Japan – Day 2.5

Day 2

I woke up in the middle of the night at the Cross Hotel Osaka and quickly found, to my chagrin, that going back to sleep was not in my immediate future. This is where the drastic time difference started to wreak havoc. Though it was 2 a.m. in Japan, my body was obviously still significantly attached to the time zone it knew and loved at home, where it was 1 p.m.

Hmm…what to do, what to do…

My first inclination was that Reed might like some play time, but when I tried to wake him up he grumpily pushed me away and said he was trying to sleep. Well okay then, jackass.

Screw that. Intent on not doing anything further to annoy Reed as well as not squandering one solitary moment of my trip, I opted to venture out to do some exploring on my own. I wasn’t quite sure what the scene was like outside, or what time everything closed down or whatever, but I could sense that the Osaka night wasn’t quite finished through the limited information I could take in from the hotel window. So I figured what the hey…I’m only wandering alone out in the middle of the night in a foreign country – what could go wrong? I hurriedly put on some clothes and freshened myself up to get this party started. I’m not even sure if Reed registered that I was on my way out or not, and wasn’t really interested in letting him know.

I walked out of the hotel to find the streets of Osaka still alive and kicking. I stood out front for a little bit to take in my surroundings. I had no idea what my plan was or where to even attempt to go. I just had a vague idea in my head of walking off some of my restlessness. But before I could even take a step, I noticed a guy coming over to me. He said a greeting (I guess) that I didn’t understand and then continued with other unknown utterances in Japanese while I stood there tilting my head like a confused puppy and giving him a blank look. He quickly caught on to the fact that I had no idea what the hell he was talking about and pulled out his phone to utilize Google Translate. Oh, the wonders of modern technology! He wanted to know if I wanted to go to a bar. Sure! He indicated that I follow him, and though I was mildly nervous about following some strange man to an unknown location, I did it anyway because I’m just stupid adventurous like that.

As we navigated the crowded side streets and started taking various turns, I make a point to pay strict attention to our path. The potential perils of gallivanting off somewhere with a stranger in the middle of the night are obvious enough, but on top of that I also happen to have a terrible sense of direction.  While there was always a minuscule chance that I’d end up vanishing and/or murdered, I was much more worried about just simply not being able to find my way back to the hotel. To kill several birds with one stone, I started sending texts to Reed to document my trail.

LateNightJourney
The guy who did not kidnap me.

They didn’t go through because I didn’t have cellular service, but they were at least saved into the text message for me to either refer to on my way back, assuming I am alive, or for the authorities to retrace my steps. I also took a picture of this person from behind for good measure. In hindsight, none of that would’ve helped in the least bit in the event of my demise because everything was stuck in my phone and I’m sure that would’ve disappeared along with me, but it felt proactive and intelligent at the time.

We didn’t end up too far from the hotel. It was probably 7 or so minutes before he leads me into a building and upstairs into a nearly empty bar. We commandeer a table and he gestures to me about a drink. I respond in the affirmative and soon after am presented with some random beer. Then we commence mostly staring at each other quizzically and trying to make small talk through his phone.He asks me a question about sex with a Japanese man – I think to ask me if I’ve ever been with one. I couldn’t be sure if that was his way of trying to hit on me or if he was just asking matter-of-factly. He didn’t press either way. I thought it was odd but I wasn’t majorly uncomfortable.

Several moments later a few more guys came out of the woodwork – people who work there that he knows, I surmised. I wasn’t really sure if the bar was open or closed or what its status was, but in either case it was only us there so they sat around to chill as well. Some of them knew more English than others, but communication was still tricky and stilted.

But no worries, because if there is one thing that Japanese people love, it’s karaoke. And soon enough we had a jam session in our midst. And just like that, I’m having the time of my life in a bar in Osaka, Japan, at 3 a.m., drinking and listening to Japanese men who can barely speak English sing round after round of American pop and rock songs. Absolute magnificence. A definite once-in-a-lifetime experience. Notable renditions included Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You and Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On a Prayer. You truly have not lived until you have heard Japanese men singing these songs.

It was probably a little after 4 a.m. by the time I started to feel like I should wrap things up. I excused myself to the restroom and then came back and indicated somehow that I ready to get my tab and roll. My tab came to 18,000 or so yen, or $160ish American dollars. YIKES! Between the drinks and the karaoke rounds I sang, those bastards got me. Take THAT, stupid American tourist! But whatevs. I had a good time and I really hadn’t spent any real money yet, so it was worth it. I paid, wished everyone a good night, and left to try to find my way back to the hotel.

