Tokyo Bound

It's June 15th and our trip to Japan is finally under way!

Our flight left O'Hare at 12:10...we were seated upstairs on the 747..and all prepared (as much as we could be) for the longest flight we ever took; 11.5 hours! There is actually a 14 hour time difference, and we crossed the international Date Line! Narita was nice; most signs were in Japanese and English! At the baggage check Wayne said "Konichiwa" ("Hello") and the agent asked (in English) "Do you speak Japanese?" "Just konichiwa", he replied. But the agent was very friendly. Got on board the hotel's shuttle ("Friendly Limo") for the 90 minute ride to the Imperial Hotel in downtown Tokyo. Our first big surprise was that they drive on the left! Who knew? On board, announcements were made in Japanese and English. The friendly female voice said "Please do not use portable phones on the bus as they annoy the neighbors."!!! We love this country.

At first sight, Tokyo looks a lot like New York, but with a Japanese accent. Lots of friendly helpful people in the hotel...even some ladies whose only job appears to be to push the elevator button for you and then bow as you get in. In our room the beds were small, but the robes fit nicely (they must have been designed for shorter people like us!). It was about 4 pm, so we decided to walk in the garden across the street.

Even though we had umbrellas and rain coats, it was raining too hard (rainy season!) so we had to come back in after only 15 minutes. We decided just to eat in the hotel, so we went to the top floor Teppanyaki. There we had Japanese beer, scallops, sea bass with mushrooms, salad, veggies, garlic rice, miso soup, and tea. We must have been hungry! All this for 112,000 Yen. Then we headed to bed even though it was only 8:00 (who knows what time it was on our bodies).

Friday, June 16: aarrgghh!!! Woke up to a pouring rain! Oh well..time to eat again: the traditional hotel breakfast buffet! There was a choice of Japanese foods plus Western foods (waffles, pancakes, bacon, omelettes, fruit, toast, and the ever popular chocolate croissant!). Then it was off to Ueno Park (think NY's Central Park, the park in Barcelona, the one in Madrid, Rome, Florence, San Diego's Balboa Park...same idea). This one had several museums which we sort of zoomed through (boring plus no air conditioning, so they were stifling). Came out and it was still raining.

Time for lunch! We went to an authentic Japanese restaurant. How authentic? a) shoes off b) we were the only non-Japanese there c) menu COMPLETELY in Japanese (though with pictures)   d) sat on the floor. Wayne ordered the basic Bento box and Wendy had the deluxe Bento box. They came in about 2 minutes and were sooooo beautiful. But as we ate, it was "What's this?" "What's this?" "Do you know what that is?" " idea." Even after we ate some of the things we still didn't know! But of course there was rice and miso soup. Then, more walking and it finally stopped raining. Oh yeah...we got there an back by train (not subway). It was actually easy to figure out: announcements in English, not crowded (despite all those "stuff 'em in the subway" pictures we've seen), and very clean.

Back to the changed for dinner - finally going to meet the rest of the tour group! Our tour guide, Larry, announced that anyone who was interested should be in the lobby at 5:45 am for a special (off tour) visit to the big Tokyo Fish Market. We're in!

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