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Introduction: Welcome to my journal. I wrote in this journal every night of my trip, detailing all the exciting places I visited and things I saw while in Japan. If you encounter any unfamiliar Japanese words, be sure to check the list below for a translation.
Note: There was a large earthquake in Tokyo on Saturday, July 23, the day before we arrived in Japan. I saw videos of the earthquake on the news on Sunday in our hotel in Narita, but we were not in Japan at the time of the earthquake
Date: Sun, Jul 24
Location: Narita Airport Washington Hotel - Narita, Japan
Japan rocks! I am sitting here in my room at the Washington Hotel in a yukata, watching a samurai drama in Japanese on the TV. I just had dinner at the hotel restaurant that consisted of a beef bowl (which was delicious) and miso shiru. The hotel is nice, but not too expensive, and is a 5-10 minute shuttle ride from the airport. The airport is huge, though, and I can see parts of it from my window here on the 7th floor, along with other hotels in the area, like the Narita View and the Excel Hotel Tokyu.
I'm exhausted, as this has been an incredibly long day, although it began on Friday morning and will soon be ending on a Sunday evening. The day that lasted a whole weekend, from the 4-hour drive each way to Bucknell and back to pick up Scott, to the trip to the Waterfront with Mike and Doug to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to the early 6am flight from Pittsburgh to Chicago and even earlier arrival at the airport, to the exhausting airport limbo in Chicago between flights, to the marathon 13 hour flight across the upper northern hemisphere that has brought Scott and I to Japan. And so, the adventure of a lifetime begins. I hope we survive, and have enough money to survive.
I'm gonna settle my bags for cross-country travel, then get some sleep. Tomorrow, we'll take the shuttle back to the airport, try to make reservations for a place to stay in Tokyo, then we'll take a trip into the big city.
From my initial observations, Japan is simultaneously very much like America yet not quite the same. It is very familiar yet very exotic. So far, the Japanese appear to be very professional and very polite. I am excited to explore further into this country.
Date: Mon, Jul 25
Location: Suzuki Ryokan - Nippori, Tokyo, Japan
We have reserved a cozy little room for two nights at the Suzuki Ryokan right outside the JR Station at Nippori in Tokyo. Staying here is just like living in a dorm, although much more Japanese. We have to leave our shoes at the door when we come in; we've got futon rolled out onto the floor in our room; and there's a Japanese-style bath.
We spent the day acclimating ourselves to the train system in Tokyo. But we started out at our hotel near the airport in Narita. We had breakfast at the airport then made reservations for this ryokan at the tourist desk, and took the Narita Express into Tokyo.
What I saw of Japan's countryside on the train ride was beautiful. The plants were exotic, but not entirely alien compared to plants in America. The houses looked crowded in, but still quaint and cozy. Then the countryside transformed into city, and that's where we've been since.
After finding the ryokan and checking in, we took the train to Shinjuku and visited a hot bootleg store called Lighthouse, which was tucked into a small room on the 9th floor of the Daikan Plaza A building in Shinjuku. They had everything in terms of bootlegs there - DVD, CD, vinyl, and all of the greatest bands. They had lots of signed items by the famous musicians that have been known to have shopped there - among them, Jimmy Page. I got a DVD performance of Greendale, a DVD of Led Zeppelin's Earl's Court show, a DVD of Pink Floyd performing The Wall, Neil Young's Journey Through the Past film, and a couple bootleg CD's. I'm worried that I might not have enough money now to make it to the end of the trip! That bootleg shop is heaven!
Afterward, we had dinner at a noodle bar in Shibuya, then got lost in the surrounding districts before getting to experience just how packed the Tokyo train system can get on our ride back to the ryokan. Now it's pouring outside, for the first time on our trip. It's been hot and muggy - very. I'm gonna take a shower and get to bed. Since we have this place booked for tomorrow night, too, we don't have to hunt for a place to stay and can spend the day focused on exploring Tokyo!
