Tokyo to DC: The Long Road Home
We fell asleep ridiculously early again last night and I woke up in the middle of the night to Jeff coming back from a late-night snack run. One of his favorite things to do while traveling is to raid the country’s snack selection at convenient stores. Last night, he came back with drinks, some amazing cheese crackers called “Cheeza,” some Japanese version of Pringles, and a mini Toblerone for wifey.
Every hotel we’ve stayed at in Japan has offered very little in the way of English-speaking television. (Which is fine—on this trip, as on others—since we’re usually too tired to watch anything anyhow. That’s not why we’re here; it’s just a nice-to-have. And now we have iPad movies, too.) They typically at least have MTV wherever we travel and, sadly, I’ve ended up watching more “Jersey Shores” and “Catfishes” than I’d like to admit as a result. What’s ended up happening here is that we’ve completely zoned out on several Japanese channels that we can’t seem to take our eyes off of. These have included cartoons, sports, some sort of ninja soap opera, and… “WWE Raw.” (I don’t even know if that’s what it’s called anymore!) It’s true. We literally spent the morning mesmerized. …I have nothing else to say about that. Just an admission that it happened.
We mostly relaxed. Slept in, as much as we sleep in. Had some coffee. Blogged. Got some breakfast. Lounged. Packed. Checked out. And caught a taxi to the airport. We flew into Narita, but are leaving out of Haneda. I don’t remember anything negative about Narita, but Haneda is a very nice airport. Easy to navigate. Lots of amenities. We got there early and the time passed quickly. So, now I’m officially on the flight home. Tokyo to LAX to DC.
Japan in Retrospect
How would I rank Japan against other places I’ve visited? I get asked that a lot about everywhere I visit and it’s always a tough question to answer. I always know what my all-time favorite destinations have been (I can’t pick just one), and I’ve never had a bad trip. There are some places I’ve been that I don’t care to return to (Zagreb or Bucharest, for example), but that doesn’t mean the country itself wasn’t beautiful or I didn’t otherwise have a great time. Jeff and I always just say that everywhere we’ve been is different, and it’s kind of impossible to compare them.
Honestly, Japan was pretty great, all in all. It was my first time visiting Asia and it definitely has me wanting to learn more. If I ever came back to Japan specifically, I’d try to see seem other islands and more of the mountains and coastline because I hear it’s all amazing. The culture is incredible. The people are kind and welcoming and polite. I think I ended up in bowing contests with folks on more than one occasion.
Also interesting about Japan is their attention to detail and the everyday technology available. Smoking is limited to specific areas of the cities and there is little to no litter, despite the fact that finding public trash cans was actually somewhat difficult. When metro’ing or taking the trains, they have line-up systems for specific cars making the efficiency of on- and off-boarding incredible. The Bullet Trains in and of themselves are a pretty amazing technology. Their escalators speed up once you get on them. They have footlights in hotel rooms, not to mention automatic toilets. They have lips on the edges of tables everywhere to prevent things from sliding off. The mothering rooms at the airports have thirty contraptions, none of which I can identify (see below). They have a few of them as well. In addition to placing little boys urinals in the women’s restrooms. The details and considerations of these things are nice, and they kind of add to the hospitality of the overall country.
Prices are a little steep for hotels, but you definitely don’t have to go the route that Jeff and I went. In my younger days, I certainly would’ve tried my hand at a capsule hotel just for the hell of it. There are always Air BnBs and hostels. A lot of the side street restaurants were much less expensive than the places on the main tourist drags, obviously. We also managed to get a great deal on our flights, perhaps because it was during Golden Week. The Bullet Train is pricier, but you can purchase rail passes for the cheaper trains or just take the bus.
Minor loose ends of mention
One surprising culinary thing I found when I was there—curry is kind of a big deal. I had no idea about this, but I love curry anything and ate it for a good portion of my trip. It was introduced to Japan by the British when India was under their colonial rule. I read that it’s consumed so widely in Japan, it’s considered a national dish!
I told you I’d get back to you on the sumo belts. They’re called “mawashi” and they do indeed have different colors for different ranks. They also have different folds for the colors. They have fancier ones they wear for competitions.
I also said I’d get back to you on the clapping. I couldn’t find much about this, but I did learn there are certain clapping customs in Japan at the end of business meetings. And they generally only clap at the conclusion of the meeting in its entirety. Maybe this is why no one clapped after the one cheerleading performance? Because there were others?
The 40×40 Challenge… Check.
So, what’s next? I honestly have no idea. 50×50 seems completely doable, but not all that interesting and I don’t know if that’s a “thing,” or if I’d just be making it up. The 40×40 is an actual thing in the big wide world. As is all fifty states, which I’ve also done. (See #TravelGoals in link.) I dunno, I guess who cares if I just make it up, right? It’s just a goal for me. Maybe I’ll help Jeff complete his 50 states since his 40×40 potential has passed. (Is passing? Just isn’t going to happen?) I once met a New Zealand man in Croatia who was trying to visit 100 countries before he died. That’s a possibility. All the continents? The whole “visit every country in the world” is totally out for me; I actually have no desire to visit certain countries, though I’m pretty impressed with folks who have. Anyhow, let me know what ideas you might have. I don’t necessarily need inspiration to keep traveling, of course, but a challenge here or there always gives us a good nudge.
I’ll complete this entry by listing my final country list for the 40×40 (as well as a couple other tidbits). A big farewell to a goal long sought. See anything that inspires you in here?
Antigua | Aruba | Austria | Barbados | Belgium | Bosnia & Herzegovina | Bulgaria | Canada | Chile | Costa Rica | Croatia | Czech Republic | Denmark | Ecuador | Fiji | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Italy | Japan | Luxembourg | Mexico | Montenegro | Netherlands | New Zealand | Romania | Saint Kitts | Saint Lucia | Slovakia | Slovenia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey | United Kingdom | United States | Vatican City
Former countries and constituent nations: England | Northern Ireland | Puerto Rico | Sint Maarten | West Germany
United States and Canadian Provinces: All 50 states | Alberta | British Columbia | Ontario | Quebec
Today’s featured photo: Hanging lanterns at the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
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