Safely Arrived in Tokyo

I’m in Tokyo, and all is well. Truth be told, I’m exhausted, but 14+ hours on a plane and 2 hours on train and subway will do that. But I’m here, and after all the years of wanting to visit Japan, the smug smile that finds it way across my face is maybe justified. Maybe.

Some initial, random thoughts:

* Man, but do I ever like the Boeing 777. What a nice plane that is. I also highly recommend Japan Airline’s flight from Heathrow to Narita. Not only is it non-stop, but there’s scads of leg room in Economy, great service, free copies of the Guardian, and entertainment options that include (of all things) Steve Guttenberg in the original Police Academy. When did the clock get turned back to 198?.

* The film 300 is seriously overwrought. Just wow. Some beautiful fight sequences and an amazing costume for Xerxes, but otherwise not worth watching. Go watch Gladiator (again) instead.

* Narita airport in Tokyo – I like it. Lots of people standing around and who’s only job is to help. I’ve never seen so many staff available to direct travellers and answer questions. Also, good signage, critical for an airport. Thumbs up, Narita.

* I spoke in Japanese! I asked directions to change trains. Admittedly, I didn’t understand a word of the reply, but the gesture down was quite clear and downstairs I was able to find the correct platform. Japanese audio language lessons for the win!

* I had three people randomly come up to me on the street to offer help! Apparently, no one was put off by the wayward, lost-looking Arab American with map in hand and luggage all around him.

* The area around the hostel is famous for its used bookstores. It reminds me a little of Charing Cross Road in London, except… well… in Japanese. Funny how things work that way.

* I did my typical thing and just struck out in a direction out from the hostel. I walked till I got tired and then started wandering a little. I badly needed to stretch my legs, and it was an opportunity to sense the city a bit. My favorite image? The woman on a bicycle, phone in hand, texting. She managed it while going through a busy intersection. I didn’t know whether to be horrified or applaud her for her skill.

* Just east from the Used Bookshop Area is a Sporting Equipment Area, which worked out really well as I needed new pair of shoes for Fuji tomorrow. Now I don’t have to climb the mountain in my dress shoes! And it was fun ducking into all of the shops and browsing. It gave a little structure to my walk. If you’re curious, I bought a pair of Vans. I think they’re cool.

* Alleys! One of the things I appreciate the most about London is the alleys – how you could make a turn into an alley or sidestreet and suddenly find a hidden treasure. Tokyo seems to be like that except more. Much more. It’s still early and I have yet to go exploring, but I suspect this will be an amazing city to explore in that regard.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow? Fuji!

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~ by Samer on July 20, 2007.

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