And speaking of Weather…I am about to experience my first Typhoon! Typhoon Jelawat (cool name!) is set to hit Tokyo full on in the early morning hours. It’s 9pm and right now, pre-hit, the wind is picking up and it’s pouring rain (by LA standards anyway.) From what I understand, the typhoon is hitting Okazaki – the city in which the Yamasa institute resides, right this very minute. Then it will head north and hit Tokyo. Mochiron! (Of course!) でも,しかたがない（But…it can’t be helped…)
Arriving at Narita, it surprised me how easy everything was this time. I remember being overwhelmed by the crowds and the odd look of the security guards with their crisp uniforms, white gloves and medical face masks, who seemed to be everywhere, many of them with German Shepards. Now I realize there must have been a security breach at the time, a possible drug or bomb. I thought last time that the airport was just run very militaristically.
This time though, not at all... very few people arrived when I did, our plane was not full. The lines for immigration took 15 minutes, not 45 as they did last time. I felt sad in a way, like people still aren't coming to Japan to travel after the tsunami and radiation leakage.
As suggested by a friend, I walked my bags over to the takkyubin office and had my bags delivered to the hotel the next day. At first this seemed hard to do, it meant packing stuff in my carry on for the next day, since the luggage doesn't arrive until 10 am. But actually, it was just fine and saved me from having to lug my two suitcases around on trains and taxis and through the station itself.
The Richmond Hotel stands just at the edge of Asakusa (pronounced Ahsocksah). Asakusa is Tokyo's old town and is a favorite tourist destination for Japanese travelers as well. People come from all over to try the regional sweets, to stand under the giant lantern at Sensoji and walk down the Nakimase Dori where street vendors sell their goods at the foot of the temple.
The two buildings lit with golden lights are the Sensoji temple. The tall building in the center is the absolutely brand new "Tokyo Sky Tree." My lens doesn't capture how close I actually am. The Sky Tree Tower is Tokyo's newest architectural marvel. Each night it glows one of two colors - that first night, sapphire. Last night, amethyst. Pretty good for $130 a night in Tokyo, ne?
A boisterous atmosphere, the street was alive with talk and television, which blared out from behind the open bars. Men smoked everywhere, leaning heavily on their elbows, glancing up at the TV and chatting with their friends without looking at them. Couples ate pickled vegetables and skewered fried rice balls with tall glasses of cold, malted beer at the bistro tables looking out onto the street. The savory aroma of browned sticky rice and grilled meats mixed with the high, thin scent of tobacco. Each izakaya had a hawker in front, calling out in Japanese, irashaimasei! “Welcome!” and oishii desu, totemo oishii de gozaimasu! “Delicious! Very delicious!” Women hawkers had shrill voices that rose above the din, male hawkers had height and good looks as their marketing tool.
This was unconscionably rude behavior on my part and I recognized that not only was I acting like a seven year old but I was also not creating the best impression of single white American women. I heard the alarm in her voice as she called after me, “Oh no, you can sit inside! It is OK! Please come. Sit inside please Miss!” My own embarrassment was too great to turn around and face her so I kept going.
As I approached the last block I decided that this was it – dive in or starve. I strode confidently past a hawker and sat at an inside bar, plonking myself down and making myself busy with my purse, looking for my iphone, not making eye contact with anyone. The hawker, a young handsome man with a thin mustache brought a menu for me. “This is English,” he said loudly and smiled as he turned the menu over for me. “Arigatou gozaimasu,” I thanked him.