07.08.2016 - 07.12.2016 91 °F
We arrived at Tokyo's Narita International Airport on Friday the 8th of July. We cleared customs and as soon as we had a wifi signal found out via email that the apartment we booked from Brisbane was available. We confirmed the payment and I called the owner from a payphone at the airport (cash only so I had to find an ATM). Upon making the call I found that the owner does not speak much English and I don't speak any Japanese. I asked an information desk representative to speak to the owner to advise him that we would be there in about and hour and a half....and could we get directions to the apartment. We get that worked out and then make our way to the train station. The ticket agent was very helpful in explaining which trains we would need but that we would need cash for the tickets. Back to the ATM.
Note on Tokyo and cash: If you are visiting Tokyo your credit card will be accepted in about 3 out of 10 locations. Go to an ATM and get cash, you'll need it.
We secure the tickets and get on a looonng train ride from Narita to our apartment. To be fair everything is a long train ride from Narita. We leave the train station and according to Google Maps have about 3 blocks to walk to the apartment. Thankfully two gentlemen see us working on which way to go and offer to help us out. With their help we find the apartment and the owner is there waiting on us. At this point it is about 11:00pm and we are very tired.
We go to the apartment and love it. New building and new apartment with modern appliances yet traditional Japanese touches, like slippers at the door and futon style floor mattresses in one of the bedrooms (kids room). Fortunately there is really good wifi at the apartment which allows me to use Google Translate. GT allows you to take a picture of one language and translate that into another language. In this case Japanese to English. Very helpful app for how to operate the toilet seat (no kidding) and the microwave, etc. I have to brag that who needs to learn the language when you have an app! We can operate anything! Just push enough buttons and it'll all work out. Although that came back to bite me later.
Everybody gets unpacked and goes to bed for some much needed sleep. The next morning we wake up to a steady rain outside. We decide to stay in the Yokohama area and check out Chinatown, Yokohama Bay, some parks and do some shopping at the Red Brick Warehouses. We step outside and quickly determine that we will need umbrellas. We find a drugstore on a corner and buy 6 umbrellas (we still have those umbrellas!). Although it is a little early for lunch we are all starving and find a really cool noodle shop. Noodle Shop Info But guess what? Cash only. Back to the ATM and then back to the restaurant.
Lunch was just what we needed to recharge and afterwards we head out for Chinatown. We check out different shops and find a place that advertises a foot massage with fish. Well that sounded just plain weird so we had to check it out. Turns out the fish tickle your feet while they eat dead skin cells. We are all laughing as the fish work on our feet and must have been quite a site. We grab some great coffee afterwards and continue sightseeing/shopping. We make our way through Yamashita Park over to the Red Brick Warehouses. Overall great time walking around sightseeing. We get back to the apartment that evening and make plans for the next day.
Sunday morning we make plans to meet a family friend at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo. We start the day however at the 7-11 a block away from us. We get some cash from the ATM and find that 7-11 has donuts and really cool pastries along good coffee. We also load up on snacks and waters for the day. We plan out the train ride and head over to Meji-jingumae "Harajuku" Station. When we arrive it is hot and humid outside! Temps and humidity are both in the 90s. The Meiji Shrine is surrounded by beautifully forested gardens and walking paths. We meet our friend Yugi and have a great visit. We submit prayers on a small wooden tablet and offer our respects at the shrine. After saying our goodbyes to Yugi and his family we make our way to Takeshita Street to find lunch and sightsee.
We find a sushi restaurant (Sushi Nova) where you order your meal from an iPad at your seat and your food comes out to you on a moving belt. The kids wanted to keep ordering just to watch the food come out!
After lunch we walked to the next train station and headed over to the Imperial Gardens and Edo Castle. The grounds and the surrounding areas are really amazing. It was cool to see the surrounding Tokyo skyline as a backdrop to the 500+ year old castle and gardens.
We walked from there to the Tokyo Train Station and made our way back to the apartment. Patrick and I were getting hungry for a little dinner but Mary and the kids were still full from lunch. Everybody was pretty tired so dinner became a free for all with snacks. Patrick and I headed over to Chinatown (only 4 blocks away) and found a great little restaurant with dumplings and pot stickers as the specialty. We brought food back with us and called it a day!
Note: If you don't know what the button is on a panel don't push it. I pushed a button that I thought would activate the video doorbell. Since I don't read/write or understand Japanese it stands to reason that I had no idea what I was doing although I felt pretty confident. Until the alarm started going off. Apparently that little button means "emergency". So after the building manager, apartment manager and the police all came by I learned my lesson. Very friendly folks.
Monday we wanted to check out the Tsukiji Market (Tokyo Fish Market). We did our 7-11 breakfast and hit the trains over to the market. That place is crazy! Packed full of folks buying, selling, eating, serving and sightseeing. We saw all sorts of sea creatures being sold at open air stalls some of which we couldn't even recognize. We have a sushi lunch at a tiny sushi restaurant tucked off among the market stalls. Awesome sushi! After walking throughout the market we decided to head back towards Takeshita Street and do some souvenir shopping so we can get back to the apartment before rush hour hits. Once back at the apartment we decide to do Italian for dinner and had one of the best pizzas that I can remember. It was funny because as soon as we walk in we notice that everything is in Japanese to include the menu. Thankfully the owner comes out and hands us an English menu.
We get back to the apartment and start packing and planning our flights back to the US. Our original plan had been to spend 4 days in Hawaii before heading home. The kids all said they were ready to go home. After two weeks they were travelled out. Mary and I double and triple checked with them and they were ready to go home. So we checked flights back to Houston and found everything book up. I mean everything. Our only shot back was to go through Honolulu and then make our way to Houston, if not directly then through LA. As the evening went on the flight from Narita to Honolulu was becoming overbooked with other airline employees so we opted to just buy tickets for that segment. If we had not purchased tickets we would still be in Tokyo.
Next up: HNL and the flights home!