Tune in Tokyo

I just got back from 6-day trip to Japan. Each year our customer exhibits at a massive tradeshow and we are asked to send a representative (so they can get a discount…).  This year no one from the office wanted to travel for various reasons, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity 🙂 This was my first solo trip overseas and I admit that Japan kinda freaked me out- I’d heard all about the crowds, the crazy subway system and of course, the raw fish. The mere thought of eating sushi made me shudder (keep in mind that I’ve never tried it before, it just sounded unappetizing).  Thankfully, we have plenty of Japanese restaurants in town so a group of us ate at Maneki the weekend before I left. Sushi- check! Sashimi- check!  Now that I got the food business out of the way I was ready to travel.
 
 

Tokyo subway map

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.

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