they asked for another bottle, we refused.

Another small group that we took to Haskins restaurant was a


group of councilors from a certain prefecture in Japan, I wont say which prefecture
as I do not want to get them into trouble OK.

We had our entrees or starters and as was the custom at Haskins


before the main meal they gave you a sorbet to cleanse the pallet.
These people had never had sorbet before and took a liking to it
immediately and when it was time for desert they asked if they
could have a sorbet, which we duly arranged.
The trouble started when they ordered different flavors and the
senior councilor (The Deputy mayor), insisted that the youngest
member of the group try his sorbet. The younger member politely
declined the offer and this upset his senior colleague somewhat and he became quite
agitated that his young colleague would not try his sorbet and he started to raise
his voice and demand that he try, he went as far as to put a spoonful of his on top
of his
colleagues bowl. That was it, a slanging match ensued and people at the other
tables were beginning to get annoyed at the shouting. Then something funny
happened, I myself had just about had enough of this so I got and pushed my chair
back ( I was actually going to the toilet that in the hope that when I came back
Yumiko would have sorted them out), and just as I did this, the owner/chef came out
of the kitchen into the dining area, as was his custom each evening, to chat to the
diners and make sure that everything had been to their satisfaction. So here we
were, I had jumped up, the chef had suddenly appeared and a deathly hush descended
on our table, the men looked at each other then at the chef and myself and they
really thought that they were in trouble and when they asked Yumiko if the chef and
I were upset, all she said was,“well what do you think “ ? We never had anymore
trouble that evening
and as before, the next morning it was three very subdued
gentlemen who came into the hotel lobby and apologized profusely.

Another group, another restaurant, Joes Oriental Diner in the Hyatt hotel and a
group who had just a little to much to drink and who tried to outdo each other as
far as drinking and thinking up silly things to do went. After exhausting all ideas
on how to behave badly, someone suggested eating the red chilies that were placed
in bowls along the table, so it started, a competition to see who could eat the
most chilies, I have never seen so many red faced gentlemen in my life, popping one
chili after another, coughing and spluttering until Yumiko abruptly put an end to
it.
I suspect that there were a few very ill gentlemen the next morning although they
would never show or admit it.

Tour escorts from Japan usually accompany larger groups and their function is to
look after and be on call for the group 24 hours a day, the local jsg (Japanese
speaking guide), is responsible during the tour for commentary and translation etc.

Now some tour escorts are excellent at their jobs and others, well they are about
as useful as I am on any day of the week. I have had some fun with tour escorts
over the years, I can usually pick the good from the bad in the first
hour or two after arrival and know exactly who I can rib a little bit now and
again.

One tour escort actually fell asleep on the coach within the first hour of
arriving, he just left everything up to Yumiko and promptly fell asleep. We had
just pulled up at our first stop on the tour after leaving the airport and the
passengers started filing of the coach but the tour escort did not even wake up, he
was dead to the world, he had even taken his shoes off and put them at the side of
seat. I could not stop myself, I picked up his shoes and put them in the luggage
bin underneath the coach, then I proceeded to wake him up and tell him that Yumiko
and his passengers had already gone sightseeing. At this he panicked and his first
reaction was to put on his shoes. I will never forget his face as he looked at his
feet, it was one of sheer horror, he got to his knees and looked under the seat and
up the isle and even looked out onto the footpath but no shoes.

I stood there, arms folded and looking impatiently at him and


gesturing to the disappearing group. He started muttering in
Japanese so I called Yumiko back and asked her to find out what
his problem was, to which he replied of course, that he had lost his shoes. I asked
him how he could lose his shoes, did you have them on when you got off the plane I
asked ? I could see by now that he was really beginning to panic so I said to him
that it was his lucky day as I always carried a spare pair of shoes with me in case
of emergency and that I would get them from underneath the coach but I was not sure
if they would be his
size or not but anyway would get him out of trouble until he could buy another
pair. When I produced the shoes he just looked at me and said, “ my shoes,” no I
replied, you must be mistaken, these are my shoes but you are welcome to borrow
them. At this he realized that it was a joke and began to laugh and as we wandered
off to join the group he said to me, with a smile, that later that day perhaps I
should take him shopping to buy a spare pair of shoes.

Joe(not his real name but wanted to be called Joe while he was
here), was a tour escort from one of our agents in Japan (no names-no pack drill),
just a young boy and not an experienced tour escort as such, in fact it turned out
that he was actually just an office worker. This young man was intimidated the
group of gentleman that he had been put in charge of, they were obviously business
people and he could not relate to them or communicate with them to well, so he was
relieved when Yumiko assured him that we would look after everything and that he
should just look as if he was busy.

First problem that Joe encountered was at the check in at the hotel. Once we had
checked the group in, Yumiko was giving them
instructions regarding pick-up next morning etc. and of course a
few of the gentleman had questions to ask about different matters.
Whilst this was going on, Joe who spoke some English was trying to talk to me and
at one stage took my arm and tried to steer me away from the group for some reason
and as he was doing so he kept saying it was O.K., no problem ! Now I wondered what
was going on so as soon as we had put our guests in the lift we sat down and had a
coffee with Joe to give him his instructions.
It was here that I asked Yumiko to find out from Joe what he was
going on about and why he was pulling me away from the group at
one stage.. Joe looked a little embarrassed and it was clear he did not know how
start but anyway it turned out that one of the
gentleman in the group had propositioned Yumiko while she was
giving them their pep talk, he had invited her to come to his room later that
evening and Joe was not sure whether I understood Japanese or not so he was
concerned that if I did understand that there might be trouble, he was just trying
to be diplomatic.
We had a good laugh about this and Yumiko had to explain to him
that this was not the first time and would not be the last time and she told him
how she handled it. She asked the gentleman what he was going to do for her if she
did indeed go to his room, what do you want he asked her ?, well I want to go
shopping of course she said to him, what would
you like to go shopping for he asked ? clothes, jewelery ? Oh no
nothing like that Yumiko said, I need a new house and new car.
That was the end of that conversation, much to Joe’s relief.

