Speaker by Various Artists

48 Hours in Tokyo

by Deborah Hill Cone

Two days might not be long enough to form a thoughtful, considered opinion of a place but it is quite sufficient to make an irrational snap judgment. And it was plenty time to know I hate Tokyo. In the biggest city in the world Fame never went away - I've never seen so many women who aren't dancers wearing legwarmers.

Actually it's not just that - the whole style ethos is quite repugnant. I know the soothsayers employed by advertising agencies to pick what's the new black say Tokyo is the place where trends begin and the last place they end up is in New Zealand. In which case, girls listen up, you are soon to be wearing Barbara Bush suits, long socks - or legwarmers of course - kinder-whore pigtails and a Burberry mini-skirt especially if you have thighs like uncooked yams. Got that? Never mind if not, the fashion crimes spotted on one trip from Narita to Shibuya are plentiful, even more so considering they are probably considered the next hot thing by "so bad it's good" Wallpaper magazine.

It's not just the clothes. Or even the culture. I am sure I would love Japanese culture if I had managed to come across any. And I was looking out for sushi, Issey Miyake, the whole minimalistic aesthetic that has led to us all getting Christmas presents of desk-top tranquillity gardens full of tiny stones with their own miniature rakes.

But tranquility was not much in evidence on our two day visit - instead I saw sickly yellow custard pies, Starbucks, glitter balls and acres of shopping mall culture. Sorry Thomas Friedman, maybe I'm not so keen on globalisation after all - the glittery legwarmers are diminishing my powers of reason.

Although we weren't there for long we did get around Tokyo, since we masochistically had booked into a hotel in Tachikawa - West Tokyo, three hours by train from the airport. We also visited Shibuya and Shijuku and lots of other places whose names I can't remember. John Banks might be interested to know that although Tokyo has an admirable public transport system an hour and a half is considered a short commute.

On the other hand, there wasn't much to see that looked identifiably Japanese - so perhaps it wasn't Tokyo I minded after all. It was the debased European culture that I couldn't be doing with. Most people in Tokyo don't speak English, but they will be covered with English designer labels - they can say Gucci and Adidas, who knows if they are real renditions of the kneesocks or saddlebags anyway. And they can hum along with the piped music. Richard Clayderman doing his version of Celine Dion's Love Will Go On is surreal. Harry Secombe doing White Christmas in Sukugama is hallucinogenic.

I could turn into a champion hater in Tokyo. I hate the prefabricated bathrooms that are made all in one plastic unit. I hate the cellphones, lacquered in hologram pink with a small paler pink fluffy bunny hanging off the aerial. I hate the way I didn't see a single tree or old building. I hate the way being eccentric in Tokyo is redundant.

I hate the politeness - manners are good, but this is bogus. Service workers smile as they say you can't come into their airline lounge because you haven't remembered your guest pass. It's the rules, madam. The more cross you get the more they smile. Of course they say sorry but they're secretly enjoying it. They're loving it. They're so gleeful they're aroused.

They know when you do muscle your way in to the airline lounge all they have on offer are rice cracker snacks and green tea muffins, so what was the point? And there is no point arguing with minions.

I found out too late the best thing to do in that situation is to be authoritative and issue an order. Japanese service workers are likely to jump to it if you act like a VIP. "It's the hierarchical society," Desmond explained 33,000 ft in the air and thousands of feet away from Tokyo where it might have been useful. Desmond, who sat next to me on the plane, had worked as a financial journalist at Bloomberg in Tokyo for eight years and was intriguingly sanguine about the place.

I asked him about whether I was right in thinking Japan's economy is in the toilet because the place is spectacularly unproductive. I based this judgment on in-depth research - they have an extra person at Starbucks who takes your receipt after you've paid and tells you that your vomit-making frappucino will be along in a minute. Which you already knew. Desmond said I was quite wrong - he misses the incredible efficiency and professionalism of Japan workers whenever he travels anywhere else.

"Italy is a great place, but people there just couldn't give a toss," he said. And to be fair, when SOH (Stupid Old Husband) left his new coat on the Tokyo-Narita Express train they quickly and efficiently managed to return it to him before we had even checked-in (let along got to the God-awful airline lounge.)

After eight years Desmond was strangely used to the place - he spoke the language and liked it. He had put on the free in-flight socks. They bunched around his ankles, to keep them warm - like legwarmers.

Deborah Hill Cone has her own weblog at deborahhillcone.blogspot.com