Friday, October 2, 2015

Tokyo: How to Tempt the Fates (and a bunch of pictures)

Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) happened, so I figured it was time for another trip.

Destination: Tokyo.

When purchasing my ticket, I wanted to spend as much time in Japan as possible. Since I had a Monday and a Tuesday off of work, I figured I'd fly out on Friday night, stay in a guesthouse, and head into Tokyo on Saturday morning.

This worked out...barely. A couple of obstacles I encountered, and blessings (or fortunate circumstances, or what-have-you) that saved the day, included:


- The distance between my apartment and Incheon Airport (Seoul). I live in Gunpo, which is at least 1.5 hours from the airport via subway or bus.

- The final train that left Haneda Airport (Tokyo) departed at midnight. The plane landed at 11pm and taxied for 15 minutes (11:15pm)...followed by a ten minute period that included deplaning and taking a bus to the terminal (11:25pm)...followed by a 30 minute wait in the immigration line (11:55pm). Unless I wanted to take a really expensive taxi into town, there wasn't much room for error!


- In spite of the holiday weekend, the security line at Incheon was shorter than I'd ever seen. It took 10 minutes to get from the security entrance to my departure gate!

- I didn't check a bag. This is probably what saved my butt the most upon arriving in Tokyo.

- There was a woman at the JR ticket kiosk who could speak enough English to help me buy my ticket and rush me in the right direction.

With bag in hand, I ran to the information desk and picked up one of these:

If you're going to be in Tokyo for a few years, and you'll be using the subway a lot, please do yourself a favor and pick up one of these. Subway transit in Tokyo is expensive, and my subway trips exceeded 1500 yen within the first day, so this was worthwhile. Note: You can't buy these at a subway station. I got this at the airport, and there are a few other places you can pick them up.

Anyhow, I made it to the platform with about 2 minutes to spare before the train arrived. Close call!

After a 20 minute train ride, I walked to my guesthouse, where the receptionist was a Korean man who relocated to Japan. I must say, he was a bit surprised when I threw down some 한국말 (Korean). In any event, is was well past midnight and time to turn in.

Before checking out, I asked the receptionist (a Japanese man named Hajime) about where I could find breakfast. He suggested a place and lent me a bike.

The neighborhood, Shinagawa Shuku, was a neat little neighborhood.

If you see sausage on certain menus in Korea (and apparently now, Japan), it probably means hot dog.
You've been warned.
After I checked out, I went off to meet the Salony's. For readers who have seen their 10-year high school reunion come and go, I'm not sure how many people you keep in touch with, even on a semi-regular basis, from your high school days. Sadly, in my case, excluding Facebook, the number is pretty small. Moving around has been a big factor in this.

One of those included in the number of people I get to see a bit more frequently than others is Cameron Salony. We went to the same junior high and high school, and I've always had a good deal of respect for the guy. In addition, he has an awesome little family. He's currently in Tokyo working at the US Embassy.

Anyhow, though they were in the midst of a move and other such chaos, the Salony family hosted me and let me crash for a few days.

Soon after I arrived, we did the sightseeing thing.

First stop: Meiji Shrine.

Cameron, Heather, Roderick, and moi
This kid. What a champ.

A wedding procession, one of many we saw here.
Next, we went to Shibuya, one of the more crowded places in Tokyo.

Harajuku: Famous for cosplay.
Hachiko Square: Named after the famous dog who came to this station to wait for his owner every day, even after the owner died.
Shibuya Crossing: Busiest intersection (for foot traffic) in the world.
At this point, I split off. Thanks to good timing, my visit coincided with the sumo tournament. After much ado, I was able to get a ticket to the tournament (advice for those who want to go to a sumo tournament in Japan: buy early!).

It was so cool.

Ryugoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall)

The matches don't last for a long time, but they're sure intense! A fairly elaborate ceremony takes place before the fighters begin, involving squatting (several times) and throwing fistfuls of salt into the ring.

After about three hours of witnessing a sport that was both fascinating and confusing, it was time to meet up with an old friend.

I met Yuka in 2012 during my past life as an employee at ACYPL. We spent two weeks traveling throughout the US with six other Japanese political leaders. Akin to road trips, spending that much time traveling with someone tends to bring people together as friends or make them not want to see each other ever again. Thankfully, with Yuka and me, it was the former.

Both of our lives have changed quite a bit within the past two years, so it was good to get up to speed over katsu (fried pork cutlet). We also got to see a cool view of Tokyo at night.

View from the Bunkyo Civic Center. Free. And priceless.
She's fantastic.
So...that was day one. Brevity is not one of my strong points when it comes to picking and choosing what photos go up on this blog.

As such, day two will be for a separate post. Sayonara for now!

No comments:

Post a Comment