I was a little nervous when heading out for my 13 hour flight last Saturday. I'd gotten up early, seen Andy off to the airport for his flight to Cleveland for another bachelor extravaganza and ridden the bike for 90 minutes to try and wear myself out so I could fall asleep at about 6:00pm.
Boarding the plane, I found my window seat and was happy to see the small (score!) Japanese man who would be my seatmate. He didn't speak English as far as I could tell, which was fine by me. I like a neighbor who is content to listen to the "Smooth" radio station and silently stare at the seat in front of him.
The Ambien prescribed by my doctor worked it's magic and after watching The Proposal (If you've seen the previews, you've seen the movie.) and an in-flight dinner that included sushi I was too nervous to eat, I was unconscious for a good 7 hours. Sleeping pills on airplanes are so much fun. Go to sleep not long after take off, wake up just before arrival. It's like teleporting!
I cleared customs and after taking a medical mask and a flyer on swine flu, I changed my dollars into yen and snuck up on Jen who was waiting for me at the other international arrivals exit. She gave me my own swine flu mask so I could fit in around the city.
I was totally smiling with my eyes. (And if you get that reference, we can be friends forever.)
Traveling through the very clean and awesomely organized train system, was fun. I think they'd be pretty easy for most Americans to figure out. Plus, I didn't see nearly as many crazy people hanging out on them as I had in Europe or Chicago. Japan must have an insanity detector in their ticket machines. One more victory for Japanese technology!
See the guy in the background with the mask? Told ya I'd fit in.
After a couple transfers, we arrived in Asakusa and our ryokan for the next three nights.
Jenny had stayed at this and other ryokans before, so she was prepared for the tatami floors and futons, but I was not. I kept forgetting to take off my shoes and used the down blanket as a cushion rather than cover since the floors in Japan are just as hard as they are in America.
After settling in (re: throwing my suitcase in the room), we headed out to find some food, but not before I checked out the bathrooms and Japan's legendary toilets.
This one was pretty tame and while I didn't try any of the buttons for fear I'd shoot myself through the ceiling, I found the heated seat was quite nice on chilly mornings.
In the streets of Asakusa, Jenny let me in on her secret ability to sniff out quality restaurants wherever she may be. This came in handy quite a few times on the trip.
After perusing many storefronts filled with plastic models of the food served within, we settled on a ramen shop where I could learn to slurp my noodles like a true Japanese girl should. (Full, detailed post on all food in Japan is coming, don't worry.)
See how much better Jenny looks than me? She's had 2 years of practice! I kept breathing in too much air and giving myself the hiccups.
Full of noodles, wontons, soup and shu mai, we set out to explore the temple down the street and the park next to it. I give you Sensō-ji... or at least the gate leading into it.
The temple was closed, but everything was lit up so we could take photos.
Pagoda. I have no idea what these are for and neither did Jenny, but it didn't stop me from asking her.
We walked through the gardens next to the temple which had paths lined with hand-painted lanterns.
And I saw my first Buddha!
It was the first of many, many Buddhas, but I was pretty psyched.
We wandered around through the streets some more until finding an ice cream shop that included spinach and beer in its flavor selection. We settled on Japanese pumpkin for Jen and Earl Grey Tea for me.
We chose wisely. After agreeing to come back for the beer ice cream at a later date, we headed home so I could finally get some sleep. I was super tired and ready to collapse on the floor, snug in my futon until the next morning.
Or until 3am...
which is what actually happened.
Adventures in breakfast at the Tsukiji fish market (see that word FISH? Remember that.) and a day trip to Hakone awaited us.