Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What a weekend....

The fact that I'm writing about this weekend on Tuesday night should be sign enough of just how hoppin' everything was. Just as a recap here were the scheduled activities from Saturday to Monday:
  1. AEON party for Stacy and Noriyuki on Saturday after work.
  2. AEON after party at a Karaoke place after the first party.
  3. Working on Sunday from 1PM to 5PM.
  4. Dinner with Riyo and her friend Akiko from 7PM to 9PM.
  5. Another farewell party at the Suda residence that night.
  6. Meeting up with Marissa in Shinjuku on Monday morning.
  7. Meeting up with Richard in Ginza on Monday evening.
Pretty busy times, and I'm glad to say that with the exception of number 6 and the fact that I now have a cold, everything went according to plan... and we were even able to squeeze in a third party after the first two on Saturday... but let me tackle this as it happened.

Headed out to Modern with Riyo and her friend Akiko, this was to be our farewell to Riyo since she is moving back to her hometown in Shimane prefecture, like a gazillion miles away from here. While Japan is a relatively small country, it's pretty damn long!!! So we had a lovely dinner, I was quite pleased to meet her friend who speaks English quite well and also knows some Italian... she's a pretty cool girl, I hope to see her again soon. It was sad to have to say goodbye to my only non-AEON friend, but I'm glad for her to be heading back to her family and friends down in Southern Japan... and I've bene meaning to visit Hiroshima, so I might make a segway to see Riyo while I'm in the deep South. Here's a pic of the three of us at Modern, Riyo in the middle is the one who's leaving.

After dinner, I bid my adieus, gave her a big hug and walked on out to Isao and Tomoko's place... later than I had expected unfortunately... dinner went a little over. Had a nice time there celebrating Stacy and I had a first glimpse of a Japanese custom I had yet to witness... or at least had not noticed. After cutting up dessert, I saw Tomoko make certain to give the biggest piece to Stacy (the guest of honour) then the second biggest to me (as a foreigner and teacher in their home the second in line) and then the third biggest went to Sayaka (teacher) and fourth to Motoki (guest) before finally handing off the final two pieces to herself and her husband. I had yet to notice this custom, which on top to the Sudas being amazingly excellent hosts, brought them up even a notch higher! Party broke up around midnight and we were driven home by Mrs. Suda herself... how amazing is that?

So on Monday morning, I slept in until about 10 before dragging my tired ass out of bed and checking the train schedules in to Tokyo. Sent Marissa an email telling her I'd be in front of the AEON head office around 1:30 and made my way down to the station... sidenote here: I miss my bike, I need to either fix my tire or buy a new bike this weekend... where I hopped on a local train for the trip to the big T. As we were nearing Shinjuku station, my phone bleeped at me and there was Richard who'd checked into his hotel and received my message. We made plans for me to meet up with him at the Imperial Tokyo Hotel in Ginza at 6PM and I headed on out of the train at Shinjuku.

And that is where the first hiccup of the day occured. Now, in my defense, Shinjuku is THE busiest train station in the world, and probably the largest geographically as well. Also considering this was my first time riding the trains without assistance from a veteran of the Metro system, I was looking for something to happen. For the first time, my "follow the crowd" tactic backfired and the crowds immediately took me outside of the station, as opposed to a transfer point to the Maranouchi line for Nishi-Shinjuku. After looking around a bit and trying to orient myself I gave up trying to walk to AEON headquarters since I'd only done the trip once, in the dark, with people guiding me... and plunged back into the bowels of the station. My fiddling and trekking around the station did eventually bring me to the right subway line, but I was by then about 10 minutes over my meeting time with Marissa. I got there about 15 minutes later than I was supposed to and after walking around the building several times, assumed she had given up on me and left. I spent then spent some time trudging around trying to find her hotel, asking a few people if they knew where it was and eventually gave up. I assumed that she would call or email my cell phone and we could meet up. It ends up our not meeting up was totally my fault. I had sent the email with my info and meeting location to her hotmail address... assuming that since we communicated mostly through MSN, it was the easiest way to do so. Unfortunately, she doesn't use hotmail at all and so never got the message! Doh! So I got to bum around Shinjuku for a couple of hours before heading to Ginza.

Right near AEON headquarters is a large park which houses dozens of homeless people, in sharp contrast to the skyscrapers which surround the park. The fact that there are homeless people litterally in the shaddow of the seat of Power in Tokyo is sad, but a phenonmenon seen all over the world. Ottawa's got plenty of homeless folks downtown, though life there bust be a little harsher than here due to the Winters. Would have made for some interesting photos but I felt uncomfortable taking pictures of these people and so I didn't. Did get some nice shots in the park though.

This is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building, essentially Tokyo City Hall... massive complex that it is, as seen through the trees of the park.

In the park was a nice little Shrine, here's the water purification spout with some building in the background. I find myself taking alot of shots of these things... maybe it should become my trademark thing?

TMG building as seen from the shrine.

The shinto gate at the entrance to the shrine, with a highrise in the background. And that black spot is not dirt which suddenly appeared on your screen, it's a raven flying by...

