Have you ever seen the movie Terminal with Tom Hanks? We got to live it for one night and it was not fun. For our last night in Japan, we could not find a hotel room for under $500CAD. Apparently, it was Golden Week, a massive holiday in Japan. No matter where we called, everything was booked. We went to the airport at 8pm for a flight at 2pm the next day. Unfortunately, none of the carts required money so I couldn’t make any cash bringing them back. We watched a few movies and slept on the benches.

During our restless sleep, a policewoman took all our information and then left us alone. At least we knew we were safe for the night.


A Side Order of Carcinogens Please

Today in Kyoto it was 25°C

I always think of my friends and family while I m traveling. Things I see or events that happen bring a certain person to mind.

My sister-in-law will be visiting soon and she has worked for Health Canada for many years, specifically with regards to the tobacco industry in Canada. She was one of the people involved with the appearance of the “tobacco wall” and the new labeling of cigarette packages.

I think a lot about my sister-in-law here in Japan.

The smokers have it good. There are vending machines everywhere selling a pack of smokes for approximately $5 CAD (a cinema ticket costs $20). You can smoke just about everywhere and where you cannot, there is a smoking room available. The other night we went to a restaurant and just before our order arrived, 4 men at the table right next to us lit up cigarettes.

We tried to move to another table explaining that the smoke bothered us but were told it was not possible. We gestured to all the empty tables and our waiter, not very impressed with us, brought us to another corner of the restaurant to have our meal. Last night we went to a medium sized restaurant to have our request for a non-smoking table denied, they simply had none. Today in the food court of a large shopping centre I had to put up with a couple smoking extra-long cigarettes while I waited to buy a donut, little kids sitting at the table next to them.

It is always fascinating to see how advanced and behind, at the same time, certain countries are compared to Canada. As far as tobacco consumption goes, the Asian countries I have visited have a long way to go. My sister-in-law will have a great time breathing when she comes to visit in July.






Osaka Botanical Garden

Today in Osaka it was 20°C

Today we visited the botanical gardens in Osaka and it was lovely. It felt so good to walk around under a beautiful blue sky as compared to the grey polluted skies of Guangzhou. I can’t remember the last time it felt so good to be outside.

In an earlier blog (a whole lotta love to give) I mentioned how Chinese grandparents spend their retirement raising their grandchild. My friend David said his in-laws are just waiting (in his house 24/7) for him to produce a grandchild for them to take care of.

There are 5 senior citizens in this photo taking pictures of flowers. Enough money in camera equipment to buy a luxury car.

In Japan, it looks like the grandparents spend their retirement enjoying themselves. The botanical garden was full of seniors sketching, painting and photographing landscapes. They walked around and chatted together and even played a sand lot version of a 9 hole golf course.

I am far from retirement but will be a grandfather within the year. Like the Chinese, I want to love my grand children to death. Like the Japanese, I want to enjoy my leisure time too. How to accomplish both as my favourite past time is fishing?

I have to expose my grandchildren to the elements of fishing, boats, lakes and the outdoors right from birth.

Cigarette and soft drink companies use a technique called “branding”. They get young kids “hooked” on their product for life by getting them to use it at a young age. Years later they don’t even question why they want a Coke or Player’s filter, they just subconsciously buy it.

What can I introduce my grandchildren to for them to want to spend hours with me in a boat, on a lake, completely bored to death? I think a little bit of beer in their milk bottles should do the trick.

Osaka, Japan

Today in Osaka it was 24°C

Today was our first day in Japan and the difference between it and China is like night and day. The Japanese wait for everyone to exit the subway car before they enter. In China, everyone tries to get on and off at the same time creating a human pile up. The Japanese try hard to answer foreigner’s questions even if they don’t understand English while the Chinese giggle (a sign of embarrassment) and run away. Japanese drivers wait for pedestrians to cross the street before driving through the intersection. Chinese drivers inch their way through the pedestrians like they are Moses and the pedestrians are the Red sea.  The Japanese speak quietly on their cellphones while the Chinese speak so loudly you can hear them 100 feet away.

We tried to go to the aquarium today and could not figure out how to buy subway tickets. Even though the ticket master could not speak English, he brought us to a convenience stall and explained to the owner what we wanted. The store owner sold us an “aquarium package” including entrance fee and subway fee at a discounted price.

I believe the difference in the two cultures is a question of population. When you are 1 in 1.6 billion, you have to look out for yourself. Wait politely in line to get on the subway and someone is sure to jump in front of you. In a place where you constantly surrounded by people, the only way to be alone is to create a bubble around yourself and believe you are alone. My experience with the Chinese people is this, “one on one they are kind, respectful and caring but in the masses they are ruthless”.