Memories Shaken - Not Stired
We had ordered room service for our breakfast the night before so we didn't rush to get up. We were free until 4.30pm so once we finished breakfast we took a leisurely walk. We were puzzled as to why there was a wide yellow band running down the centre of the pavements but soon realised that whichever way you were walking, or rushing as most were, you kept to the correct side of the line. This is a system that London could do with, especially in the rush hour. We bought some rolls of film, the most inexpensive item we had seen so far. We then had lunch then strolled back to our hotel for a rest and preparation for the evening.
Aboard the coach at 4.30pm we made our way through heavy traffic to Tokai University then up to the 33rd floor where a number of people were waiting to greet us. Among them were Japanese government representatives and British Embassy staff. The wife of the Defence Attache and his secretary sat at our table, as did a lady author who was keen for Lena to try all the different dishes. The gentleman sitting next to me saw that she had left the octopus on her plate and asked if he could have it. She proffered the plate so, with a broad grin, he scooped it up using his chopsticks and down it went. Also present were two old soldiers who had fought during the war. I didn't discover what part they played or what they represented.
After the meal and the speeches a Japanese lady singer entertained us. At the end of the evening we joined hands in a circle around the room and sang Auld Lang Sine. As we were leaving we were relieved of our name badges, a must have apparently, but were well rewarded with a watercolour painting, a lovely silk buttonhole and some chopstick holders. On the way back to the hotel, our Guide entertained us by singing country and western songs. He had been a great fan of John Denver for years.
Our last in Japan, we fly home tomorrow. So, after breakfast we did what packing we could. We had one more lounge suit function to attend, lunch at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We left in plenty of time to travel through traffic congested Tokyo for our luncheon appointment at 13.30 pm.
Our names had been placed on the table for seating arrangements, I found myself sitting next to the Minister himself who was hosting the meal. He spoke very good English and mentioned that he had spent 3 years studying at Cambridge. He knew King's Lynn and Ely well. He asked me about my interests and hobbies and told me he was also a keen formula one fan. We spoke of trade and I mentioned that it was becoming increasingly difficult to buy anything at home that wasn't made in China. He agreed that Japan was going the same way so they were now concentrating on goods that were known worldwide and had a name for excellence. Britain and Japan are now very good partners in trade. Lunch over, we shook hands; "It was pleasant to relax and simply enjoy a chat rather than the usual official business", he commented. I must say I also enjoyed it.
In the coach on our return journey we were told to change into casual clothes and we would be taken shopping to a Japanese store selling traditional items. This led to another slow journey through traffic before we eventually halted outside a very large store. We had to evacuate the coach rapidly to avoid creating even more congestion. We were told that Tokyo had expanded so much that it was now joined up with Yokahama.
Once inside the store, which had three floors, the only problem we had was what not to buy! Everything on offer was genuine Japanese. Lena loved the Kimonos but, at £3,000 each and with three daughters at home, it didn't take long to decide that they were one of the not to buys. Back at the hotel we packed what we could, with difficulty I might add! It is easy to forget what baggage space you do have when out buying. Baggage collection was at 7.00am and we would be leaving at 8.00am.
Room service breakfast again to give us more time. It was with some relief that we finally climbed aboard the coach for the last time. It had been a journey of discovery for me, light years from the picture I'd carried in my mind all these years. It had been very hectic, traumatic and emotional but we made many friends and I now feel more at peace.
Traffic was as bad as ever but, "not to worry", said the guide. "Coaches are monitored on the motorways, all the way to the airport, knowing which flight we will be on". Our flight was due to leave at 11.20am and we started down the runway at 11.20am. Japan may be congested but they are organised.
Lena said the one thing she would dearly have loved to bring back home would be one of their toilets. The seats are warm and when you have completed your business, you remain seated and press buttons for a wash, rinse and warm air blow dry. There were so many buttons on the control panel that I felt you would need lessons on how to use them! I suppose I felt something like a Japanese toilet on my return; well used but warm and with a comforting feeling of release.
Frank Planton (Joe Japan)