Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Tokyo Diaries, Episode 2

Posted: July 6, 2013 in Japan
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We had landed, I had actually touched down in Tokyo’s Haneda aiport. I wanted to jump up and down for joy, I wanted to shout and dance but alas that was not to be so I played it out in my mind, including a happy dance and prepared myself for what would be the most life/ soul changing experience!
As we began our disembarking I realized we were not getting off the plane into a normal tunnel that connected you to the terminal, we were getting off right alongside it, my first chance to breath Japanese air. The air that hit me was cool, crisp and to my surprise clean (I was standing next to a jumbo jet in the middle of an airport after-all), how was that even possible? We were then led into a cute little mini bus and driven the 200 feet to the terminal were we did as all good Tokyoites do and got in line patiently to the left to await the escalator. For those of you that have never visited before it will seem quite strange that everyone is going to the left but as you make your way around the city you will realize how respectful and efficient it is (or you can be a horrid tourist and be completely oblivious to your surroundings and stand in the middle), however this new realization did take us a minute to fully absorb as our American tendencies wanted to creep back to the surface a few times.
Pleasantly immigrations and customs were completely painless, we had been super prepared for the worst and made sure we were totally organized down to all of our things being in convenient little packs, bags, and compartments. Fingerprinting, picture, a few questions and done, you get more scrutiny walking down the street in the US with a video game T-shirt on! Then finally we were done and ready to begin our adventure, at this point it was past 11pm and we had until midnight to get to our hotel or be stuck paying the insane cost of a taxi (after the trains stop the taxi costs can almost double), this was awesome, we were in a foreign city, with an unknown transportation system and had to get all the way to Tokyo Bay from the airport in less than an hour. Suffice it to say we didn’t make it but who cares I was in Tokyo! We had to make a quick pitstop in the smoking room of Handea (which for myself not a priority, but my poor significant other had just gone 16+ hours without a cigarette quite painlessly, so how could I say no). Smoking for the most part is not allowed in Tokyo but they have a very large smoking population so they have established smoking rooms, boxes, and sections, all over the city (even in places that you would never imagine) and I became obsessed with taking pictures of all of the smoking places we would see throughout our trip.
Once we were ready to try our luck with the rails I asked an amazingly sweet information counter clerk a couple of questions to ensure my ideas had been correct and that the plan that I had created back in the US would work, she confirmed my thoughts and gave me a cute little transportation map and sent us on our way (funny, I had several versions of this map already, including a digital one on our ipad, but this one went with me everywhere and I didn’t have the heart to toss it until I had returned to the states, it had by that time definitely seen better days). We had made it out of the airport complex and to the station that would lead us to another station and were taking an escalator down when I like a child was so mesmerized by my surroundings that I let go of my suitcase and oh my, it went tumbling down (like right out of a cartoon) making the loudest noises in this completely quiet and thankfully empty building. Although no one else aside from my other half had witnessed this atrocity I was totally mortified, I not even a few hours in Tokyo had shattered my quiet surroundings with echoed thuds! I didn’t have too much time to reflect on my blunder as we were rushing to catch the “shuden” (last train), alas we didn’t make it, we quite literally had just missed it by minutes, we even had a “salary man” rush by us with the “shark fin” hand that we would discover later meant move aside!
Since we had missed the “shuden” our only option was to get a taxi, now this would normally be easy and don’t get me wrong it is but there is the slight panic in my head at this moment that what if I say something offensive or ask him to take us to the wrong place, huge misconception is that alot of Japanese speak English although most know several words what I discovered was the biggest challenge is the pronunciation, there are certain sounds in our alphabet that are unknown to them and although they use alot of romaji (japanese spelt using the english alphabet) alot of times the way pronounce it is very different. As I walked up to the taxi the side door just popped open all by itself and the sweetest older white gloved gentlemens face appeared before me, he kindly accepted my less than fluent Japanese and escorted us on our way to Odaiba (Tokyo Bay). This choice of place to stay might seem odd as its not in the city proper, however these amazing artificially made islands (made to keep the “black ships” away in the time of the Shogun) had a 60ft tall glory that would grace our eyes every day! Our kindly white gloved gentlemen deposited us safely in what would be our home for the next 17 days. Finally we had made it, we where here in Tokyo, surrounded by all the things I had only been able to see in someone else’s pictures, now they were going to be my pictures!

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For anyone that has flown a long distance you can attest that it is extremely exhausting sitting in a flying sardine can. As you can tell I am not the biggest lover of air travel but I was willing to embark on an 18+ hour adventure to reach my destination, Tokyo! When I say 18+ hours that really doesn’t even come close to explaining it, obviously your adventure really begins the four hours before you have to be at the airport not to mention if your significant other is a “Lets plan for all the worst possible things that could happen” kind of person. So you can only imagine from that statement that my journey began five hours before my plane was supposed to take off, then there is the layover if you were unable to get a direct flight which is the majority of people traveling from the US, if you don’t live in California or NY, so here I am 9 hours into my trip and I haven’t even boarded the plane to Tokyo! Finally the moment comes and I am shocked… everyone was lining up, they were actually lining up to get on the plane! Patiently, quietly, lining up to board a 14 hour flight, this was the first of many experiences that I would have that made me know “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore” and now that I am back and its all said and done my heart and soul are screaming for more. Once we boarded the plane and got through the worst part for me in a flight, the takeoff, I had time to really absorb my surroundings. The plane was very quiet, well as quiet as a 777 could be but that would not be the first time that I was taken aback by the lack of human sound. The flight was surprisingly pleasant aside from the lack of space, if you get all of the things you would need for the flight, electronics, toiletry bag, blanket, and pillow before you even sit down then you wont have to struggle and possibly elbow or throw something accidentally at an innocent bystander just to be able to get what you desperately have to have. Interestingly the food that was served throughout the flight was great! Shocking I know to say that airplane food not from first class or business class was actually good but it was and let me tell you boy do they feed you, I guess they figure it will keep you occupied if you cant sleep cuz every four hours the flight attendants would be passing by with drinks, food, snacks, galore. The other shocking thing was the flight path, being the cautious flier that I am I already knew that we would be flying far up over the US into Canada and Alaska. The part that I hadnt taken into account was the perpetual daylight that we experienced, throughought the entire flight we never hit night until we touched down at Haneda in Tokyo, at one point halfway through the flight I bravely opened the blind to what I did not expect was the most amazing sight of a snowy crest of sun filled mountains that I will possibly ever see (until my next trip to Tokyo, atleast). Then finally 14 hours later, no my entire lifetime later and I had landed, in Tokyo, the place that I have dreamed of for so long, what adventures were awaiting me, what misconceptions would be shattered, how would I be forever changed, I couldnt wait to find out!

