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Quick trip to Japan via 787 non-stop from Boston

Quick trip to Japan via 787 non-stop from Boston

Nov 27th, 2012, 08:09 AM
  #1  
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Quick trip to Japan via 787 non-stop from Boston

Greetings from the Strings Hotel in Tokyo.

Back in the saddle again. It has been awhile -- 18 months -- since I've traveled anywhere further than the Highline and NYC, and much has happened in the interim: new home and no job, for starters. This trip won't be overly complicated: 1 country, 9 days, 2 flights.

I took the Boston-Tokyo non-stop, in the new(ish) 787. Glad to have no worries about missed connections or 7:30am flights to JFK or Chicago. The plane is *small* - about as wide as a 777 but way, way shorter. Other most noticeable feature are the windows: they’re much bigger (esp top-to-bottom) than on other a/c, and instead of window shades you press a button to darken them. The 787 is said to have better air flow and pressurization than other a/c … I dunno. You get off a plane after a 13.5 hour flight and you feel gruesome, no matter what. The bus. class seats in JAL’s configuration are their old-fashioned angled-flat things, but they are substantially wider than most other bus. class seats. (Which matters to me, as I am substantially wider than most other passengers.)

Meal service on this flight was excellent. The main meal was served soon after the 11:50am departure, and as you’d expect there’s a choice of a Japanese set meal or a couple of Western choices. Japanese meal was extremely good, with nine mini-courses to start the meal followed by a big hunk of fish plus rice/miso/pickles -- twice as much food as you’d need. After the main meal, you can order what you want, when you want it from a decent list of main dishes, sandwiches, appetizers, desserts, etc. The what-you-want-when-you-want-it is a great feature of first class on decent airlines (I’m assuming that United still hasn’t caught onto the notion), and it’s good to see it happening in business.

It’s such a high to be in Tokyo again. Riding in to the city, passing through neighborhood after neighborhood with pachinko parlors and food shops and walls of lights and people scurrying everywhere -- it’s non-stop activity, a city-lover’s dream. Also nice to be in a place where courtesy prevails, where people don’t see it as a God-given right to have telephone conversations at full voice whenever, wherever they happen to be. And the ubiquity of vending machines. I’m amazed that the dumb-ass organized crime people who many/most of the vending machine operations in the Northeast haven’t figured out a way to grease some City Hall palms and put vending machines on every corner in NY/Bos/Phil -- $1.50 for a can of hot or iced coffee would be welcome for many people on the go, a boon for all.

The Strings is in Shinagawa, right next to the train station. Not the most charming location in Tokyo, but surely one of the most convenient. The flight landed at 3:35, there was a throng of people at immigration so I didn’t get through passport control until 4:05. My bag was waiting, and it was a simple task to get some yen at the ATM and still easily catch the 4:18 Narita Express train. Arrived at Shinagawa at 5:23, in my room at the Strings before 5:30. Try that with the stinkin’ Airport Limousine.

Tomorrow is get settled day, activities TBD depending on what I feel like doing. Then down to Hiroshima and Miyajima for 3 days, and another 3 days in Kyoto. Irregular reports may follow, depending as always on the writer’s inclination.
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 08:33 AM
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"...but they are substantially wider than most other bus. class seats. (Which matters to me, as I am substantially wider than most other passengers.)"

What one of the better lines here ever imo.
colduphere is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 08:40 AM
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You're right. I should set up a paywall for my posts, they are so good.
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 09:26 AM
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Yay, a Japan trip report....what will you do in Hiroshima and Miyajima for 3 days? I guess chill out, not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-)
I have never taken the Airport Limo either - but I have only a little bit of luggage....
Enjoy!
Mara is online now  
Nov 27th, 2012, 09:46 AM
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What are you doing up at this time? When the sun comes up head over to Shinjuku Gyoen that was closed the last time you were there. The fall colors are peaking there and at the ginko avenue close to the National Stadium. Should be good viewing all throughout Tokyo now. May even last for your time in Kyoto. Always a good time to be in Japan. Report often kudasai

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 09:56 AM
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Excellent timing, Don. Grey skies and wet, heavy snowfall back here in the Boston area. Good time for an escape.

Did you pick the Strings because of its location near the Shinagawa Station, loyalty to Intercons, a combination of factors or...? How is the hotel?

Very interested to hear about the direct JAL flight since we are prisoners of United.

We spent an inspiring day in. Hiroshima last summer but had no time for Miyajima so I am eager to hear how you spend 3 days. Even more intrigued by what you might select to do in Kyoto on this rpeat visit. I

I look forward to following along if you are indeed "inclined" to write so the rest of us marooned folks can travel vicariously. Enjoy.
marya_ is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 10:45 AM
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Hi Don,
DH arrived the day after you and took the airport limo and it took him over 2.5 hrs to get to his hotel, ha ha!
I did suggest the Narita Express but a local colleague thought he'd find that more difficult.

Glad to hear that your trip is off to a fine start and looking forward to the updates should you be so inclined.

BTW I updated my profile pic to show Mt. Fuji. DH took the photo from the lounge at the Hyatt Regency.
sassy_cat is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 12:41 PM
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Now that Jeane and I are actually going to Japan, I will be following along with interest...
Craig is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 12:43 PM
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The timing has worked out well. I collapsed and fell asleep around 7pm local time, woke up after 4-5 hours and wrote the topic post, then slept for another 5-6 hours. Looks like I'm good to go.

