I love Japan. I love everything to do with Japan. Its cities. The shops and shrines. The crazy fashion. The crazy good food.
I absolutely adore all the bowing. I always tell my depressed friends that they need to go to a major departmental store in Japan at opening time and then take the escalator all the way up to the top floor.
On every floor, the entire staff is lined up to bow deeply and to wish you good morning, their flawless faces wreathed in beatific smiles. Every floor. “By the time you get to the top floor,” I tell my depressed friends, “you’ll be so fulfilled and calm and happy. Better than a bottle of Prozac!”
“They can’t be that happy to see us,” Amanda said once as we sailed up Takashimaya in down-town Tokyo.
I shrugged. “Who cares? My self-esteem is going through the roof right now.”
Later, when we went to the bank to change some money, we were greeted by a white-gloved attendant who bowed us all the way to the Forex desk. Amanda said it seemed a little embarrassing to be receiving so much attention when we were only changing S$50.
“I’m feeling very centred, right now,” I told her. “Can you imagine this happening at DBS?”
I especially love the toilets — specifically the Toto Washlets. You know the ones? They look just like ordinary toilets except the cover is a bit bulkier and it beeps at you when you enter the cubicle and the cover rises.
And they have warm seats and warm water jets that wash your bits and crevices, then blow dry you, all while puffing out ozone into the air so that icky odours are masked. Whenever I encounter a Toto, even if I don’t need to do a number two, I’ll still sit down just so I can get the full wash and blow-dry.
“Leave it to the Japanese,” said Saffy once, after a quick business trip to Osaka, “to elevate even the toilet to a fine art form! We really should get one!”
“It costs $3,000!” Amanda said, at which Saffy coughed into her soya bean drink. “And that’s for the starter model. If you want the one that puffs out ozone, it goes all the way up to $6,000!”
Saffy was astonished. “Six thousand dollars? Seriously? For a toilet? Well, maybe not, then.” Her bosom shivered with disappointment. “Oh, that’s such a shame. I barely left my hotel room in Osaka. I just sat on the Toto for hours. Except I don’t think mine was an actual Toto, but the minute I sat down on it, it started piping bird song and the sound of a running stream! I asked my colleague about that and she said it was to hide the noise made by your number ones and twos!”
Amanda shook her head in admiration. “Only in Japan.”
A few days later, uncharacteristically early for a lunch appointment, Saffy found herself with time to kill and wandered into Tokyu Hands.
She immediately texted me. “Have you been here? It’s the craziest place!”
“I practically live there,” I replied.
That evening at home, Saffy said going to Tokyu Hands was like being in a scene from Alice in Wonderland, except in this version, Alice goes shopping with the Mad Hatter.
“I went back there after lunch and spent, like, three hours just wandering around the shop. I just couldn’t work out where I was! I started out looking at magnifying glasses and teapots. Then I tried on all kinds of eyebrow pens, and then suddenly, I was looking at something for exercising your jaw muscles.”
“I nearly got that for you for Christmas,” Amanda said. “But it was so expensive, so I got it for me instead. It’s supposed to be like yoga for the face!”
Saffy shook her head. “Isn’t it the craziest thing? And they’ve got all kinds of pens and lovely stacks of paper, and even household cleaning products at the back! I mean, it’s just a totally nut job of a shop! I love it!”
Amanda said there probably isn’t a single thing in Tokyu Hands that she wouldn’t buy if she lived in a house the size of the Istana. “It’s all so cute!”
Saffy’s bosom inflated. “I don’t think cute even begins to describe it! What I can’t believe is that it’s taken me this long to get there. Sharyn is always going on about it, but you know, I just thought it was Sharyn being just…well…her usual weird self!”
All of which got Amanda wondering what a Japanese hospital must be like.
“That would be totally sick!” Saffy said.