We have to give the tour escort our after hours number, as of course he is staying
in the hotel with the guests whilst in Perth and of course we can go to our own
home. We had just got home and were just in bed when the phone rang, I looked my
watch and it was approx. 1140pm. I picked up the phone and it was my friend Joe
calling from the hotel in town (we lived approx. 30kms.from town),he told me that
one of his clients had just come to his room and wanted to go out, out where ? I
asked him, somewhere he replied hesitatingly, you know he exclaimed ! no I do not
know Joe (of course I knew), I am not a mind reader. At this Joe explained that his
client wanted to meet a blonde western woman, oh I said, and where would he expect
to meet a respectable blonde this time of the evening ? Joe was silent for a moment
and tried to explain that he wanted to go to
a place where you could buy a western woman, the shops are closed I remarked, this
is Perth not Tokyo. There was silence for a moment then I decided to let him off
the hook and said that I nderstood and I was just having a joke with him, but I
made it clear that neither Yumiko or I would be coming to the hotel at that time of
night to look after his clients needs, so I gave him the name of two establishments
(I keep those names and number in case of an emergency such as this), told him to
go down to the lobby, ask the concierge to put them in a taxi and just tell the
taxi driver where they wanted to go.
Next morning we met the group for breakfast at the hotel and I sat next to Joe and
of course was very curious to find out how he got on the previous evening. The
story that he gave me was that they were taken to one of the establishments that I
had suggested, (no I did know from experience), and that he went inside with his
client. I then wanted to know how long he had to wait for his client and he was
reluctant to tell me, but after some persuasion he told me that he just wanted to
wait but that the gentleman insisted that he also choose a woman and that he was
paying for it. I asked Joe if he did indeed choose a woman and he told me that his
client was so insistent that he had no choice, O.K. I said, that if fair enough,
you are the tour escort and have to do as your clients wish, but I want to
know if you are married, to which he replied no, O.K. do you have a girlfriend, to
which he replied yes, why do you ask, well I would like to meet you girlfriend next
time I come to Japan, Oh I don’t think that is a good idea Mr. Duncan, Joe said
smiling at me, he was not so silly.
The gentleman in this story who asked to meet a blonde western
woman, turned out to be the same gentleman that propositioned
Yumiko.
Still on the subject of Joe, as I said he was just a young boy really and it is a
fact that tour escorts are not well paid, they basically just get their normal
salary plus their hotel expenses etc. and usually rely on a good tip from the group
at the end of the tour. This little story comes from the same group and this is how
Joe explained it to me.

He was sitting in the hotel lobby with his charges, waiting for us to pick them up.
Joe had one leg propped up on the knee of his other leg and one of the group
noticed that he had a whopping great hole in the sole of his shoe so he politely
pointed this out to Joe and
suggested he put his foot on the ground so that others would not
see this. During the tour that day, we had some free shopping time in the city and
this particular gentleman asked Yumiko where there was a good shoe shop as he
wanted to have a look, so we accompanied him to the shoe shop, along with Joe, whom
he took inside and promptly bought him a very nice pair of quite expensive shoes.
Nice little story ?.

Most unusual tour escort I have ever come across is my old friend from the
exclusive tour company in Tokyo, the president himself, Mr.Y. (yes the same Mr. Y.
mentioned previously).
We had never heard of this company or Mr.Y. until a Sydney
company contacted us and asked us if we would mind handling this
group for them. It was explained that this was a VIP group and that Mr.Y. was
escorting them personally and that he could be a very difficult man, demanding and
unpredictable. We had no hesitation, after all we prided ourselves that nothing was
as bad as it seemed and we had a knack of overcoming any obstacles.

We fronted up to the Airport on the morning of arrival, not


knowing what to expect but ready for anything. Yumiko stood
there with her sign held high and eventually out came our group,
all 8 of them including Mr.Y.. He seemed a very pleasant
gentleman, very well dressed, well mannered and down to earth.
I mentioned 8 people arrived, the request was for a 54 seater coach, I of course
queried this when we received the original itinerary,but was told that they had
indeed ordered a 54 seater coach, so who am I to argue.

Next problem was when we had every one on board and proceeded
sightseeing, as per itinerary, Mr. Y., who speaks excellent English, told me that
he wanted to go directly to the Hyatt Hotel and check in. I explained that as the
itinerary was that we had to do a half day sightseeing and then have lunch then
check in to the hotel a 2pm, we would not be able to check in at the hotel as the
rooms would possibly not be ready and even if they were then they could charge at
least an extra half day.

Mr. Y. was not much interested in my comments and said, just go to the hotel
please. We arrived at the Hyatt around 7am and as it was a small group, they did
have rooms available for them so they were allowed to check in. Mr. Y. had a
consultation with the group before they went to their rooms and then advised us
that we should stand by until 11am when we would continue our sightseeing, he then
added that we should go to the restaurant in the hotel and have breakfast on him,
with that I did not argue. After we had breakfast we had to move the coach from the
front of the hotel and park somewhere else and wait. I had given Mr. Y. our mobile
number so that he could call us when he was ready.

Around about 1030am we received a phone call from Mr. Y. telling


us that he was in the hotel lobby and that we should present
ourselves as quickly as possible as he had an emergency, so we
rushed around to the hotel as quickly as we could. When we got to the hotel lobby
Mr.Y. was standing there, arms folded and not
looking too happy. We inquired what the emergency was and he
said that he could not open his suitcase, could you repeat that I asked, so he said
in a loud voice that the whole hotel could hear,
I CANNOT OPEN MY SUITCASE, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO
DO ABOUT IT ?, Where is your suitcase and why wont it open? I
asked. My suitcase is in my room and if I knew why it would not
open then I would not be talking to you would I ? fair comment
I remarked, please bring you suitcase down here.
When the suitcase duly arrived it turned out that it was a
combination lock type suitcase so I (rather stupidly), asked for the combination,
IT DOES NOT WORK remarked Mr. Y. O.K. I said
but give it to me anyway, let me try, I am the eternal optimist. Sure enough the
combination would not open the case and of course I had to listen to, I TOLD YOU
SO, now what are you going to do ? and do not tell me that you are going to break
it open because this is a new case and I only purchased it for this trip.

I went to reception and asked them to send for the hotel


maintenance man and when he arrived I asked him what he could
do and he said, use a screwdriver and break it open, at this I looked at Mr. Y. and
thought, not a good idea, so I replied, no thank you, I will have the hotel call a
locksmith.

