Turning Japanese, I really
5, 1995 13:31
00:11 Wellness Center Chojumara; Narita-Japan :: 3 JUN
The first impression of Japan: My god, I'm going to lose my shirt!
The Canadian $ ain't worth a plugged nickel here. At the airport the exchange
rate for traveler's cheques was in the mid 60s. For notes, in the low
50s. The gap between US notes and cheques was the more typical 3% or so.
Anyway, my $100 US cheque earned me 8,371 ¥. That was at 20:00. By
21:30 I'd depleted that to just over 4,000 ¥. All I'd done is take
a 10-minute train ride from the airport to Narita (240 ¥); pay for
my accommodation (3,000 ¥); and eat a light meal (830 ¥), and
bought a 500ml can of Coca Cola from a vending machine (110 ¥). Total:
4180 ¥ = $49.93 US. A friendly Japanese high-school student bought
me dessert or it might have been more. But perhaps I should explain what
kind of accommodation I'm paying $35.83 US for.
A 'wellness center' is something like a western 'fitness center'.
Well, it has a locker room, and common baths; massage is available; there
are video games and pochinko-the Japanese equivalent of Vegas-style slots
or Aussie 'pokies'. Lonely in a corner sits a single stair climbing machine.
There are also rooms available if you've to 7,000 ¥ plus to blow
on it. Right now I'm sitting in a coin operated 'massage chair', because
it's next to a power point. I'm wearing the regulation pajama-like tacky-tourist
top and shorts handed out as strip. Later, I'll lie down on one of the
mattresses and try to catch a few winks. I'll try and find one that is
equidistant from the Godzilla game (it periodically cries out in that
characteristic Godzilla screech) and the television (whose volume is set
high enough to compete with the jingling and musical 'come hithers' emanating
from the video games). It's going to be like sleeping in a video arcade.
Still, I do get to use all the facilities, though there's a 3,800
¥ surcharge for a 40 minute session with a masseuse. And I'm not
the least-bit uncomfortable with the notion that female attendants walk
through the men's locker rooms and baths. Actually, they stop and carry
on conversations with the men whose towels ineffectively cover their bodies.
I would prefer it if these attendants were less matronly. . .
Anyway, I've spent $50 US in just a few hours after arriving
in Japan. Just before departing Malaysia I talked to a Canadian who'd
come through Japan. In a little more than 3 days he'd spent nearly $400
CDN. He stayed with friends and so paid nothing for his bed and spent
little on food. I have neither of these advantages. I hear my bank account
whimper every time I reach into the wallet.
Second impressions are more positive. Remember drab, shabby and
haphazard? Try bright, scrubbed and organised. What a contrast to the
last three months. One of the most striking aspects, though it takes a
while to recognize it, the quiet. No horns, no scooters, no decrepit buses
and trucks badly in need of mufflers. When you walk out of the train station
it is without the barrage of cabbies trying to lure you from the taxi
queue. While storm drains are similar to those of other Asian countries,
deep trenches covered by removable concrete blocks, there is no accompanying
smell of rotting matter. In fact, other than the wafting essence of the
odd kitchen there hardly seems to be any scent.
9:35 Narita Station; Narita-Japan :: 3 JUN 95
Let me describe bathing Japanese style. Imagine a row of low
bassinets, about knee-level, each missing only the basin. On the small
stool in front of each bassinet is a bowl, pick one up and have a seat.
Fill the bowl from the tap or reservoir above the bassinet and ladle the
water over your tired body. Sometimes a hose and shower-head is available;
use that if you prefer. On the counter you find a tray holding soap, shampoo,
conditioner. Lather up and wash away your troubles. Take your time. Be
Feel better? After washing you can now enter the bath. A wellness
center is more like a spa so choose amongst the still baths, Jacuzzis,
steam baths, sauna, mineral baths and the chilling 'cool dip'. Soak away
your troubles. Take your time. Be thorough.
Feel better? While toweling off you'll find a room set aside
for primping. A long curving vanity serving several stools, have a seat.
Brushes are in the heat sterilizer. After shave, cotton swabs, cologne,
skin emollients, hair spray and blow-dryers await in the tray before you.
Making yourself pretty makes facing those troubles easier. Take your time.
22:39 Ryokan Hiraiwa; Kyoto-Japan :: 3 JUN 95
More about wellness centers. See, after logging off last night
I reconnoitered a little more thoroughly.
On the second floor I find a tatami floored restaurant (tatami
is woven straw) with those characteristic coffee tables the Japanese dine
on. You sit on the floor, a small cushion the only thing separating your
gangly western legs from the hard straw floor. Also on the second floor,
rows of comfortably padded recliners facing a large TV. Many people chose
to doze off here, in front of the telly.
On the third floor is another restaurant like that on the second
floor, more recliners and two rows of narrow mattresses. It's the quietest
here, so at 1AM, in my Hawaii print pajamas, I occupy a mattress and sleep
through the groans, wheezes, snores and coughing fits of my neighbours.
Patrick. -- Responses Sought --
Microsoft is about to become a climax ecosystem. Neither
the company or its software can grow any larger without collapse.
We're a company with $4 billion in the bank. I don't
think we'll disappear.
- Bill Gates
A revenue-generating franchise is the most fragile thing in
the world. No matter how good your product, you are only 18 months [the
targeted length of a software development cycle] away from failure.
Our plan is to make the pie really big and take a little
slice out of each transaction.
||Two quotes from Nathan Myhrvold
VP of R&D, Microsoft
the second quote refers to Microsoft's interest in software enabling
electronic banking and commerce