Thursday, June 16, 2016

Call Me Sasquatch – Erich

Life must be hard for giants.

Sasquatch (which I am hoping is the plural of Sasquatch) are a North American legend about giant, hairy, forest dweller bipeds. So far as I know the legend says nothing about them swimming across the Pacific and landing in Japan. Which is where I am.

But the other name for Sasquatch (singular this time) is Bigfoot. I'm not sure if the plural of Bigfoot is Bigfoots or Bigfeet. Neither seems entirely satisfactory. This is just one more reason that their lives, if they even exist, must be hard. If they don't exist then their lives are beyond hard, they are impossible.

See, here's the thing. I need new shoes.

Yes, this is my first post since reaching Japan, and I am blathering about shoes and Sasquatch. You'd rather learn about Buddhist temples and amazing pagodas. I understand that, but how can you enjoy the sites if you aren't comfortable in your own shoes?

All my life, I have worn through shoes at an alarming rate. I generally need new shoes every four months or so. But before we left Pennsylvania, I bought some really good, high quality shoes meant for heavy duty walking and hiking.

I started wearing them in August and now it is June. That is ten months! Incredible for me. Great shoes. Or they were. But not any longer.

Now my shoes are worn down, ripped at the sides, and beginning to hurt my feet. Especially my left foot, poor left foot. Very sore.

This leads to my need for new shoes.

We arrived last night into Osaka, Japan. It was a long trip. It began in Bistritsa, Bulgaria. (Cue the wavy flashback effect.) We took a very affordable taxi ride from the house in Bistritsa to the Sofia Airport. The ride cost 19 Bulgarian Lev, which is about $9.50, and that included the tip. It was a pretty good distance, so that wasn't bad at all. Far less expensive than buses would have been for four people.

We flew from Sofia, Bulgaria to Doha, Qatar. Qatar Airlines is very nice. Great entertainment choices, tasty meals for an airplane, and friendly service.

The Hamad International Airport in Doha is probably the nicest, most complete and comfortable airport I have ever yet experienced. This was great because we had a nine hour layover.

But it wasn't too bad. There are indoor playgrounds/art that the kids could climb and slide on. There were plenty of good restaurant choices and for being in an airport, they weren't unbelievably expensive. There were round tables with chairs and good lighting where we played a variety of card games. There were quiet areas with this long leaning chairs, almost like leather lounge chairs, where people could sleep. (And in these quiet areas, the regular announcements like please don't leave your luggage unattended are not played. This is in contrast to Heathrow Airport in London where we began our trip last September with an eleven hour layover. In Heathrow the “quiet areas” are by no means quiet. They aren't even separated by walls and doors from the “loud areas”.) Hamad International Airport has internet stations with Macs available for surfing the internet. But the entire airport has free Wifi. And there are television stations with plush seats and a TV playing something. Plus there are enough outlets available that if one wanted to plug in a computer or device, one could. There is a lot they are doing right in Qatar.

The only strange thing was that they made all of the passengers who were transferring from one international flight to another go through a security checkpoint as we got off of the airplane. And they checked our passports again. No stamps this time, we weren't officially entering Qatar or anything. I'm not sure why we needed to do so. Still, we had plenty of time.

We flew out of Hamad International Airport at near 3 AM on another Qatar Airlines flight. This one was around nine hours long, had two meals served, and dimmed lights through most of the flight. But in addition to the nine hours, we moved forward in time zones six hours, from GMT +2 (with daylight savings time) to GMT +9 (without daylight savings time). So when we landed it was around 6 PM in Narita, Japan.

It took some time to get through passport control. On the plane they had given us forms, one for each of us, which would be needed to get through Japanese immigration. Each adult had to have both index fingers scanned and a picture of our face taken. The kids, on the other hand, are closer to being under the radar, though of course their passports were checked.

This was before we got our checked luggage. Then we went to customs, which was quick. We had to fill out one form for the whole family. We handed it to the Customs Officer and we were on our way.

Now we had a 22 hour layover. But Alrica had gotten us hotel reservations at a Hilton near the airport. We rode the shuttle bus, checked in, and slept! The next morning we enjoyed the “American” breakfast. I'm not entirely certain why it was American, though it did have offerings like scrambled eggs and pancakes and sausage. But there were other offerings like congee (sort of a rice porridge), boiled quail eggs, Chinese fried bread, three varieties of Japanese pickles, and miso soup.

The hotel pool was much more designed for lap swimming than kid playing, but it was nice. And we watched some TV. The CNN station was regular American CNN with the people on it speaking in English, and then some man audio dubbing over them in Japanese. Another station was showing syndicated episodes of NCIS in English with Japanese subtitles. (Here's what's cool. The subtitles are, of course, along the bottom, but centered left and right. However, during the opening credits of the show, this is exactly where the credits would be. So the subtitles move to the far right of the screen and go down the side vertically.)

The next day we took the shuttle bus back to the airport and checked in for our domestic flight to Osaka. We had extra time, and there is a shopping center in the airport. So we tried a new food. Takoyaki. These are dough balls made with octopus and egg and flour and Welsh onion. (This, is a strange name as the Welsh onion is native to China, not Wales.) They were very tasty and different. Some of them had mayonnaise on them, another nice addition.

We were most amused by one shop in the center that was selling toilet seats. First, who buys their toilet seat at the airport? Second, these toilet seats are so fancy! They have more buttons and dials on them than some TV remote controls. These toilet seats can serve as a bidet with temperature setting for water to spray your front and your back. They can warm the seat for you. They can make burbling water noises while you go so that you don't have to be overheard doing your “business.” (These were also on the seats in the airport. That burbling water noise is called the privacy setting.) And these toilet seats cost well over $1250. I guess the feeling is that if waste removal is a necessity of life, you may as well do it as richly as possible.
You could probably program it to steal your identity if you worked at it
I should mention, the bathrooms in the airport gave you your choice of Western toilets or Asian toilets (which are squatty potties.)

We arrived in Osaka after a quick flight and took the monorail from the airport to Kodoma-shi station. There we took a taxi to our Osaka home. This taxi was 1300 yen (which is roughly $13) with tip. It was for a much shorter distance. Taxis in Osaka are not so cost effective as they are in Sofia.

So that gets us through last night. Today I didn't wake until 11AM, and that was because Alrica woke me. So I have clearly not gotten over my jet lag yet. But our mission for the day was to find me some new shoes.

So far, we have not yet succeeded in that mission. Apparently, here in Japan, I have something in common with our North American legendary friends, the Sasquatch. I seem to be a giant. With big feet. There are not many pairs of shoes in the stores that go up to my size.

Note: I don't have gigantic feet. In America, my size shoe would be incredibly common. But in Japan, I am taller than most men, and my feet must be correspondingly bigger. So I need to do more hunting.

At least I am about average height for males in America. If I were super tall there, I would never be able to find shoes for myself here. Alrica better not decide she wants shoes, because that would be right out.

Yes, life must be hard for giants. Well, when they need new shoes.

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