My wife and I will finally visit Japan together later this year and in the process of planning that trip I came across my old journal from my travels with oka-san almost 6 years ago. I thought it would be interesting to serialize that trip with a number of Clayhaus Ruminations posts...tanoshimu!
In a Yellow Cab driven by a Haitian immigrant, watching a beautiful orange and blue fall sunrise, I head to to the airport. I do wish Bonnie was sitting beside me — as she normally would be — but I am looking forward to two weeks in Japan with oka-san. Tokyo, Nikko, Takayama, Kyoto, Nara and finally Kamakura are on our agenda. And between sushi and sake, imperial castles and shogunate memorials, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, bullet trains and ancient paths, I know we will have very memorable trip.
My flight to LAX is uneventful and after a couple of hours waiting in NWA's equivalent to Delta's Crown Room [in those days Northwest Airlines still existed and I was corporate traveler with beaucoup de Skymiles], mama-san finally shows up.
I have a most excellent seat on the plane — aisle, exit row, and no one in front of me — and mom lucks out as the Japanese guy next to me exchanges his seat for mom's. I doubt I would have done the same, but his karma bank is surely fuller than mine!
Considering the vast expanse of water we must cross, the flight seems relatively short: "only" eleven hours. It is smooth as well and I catch a few cat-naps — though no deep sleep — in between studying some Japanese and processing images from my last and very different trip: to Iceland.
Arriving in Narita in the late afternoon of the next day we are struck by how quiet the airport is...eerily so. Immigration and customs are a breeze and once the luggage is gathered up (always a stressful few minutes: Did my bag make the connection? And, if it didn't, how will it ever be delivered to me?) we troop over to the Japan Railways (JR) office where we exchange our rail vouchers for passes. [The JR pass is a convenient and usually cost-effective way to travel about the country.] The JR staff are incredibly pleasant, efficient, and helpful. I have a feeling that this is going to be a common refrain.
On our way to our train I find a watch and for a moment think about keeping it. Second thought: what would the Japanese do? Return it, which I did, to the ticketing agents. Note to self: while in Japan, score many karma points.
Later, whilst waiting to board the train to Tokyo, I see an Indian gent frantically looking for...something. A few minutes later he returns, big smile planted on face, holding his — and mine, so briefly — watch. I think of saying something to him, but why? No, let it go and perhaps be a bit of a happy mystery to him.
|Park Hotel, Tokyo|
It seems past time for dinner so I ask the concierge where we might find a restaurant open. He says "Why not eat in our restaurant?" Why not indeed! The food is exotic and wonderful and satisfying and yes, very tasty. I am going to like eating in Japan!
After dinner I feel my usual travel-related restlessness and we wander outside for a quick stroll. Neither of us lasts long and tiredness descends as quickly as our elevator rises. Sleep and a comfortable bed beckon and I yield.