Back outside it was still dark, but the sky was at the beginning stages of lightening. The streets had cleared out for the most part, but they weren’t completely desolate. I felt maybe the slightest bit more intimidated being totally alone, but I didn’t have any problems. Between my memory and my notes, I didn’t have too much trouble getting back to the hotel.

What a delightful random adventure that was.

Reed was still asleep when I got back to the room. He probably had never even known I left. I still wasn’t tired at this point, and as dawn was now upon us I figured I’d just go on ahead and start readying myself for the day, starting with the marvelous shower room.

ShowerRoom
The marvelous shower room.

Japan – Day 2

Day 1

I woke up on the early-ish side to a bright, sunny, glorious day. I was momentarily taken aback to open my eyes to a room that was not my own, and then it suddenly hit me: I’m in Japan. Reed was still asleep; I let him be because I wanted him to rest and I really didn’t know what his routine was. Besides, I wanted to get the chance to primp and look my best without him being privy to all my beauty secrets. It’s a girl thing. I showered and dressed and made myself up and then kind of just waltzed around the house on my own, exploring some.

When Reed eventually awakened and got his morning hygiene routine going, I took the opportunity to venture outside and check out the neighborhood some in the daylight. His house was about 30 feet away from some train tracks that brought a train rumbling through a couple of times or so an hour, but it wasn’t particularly loud or disturbing, thank goodness. Seemed to be a pretty decent neighborhood. Clean and quiet and scenic.

Japan
The tracks.

 

Japan2
Cute houses in the hills.

I only had a vague idea of what the plan for the day was. I knew we were going to Osaka, but I wasn’t really clear on how far away it was or how long we were staying. I learned last minute that it was several hours away by train ride and we’d be staying overnight, so I had to hurriedly pack. Part of me was not so keen on having to do any heavy traveling again being barely half a day removed from a 12-hour flight, but I set my feelings aside in the spirit of going with the flow.

My spirits lifted exponentially once I saw that Reed came out of the house holding a beer for himself and a chu-hi for me, properly equipped with koozies. A chu-hi is a Japanese flavored malt beverage drink very similar to the American Four Loko. That told me he was in the mood to relax and chill out and make a whimsical adventure of our journey at least, so that put me in a better mood. One great thing about Japan, among the plethora of great things, is that public alcohol consumption is not illegal, and thus we were free to comfortably partake in our respective beverages along our half-mile journey to the train station.

A chu-hi.
A chu-hi.

Reed was delightful in showing me the ropes in navigating the Japanese metro system. I suppose it’s pretty standard issue despite being in a foreign country, but I’ve not taken public transportation much since my high school and college days so I’m pretty much a novice at it. We had to take a couple of metro trains until we finally arrived at the station which housed the bullet train, or shinkansen. There, Reed secured us 2 tickets for the train that would take us to Osaka. I later found out they were a plenty hefty price – I think they were a little over $100 U.S. dollars a piece, which he graciously paid for without mention. I told him I’d pay for them on the return trip.

The bullet train was a pleasant experience. It was a 3+ hour trip, so that gave Reed and I chance to connect some and I got to see some beautiful Japan scenery.  The seats were comfy and a cart came around every so often filled to the brim with snacks and chu-his. We had our fill of alcohol along the way, but it wasn’t to the point of drunkenness…just a giddy tipsiness.

Once we arrived to our destination station and disembarked, I think we had to take one more normal metro to get us within walking distance of the hotel. Or perhaps we were already within walking distance of the hotel as it is. I can’t remember.

In any case, we arrived and checked in to the lovely Cross Hotel Osaka. I had absolutely no input into the hotel selection process, which didn’t bother me a bit as I’m not astoundingly picky when it comes to accommodations, but Reed made a good call. I always especially enjoy boutique hotels as opposed to the ubiquitous chain. Boutique hotels have character. And Cross Hotel Osaka was all about character – it wasn’t particularly bright and smiley and inviting…it was dark and moody and atmospheric. It was almost a little scary, with its black walls and blood red striping on the doors in the hallways. Something different though, at least.

CrossHotel
Cross Hotel Osaka – our hallway.

