Close-out, return, and assessment

Back safe and sound on Canadian soil. You always feel like the world has changed in the two weeks (or however long) you were gone, and yet when you get back, things are just the same (or very close).

I walked up the Sumida River this morning, in my on-going - and still unsuccessful - attempt to get to know the city. Tokyo's rivers are very tightly controlled, at least where I saw two of them: the Kanda runs through Akihabara, and has been restricted to a vertical-sided concrete trench, and the water looked black. I think of rivers as nice places because the ones in Toronto have so much room, but seeing the Kanda made me sad. The Sumida is considerably larger, and - in the area I was in - had a narrow promenade for walking and running, but to me a river is an opportunity for parks and greenspace and that's evidently not the case here.

A couple kilometres up I crossed the river and walked a short way to the Edo Tokyo Museum. The building itself is very weird: what we'd think of as the first floor is parking garage, there appears to be a second floor but it's not open to the public: the fifth and sixth floors are the exhibit space, and the third and fourth floors are an enormous open plaza. The upper floors hang over this space, held up by a few pillars and massively cantilevered at one end. The museum is very good: it's full of stuff about the evolution of the city from Edo in the 1500s (and earlier, although the main focus is from that time forward) into the massive metropolis that exists today. This includes a lot about living conditions of various periods, and in several cases they've constructed entire buildings inside the museum to show you what it would have been like. It was an interesting place.

photo: Best picnic box ever (Edo Tokyo Museum)

a beautifully lacquered box containing four bento boxes, two sake bottles, and a tray

From there, the drill was much the same as many of you are familiar with: back to the hotel to get the bag, onto the metro, out to the airport. Bought some fun stuff in duty free (Yuzu sake, umeshu liqueur, chocolates and daifuku for the co-workers).

Flying into Vancouver over the Rockies was one of the most beautiful things I saw on the whole trip, but otherwise air travel remains as unpleasant as always.

You should all go to Seoul. It was fantastic. And most of you should probably go to Tokyo, but keep in mind that it's huge, expensive and impersonal - but man have they got stuff to see and food to eat.

Don't buy electronics in Japan unless it's something you can't possibly get at home: I guarantee it will cost more there. This isn't true of Korea: it looked like they had a lot of stuff - some not available here - and if you were paying attention and knew what you were shopping for, you could get a deal. In fact, prices for everything in Japan are high, so you should buy only things that are uniquely Japanese. But if you buy stuff that's Japanese, rest assured it will be beautifully crafted! (I'm very happy with my knife ...)