Thursday, 1 May 2008

Oki-na Gaijin, Chisai-na Kuni (Big Foreigner, Small Country) #10

March 29 - Last Day - Sayonara

This is the last part of my trip to Tokyo series.

This picture was taken inside my apartment 23 years ago for a party when my then-girlfriend (and present-wife) was going to return to Canada.

Had one too many chu-his last night as I woke up with a bit of a sinus headache this morning. After my customary coffee, banana, and tea biscuit, I felt better.

As we were leaving today, I thought I could get away with giving a present without getting flooded with omiyage as we weren’t going shopping anywhere. It turned out that I was sorely mistaken.

I gave some candy, a card and a raku sculpture of a salmon that I had bought last December when we were skiing at Sun Peaks. Apparently these were well received as the omiyage doors were flung wide open.

Yoichi proceeded to give me watches for everyone in our extended family. This included a couple of Guccis, Seikos, and about 8 other watches for various members of the family. I thought about giving him Colleen as a slave girl but then realized that it was time to admit defeat.

I took a last look at the apartment building, first outside my old apartment, then on the roof that had been the scene of several fun parties 23 years ago. Finally, I took a walk around the neighbourhood, realizing that most of the businesses had either changed or turned into residential areas.

Here's a picture of my daughter, Colleen, on the roof of the apartment building.

This picture is a blast from the past - my 25th birthday on the roof of my apartment building.

I returned back to the apartment and we did our final packing. Then we all went with Yoichi’s driver in a car to the airport.

We arrived early so we went for a yakisoba (fried noodle) lunch. Interestingly, we were told to leave all of our bags at the front of the restaurant (unguarded) and ate, out of sight of the bags, at the back of the restaurant. This was something I would never do in most places in the world but, in Japan, even the airport seems super safe. When we were finished, of course, the bags were there, untouched.

We checked in and then said our tearful good-byes and went through the security gates.

In the departure lounge, I shopped for a bottle of duty free whisky - and ended up helping several customers with their selection! Maybe I should have worn a “Scotch Expert” T shirt! I tasted a couple of different ones (including a Johnnie Walker Blue Label that was too pricey) and settled on an 18 year old Highland Park.

The flight went well and was comfortable. But I spent a good deal of it trying to estimate what was t the total of all the gifts I was bringing back. Canadians are allowed to bring back $750 duty free after being away for a week but I was pretty sure that some of the watches were worth that each.

Upon arrival in Vancouver, I made an extremely conservative estimate of the value of the goods I had, paid some money for duty and taxes and headed toward the exit. This being Canada, I saw no customs agent anywhere and almost broke into a run when I walked through the exit doors.

It was good to be home but it was also revealing to me that I had such a good time in Tokyo and would definitely consider living there again. Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t feel quite the same....

Parting shot - Yoichi's Aston Martin - we went clubbing in it one night while at the karaoke bars. The absolute coolest car I've ever been in!

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