This duly done, we waited for the locksmith to arrive. During this time, Yumiko and
Mr. Y. were locked in earnest conversation and looking at the itinerary, I guessed
that they were planning the rest of the day, I was not wrong on that score. The
locksmith duly arrived, had a look at the suitcase and shook his head and took out
his screwdriver.
Horrified, Mr. Y. jumped up shouting NO, NO, don’t break it
open. What do you want to do? I asked, the locksmith has explained that it has been
damaged in transit and there is no way you will get it open without breaking it
open, anyway I asked, what is so important that you have to have it open now ? he
just looked at me and said, I want to change my underpants, is that O.K. with you ?
well if that is all I said, I can stop at a shop and we can buy you a new pair of
underpants, what do you think ? at that he said to the locksmith, just break the
bloody thing open.

Well I thought, that is the first hurdle over, he is not so difficult, I know
exactly how to handle him, give him a taste of his own medicine.

Next hurdle was the itinerary, I explained that Yumiko and he had been discussing
this while we where waiting for the locksmith, I was not wrong. While he was taking
his suitcase back to his room, Yumiko said to me, he wants to go to the Pinnacles,
O.K. I said, thinking she meant he wanted to change one of the other days, when
does he want to go? , NOW, she said.

It was already after 1130am, usually if you go to the Pinnacles, you leave anywhere
between 7 and 8am and get back anytime between 7 and 8pm. I asked Yumiko if she had
told him how far it was and how long it took, yes she replied but he is determined
that he is going to the Pinnacles, so I had no choice but to agree, so as soon as
he had gathered the rest of the group off we went to the Pinnacles.
Now for those of you who do not know, the Pinnacles is approx.
300kms north of Perth, so in a large coach can take you anywhere
up to 4 hours, with a toilet stop, to get there.

We where only 1 hour out of town when one of the group asked
Yumiko when we would commence the sightseeing, what
sightseeing she asked ?, we are going to the Pinnacles, didn’t you know ?, no she
said, we have not been told anything. With that Yumiko came up to Mr.Y. who was
sitting directly behind me,
(I was driving of course), and asked him if he had not indeed told the group that
there had been a change in plans, to which he replied, of course not, I do not have
to tell them everything ! We could not believe this, these people were doctors,
dentists, professors etc. and paying for a very expensive tour and here was Mr. Y.
making decisions without telling or consulting them.
Next thing was Mr. Y. asking me to stop at a restaurant for lunch, what restaurant
I asked ?, we are over 200kms out of town, there are no restaurants on this road
only roadhouses, O.K. he said stop for lunch wherever. We pulled up at a road house
and went in to order lunch, everyone, including Yumiko and I, were looking at the
blackboard menu and deciding what to have when Mr. Y. came over and said, order 10
hamburgers and chips ! that was it, no choice and no consulting his clients. After
our hamburgers and chips we made our way to the Pinnacles, had our walk around for
45 minutes or so then back on the coach and head back to Perth. Not far from the
Pinnacles we passed a field and in the field where some Emus and Kangaroos so Mr.Y.
ordered a photo stop for his clients and they were no sooner of than he ordered
them back on, now it is not hard to count 7 people onto the coach, so I was not
surprised when
Mr. Y. (he did not get off at all), said that there was one missing to which Yumiko
replied that the professor was outside finishing his smoke.
Well Mr. Y. jumped up to the door, poked his head out and said
in English,” PUT THAT BLOODY CIGRARETTE OUT AND GET
BACK ON HERE RIGHT NOW”
I could see the professor in the mirror, he dropped the cigarette in fright and
stamped on it and said quite audibly "#*#*" and literally jumped back on board,
apologizing profusely. I wondered if Mr. Y.had some hold over this group. When we
reached the outskirts of the city, Mr. Y. said that he wanted to take the group to
a seafood restaurant for dinner, (it was by now nearly 8pm), so I called the
Matilda Bay restaurant and booked a table for the ten of us and we duly arrived
there just before 9pm. I was glad to be seated for dinner, by this time I was
starving, we had been on the go since 5am that morning and I was beginning to feel
just a little bit weary.
The waiter came around and gave everyone a menu, I had already
knew what I was having, having been here several times before of
course.

Once again we where thwarted, Mr. Y. called the waiter over and
ordered 10 of the same dishes and asked the waiter to take the
menus away, once again we where all having the same meal.
I was glad to get back to the hotel eventually, we saw our charges safely into the
hotel and arranged the pick up time for the next morning. Mr. Y. came over to me
and shook my hand and thanked me very much for being so obliging and while he was
saying this he had a huge smile on his face as if to let me know that he had
deliberately been awkward that day just to test us and that we had passed his test,
as we would find out a couple of days later.
The rest of the tour passed uneventfully and after five days it was time to say
goodbye to the group. Mr. Y. and I had become very firm friends by this time and he
insisted that we visit him when we where in Japan, which of course you have already
read about.

When we got to the airport Mr. Y. gave us a letter in which he


expressed his appreciation and gratitude to us for such a
professional tour and that from now on he would solely use
D.Y.Travel for his Australian tours, which of course he has done
many times and he did admit that the first day was a test to see if we would put up
with him. One final thing before we parted
company, Mr. Y. handed us both another envelope and thanked us
once again. Once out of the airport and back in the coach, Yumiko opened the
envelope addressed to me and inside was a small sum of crisp new notes, that is
very nice I said but when you open yours I bet that you have less than me, at which
Yumiko relied, “rubbish”, why would I have less than you ? but sure enough when she
opened it there was indeed a lesser amount for her.
How did you know that, she asked, ah I already know Mr. Y. very well after a few
days with him.

I can understand to a degree how Mr. Y.s VIP clients put up with
him as well, he can talk to them in any way he likes and they seem to accept it, in
fact most of them will not go on a tour that he is not escorting personally, so
they must get some sort of kick out it, in fact this same group went from Perth to
Ayers Rock and one member of the group was a 90 year old lady who, of course, was
not allowed to climb the rock, so Mr. Y. promptly chartered a small plane for her
and flew her around the rock, this was his way of compensating her for not being
allowed to climb the rock.

Another of Mr. Y.s groups was the.,“Best Restaurant tour”, I


mentioned this briefly in the first part of the book along with such people as Mr.
Kawai. who sadly passed away, and Mr. Satake the owner of the famous restaurant in
Kyoto. Mr. Satake is a wonderful gentleman and we had an instant rapport with each
other, I cant explain why, he did not seem to mix in with the rest of the group and
he and his secretary always dined alone and not with the group so I usually joined
them for lunch and dinner so they would not feel left out.

