A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Tokyo Airport

We arrived at Tokyo Airport before 7am, armed with a detailed master plan as to how to expedite our way through customs, get on the Narita Express to Tokyo, visit the Imperial Palace grounds, eat the most amazing (and expensive) sushi in the world, and arrive back by 2:30pm to catch our flights. Only problem was, I got one lousy hour of sleep (due to screaming kids and over-crowding) and Ron had just started to get my cold. We stood bleary eyed at the end of the ramp into the airport, like zombies. What to do now? Well, the traveler in us told us to press on, no matter the obstacle or physical discomfort. “You only get this one chance, don’t waste it.” The pragmatist in us said, “Screw it I want to go back to sleep.” Solution: the day room. Only the Japanese would think to provide a room at the airport where you could pay by the hour to sleep. Ingenious. We awaited their opening at 8am and snagged a double room for 5 hours. Cost: $65. A little more than the Holiday Inn, but worth every yen.

We awoke and wandered through the designer shops and duty free offerings. What can I say, the airport was splendid. Everything was clean and sparkling: all the little trinket shops with lucky cats and anime dolls.

Perusing bean paste sweets, as lovely as a work of art, as expensive as a small car…

Next came a Japanese food extravaganza. Since it was morning, we headed to a café for coffee and pastries. We sat amongst chain smoking travelers for an hour, only then realizing the whole café was, in fact, the smoking section. We headed to the next course where we ate some Japanese fast food, or Ikayaki, pan-fried squid dumpling. It looked more like deep fried goodness than it tasted: the inside was gooey with a hint of fishy flavor. However, the cold Kirin beer, serving as a chaser, saved the day.

We were frequently lured by the fantastical plastic recreations of menu items in restaurant windows, but we couldn’t resist the sushi bar. I mean, how can you visit Japan and not eat some sushi? We opted for a line-up of our favorite nigiri: maguro (tuna), sake (salmon), and aji (mackerel). Sipping hot sake and savoring the moment. Clearly, it wouldn’t rival the famous Tokyo sushi joints, but it hit the spot and made us feel like we got a little taste of this little island.

Now I know that in my synopsis I tend to stereotype, but I just loved, I mean LOVED the Japanese people: their gentle way, sincere helpfulness, and sheer graciousness. Everyone we met was so polite (and so stylish), I was literally taken aback. The only thing rotten about the whole day, was knowing we would be leaving, and we didn’t even get to venture out of the airport. Ron and I firmly resolved that in our next world travels we must return and properly visit Japan. Sure, we’ll need a small fortune but I have a sneaking suspicion, more like a trustworthy inkling, that it will be well worth it. Something about the air, the overriding sentiment of quality over quantity, has won me over. I’m smitten.

When it was time to board our separate planes, a curious feeling came over me. I had dreamed of this day (can you blame me after spending every day together for over nine months?!), and equally feared it, how could we ever part? Can I function alone in the world? And more importantly, can I even function? This ending has been quite abrupt and unexpected. We are being flung back into our regular lives - to sink or to swim.

Will we hack it? We'll see, dear readers. We'll see...


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