The breakfast was a huge buffet with both an American and Japanese side. I opted for the Japanese.. lots of veggie (but otherwise unidentifiable) dishes and an interesting hot & sweet beef. I ignored the American buffet - it was mostly fatty bacon & sausage, etc, plus some scrambled eggs loose enough to pour yourself a glass.
Our trip to the business location was a 15-minute cab ride, and provided my first daylight look at Hachioji. Along the route we took, it looked pretty heavily industrialized, with a density of construction like Queens... only cleaner. They drive here on the left, of course, and in some cars that are pretty small by US standards... but that's what $4/gallon gas will do to you.
The time (and date!) difference between New York and Tokyo will pose
some challenges. This morning was busy with a series of meetings, and by
the time we broke for a late lunch it was already 1:20 AM (tomorrow) back
home, a bit late for a phone call. From my limited experience so far, Japan
looks like a manageable place, even for a tourist with no Japanese. Of
course, my experience thus far is *very * limited. Lunch with our business
associates in their company cafeteria was a blast. Sadly, photos were prohibited
on-site, but it was more feel and karma of the experience; in a photo,
all you'd see would be a drab, crowded, cafeteria anyway.
At Mariko's request, I'd brought along several brands of pretzels that she was fond of, but which were unavailable in Japan. She reciprocated with some rice-based snacks - one of which had a rum coating and a warning label in Japanese that she swore cautioned against driving after eating them.
She also mentioned that she'd worked out the details for my ryokan visit - I'll drop my bags on Friday morning, spend the day exploring, and return for dinner. Saturday will include breakfast and then a day of exploring, including finding meals on my own. Sunday, I'll fake breakfast at the airport and then try to get some sleep on the flight.
After work, but before dinner, we quickly stopped off at a high-tech store where one of our party needed to make a purchase. The place consisted of at least six levels, with every high-tech device known to man, from CD players to white appliances to tabletop dishwashers, to digital cameras, to flat-panel TVs, to Pokemon cards.
Dinner was at a place the others from Symbol knew of, called Ukai-Tei. I'm not sure what it translates to, but if you saw it, your impression would be that this is where Benihana got the idea; its a Japanese Steakhouse, but this place seemed... well, authentic (duhhh). Lots of wood, at least three levels, beautiful combinations of foliage and stonework on the grounds, and the entire place was atop a hill looking down on downtown Hachioji.
I opted for the Kobi Beef, as an experiment. My take on it was that its darn good, but not dramatically better than a good quality steak in a good quality steakhouse. If this makes me a western barbarian, so be it. One of our party inadvertantly ordered Sushi Steak - thin slivers of raw steak. He ate one before, gaijin that he is, he asked the chef to cook it. When ordering from a Japanese only menu with the assistance of a waiter who has almost no english, the process becomes sort of a cross between an adventure and a unique cultural experience.
For example, my appetizer; a slice of fish grilled in front of me, was accompanied by three ivory-colored spheres. They tasted a bit like potato, which would make this the Japanese equivalent of gnocchi. I asked the chef what they were, and in a thick accent, he replied... 'gnocchi'.
Desserts were yummy, too - mine was chiffon pie in a lemon sauce, with what was described as a cheese topping covered with toasted nuts. The 'cheese' turned out to be whipped cream - making the whole thing a pretty good combination. Part of the tradition is to move to a second, more cozy area for dessert... an idea us westerners would do well to adopt.
Tomorrow, post meeting, we're taking our partners out to dinner at a
restaurant of their choosing, which should be interesting.