Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Aspie Traveler: Japan Day Eight: Aaron's Odyssey

This was now it; my final full day. I slept well, as I had with every night prior. I don't know if it was the coziness of the room, the odd silence of a city of 13,000,000 (you'd be amazed at how quiet Tokyo is) or the firmness of the pillows; whatever it was I woke up refreshed each night. Anyway, the daily routine began again and I walked to 7-11 to get my energy drink and donuts.

Walking down the street I once again marveled at the sameness I'd seen each day. It was beautiful. When I walked into 7-11 I heard the same song which it finally hit me what it was; it was actually an instrumental piece of The Monkees' Daydream Believer. With my associative memory system this song will forever be tied to Tokyo and this 7-11.

As I checked out the woman behind the counter, whom had helped me each day, continued with her usual constant chatter towards me. She was in her 60's and just like every worker in Tokyo she gave a 110% and I have no idea what she was telling me but it was just incredible to get such service and to see such dedication to a job. I do have a serious regret I couldn't say something in return and that she'll never know just how awesome I think she was.

After donuts I had a hard time figuring out what to do. I had tickets to the ball game that night and gates opened at four but it was just nine. That was a lot of time to just sit at the hotel so I decided to go out and see what I could see. I'd weave my way around towards Tokyo Dome and I began by walking towards Tokyo Tower.

On my way there I walked passed a vending machine and I bought a bottle of water. Okay, that may seem like the most irrelevant statement I could ever put into writing, however if you go to Tokyo beware the vending machines! They're everywhere! No, seriously, if they became sentient they could easily amass an army and take over the city in a matter of hours because you can't turn a corner and not see at least one, sometimes two, and if you're lucky you may get four at once. So what does this mean? These machines will nicole and dime you, ahem, I mean Yen and... Yen you. You won't realize just how many drinks you've bought that you wouldn't normally would.
I got some awesome shots of Tokyo Tower but the sun was beating down brightly and I had six more hours so I ventured to a store to see if they had spray on sunscreen. After some careful looking I found some, along with a multitude of candy (I swear candy from other countries always tastes better!) but I didn't want to carry it the rest of the day so I went back to the hotel.

As I got to my hotel and the sliding doors opened out came the Australian I had spoken with on the street corner back on day five. He remembered me perfectly, greeted me by my name, asked a few more questions about Asperger's, and even introduced me to his friend. The thing was, though, that I didn't remember his name. I thought rather low of myself here because here's a person that remembered so much about me and I... I only knew of him. Asperger's in this way can make me feel so lonely because even though I have an interaction with a person it's so hard to simply remember them. It isn't that I don't care it's just that personal information like that isn't automatically stored because I'm so busy thinking about what's coming up next and hearing every thing else going on in my environment. I was sad about this until I got to my room but today was not a day to be sad because today was my last day and I'd done enough introspective looking and it was time to experience Tokyo.

It was now 11 and that meant one thing; the other place that was part of my daily routine was now open so I started walking that way from the hotel. When I got a block away there was what I took to be a business meeting concluding and then what I can only describe as a bow fest; and I mean no disrespect or humor in those words. It truly was a bow followed by a bow followed by another. I learned that the more bows and the longer bows shows more and more respect and from witnessing it like this the authenticity was clear. I was a bit envious, actually, at the ease and grace this ritual was because, viewing from afar, it made sense! A social thing actually made sense!

At 11:15 I arrived at Due Italian and even before I had inserted my money into the vending machine (remember; at some places you order by putting money into a vending machine and hitting the button which spits out a ticket... This just increases the army of vending machine Tokyo has) the workers had started my order and handed me a glass of ginger ale. One thing I realized here was that "Film Theory" which is a concept from my book Finding Kansas can set so fast. As soon as I found a place and food I liked it was hard to draw myself away from it because, well, why would I? Why would I go to place B when I know I like place A?