Countryside (1600x1200) |
Suzuki Ryokan 1 |
Suzuki Ryokan 2 |
Suzuki Ryokan 3 |
Date: Tue, Jul 26
Location: Suzuki Ryokan - Nippori, Tokyo, Japan
It's only 7pm, but wow, what a day! I woke up around 8ish, and took the shower I ended up not getting last night, and Scott and I decided to find some breakfast in Shibuya. We got a great opportunity to experience what a taifu is like in Japan. It was pouring when we left the ryokan, and lucky for me, the innkeeper let me borrow a house kasa. We had some meat over rice style dishes (which are excellent in Japan) at a Yoshinoya in Shibuya, but we saw at least two other Yoshinoya's elsewhere in Tokyo today.
I'm a little disappointed because I haven't seen as much variety in the jidouhanbaiki as I was expecting. They're a lot more varied than in America, but not as much as I imagined. I had a Tea Soda at the airport a couple days ago - it was so-so. It tastes exactly like it sounds. Imagine tea as a soda and that's what it tasted like. Well, today I found a tasty milk/cocoa drink at a vending machine, and I was looking for another one all day; eventually I found something similar at one of the JR train stations.
So after breakfast, we decided to check out the Parco department buildings in Shibuya. It wasn't too exciting, though - they *are* department buildings, after all. Then we rode the train around the loop to the opposite side of Tokyo to see Akihabara - Electric Town. We got there around noonish or shortly after. Ironically, it was pouring while we were in Akihabara - rain in electric town - but that didn't hinder the experience at all.
Let me just say two things about Akihabara. It is the world capital of anime and video games in addition to electronics. And Akihabara on any given day is infinitely better than any anime convention in America. I was overwhelmed and we didn't even see a fraction of what the area had to offer. Buildings with multiple floors of shops and merchandise, whole floors dedicated to arcade games, and all the anime/manga/video game merchandise you could ever possibly want!!! My ecstasy was rivaled only by my sheer disappointment at how I had already spent way too much money on bootlegs the day before. I did pick up a few cheap but satisfying souvenirs, though. Oh yeah, and there were lots of those UFO Catcher machines with all kinds of prizes, many anime-related, like action figures and models. And in the basement of one of the buildings was a shop that one person I know would kill to have been able to see. Scott and I were a little too creeped out to browse around, though. It was hentai heaven... I even saw some cosplay maids in one place. Oh, to have more time to explore all the nooks and crannies, and to have the money to spend on all the pretty things. One could lose a fortune on those UFO Catcher machines, though, and with little to show for it.
So then we started to think about where to go tomorrow, since tonight is the last night we have booked at this ryokan. So we headed to the Tourist Information Center in the Kotsu Kaikan Building right across from JR's Yurakucho Station (one stop south of Tokyo Station), and got a ryokan in Kyoto booked for the next three nights. So tomorrow we'll be taking the shinkansen to Kyoto to explore the cultural center of Japan for a few days. And our next adventure of the day was a good introduction to that experience.
Scott asked me if there was anywhere else in Tokyo I'd like to see, so I mentioned that it'd be nice to see the infamous Tokyo Tower, and off we went. We got off at the closest JR station (Hamamatsucho) and deciphered the route to the tower on the station's map, only to walk out of the station and see the tower looming up ahead of us, behind some tall buildings. As we advanced toward the tower, we passed by the Shiba Daimon gate which arched over the street, and took a detour around the side of the temple Zojoji, looking out of place among the busy streets surrounding its peaceful grounds. The temple was large and very impressive. Not as large as the skyscrapers all around, but much more impressive, partly due to the unique historical architecture, and with a nice environment around, what with the local shrubbery instead of steel and concrete.
We explored a little park just before Tokyo Tower, and I found a cool little shrine at the top of a wooded hill that was dangerously slippery from the rain. And just beyond that park was the tower itself, in all it's massive glory.
After that expedition, we headed back to the ryokan, utterly exhausted. I've got a bit of a headache and my muscles feel like pulled pork, but I'm having a real blast. And now I'm dry, although I'm not sure if I was drenched with sweat or rain, but it was probably both.
