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  • Robert Day


We landed in Tokyo late in the evening and things didn’t go so well. It was to be a valuable insight into the organisational skills of Kondo-san. He’d forgotten where he’d parked the car. Oh no! This is the parking lot, he exclaimed. Hmm! No that’s not it. That was the one I parked in last time. Let's try this one. Finally, after wandering around the Narita Airport carpark looking like a couple of would-be car thieves, finally we found his car and headed to his house in Higashi Kawaguchi in Saitama Prefecture, just north of Tokyo.

The car trip to his house was a sensory overload. Flashing neon signs, head lights, road signs, sirens. I felt a bit like I was in the Blade Runner movie. It was totally surreal and unlike any urban landscape I’d experienced in Australia. Finally we made it to Kondo-san’s house where we were greeted by his family who were all ceremonially lined up outside as the car pulled up. Kondo gestured to the small place across the street. That’s your house, not yet though, David is still there. I was shown to my temporary accommodation, the Japanese room adjacent the dining and living area on the top floor of Kondo’s three-story house. We sat down at the table and I was introduced to the family. Mr Kondo shared the house with his wife Kyoko, his son Takuma and daughter Kana as well as his parents (no names were offered).

It became evident very quickly that life in Japan was going to be challenging. I had bumped my head several times already on the very low door frames, I spoke no Japanese and to make a good impression, I had worn the toilet slippers out into the living room. This, is it turned out, was a very common faux pas for foreigners when they first visit Japan. Regardless, it brought on fits of laughter from the Kondo family. I sheepishly shuffled back to toilet and changed my slippers over. For those unfamiliar with the custom, the Japanese leave their outdoor shoes at the front door and wear slippers around the house. They also have special purpose toilet slippers so that nasties are not tracked around the house. It all makes sense when you think about but at the time it just seemed a bit odd. After a couple of beers and some snacks went to bed. It had been a long day and I was very tired. Life in Japan was going to be a challenge.

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