It was mid- to late-afternoon at this point. Reed and I got to our room and settled and then chilled out a bit while we decided what to do for the evening. Dinner was definitely markered in on our agenda for some time later in the night, but to whet our appetites beforehand we decided to head to a bar or something to continue getting our drink on and maybe a snack.  In the meantime we were just lying together on the bed talking and having not a problem in the world. Great day so far.

Until I jokingly made reference to an incident involving a Chinese fighter jet toying with a U.S. plane. And yeah, I  made it in an impish sort of way to pick at Reed the Navy pilot, i.e. in a manner as to suggest that the U.S. military got punked by the Chinese military, but in a completely light-hearted way.

Well, Reed took serious offense to my comment to the extent where he snapped at me very abrasively. I don’t remember exactly what his initial comment was, but he went off on a rant about how I don’t know what I’m talking about and I don’t know anything about the U.S. military.

Hmmmkay.

Well that caught me off guard because that was the first time that he had ever been mean to me. Scathingly, willfully mean. It hurt my feelings and it’s not my normal style, but it was within hours of being my time of the month and he was being a first-class prick, so I got a little teary-eyed. I didn’t, like, start boo-hooing or anything, but that did sting me a little.

I apologized, turned away from him, and then we sat in awkward silence for a little while as he looked up local bars. He kind of thought out loud at some points as if he wanted feedback, and I would give him short answers that I’m sure made it clear that I wasn’t really in the mood to talk with him. At one point he DID actually make a half-ass apology, but I didn’t really wanna hear it at that point and I made it known. Which never helps matters because at this point I’m just tossing the volley back at him when he was trying to make amends, but again, IT WAS ALMOST MY TIME OF THE MONTH AND I AM ALLOWED TO BE SALTY FOR AS LONG AS I WANT!

But I would never let a sour attitude get in the way of drinking, so once he found a place he was satisfied with and figured out how to get there and was ready to go, I dutifully followed him out of the hotel and we embarked on probably the quietest, most awkward 10-minute walk that has ever taken place in the world. Very physically together; very mentally distant. And it showed, as he walked slightly ahead of me most of the way and I lagged behind. But again, to his credit, he would make intermittent efforts to communicate on the way – like pointing things out to me about our surroundings.

It wasn’t long before the bar was in sight and I felt a sense of relief at the opportunity to be around the energy of other people that would help to dilute the tension between Reed and I. Success!

Or not. The bar wasn’t open yet. We were like 12 minutes too early. Round 2 of forced-company awkwardness as we stood on the street looking dumb waiting for the bar to open. Not speaking, not making eye contact – like strangers.

This episode lasted until Reed made some comment on something or other and I replied back that I’m actually not stupid, which he never actually said to me, but I guess that’s just how his mini-tirade made me feel for some reason. He came over to me, stood right in front of me and explained that he never said I was stupid and then apologized again and gave me a kiss. Aw.

We debriefed each other right after on why this became a “thing” – the moral of that story was that Reed takes it severely personally when he thinks anyone is trash-talking the American military. Duly noted. Very Type-A, prima donna-ish characteristics that I guess I should’ve expected from a Navy pilot and been careful about.

After that, all was well. We let bygones be bygones and by that time the bar had opened and so lots of ingestion of alcohol ensued. I can’t remember if we ate anything there or not, but we had several rounds of drinks and did a shot or two. I got pretty inebriated, so exactly when we left is a mystery to me, but I know that Reed had selected a restaurant within walking distance that he wanted to go to and we were headed there. Only…he had trouble finding it. Most likely because was drunk. And maybe a little bit too that it was his first time in Osaka, but probably more so because he was drunk.

Osaka
Osaka!

But we had not a care in the world because we were drunkenly meandering around the neon-lit streets of Osaka together, giggling away when each successive person we tried to have direct us to this restaurant didn’t really seem to know what we were talking about or where this place was. We pressed on for a little while despite the odds, but then eventually hunger got the best of us and we decided to head into another random restaurant we happened past.

It turned out to be a yakiniku restaurant. There was a small grill pit in the center of the table, and the servers brought out bite-sized portions of raw meats of our choosing, along with various chopped vegetables and rice, and we grilled them right there at the table. Reed took care of all the grilling, and the result was absolute delectable-ness.

After that we made our way to another bar…God knows where because I was intoxicated and know nothing about Osaka but it was all within walking distance. We weren’t there for too long though because eventually I started feeling worn down and suggested we head back to the hotel. There, we secured ourselves a couple more chu-his from the lobby area or wherever and then returned to the room for a little more drinking and a little more sex. And passed out. The end.

