Chapter 1 – Arrival
It is 4 o’clock in the afternoon of the 26th of November 1988. I am lying on my bed in the Ivy Flat Hotel in the Shibuya district in Tokyo, Japan. Two days ago I was left to Dublin Airport by my mother and my brother Alan, and after a quick farewell characteristic of our family, I boarded an Aer Lingus flight to Amsterdam with Niallo Carrol, a friend who had also completed a five week Japanese course in NIHE Dublin two months previously.
The flight went smoothly and less than 2 hours after leaving Dublin, after a rather meagre breakfast, we were sitting in Schipol Airport with two very expensive cokes sitting in front of us. We practised our German on a lady who sat beside us and had been in Tokyo in 1982. Three hours later feeling slightly more nervous, we boarded the KLM flight which would take us directly to Tokyo.
Again the flight was quite uneventful, the highlights being some turbulence over Siberia, the film Big, which I had seen once before but enjoyed both times, and a meal of squid and sushi where I got my first practical experience with chopsticks. I think it may take some time to get used to the texture of squid but it tasted good. The flight lasted nine hours and at 12 o’clock on Thursday night, or 9 o’clock Friday morning local time, we landed in Narita Airport. We were in Japan.
We passed quickly through immigration, collected our baggage and after customs had checked our duty free, we were met by representatives of our respective host companies. Mr. Kubota, the personnel manager, and Mr. Ikehara were very polite and after saying goodbye to Niallo, they brought me by taxi to Kenwwods head office. There I was introduced to everybody and promptly forgot everyones name. I met the president of Kenwood whose picture is in those Kenwood brochures. His English is excellent. Mr. Kubota and Mr. Ikehara then brought me out for lunch. Not being very adventurous I had fried chicken, rice, miso soup and Japanese tea, with some seaweed and pickled vegatables. Mr. Ikehara then brought me into a bookshop and bought me two kids books because I mentioned that I could read some Katakana and Hiragana and he figured these would be good practise for me.
Back in the head office I was given some more books on life in Japan, a map of Tokyo and 100,000 spending money (about 500 quid). At 2pm I was brought to the hotel where I had a shower and a few hours sleep. At 7pm I was collected for a meal with the managing director, whose name I really should remember, and a Mr. Mashino of International Marketing, both whose English was very good. The meal was Shabu-shabu – thinly sliced beef and vegetables dipped in boiling stock and vinegary or sesame-seed dips. Delicious! We also had beer and a lot of sake. Then they brought me to a Karaoke bar. Geisha girls came and sat and talked with us (thats all!) and I helped the managing director sing White Christmas. It was great fun.
They left me back at the hotel and at 9:30pm. I tried ringing Mum but she must have been out at the Country Markets. I went to bed exhausted at 10 o’clock and that was my first day in Japan.