Turns out it was garbage trucks. I have no idea what the ice cream trucks sound like. Metallica, maybe.
Ah, Japan, the land of the rising contradiction.
To say that I've been overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, food and people of this fine country is to understatement what Kanye West is to tact.
Japan is definitely one of my best creations by far. If I had known I had created a place this amazing, I probably would have visited sooner.
But let me start with the people. Of all the concepts in Busting Loose, expressing "appreciation" has probably been the one that I have neglected the most. So it's probably no surprise that I created myself to end up in a place where it is almost impossible not to appreciate everything, especially the people.
For those of you who have never visited Japan, unfailing kindness and politeness is the starting point for personal interactions, and I must say I'm enjoying it immensely. Coming off my recent trip to Las Vegas, the contrast is even more dramatic.
In Las Vegas, everybody wants something. They want your attention, they want you to buy a timeshare, they want you to try their escort service, they want you to slurp margaritas off their breasts, they want you to spend money, they want you mainline alcohol so you'll spend more money, they want you to almost die in the heat so you'll go inside an air-conditioned casino and spend still more money. The list of wants goes on and on, along with the pretense of fake hospitality.
By contrast, in Japan, I seem to be spending most of my time receiving. The first family that my son, Teo, and I spent time with in Tokyo bought us meal after meal in the city, cooked for us at home, paid for entry to shrines and temples, and hauled us all over the city to see the sights. They even came to the train station to see us off to Miyako and I felt like I was with family. It was quite a gift and I feel sort of inadequate for leaving them with a piece of Navajo pottery and a jar of El Pinto salsa. I mean the salsa's good, but not that good.
That was just the start. Every time I think we're finished sightseeing or being entertained, along comes another benefactor. My son's landlord and his wife took us on a trip up the Japanese coast the day after we arrived, so we could see some of the most jaw-dropping land and seascapes in the world. And they bought us lunch at a swanky hotel.
I must pause here for just one moment of not-so-greatness. The next day, Teo and I walked all over Miyako trying to find somewhere to exchange my traveler's checks for yen. One post office and four banks later, no luck. But my son did call someone he works with and found out where I could engage in this transaction the next day. As it turns out, that was just the prelude to another fabulous experience.
Ito, a gentleman that works with my son, agreed to help me with the traveler's check problem. He came by the apartment at 9 a.m., drove me to the bank, and helped me negotiate the transaction with one of the most cheerful bank tellers I've ever met.
That was pretty much all I was expecting. But I offered to take him to coffee at one of Japan's ubiquitous Mr. Donut shops, the one landmark in Miyako that I have quickly become familiar with. (It's right next to the other landmark I'm sure I'll become familiar with, the Tomato and Onion restaurant, where you can get traditional Japanese food, and wacked-out versions of American favorites, like meatloaf topped with pizza, pizza topped with meatloaf and triple-decker cheeseburgers with a slab of prime rib on top, and a side of fried chicken nuggets with lard sauce. Oh, and a green salad.) Anyway, we dined on donuts and coffee, then got back into his car, presumably to drop me off back at the apartment.
Nope. I had mentioned that Teo and I had tried and failed to find a map of Miyako so I'd be able to get around when he wasn't there. So Ito took me to a place near the train station to find a map, along with a bunch of tourist brochures. He asked me if we'd seen Jodogahama Beach the day before.
No, we had not.
Of course, within minutes, we were headed for the world-famous Jodogahama Beach up the road from Miyako. We not only cruised the beach, but spend a good three hours there, taking in the scenery, the sea breezes and the soba noodles for lunch.
So, we're on the way back to Miyako and I'm thinking about all the important things I have to do when I get back to the apartment, and we stop to visit a farmer's market and then a "recreation center" that puts most spas to shame. The appreciation is the equivalent of $50 a month for swimming, a sea mist room, an aromatherapy room, yoga classes and many more cool things you won't find at Defined Fitness. I've spent $75 for a mud pack alone in Marin County, so believe me, this is a deal.
Five hours later, he dropped me off at the apartment.
I could give a dozen more examples of what I'm talking about, and that's just the first week. I mean, policemen bow to you here, and no, hell hasn't frozen over, although I hear it usually does by winter, at least in these parts.
So appreciation is the watchword for my first week here. It's getting so intense, that I'm wrestling with the question of whether I deserve all this. Should I be more conscious of imposing on my creations, or should I just casually mention that I'd like to drive to Mt. Fuji and see what happens?