When I finished my meal I once again brought my plates to the workers which they always smiled and shook their heads no which I the implied that I was going their jobs, but they were always so friendly and such hard working that I admired there place and attitude, and I truly felt like a guest so it was nothing. They took the sets from me and I had to fight back tears because this was another sign the end was near so before I walked out the door I turned to them, smiled, and gave them a bow and their faces just beamed with smiles and out the door I went.

My intentions had been to walk all the way to the dome via Akihabara but I realized I shouldn't waste an hour of walking when I could take the train and save time because at this point in time each minute was one minute closer to the end. 

purchased my ticket and this time I knew what I was doing and I hopped on and then hopped off at Akihabara and headed north. The first thing I came across was a pachinko parlor so I went in to see what it was. Now here's the thing; if you think it's gambling you're wrong because gambling is illegal in Japan unless you're wagering on horse or motorcycle racing. What you can win are medals that can be traded in for goods much like tickets are at a US arcade. Anyway, my first impression was sensory overload. The sheer volume of the noise would shake you all the way to your kidneys. Honestly, I couldn't believe how loud it was and the random bursts of music or other noises from machines were something else. And the machines themselves? Oh my! It was a spectacle and barrage of every color imaginable. This area was too much but I wanted to play to say that I did play so I found a quiet floor and started playing. Watching the balls go down the, um, pegs was fun then one of the balls went into one slot and another section opened up then the machine started yelling at me and I was winning, I think, I don't really know but I kept playing and eventually all the balls were gone and that was that. The house always wins, right? Even when it isn't gambling.

I left the parlor and across the street was a red building with Sega written in it. It was an arcade but not just an arcade; it was 7 floors of an arcade. Arcades are essentially dead in America but here in Tokyo this place was a bustling place of, well, the arcade games there were just as vibrant and loud as those in the pachinko parlor. I actually didn't recognize any of the games on any of the floors so I left and half a block away was a building that was identical looking so I went in and this one was a bit different and had things I was more accustomed to seeing including Ferrari F355 Challenge which was the most realistic arcade racer made up to its point. Actually, I'd call it a simulation and for being made in 1999 it still was fantastic. Beside it was Sega Rally Championship 2 which I enjoyed greatly back in the day, but time just hasn't been kind to that game and it just isn't the same with the games one can play at home today.

Once the arcade fun was over I thought it best to head to the dome. It was now 2, gates opened at four, but I had to plan the way I was going to get back to my hotel. Here's the thing and it's a big thing and this is a major thing for myself having Asperger's that I really haven't covered. I got to the dorm but I then went across the street to Suidōbshi station to find what the route I needed and how much it would be. Thankfully, there was a "route finder" computer that could be made into English and I punched it all in and it printed out all the info I needed. Now you see, I was about 90 minutes early to prepare this. With each event I did, as with the Mt. Fuji trip earlier in the week, I staked out where I was going beforehand. I never allowed myself to be confused as to where I needed to go so I was always early, or I went the day before, to alleviate any anxiety that could happen. I didn't consciously know I did that until I left the station and then I realized this is why I'm always early. Having to thrash trying to find something when time is short is something can easily be prevented and there's no reason to put one's self in that situation so this preplanning on my part is a vital thing I do.

Once the return trip was planned I wandered towards Tokyo Dome City which is an amusement park that has everything from a Ferris wheel to a roller coaster to even a skating rink and indoor simulated golf! There was also a bowling alley which I was going to do but I don't know my shoe size in whatever system they use so I didn't do that.

It was nearing time for the gates to open so I walked to my gate and when the gate opened I walked to my seat, which was third row by the foul pole in foul territory, and batting practice was going on. This was identical to what you'd see at a major league game in the states, that is until a ball headed towards the stands.

I was in the midst of taking a panorama when I heard the crack of a bat and then a whole bunch if whistles to my right and then the clang of the ball hitting the bleachers. I looked over that way and none of the spectators rushed towards the ball. I too found this curious because batting practice, for me, is the best part of a baseball game because the odds are good that a ball may be able to be caught or picked up and I think it's every baseball fan's dream to get a ball at a game, batting practice or game. However here batting practice was more of a drama as whistle after whistle event came and not only did the dozens of security guards blow the whistle then then pointed to the sky where it was. When a different batter would start hitting they'd speak on megaphones and I'm assuming they were stating the odds of a ball headed that direction based on the hitter's tendencies.

