This post wraps up my ramblings about our trip to Tokyo, Japan. It mostly includes things that didn’t fit into other posts, as well as the trip home on American Airlines first class.
On the ground, Tokyo feels vibrant and busy, metropolitan in a way that is exciting but not unlike a cleaner, friendlier New York in many ways. It isn’t until you get some elevation that you are reminded that this is the biggest metropolitan area in the world. The sense of depth and the endless towers extending beyond the horizon in all directions was awe-inspiring, even for this nature-lover.
Unfortunately, this is not something that translates well to photos. We took in our best vistas at the top of Sunshine City, a 60-story building in Akihabara. The 60th floor is for observation, and has windows on all four sides to take in the views.
We also got a taste of the city at night from our own room on the 25th floor of the Metropolitan Hotel. The blinking of the aircraft warning lights at their various intervals and distances away was mesmerizing.
Aside from the neat views and convenient location, Hotel Metropolitan was just plain nice. The room was larger than our room in Amsterdam, which I found surprising. But this is a hotel that seems to be popular foreigners, so perhaps that was the intent in making things a bit more spacious than you’d (apparently) see otherwise.
The bathroom was incredible. The toilet was a technological wonder, with a ton of settings and features, for both men and ladies. The shower was in its own glass-enclosed room, with the tub alongside. It was great to have space to move around in while showering, and was great for couples showering (get your mind out of the gutter), because you can step in and out and generally stay out of each others way, while comfortably carrying on a conversation. Also, one person taking a shower doesn’t prevent another from using the tub. The set-up appealed to me.
I am sensing a pattern in my travels, wherein I find more love and respect for the design of the monies of the country I am visiting than for those of the country of my birth, which just seem stodgy. Other countries just seem to innovate more. Oh well.
I have mentioned parallels between my impressions of Tokyo and of New York City several times during the course of this series. Another parallel with New York that I noticed and really appreciated is that people take their tiny little spaces very seriously.
Tokyo is very dense, and people with even the smallest of personal spaces would fill those spaces with plants, and put container gardens wherever possible. This reminds me a lot of Queens, where the postage-stamp front gardens are always brimming with lovely plants, and are very well tended. The same here in Tokyo; the residential gardens had a well-loved and well-tended feeling; they seemed sacred and precious.
Within 24 hours of landing in Japan, I had already had the concrete thought “I could really live here for a few months, maybe a year,” so leaving only five days later was hard.
But, I figured a first-class ticket on American Airlines couldn’t hurt! Especially one obtained through points. As you may recall, we flew in on Japan Airlines to Narita. This was a kind of hard-to-get flight, and from such a highly reputable airline that it was worth buying two one-way tickets, instead of one round-trip (since there wasn’t a JAL trip available for the way back). So our return flight was through AA and left from Haneda Airport.
There was a distinct difference in first-class-iness, but I knew that going in (hence jumping through hoops to fly JAL). The seats weren’t as large or nice, and the attendants were not as friendly – Adam couldn’t come into first class to bring me my laptop before takeoff; I had to come back to where he was sitting to get it.
However, this is all just in comparison to JAL, which is considered to be one of the top five international first class flying experiences you can get. American Airlines was still very nice and did just fine by me. One attendant in particular looked out of me, and let me know that the Northern Lights were visible outside my window! I was entertaining myself with The Simpsons’ episode about food blogging (ha!), and would never have noticed.
None of my pictures were very good and they don’t really convey the magic, but I was/am still excited. I’ve always wanted to see an aurora.
One of the craziest things about this flight to me was what I can only describe at time travel. We took off from Haneda around 6:30 am, shortly after dawn, and flew east. We flew through the entire day and the entire night and landed in LaGuardia around 6:30 am, shortly after dawn the same day. The flight was twelve hours but we saw a full day and a full night, and then landed the same day. My brain still has a hard time with that.
Regardless of my inability to wrap my head around long international flights, I could not recommend a trip to Japan any more highly. It is a fantastic country to be your first most-people-don’t-speak-your-language country, and if you have any opportunity to take some sort of temporary or contract job there, I say do it! I know it will probably be a long time before we make it back, but I already can’t wait.