May 1, 2008

Tokyo - Golden Week Vacation

After a true day of rest at home (the kids had school but Mike was off from work), we headed to Tokyo for part two of our Golden Week vacation from May 1st to May 5th. It was a terrific family trip. We will post about our Tokyo trip in pieces over the next week.


Coming from the living in the Kansai region, Tokyo seemed amazingly western - we were shocked by all of the non-Japanese people, the amount of English, and the amazing variety of western shopping and food that was available. While in Tokyo, we ate a lot of the Western food we had been craving. (In the overall though, we love it here in Kansai; given our experience so far, it definitely felt a little weird being able to grab a bagel for breakfast and burgers and fries for lunch.) Tokyo is also far more spread out and sprawling then we had thought it would be; it's a huge city, and we traipsed through a whole bunch of its 23 "wards." But in most areas it is not nearly as compressed and compacted as a city like New York. Tokyo has great parks and a terrific variety of neighborhoods. The kids were total troopers throughout, and our time in Tokyo was a great mix of touristy stuff and just hanging out with friends.

Our trip began on Thursday. We took a flight from nearby Kobe Airport, a teeny airport off of Port Island (the other man-made island on Kobe Bay). After a short one-hour flight, we arrived at Haneda airport, and took the monorail into Tokyo.

Our hotel was in the Shiodome area of Tokyo, an ultra-modern hotel, shopping, and business complex along the eastern edge of the city near the river overlooking Hama-rikyu park. Aerial walkways, glass skyscrapers, and escalators abound. (The number of escalators both below and above ground in Tokyo truly boggles the mind - we counted, and on our last 1/2 day in Tokyo alone, we took over 40 escalators).

After dropping our stuff at the hotel, we spent our first afternoon getting the lay of the land by taking the elevator up to the observation deck of Tokyo Tower. (Before heading up, we had one of our supermarket picnics in the shadow of the tower- edamame, sushi, etc. On the bench across from us, a pair of young Japanese were also having a picnic. Their meal - McDonalds.). The Tokyo Tower is sort of Eiffel Tower-ish, and is a fairly cheesy tourist attraction. But it was neat to go up and see the 360 degree view of the city. On our way up, the elevator was bathed in blue light. We like this shot below of our elevator girl. At the top, they have these very cool plexi-glass "look down" areas that Lauren was checking out in the picture below. Afterwards, we walked through the outskirts of Shiba Koen (Shiba Park), a peaceful park, and made our way to Zojoji Temple. Jacob rang the bell a few times, and beside the temple we checked out the rows and rows of "jizobosatusu statues," each of which is clad in a red skullcap and equipped with a colored pinwheel. (We learned later that these statues represent angels that protect unborn children).

Later that evening we met up with our good friends Bob and Maho, who live in Tokyo, for dinner in at their place. (Bob and Maho took seriously good care of us all weekend. We had a terrific time with them. Though it seems that Bob might have some stiff competition from Jacob, who kept hitting on Maho - in fact, Jacob demonstrated substantial pick-up artist skillz all weekend, as he continued to remind us that he does in fact like girls better than boys "because they are prettier and they smell better than boys." He even used the line "I'm Jacob." "You're cute" on a pair of six year old gaijin girls that he met on the train one day. Apparently that line actually works.).

On Thursday night, Bob and Maho graciously picked up a veritable feast from "David's Deli," which included falafel, hummus, chicken schnitzel, and all the fixin's. Talk about hitting the spot! We hung out, caught up, and drank wine while the kids watched SpongeBob (Sponge-bobu in Japan, we guess) and played on the exercise bike. It was all good. Friends of theirs who joined us for dinner even gave the kids their own pinwheels (including miniature koinobori carp kites that are traditional for Boy's Day) as a gift, which provided serious entertainment through the night and on the way home.


Lisa said...

Can someone tell lauren she's cute, but the peace sign in photographs is so usual you keep me very entertained and keep me missing you all more and more. LOVE!

Mike said...

We would also have to tell the 120 million Japanese people too, since it is THE thing to do in photos here. I asked why - V for victory? Sign for peace? No real answer; its just known as the photo pose.