A Quick Trip to Tokyo

| June 10, 2009
pagoda in asakusa tokyo

Five-Story Pagoda in Asakusa, Tokyo

On our way to Beijing, my son Matt and I stopped in Tokyo for two and a half days. If you ever visit, be sure to take the Narita Express from the Airport to Tokyo. Just look for the JR (Japan Rail) signs and go to a ticket counter for a hassle-free experience. It was about $30 and took 40 minutes to get downtown. Narita Airport is in an agricultural area, so expect to see rice fields and lots of trees on your way to Tokyo. Our hotel was within a two minute walk from Shinagawa Station, which was one stop past Tokyo Station. If your hotel is near a rail station, you can get just about anywhere on the underground. Once you figure out how the system works, the ability to navigate your way around the massive city is quite liberating. Our very nice western hotel room had glass on two full walls, which framed a beautiful view of the Tokyo skyline. Oh, we also had an electronic toilet that had a heated seat and more buttons than we knew what to do with.

The first day, we took the underground to Asakura to tour some temples and shrines in old Tokyo. It was fun to see some traditional Japanese architecture, walk the shops, and people watch. One cool thing was we rarely heard a horn while we were in the city. Everybody just seems to get along and go about their business without the stress that I have sensed in other large cities like New York. I feel that New York would be much more pleasant if it were able operate as quietly as Tokyo. From there, we went to Shibuya to immerse ouselves in Tokyo’s trendy youth fashion shopping district. It’s much like Times square without the cabs and horns of New York, but teaming with just as many people. Japanese youth are very fashion concious and that fact is ever present in Shibuya. After grabbing lunch, we stopped at a game center so Matt could play his favorite Japanese arcade game, Pop’n music. The game culture is everywhere in Tokyo. From Nintendo DS on the train to a business man playing Beat Maina during his lunch hour at blindingly fast speeds, gaming is a social activity in Japan not just a way to pass the time.

shopping in shibyua tokyo

Shopping in Shibuya, Tokyo

That night, we went to a traditional Japanese resturant and ate a few elements of Japanese cusine that were difficult to identify. The Sashimi was fresh and tasty, and the main course, called Shabu Shabu, was great too. Shabu Shabu is very thinly sliced beef that you boil at the table and dip in soy/vinegar or sesame sause.

The following day, we took a Bullet train to Yokohama for a meeting. The ride only took 12 minutes and was as smooth as butter. All of the rails are welded together, allowing the train to glide very quietly and safely along the tracks. These trains can go up to 186MPH! After the meeting, we had ramen at a hopping lunch spot and then jumped on another train back to Narita for our flight to Beijing.

One thing that stood out during our short stay was the willingness of the Japanese people to help. I had a hard time finding an ATM machine so I asked a security guard standing in the lobby of the hotel. Instead of just pointing, he actually walked us a fair distance out of the building directly to the machine. Also, when trying to figure out which train to take, a nice English-speaking Japanese lady rushed right over to help us find our way. I actually lived in Japan for three years when I was in junior high school. Going back, even for a short time, brought back fond memories for me. When I go back again, I hope to explore other areas in the country like Kyoto and Saporro to expand my understanding of this fascinating place. I am sure Matt will return on his own someday. He seemed completely in his element and the trip only served to feed his pre-existing fascination with Japanese culture.

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Category: Travel

Comments (4)

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  1. Tracy Brech says:

    Sounds like you had a great time. Bring back memories of going to Tokyo to see Star Wars? I still remember a lot also and would love to see it again. Glad your home…at least for awhile!

    Trace

  2. Randy Saffle says:

    This really fascinates me. I grew up in Texas and was 32 years old before I ever left the state. I know that freaks a lot of people out, but I was raised in a family that never took vacations. Now traveling is ALL I want to do. Thank you for the detailed trip info, it fascinates me. Lee, I can tell you don’t take your opportunities to travel and spend time with your son for granted.

  3. Lee says:

    Thanks for the comments Randy. I had a friend in primary school that never traveled for the same reasons. He ended up working for United Airlines and really made up for it! Travel is addicting. Once you start and get your bearings it really is a lot of fun. Feel free to contact me if you want to know if I have been somewhere you are going, especially abroad. It always help me to talk to someone that has been to a place for the inside scoop on hotels and ways to get around. Take care, /Lee

  4. Lee says:

    Hi Trace. Yep it was fun and a little tiring. I do remember heading to Tokyo to see Star Wars when it came out. I can’t remember how we got there though as I don’t remember riding any trains. Glad to be home too!