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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 52: 15 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysSo highly automated is my bedside console that when I stretch to put the light on in the night I find the weather forecast for Southern California flashing on to my TV screen. The curtains swing open and the kettle starts to boil before I eventually locate a light switch, and several downlighters and uplighters later before I find one which sheds some light on the place where I actually need it. First thing in the morning I phone Mr Nakajima, the shipping agent. He's not there and someone else is put on to help me. The language barrier is too high to cope with the delicacies of circumnavigation, and I resign myself to having to wait before I know the fate of my Pacific crossing.

It's a sign of the times that when Fogg arrived anywhere there was an outward-bound passenger service leaving that same day. There are now no passenger services across the Pacific, apart from cruises. I have no option but to insinuate myself aboard some cargo boat, and this requires constant pestering of those whose business is goods, not people.

Look around the side streets near the hotel. The units are small. Cafés, businesses and shops cheek by jowl, with very few high-rise blocks. (This, I'm told, is because of the ever-present earthquake threat; there is an earthquake every day in Tokyo, they say, most of them too small to be felt on the street.) The group being more important than the individual in Japanese life, it is natural for shopkeepers and businesses to band together to look after their streets and to vet further development. The result is not architecturally impressive - there are no grand and sweeping facades - but there is a lively, varied vigorous feeling of impermanence.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 52
  • Date: 15 November
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Tokyo
  • Book page no: 176

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