Archive for April, 2012

Arrival to Tokyo

It was pretty delightful flying direct to Japan, especially since I had been able to purchase tickets for both Ryan and I using my airline miles. The 10+ hours went by quickly as I was largely engrossed in reading Hunger Games for the first time, followed by an attempted nap. The highlights: scoring an entire row to ourselves to spread out, surprisingly delicious airplane food, and complimentary wine in coach.

We landed around 4PM local time and my excitement finally set in, after weeks of being focused on work! We found the airport to be relatively calm and made our way to take the train in Tokyo via the Narita Express. Trying to stay awake, I ordered some green tea on the train, saying, “Kore kudasai,” for the first of many times. Soon enough we arrived to Shinjuku Station, the busiest train station in the world, where over 3.5 million travelers pass through it each day.

First look at Shunjuku

We began the trek to the hotel with our luggage, walking through the streets of Shinjuku and its bright lights and swarms of people. The walk is normally quite short (in fact, we later learned a there was another station right outside our hotel) but it being our first time it took us a little while to find our way, using Trevor’s phone as navigation to the Keio Plaza Hotel.

After an easy check-in with our English-speaking hotel staff, we dropped off our luggage and plunged outside. We didn’t need to walk far, the neon lights, restaurants and stores were right outside our doorstep and we wandered around the area, exploring. At some point we found a video game store that had over a dozen toy vending machines, and hoping to win the head of a brown bear doll I saw inside, I put in some coins and ended up with two very cute plush chick dolls.

It was getting late and it became tough deciding what to eat, but given that I was feeling famished and wasn’t ready to order completely in Japanese, I noticed a sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt and walked straight in. “Konbonwa. Sanin des,” I said, hoping she understood I needed seats for three people. She gestured to the bar and we all sat down. Success.

We sat there at the sushi restaurant then picking up small color-coded plates, just like you would at home, trying the different kinds of nigiri, many of which included shrimp. My favorite was a pink fish had a particularly glossy look to it, that melted in your mouth, and having never had it before I still have no idea what it was. We made our own green tea using the powder at our table, nibbling away until full, discussing, “So do we pay there at the cashier or request the check?” (We soon learned it’s always the former.) We paid and plopped back outside into the busy streets of Shinjuku, having had our first meal.

We continued to walk outside until the lack of sleep began to hit us. So did my stomach, as it said, “Hey I actually want to eat more! Five small plates of sushi were actually not enough!” and following the advice of friends before we left, we went to a 7-11. Despite their testimony and my doubt, I do concede that it is good. Ryan picked up some water and I found myself buying a tofu bowl with rice, not expecting much. After having it warmed, we sat on some poles in the eating area and I ate while Ryan and Trevor indulged my impulse. It was delicious. The steamed rice was perfectly cooked and it came with savory sauce with ground pork and hot oil that complimented the silky pieces of tofu. This was convenience store food? I ate every bite, sharing a little with Ryan, and we made our way back to the hotel where Trevor met up with a friend and Ryan and I went upstairs to crash after a long day of travel.