Time to head to the Land of the Rising Sun, home to Sumo wrestling; baked potato, hot chili, and corn Kit Cats; cherry blossoms; anime; kimonos; crazy-expensive fruit (think $200 heart-shaped watermelon); sushi; haiku; and a vending machines for absolutely everything (think hot pizza, underwear, eggs, ties, sake shots, t-shirts, bear meat). Dan and I lived here for three years in the early 1970s and were really looking forward to experiencing it again after all this time.
We had time for a quick snack in the All Nippon (ANA) lounge before boarding our plane. Of course a stop in the restroom was called for if for no other reason than to sit on one of the heated, bidet toilets! Luxury.
Our flight passed quickly. We all treated it like a down day. I finished my book, watched two movies (The Fabelmans and This Beautiful Fantastic), ate two meals, and slept through one movie (Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams). The service on ANA was wonderful. We took off before noon on the 4th, flew eight hours, and miraculously landed at Japan’s Narita Airport at 3:15 PM on the 5th. The 19 hour time change is thanks to that little troublemaker: the International Dateline.
There was a long line at immigration, but customs was a breeze. The ride from the airport to Keio Plaza Hotel took a solid hour and a half in good traffic. We were checked in and trying to navigate room service by 6:30 with the hope of staying awake for a couple more hours. Our compact room has a tub with shower and a fancy toilet with a heated seat.
We arrived a day ahead of the rest of our Gate1 Discovery tour group intentionally, in part to make sure we know what day it is and in part to get slightly ahead of more jet lag.
Sandy and Alan met us at the buffet breakfast where we sampled from the large selection of both international and local favorites. With nothing pressing, we enjoyed a leisurely meal. Our goals for today, besides staying awake and not getting lost, were to find an ATM and peruse a department store. We were successful on both counts. We spent so much time in the Keio Department Store that we eventually made it up to the restaurant floor where we enjoyed our first Japanese meal which we successfully tackled with chopsticks.
Our tour group of 20 had their Covid vaccination cards verified (required) before our meet and greet at 6:30. Then dinner before calling it a day. Dan and Alan have caught what Sandy and I are slowly recovering from, so they were ready for bed.
… The Devil is in the Detals …
The International Dateline, established in 1884, is an imaginary line between the North and South Poles.
It arbitrarily demarcates each day from the next and passes through the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Travelers moving east across the line set their calendars back one whole day, and those traveling west set theirs a day ahead.
The bow is still an important form of greeting in Japan. Lower bows indicate more respect.
In business since 578, Kongo Gumi, builders of temples and shrines, is the oldest operating business in the world.
Japan is home to roughly 10% of the active volcanos in the world and is very earthquake prone.
80% of the country is mountainous.