The flight over was nothing special and before I knew it we were landing. I hustled through customs, baggage claim and made it to the shuttle bus with minutes to spare. My hotel was in Daiba, an area that I consider the “outer limits’ of the city and isolated from the fun stuff. After a short nap I ventured out to the mall next door- no wacky Harajuku fashion here, most of their clothes seemed pretty trendy but uniquely Japanese. The next morning I checked out the show- after signing the all-important guest registry I met our customer at the booth, said hello, then was shooed out since I don’t speak Japanese. The show was packed with thousands of dark pin-striped suits and colorful displays of product. I had enough after a couple hours and ventured over to Ginza which is supposed to be a shopper’s paradise. Well, it is…if you’re a millionaire. These are the kind of stores I didn’t even bother going into- Harry Winston, Dior, Cartier, Salvatore Ferragamo…yeah. Unfortunately it wasn’t a lack of cash that sent me back to the hotel- it was my dumb new shoes. My feet hurt so bad I that was literally hobbling back to the train station. UGH! Later that evening I enjoyed a lovely 5-course meal with our customer and his wife, which by the way included a whole plate of sashimi that I politely choked down with lots of soy sauce. After dinner I put on sensible tennis shoes and went to the Shinagawa station to get my Shinkansen ticket (aka bullet train) for the following morning.
The Shinkansen was awesome- clean, quiet and fast! The trip took just over 2 hours and by 8:30 I disembarked in Kyoto with map in hand. First stop- Hingashihongaji temple. Next I rented a cruiser bike and got lost…then stumbled upon the Imperial Palace and later the Shimogamo shrine. Next I rode to the Kiyomizu temple (my favorite) and wandered the streets of Gion to do a little window shopping. Somewhere in between all this I was stopped by the bike cops for riding in a restricted area. Oops! Sorry bud, I can’t read your signs. Lastly I stopped by the Nishihongaji temple before heading back to the train station. We rolled into Tokyo around 7:30 and by the time I took 2 more trains it was past 9pm. Zzzzzz….
Japan is a marvelous country to visit- safe, clean, friendly. Not sure if I would go back for a full vacation, but if I were passing through I might stay an extra day or two. If were to visit again I would do the following:
-No jeans or tennis shoes. I only saw people in jeans a few times. Skirts and heels are the way to go.
-Learn some of the foods so I don’t starve.
-Buy a PASMO card so I don’t have to figure out subway fares.
-Bring a smartphone with an international plan- no such thing as free WiFi here, so Skype is out.
Now I’m sitting here, jet lagged at 1am writing this blog and getting caught up on work projects.