I tried to temper another incredibly early 5am start by telling myself that it was really 6am in Tokyo, and so not that early, but it didn’t really work. The taxi drier obviously sensed that I was weary, as rather than going off the metre he seemed to just make up a number ¥103 (~£10) and charge me that instead. Even despite my zombied state though I was having none of it, and refused to leave the taxi until he acknowledged that he was trying to rob me blind, and refunding me some of the difference (the actual price was nearer to ¥80). Going through Chinese customs was interesting, as my last night my students had presented me a number of thoughtful leaving gifts, among them a kite (‘because you’re a scientist of the skies’) and a large bouquet of flowers (‘because they’re flowers’). Surprisingly though the flowers only seemed to elicit positive reactions, with the security personal and customs officials either smiling at me, or sniffing the bouquet. Incredibly, despite a half hour delay on the Beijing runway, we arrived in Tokyo on time, and it took me under 10 minutes from leaving the plane to getting on a train! I can only assume that Asian customs officials have a special place in their hearts for passengers carrying flowers, a noble sentiment but a possible lapse in national security never-the-less.
This afternoon I attended a performance of Peter Brook’s ‘A Magic Flute’ at the Saitama theatre. I had been worried that I would miss the start of the performance, as my flight was due in to Haneda airport at 12:55, and it was curtains up at 15:00. Thankfully though my flowers, and the relentless efficiency of the Tokyo transport system, meant that I arrived with almost half an hour to spare, and given the majesty of the performance I would have been devastated to have missed even a minute. This was the first opera that I had ever seen, and whilst I appreciate that the stripped down approach might not have appealed to diehard opera enthusiasts, for me it was simply enchanting. By the end of the show I was moved to tears by the sheer brilliance of the performance, although I suspect that a distinct lack of sleep might well have played a part in shredding my emotions.