Getting to Japan and Shinjuku

After 10 hours of flying, I’m back in Japan for the first time since 2005. I’m traveling here with Ben on a long layover to meet Pablo and his sister in Shanghai.

The flight was largely uneventful, although there was a fair bit of turbulence. I don’t recall this from before, but there was a fingerprint scanner at the immigration desk, along with a photo. Welcome to the new world order.

Getting from the airport to our ryokan in Asakusa took basically forever. We took the Kensi Skyliner train, an hour trip, from Narita over to Ueno station, and then transferred to the Ginza line to Askusa. From there it was a quick 10 minute walk over to the ryokan.

This is the first time I’ve stayed in a ryokan and we opted for a Japanese style room, which is basically a few futons laid out on top of tatami mats. The room is pretty tiny, about 8 tatami mats, but has its own bathroom, which is pretty cool.

After getting a few showers in, we went across the street to a place that served these pizza/pancake style meals. On each table was a skillet, and you ordered the components of your entre and they came out in a bowl. Most people in the restaurant (i.e. Japanese folks) mixed and mashed up the bowl and poured it on the skillet to make these pancake/pizza concoctions. Obviously not skilled in this, our waitress sensed our distress and make the delicious item. Topped with katsu sauce, it was delicious.

Once dinner was finished, we made our way via the Metro over to Shinjuku. Shinjuku is insane. Chaotic and full of people, the sea of humanity at 11pm (or any time for that matter) is stunning. We walked the streets for a while until we decided (more like I forced) to go to the Park Hyatt and have a drink at the New York Bar. A 1300 yen cab ride later, we pulled up in to what I still think is probably the most awesome hotel in the world.

Ben and I hung out sipping our 1900 yen Espresso Martinis (which, by the way, are as tasty as I remember them being three years ago), listening to jazz band on the 54th floor. Not a bad way to end the first night in Tokyo. We made our way back on the JR Yamanote line, but by the time we made our connection the Metro was closed, and we had yet another expensive cab ride.

I love this city. Today is the only full day we have here, so it’ll probably be hitting up the big sights and trying to stay dry (it’s been rainy).

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