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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 51: 14 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysThe Japanese are very well dressed. Their shape and style reminds me of the Italians. I'm afraid we stand out like a bunch of tramps. I feel like those Chinese peasants who came wide-eyed into the lobby of the White Swan to gaze in awe at what man could make of his world. Feel a little less impressed when a dapper businessman gets onto the train wearing a smog mask.

Inside and out the train resembles an aircraft. The pointed nose, with the cabin high up, looks like the front of a 747, cut off, then stuck on to a line of wingless aircraft fuselages. The seats inside are laid out like aircraft seats, and the driver wears a pilot's peaked and braided cap. Your ticket tells you exactly where to stand on the platform. The train arrives every 10 minutes exactly on time and the doors are open for 30 seconds only. They are meant for light-travelling businessmen, not round the world film crews, and feeling like participants in some game show we only just haul our baggage aboard in time.

A 15-minute ride into Tokyo through an unbroken swath of close-packed housing. Hardly a break in the jostle of low-rise, flimsy-looking boxes which I'm told cost half a million pounds minimum in the centre of Tokyo. So little room is there that the golf-crazy Japanese have to build their courses on the tops of buildings. Well-behaved, well-heeled fellow passengers read their papers which are headlined, as I'm told they have been since late August, with news of Emperor Hirohito's illness. Nothing is spared. The big news today is that he hasn't had a bowel movement for a week. Details of his pulse and blood pressure are as meticulously recorded as the Dow-Jones Index.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 51
  • Date: 14 November
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Tokyo
  • Book page no: 174

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