Saturday, May 06, 2006

Return to Japan

2006 April - Return to Japan

At Auckland International Airport, I found myself confused by the large, poorly-lit spaces, ambushed by unexpected booby traps such as a cleaner's trolley with a mop-handle sticking out of it.

At one point I found myself looking into what seemed like the entrance of a very long and narrow corridor, disappearing into infinite depths which I could not fathom. Attempting to advance into this corridor, I found myself impeded, as if I was trying to wade into something solid.

Finally, I realized that what I was doing was trying to walk into a solid concrete pillar which was painted white. I had mistaken the glare of the white for depth, and the pillar for an entranceway.

The confusions of my partial vision of the world made me feel stupid and slow. It also had the odd effect of making it seem harder to interpret what I was hearing, as if I had suffered a general dumbing-down effect.

So much for Auckland, where I started.

The next step was a long flight by Korean Airlines.

Korean Airlines has invented something called air conditioning, which apparently allows you to refrigerate an entire aircraft.

Why anyone would want to do this I have no idea, but Korean Airlines was very keen on showing this off during a flight of almost twelve hours non-stop. At first I put on my jersey, then I huddled inside my padded jacket as well, then, finally, I grabbed a blanket and rugged up for survival.

I survived the flight, the Korean breakfast, and the transit at Incheon, where my daughter spent some time in the playroom, aimed at those who were a maximum of three years of age.

Finally, the flight from Seoul's Incheon airport to Tokyo's Narita. A limousine bus gave us a dream ride on the expressway, only seventy five minutes to Yokohama station, from where s quick trip took us to our home station.

We did a little supermarket shopping then got a taxi up the hill to our house, which I had not seen with my own two eyes for about sixteen months.

When the front door was unlocked after being vacant for about three months, the whole place smelt strongly of glue.

In the slow-growing grass of the minuscule front lawn lay my cheap plastic slip-on sandals, overgrown like an archaeological artefact.

A man from the gas company arrived in the late afternoon, checked the gas supply and switched it on. Then we had a bath and went to sleep.

Saturday was shopping at the supermarket, after we had purged the moldy jars of jam from the fridge, and had said goodbye to a carton of very good Australian ice cream which had turned peculiar during months of refrigeration.

I slept only four hours the first night. Hope to do better in the days to come.

In the more than a year in which I have been absent from Japan, some things have changed.

Mount Fuji has gone missing.

The first Saturday back in Japan, Mount Fuji was clear on the horizon, but I could not see it. My wife, unable to believe this, asked me three times. I explained, thrice, that it was impossible for me to see the mountain. For me, it had been deleted. Permanently.

Another change is that Japan has abolished the meaningless requirement for every passenger to hand in a quarantine form. Instead, now selected passengers, currently those arriving from Thailand, are required to report for face-to-face screening.

Presumably this is a let's-get-serious move relating to avian flu.

Another change, locally, is that one of our neighbors has, in my absence, gone and bought a yappy little dog. Additionally, my two-year-old daughter, who, early in her life kicked a couple of holes in one of the paper screens in our traditional Japanese-style master bedroom, has inflicted many more rips and tears on the screen in question.

There are other changes.

The house seems smaller than remembered, at first a little claustrophobic.

My first real job on arriving in Japan was to extract a tattered piece of cardboard from the interior of my laser printer, which had been out of action for some months, since it jammed while busy printing a succession of New Year greeting cards.

I got the printer working okay but cleaning up and sorting out my personal room looked like a major task; fortunately, our pace on our initial return to Japan was deliberately slow.

So we're back.

Many challenges ahead, and I don't know how this is all going to pan out. But we did make it from New Zealand to Japan, and we are back in our own house in Yokohama. And that is a start.

The first night in our home in Japan I slept very little, but the second night I managed six hours. With a few more days, maybe I will start adjusting to something that can be considered normal.

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