Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tokyo! or, Hurray, an actual bed!!!

Note to all travelers who are on the same level of neurosis as me: plan where you're going, how you're going to get there, what you're going to do once you're there, and where you're staying there. It makes all the difference between "want to KILL" trips and "doin mah happy travel dance" trips. Today was a happy travel dance day.

Astonishingly, everything went according to plan for getting from Koyasan to Tokyo, even though it took from 9am to 4pm to do it, with only one stop for bathroom and lunch (at a cafe--Tavis got a "hamburger carbonara," strange combination, but they do love their hamburgers, hold everything but meat patty, and their carbonara. I got two "sandwiches," actually wrapped in something like a pita or tortilla but not really either. One sausage and one "ethnic chicken." They also like spicy mayonnaise here. And a blood orange juice) and now I've backtracked to the beginning of this sentence and find that it was actually finished. Long trip. But at the end of the day, Tokyo!

We are staying at the Hotel Mystays Ochanomizu/Akihabara (the last two are the approximate neighborhoods encompassing this hotel). I loved the authenticity and atmosphere of the machiya in Kyoto and wouldn't do it any other way--but oh gawd is it nice to have an actual bed. Not a bedroll on a woven floor, as my hips constantly remind me. And a shower. With hot water. And a bathroom I'm not sharing with anyone but my husband. Really, the simple pleasures of life.

The staff here speak English very well and are very friendly and accommodating. I am so glad to know that we don't have to worry about luggage or transporting from one city to another for the rest of our trip. We have laundry, ice, breakfast (for $10 each, yeesh...the lengths I go to for my greasy sausage and pastry fix. I just can't work up excitement for sushi breakfast), and best of all for me, rentable laptops! Hence the slew of updates. Sadly, everything on the computer is in Japanese so I have yet to figure out how to upload my camera's new batch of pictures from Japan. When I do, I shall be sure to revise the past couple blogs, so quitcher whining.

A confession: I might could've put myself in a bit of a corner. When trying to find a prospective restaurant in the area, I check the menu they often provide outside the door along with plastic models of the food or pictures of the food (often less appealing than the plastic representations). If the menu has no English on it, I get a little panicky and don't want to eat there because I don't know how I'll order. But if the menu has English, I get snooty and don't want to eat there because I suspect it's too touristy and isn't "what the locals eat." It doesn't leave me with a lot of options, I glumly realized at dinnertime tonight.

So we ignored my irrationality and went to the first place that we saw an empty table or two within. Turned out, it was a Chinese restaurant. Lots of small plates of food; we ordered a few by pointing at pictures. After nibbling the morsels--giant potstickers, delicious barbequed pork, and strangely tasty shredded beef and salad with spicy mayo "burgers" on puffy donut-ish bread--we realized we were still hungry. But for what? I tried in vain to pantomime "pick your favorite" to our waitress, who got frustrated and tried to get someone else to help us. Who also didn't speak English. At this point, two Japanese girls around our age who'd been sitting at the table adjacent asked us, "You want her to recommend something?" and then asked her that very question for us. (Ended up being roast chicken; the dark meat and the skin was great, very sweet and flavorful; the white meat too dry for my tastes.)

And then we just chatted! Their English was perfect and they were friendly and wanted to answer all our questions about how to say things (like "what is your recommendation?" and "could I get a doggy bag?") as well as must-see/must-eat places around Tokyo. And I think perhaps one little hole was poked in my "fear of the unknown" dam.

Thank you, kindness of strangers.