Saturday, October 10, 2009

Japan, the return... 2009 version

Yes, a blog post.... my first in over a year. Why now? Well we're back in Japan, for a month this time 'round, and Japan is what this here blog has been all about, so it just seems right is all.

After quite some time without much in the way of time off, this whole month off thing seems a bit surreal. After finishing up the packing on Tuesday night, we turned in early to grab a few Zs before having to get up for our 6:47AM flight out. Now THAT was an early morning, ugh. Didn't start off all that well with the United check-in lady arguing with me about our needing visas to enter Japan, despite the fact I could see on her screen that their documentation said we didn't.... stupid people suck. We then grabbed a quick bite before hopping on our flight to O'Hare, where Arekusu-sensei was waiting for us.

The flight went well, with Keita comfortably tucked into his car seat. So far so good. We were unfortunately delayed 4 hours in Chicago (8 hours total at the airport) thanks to a big-ass typhoon about to hit Japan that we would have basically had to land into. So the extra time allowed for the storm to move along and we got to watch Keita running around the kids play area, a god-send that was! Finally our plane boarded and we were on our way, 12 hours to Tokyo!

The flight went really well, Keita did a great job and thanks to some empty seats, we set him up on a couple of seats and he slept a good 8 hours or so. The landing was the roughest I've ever had, cross winds from the typhoon I guess, it was a pretty wild ride down. As we started our descent there was this hundred foot drop in the span of a second, talk about a rude awakening! As the bumps continued, some stuff started sliding around the cabin and people kept giving each other anxious looks... finally we touched down and the flight attendants commented on how good a job the pilots did, I guess they were expecting the rough ride.

So after all that, we did the train thing out to Tokyo, exhausted as hell but glad to finally be here. Our hotel was the Hotel Sun Targas, just a couple minutes out of Ueno station, very well located... once we found it, and we crashed shortly after arriving, 'round 10 ish.

Friday morning, we got up, enjoyed our little breakfast in the lobby and did a bit of walking in Ueno as the JR ticket office didn't open until 10:30. Love the area, Ameyoko is always a nice visit and doing it so early, we got to see all the shops slowly opening up for business, and no crowds at all. After checking out of the hotel and grabbing our rail passes, we hopped on the Ginza line and headed to Asakusa, got our tickets (private compartment thank you very much) for the Tobu line up to Nikko and were on our way once again. The typhoon had cleared the air nicely and we could see the Alps off to the North and of course the mountain range around Nikko towards which we were heading.

The smiles on Yoshiko's parents faces as they saw our little man after a year and a half was well worth the trip. After dropping Doris and Andre at their hotel in Nikko, it was off to Imaichi for some down time and some grub.

Saturday morning, with Keita in a better mood despite the jet lag and lack of sleep, he got to explore the garden a bit and meet his great-grand-mother once again.

I headed out to Nikko to meet up with Doris and Andre and we took the JR Nikko line down to Utsunomiya. This was to serve as a bit of an orientation to trains and stations for them as the previous days' travels consisted of us just running through stations catching trains and no time to explain anything. Turned out we had a great day, weather was nice for most of it and we walked around quite a bit.

It was nice once again to see some positive changes in the city. Seems that a lot of shops/restaurants have opened up on Orion and O-dori and the beautification of the area around Futara-yama shrine is continuing with the nasty building which was still standing on the left being replaced with a new one and leaving some room for a bit of a public square.

Hit up Metro for lunch, glad to see that the Praktica fare had moved to the larger location near Aeon. I've been dreaming about their Vietnamese curry since the last time we were here, and it didn't disappoint... (drools). Ran into a bunch of students on our travels as well, word is getting around that I'm back and I'll have to start making plans for the second half of our stay to meet up with some peoplez. All in all a fantastic return to the Nomiya.

Today, with the weather promising to be in the 20s, we're heading up the road to see the shrines and temples of Nikko. More to come later.


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