Japan, Round Two

I’m on the road again! As you probably know, ever since I first came to Japan three years ago I’ve been looking for an excuse to come back. When my mom said she wanted to go, I took the chance to volunteer my services as a guide and here we go!

Last time I came here in the spring; it was shortly before the cherry blossoms, but plum trees were in full bloom and I enjoyed beautiful vistas of the springtime, so I thought this time around I should visit in the fall hoping to see autumn colours. It is currently 17°C at 9PM, so I don’t think cold weather will be a problem (look for my Koya-san entries in the category list and you’ll see that one fountain that froze solid) but it is true that it starts to get dark before 17:00. I had tried to account for that when planning but I forgot about daylight saving time!!
The flight from Paris was smooth enough, but when we landed in Narita at 09:45 we learned that my mom’s luggage had not made the transfer and would have to follow in another flight (mine was there because I didn’t need to do any transfers, I flew direct from Paris). The staff at Narita couldn’t have been nicer -one girl apologised profusely and personally accompanied us all through customs- but the fact remains that we have to stay in our apartment tomorrow afternoon until they deliver the missing bag! We weren’t even out of the airport and my carefully designed itinerary was already taking hits!
A second bump on the road was that the check-in time at our rented apartment was 15:00, which left us with an hour to kill with our jet lags and bags (well, bag) but we eventually made it to Asakusa and took a glorious power nap. 

It was already dark outside, so we just went out a couple of subway stops away to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s biggest and oldest Buddhist temple. I succeeded in buying Pasmo cards from a counter at the subway station entirely in Japanese; I kinda preferred the Suica because it has a penguin on it instead of a tram, but it’ll do! (Pasmo and Suica are both Tokyo’s Oyster card, the contactless cards you use to pay your fare in subways and buses. Most of our transportation needs here will be covered by the JR Pass, but sometimes the subway’s the best route.)

I have the impression that there are slightly more Western tourists around than last time I came, although we were still the only two Westerners in most of the trains we took. Asakusa was lively even though the main temple hall had closed; there was an altar outside the closed doors and people were queuing up to pray before it. Nakamise-dori, the street lined with omiyage shops that takes you from Kaminarimon (the thunder gate) to Senso-ji, was packed with locals and foreigners alike. The temperature was perfect and the temple looked beautiful under the lights, so it was a very nice walk altogether.

We made our way back to the apartment and did some grocery shopping; I had to ask the clerk if what I had taken was actually milk. “It is slightly different from milk”, he said in Japanese. How is something slightly different from milk?! Surely “being milk” is a binary state? To his credit he proceeded to explain to me what the carton I had was, in detail, but I didn’t know the words he was using. Pouring water was involved. In the end I just let him point me to the real milk, because in breakfast as in life, better safe than sorry!
And that’s it for the first day of this new adventure! Tomorrow will be a brave new day in Tokyo!

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