Norwegian version: Reisebrev fra Tokyo, reisen og ankomst, dag 1
The Karate Kid had been nagging us about Japan ever since he started training Karate. He bought himself a book to learn Japanese. The Kid goes “all in”, well, for a while anyways. You can imagine his joy when he on Christmas Eve (we are Norwegian, we do the gifts on Christmas eve.) opened the last gift under the tree. He was squatted on the floor in the living room at my in-laws lovely house in Spain, and he really didn’t see it coming. Sir Nerdalot and I had done a great job in writing off all the Kid’s nagging with “I’d also like to visit Japan, but it’s too expensive” or “it’s just too far”.
The Kid thought we were all done with the gifts, when someone pointed out one simple, white envelope hidden behind the Christmas tree. It had only the Kid’s name on it. No “Merry Christmas”, no cute Christmassy drawings of elves and Santa or reindeer. Just his name. Plain and simple.
He looked dumbfounded while he opened the envelope, pulled out the papers inside, and read quietly to himself. It took him a while before he understood what the heck the papers were all about.
-Airplane tickets? He asked.
-Yes it is, said Sir Nerdalot, and continued: – But airplane tickets to where?
The Kid intensely stared at the itinerary and hotel bookings in his hands. He had a hard time concentrating on the letters, on pulling them together to words, and even worse; to make any sense of the words. Not that he can’t read, in fact he reads very well, but his head was already spinning with the realization that he was gifted a travel. That itself was exciting enough to throw him for a loop.
– What? Eeerrr… Narita…. huuuuuuhhh……. TOKYOOOOOOOO!
After his brain had successfully computed the full extent of what he was actually holding, he went into complete tearing-snorting-hulking-laughing-jumping-running around himself-hugging everyone two, three times-overload.
Hours later we went to bed, knowing full well that The Christmas gift of the year, had been a success. The Kid had graciously told us so over and over. We had nailed it. Like totally!
Six months later, it was finally time for departure for The Greatest City in the World, and an early morning one at that. We are a family built for comfort, so we had booked a parking spot for our car at the airport. When you are going on a long haul, you might be well advised to take note of exactly where you have parked your car – or even better, pull out your smartphone and snap a couple pictures of the whereabouts of your car. That way you don’t have to walk around the parking house for hours looking for your car when you return. This might not sound like the biggest problem in the world, but when you return all jetlagged and exhausted from a well spent vacation, you’ll appreciate that you had taken the time to snap some photos of where the car is. (Make sure you include parking space number or any helpful directions in your series of pics)
When departing at stupid o’clock huge amounts of java poured down Old Mamasan’s throat is crucial. I admit that I am not the friendliest person in the morning, and depriving me of coffee will make a bad situation even worse. You will not talk to me before my first installment of java is complete. And if you have the audacity to attempt to do so, you will, as a best case scenario, get a grunt and a “Stupid.” as response.
My travel companions, the Kid and Sir Nerdalot, are well aware of the situation, and made sure that Old Mamasan was amply fueled on the ol’ java. They even threw in some breakfast and a travel guide. I have trained them well.
First leg done, and in Frankfurt there was ample time to refuel with a bucket of coffee (and a Pretzel – because when in Germany etc.) before the 11 hour flight across Russia. I don’t care what airline you travel with, or how much you paid for your ticket, in-flight coffee tastes like the mucus that seeps out from the warts on a dead man’s sweaty feet. I will normally switch to tea on flights, as it is easy to disguise the horrid taste with milk and sugar. Lots of sugar.
We arrived at Narita at 7.30 in the morning, and went to collect the portable Wi-Fi we had booked. It is not customary with free Wi-Fi at all cafes, restaurants and bars in Tokyo (there is Wi-Fi available at Starbucks and McDonalds, but we weren’t planning on spending much time at such places), so renting a portable Wi-Fi to carry with you while exploring this wonderful city is recommended. If, for nothing else, then to be able to utilize Google Maps so you don’t get lost at the crossroads of Tokyo. You can find information about this practical thingamajigger here.
Narita is located quite far away from Tokyo, and you can take a taxi, train or a bus into the city. We chose bus as we did not know the train or metro-system, and wasn’t quite sure how far we’d have to drag our luggage from the metro station to the hotel. The bus turned out to be a good choice, as it took us all the way to the hotel entrance. We bought the tickets at the airport. Sir Nerdalot had done his homework and knew exactly how this worked, because he had read up on this webpage.
A morning arrival, even with a 2 hour commute from the airport, is impractical as we were too early to check in to the Shiba Park Hotel at Minato (very good and central location, yet nice and quiet), so we put our luggage into the hotel’s storage room. We had a couple hours to kill and found it best to keep moving as we were dead tired after traveling for half a day and halfway around the world.
Right by our hotel we found the Buddhist temple Zōjō-ji. Quite jet-lagged, we were unaware that we entered through Sanmon, which symbolizes the three stages you must go through to achieve Nirvana. There will be more about this in a later post, as we returned to take a closer look when we were not so tired that we could hardly see. (And yes, that is the Tokyo Tower to the right in the photo. I found the contrasts between new and old very fascinating throughout our visit in Tokyo.)
We were starting to get hungry as well, so we more or less stumbled into the first food-place where it looked like they might serve lunch, in this case a very nice and cozy café/bakery in the Le Pain Quotidien-chain. (French for “the Daily bread”) Good food, good latte and freshly pressed juices. (There are also detox-choices on the menu, if you are inclined to buy into that hoax.)
After lunch we checked in to the hotel, and slept away the rest of the day.
After some sleep we went back out in the evening to get dinner. Half a year in Spain had made us too continental for Tokyo as most restaurants had already closed for the evening. Be aware of that when visiting Tokyo, the fashionable late dinner won’t work – unless you are willing to settle for the international chain-restaurants.
As a nice ending of the evening we walked up to Tokyo Tower, which was built in the 1950’s when post-war Japan was building monuments to symbolize the Modern Japan. Tokyo Tower is 13 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It is a giant tourist-trap, but a fun tourist-trap. We took the elevator to both observation decks at 150 and 250 meters above ground, and were amply rewarded with a beautiful view of the city.