Trip to Japan 2013 – Day 1

The following is a post-hoc account of the event, as I did not have the mental energy (or time) to write during the trip. It made more sense to me to post it according it to the date of the event rather than the date of the writing.

The text is probably very boring to read. In Chinese, you would call it 流水账. I just wanted to keep an account of the occasion and share it with whomever might be interested.

Japan. Country of the Rising Sun, of samurai, anime, sumo wrestling, electronics, and Final Fantasy; and recently, the focus of international attention on the topic of nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. A country where technology tries hard to coexist with art, or perhaps is made into one, as the “proper way of doing things” becomes a ritual for efficiency. A country where modernity finds and settles the growing space left by tradition, but where tradition is reluctant to give up its remaining hold on the lives of Japanese people. A country where conformity and regularity seems to be at odds with its desire to be a leader in world. It is a country where based on polls, spiritual roots seem to be weakening in society at large, but where the population still pay visits to shrines and honor the dead. In some ways, it seems to be a society that is trying very hard to find meaning.

I flew to this fascinating country at the invitation of my good friend and brother in Christ, Mark. Only four months ago, I received an email that he was engaged to a Japanese girl. He had been dating for several months, but the only visible sign was a changed Facebook profile picture. Ordinarily, geographic distance and airfare would have kept me from going. This time, I had a further consideration: my defense was looming in two months, and were I to travel, I was afraid I would not have the peace of mind to enjoy it. But with the invitation to be a groomsman and with the further honor of being invited to speak, I could not refuse. So I went.

The day leading up to the flight was hectic. I had to finish up some research, debugging scripts and setting up a simulation to run on my computer while I was away. I also had to take care of a few errands. I ended up packing until two in the morning, hardly able to think. And then I had to get up at five.

My friend Chin picked me up to take me to the airport. I was exhausted, and my throat felt a little scratchy.

We had a quiet breakfast at A Good Morning near his place, arriving just as the owner was opening up shop. It took a bit for the breakfast to come. Japan would be the third country I would have ever been in, and it had been seven years since the last time I left the country, so I should have felt excited, but I was more tired than anything, and the question of logistics was churning in the back of my head.

I met George at SFO. We had bought the same ticket since I figured it’d be more interesting to travel together than alone. And, in case we get lost, two heads were better than one. We walked to the gate area and sat down. We were both tired. I ended up doing some reading about Japanese customs. He got a yogurt and went off to do his own thing. We spotted some plugs a few meters away, but I was too lazy to move, thinking that I could just recharge my battery at LAX.

Unfortunately, there were no seats near an outlet at the LAX gate. George and I walked around and chatted while we looked for them. One girl was sitting against a pillar, working on her laptop. Next to her was an outlet. She said it wasn’t working. We sat down. It really wasn’t working.

We got up, and looked around again. We found another spot a bit away from the crowd, near a window, by a kiosk where the boarding agents usually hang out. We sat down. It turned out what looked like an outlet wasn’t actually an outlet. -_-

We got up again, walked back and forth, and then sat down in the seats at the boarding area. On his way back from either the restroom or a shop, George said he found some outlets near the restroom, so we went. At first we thought the outlets were not active, but it was because our plugs engaged the holes very loosely. We managed to prop the AC bricks up with our suitcases, and were finally able to work in peace until it was time to board. I was really looking forward to napping on the plane.