Japan

One of my favorite places I visited was Tokoyo Japan.  Air Canada had this ridiculous round trip airfare of $458 sometime ago, and we just had to hop on that deal and take advantage. I always wanted to go to Japan, and I figured this would be a good chance. I always had this vision of Japan, as this place lit up by neon lights and electronic stores in every corner, with sushi shops all over the place.  Well, my vision was almost right, but not quite.  Booking the trip was easy, as the deal was advertised on Expedia. Unfortunately, this deal was in coach, and any upgrades using Aeroplan miles was not possible. The route was PDX-YVR-NRT and the total travel time was something like 10 hours, which wasn’t too bad at all, considering we were in coach.  However, I would never do it again, unless I’m in business class or first.  The equipment was a Boeing 767-300 if I recall, and a stellar on-board staff.

Tokyo..Here I come!

After immigration and luggage retrieval, we boarded our bus to our hotel, which took about an hour.  The bus we chose was awesome, because it only cost $30.00USD to get from Narita to our hotel. It made several stops along the way at other hotels, but cost a fraction of what a cab may have cost if we took it. It was a nice scenic ride into the city anyways.

A nice scenic drive on our way to the Sunroute Plaza Hotel

First time I ever seen a Nissan Skyline.

I think one of the best memorable images I will have when arriving at Tokyo was this long line at Krispy Kreme donuts. I guess we take this stuff for granted here, but seriously folks…..it’s just Krispy Kreme! I guess living in Portland, we are spoiled with VooDoo, and Heavenly, so maybe in Tokyo this is just da bomb. Any note, it was interesting to see this, and the level of patience these folks had standing in line to sink their teeth into a warm, fat laden, piece of fried goodness. Wait…perhaps this could be a good thing.

Is this the end of the world as we know it?

This mall was across from our hotel, and it housed everything you would want.  There were different floors ranging from housewares, to a nice food court on top and in the basement.  The stores had the best customer service I had ever seen. I guess seeing the great customer service you get at Newark and LaGuardia (and yes I am being sarcastic), I was really amazed at this malls staff.  During our stay in Tokyo, we had picked up a couple of souvenir umbrellas at ampm, and we wanted to take it back with us. However, it wouldn’t fit in the suitcase, so the nice man at Tokyu Hands, who I might add could NOT speak a word of English, figured out our hand gestures about packing it for us.  Amazingly, he took both our umbrellas in the back, and came out after 10 minutes, with them packed into a nice box, with plastic handles. Now THAT is customer service. I don’t even think I ever got that level of service at Nordstroms. I was so happy, I wanted to buy him a McPork sandwich, and a green tea soft serve.

Shinjuku Distric

 

This view was from the top of the Park Hyatt Tokyo.  It was one of the best places to get a good view of the city, and that our guide knew about from Tokyo Free Guides. If you are visiting Tokyo for the first, I highly recommend them because its one less hurdle in your travel plans, and its a great way to make local friends.  They know the ins and outs of the city, and know how to get around, as they are local.  Check out my posting on this service.

Great view from the Park Hyatt Tokyo

Hustle and Bustle at Shinjuku Station

an IVF center? or a beer’s corporate headquarters? you decide.

 

It’s always fun to see how our fast food chains represent themselves outside our borders. McDonald’s was no different. They had the classics like the Big Mac and Quarter Pounder, but I was surprised to see the different local favorite —The McPork. The name just sounded funny to me, as it lacked the usual McDonald’s luster they label on their foods.  I steered clear of this place but I did notice a lot of folks inside though. Mostly, a young crowd, and a family of 4 that looked American. ( I think the Iowa State sweatshirt and flip flops gave them away)

I found this tea spot in Akihabra, and it was just amazing. They had a variety of loose leaf green tea for sale, and this green tea soft serve, that the wifey got addicted to. It was amazing, and cheap. We picked up a cone, and walked around, only to return for another cone. The server knew we would get hooked on it, as he knew a little English, and said “you come back…I know it”. I am thinking franchise and retirement!!

 

 

 

 

This cosmic looking submarine boat was pretty cool. Either this was the Justice League on leave, or some private underwater night club party boat, or none of the above. I just know there were girls in party dresses and heels boarding, so obviously, this looked to be one helluva party. I’ll have in inquire about renting this for my next party.

 

I think taking Tokyo by night is one of the funnest things to do.  I am not a bar hopper, but if you are, this place will keep you hoppin’ to the brink of dawn, and its pretty noticeable once you venture out of your hotel room.  We opted to hit the tourist sites, simply because it was our first time in Japan. We heard the famous Shibuya crossing was ‘big in Japan’, and we walked to it from our hotel.  Along the way, we noted the Japanese business crowds, as they left their offices after their standard 14 hour workday, and headed towards the bars, for a night of beer, bites, and business deals, we presumed. I asked our tour guide about this practice, and it seemed like it was a trend to go out drinking with the boss after work.  I bet there’s some serious butt kissing in this venture.  It was just fun watch the crosswalk turn green, and the onslaught of people cross like an ant trail. The best view came from the Starbucks across the street. At the crosswalk, I met these four Japanese guys, and one of them asked where we were from. I politely told him from the U.S, and he kinda looked confused at first- I guess they didnt learn about the whole melting pot scheme in school there.  Anyways, he was telling me they were on their way to Roppongi, where it’s really happening at night. It was a bit too far to walk I thought, and I decided it was time to head back and chill….the jet lag was still evident.

 

 

I learned that Colonel Sanders of KFC had settled in Akihabara, the electric part of Tokyo. There stood this tall statue of our beloved chicken master across from a Pachinko parlor. Akiba (short term name for the area) had every electronics imaginable. From stores selling tiny capacitors, to big named cameras, this place was it! There wasn’t enough time in the world to check out every shop in Chuo Dori. However, I did manage to hit Yodabashi Camera, and a hard to find collectors store located on the 5th floor of some office building, where I picked up my ANA 747-400 desktop model.  We finally found the The Maid Cafe, where these girls were dressed as French style chambermaids, and addressed customers as ‘master.  It was sorta funny, because we expected these Japanese girls dressed like those anime characters, but we were in for a surprise.  None of the girls were Japanese….One was from Brazil, another from the Czech Republic, and the rest from other countries.  We wanted to snap some photos with them, but were told NO NO.  More outrageous than the multinational maid roster here, was the prices at this place!  I think the only people I saw willing to pay their prices were these young college guys, who possibly just got testosterone shots before arrival.

Col. Sanders Pachinko investment

We walked around some more, and found a lil music venue of some upcoming pop stars. Not sure what they were singing, but they had a small audience, and we thought we give them some more cheers.  The guitarist looked like an overdosed Carrot-Top, and the vocalist had this cute lil hat on her head, that resembled a plastic toy found in the vending machines at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

One of our guides arranged so we could attend a real Japanese tea ceremony, in her community.  We were excited to see this first hands, as none of us ever experienced anything like this. Her name was Hiroko, and she explained to us the customs, the movements, and everything that is involved in it. I didn’t realize so much goes into it.

And no trip to Tokyo is complete, without a little planespotting from Narita’s Terminal 1  terrace.  I hope you enjoyed my trip report of Tokyo.!

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