Now this “Best Restaurant tour” as I explained earlier, had


nothing to do with visiting Perth's best restaurants, it was just a group of
restaurant/hotel owners on a sightseeing tour which had been organized by the now
famous (or infamous) Mr. Y.
We were told that we were responsible for choosing the venues for lunch and
dinners, so did we book Perth's finest, no we did not, we dined at Italian
restaurants in Fremantle, fish and chip restaurants and the favorite of the group
was without a doubt the “Sail and Anchor” hotel in Fremantle. We had a superb lunch
upstairs on the balcony and this was the highlight of the tour, it was still a
talking point next time we caught up with some of the group members in Japan.

One of their best memories was of the young waitress in the Sail
and Anchor, she had short cropped dyed blond hair and multiple
earrings, lip rings, stud on her tongue etc. you name it she had it, but her
service was excellent and each and every member of the group had a photo taken with
her, one gentleman even asked if she wanted to work in his restaurant in Tokyo !

When the group left Perth they went on to Sydney and were given a civic reception
by the Lord Mayor and met with the artist “Ken
Done”, who's work is highly prized in Japan, but even today when
we talk or meet with some of them, they tell us there best memory is of their stay
in Perth, and their tour with us, I personally find this very flattering.

Just as an aside to this story about Mr. Y. we did tell him


a few years ago that we had semi-retired to which he replied
"nonsense" and even in 2005 he sent us 110 clients to Perth for
a cultural tour and as recently as September 2010 asked us to
create an itinerary for a group of Japanese gardeners who wanted
to visit Perth so I suppose we can deduce from this that Mr. Y.
has confidence in us and will not take no for an answer.

We move on to now what is our forte or specialty, that is the


nature tours. We were contracted in 1992 to do a series of tours
for a prominent nature tour company in Tokyo, run by a
gentleman called Mr. Tomiyama.
Originally this company tried to organize their tours thru a prominent inbound tour
company in Perth, but like to many companies in Australia, it was put in the “to
hard
basket” because they required a native orchid specialist from the Dept. of
Conservation and Land Management or CALM as it is
commonly known, to work in conjunction with the tour operators.
Now as he was getting nowhere with with the company he had
engaged to conduct the tour, Mr. Tomiyama contacted us and asked for our help in
organizing the initial tour with a promise of more to come should we be successful.
We grabbed this pportunity with both hands and in a matter of days we had the whole
tour cut and dried, including the services of one of, if not the, foremost native
orchid specialist in Australia.

The type of person that joined the nature tours from Japan are of course very
dedicated and knowledgeable about our native plants and flowers and most of them
had done their own research before coming here and where aware of our native orchid
specialist thru his television appearance on NHK in Japan, so to them he was some
sort of god I suppose.

These nature tours where such a raging success that we ran them
for ten years, using such people as the orchid specialist and a
gentleman known as the Banksia Man who was, as the title
suggests , was one of Australia's foremost Banksia specialists and also Ann Newman,
Pauline Woolley, all very experienced and
highly thought of botanists in their own field. I will now relate to you some of
the strange and wonderful characters that came, some of them a few times a year, on
our nature tours.

One of our early tours we had a famous photographer from Japan,


Mr. Kihara Now Mr. Kihara was supposed to come on his own to
photograph certain plants and flowers so there was originally just Mr. Kihara, our
orchid specialist, Yumiko and I.
One of our old friends Mr. Ota found out about this tour and not only was he a fan
of our orchid specialst but a fan of Mr. Kihara so somehow he talked the tour
company in Japan in letting him join the tour.

I remember one day we were out on the Great Northern Highway


just a few kilometers north of the Murchison river, photographing some Sturt desert
peas on a property and it was getting quite late in the day and we had to get back
to Kalbarri for the evening. On the way back our orhcid man told me that he knew a
shortcut that would save us about 10 kms or so and that we should take this to save
time, he assured me that it was not problem. I was a bit concerned about this as we
did not have a four wheel drive but a Toyota 12 seater coach.

Against my better judgment I took his advice and we


headed for the shortcut only to find that half way thru the shortcut there was a
flood and the track was washed away. Now our orchid friend assured me that he had
been thru here about a week before in his car it was just the same and all he had
done was put his foot down and ploughed thru it, all fine and good if you have a V8
and not a sluggish diesel. However I put my foot down and ploughed thru, well
partially thru, before I had that sinking feeling, sinking into the mud that is.
So here we were, stuck in a bog in the bush and no-one around for miles so the only
solution was for Mr. Kihara and Mr. Ota and our orchid friend to get out and try to
push as I slowly
tried to drive out. It was a bit of a struggle but after a while we gained some
ground and eventually the wheels gripped and out I came with a burst but when I
looked in the mirror there was Mr. Kihara covered in mud, he had copped the brunt
of it and when the vehicle lurched forward he was still pushing and down he went
into bog. The orchid man was quick to jump out of the way when he realized that the
vehicle was about the grip but poor Mr.Kihara copped the lot, Mr. Ota. had long
given up the struggle so he was O.K. Another exciting day at the office !