Day 2.5

 

Japan – The Journey/Day 1

At long last, I’ve decided to tackle this sordid saga – one day at a time. Each day of the trip will comprise a separate entry, but I already anticipate them being sporadic as I don’t really feel like expending the emotional and mental energy to reflect on everything all at once in any type of compact or immediate time frame.

In any case, without further adieu, I now begin the story of that time I did one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done:

Once upon a time in Suburbia, in the wee hours of a mildly temperate Sunday morning, there was a foolish girl wide awake at 3 a.m. on the verge of completing some extensive packing. That girl was me, and I was putting some finishing touches on preparations for my long-awaited trip to Japan to finally meet Reed, the dashing Navy pilot I matched with on Tinder in mid-August and had been in fervent contact with ever since. We were so obviously perfect for each other based our mutual complicity in concocting the foolish scheme for me to travel to Japan, where he was stationed, to meet for the first time. And from there we were going to fall in love and have babies and live happily ever after. It was all very simple.

I Ubered to the airport at 4 a.m. for a 6 a.m. flight to Canada. From Canada I had about a 3-hour layover, during which I had some breakfast and some alcohol, all the while messaging with Reed about my impending visit and feeling the mutual excitement start to simmer to a boil. After 7 weeks of continual texts and extensive emailing, there we were right on the verge of something glorious. That afternoon I boarded a flight to Tokyo on a jumbo jet and off I went on my longest flight ever – 13 or so hours. It was also my very first time flying alone. On Japan time, I wouldn’t be landing until about 24 hours later since I’d be flying forward in time (across the International Date Line).

The airplane was pretty nice. It had TVs in the headrests with a variety of current movies or TV shows available freely for your viewing pleasure, and even a flight tracker that showed you exactly where you were and how long you had left in the flight. I brought a couple of NyQuil sleeping pills with me to put me to sleep for most of the flight. I (A) didn’t want to spend the whole flight being bored and anxious, and (B) wanted to try and stay a step ahead of impending jet lag. Landing the next afternoon in Japan would mean it’s the very early morning hours at home, so I would most likely be sleepy. I figured I could quell that by sleeping as much of the flight as I could to try and match my sleep patterns up to Japan time.

I waited until they served the first round of food, gazed out of the window somewhat (I always opt for a window seat, given a choice), then once I felt appropriately settled a couple of hours into the flight, I took the NyQuil, wrapped myself up in my blanket, and drifted off to a peaceful sleep. They usually help me sleep undisturbed for a good 7 to 8 hours and thus I figured by the time I woke up we wouldn’t have long to go until landing. When I woke up I was so excited to check the flight tracker which would surely indicate another 1 or 2 hours at the most until landing. NOPE!  Way off…still 6 hours to go. Drats! No matter…I entertained myself the rest of the time by watching movies. Whatevs.

Arrival
My first glimpse of Japan.

Before I knew it, Nippon was looming underneath me and we descended smoothly into Narita airport. As soon as I disembarked and my phone could connect to WiFi, I messaged Reed to let him know I was there safe and sound, hoping he had made it without problems to pick me up (he lives almost 2 hours from the airport). He messaged back and said he’d be waiting right at the exit. After stopping to use the restroom and getting acquainted with the most delightful toilet I’ve ever used (it plays music), I navigated my way through the portentous maze that is any foreign country’s customs procedures. All-in-all, it went pretty swimmingly. My only source of irritation stemmed from the fact that I was handed a customs form on the plane in complete Japanese, which I do not speak and hence could not decipher the meaning or purpose of.  I perplexedly handed it completely blank to a customs agent and shrugged; he handed me the English equivalent and promptly sent me back to the end of the line. Damn you.

Reed said he’d be standing just outside of the exit doors to the left. I trudged out nervously to a sea of Japanese faces, scanning, scanning, scanning…and there he was! Reed. Finally. In person. I knew him right away – no surprises. I knew those big turquoise eyes and that dimple in his left cheek by now. Plus, you know, he was, like, one of the only Caucasians in the immediate vicinity, so that was a dead giveaway. I walked over and we greeted and hugged and I took his arm for him to escort me out of the airport, but not before stopping at a vending machine. I asked for anything with caffeine in it and he bought me a Coke. We made our way out of the terminal and across the parking lot to his car. It felt bizarre getting into a passenger’s seat on the left side instead of on the right.

