Archive for September 16th, 2007

9/16/07: At Narita, heading home

The business-class lounge at Narita airport has free wi-fi. Also free booze, beer, and snacks. A girl could get used to this.

It’s been a trip. We came for the strangeness, and got it in spades. I’m tired of strange now, and ready to come home. We have been able to communicate pretty well with people here, between our limited Japanese and their limited English. But it’s terribly frustrating to be unable to read. I’m also looking forward to Portland’s more reasonable humidity.

Last night there was a religious festival in the neighborhood of our hotel. All over the neighborhood, groups of people dressed in identical yukata gathered together to carry their local shrine (a decorated box about 3′ cube) around on their shoulders, bobbing and chanting and stopping at each local business. Trick or treating? Wassailing? Not sure, but there was one guy in each group going into each business they stopped at with a shopping bag and coming out before they left, and that shopping bag was definitely getting fuller. We saw three such groups without hardly trying, and we’re told the big night is tonight. Unfortunately, tonight we will be on our way to Seattle. (Whatever “tonight” means in a day which is, I think, 40 hours long… we leave Tokyo at 5pm and arrive in Seattle at 9:30am the same day.)

In the last three weeks we’ve hardly eaten the same kind of food twice. I think it was two weeks before we repeated anything other than train-station bento, which is consistently a good quick lunch. I didn’t have katsu-don (breaded pork cutlet and egg over rice) until yesterday. Barbecued eel. Tempura. Oyakodomburi. Things on sticks. Sushi-go-round (a tiny cheap place, not the greatest sushi ever but pretty darn good). It’s all been wonderful.

Spent most of yesterday at the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which covers the entire history of Tokyo from its establishment as capitol by Tokygawa (before that it was just just a reedy swamp… hmm, just like Washington DC). Very well-done museum, notable for 25′ square miniatures equipped with binoculars so you can see the details. Every turn provided new and fascinating stuff I hadn’t realized I would be interested in, like the history of Tokyo’s coinage (Tokyo was on the gold standard, while Kyoto was on the silver standard, which did interesting things to the economy).

Boarding soon. Back later today…