October 14, 2007

Arriving in Tokyo

The flight from Vancouver to Tokyo was uneventful, but the descent into Narita brought a smile to my face as I listened to the middle-aged tourist couple behind me excitedly point things out in the landscape: "Look honey, they've got Toshiba in Japan, too!" Ah, yeah :-).

Yumi met me at Narita Airport on Sunday afternoon -- she'd left for Japan a week early to spend more time with her parents.

I felt the change in the air and humidity the moment I stepped off the plane, even though the temperature was around 20C. My nose crinkled up, my pores opened up, and sweat began to trickle down the small of my back.

I was second in the "gaijin" (foreigner) line in immigration and sailed through. In typical Japanese efficiency, from the time I passed through immigration and picked up my bags, it took us only minutes to set up my Japan Rail Pass, get reserved seats on the Narita Express to Tokyo Station, and run for the train. Whew! Love that clockwork train system.

As we traveled in to the city, night fell early, and it was pitch black by around 5:00 p.m. As the mixed farms and towns of Chiba gradually filled in with the tens of kilometers of unbroken urban concrete jungle of the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, I was overwhelmed with a sense of time passed. I lived in Tokyo for 14 years in the '80s and '90s, but this trip I felt more like a tourist and a stranger than I ever had in previous visits back after moving to Canada. A four-year gap can do that to you...

From Tokyo Station we took the Chuo Line to Ochanomizu Station, and walked the five minutes to Hamilton Inn Ochanomizu, a basic yet comfortable business hotel where we've stayed several times.

I grabbed a quick shower and then we headed out to get something to eat and drink. We walked over to the Kanda shopping arcade, and I marveled at the familiarity, and the changes, in the area near where I worked for several years back in the late 90s. We ended up at a Watami chain izakaya, or pub, near Kanda Station, and I reveled in the familiar menu items and excellent Japanese beer.

The strangeness fell away and I felt great to be back in Tokyo!

Posted by Paul at October 14, 2007 07:13 PM