My life 4.5




The second hotel I stayed at in Japan was in Osaka. The Hotel had a rock wall, behind glass, with water falling down it. It then filled a stream which snaked across the enormous foyer, a stream in the peach-coloured carpet you had to step over

 The first place I stayed was the New Otani in Tokyo. Walking through the New Otani was like walking through a small city. Used in an old James Bond film, I first stayed in the older, triangular bock with the enormous revolving restaurant on top. From this I saw the three black helicopters as the US President was carried to the Guest House, just across the park. Later years it was Charles and Di in the Guest House. Parts of the old Imperial Gardens made up the Hotel Garden. Electronic birds shrilled along the paths as you made your way to the traditional tea room or the steak house in the grounds.

 It was the only place I have seen waiters running across the knee-deep carpets delivering room service – running!

In the Hotel, there were 27 restaurants. My favourite was the Tempura restaurant. Classic - Japanese wood, simplicity. I would sit at the counter. The Tempura chef (10 years training) would deliver delicacies in order, fresh and piping hot. His chopsticks would deliver a perfect battered prawn to my dish, then vegetables, then other delicacies. The shell of the prawn, carefully detached from the flesh in front of my eyes using only two sharp knives, one in each hand, was crushed and cooked in the hot oil. Every tiny leg and antenna intact, it crunched like a shrimpy crisp in my mouth – delightful! I used to love the persimmon at the end of the meal, just to round it off. Nearly as good as the green tea ice-cream!

 I preferred the new tower – a 40-floor white tri-lobal construction, looking like plastic from the outside. The rooms were larger, odd shaped, curved, but with magnificent views of the city. And the journey time was shorter! You could come in the back entrance, with its supermarket and shops, on foot from the subway, take the lift six floors up to the hotel and the base of the tower. Getting in the front was a mission, unless you arrived in a limo or a taxi.

 Arriving was a performance. I once went there with a new boss. Despite briefing from me, he committed cardinal sins – he tried to help unload the taxi. Basically I had to abandon him, and for the rest of the trip, that particular company spoke to me, but not to him. Always polite of course, but slightly ‘distant’.

 The secret was, always assume! Get out of the taxi, walk to the hotel entrance – don’t pause. Someone opened the door, you did not hesitate. You did not look back. Someone collected your luggage (how could you doubt it?). You arrived at reception, to check in. Somewhere behind you a bell-boy or bell-girl stood with your luggage. As you checked in, they came forward, took your room key and led you to your room. From the reception to the Tower took at least 10-15 minutes, passing arcades of shops, restaurants etc.

 The same manner had to be assumed all the time. If you were a guest, you went first, you just went forward, assuming everything was taken care of, and it was. I had trouble with some of my big bosses who tried to be ‘polite’ in the English sense, saying ‘you first’. It only lost face. And by the way – I loved it!!!!!!!


Once we stayed in Yokohama. In the lift was a carpet - each day it was changed. The wording on the mat said ‘Happy Monday’, ‘Happy Tuesday’ etc. If you entered the foyer, and moved toward the lift, any passing employee would run forward, usher you into the lift, take you up to your floor, bow and wish you well as you left, and then go back down.

 A colleague left early. He told me later: “A little girl from the hotel took my suitcase, held an umbrella over my head, took me to the nearby station, helped my buy a ticket, put me on the train, and waved goodbye as the train pulled out.”

 Amazing – but Japan!

 In the basement of the hotel was a bar. When the girls brought your drink, they knelt on the carpet at your feet, mixing it for you on the low table, wishing you to enjoy it!

 I LOVED it!


In a bar we were entertained by bar girls. We had been presented with a range of sushi-like snacks. Suddenly, one of the girls leaned over to me and said “Your prawn is calling to me” I was taken aback. Then I realised.

 “Take it” I said, gesturing to the large prawn on its rice bed.

“I cannot! We are not allowed to eat. The mama-san says so”

I conspired with the girls, leaning over, speaking with my colleague, hiding them from the mama-san’s view while they scoffed the food. They were nice people, stuck in a bar in shorts, trying to entertain foreign businessmen. At least I gave them some food!


Once I was in a nightclub. An attractive woman was singing. “She’s a he!” someone whispered, just as the subject made a determined dash towards me. She/He was restrained by the management.  I guess it’s the beard!


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