What do you mean, Swine Flu???

It never occurred to me that the H1N1 virus might mean that everyone on the plane would be quarantined... but here we were on the runway in Narita filling out health questionnaires and being told to stay seated as someone would be by to check our temperatures. At the last minute, the flight attendant told us that the policy in Japan has changed and they wouldn't have to take our temperature (which, frankly I think was just practical since the plane I was on held 375 people and 344 were on board). So, I managed to work my way through all the health officers and customs and catch the train to Shinjuku station without a hitch.


What good is having a roaming network and paying (albeit $4) extra this month and next if they won't let you make a phone call? I needed to get in touch with two of Mom's former sculpture students, Joe and Mayuko, to let them know that I landed safely so they could meet me in Shinjuku. I only had 10 minutes until the train would depart and my phone wasn't working! After studying a bank of pay phones, I found the only one that took coins and tried Joe's number, but no one answered and then the phone started talking to me in Japanese! Taking a chance, I got on the train anyway and managed to get there in one piece where Joe and Mayuko were waiting for me! Whew!

We went to a nice tempura place for dinner near to the station and then, since it was raining, we took two trains back to their place. By American standards Joe and Mayuko's place would be considered small and spartan. By Tokyo standards, they actually have a lot of space (two separate rooms with sliding doors and then a long, narrow room that ran the length of the apartment that contained the kitchen and access to the toilet, bathroom sink, and bath).

I got to see a bit of their neighborhood in West Tokyo when we walked to a place called "Rain on the Roof" (basically a bar/coffee bar/restaurant). (Ironically enough we found out why it was called that when it started pouring so loudly on the uninsulated roof that conversation was impossible!) The density in the city is incredible - it would make Chicago city planners have a heart attack thinking back to the days of the great fire! Additionally, business crop up in alleyways that snake off in different directions and I guarantee that I would never be able to make it back to "Rain" or J&M's place without substaintial assistance.

It was really nice to get to know the two of them and they really took care of me - even getting up early to make sure I got on the right train to Matsumoto this morning. Mayuko made a really nice breakfast with some Japanese pastries, eggs, and fruit. Hopefully when they move back to the States for grad school I'll be able to return the favor!