Welcome to my jet lag, a monstrous, unshakable fog that feels as if I've left my soul behind, somewhere out over the Pacific. It's nighttime here on Planet Japan, day one of a three-day trip to drive the 2009 Nissan Cube [page 24], and I can do nothing. I can't think. I can't read. I can't write. The worst is knowing that, despite staying up for the entire thirteen-hour flight, despite the fact that it is now eight at night in Japan and six in the morning on the clock back in Michigan that is still regulating my brain and my sleep patterns, despite being exhausted to the point of death, I know that no matter when I lie down to sleep, I will be wide-awake at one in the morning. I might as well eat.
The Park Hotel Tokyo begins on the twenty-fifth floor of the shining Shiodome Media Tower. It's just one gleaming skyscraper in a clutch of supermoderno high-rises, all crammed into Shiodome, its own new little city-within-a-city near the Ginza district. It's one more chunk of marshy land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay. There was nothing here eight years ago, although Japan's first train, from Tokyo to Yokohama, started here in 1872. I can see the sprawling Shimbashi station twenty-five floors below the hotel's exquisite Japanese restaurant. My table is pressed against the glass wall, and it's impossible to keep from staring at the futuristic world laid out around me. There are four big national train lines running through the station, with a pair of tracks serving each, and all eight lines are alive with long, fat trains snaking in and out. Subway and monorail trains also meet here, and a network of elevated walkways connects train platforms as well as all of the skyscrapers cramming the view. I suddenly realize that the four external elevators serving the building in front of me are rushing up and down, ferrying people still at work. What time is it? What day is it?
The long, traditional Japanese meal, dish after tiny impeccable dish, needs either a dining companion or a server who can explain it. I have neither. The silence is broken by broken English or no English at all. It's impossible to peel my eyes away from the window and the layers of tiny figures and trains in endless motion way, way below. Strangely, there aren't many cars.