WAGC 2011

The day began with hourly jumps out of bed to check the time in case the alarm clock failed, followed by 4:20AM when it worked.  

With much gratitude to Suzanne for taxi service I had a quick shower and even with the main road being closed I got to the airport with fifteen minutes to spare at 5:15AM.  At least I thought I did, the check-in desk told me to go away until at least 5:30 so I wandered around the airport getting a coffee but not a camera - though for $200 I wish I had saved the argument the night before.

Getting to Auckland was uneventful, though I was surprised that without more than quick window-shopping I arrived at the lounge as the flight to Narita was called.

The flight was under half full - earthquake related? But unfortunately the seat next to me was occupied so I got a fairly squashed flight.  I largely managed to keep my focus on studying during the flight but I suspect I wasn’t giving the problems my full attention.  Towards the end I got too tired and allowed myself a small glass of wine and a sappy movie.

An event inflight worth mentioning was my neighbour had to be put on oxygen which made me worry how little was being pumped into the cabin.  Apart from that I had an uneventful flight.

Navigating the airport turned out to be far easier than I had feared.  The customs officer even seemed genuinely interested in me attening an Igo tournament and the limousine bus driver had no trouble understanding where I wanted to go.  I ended up on the 17:35 without mishap although being unable to contact Asami and let her know I was an hour early was a worry.

Fortunately I needn’t have worried, she had got my emails fine - it turns out Japan doesn’t have SMS so the texts went nowhere and she only replied via email which of course I didn’t get.  Otherwise the bus journey was enjoyable.  I was surprised how like NZ the countryside is, the bush has fewer shrubs and the trees are slightly different but the feel is similar.  The rice paddies are obviously different to pasture but then they serve a similar purpose.

Another surprise for me was how familiar all the cars are.  Germany has European cars while China has Chinese - the mix of cars would have looked normal in Wellington.  The only difference is a sort of squarish car which is very popular.  They also had a decent range of ages, I had an idea that the Japanese got rid of their old things but apparently not.  I did notice they all had GPS - even the cheap ones - and many had versing cameras.

As we got closer to Tokyo the countryside gave way to factories and other industrial buildings.  I couldn’t see as much as I would’ve liked because the express ways have sound barriers that also cut out most of the light.  What I did see was on a scale you wouldn’t get in NZ - vast factories where thousands must work.  I also saw a collection of about a dozen apartment blocks all huge and identical.  The difference was striking compared to the countryside just fifteen minutes drive away.

Driving in was also made interesting by the loud, self-confident American sitting opposite me on the bus.  I learned how he plans to transfer funds away from their Japanese subsidiary because they were being mismanaged, how he used to work for MIT media lab, and how business decisions in Osaka came from a single executive making a call and passing it down the line but in Tokyo the decisions need consensus across the management team.  How accurate this is I don’t know but his junior colleague was certainly lapping it up.

I did notice that the stories people tell of office workings staying late appear to be correct wit most still at least half occupied at 7PM.  I believe the workers were less senior based on the small desks, lots of paperwork and conservative dress but maybe I’m applying NZ business standards inappropriately.

Meeting Asami went well with her taking me and her mum to a ‘quintessentially Japanese’ ramen bar in which I was able to order every aspect of my meal, pay, eat and leave without having to even look at another person - let alone speak.  Apparently it’s popular with Japanese businessmen worn out meeting people all day so they can eat without interacting.

Asami’s mum’s apartment was not what I expected.  It contained a German-style tablecloth, a whole dresser full of teacups and just didn’t feel particularly Japanese.  Asami showed me around my apartment which had a similar feel.

As soon as she left I realised I had mislaid my glasses which led to about an hour of absolute hilarity.  Firstly I carefully searched the entire apartment end-to-end, then I did it again trying to retrace my steps, and again.  By this point I was exhausted and thought maybe I’ll have more luck after a sleep.

Unfortunately unlocking my suitcase’s combination was far beyond my eyesite at night without glasses even after I played games like ‘guess which looks most like a zero’ and trying all likely combinations.  I also tried photographing it but without the flash I couldn’t hold still enough and with it all I could see was reflection.  

Exhausted I thought I would have a shower and just go to bed but in my clothes but I couldn’t get the hot water heater working.  So I had a cold shower which wasn’t much fun but did awaken me sufficiently to thinking of using the camera’s zoom rather than trying to take a photo.  This worked (abiet slowly) so I now had toiletries and pyjamas - things were looking up.

That off my mind, I found my glasses almost immediately - on the toilet roll holder - and so went to bed contented at about 23:00, roughly 23 hours after I had got up.

The bed itself was comfortable.  The pillow was really interesting, instead of down it’s filled with a beanbag like mix of plastic bits.  Remarkably it’s very comfortable.


Of course I woke at 6.