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JAPAN - DAY ONE - Tokyo Old Town

Previous Blogs: Day 1 Tokyo | Day 2 Tokyo | Day 3 & 4 Singapore | Day 5 Singapore | Day 6 Ho Chi Minh City | Day 7 Ho Chi Minh City & Tunnels

Day 8 Can Tho | Day 9 Floating Market | Day 10 Flower Market | Day 11 Hoi An | Day 12 My Son Temple | Day 13 Hanoi | Day 14-16 Halong Bay

Day 17 Luang Prabang | Day 18 Temples-Waterfalls | Day 19 Mekong River | Day 20-21 Bagan | Day 22 Bagan | Day 23 Inle | Day24-25 Inle

Day 26-27 Finale

Click photos for a larger image...

Finally arrived in Tokyo after two flights to LA, overnight at hotel then 12 hour flight to Tokyo.

We flew in an Airbus A380 - the largest airliner with 2 decks the full length of the plane. Holds over 500 passengers and the plane was packed. But still comfortable with state of the art entertainment in economy.

Best thing at the airport - there is a line 6 feet away from the baggage carousel which you have to stand behind until your bags arrive - AWESOME idea! NO pushing and shoving like the rest of the freakin' world.

We easily found the train to downtown and 45 minutes later checked into our hotel at 9PM which is located in Old Town a short walk from the station.

We paid a little more and got a "larger" room which has chairs and a small table. This hotel has special interest floors. 3rd floor is smoking rooms, 5th is for women traveling on their own. The also have a floor just for gay people and yet another is dedicated to "Hello Kitty" decor.

Time difference is 14 hours so just a little jet lagged the first night.  But hey, jetlag - schmetlag!

Our hotel room is very filled with gadgets starting with the toilet. I have never sat on a toilet plugged into power before. Adjustable seat warming, option of bidet or "shower" whatever that means - but I can guess! You can even change the intensity of the stream!

Also has dehumidifier, face steamer, clothes press, kettle, hairdryer AND flatiron and then the usual safe, clocks and flat screen TV with just one English channel - CNN.  Wendy loves the massage chair the best (Big Surprise!!).

WiFi is FREE (very rare!!!) and pretty fast in the hotel and many restaurants and bars offer free WiFi.

We got an early start and went for a walk in our local neighborhood hitting the streets by 8.30am. Not much was open, seems like Tokyo only starts coming alive around 10am. Note how in the top left picture sidewalks have clearly marked lanes for bicycles and people walking. Cycles not wanted on the street itself. Japanese people are very polite and orderly. They will wait at a pedestrian crossing even if not a single car is in sight until the light turns green. Walking on busy sidewalks is opposite to home, you walk on the LEFT just like they drive on the left.

No matter how busy it gets in malls, sidewalks and train stations there is never any pushing and shoving, everyone waits their turn and even bottle necks at escalators people neatly line up in single file.

Streets are immaculately clean (even the residential back alleys), restrooms plentiful and absolutely pristine! NO garbage anywhere!

We then made our way over to the botanical gardens nearby where they have temples and boats you can rent to paddle out on the pond. Also a zoo and many museums, but we don't do zoos and museums.

The pond had a lot of fish in it and when they noticed people looking down at them they started begging for food. Pretty funny.

There are vending machines EVERYWHERE. On every corner selling soft drinks, iced coffee, snacks and even beer!

We then went to the Old Town shopping area which was most interesting! The decor, as you can see, is somewhat over the top! After that it was time for lunch - our first Japanese meal in Japan!

No Knives or Forks Allowed!

There were a lot of hole in the wall local places and street food that was super cheap but we decided to play it safe and go a little more up market for our first restaurant. Not fancy but somewhere in the middle.  Main criteria - Menu in English!!

Wendy had Maguro with roe atop sticky rice and some really fishy dried stuff she didn't like.

My lunch was 4 different cuts of pork, sprouts, parsnips and a poached egg on sticky rice with soup on the side. Very, very yummy. Pork is BIG in Japan.

For the inexperienced it might have been a challenge as their are NO forks or spoons provided, just chop sticks. Soup is consumed by holding the bowl to your lips. Making slurping noises is very acceptable in Japan.

Our lunch plus 2 beers came to $40. Not super cheap, but this is Tokyo one of the most expensive cities in Asia! The beers were $5 each, so the meal itself was $30.

Currency is Yen, and there is Y118 to US$1. Fairly easy to convert as you just divide by 100 and it is a little less than that. Basically move the decimal 2 places on any price you see and you will be close enough.

After 5 hours of straight walking several miles we were tired and decided to go back to the hotel and rest up so we can do the night market later.

On the way we stopped at a local supermarket for beer and wine. Look closely at the picture on the right, that is the smallest shopping basket I have ever seen, it barely held a single bottle of wine!

Beers range between $1-$2 each and wine from $4-$10 for a 750ml bottle. Not bad for Tokyo. There are Seven Eleven markets on every corner and they sell not only beer and wine but bottles of liquor as well. Whisky is CHEAP!  $12 for a liter of Famous Grouse that I already paid $22 for at LAX Duty Free. ARGH!

Smoking is not encouraged on the streets although it is still legal. It is however ILLEGAL to smoke and walk. Smoking areas are provided in outdoor marked areas. On the other hand, inside restaurants and bars you can smoke all you want, most don't even have a non-smoking section!!  However, wanna drink a beer and walk down the street?  NO PROBLEM!  Drink away!

There is a LOT less English than I was expecting. Finding menus with English translation is not that common (maybe only 10-20% of those we saw) - fortunately every menu has pictures! Street and directional signs have English, but most shop signs, maps, brochures are Japanese only. Many products on the shelves are in Japanese only, so difficult to tell what they are!

After a nice rest we headed out to walk the market and find dinner. After the pleasant weather at 55 degrees earlier today, it got substantially colder with a nasty wind. So after a short walk through the market we said enough, let's eat!

Another strange thing about Japanese restaurants, they put plates out in the window to display their food. But zoom in closer, this is not food, it is molded plastic models of their food!

We had every intention of eating Japanese, but finding the right restaurant with few having English was proving difficult and we were getting COLD!!

So we decided on an experiment when we came upon a TGIFriday's. How authentic would you think an American chain would be in Japan? Time to find out and get out of the chilling wind.

Firstly, we were the ONLY Westerners in the place and it was weird watching a bunch of Japanese people eating burgers and steaks with KNIVES and FORKS with NO chopsticks in sight! (Cuz we all know most Americans would have no clue how to use chop sticks in an authentic Asian restaurant!!) They were also drinking Western beer. The food was very authentic with no Japanese twist.

Our waitress was simply adorable! She loves everything American, especially, American food, Justin Bieber and the Kardashians! She is studying English in college. We asked her if there was anything she ever wanted to ask an American but was too afraid. Her first question was do all American's really smoke weed? HAHAHA!

We answered, yip, pretty much.  Except us - we have random drug testing at work.


And finally....



The only Japanese beer we really know is Kirin and Sapporo sold in the USA, but the supermarket has a full range of many, many other different beers so we bought a sampler from the Seven Eleven!

My favorite had written on it in English: "The refreshing taste cheers your mind."

Tomorrow more exploration!  We have hired a private guide to show us the "Locals Only" and learn about the local culture and history.  Waaaaaay better than a nasty group bus tour of 50 people.