Now we're gonna get some chow to fuel our tired bodies, then get some rest and prepare for Kyoto tomorrow!
Tower Shrine 1 |
Tower Shrine 2 |
Tokyo Tower (1200x1600)
Date: Wed, Jul 27
Location: Ryokan Hiraiwa - Kyoto, Japan
We have the Ryokan Hiraiwa booked for the next three nights here in Kyoto. Compared to the Suzuki Ryokan, which was practically just a house with guest rooms being rented out, this one is much more professional, but as a result, a little bit less rustic and, dare I say, authentic. However, it is a nice place, and the Japanese experience is preserved, from the genkan where you take your shoes off, to the tatami rooms and rolled-up futon. I have yet to check out the bath.
Last night, we were in a very different city, back in Tokyo, and we rounded off our visit to the city with a mere glimpse of a slightly darker (but by no means sinister) side of Tokyo by means of a shady ramenya in Ueno. This morning, we took the shinkansen straight across the majority of the southern stretch of Honshu (Japan's largest and main island), leaving the bustling Tokyo Station and arriving at the impressively constructed Kyoto Station, which doubles as a mall, and has a magnificent skyroof and shiny shimmering sides. Oh, and we caught a magnificent but fleeting glimpse of Japan's largest volcano, Mt. Fuji, while riding the shinkansen from the current capital to the historic capital of Japan.
We lugged our bags a few grueling blocks to the ryokan, where we checked in and then spent the rest of the day wandering in circles around Kyoto - the station *and* the city. Already, Scott likes Tokyo better, and I like Kyoto better. Kyoto's less crowded, and it's more open, with less high-rise steel and concrete, and it's got a more relaxed atmosphere. And I'm excited about getting to explore some of the temples/shrines/castles/gardens/whatnot that Kyoto has to offer. Scott, however, prefers the efficient and convenient subway/train lines and myriad cheap food joints that can be found in Tokyo. In the end, he's more of a big city person than I'd ever care to be. Maybe it's the space, maybe it's the air, maybe it's the people, or maybe it's just the great weather (sunny with a nice breeze) we had today, but I feel more comfortable in Kyoto, almost at home, if it weren't for the fact that I'm a white-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed American in a country of dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed Asians. And I still wish I had a better grasp of the Japanese language. One thing I am constantly reminded of on this trip is the fact that, despite any claims or beliefs to the contrary, I don't know Japanese. But even so, that's not keeping me from having a great time here. Just remember, English is bigger in Japan than Japanese is in America! Now I will try to get some rest, and tomorrow I will see just how long I can persuade Scott to hike around visiting temples and gardens...
Mt. Fuji (1600x1200) |
Ryokan Hiraiwa 1 |
Ryokan Hiraiwa 2 |
Japanese Toilet |
Date: Thu, Jul 28
Location: Ryokan Hiraiwa - Kyoto, Japan
Today was an exciting day for me, and it involved a lot of walking and a lot of sun. My skin is beginning to show it, too. In America, it seems like the only time people use umbrellas to block the sun is at the beach or on a patio table. But in Japan, it's no unusual sight to see people walking through the streets holding dark umbrellas and hiding in their shade, though it seems to be more of a female thing.
We took a day trip to Nara, which is less than an hour away from Kyoto by shinkansen, because I wanted to see the great temple of Todaiji. We ended up stopping over at some nowhere city to change trains, though, and had breakfast there. It was a quiet little town, and there were some kids playing in a baseball field, and I saw a pool in the distance. But what really caught my attention was the sound of the bell for the railroad crossing, which reminded me of the ultra-psychotic scenes of Evangelion!
After arriving in Nara, we hiked a few blocks to what turned out to be a large park full of temples and other historical locales and artifacts. There were friendly deer all around, and you could go right up and pet them. In fact, some were basking on the curb right next to the street where cars were zooming past and they didn't even seem to notice! Anyway, the real sight was the temples, primarily Todaiji, which is huge, and hosts an enormous Buddha statue. But as impressive as it was, I preferred the astounding view of the cityside from a smaller shrine up on the hillside of the local Mt. Wakakusa. I took lots of pictures today.
