Land of the Rising Sun?

We’re off on another adventure, this time to Asia, our first visit. Departing Vancouver International Airport at 2:00 Tuesday afternoon, we flew for 10 hours and landed at Tokyo’s Narita Airport at 5:00 Wednesday afternoon, gaining 7 hours by time zone, but losing 24 hours crossing the International Date Line. I think. Here’s what it looks like when an entire day disappears:

We packed light, a carry-on bag and day-pack each, allowing us to skip the baggage carousels and slip right through immigration and customs before the other passengers on our flight. Welcome to Japan!

I had booked our first night at an airport hotel, rather than trying to make the additional 2 hour trip into downtown Tokyo after such a long flight. We checked in, got a quick bite to eat at the hotel restaurant, then went straight to bed, sleeping nearly 15 hours in an attempt to counteract jet lag.

The next morning, Thursday, we caught the “Speedy & Directly Best Access Friendly Airport Limousine” bus from the airport to the Richmond Hotel Premier Asakusa International, a modern hotel superbly located in the Asakusa district just a few hundred yards from Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. We went off in search of it on this cold and rainy day.

The rain didn’t deter the many locals and tourists out for a day of shopping and sight-seeing. Unlike in Washington, everyone here uses an umbrella. I’m taller than most Japanese, whose umbrellas are carried at the height of my nose, so I had to be careful walking this street, lest one take out an eye.

Here’s our first view of Sensō-ji Temple. It was established in 645 AD, but the original temple was destroyed by American bombers in WWII. This recreation was built in 1958. According to Wikipedia it is “the most widely visited spiritual site in the world with over 30 million visitors annually.”

We went inside the main temple (no photos, please), then walked the grounds for a little while:

But, it was getting late and we were hungry and tired and the cold and rain would not let up, so we headed back toward the hotel, looking for somewhere to have dinner. We had learned from our lunch selection earlier in the day not to rely on Google Translate for ordering food. This time we wanted to go somewhere that had pictures of the offerings and an English menu. We found it at Mizuguchi Shokudo, an old-fashioned Japanese diner near our hotel. When we arrived, there were only a few occupied tables, but soon after, nearly every seat was taken. Next to us were two sisters, Hiroko and Kazuko, out for a day of shopping. We ordered beer; they were drinking wine. We toasted them, “Kanpai!” and they toasted back, “Cheers!” The start of a new friendship.

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