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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Japan 2016: Tokyo

Traveling with family is much different and tougher than traveling alone (or with a partner) as an adult. For instance, if you're jet-lagged as an adult, you can take sleeping pills, or worse comes to worse, wake up at 3am and go walk around a foreign city, which can be fun all by itself. You're not going to be able to do that with a toddler and infant in tow.

With that in mind, I booked a 3 night stay at Homeikan in Tokyo, hoping that it 3 days would be sufficient to get over baby jet-lag. (Bowen's baby jet-lag during the 2012 trip was a horrifying experience that I still remember today) In a similar vein, I paid one of our AirBnB hosts, Ryu, to pick us up from the airport in a mini-van. After a 9 hour flight, I expected everyone to be stressed and I did not want to deal with navigating the train system and busy streets immediately after the flight. The flight was indeed stressful for Boen, so it was a relief to see Ryu holding up a sign for our party when we exited the customs and immigration terminal.

From Japan 2016
The trip to Homeikan took a good 2 hours by car which was much longer than it would have by train (which would have been an hour or so), mostly because of unusually poor traffic conditions. On the other hand, we could see Tokyo first hand, including cyclists without helmets, the Skytree, and ask questions of Ryu. Bowen whined a lot about having no water to drink, but that would have been true on the train as well. Once settled in the hotel, we went out for a quick dinner, got a quick bath, and then went to sleep as late as we could.

Going from California to Japan was the easy direction, but we still all woke up around 5:00am, and by the time breakfast came, we were hungry. 

From Japan 2016

We then went to Ueno park, mostly because it was close. We knew from reports that the Cherry Blossom season was over. But what was left was remarkably good, and still quite pretty:
From Japan 2016
What was remarkable was that whenever the wind blew, we'd get cherry blossoms coming down on us from the trees. We would later be told that this was 花吹雪, Hana Fubuki.

After that we went to the Nishiki market for lunch. The wait was over an hour, and we later found out that this was normal! The only time to go when it wouldn't be crowded would be in the morning, right after breakfast. Well, I wasn't about to do that since the Ryokan did feed us quite well.
From Japan 2016

Over-ambitious by this point, we went to Akhibahara, but discovered that all the big shops that would do tax-free discounting required you to bring your passport, and we'd left ours safely at the hotel. Everyone was tired by now, so we headed back to Homeikan. Poor Bowen fell asleep waiting for his ramen dinner!
From Japan 2016
The little guy had walked all over Tokyo with us (I was carrying his little brother in the backpack, so I couldn't carry him), and according to my watch, we'd walked 10 miles in total. No wonder he was tired.

Ask anyone what the best antidote for jet-lag was, and you'll hear that sunlight and exercise are the best. We didn't get a huge amount of sunlight, but judging by my hips and shoulders, we did get quite a bit of exercise. So rather than a long walk through a park, we took the subway to the Tokyo Skytree.
From Japan 2016
From there, you got nice panoramic views of Tokyo, but unfortunately, it wasn't the clearest of days so we couldn't see Mt. Fuji.
From Japan 2016
We had lunch in the area at a famous beef tongue shop, visited the Studio Ghibli store, and then went to Shinjuku, where the intention was to look at the street scene. Instead, we got side-tracked into buying baby food. We got help from a very nice lady, and ended up at a department store. Having brought my passport, I paid a visit to Yodabashi Camera, and purchased an EF-M 11-22/4-5.6 STM IS for the EOS M3, as well as a spare battery. As a foreigner on a short visit, camera equipment is one of the few things that are cheaper in Tokyo than they would be in the USA, though even in those cases you should still do some comparison shopping in advance.

Exhausted, we went back to the hotel early and went to bed early, as we had a train to catch the next morning to Matsumoto.

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