This is the behemoth of a building. Quite lovely in fact, or at least as far as skyscrapers go. The construction of it is quite fascinating and explained in detail inside. They are pretty certain that this building can withstand a violent quake... wouldn't want to be on the 45th floor if ever one hits though, must be quite the wild ride!

A neat set of three highrises towering over the park in Shinjuku... you'll see it from a whole different perspective in just one moment...

Did I mention you can go to the top of the TMG building and scope things out from 45 floors up? Here's that "High Rise" seen from 45 floors up. I went up both the North and South towers of the building to scope things out. Unfortunately it was just a little too hazy to see Fuji-san but you could make out the foothills in the distance... phenomenally clear day for Tokyo nonetheless.

Some more buildings.

The urban sprawl that is Tokyo. From this angle you could actually make out Tokyo Tower about dead center in this picture, though because of my lowering the resolution of the pic for posting to the web you can't quite make it out. A heck of a view nonetheless.

Fuji is somewhere out in this direction... had I been there a day or two earlier, right after the typhoon, I could have seen it.

Had lunch 45 stories up, which I think is officially a Michel-Record for the highest altitude digestion of consumables, setting aside airline travel, during which "consumable" may be too kind a word to describe the meals you get. After lunch and hoofing around Shinjuku a bit more, I headed down to Nishi-Shinjuku station and rode my good friend the Marounouchi Line to Ginza. After tromping around a bit more and stopping in to a Doutor coffee shop for a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, I found my way to the Imperial Tokyo. Damn that was a nice hotel... I felt largely under dressed just standing in the lobby, especially after an afternoon of sweating like a pig in the Tokyo heat. So I waited for a bit since I was early after all and did some people-watching.

At 6PM on the dot, there it was, the small piece of home which had been promised me. Seeing a familiar face (familiar to me meaning someone I had met before coming to Japan) was absolutely fantastic. He'd been in Japan for about three weeks with his family and had been mostly in the southern regions, visiting Hiroshima, Shikoku and Kyoto among many other places. When his wife and kids came down we headed out into the streets of Ginza in search of food while immedaitely breaking out into French, a language all five of us are fluent in... it was great! We ended up settling on a little Italian place which wasn't all that great, but the conversation more than made up for it. If there's one thing I learned from follow-up training, it's never to come to Tokyo without at least a clean shirt, some deodorant and a toothbrush, and before settling down for dinner I quickly took advantage of my bag of tricks to freshen up a bit.

Richard and his family have long been in love with Japan. He and his wife were here about 20 years ago I think and had a blast. He'd read Dogs and Demons (the book I've been working for a few months now) and had some interesting insights. Both Richard and his wife Chantal are quite interesting to talk to, working in International Law and all. Nice to hear about their adventures and to share mine face to face with fellow Ottawans as well. After dinner we booted around Ginza a bit, marvelling at the beauty of Tokyo at night... during the day, you can definately feel that the boom is over... at night the lights come on and people flood the streets, it's a different feeling altogether. Richard's daughter took this photo of us next to the Godzilla statue in Ginza.

As I've mentionned a few times in the last few days... when I wrote in my goodbye email to the staff at Ogilvy Renault that if "anyone was around Tokyo" to "drop me a line" and we'd "do tea, or something" I didn't really think it would actually happen! It was great to share war stories and practice my French, which even though it is my native language, I do feel it slipping a bit from lack of use. After about an hour though, I'm well oiled and right back to where I was back home. After dinner and a quick walk, we dropped off Chantal and the kids to the fabulous Imperial Tokyo and sat down for a quick drink in the lounge before I had to catch my Shinkansen home. I opted for the bullet train, ignoring the cost, since it was getting pretty late. The nice comfortable ride certainly topped off another most excellent day rather nicely.

So while I am in the grips of a cold, I think it won't hang around too too long... tomorrow is Stacy's last day at the school... not looking forward to saying goodbye to yet another friend... I thought my goodbyes were all done when I left Ottawa! While on the subject of goodbyes, I think I've found my perfect quote for when I do end up saying goodbye to the students and staff here at AEON: Leo Buscaglia wrote in his book, 'The Way of the Bull,'
"Though every hello is the beginning of a goodbye, do not lose heart; for every goodbye may also be the beginning of another hello."
And on that note, I'm off to bed, goodbye!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

that triple skyscraper in shinjuku is the Park Hyatt Hotel most famous for being the main location where they filmed Lost in Translation. Go to the New York bar on the 52nd floor someday when dusk is settling and the lights are coming on around Tokyo.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

Cool! I saw the front of the Park Hyatt as I was walking round but didn't look up and realize it was that tripple peak thing... or make the connection to Lost in Translation, a most amazing movie. I saw it for the first time only after coming to Japan, so I could totally relate to it.

Thanks for the info!

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

Thanks for the comment. Yeah I'm heading to Uonuma in the Niigata prefecture. So whats it like in Utsunomiya?

10:51 PM  
Blogger Michel Lafleur said...

Life in Utsuonomiya is great! The people are really friendly (even after 3 months of me annoying them) and I'm still having a blast here.

11:08 AM  

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