So here I am again in yet another country with difficult to read signs. I don't know what it is about countries that use different alphabets that makes my company send me there, but I'm not complaining. Actually Tokyo isn't too bad as most signs have the English on them as well, which is rather more user-friendly than China was.
The flight over here was ok. I caught Babel (not great), Flags Of Our Fathers (better than I thought it would be), and The Illusionist (really good), which took my mind off my increasingly cramped legs during the 12 hours. Tokyo airport is a model of efficiency and we were out of there literally 20 minutes after landing, and straight onto a bus that stopped at our hotel. The hotel itself (the Akasaka Prince) is nice enough - I've got a great view and a large amount of sofa space. The many restaurants in the hotel do seem to close bizarrely early though, which is inconvenient when we get back late from work. For example, on Monday night we went to the office after checking into the hotel around 2pm and ended-up getting back at 11. No food being available when you've not slept for 36 hours just makes you feel annoyed!
Getting around Tokyo is pretty easy using their rather good underground system. It's not particularly cheap but it runs on time and is very clean. The famously crowded trains certainly exist but are very directional, so our train (heading out of the centre in the morning) is going against the main flow and is practically empty, while trains going on the same line the other way are absolutely rammed. A fair number of people (about 10% I'd guess) seem to wear surgical masks for some reason best known to themselves. There are also 'women only' carriages for the trains at busy times thanks (I assume) to groping men. On the outside everyone looks like they wouldn't step out of line at all, so the idea of this seems odd. I don't doubt it happens though.
Japanese people seem very friendly and quite genuine about it. On the way back to the tube station today a girl bumped into me and apologised far more than she needed to. A few minutes later at the tube station she came up and apologised again before starting a conversation about where I'm from, her plans to visit Britain to improve her English, and so on. It says something about Britain that when she started talking to me I assumed she was after something or trying to con me or wind me up in some way. It's little things like that which give you a good impression of a place.
The work is hard and the hours long, but I'm looking forward to the weekend when I should be able to actually go out and see something. Even at this early stage I can forsee it being difficult not to automatically bow to people on returning to the UK. Not a bad thing though - I think all of this mutual respect thing is pretty great.