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     Volume 5 Issue 111 | September 8, 2006 |

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Love in Tokyo

Farzana Yasmeen

The 12-hour journey was exasperating, especially since I chose Biman. Crammed seats, narrow isles, no music, dim lights (so I couldn't finish Angels and Demons), bland food and zombie-looks from the hostesses whenever you asked for something. The whole thing really got on my nerves when the stewardess started praying aloud during turbulence (I'm not joking). And to finally top it all off, a two hour delay at arrival because we had to re-route due to a 'mis-landing'. Why hadn't I chosen a different airline? Unfortunately, Biman has the only direct flight from Dhaka to Narita without a 5/6 hour transit. I made a mental note to check other airlines for my return flight. What a way to start off your honeymoon!

Once I disembarked and successfully tackled customs (food?- no, gold?-no, electronics?-no, what then?-clothes and gifts. Ok, thank you. ) my thoughts shifted to the real objective. Finding the element. Did he still look the same? I mean, he could have gotten plastic surgery and not told me. I've changed my hairstyle and gained weight (oh, dear)…will he recognise me? Did he have someone else with him, maybe a female species? A tap on my back. I turned around and a flash blinded my eyes with a familiar voice yelling… say 'tortias'! And there was hubby with a hundred gadgets hanging around his neck, that knowing twinkle in his eyes and no female within a hundred yard radius that seemed to know him except me. Thank God he hadn't changed.

Since my husband hadn't yet found a separate accommodation from the University, he was staying at the ABK dormitory. The taxi pulled up at the gates of the rather forlorn gray building which looked like a giant in front of the vast courtyard on the other side of the street. A site map beside the court steps read Bunkyu-Ku meaning Education City. It was November and the ending of autumn in Japan. Dry leaves were shedding from trees falling onto the isolated marble benches. Stems of wild flower bushes were turning brown at the tips. I got out of the taxi and took my first breath of Tokyo. The air was surprisingly fresh and crisp. Except for the few squanders of Mother Nature, the whole surrounding was spic and span. Not a cigarette stub in sight. It was all so desolately beautiful and … I fell in love.

It was nearly evening when I finally had all my things unpacked. We decided to start my first sight-seeing of Tokyo by an evening stroll around the vicinity. As we headed across the courtyard I started to wonder where all the people were. According to Dhaka-time the streets were supposed to be crowded. I hardly saw any people while we walked towards a pew of shops and a supermarket. We came across a small diner framed with tinted windows, a Japanese lantern and a big line outside the door. Petty in size, it was a restaurant that served a scrumptious single dish dinner. Most of the neighborhood dined here. Dinner was served from 7pm-9pm and the restaurant could only seat 8 people at a time. The owner cooked himself. His wife helped. He refused to expand because he forecasted that if he did his business would lose its true allure - unavailability.

I noticed that we had crossed the entrance of 3 subway stations in the distance of three blocks. The main transportation system in Japan is the subway. The number of cars is trifling. Most people own a bike and for short distances prefer to walk. The number of people on the streets in the evening was scarce because the Japanese tend to work full throttle all day and retire early. The days the streets are full are on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays). On weekends the restaurants are full, the pubs and casinos are full and the Karaoke houses are full. They work to the extreme and they holiday to the fullest. They prosper.

The next day was Eidul-Fitr. We decided to visit my sister-in-law's husband, Tagar Bhai, who was throwing a party. He lived in Saitama near Tokyo. It was a pleasant experience as we met many Bangladeshis there. He took us to a Tabeho-dai (all you can eat) restaurant. It was very dissimilar to our buffet system where you have to worry about getting there on time, eat with a nagging in the back of your mind that they may run out of your favorite dish at any moment because it was everyone else's favourite too. This was a 24-hour buffet with every item always available. There was a single catch. You had to finish eating within two hours. There were about 120 items to choose from. I felt stuffed after the appetisers and stopped at my eighth item. Dulabhai tried at least 35 and said he could try 10 more. In the end, we had to help him out of his seat.

The following evening we went to a Hanabi, meaning fireworks display. It was a grand event with hundreds of people gathered around a spacious shimmering lake. Hanabi's were always situated over lakes so at the end there was no need to worry about the debris. Fireworks illuminated the night sky and colourful waves surfed the waterfront. It was a different experience altogether.

After spending a joyous Eid, it was time to embark on our honeymoon. We boarded the Shinkansen (the reputed bullet train) and headed for Takamatsu, situated on one of the Four Islands of Japan off the mainland. I had supposed that sea and mountains would be a wonderful combination, but I hadn't perceived this! It was breathtaking. We only took time to check into a lodge and dump our bags. From the seacoast we could see a rocky cliff that was rumoured to have gold in it. There was a vast liner that took seekers from the mainland to the cliff. Huge waves splashed against the rocks with humongous force and shattered like shards of glass in every direction. When the sun caught each drop, it all seemed like a mirage...and, I fell in love again.

We went to Ritsumi Koen (a park) which covered over 60 acres of land. The park had trees of practically every shape and colour (except blue). A total of ten lakes with not-so-pretty-looking king-size fish teeming in them, a geyser, a watchtower, a historical geisha house, six foot-bridges and Omiyage (gift) shops- it was a tourists dream come true. The geyser kind of reminded me of Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. But the fish were a different story all together. Feeding the fish was not restricted and we soon found out why. They probably were the Oriental counterparts of Piranhas. Their appetite is what was really on show and it was scary.

We returned to the lodge exhausted. We had done all of our sight-seeing on foot! As I lay in the tub calculating how many kilometres I had walked I reflected on what a blessing our rickshaws were. We stayed at Takamatsu for a week. On the way back to Tokyo, I felt like someone was furiously trying to wake me up from a dream that I didn't want to end.
To be continued…

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