I’m enjoying my third trip to Japan. All have been for business. This means several things. First, it means that I have a carefully planned agenda, filled with meetings, occasional sight-seeing events, cool meals (with tons of people), and nice accommodations. I love to travel, but I don’t fly business class when I am traveling for pleasure.
There is a huge downside, of course. You do not control your itinerary. As it is with my current trip. I am traveling for a full 5 days, to get two and a half days in the office working. There will be no time for any side trips. If my energy allows, which I think it will, I will wander about after the long business dinners are over. But that will only allow some exploration in Tokyo. Perhaps Roppongi or Shinjuku, the gay area. Yes, I will make sure to head over there. I’ve been to both before and had fun in each place.
On my two previous trips, I travelled with colleagues; but on this trip, it is just me. No companions. I am really looking forward to it.
As I write this, I am flying. Sitting in business class. Ahhh. Deep sigh of relief. It is a wonderful experience. Over the course of the twelve-hour flight, there is all manner of goodies, beverages and snacks. It is so much fun. Kind of like a kid in a candy store. Unlike coach, business class has choices – lots of them. Shortly after take off, I was served orange juice or champagne (any guesses as to which I chose?). Then I was given a menu and asked to review it. There will be a main meal service, and then there are a variety of things you can order at anytime during the long flight. And, there is a long list of alcohol and other beverages you may enjoy.
The food is delicious. First an amuse bouche of blue cheese and fruit, and a Manchego, almond and smoked duck dip. Then, the hors d’oeuvres of marinated scallop, tuna pastrami, and foie gras mousse. The main dish that I chose was prime beef wellington, with a portabella mushroom pastry and mashed potatoes (lobster thermidor is the other choice). Dessert was Panna Cotta with mangoes. Yes, on the plane.
At varying points in the flight, I have had Jack, Champagne, and Japanese beer (almost always disappointing). Near the end of the flight, after I woke up, I enjoyed a cheese and fruit snack followed by a roast beef and horseradish mayonnaise sandwich (tiny) with a lovely salad of lettuce, asparagus and balsamic. Are you getting the picture that the food was good?
More than that, the service is amazing. I have had at least four different flight attendants help me, check on me, offer me items. All of them are young and lovely, too, by the way. I think the labor and employment laws in Japan are quite different from in the US (I know this, actually). Most of the time when I fly Southwest Airlines, I feel awkward about asking for anything. The last few times, I’ve either been helped by attendants who were older than my mom, or pregnant. How am I going to ask either of those women for anything? I can’t really expect someone my mom’s age or older to go get me more peanuts. How can I ask a pregnant woman to fetch me a Jack on the rocks? Isn’t that cruel? I mean, she can’t have one. So, JAL is a nice change. Here, there is literally a flock of super kind, super attentive, super deferential Japanese flight attendants. All have lovely smiles for me when I ask for something. All make me feel like it really is their pleasure to serve me – rather than an inconvenience because they really are just here for our safety (the message the US airlines disseminate more and more).
So I sit back with my slippers on, enjoying the warm towels each time they bring one, and order whatever I want. I feel like a king. And this is not just on the airplane. The Japanese people have an amazing ethic about service. They take pride in doing it well. If you are in their restaurant, they will make you feel like a king. Indeed, I’ve never been anywhere else in the world (yet), where you can literally yell out “Sumi mas sen!” whenever you want something, and someone will sprint to your side to get it for you. It’s how its done. It’s not rude. Like, say for example the one time last summer when I was in the Mediterranean and I actually whistled in a pub. My British companions almost fainted because what I did was so rude. And it was rude. I will never do that again. Ever. In Japan, though, that is not an issue.
It’s butch to let others take care of you when it is their job – especially when they make you feel like a king. Be Butch.