Jet-lagging my way through nights of little sleep and subdued hotel lighting feels like an upgraded Twilight Zone. Elegant chocolate brown and dusky grey walls leave me tapping them for the elevators which within seconds transport me to the soaring heights of skyscrapers and helipads or down to the pristine depths of a subway line.
Perpetually clicking my head with inclinations of reciprocated greeting stirs my awareness of others in a way that mosques calling everyone to prayer do not. Heated loo seats with inbuilt cleansing sprays leave me sitting on them for far too long, contemplating the beautiful stone floors while trying to remember my name as 3 a.m. turns to 4, 5 and 6 a.m. when I finally pad my way to the hotel gym in an attempt to further exhaust myself into sleep. I have got used to looking like Bill Murray, eco lighting and bloodshot bleariness dispensing with make-up while I seriously consider using a white face mask with sunglasses. I have become rather partial too to the Darth Vader visors elderly women use to trudge through their daily quota of perambulation.
Navigating my way through a meal of foraged forest vegetables coaxed into tastes of startling supremacy by Buddhist monks in a room of sliding doors and beige has left me wondering if I will ever return to a Mediterranean diet, my beloved olive oil difficult to conjure after the deep satisfaction of umami's salty and low-fat purity.
And I coo too at the bewildering variety of hand-made paper and silky-smooth round edges of lacquer, or at the interwoven bamboo reeds of Kyoto basket-ware. And a daily array of vegetable juices with the perfect texture and balance of sweet and savory make Whole Foods versions taste like baby slop.
By contrast, and thoroughly liberating, is the dearth of pickpockets in a city of 11 million, knowing that I can dangerously dangle a camera and handbag while my iPhone temptingly protrudes from a wide open trouser pocket. As I vacate my subway seat, swapped with zero prompting by a stranger so that I can sit next to my guide, vaguely perceived movements of solicitude make me look back and I find myself locking eyes and bowing at those who remind me that I have left my camera behind.
And staring out of our plane window into the darkness of Narita's International airport tarmac, sheets of typhoon tropical rain splashing heavily on gathering inches of water - the kind of rain that Vietnam veterans will never forget - I feel sorry for the four ground crew who scurry below to ready our plane for departure. I squint at those lone, wet figures as they gather in a row facing our moving sky-bound behemoth and bow to us in unison. It is a slow and deliberate bow, and raising their heads wave us goodbye. Incredulously I wave back. This does not feel like servitude; quite the opposite, their body language is one of pride while wishing us a happy onward journey.
I might be leaving under the cover of Asian darkness and returning to the daylight of the west but enlightened we are not when it comes to social co-existence on a crowded planet.