Another famous nature photographer was Mr. Mori and he was sent
by a nature tour company as a tour leader with one of the groups.
Mr. Mori spent a lot of time in China, photographing mountain
plants and was quite a nuggety little gentleman with a sense of
humor. We were staying at the Dunsborough resort motel on this
particular trip with Mr. M. and on the morning of departure we
were heading for breakfast and just as I was about to enter the
restaurant I heard Mr. Mori calling out to me, Mr. Duncan please
come, I looked around and there was Mr. Mori standing at the door of his room with
a wash hand basin in his hands, now I could not believe this sight so I rushed over
and sure enough he was holding the sink from the bathroom in his hands. I did not
know whether to laugh or cry, what has happened ?, I asked, not my fault he said, I
did not do anything, the tap was making a noise when I turned it on and I just
tapped the basin to stop the noise and it came of in my hands. Now as I said, Mr.
Mori was a nuggety gentleman, very solidly built and I can imagine how he tapped
the basin and here he was holding the basin in his hand minus the plughole of
course and as I said I did not know whether to laugh or cry so I just started
laughing and then he saw the funny side as well and we both had a good laugh. When
I reported it to the reception staff and told them that Mr. Mori wanted to pay for
the damage they said it was quite O.K
as they were insured for this sort of thing, but I wondered how many guests had
wandered into the reception carrying their washhand basin!
A dentist from Saitama prefecture, I called him Emu man as he
wore traditional Japanese builders working boots or “Gikatabi” and if you have ever
seen those boots you will know why I called him Emu man, this footwear reminds you
of an Emu's foot. On the very first day of the tour or end of the first day I
should say, I was cleaning out the coach at the motel when Emu man suddenly
appeared and said to me, “senorita”, now I know I needed a haircut but I did not
think that I looked like a senorita, so I said "sumimasen" so he repeated himself
and said once again, “senorita”, at this I pointed to myself and said senior, NO,
NO, he replied, senorita Yumiko, great I thought, a Spanish speaking Japanese
dentist. Turned out that this very thoughtful gentleman had brought a present for
Yumiko, (never met her in his life before, but we were advertised in a magazine in
Japan as the tour operators and he obviously liked what he read), so I called for
Yumiko and he gave her the gift so I said please ask him why he asked for you in
Spanish, had he been a Spanish dentist in a previous life I wondered, no nothing so
intriguing, he had just decided at one time or another to learn Spanish as opposed
to English. As I have already mentioned Emu mans feet fascinated me and I could not
help staring at his boots and one day he asked Yumiko if I liked his boots and if
so please give him my size and he would have a pair sent from Japan for me, in fact
he said they would be just the thing for our nature tours !. I declined his very
generous offer.

Mr. Ota was one of our very regular visitors on our nature tours, he revered our
orchid and banksia tour leaders and knew the “Orchids of the Southwest of Western
Australia,” better than the author did !
Mr. O. would come on as many as three tours in a season and even
bought a tour for himself so that he could hog the specialist all all to himself,
so that meant for six days there was only Yumiko & myself, Mr. Ota and and Mr.
Orchid.
On one of those special tours we had made a stop to look at a special rare orchid,
(Mr. Ota usually made up a list and sent to us, of orchids that he specifically
wanted to see), and as per usual Mr. Ota. would take up to 20 or 30 photos of this
one orchid from every conceivable angle. After we had finished at this spot we got
in the coach and started to make our way out onto the road again when I remarked
that there was a very
strong smell of ants in the coach. We pulled up and I checked in
the drivers area and could not find anything then we
opened the door to where our passengers were sitting. I just took one look at Mr.
Ota. and his clothes were covered in bull ants,they were crawling all over him. I
pulled him out of the coach and started to pull the ants of his clothes, then
Yumiko asked him to take off his jacket, there were more inside his jacket, then we
pulled of his sweater, then his shirt, then his second shirt, (you would not
believe how many clothes this man had on), then his t-shirt, then Yumiko had to ask
him to remove his trousers, the ants had gotten in everywhere, finally we got him
down to his long johns the ants had even managed to get thru all of his clothing
and into his underwear, how he never got bitten I will never know, must have been
all the clothes. We drew the line at asking him to remove his underwear, although
some ants were exploring the way into his nether regions, I just used an insect
spray here, no way I was picking them of part of his anatomy. At the end of all
this the poor man was so embarrassed, all he could do was keep bowing and saying
how sorry he was that we had to look at him in his underwear.

While he was getting dressed again, I walked back to where he had been sitting and
he had indeed been sitting on an ants nest. Rest assured, he inspected the ground
where he sat in the future.

Mrs. Ito was another of our regulars and like Mr. Ota she would
buy a whole tour just for herself so that she could have the
undivided attention of our specialsts.
Mrs. Ito. was an organizer, you could depend on her to organize the coach seating
each day and the seating in the restaurant at night, she also organized the group
photographs on each and every trip.
On one trip we had just had a stop for wildflower watching,
as the Japanese call it, and Mrs. Ito decided that this was a great spot for a
group photo, very colorful. The group was arranged and Mrs.Ito set the timer on
her camera and rushed back to get her spot in the front row before the camera went
of and just as she squatted down she slipped and went over backwards at the precise
moment as the camera went off, made a spectacular photo, got a great shot of her
feet.

Mrs. Ito. was also a great friend and supporter of Yumiko and I and when she was
told that we where going to Scotland to visit my family, she asked if she could
come with us. Now this was an
unusual request, after all this was our holiday but as she was such a lovely lady
and valuable client we put aside one week for her to have a look around Scotland
with us. We took her to Loch Ness of course and she even bought herself a full
length kilt, now here was a sight, a very demure Japanese lady wearing a Scottish
Kilt and on the very next nature tour in Western Australia, she wore her kilt for
dinner in some small outback motel.

Another two clients (ladies once again), caught wind of our holiday to Scotland and
asked about playing golf at St.Andrews, they were led to believe that it was for
members only. I told them that this was not exactly true and that they could quite
easily go to Scotland and play golf at St. Andrews. Trouble was that they did not
want to go on their own or on an organized tour, but they wanted to go with Yumiko
and I, so there went another week of our holiday.

I duly booked their round of golf on the internet before we left


Australia and the had a memorable time playing their round of golf at St. Andrews,
so much so that they told us at breakfast next morning that they could not believe
that it had actually happened and that at five o'clock that morning they had both
walked around the course once more just to prove that it was not a dream, you see I
always knew that I could make dreams come true.

I have mentioned our orchid specialist a few times and I must tell you that
although he is quite serious most of the time, he does like a bit of fun now and
again. One morning we were having breakfast at Jerramungup hotel, (Jerramungup is
somewhere between Albany and Ravensthorpe), and Mr. Orchid was having one of his “
lets annoy somebody days” and it just happened to be my day. I was sitting in
between him and a rather serious Japanese gentleman and I had just stood up to go
and get another helping of breakfast whilst Mr. Orchid was in conversation with
Yumiko, discussing the coming days events.
Whilst I was gone from the table, he had spotted toast on a plate in my place and
thinking it was mine,quickly picked it up and threw it further up the table. Now
when I came back to the table he was waiting for some reaction from me but of
course there was no reaction to be had as the toast did not
belong to me but to the gentleman sitting on my left, you see the Japanese do not
have table setting as we do and this gentleman had just put his plate of toast down
next to my place. When there was no reaction he could not resist asking me if I had
forgotten something, to which I replied that I did not think so. Just at that
point the gentleman next to me was looking at me as if I had done something, then
it suddenly dawned on Mr. Orchid that he had thrown away this poor gentleman’s
toast so spent the next ten minutes apologizing profusely to this gentleman and
even offered to go and make him some more toast. Mr. Orchid was very quiet for the
rest of the day.

