November 11, 2006
We caught the shinkansen "bullet train" to Osaka. Unfortunately, it was too cloudy to see Mount Fuji, so I never had a glimpse of it's magnificence this trip. Newton's company (5 partners and several partner companies with compatible products) has distributors in both Yokohama and Osaka. I cannot really describe what Newton's company does. Software for chips for boards for electronic design is as far as I get.
Newt and I had a Saturday in sublime Kyoto. The weather was beautiful, so we shared the trek to the Golden Pavilion and Ryoan-ji Temple with hundreds of mostly Japanese tourists. The green sculpted trees and perfect composition of lily pads on the ponds were the ideal respite from the big city. There was plenty of bustle and noise at Rioan-ji - the famous Zen rock garden with raked gravel - but I recalled with deep joy a quiet day 19 years ago when I sat on the viewing steps with my father, observing the serenity and the ancient profundity of the place. Another contrast this trip, the new modern Kyoto train station, which provided a startlingly futuristic, "Matrix"-like ride up the escalator, seemingly to the top of the universe!
Osaka has its own vision of the old and the new. But I must say, the highlight for me was the evening out with the distributors. We had gone out with them in New York several times, so this reunion was just plain fun. We had a yakitori dinner(chicken kabobs - small skewers of various parts of the chicken, including cartilage and gizzards - we stuck to breast) in a typical 'working man's' train station restaurant. There is no 'no smoking' section and the beer flows mightily. I was accustomed to being one of about three females in such a place, and I don't know whether to be proud or appalled that I could keep up just fine with the tall draft beer. You don't count beer or other items with the usual ichi, ni, san...in Japanese. One draught beer is "nama biro hitotsu," two is "nama biro futatsu," etc. Beer in bottles has a different system, one being "biro nippon," etc. I find it interesting that Nippon is the word for 'Japan' in Japanese. I'm sure there is an explanation. After dinner Takeshi, the shy, retiring distributor, and Kevin (his Japanese name is too hard), the more direct one, took us to a place with private karaoke rooms. This was very high tech, with remote controls, phone drink ordering, a large screen with music videos and lyrics highlighted-as-you-sing, plus four phone books' worth of music selections. We planned to hire the room for one hour, but stayed three! It was the greatest relief after a week of unrelenting Japanese reserve and politeness to hear Kevin belt out selections from Queen, his favorite group. He has a formidable voice and is a fearless belter! Takeshi, whose English is not so strong, sang only Japanese pop and traditional songs, but in such a sweet and lovely voice. Newt and I stuck mostly to the Beatles, Steely Dan, BeeGees and Jobim. It was intimate fun.
I would be remiss if I did not document the control panel on the toilet in a fancy Japanese public bathroom
(inscribed in both Japanese and translation):
stop spray bidet flush sound(with musical notes)
water pressure volume powerful deodorizer
-........+ -........+ on/off
warm water warm seat energy saver
You can see they are way ahead in toilet tech.
On to Korea.
from Sandy Needham
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