Saturday, June 07, 2008

Adventures in Japan: Day One

I had packed up as much entertainment as possible for the 14 hour plane ride, especially since Liz was taking a different flight. I was assured by that I had a seat with a power supply so I’d be able to charge my laptop. Unfortunately, when I actually boarded the plane I realized that the website had been off by one seat. No power plug for me! To make matters worse, the airplane’s in-flight entertainment system with hours and hours of video/tv on-demand, was broken and even their manual movies weren’t working. So there went my entertainment. I got about an hour and a half of Gossip Girl episodes in and had to content myself with reading, eating and trying to sleep for the rest of the time. Let’s just say it was a long trip.

Got to Tokyo and found Liz right away. We exchanged some money and got our Japan Rail tickets. Headed down to catch the Narita express train into the city. It was a cool ride- past rice patties and more rural/suburban neighborhoods. Then we got into the city and had to switch trains. Japan is not big on escalators, but they are definitely big on stairs. So there was a lot of suitcase lugging and sweating. We took a train to Ueneo station and then the Ginza subway to our stop. Unfortunately, the stop our map told us to go to was quite a distance from the actual ryoken we were staying at and when we came above ground none of the streets matched up. We were finally forced to ask someone—a woman who came by on a bike. (Everyone rides bikes here, it’s crazy! Maybe if American did this we wouldn’t have such a gas crunch.) She didn’t understand the map either and another guy stopped to help us, too. They started going back and forth in Japanese trying to figure it out. Everyone is really friendly and helpful here, so far. Anyway, they pointed us in somewhat the right direction (with a long explanation that we didn’t understand) and then a little further on an older couple from a shop who spoke a tiny bit of English helped us further. After a long walk, we finally found our landmark—a big luxury hotel. But no, we were not staying there. We had wanted the “authentic” Japanese experience – the Ryoken – a sort of bed and breakfast set in the Edo period. Which sounds great when you’re online in New York City. Arriving after being up almost 24 hours and realized that you’ll be sleeping on the floor on mats makes it seem a little less glamorous.

The hosts were extremely nice though as they showed us to our rooms. They explained in halting English the rules of the place. The room is very small (pictures to follow) and had (for daytime) a low table with pillows and tea service. They clear out the table at night and lay down the baths. Liz was extremely impressed by the Japanese toilets—heated seats and bidet functions that made her scream when she pressed a random button. I’d seen them before—they have them at several Japanese restaurants in NYC, but it was still cool to have our own personal one. We have a private bath, but they also have a shared bath experience (separated by sex) that we will try sometime while we’re here.

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We headed downstairs and asked our hosts where they would recommend we eat. They suggested a sushi place on the main road. (One of the things I really like here is the smaller alleyway type roads that are behind the main drags. They’re narrow and quaint and cool. Oh and on every corner there’s some kind of vending machine.) So we headed down to the restaurant. At first we thought there was no English menu, but they brought us one with photos. They did not speak any English so it was a challenge to order, but we managed to get tuna rolls, eel and cucumber rolls, miso soup, and (my favorite) edamame. It was delicious! Really fresh. We sat at a table, but all the regulars sat at the sushi bar and were quite rowdy. Every time someone would enter, they’d say something and cheer to them. I don’t know what they were saying, but I’m curious.

After eating we headed back to the Ryoken and got ready for bed. It was then that I was really regretting the mats. And, we learned, there was a karaoke bar nearby. I didn’t mind that so much, though, cause it was kind of cool to hear the singing out the window. We fell asleep, slept almost twelve hours, and are now awake at 7am and ready to start our real first day. I’m starving and would love a waffle and Starbucks venti skinny vanilla latte. Liz is a more traditional and wants to eat as the Japanese do. But I have a feeling that’s fish and I just can’t do fish at 7am. Perhaps this is why she’s the world traveler and I’m the one who’s never been anywhere but Mexico and Canada. I like seeing the sights, but my stomach is very traditional American. Oh well.

It feels weird that we’re sort of “forward in time” – it’s Sunday here and yet to everyone back home it’s still Saturday.

Anyway, will write more about our adventures and post pictures soon – hopefully tonight!


1 comment:

Holly said...

Glad you arrived safe and sound. I'd love to visit myself, but like you my tummy is very American. Plus, I get all kinds of intimidated by the language barrier. *sigh*

I can't wait for pics!