As this progressed I wanted to get video of one of these incidents because I have to admit I found it a bit absurd because there's nothing like this at the games I go to. If you attend batting practice and are in the outfield you best be paying attention! I got my video and as I was watching it to make sure it was good I heard whistles, but this time they were much closer so I looked up an INCOMING! I ducked and the ball hit the seat behind me and careened back onto the field. Remember that whole, "thinking it's absurd" part? Yeah, I now that, "that's a really useful safety feature."

Right before the game began an American of all people sat down beside me and he was talkative because I was the first American he had seen. The downside to this was that he was rather, well, vulgar. When the Japanese national anthem was laced he critiqued it's awfulness and the rest of the game it was criticism after critique after vulgar out down of the culture. I, for one, feel that when I'm in a foreign land I'm a guest there and if anything I'm a miniature ambassador of the country I'm from. I want the people to know that we're nice, gentle, generous and here beside me is a loud and grouchy person. Thankfully I don't think anyone understood him but me, but that was one person too many.

The game began with the same thing you'd see at a MLB game, a ceremonial first pitch, the handing of the starting line ups by the managers, and beer vendors and soda vendors in the stands. Now these just weren't normal vendors. They were all women but here's the thing; they'd run like a cheetah down the stairs to the bottom then turn around, bow, and proceed upward. I thought that was neat at first, but they did this the entire game! The physical shape this would take, well, I think they worked harder than any of the players by far.

Speaking of working harder. American sport fans I once again have to call you out. I did so when I went to the soccer game in Amsterdam because the audience cheered and chanted the entire game but at this game the fans did this as well... At a baseball game! When the visiting team was up the visiting team's section jumped, hollered, and there was even what sounded like a mariachi band! Then, just to my right, when the Giants came up to bat, the whole section erupted in a unanimous chorus. I had been to a Cardinals game just a month prior and it was like a boring business meeting compared to the electricity the fans produced. There was no stadium organ and the audience needed no prompting. For Americans to cheer there almost needs to be some musical prompt such as "da da da da da Da... Charge!" but in Tokyo they fans produce the stadium music.

I left in the bottom of the seventh because I didn't want to fight excessive train foot traffic (I learned my lesson in Amsterdam) and I wanted a good night's rest. I purchased my ticket and got on and at Akihabara station I made a transfer and it was here on the final leg of my final train ride I erupted into a gigantic smile. I came all this way and now I was navigating the system like I knew what I was doing. Maybe this would be easy for some , maybe not for others, but I had managed to find my way back to my home station.

Leaving the station I needed to find food (a hot dog at the stadium just wasn't the type of hot dog I'm accustomed to) so I thought of the steak place, or maybe McDonald's. Nah, there was only one place to go and that was where I had my first meal.

Just six nights prior I walked into Favorite Time Coffee timid, afraid, and lost, but in just those six days I came in with a smile, I gave a courteous bow when I was given my change, and I say where I had sat when my trip had began and  instead of watching Tokyo walk by with trepidation I watched in earnest with a smile because I had done it; I had made it the week without and disaster, any social snafu, or getting lost.

The walk back to the hotel was the grandest of bittersweet walks. On one hand this was my final nightly walk, but it was also a walk a champion of a sports league would make. That's what this was for me. The few days prior to this event I convinced myself that I would be unable to do this but I didn't just do it, I had an amazing time of reflection, saw some amazing things, and wrote my best works I've done in a long time. That being said how could I walk back into my hotel without anything other than a smile. I took a picture just as I was about to get into the hotel and I often let words do the talking being a writer and all, but this photo says it all. Oh, and I was listening to Daydream Believer as it seemed a fitting way to end.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Aaron

    So happy you did Tokyo, met again the Australian, did "Film Theory", played sport, did pachinko and video games!

    And the quietness and loudness.

    What a lot of brainload we put into our environments and take from them!