As a general packing rule, a few weeks before departure you designate a surface where you arrange all possible portable objects that you might need – edible, wearable, electronic, recreational. As departure time approaches, you discard what will not fit in your suitcase, and make rational choices.
For example, I have learned that the little Tokyo apartment I will be living in does not have central heating. This fact, combined with the current (wavering) cold snap in the Far East, means that serious slippers are a must. Warm air is blown into each room from little vents up at ceiling height which results in the well-known hot-head-cold-feet Japanese Syndrome.
So, at the moment, I have two pairs of slippers on the packing bed – one a delightfully multi-coloured floozy pair, called “snoozies” with martini glasses printed on them, and a more refined second pair of white leather, lined with rabbit skin, and decorated with Native American bead work. A choice must be made.
Then there is the current (wavering) butter crisis in Japan so I’ll have to take a Swiss block or two. Due to “el Nino” the usual supply of New Zealand butter has dried up a bit. Japan’s own butter comes from its northern island, Hokkaido. Miniscule little delicately-wrapped pads of butter are arranged in tiny little hand-crafted trays of six. I think they might be numbered and signed by the individual cows. Despite their high price, they disappear off the shelves immediately, and I’ve only once succeeded in purchasing my own butter set.
Then there are the Swiss tube-staples that can be used for all emergencies – Cenovis (marmite/breakfast), Le Parfait (liver paste/lunch), Euceta, and Vita-Merfen. I was extremely shocked to find out that these last two items (medical rather than edible) no longer exist and replacements must be found.
The phrase book, Japanese at a Glance, is a psychological crutch, and can never actually be used, as people tend to run away (often moaning) when directly approached. It has been explained to me that this is because people don’t want to be embarrassed by 1) not speaking English 2) not understanding 3) and anyway don’t want their day ruined by an unpleasant event. I keep the little book with me at all times in case I ever want to phone an unknown number to tell the emergency services that I’ve just had a car accident and think I’m having a heart attack and would like to send a telegram.
Then there are the presents. Fortunately, most of these (calendars, chocolates, prints, pens, and pencils) have gone on ahead. All I have to take at the moment is a little box of spices for the Swiss winter-time specialty “vin chaud”. This perks up no end a glass of ordinary (affordable) Peacock Department Store wine and is much appreciated by knowledgeable Tokyo wine experts.
So that’s already quite a good start an I’m feeling quite exhausted. Time now for a little rest and, hopefully, some serene cherry blossom dreams.