The second day at ISOT was infinitely easier than the first. I didn't have to spend 30 minutes trying to find a very hidden office. The 10 minute walk from one side of the complex to the other felt shorter and mostly, I knew exactly what I needed to do. Noriko and I decided to meet at 10am to meet with 5 different vendors to talk about the serious stuff. She had highlighted the booths on her map and I'd filled my catalogs with Post-Its. Today made me realize how valuable it is to have a good interpreter in a place like this. Not only was Noriko professional and very good at her job, she was also really interesting, friendly and as excited about the task at hand as I was. Without her this whole thing would've been impossible.
Once we'd finished all the work and had nice long lunch at one of the surprisingly good convention center restaurants we decided to have a look around Giftex which is another show happening at the same time. We found a fancy food dehydrator, a nose waxer (yes, specifically to wax the inside of your nose) and a steel popsicle mold amongst many other oddities. By 2pm we had a heartfelt goodbye and went our separate ways.
I spent the rest of my afternoon beginning to gather the things on my shopping list. It was a cold and very rainy day and by the end of it I just wanted an easy place to have dinner. I'd spent the first day and a half trying to be daring but I just really wanted to find something familiar. Eventually I came across a really strange, super touristy, enormous restaurant that apparently is a German-style beer hall built in the 1930s by a Japanese business mogul. When I was a child my dad used to travel to Bahrain often for work. He always said that he only knew three words in Arabic: beer, steak and fries. That was how he managed on his own at night after his interpreter left him in the evening. Without realizing it, in that stupid beer hall full of singing waiters and sloppy businessmen I'd ordered the exact same thing. Beer, steak, fries.
I've spent a lot of time traveling. I've been on a lot of challenging adventures and like to think I'm pretty good at navigating foreign places. This trip has been a whole different thing. I love to travel alone but never have I been to a place where not speaking the language is sometimes really a problem. Sure, the subway and the street signs are easy to figure out but it's the little things that have been difficult, like ordering at a restaurant (because so many of the great restaurants don't have English menus) or asking someone in a shop if I can have 100 more pencils. I could get away with only eating at place with pictures on the menu or shopping in places where everyone speaks great English but what's the fun in that?
By the end of the day I was dripping, tired and frustrated with myself for letting my jet lag and exhaustion make me a lazy tourist. At least that's an easy thing to get over. Tokyo's not going anywhere and besides, I think it's important to travel like you're going to go back one day even if you probably won't. Otherwise it's too easy to get upset about not doing everything. I don't want to do everything, I just want to see where my crumpled map leads me.
(Pictured above: the sales center for next year's ISOT booths. I loved that the map is so dramatic and that the main in a suit on the ladder is wearing a shiny white hardhat.)