It is not the first time on tour though that I have lost my bread, dinner rolls,
cutlery or whatever, they just do not have table settings such as we in the west
do, chopsticks are the order of the day of course.

Mr. Sakai. was a first timer on one of our tours and was well into his late
seventies or early eighties and a very frail looking gentleman, so frail in fact
that on one day when there was a stiff breeze blowing he actually had to hang on to
a tree to stop himself being blown over. I got on famously with Mr. Sakai. and he
always wanted to sit next to me at the dinner table and practice his limited
English on me. On the last evening we where having dinner before taking the group
to the Airport for their flight back to Japan and Mr. Sakai was
seated next to me as usual and because he was talking to me
throughout dinner, he was not making much headway with his
food, much to his wife’s annoyance.
We did eventually get thru the meal and everyone made their way out to the coach,
everyone that is except Mr. Sakai according to his wife he had stopped at the
toilet on the way out and had not re-appeared as yet so I was elected to go and
investigate and when I opened the toilet door, there was Mr. Sakai leaning over the
washbasin, false teeth in hand under the running
tap. Mr. Sakai. just turned around and smiled a toothless smile and said,“cleaning
up teeth”.

When we arrived at the airport Mr. Sakai asked me if I would like to visit him in
Japan on our next visit, which of course I promised that I would, then he had a
puzzled look on his face and asked me to wait a moment while he conferred with his
wife.
After a short time he turned to me and said that he would be
honored if I would stay at his home overnight as he lived near a
botanic garden and wanted to take me there and the reason that he had to ask his
wife is that they of course only had a futon bed at home and if I was going to stay
then they would have to buy a bed especially for me, which they were willing to do.
I declined his kind offer and explained that I was used to sleeping on a futon and
that I could not let them go to the trouble of buying a new bed or even a futon
just for me, but I would still visit them for the day.

Ms. Nagaoka is another of my favorite people, a wonderful elderly lady, walked with
a walking stick, but that did not hinder her tramping thru bush and over rocks to
look at flowers. In fact Ms.Nagaoka is well known in Japan as one of that country's
pioneering female mountaineers and in fact still takes climbing tours up Mt. Fuji
and she must be well into her seventies.
I remember vividly one day walking thru the bush behind her and she had a habit of
talking to herself (well don’t you ?), when she spotted some flower and stopped to
have a look and I heard her say, “beautiful”, now I could not resist it, I was
right behind her so I said, thank you very much and bowed to her, at which point
she looked around at me and raised her walking stick in mock anger and said NOT
you, the flower !. I gave her my best disappointed look to which she responded by
smiling sweetly and touching my cheek, a moment to treasure.
Ms. Nagaoka had a habit of losing her camera lens cover and one day we were running
quite late and it was getting dark and we had a way to go before we got to the
motel for the evening so we where trying to hurry everyone up. Ms.Nagaoka was last
of course and when she eventually got back to the coach she said that she had lost
here lens cover in the bush.
Yumiko agreed to back with her to have a look at where she last
stopped to take a photo, which was quite a way in the bush
apparently, as they were gone for about fifteen minutes and I was getting anxious
as it was getting past my time for a beer.
After a while they reappeared with no lens cap, still looking on the ground as they
made there way back, anyway it was time to move and once we where on our way we
heard a cry from the back of the coach where Ms.Nagaoka was sitting, she had found
her lens cap, it was on the seat where she had left it.
Next day we where in the Fitzgerald national park and I dropped the group at the
top of a track and said that I would drive down to the bottom car park where I
would make morning tea which would be ready by the time they walked down. When they
got down I could see Ms. Nagaoka and Yumiko in earnest conversation and it turned
out she had once again lost her lens cap. I got in the coach, drove up the top of
the hill where I had dropped them and searched and searched but to no avail this
time and it was not in the coach so I suggested that when she came on her next tour
she should either chain the lens cap around her neck or bring a box of spare lens
caps.
Another one of my very, very favorite people was Ms. Hirano we got on like a house
on fire, why ? she always brought enough
duty free scotch with her to keep the both of us going for six nights on tour, who
wouldn’t like this woman ! One time she brought a present for Yumiko, a basin would
you believe, no ordinary basin was this. Ms. Hirano did not like to stand in the
shower of the motel rooms, as she quite rightly pointed out, sometimes they were
not so clean and you could pick up things like tinea. As I said this was no
ordinary basin, the bottom of this basin was non-slip and you could put it on any
surface wet or dry and it would not slip so the idea was that she could stand in
the basin in the shower in the basin to protect her feet and of course it collected
the hot water and kept her
feet nice and warm. Ms. Hirano. presented Yumiko with this basin
before she left, personally, I preferred the Scotch !
Majority of our groups are Japanese, we do, after all, specialize in the Japanese
market. On one occasion we had a small scuba diving group from Japan, couple of
Japanese and one Swiss gentleman, who we shall call Andy,now Andy was a scuba
diving instructor in Japan and he has lived in Japan for twenty years or more and
is married to a Japanese lady and this was his first visit to Western Australia to
check out the Scuba diving market for future tours. Andy had arranged to meet
another friend while he was in Perth, this was another Swiss
gentleman who lived in Japan and was the Managing Director of
Nestle Japan. Now believe you me, you could tell that this
gentleman worked for Nestle, enough said.
Anyway it was arranged one day that the group, including the
gentleman from Nestle would go diving in the tank at Aqua at
Hillary`s boat harbour.
We fronted up at the appointed time and everyone got changed into their wet suits
and donned the diving gear etc. and Yumiko and I went around to the public entrance
to watch thru the safety of the glass. All went well,we did not lose anyone to the
sharks and a good time was had by all.
Later that night at home I received a call from our friend from
Nestle and he informed me that he had lost his bathers or
swimming trunks and did not know if he had left them at
AQUA or not and as we had to take him to the airport in the morning, could I kindly
drive past AQUA and see if I could find his togs. Fortunately we did not live far
from
AQUA so we called in early in the morning and asked
the staff if they could have a look for a pair of bathers that might have been left
by our clients. This was a problem as they had many pairs of bathers left over and
did I know the color ? I said I had no idea of the color but they should be able to
find them by size! so after a puzzled look of they went and sure enough a few
minutes later they came back holding an enormous pair of bathers up and asked me,
do you think they are the ones ? definitely I replied and
took my leave. When we got to the hotel I gave Mr. Nestle his
bathers and asked out of curiosity why he could not have just bought another pair
when he got back to Japan to which he replied that I must be joking, there is
nothing MY SIZE in Japan, everything has to be custom made for me, including my
bathers.

