Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tokyo - day 1

This milwife is finally actually living the Japanese life! We're in Japan!

Yes yes I know I still haven't filled you in on the Hawaii trip and I'm starting in on the next, but I will, I promise. I was sad to leave Honolulu, but excited to start our new adventure in Japan. Because I'm a crazy nervous person I always insist on getting to the airport with plenty of time to sit at the gate in case there are any changes, finally this time I am so glad we were early. We stood in in the international departures line for 2 hours. The line was sooooooo long and didn't even move for an hour. At first we were in the wrong line all together because there were no signs directing us, but thanks to friendly help from people in the line, that we later gladly gave to people making the same mistake as us, we got in the correct line. We patiently waited as my blood pressure and nerves went through the roof. This wasn't just any flight for me, this was the flight taking me far away from my home and my family, from my roots and the things I know. I was feeling scared, needy and unsure. I make it a point to avoid these types of feelings, never good ones. But, I was with ever sure and confident Boots who was laughing and speaking Japanese with people in line, I was fine. Whenever I'm feeling anxious I still have that knee jerk reaction that I need my mom. I called her from line, and felt instantly better, if not slightly more homesick from hearing her voice. I called my dad and sister to say goodbye as well and then turned my American cell phone off never to use it again.

We got through the line, rushed through security and onto our gate where they were already boarding. We got on the biggest plane I have ever been on, a 747 (I've never been on and international flight), settled into our seats and after 2 beers, some surprisingly good airplane food and a Tylenol pm I was feeling relaxed and managed to sleep for 4 hours.

We landed in Tokyo a day later than we left thanks to the international date line and somehow managed to successfully navigating the airport, getting through immigration and customs, getting our bags, getting bus tickets and getting on the right bus. And after a 2 hour bus ride to the (American military) New Sanno Hotel in Hiro-o in South West Tokyo we were finally done traveling.

We had an incredible teppanyaki (real Japanese hibachi) dinner and settled into our comfortable room. We were exhausted and went to sleep at about 6:30 pm and I did so happily because I can finally get to actually say that I'm jet lagged!!

Yesterday, our fist whole day in Tokyo, was incredible! We did so much that our feet still hurt this morning. We got up early starting the day off right with one of my favorite indulgences, room service, and then headed out. We walked the short distance to the Hiro-o subway stop and got our tickets from the little ticket machines, they were super easy to use thanks to the English button and English fare charge posters. The subway was just like I had seen on TV, completely packed! We smooshed body to body in the subway car and I was so thankful for tall height so I could turn my head upwards to avoid claustrophobia setting in. After a few stops the subway cleared out a bit and then we were even able to get a couple seats.

We got off at Ueno and proceeded to walk around Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park where we saw our first real Japanese Cherry Blossoms blooming.

We went to our first temples: Kanei-ji Kyomizu Kannon-do Temple, Benten-do Temple, and Tosho-gu Shrine, to name a few.

We passed a bunch of museums: Tokyo National Museum, National Science Museum, National Museum of Western Art and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, but it was too nice of a day to spend it indoors. So we went to what must have been 20-30 shrines and temples through the Ueno and Yanaka districts. If you want to see traditional Japanese shrines this is the place to go! Every where we went, down side streets and through residential neighborhoods there they were popping up.

We stumbled onto a market and procured ourselves one of the most fun lunches I've ever had. Boots, who is excellent with languages and studied Japanese a bunch the
last year, was able to buy goodies from the vendors. We first got a sweet potato with a delicious sweet glaze and sesame seeds, went to the place next door and got a fun looking spiraled fried potato, we passed by a bakery with the most beautiful breads and sweets for sale and couldn't resist buying a slice of basil pizza bread and a slice of pumpkin cake. We then went into a cafe to rest our feet and had very fancy (and expensive) and decadent mocha coffees.

After lunch we set off to find a subway stop but continued to see shrine after shrine on the way.

We did find the Nishi-Nippori subway stop, got tickets again, rode down to Hibiya switched trains and went to Ginza.
Ginza is super high class and expensive. The store fronts are elaborate and beautiful! We walked through taking in the fancy people and stores, a stark contrast from our morning of modest people and somber shrines.

We walked South through Ginza to the Hama Rikyu Detached Place Gardens. We paid Y3 each and even got free audio devices to tell us about the gardens as we walked. We even in the winter season we saw beautiful Cherry Blossom trees, Camella's, Narcissus, Daphne, Yulan and Forsythia blooming. Also in the garden/not blooming were pine trees, nettle trees, Japanese Apricots, hydrangeas, azaleas, crape mertles, peonies, amaryllis, and red maples. In addition to the beautiful ponds, plants and flowers there is a rich history from the Edo period.

After touring the gardens we walked back into Ginza to the Kabuki-za Theater to see a one act play.
We stopped and bought bento boxes on the way, which later proved to be inedible.

Kabuki was made popular in the 17th century and is known for the all-male cast, and to be very flamboyant with gaudy costumes. We saw Domyoji and it was ... different. It was an experience I'm glad I got to do, but I think something was definitely lost in translation. The Japanese LOVE their Kabuki and I am happy to have participated in this tradition.

We were exhausted and got on the subway one more time to get back to the Hiro-0 stop and walked back to the hotel. It was a day I will never forget!

Now we're off to see the Imperial Place, the Tokyo Tower and lots more no doubt! I'll tell you all about it. Tomorrow we fly out of Narita Airport to Okinawa, our new home.

PS -- Well, I hope this makes sense, I didn't get to re-read it much because Boots is ready to roll!


Kelli said...

Your time in Tokyo sounds absolutely amazing!! I am glad you had a safe flight there. I really look forward to reading your blog!! My husband and I will start the application process soon to move to Japan, so I can't wait to see what all you like while you are there. :)

PS - I can't wait to see pictures!

Aliya said...

I am so happy and excited for you!! This sounds like a wonderful beginning to your adventures in Japan!! :)

Mary said...

So great! You and Boots really know how to take the most in from a city. Major props to you for being able to navigate yourselves around and even finding coffee. :)

Time changes confuse me, but I think you might actually be on your way or even IN Okinawa by now. So welcome home!

I miss you of course my dear, never forget that I think about you always.

P.S. Hot Hair did very well tonight. :)