Thursday, September 18, 2008

Japan: Day 1: Tokyo

Myself and Tarun managed to get our visa for Japan just in time to make it to our flight y'day. We flew Air India and had an uneventful flight to Tokyo. The airline was not fully booked, so the staff was nice enough to offer passengers with the option of taking 3 seats so as to comfortably stretch and sleep!

We landed at the Narita International airport at 8:20 A.M. JST and got free from immigration and customs in an hour. Guess what our cell fones don't work here, (Japan only supports the fones with the 3G technology!), but one can rent cell fones here, so we rented one and went looking for the Narita Train station to get to Tokyo. The people at the airport were quite helpful and were able to direct us to the station, where we exchanged our rail passes (which we got from India) for the tickets. We boarded the Narita express train which was exactly on time (here they say, you can set the time of your watch by the train time, that's something, isn't it?!) and reached the Tokyo station in an hour.

You have to see the Tokyo station to believe what I am saying here, I haven't seen a station like this anywhere, it's beautifully constructed and is full of lovely looking restaurants and flower shops, the city impressed me right there!

It's a huge station covered on various levels, it was hard for us to locate where the exit for the cabs was, so we asked the locals working at the station, they were so nice that they escorted us till the cab! (now that's what I call a country which is a good host to travelers). And now I noticed something really cool, the cab doors here open and close by themselves, well I mean that the driver pushes a button form his seat and the door opens for the passenger!
Anyway, we got a cab and reached our hotel, although the check-in time here is 3.00 P.M, the hotel staff did let us check-in early. We got to our room and it was tiny but tastefully done!

After this we got ready and were really craving for some food. We went out and noticed a nice looking restaurant from the outside and guess what, we walked in! Now, the host made us sit in an informal room and showed us the menu, the first thing he told us was the price, it was an expensive restaurant serving pre-fix menu of 7 courses. We decided to try it and were escorted to the dining room, which was very formal. We enjoyed the lunch, portions were small and the food was good.

Later in the afternoon, we explored the city. Tokyo is quite charming, during the day it reminds me of San Francisco in more ways than one, with restaurant and coffee shops scattered everywhere and designer stores adding their glow to it, yet, it is less crowded and is free from homeless people! At night it seems more like Times Square, with flashing neon sign boards and cabs and cars lined up in a jam!

We were in Chuo dori, the main shopping street in Tokyo. The first stop was the Apple store, since Tarun forgot to bring the power adapter, so we bought one (now we have four power adapters b/w 2 macbooks and I hope this was the last one we bought :)). The apple store here is on 5 levels, even the store in NYC isn't spread over these many levels! In any case, then we headed to the House of Shiseido, which is a museum of Shiseido and guess what Shiseido is really big here, it has a restaurant and a tea room and then of-course there is the Shiseido store. After exploring the shopping district a little, where we saw may be a handful women dressed in kimonos (they look lovely), we had Oden (fish cakes, fish eggs, veggies, tofu etc. simmered in a flavored broth) for dinner, it was light and tasty.

It's only been 2 hrs since we had our dinner and Tarun is hungry again! I guess we will go for an early morning breakfast tomorrow! :)

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