Monday, December 01, 2003

I went to Tokyo yesterday to get a stamp on my passport and to change my visa status. In short: WORST TRIP TO TOKYO EVER!!!! And i mean that, out of my two trips to Tokyo, this surpassed by far the first one in shittyness. The day started out fine, i almost overslept my 6:30 bus and then sat through 4 hours of traffic etc while the bus drove onward. I woke up in the outskirts of Tokyo with rain slapping the windshield and happy squeaky noisies coming from the wipers. The woman behind me didn't stop her snoring though, i'd have to wait until we got off the bus.
In tokyo i followed the instructions given to me by some co-workers and ended up at the appropriate train station in no time. When i got off, i had a short 20 minute trudge through the rain to the immigration office which is conveniently located on an island in tokyo harbor next to the coolest garbage incinerator that i've ever seen.
No problem, i'll just go inside, whip through the forms and be on my way. I went inside and anyone who has ever been to an immigration office can attest, it is a place of despair and frustration, no matter how nice the staffers are. Realistically, the people working at the place were amazing. All of them were like quadra-lingual, and they were amazingly polite for public servants. It was just that the place reeked of frustration, first from the other people and shortly therafter a lot of it was coming from me.
As i was filling out the forms i noticed that there were some blanks that I had to fill out including the net worth of my employer, the NFLC, the yearly revenues and also the tax paid last year. WTF, how the hell am i supposed to know about this stuff before i come to the office. No problem i would just call the office and ask them for the info. But shit, i had forgotten to bring the phone number as well, i couldn't call anyone! So i stewed and pondered and then while looking through my Lonely Planet guide to Tokyo i discovered that there was free directory assistance from NTT the phone company. SWEET! So i called the office only to find that my boss was out and that i'd have to wait for an hour and a half to talk to him. This was just dandy. So i wandered around and had some lunch in the built in cafeteria next to some Filipina prostitutes and their 60 year old japanese pimp. No they never propositioned me, but realistically, what else would 8 Filipina women, dressed in hoochie clothes and accompanied by a single man who paid for all of their lunches be?
Several minor frustrations later I called back, go the info and was psyched to be going to actually get my papers processed. So i went up stairs and looked at the line "Now serving 200," as i pulled 427 out of the box. Shit.
An hour and 45 minutes later i was out of there, ready to find some stores, like the international market and the shoe store with big sizes in Ginza. As i had carefully planned my route, it took me more than 15 minutes to get lost, confused and bewildered. Really, i wasn't lost in the traditional sense, i knew that i was in Tokyo and i knew that there were some train stations around. I just didn't know which ones to get on or get off of and it was a bitch. I missed my stop and then got confused as to where to catch the other train so i just ended up walking. Not too bad because i wasn't far from where i wanted to go, but it was still a large pain in the ass, particularly as it was still raining. I kept the hood on the rainjacket up to prevent soaking my head, which in turn prevented me from seeing well. Trade offs, always trade offs.
Anyway, i managed to find the shoe store without too much difficulty once i was actually on the ground. Unfortunately i felt like an ugly idiot shopping there and looking for a single pair of shoes less than 10000 yen, the cheapest one i saw, and an ugly pair at that, was 14000 yen (about $128). So, i left kind of disheartened, and searched for the National Azabu Supermarket. What a bust. THe directions i got off the internet were bunk. Two minute walk my ass. SO i wandered around and ended up eating dinner at a Subway restaurant. Not a great sandwich, but better than in the US. Then i realized i was going to be cutting it close for time and began to head back to Shinjuku for my bus.
Easier said than done. As it turned out, when you don't know where you're going it takes a lot longer to get there. I arrived at the bus stop with about 3 minutes to spare, sugoi! unfortunately the bus was nowhere in sight. Apparently something got screwed up, because i waited for a minute or so, and then the bus came zipping by, I was like, "Sweet!" then about 2 seconds later i was like, "Shit!" as it kept on truckin down the road.
At this point I began to wonder which of the cardboard box houses i could most likely shack up in, preferrably with a bum with great english skills, a shower and some good food. As these were in short supply i decided to try to catch the Shinkansen back to Nagano. This meant taking a train all the way across the city again and then paying 8000 yen for the ticket. But hey, realisticaly, i arrived back home before i would have if I had caught the bus. THe other great thing about the day is that I have to go back when they actually mail my reciept for my Visa and do the process all over again!

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