We landed in Tokyo on June 6 about 2pm and took the monorail, and then the subway, to our AirBnb in Ginza, deposited suitcases, and started exploring what felt like a new planet. Every man wore a white button up shirt and either navy or black slacks. Every woman wore a white button up shirt and either a navy or black skirt. All the buildings, residential or commercial, had exterior fire escapes (which seems more efficient than having such rarely used steps inside rent-able, temperature-controlled space, right?). And the people…so many people. Tokyo is the largest metropolitan area in the world–nearly 40 million people–and is nearly homogeneous. It’s absolutely other worldly to behold. Yet the crime is 1,000% less than it is in the U.S.
All 5 of us were fairly exhausted from the flight and the time change (13 hours ahead of our home time in Atlanta), but we were determined to try and stay active until a reasonable bedtime, so that we could be fairly acclimated the next morning. We walked to the statue of Godzilla in the aptly-named Godzilla Square. I expected it to be like 10 stories high, but instead it was like 10 feet high:
The adults got coffee somewhere nearby, and then we visited the lower level of Takashimaya, because in prepping for this trip, we watched PBS’s “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” in which Phil goes to Japan, and we wanted to see the 25,000¥ melons from the show. We picked up some considerably cheaper fruit and desserts for later.
We meandered about the enormous Tokyo Station, letting the children explore shops on “Character Street,” including Hello Kitty, Pokemon, and other weird Japanese characters I can’t (or won’t) remember.
Then we walked to “Ramen Street” (all these “streets” are underground…it’s like a giant mall underneath all the train tracks) to find some dinner, settling on Oreshiki Jun for some bowls of ramen. There was a machine just outside the doorway with pictures of dishes outside the restaurant, and potential patrons had to pick their meals, deposit yen, wait for a slip of paper to drop like a Coke can would in a typical vending machine, hand the meal ticket to the restaurant host, and then sit and wait on the food to be brought to our table. Given our lack of sleep and knowledge of Japanese, this was difficult for us, but the host stepped out of the restaurant and helped us choose. It was delicious. Whatever I had, I loved, and whatever my boy ordered but couldn’t finish, I loved even more. It was so much better than anything I’d ever had called “ramen” at home.
At 7:30pm, we went to sleep. Or, more accurately, my family went to sleep.
The day before we flew to Japan, I’d had a miserably contentious 8-hour mediation that didn’t settle, and at one point after my client had stormed off to go home, I was talking to her EEOC lawyer about how I had several hours of work to do when I got home (since I’d never made it into the office that day, given I anticipated this mediation would take 3hrs max) plus pack for 2 weeks in Japan, and she said, “They have a lot of earthquakes there…I had to leave early because of one when I went several years ago.” So, all I could think about from midnight until 3am or so was what it’d be like if our 6th-floor apartment started violently shaking.
At some point, I slept a couple hours, and as the sun shone brightly into our apartment at 4:30am, the whole family was up, bathed, and ready to explore the city by 5am the next day.