Awhile ago I posted that I would be taking a much anticipated trip to Tokyo, well Im back. You might be saying to yourselves Whoa, we missed four months of prep… The last few months leading up to the trip were hectic and frenzied and honestly I was very much living in the moment and enjoying every second of life that was taking me to a destination that I have been dreaming of for a long time! Now that I have returned I will be taking you along for the journey as I relive the most soul lifting experiences that I have had so far in my life. Stay tuned for upcoming posts…IMG_1200

Countdown to Japan (Part 1)

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Japan
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There’s just about four more months left until my intended trip to Japan and I am starting to be on panic mode. If you have read my Destination Japan post you know that this has been a dream of mine for quite some time now and I can just start to see it’s reality along the horizon. Enter panic mode, I still have so much to do, passports, research, planning, prepping, and any other synonym you can find in a Thesaurus when you are planning a trip of a lifetime.

At this point my brain is on overload and I needed a place to put all of my destination plans and ideas, although I am of the digital age and own an array of goodies that I could use, I recently found a Moleskine city journal of Tokyo online, there is something about the consciousness of physically writing something down that inspired me, the feel and smell of the leather that made me hunt down something that has been out of print for several years. Although other versions (cities) of this journal are fairly easy to find, mine the one I wanted was not found anywhere unless I was willing to pay what I felt was an exhorbatant amount of money. Finally I found it and am currently awaiting its arrival, rather painfully I might add as it could take up to 2 weeks!
For anyone that is planning a trip and wants to keep themselves organized and doesn’t want to miss out on the possible wonders your destination has to offer these journals are very well done and laid out, they have numerous cities available and quite a few are rather cheap.
But I caution you, don’t let your journal/book be your sole guide, look up and be a traveler and not just a tourist!

Hachiko the Akita

Posted: February 12, 2013 in Japan
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Have you ever heard the story of a faithful four legged friend named Hackiko?

In 1924 a professor at the University of Tokyo took in an Akita as his canine companion. Throughout their life together Hackiko faithfully met his owner everyday at Shibuya Station after his work day had ended. One unfortunate day in May of 1925 his master did not arrive, the professor had past away while at the university earlier that day. Eventhough his master never returned after that fateful day Hackiko continued his routine, everyday waiting for his friend that would never return. For the next nine years Hachiko maintained his daily vigil at the station sometimes not returning home for several days. So strong was the dedication to his deceased master that for the rest of his life he never missed a day of waiting. During these nine years many commuters learned of his story and would bring food and treats and in 1934 they erected a bronze statue of Hachiko that is still there today (the current statue is a reproduction done in 1948 as the original was recycled for the war effort). In March of 1935 Hachiko passed away and his remains are at the National Science Museum of Japan, and the exact place where he would wait every day has been immoralized with two bronze paw prints representing his undying faithfulness. To this day a ceremony is held in April in honor of this amazing creature.
If only we could all know the immense love that was shown in this story. Hachiko’s statue is on the tops of my list for my trip to Japan this year.

Destination Japan

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Japan
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I thought it fitting that my first blog post be about something that is a huge passion of mine, Japan. For years I have admired the land of the rising sun from afar, their people, culture, and history. All of it wrapped up into a beautiful mass of archipelago, Nippon. Well now if all goes well by the end of May it will no longer be from afar because I will be throwing 100% of myself into the beauty that is this island nation. So much of what I love took root there and I want to experience it first hand. As I close my eyes I imagine myself small and insignificant standing in the middle of Shibuya Crossing, as the throngs of people move along and I am swept up in the tide. Just thinking about it now brings a smile to my face.

I must ensure I absorb every drop of it all while I am there, so there is lots to do. I have been talking, no dreaming about this for so long that it still seems unreal but it is! Fifteen full days in what was once known as Edo (Tokyo), it sounds like plenty of time but what would appear to the uninitiated as a small metropolis is actually a vast expanse of territory that is more like a group of cities that have merged into one colossal city.
To better understand the geography of Japan it is best to think of Tokyo as more like an American state and that its 23 central wards are more like our cities and are governed as such. Imagine the metropolis of Tokyo is 844.66 square miles that is roughly the size of New York city and Los Angeles combined (now thats Gotham!). So you can imagine the task at hand, to think about it now makes my heart skip a beat. Especially when I imagine the flight! I will declare it now I am actually petrified of flying and this is a long flight from where I hang my hat, but alas to dream a dream and make it a reality is my mission. So I will continue my research and prepare for the trip of a lifetime and when my feet touch the ground in this over 500 year old city I will immerse myself in the life of a traveler and look up from my camera and guide books and delight in the jungle that lay before me.