Archive for February, 2014

Day Four: Friday, February 28 (Tokyo):

February 28, 2014

We began our day at 4:15 a.m. making our way to the Tsukji Market (Tokyo’s legendary fish market).  There are only two tours per day and it is on a first-come, first-serve basis.  The first tour begins at 5:25 a.m., but you must arrive by about 4:30 a.m. or you won’t get on one of only two tours per day.  We were fortunate to get on the second tour which began at 5:50 a.m.  The Tsukii Market is very busy with small fork lifts being driven down narrow paths of crates.  Inside the warehouse, fish brokers inspect the fish with flashlights and small picks.  The tuna are huge, about the size of a very large dog, I’m guessing they weigh 150 or more pounds.  The auctioneer conducts the lively bidding sessions and the winning fish brokers drag their fish with them at the end of the auction.  We then had a very early breakfast.

Next we ventured via the Tokyo metro, feeling braver about it after spending time on it with Hiroya the day before.  We made our way to Meiji Jingu, a large Shinto Shrine.  We were able to witness a traditional Japanese wedding procession, which was elegant.  We then made our way to the Tokyo City View, where we had an impressive view of the city from the 54th floor.  We ended our day with a late lunch at a European-style bistro and enjoyed Croce Monsour sandwiches.

I received an email from Matt, who is meeting us in Singapore; that his flight was delayed 20-hours due to heavy rain in San Diego. We were able to Skype, which was good, because he was upset that any further delays would result in him missing the cruise departure.

Tokyo is very ‘Jared-friendly’ things are orderly, on-time (usually early), polite and fastidiously clean.  MaryKay thinks I may have been Japanese in my previously life, I tend to agree.

Tokyo Fish Market, Tuna

Tokyo Fish Market, Tuna

Tokyo Fish Market, inspecting fish

Tokyo Fish Market, inspecting fish

Meiji Jingu, Shinto Shrine

Meiji Jingu, Shinto Shrine

Jared, Meiji Jingu

Jared, Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu, Traditional Japanese Wedding

Meiji Jingu, Traditional Japanese Wedding

Bill, MaryKay, Jared Tokyo City View

Bill, MaryKay, Jared Tokyo City View

Day Three: Thursday, February 27 (Tokyo):

February 28, 2014

Unfortunately I did not sleep well last night due to the time change. One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog post was that I am traveling with Matt’s Aunt MaryKay and Uncle Bill from Portland. We are very fortunate to have them in our lives and are so excited to share this great adventure with them. This is an unusual vacation in that Matt is not with me the entire time, he is going to meet us Sunday in Singapore where we board our 14-night Southeast Asian cruise. He didn’t have enough vacation time so he is just joining for the cruise portion of the trip.We began our day by having the most delicious French breakfast at a delightful bistro near our hotel. They had an impressive selection of jams, including a cinnamon butter which was outstanding. We then ventured out to see the Sensoji Temple, which includes huge Japanese lanterns on either side of a long shopping corridor lined by year-round cherry blossoms, yes they are fake during the ‘off-season.’ The temple was impressive and enjoyed some hot pork buns as we left. As you’ll see in the below photo ‘I’m huge in Japan.’ Actually what is interesting is that I expected to tower over everyone, but in fact only the older Japanese are short, most under the age of 60 are the same size as Americans.

Next we joined my Tokyo co-worker and friend Hiroya for a Japanese Tea Ceremony. The ceremony was at Happo-en, which includes stunning grounds, including a 500-year-old Bonsai tree and coy ponds. It is a popular place to host weddings. Hiroya served as our interpreter during the tea ceremony which was very helpful.

We then visited the enormous Tokyo Central Railway station, which makes New York’s Grand Central Terminal look small. The station includes a large upscale mall and beautiful red brick architecture. We had dinner at a casual Italian restaurant, which was very good.

Tokyo Central Railway

Tokyo Central Railway

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Hiroya, Jared, Bill and MaryKay Japanese Tea Ceremony

Hiroya, Jared, Bill and MaryKay Japanese Tea Ceremony

Bill, MaryKay, Jared Japanese Tea Ceremony

Bill, MaryKay, Jared Japanese Tea Ceremony

Jams from French Bistro

Jams from French Bistro

Jared Huge in Japan

Jared Huge in Japan

Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple

Day one and two: Tuesday, February 25/Wednesday, February 26: Travel to Tokyo

February 26, 2014

My friend Carlos Vargas took me to the airport since my nephew Otis had a fever and my sister stayed home to take care of him. We left for LAX at 7:00 a.m. and with miraculously little traffic arrived a short two hours later. I checked-in at the Japan Airlines ticket counter and was given a pass to the lounge. I prefer premium economy when traveling long distances, not only do you have a nicer on-board experience, but you can also use the lounge which is very nice. The recently Boeing 777 was recently renovated and I watched two movies on the way over; Jobs and Sumo Do and Sumo Don’t, a Japanese comedy about a struggling college sumo wrestling team overcoming great odds. After just 10.5 hours, we arrived. We actually were 1.5 hours early. The entire customs/baggage claim process was quick and efficient and I easily found Bill and MaryKay at the other terminal with our driver. The driver was outstanding and gave us a little overview during the 1.5 hour drive to the hotel.The Prince Park Tower Tokyo is a beautiful four-star hotel. We were greeted with the smell of fresh flowers and a lovely front desk staff. Our quiet rooms are in the 18th floor with a beautiful city view. We asked directions to the ATM, located in a nearby 7/11 and found it easily. We ate dinner in a casual Japanese restaurant, where you order and pay from a kiosk in front of the restaurant. We washed our hands in the combo ‘soap/rinse/dry’ hand wash basin, very efficient. We enjoyed a great meal and saw a beautiful structure lit up, which looks like the Eifel Tower.

Prince Park Tower Hotel with 'Eifel Tower'

Prince Park Tower Hotel with ‘Eifel Tower’

Tokyo Ordering Kiosk

Tokyo soap wash dry sink

Tokyo soap wash dry sink