So I guess since we’ve got this blog that is getting dusty, there is no point in my setting up an entirely new one just to chronicle a two week trip to Japan. Plus, given that my trip to Japan is making waves across the entire Kirk Family at the moment, it’s not that big of a deal anyway.
I’ve been in Japan for… about 14 hours I guess. The same amount of time my long leg over the ocean took. I left the house at 5:30a on Monday morning, giving Susan a goodbye kiss and wishing I could do the same for Olivia. We figured, though, that it wouldn’t be a great idea to potentially wake her up, despite the fact that she’d be up within 30 minutes or so to make it to school with Susan.
The first flight was a simple jump to Chicago O’Hare where I had a tuna salad sandwich from the food court and a banana and some yogurt from the lounge. We boarded around 10:30a and I settled into my home for a little more than half of a day. Luckily the company springs for business class, so I had a fair amount of room. Oh, by the way, “lay flat” is using a pretty general idea of what flat means, in case you were wondering. The websites like Seat Guru don’t lead you on – they are quite clear you’re dealing with 170 degrees or so, not 180. This was the same for my flight to India. But, hey, 170 degrees is a lot more than what you get from coach… which lead me to remember that once we begin flying as a whole family, this business class spoiling is going to hurt me.
Meals on the plane were fine – don’t ask me what I ate for most of my first meal, the “Japanese Set’” because I don’t really know. I do know I had Sablefish, for what that’s worth. I had a bowl of udon with pumpkin for a mid-flight snack when I woke up hungry. It was delicious – I’m a big udon fan. It also made me wonder how I could incorporate more pumpkin into my life… not really sure how, though. The second meal was the “Western Set” because I really couldn’t figure out what the Japanese one was… I thought “curry flavored chicken” sounds normal. It was… blah. I ate it, it filled me up, and I slept some more.
The time difference from Japan and Nashville is 14 hours. I left Chicago around 11a and I was going to land in Japan around 2p the next day. As such, I should have been asleep within about 2 hours of takeoff and then awake for almost the entire second half of the flight. I did reasonably well with that concept – after the first meal (I can’t seem to decide if it was lunch or dinner…?) I did some work on my laptop, then worked on some sleep. I’m not entirely sure if I slept or not, but I work up hungry, ordered the udon, and then tried to use the laptop a while longer. This time it was an attempt at some Japanese lessons, then trying to play an old computer game (Master of Orion and / or Caesar III), but I was unsettled and feeling a bit yuck. Despite knowing I needed to be awake, I kicked the chair into “bed” mode and really passed out.
I woke in time for the second meal (is that… breakfast?) when all the cabin lights came on. At least I think I woke when the cabin lights came on… they may have been on for an hour. All I know is that I woke with a start and found things much brighter than they had been, so I got up. A little more work, the chicken curry, then some gaming – all in all, I felt much better.
The interesting thing about flights this long is the descent. It starts a few hours from your destination and you can feel it as an ongoing process for that whole time. Eventually the “turn off your stuff” announcement came and I packed everything away for the landing. Once on the ground, it was through immigration (two fingerprints and a photo!), then my luggage (thanks Amy & Munkee!) and through customs. Pretty smooth affair, really. From there, a ticket on the “limo bus” to our hotel – 6,000 Yen each, one way. The current conversion rate is around 70 – 80 Yen for each dollar, so a little more than $80 for that ticket.
The trip was smooth – a limo bus is just a coach, but apparently it has wifi… I didn’t use it. We drove along an expressway into Tokyo and I snapped a few photos (which I’ve already uploaded to flickr) along the way. There was never an “ah ha” moment where Tokyo loomed in the distance and I felt that we arrived… it was just a steady transition into tighter and tighter expressways and fly-overs. Traffic was pretty normal to my American sensibilities, a drastic difference from India, of course.
Upon arrival at the hotel, we checked in, I made some phone calls to the local staff, and then settled into the room for a couple of hours. I unpacked everything into the closet and drawers – something I’ve never really done in hotels until just this last stay in Disney World.
The room is pretty simple – a bed, a desk, a TV, a mini-fridge / bar, and a bathroom. The bathroom has a window into the bedroom, but that allows a nice bit of sunlight to pass through. The bed is similar to the one we have at home, a low platform bed, so that’s a lovely thing to find… I hate hotel beds that you have to climb in and out of! The view from the room is pretty cool – I’m on the 24th floor and look out over a view of the city… but I suppose that’s probably every view.
So you’re probably wondering about the bathroom, right? All the funny things you’ve seen, be it crazy toilets or short showers? The shower, I checked immediately, does allow the showerhead to go tall enough for me and for people taller than me. The faucet is pretty cool, too – it has two handles, but one is the flow and the other is the temperature! A comfortable shower was max temp, though…
The toilet is fancy. I’ve seen two toilets in Japan so far, the one in my room and the one in the hole-in-the-wall bar, and both had similar features. It’s a padded / heated seat. It has a control panel. The controls in my hotel toilet allow for the bidet and ‘shower’ features to be turned on and off, in addition to setting their strength. I didn’t notice what the bar toilet did… it seemed to have a few more buttons. To go ahead and answer your question, yes, I used the shower feature.
Around 7p we met John B and headed out into Roppongi. It was a day before a holiday (“Culture Day”) so places were pretty full. We hit two restaurants that were full (a Thai place and an Okanawian place) before settling on Chinese. The meal was nothing particularly special, but filling and pretty close to my Peak Condition targets. From there to a “British” bar that was a narrow rectangle with bare concrete walls… it felt as it was the storage area below a set of stairs. Reasonable place – I had a single beer and we talked about business some more.
From the bar we headed into the subway to go ahead and get our PassMo cards in hand. It would have been simple to walk back to the hotel, but this was orientation. We got our cards, complete with our name on them, and headed onto the train. It was glad to have John B there, as I could mimic his actions to get things correct. Stand on the left of the escalator, for fear of being plowed down by quick movers on the right. The PassMo card is a proximity card, so just wave it near the turnstile. You wave the card upon entry and exit.
John took us to a station one past our hotel because it was a sight to behold – a full kilometer of underground station. I gave him plenty of guff about putting us there, though, because it would have been a considerably shorter walk if we’d just gotten off the station prior, but I have to hand it to him – it was a cool experience. Plus, this is the station where I’ll be getting on a train to Yokohama later tonight (Wednesday) to visit Patrick, our Peak Condition Project coach.
So, that’s it for Tuesday’s update… I’ll provide Wednesday later. (It’s only 9a on Wed right now!) Be sure to look at Flickr for photos… I’ll provide explanations for the ones I understand some time later as well.