On the way back through the city to the train station, we did the usual hanging out at vending machines and checking out the local arcades and playing UFO Catcher machines. We hung out at the massive Kyoto Station for a bit before heading back to the ryokan, stopped at a ramenya and took in the expansive view of Kyoto and the surrounding mountainsides from the high-up skyway in the station. My camera's batteries died, though, so I'm determined to go back again and take some pictures.
Now I'm sitting back in the ryokan, munching on some typical Japanese junk food, consisting of a ramen-flavored hard, dry noodle snack and Pocky (last night I tried some melon bread - it was tasty), and watching some TV. There was some anime on earlier. Nothing real good, but all the same, it feels great watching anime in Japan, in Japanese, without subtitles. It's just one of those things you fantasize about, and now, it's happening! Japanese commercials truly are weird.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Kyoto, and there's still a lot I want to see, so I'm gonna get to bed shortly, maybe take a shower tonight instead of tomorrow morning so I can get up early and get a head start. Scott's already sound asleep... In two days, we'll get to visit Miyake-sensei and see her in her own country! Should be exciting!
Todaiji Gate |
Todaiji Entrance (1600x1200) |
Todaiji Main Hall 1 (1600x1200) |
Todaiji Main Hall 2 (1600x1200)
Buddha 1 (1200x1600) | Lucky Star Comparison - Daibutsu | Buddha 2 (1600x1200) | Buddha 3 | Todaiji Courtyard (1600x1200)
Camo Deer (1600x1200) | Bell Tower (1600x1200) | Mountain Shrine (1600x1200) | Mountain Shrine View
Tree Sign (1600x1200) | Deer In Field (1600x1200) | Lucky Star Comparison - Nara Park
Date: Fri, Jul 29
Location: Ryokan Hiraiwa - Kyoto, Japan
Today really felt like the climax of my trip to Japan, at least as far as sight-seeing goes. We got up bright and early, having crashed early the night before. On the way over to Kyoto Station, we stopped to check out the garden Shoseien, which we had been walking past the last few days, glancing at the Japanese medieval-style wall and the bamboo trees rising high from the wooded area just beyond. I was hoping to get to walk through a bamboo forest during this trip, but alas, the bamboo portion of the garden was not on display. The rest of Shoseien, however, was very scenic and beautiful, and there was also an amusing sign, or rather, a sign with an amusing English translation warning visitors to "Be careful of the bee."
At Kyoto Station, we looked for a place to eat on the ramen floor, since Scott is always hungry, but it didn't look like any of the ramenya were open in the morning. So we hopped on a JR train to Inari station in southern Kyoto to check out the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, famed for its lengthy tunnels of torii, the red gates that mark the territory of a Shinto shrine. It was an impressive sight, and I'd like to go back there someday and follow the tunnels as far as they go.
Then we hopped on a train back to Kyoto station and had lunch at a ramenya. Afterward, we rode the shinkansen to Maibara and took a local train to Hikone and visited Hikone Castle, which sits atop a hill overlooking the city, the surrounding hills, and Japan's largest lake, Lake Biwa. The castle was impressive, as was the view, and had a real imperial air. Every now and then I would imagine what it would be like in the ancient days when the castle guards would have to defend themselves against intruders. The architecture is not only beautiful but strategically designed. We also strolled through the garden below the castle, which offered a great view of the castle peeking up over the trees, commanding the countryside.
But before returning to the station and heading back to Kyoto, I wanted to get closer to the great Lake Biwa, so I convinced Scott to walk a little further in that direction, and luckily the coast wasn't far from the castle (though Scott might tell you differently). We walked out onto the harbor at Hikone Port and took in the view. The lake was more like a small sea. It was a hazy day (Scott kept saying it was gonna rain, and it felt like it for a bit, but it never did), and you could just barely make out the hills on the horizon at the other end of the lake. Even though it wasn't the ocean, it felt like the ocean and it made me long for the ocean. The vast expanse of water, the rhythmic crashing of waves (albeit tiny ones), and the breeze made for a calming atmosphere. I made a point to walk onto the edge of a beach and dip my hand in the water before turning my back and walking back to the station.
