Tokyo – May 2006

28 07 2007

We went to Tokyo in May 2006. This was our first time to the wondrous city of Tokyo, and we had a blast! This was undoubtedly one of the most unique cities I have ever visited. Stepping out into Tokyo for the first time was like going to another planet. While I knew a lot about Japan, both in terms of history and pop culture, it was another thing to actually be in this country experiencing everything I had seen or heard about first hand.

My first impression of Tokyo was that it was the cleanest, most efficient, and futuristic city I had ever seen.

Charles on transportation to Japan:

Downtown Tokyo is an hour’s train ride from the airport. The train was on time, clean, and quiet. From the window I could see that this part of Japan is very green. There are rice paddies everywhere, and we could see farmers working them. After maybe 10 minutes we entered the outskirts / suburbs of Tokyo. These suburbs are themselves cities, and the urbanization has joined them all into this blob of humanity stretching in every direction, as far as the eye can see. Again, these suburbs are not like our own. Don’t picture our suburbs, picture our downtowns. It’s staggering to see the evidence of so many people living and working together in such close quarters.

Tokyo

The train went underground for the final leg, and we disembarked at Tokyo station, a central hub. Now we had to figure out which train, out of like 50 billion, was the train that went through Ginza, the glitzy area of Tokyo where our first hotel is found. Imagine a shopping mall with food court inside the food court of the [Washington D.C.] Metro Center Metro station (only much bigger!) and that’s Tokyo station. We found the platform easily enough, but had not seen a ticket counter. Sandy went to find tickets while I guarded the luggage. As each new train was about to leave there wasn’t that awful “Doors Closing” that we’ve learned to tune out, but instead they play a happy little jingle, which the Japanese have learned to tune out.

Back to Sandy:

On the night of our arrival (Day 0), we just managed to have dinner in Ginza, near our hotel.

My first view of Japan was of these large electronic advertisements outside of the Shimbashi station.

Shimbashi_Station_Exit

For dinner, we settled on this hole-in-the-wall establishment right outside of the station. It was an interesting experience not because of the food, but because of the way we ordered.

First, we chose what we wanted from this helpful display of plasticized dishes. They were numbered so it was easy to identify.

The Menu

Next to the menu display was the ordering machine. You push the button that bears the number of your order, then feed in money like any vending machine. This is a very efficient way to place orders, as there is no question about which order you placed.

Order_Machine

You pick up your order in the actual eating establishment.

Order_Pickup

Finally we got to our hotel and checked in. We stayed at the Dai-Ichi the first night, and then at a business hotel in Yaesu near Tokyo Station the rest of the time. The Dai-Ichi was beautiful and the staff excellent. The rooms are spacious with a luxurious bathroom. Definitely a great choice!

Charles: Yes, there is a crazy toilet. Here it is.

Japanese Toilet

We could not figure out which button meant what, so we played it safe and didn’t touch anything.

Toilet_Closeup

Charles also found the warnings about playing with the toilet amusing. I think the basic gist is, don’t put your baby in the toilet!

Toilet Warning

And so that was the end of Day 0.

Tomorrow: Ghibli museum, Nakano Broadway, and Shinjuku

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