May 312002
 

The sky above the port was the color of television, still tuned to a dead channel.

Am back in Chiba. Have only a few hours to go. Not sure what to do. Will probably go and spend last of my cash at Yodobashi on camera film, maybe a tripod and other stuff. Will wander around in a daze thinking about all the things I didn’t get to do, and all the things that I did do that were a complete waste of time. And about all the things I have done, that I can’t remember that I did. Try and eat some food without being sick (still feeling foul from bad ramen last week, the smell of it makes me what to chuck, but if I find some oshii takoyaki, I can eat that until the cows come home, but I’ve talked about that before, haven’t I …)

But anyway.

Had my first spak with shop assistants the other day. The Internet Cafe I’ve been using have this discount points card, so that everytime I spend money I get points, and I can cash them in for a refund when I buy something. In Hiroshima when I first came across this, 2 points got me about 800yen off a book. Exceptional value. At Fukuoka, I earned about 16 points which I was told was worth 5000yen. Well, that was pretty good. So I go and choose a stack of second hand CDs and try to explain that I wanted to use the points to buy the CDs. After much discussion, most of which involved the sales person telling me that 500yen was 1 point. Yes, yes I know that. I want to spend my points. How do I use my poinbts. Why have points? What do you mean, different to Hiroshima. It’s the same store? If I took this to Hiroshima, I’d be getting a zillion yen worth of discount. I had to get 60 points to get 1000yen discount? You must be joking? By now, the other sales people had got the CDs ready to package and had added more points to my card thinking I was going to happily buy the CDs. I said, no, I wasn’t going to buy the CDs and walked out. I think it was probably the rudest thing I could have done, but I had really, really lost my patience and just could not understand why the same shop had two completely different systems for the same point card in two places.

I’ve made lots of new friends. I taunted Candians about their lack of Cricket for a commonwealth country but were redeemed by participating in a Tim Tam suck. I’ve educated the English and other citizens of the great nation that once was Great Britian about how to tell a Kiwi from an Australian (ask them to say Fish and Chips, because it comes out as Fush and Chups, but also because they know that it’s a test created by Australians to harras them.) I’ve met with Americans and held my tongue when anything at all about the “War With Terrorism” comes up in conversation. And I’ve met with Japanese who all think I speak Japanese like a Japanese person. Which is really, really funny to me.

When I got to Narita (near Tokyo) airport, it was packed with World Cup fans. There were so many aircraft at Narita we just got a set of stairs and a bus to take us to the terminal. There were lots of extra English speaking guides to tell people where to go (in the nicest possible way.) Today’s Japan Times has front page articles about how all the Japanese are really, really scared of English soccer hooligans, and groups of maurading drunk soccer supporters arriving at and leaving soccer venues. Their main fear, is how these European’s are physically larger than the Japanese. Although the police are trained with martial arts, and have bought new Perspex(tm) riot shields (Oooh, scary) I just don’t know how it will go. Korea should be fine, they have student riots to keep the police well trained all the time, and they had the Olympics only a few years back. I wonder how the beer vending machines will go here, I can’t see them lasting too long against a pack of supporters pissed as newts wanting another drink.

But I don’t think I have any great philosophical wisdom to bring down from the mountain. I think that’s because I got up at 6am this morning to catch the flight from Fukuoka, and just lost the plot, sub-plot, music score, script editors, cast, crew, sets and audience. Even the airports work differently here. There were separate check-in counters for luggage to seating arrangements. I’ve no idea why. I’m just glad the subway got me to the airport really quickly, and my bags are being looked after from Fukuoka to Sydney (I hope) and they took the large box of stuff I had as well, even though my ticket says 1 piece of luggage.

But I will miss Japanese Pop music. It’s strangely addictive. Everywhere I’ve been I keep hearing the same songs. Ones that have been latest release, even on TV ads. Shame I can’t afford the CDs.

I found this shop in Fukuoka that everything is recycled. They sell Mountain Bikes that had recycled aluminium in their frames, and carboard bookshelves (can’t see them surviving too long with my books) and shirts and suits, plus lots of homewares. Although some of the cloth things were recycled, I can’t see how a suit can be made from recycled material. Maybe it was organic cotton. The coolest things were these t-shirts that had a design pattern on the front, so when the t-shirt was old and useless, you’d cut the pattern out and make a childs toy with it. They had food as well, which I don’t think was recycled. The design aesthetic was very minimalist, very stylish and very brown. I scored some of their catalogues to bring back, which look just like Freedom Furniture catalogues. So it’s interesting to see how, if any, Asian design is starting to come through in Australian contemporary design.

So, unless I have a dash of inspiration in the next 60 seconds, this will be my last overseas post. I’ll probably do one more from Australia to wrap it all up, and then close this off. Then I’ll organise a fabulous publishing contract, rights for the television series with Michael Palin, and get to travel with him for 2 months around Japan re-doing my trip as a special consultant. Then I’ll work for a few years as an English teacher in Fukuoka while struggling at night to create my first novel, ingeniously crafted to be the first of three which will be published to critical acclaim with descriptions like “The first science fiction since Orwell’s 1984 to be considered literature.” and win the holy trinity of science fiction: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the Philip K. Dick Award. The other two books will arrive with appropriate intervals after the first one (in time for Christmas purchases of course, and movie tie-ins.) Then, I’ll return to Australia to live a quiet life in semi-retirement somewhere down the south coast of NSW still writing books and dabbiling in new technology research.

So long and thanks for all the fush.