When we got back to Kyoto Station by shinkansen, it was already getting late - around dinner time - so we went to another ramenya at the station (actually the same one as the other day). Scott pointed out a counter which I had not noticed, that was serving takoyaki. I couldn't possibly pass this opportunity up. I ordered a whole set of eight balls, and I ate every last one of them. Takoyaki is basically a small piece of octopus, wrapped up in a ball of fried dough. They're not bad. The octopus, suckers and all, was chewy, but it didn't have a strong taste, so you hardly noticed it, except that you had to chew it quite a bit. To me, it seemed like the dough and toppings were the real star of the takoyaki, not the octopus, but then again, I generally don't like seafood, so maybe I'm missing some subtlety of the flavor or something. Still, eating octopus was an exciting experience for me!
After that, we headed back to the ryokan. We check out tomorrow, and take the shinkansen to Nagoya, to visit Miyake-sensei! So I have to get my things in gear and get them packed and ready for the grueling walk to the train station...that's not going to be fun. But it will be exciting seeing Miyake-sensei again, and getting to experience typical Japanese home life!
Shoseien: Tower Far (1600x1200) | Bridge Close (1600x1200) | Tower Close (1600x1200) | Land and Water (1600x1200)
Ripples | Lilypads | Water Cave | Bridge Far (1600x1200) | Be careful of the bee | Earth and Sky | Koi Pond | Magic Koi
Kyoto Station: Kyoto Station 1 (1200x1600) | View from the Skyway | Kyoto Station 2 (1200x1600) | Lucky Star Comparison - Kyoto Station
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine: Torii-way (1200x1600) | Torii Head | Kitsune Gate | Torii Tunnel (1600x1200) | Entrance Torii 1 | Entrance Torii 2
Hikone: Cleft | Lookout View | Lookout Cliff (1200x1600) | Posing with a Tanuki | Bamboo Grove (1200x1600) | Rakurakuen
Genkyuen 1 | Genkyuen 2 | Castle Moat 1 (1600x1200) | Castle Moat 2 (1600x1200) | Castle Moat 3 (1600x1200) | Castle Command
Lake Biwa Island (1600x1200) | Lake Biwa Left | Lake Biwa Right | Lake Touch | Octopus
Date: Sat, Jul 30
Location: Miyake Residence - Toyotashi, near Nagoya, Japan
Here we are in Nagoya, actually a place called Toyotashi near Nagoya - apparently it's Toyota City, and the name is an apt description of the place. Tonight we are staying with Miyake-sensei and her family, who are very friendly and have made an effort to enrich our experience of being in Japan.
We started the morning out in Kyoto, back at the Ryokan Hiraiwa, where we checked out around 10am, actually closer to 9. Then we made the grueling walk to Kyoto Station with our heavy bags. I really got a workout carrying those things. We caught the 10:00 shinkansen to Nagoya, and met Miyake-sensei at Nagoya Station around 11ish. It was nice to see her again. We then took the subway toward Toyotashi, where Miyake-sensei lives, and she drove us the rest of the way to her house.
After dropping off our luggage and meeting the Miyake family over a lunch of sandwiches and french fries (called fried potatoes in Japan), Miyake-sensei took us to an arts and crafts center for a crash course in the history and making of washi. We checked out a museum of beautiful washi artwork, and even got to make our own!
Then we headed back to the house and rested for a bit before heading out to dinner. We stopped first at a Shinto shrine on a nearby mountain (the characters for which apparently mean 'throw the monkey'), where we were taught how to pray. Then we stopped at a book store on the way, and got a drive-by tour of the Toyota buildings and stadium. We had dinner at a kaitenzushi place - one of those sushi restaurants with the conveyor belt that goes around carrying all kinds of sushi and you just take what you want and they calculate the bill at the end by counting the number of plates of each color. I'm not a huge fan of sushi, but it was an exciting meal, and I tried some interesting things. It was definitely a lively place, and obviously very popular.
