Circling Japan - Summer 2014 travel blog

train station

crowds crossing

street panorama

bento box

squid

kimonos

decorative combs

doll cakes

fish

Pocari Sweat

vending machines

roof top garden

basil seed drink

sidewalk scene


We didn't plan much for today, which worked out just fine since the weather was dismal - steady down pour for most of the day. Breakfast didn't start until 6:30am and we were up long before - that's jet lag. We have 14 time zones to overcome. The buffet included familiar items like sort of scrambled eggs, and bacon-ish meat as well as dishes more palatable for the natives. There was lots of fish and the salad bar selections were also popular breakfast choices. The men at work, called salary men here, still wear white dress shirts and ties as they did in the 1980's when we were here last, and they shoveled in their food with chop sticks. All the dishes had signs in English and Japanese so we were only somewhat surprised by how things tasted.

The hotel room is the smallest room we have ever stayed in. There are two single beds with just enough room to walk around them sideways. When we go to bed the suitcases are wedged next to us. It makes up getting up in the dark to answer the call of nature a real challenge. We're confident that the cabin on the cruise ship will be much larger. But everything is neat and clean and works perfectly. We especially appreciate the fast internet. Since the room is too small to sit in, we spent time in the lobby reading until the rain let up a bit.

The railroad station is nearby and it is surrounded by a huge mall of shops and restaurants, a dry place to wander around. The Japanese value presentation and every shop was a treat for the eyes. Many name brands from the west are here as well as local shops with surprising names. The Camping store sold shoes, for example. We saw many tasty looking bento boxes - meals prepared especially to take on the train. Many food shops and restaurants had models of their creations in their show cases. They are so well done, it is hard to tell the real food from the plastic version.

Most of the buildings in Shinjuku neighborhood where we are staying are functional, but plain with little adornment. Anything that was quaint or historic was destroyed by our bombs in World War II and the primary rebuilding effort after the war was practical and functional with little money left for aesthetics or creative architecture. Buildings nearby are well kept, but they don't reflect the energy or vision of recent Chinese construction projects, for example.

We walked to Isetan, the Harrod's of Tokyo. It was fun to wander around in the kimono display and look at all the colorful fabric choices for the obis, the sashes that are wound around the kimono and hold it shut. Accessories like fans, fancy flip flops, and hair jewelry were also displayed. You do see some ladies wearing kimonos, but for the most part Japanese women are stylishly dressed in modern clothing. Leggings are very popular here.

We are surprised not to see anyone smoking any more; at least that was the case until we went to the rooftop garden at Isetan's, where a crowd was puffing away. Perhaps it is illegal to smoke in most public venues??

Isetan also has a massive food hall in the basement, just like Harrod's. Each food stall was manned by fleets of servers wearing uniforms distinctive from those nearby. No employee cutbacks here. Melons and apples, each wrapped in individual cases were lovingly displayed with breath taking prices to match. Strawberries were grouped by size and color so a package of 8 costing $12, looked like a set of clones. Everything from cakes to caviar to carrots was available here, beautifully packaged and astronomically priced.

For a cheaper option, you could patronize a vending machine. You see them on every block and they sell alcoholic items without anyone checking ID of course, as well as Pocari Sweat, a drink whose name would never appeal to us "round eyes."

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