A little background first. The reason we went to Tokyo was that our friend, Fumi, was getting married. We met Fumi at our favorite sushi restaurant in San Mateo, Yuzu. She moved back to Japan this past September and planned her wedding in about three months – crazy, I know! Two of her other US friends (which she met through Yuzu) were also in town for the wedding, Robert and Andrew. They arrived three or four days ahead of us. By the time we arrived, they had already done some serious sight seeing with Fumi as their guide and were tired from all the walking around.
And now onto our arrival…
As usual with international travel, we were exhausted when we arrived. Luckily Fumi met us at the airport. I think we would have gotten lost several times if we had to find our way to the apartment ourselves. Most of the signs have English translations, but not all of them. And unlike the other three countries I’ve been to, not everyone speaks English.
The differences in culture hit us right away. If you’re standing still on the escalator, you stand on the left, not the right and in general you walk on the left (and drive on the left). We took the express train to the heart of Tokyo and from their we switched trains to a local train, which gave way to our second totally Japanese experience – human sardines. The local train was completely packed. And the third thing, our tiny apartment. It was about size of our living room. It had a bedroom, bathroom and “kitchen”. Oh, and there was no sink in the bathroom! (I found out later that this is not the norm). The only source of heat was a small unit on the wall in the bedroom. So we closed the door every night and only heated that one room. It really sucked waking up in the morning and stepping into a freezing bathroom to shower.
After dropping off our stuff and brushing our teeth we headed to the Korean BBQ restaurant to meet everyone else for dinner. In addition to me, Steve, Fumi, Robert and Andrew, we also ate with Kaori and one of Robert or Andrew’s friends (I don’t remember his name).
Kaori also worked at Yuzu back in the day. She moved back to Japan about two years ago. We only knew her a little bit. Kaori was very generous though, she took off two days of work to be our (including Robert and Andrew) personal guides when Fumi could not. We truly appreciated that from someone who barely knew us!
Dinner was absolutely delicious. We were pretty tired so we didn’t stay out too late. We also had to wake up really early the next morning in order to get sushi at the fish market – a sure-fire cure for jet lag.