A blog about my life, knitting, and other stuff.

July 2, 2009

Japan Part I

I don't know how coherent any of this will be. It's 2:30 am. I'm wide awake and ready for dinner. Our return flight from Narita was at 5pm on Wednesday. When we arrived in Seattle (after I slept on and off for maybe two hours) it was 9 am on Wednesday. I completely failed at staying awake and took a huge nap midday into evening. I fell asleep at 9:30 last night and here I am, ready to go.

First some background on our trip. Students from my son's class were going to be participating in a five day homestay during which they would attend school. At the height of Swine Flu panic--back when Japan had only one confirmed case--the principal canceled on us. We started scrambling to reimagine our trip. Only a few days before we left our trip coordinator let us know that she had located enough families to take our kids for a two-night homestay and we would spend most of the rest of our time in Tokyo.

On Sunday, June 21st we left Seattle at midday. We arrived in Narita in the evening the next day. The kids did not sleep on the plane. They were all exhausted and wired and frankly so were the parents. We had plans to spend the night in Narita instead of trying to get the whole bedraggled group to Tokyo. It turned out to be a great plan. Narita is lovely. I was envisioning spending the night in a gross, dull, semi-industrial area like you find near most US airports. Instead Narita is a lovely, little city that provided a full-day of walking and exploring.

Narita Manhole Cover

I love these Narita school crossing signs. The little bow on the girl just kills me.

The next day we took the Narita Express to Tokyo. We arrived at Tokyo station and two trains later we were in at Iidabashi Station which is directly above the Tokyo International Hostel. The hostel takes up the 18 and 19th floors of an office building. The ground floor and basements are full of shops, restaurants and a grocery store. It's very inexpensive but, as you can imagine, a bit spartan. I was staying in a "family room" for the first three nights instead of a single-sex bunk room since I was a mom traveling with a boy. It was a traditional tatami room with just a thin mat to sleep on and a very hard, tiny pillow. The first night was okay but the second and third night's I was really uncomfortable.

We all loved this sign in the bathroom.

Our first day we visited the Edo Tokyo Museum. It was a really great museum but we did not get to spend nearly enough time there. Then we took a bus tour and visited Tokyo Tower and the Imperial Palace grounds (not enough time here either). I'm pretty height-phobic so I was hugging the inside wall up on the observation floor of the tower while my son was standing on the glass floor (!) and taking pictures.

We went on to Asakusa and visited the Senso-ji and then shopped at all the little stalls full of food, toys and souvenirs. This is where my son fell in love with Taiyaki. It's a sandwich made of two fish-shaped waffles and filled. There are more traditional fillings like red bean but my son got chocolate and it was delicious.

I didn't bring a whole lot of cash (Japanese) with me since I had been assured by several people that I would be able to easily get cash at Seven-Eleven or a post office. I had pretty much run out of money at this point (most places just deal in cash) so I got a map to my nearest Seven-Eleven and tried to get cash. My card was "invalid." I freaked out. My son and I were tired and hungry and we had 91 yen and an invalid credit card. We headed back to the hostel. We tried to call our bank. Finally our trip coordinator asked when the nearest post office closed (it was already past 8) and we rushed over to try it out. It worked and then I had to buy my son a double scoop at Baskin-Robbins with a waffle cone to make up for all the trauma.

The next day we spent in Kamakura.

I think I should try to get back to sleep although I can hear that my fellow traveler is also awake upstairs.