Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini.               

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Japan on $1000/day
Day 1: Sticker Shock
Day 2: Among the Dead & Dying (Fish)
Day 3: Budda & Broken English
Day 4: Magic Toilets & Poisonous Fish
Day 5: Aircraft and Elevators
Sidebar: An Attitude of Quality
Day 6: Squirming Shrimp & Karaoki
Day 7: Pirate Ships & Long Flat Silver
Day 8: Country Inn at City Prices
Day 9: The Inside Scoop
Day 10: Hot in Hiroshima
Day 11: Castles in the Sky
Day 12: Where the Deer & Bon Jovi Play
Day 13: Doom
Day 14: The Summer Cottage
End: Have Toilet, Will Travel
Japan on $1000 per Day

Days 15 & 16: Planes, Trains, and Toilet Seats

You haven't lived until you've attempted to pass through American Customs with a remote-controlled toilet seat perched on your head. But first things first...

A lot has been written about how hopeless it is to find addresses in Japan. It ain’t so, McGee. Most of the confusion seems to arise from our Western insistence that houses should have street addresses. In Tokyo, they don’t. They have house addresses. Let me explain. We see the streets as being the positive space: the thing with substance, the thing with identity. The islands of land that the streets surround have no identity of their own. Your house doesn't have a number; the curb in front of your house has a number. The addresses of the four sides of a typical island of land will carry the names of four different streets.

In Tokyo, the islands of land are the named entity. The streets are negative space, there to provide a way to get to the islands of land. Marushima & Co., LTD, my local toilet seat dealer was located at 28-2, Chuo 1-Chome, Nakano-ku, Tokyo. Working backwards through the address, the gentleman from Guest Services at our hotel, with map spread before him,

  1. Located the large Nakano-ku district of Tokyo
  2. Zeroed in on the proper neighborhood, Chuo 1-Chome
  3. Then looked around for the single island of land labeled "28".

(The Japanese are not particularly creative in "naming" the blocks of land—they seem to find numbers sufficient, kind of an early version of all-digit-dialing.) He photocopied the page, circled the "28," showed me where the closest subway station was to the toilet store, and sent me on my way. When I popped out of the ground at the subway station, I had no trouble finding my way the three blocks to the proper island.

On each island, the houses tend to be numbered in chronological order of construction, so at that point you do face the daunting task of having to actually walk an average of two blocks to find the building you’re looking for. I lucked out. I only had to walk one block.

After completing our business in record-time (one does not tarry over toilet transactions), I retraced my steps to the subway station, with the giant toilet-seat box propped on my head, and found my way back to the hotel.

That night, we opened the room service menu to discover a new special: We could actually get an entire dinner, complete with all the trimmings, for only $130 apiece. How could we refuse such a bargain? We ate well, and slept better.

The Longest Day

Day 16: 11:30 AM. We packed and checked out. We headed for Akihabara, Tokyo’s electronics center where TVs, VCRs, Computers, and all manner of other high-technology equipment is so heavily discounted that you can find selected items that are actually only a few dollars more expensive than in New York City. We were there for two reasons: First, I was in hot pursuit of a cool Sony radio that is unique in that it only receives a single station. In California, that would be KGO AM. It is also cool because it is the same height, width, and thickness as a credit card. Second, we have gone to Akihabara because, were we to fail to go, all my high-tech friends back in California would torture me for the rest of my natural life. "Like you spent a week in Tokyo, and you didn’t go to Akihabara and check out the equipment? Bummer, man!"

3:00 PM. Radio in hand, we fled to the airport, two hours away. Barely made it in time for our 6:00 flight.

7:30 PM. Dinner time on board the plane and our first taste of Genuine American Food in 16 days. Is it really this bad?

10:30 AM, the same morning. Nine and a half hours before we left, having crossed the International Dateline, we arrived back in California, rumpled and ill-rested. Toilet seat still propped on my head, we pass through customs. I'm expecting the worst, casting my eyes about, looking guilty, waiting for the long arm of the law. Who knows what regulations I may be breaking, transporting toilet paraphernalia across national boundaries? However, Customs is bored this morning, and we pass through with hardly a glance.

Once home, I headed for the local store for a few odds and ends—milk, bread, a little tofu. I handed the guy the usual $100.00 and he handed me back $92.87 in change. Hey, everything is on sale! 90% off! Bargains galore!

We are back in the USA. It may be a second-world country, but it’s our second-world country.

When we visited Japan, 100 yen equalled about 1 USA dollar. That has changed, to the benefit of those who would travel to Japan.

Japanese capsule hotel

The low-cost hotel alternative: Your own private capsule

Japan is still expensive, but it is affordable, if you enjoy eating noodles and if you are careful about where you stay. For example, for only around $50 a night, you can enjoy your own spacious 3.5 foot X 3.5 foot X 7.25 foot private "room" in one of Tokyo's many "capsule hotels."

You will also find many mid-priced alternatives, small, but well-located hotels without 24 hour room service and elevator ladies. And even if you decide to go "first cabin," as we did, your money will be well-spent. Japan is one of the few places left in the world where the homogenization of Starbucks and MacDonalds has made little headway. It is clean, modern, safe beyond belief, and certainly first world. However, it also remains exotic and unique. Certainly worth a visit.

As for the toilet seat, we now own two of them. The second, under the NAIS name, we bought at a high-end (so to speak) plumbing store in the USA. I prefer the Toto we bought in Japan, but then it does have a wireless remote control. Hard to beat.

Dr. Dean Edell, of ABC radio and TV fame, once remarked that the Japanese toilet seat he got for his family, " changed our lives." I couldn't have said it better.

Last Month: Day 14: The Summer Cottage

This is the last of the Japan on $1000 a day series

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