I spent the last two weeks of October 2016 away from the political campaign, which alone would have been worth the trip, traveling around Japan with my adult son and younger brother. My son was born in Tokyo 45 years ago, but we left when he was four months old. All these years I have dreamed of taking him back to see the land where he was born. And I finally did.
Needless to say, a lot has changed in 45 years, myself certainly included. In the next few posts, I’ll tell you what we saw, what has changed, and what has stayed the same, at least from my perspective.
We flew into Tokyo, nonstop from Dallas, about 13 hours. We landed at Narita Airport where we changed money, exchanged our vouchers for Japan Rail Passes, and caught the N’EX (Narita Express) train straight from the airport into Shinjuku, about 90 minutes away. All seats are reserved on the train, but they give you one immediately when you exchange your voucher for the rail pass. In our case, pretty much door to door service from the airport to the hotel, which was only about five blocks from the train station.
For travelers thinking of going to Japan, let me say that Shinjuku station is one of the largest and busiest in the entire world. It will pay to study a map of where your hotel is (in Shinjuku or any place else in Tokyo), and find the correct exit at the station. Going out the right exit will save you probably $30.00 in yen in cab fare. There are about four floors of
shopping malls and food courts in the station, plus a major business center. Who knows how many train lines come in there, but it’s a lot. There are hundreds of thousands of people there at any given moment. The place can be difficult to navigate when you’ve been traveling about 20 hours, dragging your luggage around, and completely dazed. But once you find a cab, they can take you straight to your hotel without any hassle. Of course if you go out the wrong side of the station, the cab will have to drive all the way around, and that will add up, but you really won’t have any other problem getting to the hotel. Show them the address written on paper, if possible.
Our experience was that all hotels and ryokans we stayed in had English-speaking staff. English is pretty much everywhere in Japan now, whereas when I was there as a young woman, there wasn’t a word. We stayed in an APA hotel, which is a modern chain with moderate prices. As we learned, there are two APA hotels in Shinjuku, and as luck had it, we stayed in both. They were exactly the same. Very small rooms by Western standards, but perfect for falling face-down on the bed after your flight. Good AC was very welcome, large wall-mounted TV, private bath, very sound proof and quiet. Good bed, but I later realized the pillows were very skimpy. Not that I cared the first day at all.
We could see Godzilla from the window in our room. We could look down on him and see all the lights
of bustling Shinjuku. We were in Kabukicho, which my son kept informing me was the largest red-light district in Asia. Well, I don’t know about that, but there were a lot of bars and rather, er, specific, clubs. But walking around in early evening or during the day, especially with two grown men beside me, was not uncomfortable at all. I was in bed every night by 7:30, so I don’t know what went on after that.
My brother wanted to go to the Robot Restaurant a few blocks away, but we found out there were neither robots nor a restaurant at this establishment. Instead there is a big floor show with remote-controlled floats. Very loud, high energy, raucous. Oh, yeah. It’s also costs $80.00 each to get in, with not even a free beer thrown in. Makes Vegas look good. Anyway, we went for this one big splurge. One of the highlights was watching Godzilla battle a space monster. My videography sucks, but stay with it just to see what happens to the girl.