The Real Professional Tourist

The first book I ever finished, and am still very proud of, was The Professional Tourist. It was about a guy in the year following 9/11 who decides to go to Japan to teach English, the experiences he had and trouble he ends up getting into. It still holds up, especially given how much the world has changed since 2001-2002, when it’s set.

Though it is a work of fiction, the book was inspired by my own experiences there and the people I met.

I also set up a website while I was there, and much to my surprise, that website still exists! So I thought I’d share some of my experiences in Japan with you, copied from that site. Sadly, the pictures are tiny, but I was working with limited space back then.

I made some minor editing fixes (this was over 20 years ago after all), but otherwise kept this the same as I originally had it. Those who have read The Professional Tourist might notice that Az’s apartment is very much based on this first one we were in.

If you like this blast from the past, I might do it again in the future!


The Journey There

I start this with a picture of Mossfoot, and for good reason. That green little trouble maker almost made us miss our plane! He had picked up a number of “odours” over the previous year, and he hates taking a bath. As a result, he retained certain trace scents that certain dogs at certain airports are trained to smell for. As a result, we had to unpack all of our bags, and were given everything short of a full body cavity search. Mossfoot is definitely going for a few rounds in the tub before we leave here, that’s for sure!


Gillian was as patient as ever about this, though she was not half as amused as I was. Personally, I thought it was an interesting experience, no harm done. But Gillian, I suppose, felt a cloud of suspicion was now over her, and it made her uncomfortable.

On The Plane

It was a long trip, about 12 hours, as I recall, but I assure you there wasn’t much interesting to talk about or show you here. Just a number of crappy romantic movies to keep me bored to tears.

In The Air

Well, this is the obligatory “up in the air” shot. Throughout the entire trip, this was about the most exciting one there was. Not much to see this high up, except the horizon.


We spent all of two hours in LAX, not once seeing anything more interesting than the airport walls. Gillian here acts a bit goofy for my benefit.


Mossfoot got bored pretty quick on the second leg of the flight, and decided to take a nap listening to music. Try getting a private seat for a eight-inch bear, it ain’t easy!

Gillian Again

Gillian has been complaining about her lack of exposure on the rest of the website, so I am making up for it now. Just kidding.

Coming In For A Landing

Needless to say, any attempt at a picture of our approach would be futile. However, this plane had a neat-o GPS kind of map showing our progress in between the crappy movies. As you can see here, we are getting quite close.


Finally, we land in Narita Airport, and meet with a representative from Berlitz. Then we begin our first few days in a new country.


Sunset From The Train

Before we ever got to our apartment, we had a two-hour train ride. Here’s the view from the train. Not much, but there you are.

Inside Tokyo

After getting off the train, look what was the first thing to great us: Mister Donut! This was also when I first realized I was effectively illiterate here. Suddenly, every little sign I took for granted suddenly turned into Ancient Greek.

Looking Stoic

I didn’t have too many pictures taken of myself, but here is one, trying to look like a wistful adventurer… well, I can dream, can’t I?

Inside The Apartment

Well, this is probably the best example of the apartment we first moved into. Note the size of the fridge, and the gas stove on the right.

The Bedroom

That little TV came with the apartment, and all we got was a half dozen channels, all in Japanese, of course. But occasionally they play Bilingual programing, as well as the news. The futons we slept on didn’t last. We soon bought an “American Style” futon, the kind that turns into a sofa.

The Bathroom

Note the fact the toilet, sink, and bathtub are linked together in one unit. In fact, to fill up the bathtub, you have to use the same faucet as the sink! Impossible to stretch out. All baths are done with bent knees.

The Stove

This is a pretty standard stove, with two gas burners and a fish griller on the bottom. We found that to be pretty much unusable, and soon bought a toaster oven and microwave.

Vending Machines

Well, that’s not exactly what these are, but vending machines are everywhere, serving everything from pop, hot coffee, snacks, ice cream, french fries, cigarettes, beer, and just about anything else you can imagine. These machines, however, are for the restaurant behind it. You pay for your order on the machine, then take the ticket inside to get served.

The Graveyard

Near our apartment, beside the train station we took to work every day, was this graveyard. During the summer, strange buzzing insects could be heard from here, louder than anywhere else. People tend to leave a gift of alcohol by the tombs to remember them by.

A Night On The Town

After a long day of walking around Shinjuku, we had dinner at a restaurant called Freshness Burger. The food was alright, and everything was still rather new to us… including this stupid camera, as this was about the umpteenth photograph that came out blurry!

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