Monday, February 28, 2005

Visit Tokyo Japan

I would like to thank the Japanese people for the reception they gave me. Japan is one of those countries not many people normally visit, but you should. Japan in the eyes of most people is still a mysterious place, not a tourist destination. I like Japan. I like Tokyo. The shopping there is like nowhere else in the world.

My favorite Japanese destination is Kyoto. It’s totally different from Tokyo. Where Tokyo is a big city, Kyoto is more like a town. It’s the seat of the emperor. It also has the most important temples, museums and parks and gardens.

I wanted to visit Kyoto, but being by myself, I just couldn’t. It’s at these times that I miss Hillary the most. I can’t explore a town like Kyoto by myself. It just doesn’t look right.

When you see a couple walking through the neighborhood, you think, they are taking a stroll. If you see an old man like me, walking around the neighborhood by himself, I know people will think, what’s he snooping around the neighborhood for?

I should’ve brought Chelsea with me, but then again, I guess she’d rather spend time with the mongoose. She’d rather start building collective memories with him. Traveling alone is not the way to travel. You need somebody to share these moments and new experiences with. Next time I’ll take Bobbi with me.

As I said I spent most of the day In Tokyo. I gave a speech, answered questions from people in the audience and I signed books.

Unlike what some people might think after hearing Japan is in recession for the past decade, Japan is actually very rich. If you visit this beautiful and interesting country and you should, you need to bring a lot of money. A hamburger costs about ten dollars. I can afford it now, so I have no problem with it. It’s not a backpackers’ paradise. And that’s a pity, because I think more people should have the chance to experience Japan.

Coming back to the economy, I would like to say that the recession is a man made one. Japan has the same problem as most industrialized countries. It has a top heavy baby boomer generation and a very low child birth rate. Most women only have 1 child. And there is a problem with men and women in their thirties still living with their parents.

In America we have the same problem with a top heavy baby boomer generation about to retire. We are solving it with immigration. Japan wants to stay an ethnic homogeneous country, so they reject large scale immigration to offset the retiring baby boomers and their production capacity in the economy.

Japan does have ethnic minorities, like the Okinawans, Ainu and Koreans. There is also a group called Burakumin. I didn’t know about this group, until my host asked me not to shake the hands of a group of people, who were at the book signing event. I obviously did shake their hands and took pictures with them. Later I was told why shaking their hands was such a problem. For them, not for me. I guess all of us have our dirty little secrets.

Had Japan not been a small island nation, it would have rivaled the United States in importance. But right now I see Japan shrinking, population wise, economically, but also in its ambitions. Japan is settling into a position of powerful country, short of being a superpower.

I had a great time in Japan. I will come back if it wasn’t for the beauty of the country, then certainly for the friendliness of its people.

Another thing I would like to do is climb mount Fuji. You can see this snow capped mountain in the distance when you’re in Tokyo. It’s a magnificent sight. I would like to visit that place next time.

I’m on my way to Singapore right now. I’ve been in Taiwan for the past two days, but I’ll talk about that place next time.

Oh and I might, but this is a long shot depending on my schedule, I might visit Hawaii on my way back.