We stopped at a mall/super-market on the way back to the house and picked up some ice cream at a konbini - I had the green tea flavor. Back at the house, it was time for the traditional Japanese evening bath, and as one of the guests, I got to go first. Afterward, I chatted with the Miyake family while watching a quirky movie on TV called Water Boys. Having gotten late, it is now time to go to sleep, especially since we're getting up tomorrow at 6:30am! We'll be having a Japanese breakfast before heading out to check out the Aichi Expo.
Washi 1 |
Washi 2 |
Washi 3 |
Date: Sun, Jul 31
Location: Comfort Hotel - Narita City, Japan
Our trip has taken something of an unexpected turn. Well, I can't say that it was entirely unexpected, but that we were hoping it wouldn't come to this. At least it's not as bad as it could have been. At least we have a place to sleep tonight, and a place to shower in the morning.
Speaking of morning, I woke up this morning bright and early at 6:30am, actually, more like 7am, and had breakfast with the Miyake family, which seemed to be half western-style (sausage and eggs) and half-Japanese-style (gohan and miso shiru). Then, Scott, Miyake-sensei, and I headed out to the Aichi Expo being held in Nagoya, Japan for 2005. According to the characters in Aichi, it's a "love the globe" kind of affair, and it's focused on energy concerns and nature and learning to coexist with our ecosystem - not destroy it. There were sections and buildings designated for different countries and parts of the world. At first, we explored the India exhibit, which had decorations and descriptions focused on a cultural story involving a flower girl that can turn into a tree and bear beautiful flowers. There was also lots of information about Buddhism.
At 10am, we headed to the central building, the Global House, for a special presentation. It was a film about the aforementioned concerns - energy, nature, coexisting with the ecosystem - but it was projected with special lasers onto a huge screen that was *really* wide. It was called the Laser Dream Theater, and the presentation was very moving. After that, we were shuffled onto a moving platform from which we could see a wooly mammoth skull imported from Russia.
Following the anticlimactic "Mammoth Lab", as it was called, we headed over to the America Pavilion to watch a very interesting interactive filmstrip about Benjamin Franklin. Well, it was interesting in that we got to hear Benjamin Franklin talking in Japanese and at one point grooving to some hip-hop, and interactive in that the seats rumbled and lights flashed and even some misty water fell upon us to imitate the thundery conditions involved in Mr. Franklin's infamous kite experiment. And the kite actually flew out of the screen at the end, or at least appeared to, as there was a real kite that jetted across the ceiling. It was fun.
At that time, it was getting to be noon, so we met up with Miyake-sensei's parents who had brought lunch, bento-style, which included miso katsu don and onigiri, among other things. Then we all wandered a bit together, braved the packed souvenir shop, and then took the mag-lev train to the parking garage where we paid Mister Donut a visit before heading toward Nagoya Station to catch the shinkansen back east. It was a beautiful day, though very hot, but it started to rain a little on the way to the station, and there was a ton of traffic, so it took a while to get there. It was kind of sad leaving Miyake-sensei, even though we had only been with her for a day, but it was really nice meeting her family, who are great people, and I hope that fate leads me to see them all again someday.
But at that moment, Scott and I were focused on getting on that shinkansen back toward Tokyo to get as close to Narita Airport as we could, since our JR passes (giving us unlimited rides on JR trains) expired today. We decided to come all the way back to Narita, and find a place to stay in Narita for our final two nights in Japan. The problem was, the shinkansen ride to Tokyo took longer than we had planned, and the Tourist Office was closed by the time we got there. So we tried making reservations directly with the hotel we stayed at in Narita last week. They were full. So we tried calling the Tourist Office at Narita Airport which was open later than the one in Tokyo (thanks to the Lonely Planet guide for providing the phone number!). Turns out that for some reason a lot of the hotels in the area were already booked full for tonight. But the lady on the phone did give me a number for a cheap dormitory, which ended up having some space. I called them to get directions, but they were a little vague. We weren't even sure which station to get off at, but we eventually determined it was the Narita Station - not the airport, but the city of Narita itself.
