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The Thai Airways flight from New Delhi had a stop-over in Bangkok and also the onwards flight was about three hours later on United. I was already so tired that I was sleeping all of the way till the landing announcement over Narita Airport. The food was not to my liking at all but I did not mind till they allowed me to sleep peacefully. Narita Airport arrivals terminal isn’t large comparing to Bangkok International Airport. After collecting my baggage I moved to the airport bus terminus. The details of the buses were already supplied by my colleague in Japan and faced no problems in locating it. I was also told that buses are the cheapest mode of transportation and I paid only US$20 for a journey of approximately 200 kilometers. The normal train charges for this distance might be US$55! The bus had been very much Japanese with announcement systems in Japanese and English. My destination was a hotel in Hitachi City which is located north of Tokyo but a lot south of the snow-capped Osaka. The very first shock as soon as I reached Japan was that I had lost signal of my cell phone I kept attempting to search for signal but it was not to be as Japanese mobile signals are on a different frequency and does not support the rest-of-world frequencies. Luckily I had my laptop with VPN connectivity and thereby access to the whole world via it. I was also carrying a sprint calling card which all telephone billings on my credit card and most likely the cheapest form of staying in touch with the world in Japan. The only challenge was to find the sprint access code in Japan which the hotel in this little town could not help me- it was 0066-33 which my hotel provided during my stay in Tokyo. Next factor of mention will be the level of automation down to the toilet seats. It feels like traveling in a rocket which all the automatic functions develop on the toilet seat – the flush controls, person’s weight data all are controlled on the toilet seats. I somehow fit myself in the room but was surprised to see that some burly Americans had been also in a position to adjust themselves in similar rooms. Early morning I did realize why people call Japan – “The Land of Rising Sun”. It was quite bright at four o'clock within the morning itself! Japanese, well-known for their timing reached my hotel at 8:23 AM as promised with out even half a minutes' delay. The day was consumed in professional discussions. I walked back to my hotel room which was only a short distance away. The streets were extremely clean and looked uncluttered. A few shops had been dotted on the streets with only very couple of cars plying about. A Macdonald was located close-by and I knew exactly where to go if I didn’t get appropriate food in my hotel. I was taken out by my hosts to a common Japanese style restaurant. This was located at about 20 minute’s brisk walk from my hotel. Shoes had to be deposited in the entrance as per Japanese norms. We were seated on chairs but the conventional Japanese custom is to sit on ground. The very first
serving was ‘Tempura" which was mouth watering and I could relate it our extremely Indian “pakodas” as a close equivalent. Further on, steamed fish and steamed rice had been on menu. I tried my hand using the chopsticks however it was challenging for handle for me. Duck and chicken had been other delicacies to come besides “Sushi”. To provide the final touches to dinner, “Saki” was served; an alcoholic beverage is made out of fermented rice with a live fish in it. The glass had to completed bottoms-up in 1 gulp. It was difficult to convince my hosts that I am a complete tee-tolar but they understood and didn’t insist on it. My host was a young Japanese executive who was a Black Belt in karate. Sports is an essential part of Japanese life and they show the same discipline in sports as in other fields. I observed Japanese to be extremely hard-working and created their great nation not by opportunity but by continuous and sustained efforts. The commitment to society of Japanese people is exemplary. I learnt that all the citizen volunteer for the security watchkeeping on a regular basis and my host was on that service last night following finishing dinner with me and in between catching the train the morning. Traveling on Japanese trains was my subsequent experience. The train timings were accurate with out even half a minute deviation. The reservation counter opens later so I took the first train leaving at 6:03AM from Hitachi city in an unreserved compartment. The compartment was extremely clean and at this morning hours enough seats were available for everyone. Way back in 2001, Japan was so advanced that internet services had been already available on mobile connections. Nearly 60% people had been carrying laptops and were busy on the web whilst traveling. All baggage had to be deposited in the compartment near the door. The view outside was similar to an Indian countryside -houses with sloping roofs to stop accumulation of snow but strong enough to withstand the frequent earthquakes in this city. Tokyo was much larger with each large streets as well as smaller ones which were off the primary streets. It looked like buildings everywhere with the ease of space lost. Walking on the streets 1 could discover lot of stores selling every thing from household needs to air tickets to electronic items. I purchased a extremely cheap use-and-throw camera there for US$5. The shops had been clustered with all of them having display windows. Browsing through these shops, 1 could find some surprise buys. Nobody understood English so I had to obtain utilized towards the place and explain my requirements either via sketches or by making gestures. Unmanned vending machines had been lined on the streets selling packed water, red bull and cold drinks. All the shops accepted mostly money and many of them regretted credit cards’ payments. I used the taxi service a couple of times in Tokyo and they were so costly that only my heartbeat was running the meter down. The minimum charges had been US$6.five and also the meters raced away your money. Anyways, that was the only option left to me to reach the airport back on time. So, I spent a hefty US$80 for which I would have paid no much more than US$8 for a bus ticket! By on