He warned that it’d be a long car ride back home, but assured me that once there he had a good dinner planned. I drank my Coke and took in my surroundings in between making small talk. He rubbed my leg as he thanked me for coming, and that made me feel comfortable. Welcomed. He wasn’t recoiling from me, so I took that as a good sign. There was no overt awkwardness, but I’m sure in both our minds we had to let this reality absorb in some – here we were, in the flesh, finally. I’d just come off of a long flight and he’d just resumed the second leg of a long drive (not to mention his previous week), so I’m sure there was some weariness on both parts. At one point he told me his neck gets stiff while he’s driving sometimes, so I rubbed it for him for a little while. He was really appreciative and thanked me. I ended up falling asleep for a little while (so much for Coke). I’m not sure how long I was out, but when I woke up again it wasn’t much longer until we were parking at his 2-story duplex in the suburbs of Tokyo.

Car Ride
On the way home.

Once inside, he carried my suitcase upstairs to his bedroom for me and showed me around. His place was orderly and cozy. A couple of bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a den/office…the standard fare. What I wasn’t used to was the bathroom situation, which is actually pretty neat. The Japanese apparently like keeping toilet and bathing facilities separate, so there was no “full” bathroom, so to speak. There were two small rooms (one on each floor) with just toilets, and then there was one actual bathing room on the upper floor comprised of a double sink, a tub, and a shower, with the tub and shower being partitioned off within a smaller room with a drain in the middle of the floor, meaning it was basically a giant shower because everything in that room could get wet. So instead of taking a shower in a tiny stall, you’re actually taking it in like an 8’x10′ space. Pure magic.

While Reed got dinner going, I gave him the bereavement card I got him for his grandmother and headed upstairs to freshen up a bit. I washed up and changed into some yoga pants (the most comfortable item of clothing on Earth). And from there I had my first encounter with one of his toilets, which took some brief readjustment. I noticed during the tour that these toilet rooms didn’t have sinks, so I just figured you were supposed to go to the bath room right after to wash your hands. But when I flushed, water starting running out from a faucet positioned right above the tank cover into a hole leading into the tank. HUH?! I hadn’t noticed this before. Thinking I might’ve broken it and not really getting where the water was coming from or where it was going (give me a break, I was a little tired), I yelled to Reed. He explained that the water coming from the faucet is fresh water used to refill the tank, and in the meantime you use it to wash your hands with as well. Oooooooh! Pretty nifty. Those Japanese…so darn clean and efficient. No wonder Japan is absolutely beautiful.

Toilet
Not Reed’s toilet, but the general concept.

When I got back downstairs, he had a glass of wine waiting for me, and the delicious aroma of simmering pasta sauce permeated the air. Wine and pasta – sold! He certainly knew the way to a girl’s heart (and as it turns out, to her utter scorn and bitter hatred, but I’m getting ahead of myself). It all felt, despite the obvious insanity of the circumstances…normal. Serene. I was happy I had come and looking forward to what lies ahead. And it seemed like he maybe felt the same. Maybe we had made a good call after all. Maybe, just maybe, this would be one of those one-in-a-million kinds of love stories (but of course, there’s a reason why they are one-in-a-million).

We ate dinner and drank wine and talked about a little of this, a little of that. Just a relaxing, chill evening, which was exactly what we’d planned on given my extensive travel. After dinner, I helped wash the dishes and then we settled in on his couch to watch a movie. I forget what we decided on but if I recall correctly, I think it was something I had seen but he hadn’t. Or maybe we had both seen it. I don’t remember. I wish I did for some reason. Whatever it was, we turned off the lights and snuggled up a bit to watch, but I soon felt myself growing pretty disinterested in movie watching and I formed another plan instead.

Excusing myself under the guise of going to use the restroom, I went upstairs and changed into “something more comfortable” AKA a black lacy babydoll, and then sauntered back down with my surprise. I didn’t say anything to him when I walked in the room and I didn’t have to. One glance in my direction and his eyes lit up and he immediately scrambled to turn all the movie equipment off and head upstairs. I took his hand and led him up to his bedroom and from there a couple of rounds of sexual activity ensued…once right then and then again in the middle of the night after we’d slept a few hours.

It wasn’t anything mind-blowing by any means – he was very quick, but I figured it had just been a while for him, so it was nothing I was going to get my panties in a bunch about (even if I had had some on to get in a bunch in the first place). I didn’t care about that for the time being – it was only our first time together – I just felt content falling asleep next to him that night.

Day 2