Tokyo | March 31st – April 2nd
Miyajima | April 2nd – 4th
Himeji | April 4th – 5th
Kyoto | April 5th – 9th
Tokyo | April 9th – 10th
Fuji Five Lakes | April 10th – 13th
Tokyo | April 13th – 14th
The whole idea behind this trip involved photographing Sakura… the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival. And photograph we did. Even though we were slightly early for full blossom magnificence, they were still quite beautiful. We also photographed some spectacular scenery. It’s always good to come home with a couple of Mt. Fuji shots, right? And after returning home from this wonderful journey, I was surprised to discover that sometime during the adventure, my interest in the photography mission had somehow become intermixed with an interest in Japanese traditions and customs. You may discover, as we wend our way through Japan, some interesting photos of things and places that you’ve never seen, or perhaps unique differences and similarities of our respective customs and traditions. I silently chant my mantra: Keep an open, curious mind… it’s a good thing.
Let’s do this trip.
A good night’s sleep started our trip off right. Since there have been some, ummm, irregularities, and or delays, at american airports, we left our house at 8am for a 12noon flight, leaving ourselves three hours to contend with any “eventualities” that might have arisen. Fortunately, didn’t need it. Got through TSA pre-check easily as one of the thugs decided to single out this little old lady with a hip replacement just in front off us. Ran the poor ol thing through the magnetometer, the nekked x-ray machine, then gave her a… ahem… thorough pat down.
Why do they pick on older people? You give them any static, they’ll just delay you until you miss your flight to show you who’s boss.
On the plane. Will be here for the next eleven hours. I got pod 2-B, and on arrival found the seat piled high: fluffy blanket/comforter, pillow, “gift pack” with tooth brush, t’paste, sox, slippers, blinders for the eyes, and some other miscellaneous stuff to scatter about your nest.
Finally got settled, just starting to relax and… here comes lunch. Wow. I cannot recall ever being able to eat that much lunch. Had lots of left-overs… I wonder where does all that extra food (waste) go?
Our plane was a B-767ER. Let me tell you, the Boeing pods are not nearly as roomy or comfy as the Airbus pods. And they almost lie flat. (But not quite.) For eleven hours, though, it’s do-able and so much better than being trapped in a middle seat in the back. Here. Take my credit card, Please! Once you go to lay-flat pods in Business First, you can never return to your economy roots.
Landed Tokyu (that’s how they spell it) early in the afternoon the day after we took off, but that’s okay. We’ll make up for it on the return trip by getting home a couple of hours before we even took off. Crossing the International Dateline is confusing, isn’t it?
After clearing Customs and Immigration and Baggage we head for the door and immediately find Evan Pike, our english speaking American escort for the trip. Check out www.EvanPike.com when you get a chance. Backstory? Evan, a North Carolina boy and inveterate photographer, got a job teaching English to Japanese for a company in Japan. Taught several years. During his tenure, he fell in love with a local Japanese girl who became his bride. And the rest, as they say… is history. They have since relocated back the the U.S. and reside in Cary, North Carolina. Hmmm, I was just thinking… I would like to hear her-story some time,though, you know… for comparison.
Evan escorted us right to the correct bus (out of dozens), and voilá: a rainy, two-hour bus ride through the gray concrete canyons of Tokyo brought us to the Shibuya “neighborhood” and our hotel. (I hasten to add here that Even and his fluent Japanese and knowledge of the local turf saved the day for us for the first of about five thousand more times over the next couple of weeks… there were very few signs in English. Thanks, Evan.) The Shibuya Excel Hotel was quite a nice place. Tiny beds, but nice. Here’s the view looking through thick-paned glass to the street below:
The Famous Shibuya Crossing
On your marks…
GO ! ! !
The light has just changed and everyone is racing across the intersection. During the busy times of day, approximately 2500 people cross the street(s) every three and a half minutes. It was a veritable poster of orderly chaos.
As we settle in for the night, a couple of things come to mind about Japan:
It’s very crowded. That gives me an uneasy feeling. as I tend to lean toward wide open spaces, woods, and streams.
Hotel rooms are smaller here. Travel Tip: the smaller the living space, the more care required during unpacking.
Unlike many, many other places in the world that I’ve been, very few Japanese speak any English, at all. Language can be a barrier. Thank goodness (again) for Evan.
And then there’s the Japanese commode.
Get ready, americans, as this commode has a lid that automatically raises as you approach.
It has a heated lid that is temperature adjustable for your personal comfort, (Nice.)
And buttons. Several of them.
Some even shine a light into the basin and play a) music or b) birds chirping. Lush.
It’s only a suggestion, but I suggest you tourists study up on it before you even drop trou. No, really.
Best of luck, fellow travelers. Study up, as there’ll be a test tomorrow morning just after your morning coffee kick-starts your gut.
Plans for tomorrow, our first full day in Tokyo, are to idly hang around all day and acclimatize to the new time zone.
Will we rest and re-hydrate from our flight across the Pacific?
Addendum: these things are seemingly everywhere in Japan. After returning home, I began mulling over the possibilities… Since we’re in the design phase of building our new home, I thought I’d ask our builder and architect if there was an outside chance that I could have one shipped over to me and have them install it for me. Turns out that these lids are really becoming popular here in the U.S. In fact, the architect told me he had just spent the entire weekend installing one in his home. Keep an open mind, folks.