I’m in Japan with Nancy, using up the travel credit we received after our ship broke down in the Galapagos a few years ago. Our tour will take us from Tokyo to Kyoto. We’ve added a few extra days, starting in Tokyo, the world’s largest city, twice as populous as NYC. Rivers of people fill the veins of this mega-metropolis – sidewalks, trains, subways, and buses. Only childrens voices are heard on the trains, faces buried in cell phones, many with masks. Walk on the left and keep moving or get shoved. Beauty and ugliness, and let’s not forget cute. Delicate cherry blossoms against soulless buildings. Elevators silent and smooth. Surprise temples and shrines dwarfed by tall buildings, expanding endlessly in all directions. Bold, bright, flashing neon, the parks a treasured respite. Enough people speak English for us to get by, most friendly and helpful.
March 24-25, 2017 – Getting There
The Lyft ride arrived so quickly after my 4:00 a.m. request that we got to the airport a half hour before the ticket counter opened. Other than a couple short naps on the plane, we remained awake for just over 24 hours before getting to bed in our Tokyo airbnb. Fortunately, I was more comfortable in a middle seat on Singapore Airlines than on the domestic and discount airlines I’ve traveled with recently.
When we arrived, we took a train to the Shinjuku station and walked to our lodging using a series of pictures provided by our host. This is my first trip to a country that labels everything in characters (kanji) that have no meaning to me. After dropping our luggage off in our tiny efficiency apartment, we walked about a mile to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, slowly due to Nancy’s recent leg injury, and waited in line for an elevator ride up to the free observation deck. A nice view, in spite of the overcast. On our way, in the overheated airport and train, I worried that I had packed too many warm clothes, but as the sun dropped behind the tall buildings, I worried the opposite. We topped off our day with a yummy thin-crust pizza and Asahi beer.
March 26 (Sunday) – A Pleasant Drizzly Day
Up a bit early due to jetlag, I took a stroll through the quiet, wet street of the Shinjuku district where we are staying. Breakfast consisted of a delicious donut-like pastry filled with bean paste, yogurt, and powdered green tea (matcha). Nancy and I then spent a couple hours strolling through lovely Shinjuku park, very close to our lodging. The cherry blossoms are just starting, a bit later than usual due to the unseasonably cold weather. Next, we took a train across town to the Edo-Tokyo museum, dedicated to the history of Tokyo during the Edo period with a life-size replica of Nihonbashi bridge, a kabuki theater, and scale models of towns, plus more recent history through the 1964 Olympics. A nice place to visit on a rain day.
March 27 – An Unpleasant Cold Day
We took a train to the Ryogoku station to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market, not a good choice for a cold, rainy, windy day. Though fascinating, we were thoroughly miserable after a couple hours, mostly outdoors, umbrellas bumping against each other. The best part was eating a delicious strawberry coated with bean paste and a rice flour layer (mochi). We skipped the other sights we had planned and returned to our room for a short rest before venturing out again, after the rain stopped. It took us a couple hours to score bus tickets to our next destination; we had to take a train across town to another station to get them. We then went on a shopping binge. I bought warm clothes and Nancy unsuccessfully tried to find a rice cooker for her husband, Steve; they don’t sell the correct voltage.