On Friday June 27th was held the opening reception for the G-20 Summit in Osaka. It was my great honour to be invited to act as MC for this reception.
I had a very special Rakugo performance and dinner on the 25th in New York, generously hosted by Ambassador and Mrs. Yamanouchi, Consul General of Japan in New York, at their official residence. So this was a tight travel situation.
(I will write about the lovely evening at the Ambassador's residence in a subsequent article - sorry for the wrong order...!)
But the schedule dictated that I headed straight from the Ambassador's residence after a lovely dinner together, to JFK Airport, and boarded a Korean Air at 1am for Seoul, with a transfer straight to Osaka. Then from Osaka International Airport to the Regal Royal Hotel for rehearsal all day and then finally the reception - long couple of days!
Osaka was in a state of lockdown. But I have to hand it to Japan - everyone was apologizing for the inconvenience due to G-20, but you wouldn't really feel the inconvenience if nobody apologized - it was just that organized.
It all started in the airport - a huge sign apologizing on behalf of the airport and the city for the inconvenience of G-20.
And so I arrived at security. Granted, it was a huge lineup. I have never seen one like it in Osaka or Tokyo. And yet somehow Osaka managed to find about 150 security agents, so we actually got through in less than fifteen minutes. LESS THAN FIFTEEN MINUTES! And when I arrived at the customs agent he apologized' "sorry about the delay, it is due to G-20." I'm aware of G-20 - but didn't really notice the delay.
Three weeks ago I arrived at JFK and it took 90 minutes. They had about five customs agents working. No G-20 and certainly no apology.
Then the customs agent asked me two or three questions. It took 3 minutes of questioning. This is rare - I usually go through without a word except thank you. The young customs lady apologized for the extra scrutiny - necessary due to G-20.
It usually takes a good 5 minutes of questioning to get into the States. On the other hand, I seem to get the strictest questions trying to enter Canada - so much for the advantage of your home country...
Then I got my luggage. Another customs agent asked if he could open it - again, G-20.
I had to courier some kimonos to Tokyo - you can courier from convenience stores. Again, this time it may take an extra day due to G-20 (it didn't). It was starting to get funny - I thought, is this just becoming a kind of lip service, blaming any possible anomaly of service on G-20.
The best one came in the taxi. It was super humid that day (pre-typhoon weather). Between the airport and the taxi it was a 3-minute walk but just that and I was soaking from sweat. I got in the taxi and had the following conversation with the driver:
Could you put the air-conditioner on?
Sure. You are hot sir?
Yes - it is so humid out there.
Yes - it is really humid today. Unusually humid, even for Osaka. Because of the G-20.
Now what has humidity got to do with the G-20? Hilarious. Leave it to an Osaka taxi driver.
Oh, and the G-20 reception was quite an experience.
Unfortunately didnt get to talk to President Trump or Prime Minister Abe, but I did my best from the podium for World Peace.