06/13/2005 08:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Decaf Lattes, Crime & Onsen's

If you’re ever in Tokyo and want a decaf Latte at Sarbucks you’re out of luck. A decaf coffee takes 5, 8 or 10 minutes to make depending on the location. But a Latte…. that’s a near impossibility. And each time I’ve asked why, the reason changes. First it was that Japanese espresso machines couldn’t process decaf, then that they didn’t have the proper beans. Now, I hear it may have to do with the Japanese government banning a specific chemical that is used in the process of decaffeinating espresso beans. Whatever the reason, if you want decaf Latte’s in Tokyo, you’d better bring a thermos full of it from home.

Crime is on the increase in Japan and not just any old crimes, but those of the weird and sadistic variety. At lunch with longtime friends they tell me that the country has changed radically as crimes have become random, purposeless and inexplicable. A few days later I see the story of a family of three who are awakened at 1 in the morning by a 20-year old man frantically knocking on their door. When they open it, he attacks them with a baseball bat and then drives off. None of the victims have any idea who he is.Tokyo, which was once completely safe for all to roam, especially children, isn’t so anymore. My friend never allows his 23-year old daughter to walk home alone from the train station in the evening anymore.

Fortunately, some things never change-like Japanese onsen’s (natural hot springs). We paid a visit to my friend’s fabulous onsen called Itsuura. It’s a 2-hour bus ride from Tokyo, and when you arrive there it’s as if you’ve entered another century ala Last Samurai. The hospitality is fabulous, the outdoor hot springs rejuvenating, and if you don’t do raw fish, there’s a McDonald’s nearby to remind you that it isn’t 1690 after all.