The Elephant removal company is in Osaka and they contacted us


some years ago for rather an unusual tour. The request was for
us to organize two four wheel drive vehicles for 4 men to self drive across the
Great Victoria desert to Alice Springs then up the bitumen to Kununurra then across
the Kimberley to Broome and
down the West coast back to Perth. The problem with this tour
was that we were none to happy about 4 inexperienced travelers
trying to cross the desert without and experienced guide.
The group eventually agreed to accept our terms and allowed us
to send an experienced guide as far as Alice Springs with them,
he would then get on a plane and fly back to Perth. That done we
organized the four wheel drives and swags, food and emergency
equipment etc. All went well on the tour, the desert leg was
very successful and the guide left the group at Alice Springs as
agreed. Another condition that we imposed was that after the
guide had left the group, they had to call me every evening and
check in with us so that we knew exactly where they were and how
they were getting on. All of this went according to plan until they got to
Kununurra, on arrival here they called as per instructions and let me know that
everything was fine. The following morning, about mid-morning, I had a call from
Tennant Creek from the group to say that one of the gentleman had lost a suitcase.
I inquired how and where he lost his suitcase, did it fall off of the roof rack ?
did it fall out of the back of the vehicle ? tell me what happened I said. It
turned out that before breakfast at the Kununurra hotel, the group decided to load
up the vehicles so that they could have a quick getaway. This was fine but one of
the group, (the boss), put all of the gear in the vehicle but forgot his suitcase
which was standing at the side of the vehicle and when they came out of breakfast,
obviously did not notice it still standing there and drove off without it. When
they reached Tennant Creek, this gentleman decided that he needed something from
his luggage and low and behold, it was not there. At first they were convinced that
it had fallen from the vehicle then the boss remembered that he had left it
standing at the side door of the vehicle and forgotten to put it in. When this was
explained to me I said the first thing that I had to do was phone the hotel and ask
the
staff to have a look in the car park and see if it was still there ! of course it
wasn’t and I did not really expect it to be. Next I phoned the local police in
Kununurra and explained to the sergeant what had happened, he listened to me and
when I had finished he just gave a little chuckle and said to me, look if I go down
to the local pub tonight I will more than likely come across some local wearing a
shirt or pants that are to small for him and trying to sell a suitcase etc., now if
I ask him where he got the gear he will, of course, tell me the truth, “found it
boss” and I cant argue with that can I ? he did find it lying in the car park with
no one in sight so it
is now his property so I am afraid that your Japanese friend will just have to buy
himself another suitcase and clothes, end of story.

One time we had the hierarchy from Mitsubishi car company visit
Western Australia, they had been on an inspection tour of their
South Australian plant and were required to fly out to Japan from Perth. Yumiko and
I looked after those gentleman for a few days and on the day of departure we had to
hire a friend of ours, to transfer them to the airport in his coach, as, unbeknown
to them, Yumiko and I were flying out on the same flight with them that evening, so
we had PPP (short for Peter Pan Panorama's), pick us all up at the Burswood resort,
were they had been staying . We still had not told these gentleman that we were
going on the same flight, we just told them that we were having the evening off and
our friend Peter had offered to take them to the airport. While we were waiting for
the luggage to finish loading in the trailer, one of the Misubishi group wandered
up to the front of the coach and had a look to see what type of coach it was and
remarked to Peter that it
was a Toyota to which Peter replied in a loud voice, TOYOTA –
ICHIBAN, ( Toyota number one). On hearing this I jumped into
the coach and told Peter that these gentleman were actually the
hierarchy from Mitsubishi and would not really appreciate his
comment at which, Peter being a bit of a comedian, jumped up and
faced the group,bowed very low and said in a loud voice,
MITSUBISHI – ICHIBAN. This was very well received and even
drew a round of applause and laughter.
When we reached the airport, we checked in the group, rushed
them upstairs and thru immigration then proceeded to check
ourselves in for the flight. When we got thru immigration, we
carefully avoided the group and boarded last so as not to alert them.
The group were seated at the rear of the plane and Yumiko and I
were nearer the front, so there was no danger of them spotting us.

After about an hour into the flight, whilst they were serving drinks,I wandered up
to the rear of the plane, where the group were seated, and said to a few of them,
good evening. It took a little while but suddenly one gentleman, very surprised,
said,
Mr. Duncan !!, what are you doing here ? to which I replied that this was
D.Y.Travel`s door to door service and that we had come along to see them safely
back to Japan, this brought a round of applause and many invitations to to meet up
for lunch while we
were in Japan.

