Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tokyo looked to be a city worth spending some time. I only had 26 hours on the ground so clearly didn't have anywhere near enough time to do it justice. I've always wanted to see Kyoto and some of the country side - I've had an interest in Japan ever since high school. We were waiting to take the kids when they finished 5th grade at their school in the city where they learned Japanese (and culture) - and then we moved to the 'burbs. I think I was saddest - although I guess truthfully my youngest was saddest to leave his best friend behind - he still doesn't have a "friend" at school (it is a VERY high bar for him). My oldest on the other hand has dozens of "friends" and loves the larger pool at the new school. (Well not so new at this point - almost 2 yrs now in this district). Back to my trip... I was for some reason surprised to see all the rice paddies and bamboo forests from the train on the way from the airport to Tokyo. Complete with the occasional single person tending to the field. Don't know why I was surprised - almost any city I've ever flown in/out of has had some fields of some sort around it (not SFO of course).

The company puts us up in excellent accommodations. I got to stay at the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku this trip. The film "Lost in Translation" was filmed here. I stayed at the Hilton Sydney next. They were quite a contrast to each other. Park H. was a study in calm oasis. Even the colors were very soothing - sea foam blue and black accents in the floors with the bedrooms and some warmer deep tones in the public zones. Check in is very civilized up on 40something floor - just you, the table, and the checking in person. There were maybe 3 or so tables. Then you are accompanied to your room by one of the nice ladies and shown the amenities. I truly couldn't think of anything I wanted that wasn't in my room - at least my bathroom. I had to take a tub bath - just 'cause. Purple salts! The Shangria-La in Beijing actually had more amenities at the desk in retrospect - tape, scissors etc. But I had a nail file at the Park. And PJs (although too huge for words). From my bed I could raise and lower the black out blinds - although I could do the same at the Hilton. The Hilton immediately struck me as so much hustle and bustle. I learned later that the elevator bank to our offices was actually in the ground floor lobby of the hotel. Different street address but same actual space. Can't believe no one told me!

My co-worked took me to a tofu place for lunch. There were about 5 meals to choose from - all in Japanese. The co-worked said the waitress recommended one of the mid-priced ones. I was happy to oblige. It was tofu 8 ways (I facebooked 7 ways but then realized after the fact that miso soup is soy based). So strictly speaking it isn't tofu but rather soy 8 ways. There wasn't a dish I wouldn't have again. It ranged from cold roasted soy soup to a soft tofu that was recommended to have by itself and then with warm fish broth and/or salt and sesame seeds. I can't figure out how they do the tempura tofu - the inside is so soft and the outside so crispy. There was tofu in salad with little soy crisps on top. Tofu sashimi. Tofu on rice. Soybeans in a little sweet white paste.

I would be happy to return to Tokyo although it was interesting visiting Sydney immediately afterward. Sydney is much more compact and easier to visit and see in a shorter trip. Tokyo is a vast city and has many districts with sets of high rises. I was quite impressed with the amount of foliage down at the street level and the hotel was next to a very large park.

I kept singing "Follow the yellow brick road" in my head as I wandered around. Almost all the sidewalks had a prominent yellow tile stripe down them - not quite in the middle. The tile was raised - in bands going the direction of the sidewalk mostly but changing to dots or something else at intersections. I asked my co-worker about them and he had no idea what I was even talking about! I was sort of sad to learn that it was just for handicap / visually impaired. There are quite a few bikers and I wasn't sure if it was the dividing line between walkers heading in different directions or perhaps bikes on one side. Nope. Still... "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" in Tokyo. It gets you everywhere (except in the park).

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