Friday, July 27, 2012

Super Cool in Japan

July 26th:
Today, Thursday, was a very full day of activity.  The government of Japan has started a campaign called “super cool biz” asking both government officials and business people to dispense with wearing ties and jackets.  We still had to dress up today, but at least no ties.  It very hot and humid and the government is requesting air conditioning be set at 85° to save energy.

Our delegation had a welcome at city hall this morning.  A crowd of Gotemba citizens greeted us waiving Japanese and American flags.  The Mayor welcomed us and gave us gifts.  We then met with the chairman of the city council and again we were given gifts and then took a city hall tour.  We had lunch with the Mayor at an Italian restaurant looking over gardens and ponds.  I could tell we were in for a lot of food, a total of eight knives, spoons and forks!  We had a salad with shrimp and prosciutto, followed by pasta with mussels and scallops, then lobster in a cheese cream sauce.  Next the main course of parmesan veal and purple sweet mashed potatoes. Dessert was a collection of exotic fruits, ices and gelati.

After lunch we went up Mt. Fuji to the visitor center, saw a program on the history of the mountain, went outside to see the mountain which could not to be seen behind the clouds.  We were told of the mountain, “she is sometimes very shy.”  It started to downpour, which for me was a welcome relief from the heat.  We went back to city hall and Ann, our Mayors wife, met us and told us of her harrowing journey.  Apparently the plane, (in a typhoon!), tried twice to land in Hong Kong and finally had to give up and go to Taiwan. When she finally got to Tokyo she was able to get the last room at the huge hotel we were at previously in Narita.  She discovered all her clothes were drenching wet, her luggage undoubtedly left out in the rain.  Our hosts at LaLa were so gracious they took her clothes and are having them laundered.   Mid afternoon we were ushered into the City Chambers for the signing ceremony of the Sister City agreement by the mayors and Denny gave a speech to the 23 council members.

We returned to LaLa for a much needed rest break (and shower), and then we were taken to Hotel Gotembakan 21 for a welcome reception and dinner.  Rebecca and I were seated at table D with one of the council members, some business men and an interpreter.  The evening dialog was helped through the constant pouring of beer.  The food was wonderful even though at times I could not tell what I was eating.  Our new friends were amazed that Rebecca and I were adept with chop sticks.  A children’s choir led us in the national anthems and we saw a performances of Karate, Nihon Buyo (dancing) and Koto.  Then we had an exchange of gifts from the cities.  After dinner Rebecca, with the help of our interpreter, went and thanked the Koto players.  When they heard she played guitar, they brought out their rather large stringed instruments and gave her a lesson on how to play “Sakura” to the delight of all those gathered round.  Even Ann, tired as she was, gave the Koto a go.

We are now back at LaLa after an exhausting day.

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