We're in Japan! We landed yesterday after an uneventful (and dare I say, pleasant) flight. After 13 hours on the plane, our top priority was navigating to our hotel, getting dinner and hitting the sack.
Thanks to Shira's planning and an organized airport and train system, getting to Tokyo was painless. And thanks to T-mobile offering free data while we're here, we were able to use Google Navigation on our phones to find our hotel.
We had dinner at a noodle bar, and between our guidebook's phrase section and an English menu had no problem ordering. The noodles were good, as were the mixed vegetable skewers. But the winner was an edamame like dish that was sauteed heavily in garlic. Yum!
We only had half a day in Tokyo before we jumped on a train to Kyoto (where I'm currently writing out this post).
There're only about 1,000 things to do in Tokyo, so figuring out how to spend a morning isn't exactly trivial. In the end, we settled on checking out the Fish Market and Hama-rikyu Gardens.
The Fish Market was highly recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebook, but it also warns that it's not really a tourist attraction--it's a working market. And they were right, folks zip around in fork-lifts and it's a wonder I wasn't run over while snapping photos.
The market is huge, and before we found any fish we found fruit and vegetables. While oggling the selection, I suggested to Shira that we pick up some grapes. After all, we weren't sure where our next meal was coming from. So, she grabbed a neatly packaged bunch and went to pay. I walked off, and snapped more photos. She eventually returned without the grapes. What happened, I asked? Oh, she explained, the grapes weren't $2.70 like we thought, but $27.00. For *one* bunch. Apparently, we didn't just find the fruit section, we found the fancy fruit section.
Eventually we did discover the fish section of the market and it didn't disappoint. There were all manner of sea creatures on display, many of which I couldn't begin to identify. The market is huge, but we saw more than enough carnage for Shira to declare our visit over. Seriously, there are quite a few photos that I simply can't post, as this is a family friendly blog.
It was about 10:30am after we finished the market, and time to eat again. So, we took our hotel concierge's suggestion, and got Sushi at the "outer market" next door to the Fish Market. Purely based on proximity the market, it had to be fresh, right?
(I have to pause now to say that our train conductor just came into our car to check our tickets. This is the second or third time he's come into our car, and each time, he bows before entering, and leaving. And I'm not talking a quick bow, but one where he pauses, closes his eyes and bows. I'm not holding my breath for Amtrak to implement this policy, but it's one that I find oddly comforting.)
After the market we made our way to Hama-rikyu Gardens, which were fantastic. They won me over immediately by offering an audio tour included in our $3.00 (per person) admission. The gardens are both beautiful and filled with history. It was a terrific site to complement the rough and tumble fish market.
And now we're heading to Kyoto to continue our adventure.
So far, Japan is living up to much of the hype. The trains are spotless and run on time; the people are warm and friendly; even the image of packing the trains to capacity proved itself true when we took a rush our train this morning. Getting around and communicating hasn't been a problem. Though in Tokyo, I wouldn't expect it to be. The two most important phrases I've used are: a-ri-ga-to (thank you) and oy-shi-kat-ta (that was delicious!). Everything else has been accomplished with pointing, smiling, bowing and English.
Most importantly, we're having a blast!