So we walked out of the station at Narita, luggage in hand, it was already around 8 or 9ish, and we were following vague directions to a place we didn't even know the full name of. We quickly determined that we were in a rather shady part of Japan, after passing what looked to be multiple strip joints, and in a single block no less, one of which most conspicuously displayed a sign that read "No Entry Foreigners" in English. We got tired of looking for our ghost dormitory, and eventually gave in and paid a cool 10,000 yen (about $100) for a double room in a shady Comfort Hotel (not a Comfort Inn, like in America, but a Comfort Hotel). At least we've got a room and a bathroom for the night, although we are getting seriously low on cash (luckily we only need to survive a little bit longer).
So, the plan is, more or less, we'll get up tomorrow morning and check out, pay for the train to Narita Airport (which isn't far so it shouldn't be expensive), then we'll try to book a place for our last night in Japan, in Narita, close to the airport. Then we'll check in, find some way to occupy ourselves for our last day in Japan, get some sleep, and then the adventure in airport limbo begins again, but this time, the destination is home!
Hitachi Building |
Aichi Expo |
The Elusive Footbridge
Date: Mon, Aug 01
Location: Narita View Hotel - Narita, Japan
And our Japan trip has finally come full circle. We have come back to Narita airport, and are staying in a nearby hotel for our last night in Japan, not far and not dissimilar from the hotel we spent our first night in Japan in, just over a week ago (in fact, we have to take the same bus to get between the airport and this hotel as we did for the other hotel).
After checking out of the Comfort Hotel in Narita City this morning, our JR passes having run out, we took the non-JR Keisei subway line to the airport, where we booked our rooms for tonight. Then we finally got the extra bag we were meaning to get in order to take back all our precious souvenirs (well, mostly mine). We took the bus to the hotel and checked in. Then we pretty much spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in our rooms watching Japanese television and napping. There was a samurai movie on (in black and white), a Journey To The West related program, and even some anime, including Dragon Ball GT, Black Jack, and Detective Conan. And, of course, there were plenty of wacky commercials and crazy Japanese programming in between.
Having just about exhausted our supply of Japanese yen, we were getting hungry by dinner time and didn't have many options for getting food at the hotel. So we took the bus to the airport, exchanged some of the US cash I'd been holding on to as backup, and went in search of food. Just about all of the restaurants were closed or just closing up, so we ended up getting a few things at Lawson's, a konbini, at the airport - about the only place that was still open with food. They have really tasty karaage, which is basically chicken nuggets. I tried the reddo (red) and the chiizu (cheese) flavors - they were tasty. And, I had some more Van Houten Cocoa (a milk chocolate drink). Then we caught a late bus back to the hotel, watched some roulette bowling featuring one or more of the members of SMAP while I had some wonton ramen I bought at Lawson's, and now it's time to get some rest. Tomorrow morning, we gather up our stuff, then head over to the airport to prepare for our flight back to the United States of America. The flight departs tomorrow at 2:20pm, and we will make our final arrival back in Pittsburgh around 4pm that day, although we'll be in airport limbo for well over 12 hours between...
It's been one hell of a trip here in Japan. I've had a lot of fun, and it's been an experience I'll never forget. I'm sure I will return someday, though I am not yet making specific plans like Scott has already started doing. He has the advantage of actually being Asian, and many times this trip he has told me that he has been mistaken for being Japanese. I, on the other hand, no matter how much I assimilate myself into the culture, can never truly be Japanese, and I will never be able to just disappear into the crowd here. Even so, I like being here, and am dedicated to learning more Japanese, so I can understand things much better in Japan, like people and signs and menus. Japan is a really neat place, and there's still lots to see, not to mention the different seasons to experience. I have experienced the Japanese summer, which is very hot and can also be very rainy, but the most beautiful seasons in Japan are said to be Spring and Autumn, when the temperatures are mild and you have the sakura in the Spring or the colorful leaves of Autumn. At any rate, until I do come back to Japan, I am excited about watching more anime and reading more manga, and preferably more in Japanese, as my ability dictates.
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