The 29th general conference of WFB was mainly held at the Marroad International Hotel Narita near Narita Airport. Although I’ve been to Narita Airport so many times, this was my very first time to stay in Narita. For me, Narita has been always a passing point to go abroad or to go home in Niigata since my first travel abroad in 1992. I never did sightseeing around the Airport and I never walked around Narita City. So this conference gave me a good opportunity to stop to see Narita.
The hotel was a mammoth hotel which holds 800 rooms with huge banquet rooms. It’s so close to the Narita airport and from its top floor (13F) restaurant, a panoramic view of the airport was visible clearly and impressive especially at night. Although there was nothing but airport nearby, hotel has a convenience store and restaurants. Therefore I didn’t need to go out from the hotel.
The word “Marroad" which is a name of this hotel sounded like an English word but later found out “Marroad” was an old Japanese word to mean “visitor” or “guest.” The Kanji for Marroad is written as “客人“ and "Marroad" indicates to give a person to hospitality. After hearing the meaning of Marroad from the hotel staff, I felt very ashamed because I recalled I learned its meaning a long time ago. No wonder the word was so familiar.
Registration fee for the conference was unbelievably inexpensive….It was about $300 which included room charge for 4 nights , meals three times a day for 4 days, transportation between Narita and Yokohama, and convention souvenirs with some publications. It was way much cheaper than any other conventions I’ve ever attended in Hawaii. But later I knew that Japan Buddhist Federation paid a lot to reduce the necessary cost for the delegates from the world and registration fee for observers was actually over $1,000 per person.
From airport, free shuttle bus goes back and forth to hotel at least twice per hour and while waiting for the bus at the airport, I met a group of four from Sri Lanka who came to ask me if I was going to attend a WFB conference. They were very friendly and talkative. Because our former Bishop Rev. Wajira Wansa of Big Island is from Sri Lanka, they were so familiar…and soon we became friends. Generally speaking, names except Japanese names are very difficult to remember but their names sounded like Japanese names and soon I memorized their names.
As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I saw many staffs were working near reception desks. Obviously there were two tables and two groups; one group is JTB which supports and helps to check in and they also provide various useful information for the participants to stay in Japan. Another table was for the group of volunteers to help this entire conference. They were all ministers from different Buddhist sects. Among them, I saw Rev. Yuken Kikuchi who used to work for the Jodoshu International Affair and she now serves International Affair of the Japan Buddhist Federation. She introduced me some of her co-workers and led me to check in the room.
I actually didn’t mind sharing a room with another Buddhist monk but because my family always complain I snore so loudly and terribly in addition to talking in my sleep, I requested a single room which cost $80 more. My application was kind of last minutes and I wasn’t sure if I could get a single room or not. But when I opened the door, I was so glad to see one bed which was wide enough for a big man to sleep. As compared to the standard business hotel, the room was pretty spacious and comfortable. To my surprise, the room number was “457” which was exactly same number of our mail box of Koloa Jodo Mission.
The door of conference was finally opened...... ( To be continued)