Monday, September 21, 2009

Tokyo (a stopover) Sept 17-18

Our flight on Japan Airlines (JAL) was everything you might imagine a 13 hour flight to be. Exhausting, boring, interesting, fun, strange and long. JAL was a pretty good option however...imagine a cross between British Airways elegance and WestJet value. The food was good (not great), the seats were reasonable (not comfortable) and the service was polite (not friendly).

Arriving at Tokyo airport could be the subject of a whole separate post...but we are lazy, so it wont! Imagine more people than you have ever seen (none of which look even remotely like you) and signs everywhere (none of which you understand) and much noise. And then, imagine yourself having to navigate trains and buses after having been awake for 24 hours. Welcome to Japan....insanity! It is actually now about a week later and when we both discussed the evening (prior to this post), we found it hard to remember much...except for the confusion.

We stayed our first night at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese Bed and Breakfast). A ryokan generally differs from a B&B in a few key ways. Usually, breakfast AND supper are included, some sort of view is usually provided (we overlooked a small zen garden) and the bedding is traditional futon which is laid out on a tatami floor. The reception was however warm (see sign below)

Our ryokan was located Asakusa (a historical part of Tokyo) and offered and traditional Edo-styled meal (which had more food than what 4 people could properly eat!)

Later that evening we walked (ok, more like ROLLED) around some quiet alleys nearby to see what we might find...It was mostly quiet...but graceful and beautiful.

At this point, our stop in Tokyo was meant to be temporary...but it was hard to not get excited about returning....

One of many temples we stumbled across....literally about 5 minutes walk from our ryokan (not exactly akin to anything in downtown Fredericton)

The next morning, bright and early, we hit the Tokyo Fish Market.

This market runs 5 days a week and plays host to an INCREDIBLE amount of commerce. On any given day, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fish are won at auction or bought outright. The auction section of the market is an actual tourist attraction where you can watch (from a roped-off area) local buyers carefully inspect single fish or large lots of fish. Some (like the tuna shown) are worth THOUSANDS of dollars.

Part of what is difficult, in any city, is actually getting a *feel* for the city without becoming an annoying (and obtrusive) tourist. We usually strive to find a happy medium....however this fish market was difficult....because as much as we wanted to SEE what was going on....we absolutely wanted to avoid annoying (or getting in the way) of business.

As we were heading out still in hand, we caught one of the fish vendors fueling up his mini-cart at a local gas station....and he posed, spontaneously...and suddenly, most of our worries evaporated.

Given the incredible quantities of fresh fish, it goes without saying that breakfast that morning was the freshest bowl of sushi that either of us will no doubt EVER was the perfect way to end our (brief) stay in Tokyo before catching a ferry for our first real destination, Niijima.

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