Japanese weddings were another of our specialties and we were


asked to arrange a wedding for the Yokohata family from Osaka,
if you recall we mentioned them previously on our Japan trips.
The son of the Yokohata`s.`s, was getting married and his parents asked if we could
arrange the wedding in Perth and take care of everything, which I assured them that
we could.
The bride and groom would not arrive until 2 days before the
wedding to we had to arrange the bans, the suits, the wedding dress and absolutely
everything. There were only two people coming from Japan, the bride and groom of
course, so Yumiko started the round of wedding gown shops as the bride wanted her
own western style wedding gown to take back with her, so some rough drawings were
coming on a regular basis from Japan and eventually Yumiko found what she thought
would be the perfect garment for the bride to be, all that was needed was on the
day that she arrived we would have to take her for a fitting and any alterations
would be done immediately as agreed with the shop.
I, meantime, had been looking at suits for the groom, arranging a marriage
celebrant, looking for a suitable non-denominational
church, an organist, flowers, hairdresser for the bride and groom, cars, and a
venue for a small celebration after the wedding.
The suit was no problem, once I had found what I wanted I
arranged with the shop to bring in the groom on the morning that
he arrived in Perth and the would do the final fitting and make any alterations on
the spot , so that was one problem out of the way.
The marriage celebrant was a challenge, we wanted to give them a
wedding that they would never forget so we decided to contact a
gentleman called Lionel York or Yorkie as he was commonly
known. Yorkie was a well known radio personality, talk back host, entertainer and
sometime TV personality and part time marriage celebrant, just the person for the
job.
We contacted Yorkie and he was delighted to do the deed as he had never officiated
at a Japanese wedding so we posted the bans with him and gave him all the relevant
information and all that was left to do was bring in the bride and groom as soon as
they arrived in Perth, so far so good. Next item was the church and we found the
ideal location on in the suburb of Claremont in Perth, a beautiful old church and
available on the date we required, another hurdle overcome. Yumiko meantime had
organized the flowers and the hairdressers, I finished organizing the transport and
we chose the Joondalup golf resort in the Northern suburbs of Perth for the
celebrations so we were nearly there, all we had to do now was wait for the bride
and groom to arrive so we set up a timetable for them as soon as they stepped of
the plane at 6am in the morning and by lunchtime that day we had the wedding dress
fitted and altered, the grooms suit fitted and altered a visit to the celebrant for
a rehearsal
and signing of the papers was concluded by lunchtime and we still had a day and a
half to spare !.
It was agreed that we would have the traditional western style
wedding where the ladies, (Yumiko and the bride) would have there own celebration
and the groom and I would have a few drinks at the Joonadalup country club and that
he would stay there on his own that night as per tradition and would not see his
bride until he got to the church next day so the bride stayed with Yumiko and I
that evening. Next day was the wedding day and we had to be up early for the
hairdressing appointment and I had to take the groom to pick up his suit and have a
haircut then back to the hotel to get him dressed and we would all meet up at the
church at the prescribed time. Just to make things a little more interesting I had
invited a few of our neighbors and a few friends to the ceremony at the church to
give it a bit of atmosphere and our oldest neighbor,
Gene, actually gave the bride away, a very nice touch.

As a celebrant, Yorkie was magnificent, the whole ceremony was


done with a touch of humor and I have never seen such a nervous
groom, the sweat was pouring from him and the bride was so
composed, Yorkie had to keep dabbing the grooms forehead to stop
the sweat from running into his eyes but the whole thing went off like clockwork. I
was wearing a yellow jacket (I always wanted a yellow jacket and found one in Osaka
that was made just for me), and Yorkie to a shine to this jacket, from the moment
we arrived at the church he went on and on about my jacket and wanted to know were
I had found it and asked to get one for him next time I went to Japan but I had to
tell him that it would be very difficult to find one his size in Japan and I was
glad that mine would not fit him as I am sure he would have talked me into giving
it to him.

After the ceremony we had a photo session in Kings Park in Perth


the met up with the guests as the Joondalup country club were we
enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon wining and dining, all in all a very successful
wedding and one that the bride and groom have
assured us that they will never forget.

We had a group of 4 young ladies who would come for a private


tour every couple of years, just 4 friends who wanted golf lessons, tennis lessons,
to go swimming at the beach and shopping of course.
This was one of the easiest tours that we have ever done, there was no itinerary as
such, only organizing to be done was golf and tennis lessons each day, the rest was
played by ear such a dining at a 5 star restaurant or having fish and chips on the
beach. We still keep in touch with the beautiful young ladies (two are now married)
and manage to have a drink with them when we go to Japan and one of them has
promised us that when she gets married she will come to Australia and have us take
care of her wedding, so look out Yorkie, we will be back.

Most recently we hosted a group of 110 to Perth on a cultural visit over 4 days and
hosted the event in the Perth town hall, there was Origami, flower arranging, Taiko
drumming, tea ceremony, traditional dancing and most importantly, cooking
demonstrations by a well know Japanese chef, it all went like clockwork, which I
was very happy about as the group was sent to us by our old friend Mr. Y. in Tokyo
and he would not have had it any other way.

Keep the best till last they say, so here it is. A group a Japanese councilors came
to visit our rubbish tips to find how we managed and disposed of our rubbish here
in Western Australia. Now this was in February, the hottest month, so you can
imagine all of those suits, standing on top of a rubbish tip, the flies, the heat
and the stench, taking notes on how much rubbish we disposed of each and every day
of the week. I, of course had to stay in the coach to make
sure the A/c was working properly, while Yumiko was out there
with them doing her translating. After we had finished at this
particular rubbish disposal site, we drove along the beaches
towards Fremantle and at one point passed the entrance to our
nudist beach at Swanbourne. Whenever we passed this beach we
always let the passengers know that it was a nudist beach and asked them if they
would like to visit and being Japanese they always declined. I suspect that some of
them would like to go but no-one ever had the courage to speak up until this day.

This group of course were all men and as soon as I mentioned


nudist there was a chorus of oohs and ah`s, so it was decided that we would have a
stop and anyone who was interested could walk along the beach, (with me of course).
Every single person in the group got off the coach (except Yumiko), and followed me
down to the waters edge. When we reached the part of the beach were the nudists
where, I noticed that the gentlemen were all looking out to sea, so I looked out to
sea as well but could not
see what they were looking at so I told them that the land side view was much more
interesting. Just at that point a nice young lady wandered into our midst, of
course she was completely naked, and she inquired where the group was from and I
told her they were Japanese and that they were interested that we had a legal
nudist beach, so the lady asked them if they would like to join her group, by this
of course she meant would they like to take their clothes of. When I mentioned this
to a couple of the men who spoke some English they told the rest of the group, who
for some reason found their shoes very interesting, and there was a sudden rush to
get back to the coach. I doubt if anyone in the group actually saw anyone in the
nude, even the lady who took the time to talk to us.

Well there it is, an epic, 12 years in the making,and there is still much more I
could write about I hope it does
not take 12 years for the next epic ! And if you would like any
information about tours to Japan, please do not hesitate in
contacting us at any time.

About the Authors:

Duncan Mitchell was born in January 19?? and comes from


Edinburgh/Scotland. Raised in downtown Edinburgh
the oldest of 4 children to Audrey and David Mitchell.

Yumiko Hayashi was born in March 19?? in downtown


Tokyo, also 1 of 4 children in the Hayashi family.

We met each other in Perth, Western Australia in 1990


whilst working in the tourist industry and in 1991 started

D.Y. Travel and the rest, as they say, is history.


duncandyumi@gmail.com