All of my pictures from my week-long trip are up in the gallery.
I finished my trip to Japan yesterday. Due to the international date line, I got back to Colorado two hours before I departed Japan. Neat-o! Traveling that far is always quite a taxing day.
Traveling around Japan via mostly train was quite challenging, as I am mostly illiterate concerning signs. I had good help almost every step of the way so it went quite well.
During my short little trip, I was astounded to see how young the Japanese population is, as well as the astounding number of men (and very young men) in business suits. I liked that part a lot. It made the day seem more civilized and refined. The trains were very impressive. They were smooth, fast and quiet and incredibly clean. The very best trains are the Shinkansen high-speed train. These are the 200 mph electric trains that cover the distances between the major cities. If I had the choice between a one hour commute to work by car or by train, I would take the train every time. On one morning trip, I got 15-20 minutes of toying with my laptop because I wasn’t driving. It was really nice.
For dinner the first night of non-travel, we went to a Korean BBQ. We ordered some kind of flat-rate-drink-for-90-minutes item and took good advantage of it. Beer, Sake and Shochu all around and all tasty. The food was very good. It was a meal of cut meats that you grill at your table over a small charcoal pit. After lots of eating and drinking I was quite finished and retired to my room. I would characterize it as a big drinking night for me, yet I did not suffer a hangover for it. Those clear liquors are quite strong, but less painful the next morning. I was a bit dehydrated, but had none of the headache or tiredness that I am accustomed to when I overindulge.
I was on my own for the second evening and found a restaurant with pictures on the menu and pointed. It was beef-like, though of a texture which made me think it was a part of the cow that I have never had before. I couldn’t even start to guess what I ate that night, but it had a nice sauce.
During my trip, I had two means of calling home: a pre-paid phone card and a Vonnage flash drive phone. The pre-paid calling card was useless. I had printed every page of instructions from the web site and this thing was useless. However, the Vonnage flash drive phone was awesome. Every hotel that I stayed in had some form of free internet and as long as I was on the internet, the phone usually worked and all calls were dialed as if I was in Colorado.
On the third day, I saw a fantastic Buddhist temple. It really felt good to be amongst all the buildings and wandering the grounds. We were only there for perhaps a half hour (had a schedule to keep), but it was worth it. On the third evening I moved to a different hotel with nicer rooms and a hot springs on the premises. Unfortunately, I got in fairly late and was traveling early the next morning, so I was unable to take advantage of it. Next to the hotel there was a very beautiful river, but at this point, it was dark and the batteries in my camera had died, so I was unable to take any more pictures until I replaced them.
The final day was a partial day of sightseeing before my flight. We used a train to to get to Tokyo station and then had the incredible experience of rush hour on the local Tokyo trains. It resembled a rugby scrum in business suits. First the train gets packed with people. Then about 10 more people just push onto the train followed by another 15 that I just didn’t believe were going to fit. I think people actually had to exhale to pull it off. At each stop 15 or so people had to unclog the door to let others off and then quickly reclaim the door blockage to get to the next station. We did this three times before arriving in the vicinity of Tokyo tower.
At Tokyo tower, we took in some tourist activities. I purchased some souvenirs for Kate as well as saw some of the sights that are in the lower levels of the tower. We saw a wacky wax museum as well as some Japanese history and demographics. Japanese people have been getting much taller lately! Unfortunately we were unable to go up into the tower because this is the season for school children to see it and the lines were tremendous. Having used most of our time, we were unable to do part II of our morning tourism which would have taken us to see the grounds of the emperor’s palace. So, we headed to the airport a bit early and hung out (sumo on the big-screen TV) until our flight left. It was quite exciting. And then came the super-long flight home…