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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

FABULOUS FALL FANTASY 2017

To finally conclude my Fabulous Fall Fantasy, as I was leaving the ANA Lounge at Narita Airport, I noticed that their sushi bar opened at 5PM, and it was 4:55.  So I sat at a table close by where the sushis were being made, noticed that there was an elaborate sake arrangement and enjoyed two maguro (yellow-fin tuna, ahi) and salmon pieces, each:


I decided to mostly sleep on the 6.5 hour flight back to Honolulu, had a bite to eat WITH NO ALCOHOL:


Thinking back over the past third of a century, I can't remember once going liquor-free when it was available for free on a long plane flight.  That would be something approaching a thousand times, as I'm now heading for 3 million miles just on Star Alliance.  The business class seats converted to horizontal beds, and I actually fell asleep for a couple of hours.  When I woke up and went to the restroom, I felt great.  Arriving in Honolulu, where for the first time I noticed the sign honoring former U.S. Senator Dan Inouye.

My trip was Fabulous, and it was Fall, but the Fantasy part could have been a lot more awesome.  While the experience was comfortable, I tended to repeat the enjoyment (like bentos on trains), with no particularly astonishing highlights.  When I connected my camera to my home computer, I noticed that I had kept 650 photos.  Here are a few I consider worthy of sharing.

First, the pilots allowed me to chat with them in the cockpit.  I guess I don't look like a dangerous terrorist.


Goodbye Honolulu:


My "home" hotel in the Orient is the Tokyo Westin, where I first stayed the week they opened almost a quarter century ago, and where I have made more than 50 visits.  They provided a welcome gift, and I show this mostly because of the spherical ice in the glass:


When I visited Noritake Garden in Nagoya, amidst all their expensive dishes and high tech promotions, was a tray of devices to make this shape ice, so I bought one.  This is the Japanese company label I remembered when my family ate of special occasions.  A worthy quick visit close to Nagoya Station.


My absolute best buy, though, was in Sendai, where I purchased the following from Daiso:


The walking cane, pair of socks, fake Crocks from China and folding umbrella cost me $7.56.  ..total.  Except for two events (the retirement ceremony and dinner at Robuchon's, where I wore shoes), I otherwise only used these slippers/sandels.  It rained just about all the time in Japan, so the umbrella came in handy.  The cane is something that serves as a third leg, but is also useful for scaring away cars when you cross the street, gain you seats on the subway and get you to board early on planes.

I generally don't buy much, but I brought back a few munchies for my 15 Craigside tables, plus underwear from Uniqlo:


A new set of safari vests I designed from Baron's in Bangkok:


And golf shirts from the Lotte and Mario Outlets in Seoul:


Interestingly enough, the same piece of underwear from Japan's Uniqlo, costs up to 20% more in Uniqlo Seoul.

So back to my first stay at the Tokyo Westin, right below me is Robuchon, where I went for my only expensive dinner of the entire trip:


This is exactly how I dressed for my testimonial speech on behalf of former President Tadashi Matsunaga of Nokodai.  Now leading his laboratory are Atsushi Arakaki as #2 and Tsuyoshi Tanaka at #1, both of whom spent some time with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute almost 20 years ago:


Above, Junko Hibiya, President of International Christian University, providing the Kampai for Tadashi and Mayumi.

Counting how many meals I paid for not on trains, I think there were only three or four,  over 18 days.  Otherwise, all my extravagant breakfasts were free, the executive lounges were well utilized for dinner, and, of course, all airline flights and lounges do not charge for alcohol and food.  Let me start with breakfasts, where to the left is a noodle station, and there are similar outlets for omelets, meats and other options:


Even something so simple as juices was extraordinary.  Here, on top, Thai tea (think tea cappuccino), and orange juice, then coconut, guava and watermelon juices:


The breakfasts above are from the Tokyo Westin, but a case can be made that the morning buffets were even better at the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit, J.W. Marriott, Plaza Athenee and Sheraton D-Cube City.  After those breakfasts, I usually skipped lunch, and had my dinners at the hotel executive clubs:


The Tokyo Westin Executive Club was good as it's ever been, where one night they had a shabu-shabu table, then another, a sushi bar:


The other hotels on this trip all have equivalent clubs with amazing service.

Of course, a whole week in Japan was spent eating on the Shinkansen (bullet train).  My usual involved unagi (teriyaki eel), ikura (salmon eggs), etc., and some of them could be heated by pulling on a string.  Usually they were accompanied by a variety of sake, shochu, beer, whiskey/water and wine.  

However, you can have only so much bento, so sometimes I merely had snacks, at the bottom with wine from Hokkaido:


Here is an early dinner (one I actually paid for) on Mount Hakodate, Hokkaido:


This was a Fabulous Fall Fantasy, so in Sapporo, mostly Hokkaido University and Nakajima Park:


There was that special moment in one of my bullet train rides when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and brooded over the light at the end of my tunnel of life:


Returning to reality, I went to see two friends in Japan, Hachi, at Shibuya Station...


...and Pearl's Gold Koi at Matsumoto Castle:


I almost made a second trip to Matsumoto, which would have been totally embarrassing and ruined my reason for being in Japan, which you can read about in Why I Came to Japan.

The heroine of FFF was Chiaki, concierge at the Tokyo Westin, who spent almost two hours helping me negotiate a departure from Tokyo to Bangkok one day early, for Super Typhoon Lan was approaching.  If she did not succeed, I might not have made it to Thailand.

I came to Bangkok during a once in several lifetime moment, as the Royal Cremation occurred during the few days I spent there:


Even my blue-bar pigeon showed up, with some of his friends:


You need to be there to appreciate the true love of a leader.  A King who was revered for 70 years.  However, after a day of that suppressing 95F heat and mobs of people, I decided to watch the Royal Cremation from my room:


Seoul was a quick stop, which began with a double rainbow over Incheon, and the morning calm from my Sheraton D-Cube City room:


Actually, the above shot was taken at sunset.  There was a second typhoon, Saola, which originally was scheduled to meet me at Narita Airport on my stop back to Hawaii from Seoul.  Thankfully, the storm picked up speed and whipped through the airport a few hours before my arrival.  I did, though, see Mount Fuji for the first time on this trip from my Asiana flight from Incheon:


I might finally comment that ANA had the best airport lounge and service, United was the worst in everything, Thai Air fine, but Asiana had the best looking staff.  They were all female, tall, thin, youngish and good looking:


My next trip?  Perhaps that final global adventure to complete Pearl's Ashes...or, maybe that global cruise, initially planned for 2018, but now, maybe, 2020.

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1 comment:

Humaun Kabir said...

Thanks for such a wonderful post.

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