Tokyo (August 17 - 19, 2001)

Hiroshima & area

New Zealand

I could tell it was time to land in Narita - Heather and Chloe had just fallen asleep after 9 hours of flying from Vancouver.  

Vacation Day 1We had often heard about how expensive Tokyo was, and we discovered this first hand when we made our hotel reservation from Narita. Hotels charge by the person for each room. The 5 of us would have to pay about $330 per night. This was at a Ryokan (Japanese style hotel) recommended in our guide book as being clean and relatively inexpensive... and I suppose it would have been if there were just two of us. Charging per person seems to be the rule.

Few people speak english, but those who do seem to relish the opportunity to talk with us and help. En route from Narita in the train, we sat next to a family from Tokyo who had spent time in New York. They very kindly got us going in the right direction and advised us on the best way to get to the hotel. We got the impression that if they had a bigger house, they would have invited us to stay. I hope Canadians are as nice to tourists in Canada!

We arrived at the hotel about 8:00 PM (4:00 AM Vancouver) and crashed shortly after. It had been a very long day. 

Of course, we all woke up at 4:00 AM. We finally got out of bed at about 6:00, and left the hotel looking for breakfast at 7:00. Strangely enough, nothing was open except for a Mr. Donut, so we had some excellent donuts for our first Japanese meal. 

We bought a subway day pass (about $10 per adult and $5 per child) and left to see the city. Being a Saturday, the subways were not really crowded. 

Tsukiji fish marketOur first destination was the Tsukiji, the wholesale fish market that supplies all of Tokyo with its fish.  It was incredible. Huge, noisy, wet, and bustling, with workers carving, packing, carrying, and moving fish of every description.

Next stop was the Ginza shopping area. We were the first ones into one of the larger department stores - all the staff lined up by their sections and bowed as we walked by. It was a bit uncomfortable as we did not know if we were expected to do something. However after a few minutes, they all turned (as if by some signal) and started their daily work. 

The stores, like many things in Japan, are 'just so'. Merchandise is impeccably presented, and staffing levels were much higher than what we would see back in Canada. We were greeted at the doors on our way in and out.  Lots of employees are in uniforms and many have white gloves. This is similar in many businesses... stores, traffic policeman, railway and subway staff. We were amazed to buy some ice cream and watch it be packed in an insulated bag with dry ice to keep it cold. 

Speaking of high costs, most of the food stores had honeydew melons for $150. Each. We did not buy one. 

We went into the Sony building and saw all of their products in a 'hands on' display. The Sony store prices were very similar to US discount prices. However we heard that Hong Kong would be cheaper so we decided to leave accessory purchases for our camera until then.   

After a quick return to the hotel for a rest, we went to Akibahara, the consumer electronics area. We went with Pam, Vivek, and their daughter Monisha - a family from New York whom we met at the hotel when we first arrived.  Pam had lived in Tokyo for 2 years some while back and had a good command of Japanese and provided us with lots of tips on Japanese customs and what to do in Tokyo.

double decker bike storage

Space is at a premium in Tokyo. Double decker bicycle parking, and parking garages that were more like ferris wheels than parking lots. There was very little green space - few trees and fewer parks. It was not as crowded as I had expected - perhaps it was summer vacation or just the weekend. 

After a quick walk around neighbouring Senso-ji temple, we caught the Shinkansen ('bullet train') to Kyoto at 11:00AM on Sunday. Read all about Kyoto!