Where does one begin to describe a trip to Japan, a place at once so different and yet so similar to the USA?

"The beginning," I heard Nadia comment drily in my inner ear.

We started out by flying to sunny Hell Lay.

Nadia is the guru of packing light.

This is her entire traveling kit for 2 weeks in Japan, which included nice clothes in which to attend the annual meeting of the International Headache Society as well as gear for hiking in the wilderness and general urban globetrotting.

We were assigned to the upper deck of the 747 for the L.A.-to-Tokyo JAL flight, and we got seats just behind the emergency exit doors.

Massive amounts of leg-room.

There was enough room to exercise and stretch out to sleep, truly a bonus on a 13 hour flight.

Each seat in the jet had its own TV screen. You could watch TV shows, movies, or this, a video-feed from a camera looking ahead of the plane.

Before take-off the flight attendants brought us warm towels with which to clean our faces and hands. Once we were in the air, they brought everyone a glass of "Sky Time Yuzu," a lemony soft drink made especially for JAL, and then a lovely Japanese dinner of chicken, rice, veggies, sushi roll, cheesecake, wine, and green tea.

And the lavatory is stocked with these -- bottles of aftershave lotion, "emulsifying lifter," and "rejuvenating water.".

Luxury. It was to become a theme of our trip to Japan.

At last we landed in Japan. We headed down the stairs of the 747...

... and joined the hoi polloi thronging towards customs

Like civilized cities everywhere outside America, there was easy mass transit from the airport to all parts of the urban area.

We headed into town to look for our hotel, massively jet-lagged.

In spite of the "rejuvenating water."

Even the subway cars in Tokyo were luxurious, with plush, cushiony seats, a far cry from the spray-painted, plastic ones we'd seen in New York.

Were the vandals all on sabbatical?

Our car-mates appeared to be doing a Beavis and Butthead impersonation while taking a picture of us.



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