Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My First and Not Last Trip to Japan pt1.

I just got back...

In case you didn't know I was in Japan for the past couple days. I didn't get a chance to see as many sites as I would have liked, but I was able to get a good dose of culture and experience many new things. I experience a lot in my few days there and will be spreading my recountings (probably a made up word... so
what) across a few posts. Mainly because I know its hard for people, especially myself, to read long wordy blog posts, essays, and any other form of written communication. Also this entails a lot of writing, editing, and uploading photos and my friends can't wait see it, read it, and leave comments. :-) With that said here goes part 1...

My trip started off from Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. Apparently there is only one flight per day that leaves from this area and goes to Tokyo, Japan non-stop. The flight was a little over 14 hours. During this time I was either sleeping(5 hours), watching movies(5 hours of Hancock and Speed Racer), or attempting to read something(2 hours). I think I actually made it through half of a magazine and two chapters in a book I was reading. Its not easy reading on a 14 hour flight. After we arrived we got our luggage, made it through customs, and encountered our first chance at the language barrier. We had to get from the airport to the hotel. Our hotel was just under 2 hours outside of the hotel so we had to take the train to get there. So we had to find the booth where they sold the train tickets to the Narita Express, buy our passes for that, and find our way to the train. This all turned out to be fairly easy.

This is a map of the Tokyo metro stops. This is not the subway map, this is just for the trains that do not go underground. Pretty crazy right? Luckily we only had to deal with the circle in the middle. Our the Narita Express went to Tokyo Central, where we were able to hop on the Yamamote Line(the lime green circle in the center) which after 28 minutes took us to Ikebukuro where our hotel was. After walking around the stop for a few minutes partially because we were shocked we made it that far in Tokyo, and partially because we were guessing where our hotel was, we were able to locate the hotel and get to our rooms.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Metropolitan. It was really nice, definitely a quality hotel. It had restaurants on the 25th floors with excellent views and 5 star Japanese and Chinese restaurants(with plates starting at $37 bucks a person), as well as banquet halls. They seemed to always be busy with weddings as well. From the moment we entered the hotel we were treated as if we were staying in first class and we were pseudo-important. Not that hotel wasn't nice, but the people went out of their way to accommodate us. They took our luggage soon as we walked into the lobby, escorted us to our rooms, holding elevator doors, and even carrying our luggage into our rooms. Get this... They did not even ask for a tip!!! The thing that got me was all of the "bus boys" were all female. While the people working a the front desk were both made and female. I wonder why this is.

The rooms inside the hotel were small and minimalist. The Japanese know how to take a small space and use it efficiently. Everything did seem a little smaller, but it was enough. Nothing overdone and over sized like the hotels here. For most people this may actually mean things were too small. The two things I thought were awesome in the room that I wanted in my room were a light switch near the b
ed that turned off all the lights in the room, and a heated mirror in the bathroom. You know when you take a shower and the mirror gets all fogged up? This mirror was heated in a small section right above the sink that didn't get fogged up... Genius!!! There was a small flat screen tv, a small tv, a small tea pot, and a small desk.

After freshening up I went to see the night lights of Ikebukuro and to get something to eat. I felt like I was in Las Vegas, with all the bright lights all around. To our surprise Ikebukuro is a pretty active area at night. There are places to place slots and pachinko, bars, karaoke bars, and small food places all around. Also near we stayed was the Arts Center and Convention Center, as well as one of the major stops on the Yamanote Line. As we walked around we marveled that the lights, the sounds, the people, and the smoke from people smoking. There were taxi's zipping around us, people on bikes dashing on and off the sidewalk, and people on the move. Most people either had earphones on listening to music on the phones or ipods and were going to and from. Only outside of the station did people seem to loiter.

We walked around for a bit looking for a place to eat. We did not know how to go about ordering food but noticed many of the places had food in the window. I guessed correctly that this was the menu for that restaurant. So we gathered our yen and our courage and stepped into the establishment. First all the doors are either automatic or have you touch a little pad to open it. Genius!!! Inside there was just one counter with people sitting down eating. To my right here was a machine with small pictures and numbers of foods that were on display outside. Kind of like a vending machine for food. So we put our money in and make a selection. I choose what looked like noodles to me(2nd to bottom row on the left), inserted my money, and out came a ticket. I looked puzzled for a second. I didn't know if I expected my food or something else to come out of the machine, but I wasn't expecting a ticket. Quickly I realized you take the ticket to the counter, where they take it and bring your your food. The noodles were cold, but I didn't care. I ordered my successfully my first meal in Japan... without speaking Japanese!!!

That pretty much sums up the first day. I will be covering the rest of the trip in posts coming later this week. Complete with pictures on flickr...