Mara: This'll be my 1st trip to Hiroshima. I plan to spend a day at Miyajima, a half-day at the Peace Park, and the remaining time exploring the city. I'm a city bum by nature, and I enjoy heading out and taking heading down that street with an interesting look.

Peter: Shinjuku gyoen sounds like a great idea. I very much enjoyed your suggestion for the terrific park (whose name I've forgotten) near the Tokyo Dome, as well.

MaryA: The Strings is a favorite hotel of mine. A step below Four Season class, but excellent. (They address me by name, and they always remember my preferences without my asking -- for example, making the bed with a double sheet rather than the too-warm-for-me duvet.) Also, I've got an incredibly good rate of 19000Y, including breakfast.

sassy_cat: The view from of Fuji-san the Hyatt Regency can be wonderful. On my 1st trip, my Former Beloved & I stayed there (then the Century Hyatt), and on 2 out of 3 days we could see her from our room.
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 01:17 PM
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How fun! We took the JAL Dreamliner over to Tokyo on November 15 from Boston (and returned on AA thru Chicago on Thanskgiving). Cattle class on JAL was more comfortable than AA but so warm. I have never felt hot on a plane before - we boiled! Unfortunately, the food in cattle class was so-so - sounds like they made a better effort in business class.

If you are by the Tokyo Dome, we had a phenomenal meal at a restuarant called Washoko-Enn. A foodie Tokyo-ite took us there.
usernameistaken is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 01:20 PM
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The park near the Tokyo Dome is Koishikawa Korakuen and it is also at peak koyo viewing according to yesterdays JG reports. I am now thoroughly jealous.

To get to and easy entrance for Shinjuku Gyoen take the Marounuchi Line to the m-9 stop Shinjuku Gyoenmae which is across the street from the park entrance.

Yes the Hyatt Regency in Shinjuku often has wonderful views of Fujisan this time of the year. You have to be above the 6th floor to get the views though. You usually will get only the early morning view as after 10:00am or so Fujisan starts to cloud over for the day. One day last November we had a full days view and into sunset which was spectacular.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 02:07 PM
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Not sure if you saw this Don, as we posted at the same time:

"Now that Jeane and I are actually going to Japan, I will be following along with interest..."
Craig is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 02:15 PM
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A bit hard to accept those folks who choose price first, then complain bitterly about mistreatment in 'cattle class'. Hey, spend a few more bucks and get upgraded to 'sheep, hog or monkey class'.
jobin is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 02:40 PM
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Other things I like about the Strings: the decor is very much contemporary, with lots of clean lines and dark woods. The reception is on the 26th Fl, which hosts an atrium going up to the remaining 7 or 8 floors that comprise the hotel. The main dining room is in this open area (there's also a Chinese restaurant, open for dinner only, off to the side), and a small stream flows through the area. Very welcoming ambiance.

Room sizes vary a lot (though none I've seen are tiny), and the bathrooms are huge and superb: large, glass-enclosed shower and separate bath; hardwood floor, excellent lighting, and plentiful amenities. The room shapes tend to be a bit funky, and you're always told that you've got an upgrade. (This time I was upgraded to a "corner room." Well the way the hotel is shaped, every room is a corner room.)

It's colder than I expected. Think I'll first head over to the Ameyoko shopping street near Ueno to see if I can score a knit hat, maybe a quick check in Ueno Park, then over to Shinjuku Gyoen. By that time, maybe the sun will have shown his face.

I forgot to mention that in Kyoto I'm planning to go on a cycling tour -- very much looking forward to that. At least I think that I am -- hoping that the course will be on relatively flat, bicycle-friendly terrain. We shall see.

Hawaiiantraveler, eat your heart out.
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 27th, 2012, 06:11 PM
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DonTopaz - I guess my experience in Hiroshima was somewhat off-putting as it was a nasty rainy day so I went to the Peace Park and Museum, which was quite crowded, and didn't linger. I did get to Okonomiyaki Mura for lunch though. I was on a day trip from my base of Kurashiki.

Then later I also spent one night in Miyajima - that I highly recommend....
Mara is online now  
Nov 28th, 2012, 02:21 AM
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A very successful day.

Breakfat at the Strings was excellent: top-notch buffet with Japanese and Western choices, as well as an omelette station. I had a cheese omelette, a bowl of fresh raspberries and blooberries, a roll and coffee. Walked over to the JR ticket office next door to exchange my voucher for a JR Rail Pass, plus get reservations for the trains that will take me down to Hiroshima and then back to Tokyo via Kyoto.

When making train reservations, things go much more smoothly if you write down (or better, print out) the reservation information with date, depart/arrive cities, train number, and depart/arrive times, and give it to the JR agent. For example:

November 29 Shinagawa Shin-Osaka Hikari 507 09:40 12:30
November 29 Shin-Osaka Hiroshima Sakura 557 12:59 14:28
...

Headed off to Ameyoko street to try to find a hat and maybe gloves. I got off at the right station, but it seems that you also have to make the correct turn when leaving the station. Which I did not do, so I walked in the wrong direction, for neither the first nor last time. Eventually found a subway station, postponed the Ameyoko search, and headed over to Shinjuku Gyoen.

Shinjuku Gyoen is an absolutely gorgeous park in the western part of Tokyo. I crave the parks in Tokyo because their tranquility and nature provide the perfect flip side to the frenetic movement, the noise, the glass-and-steel that surround them. Tokyo for the most part lacks the small neighborhood parks that you find in Paris, but the large parks are an absolute haven. Shinjuku Gyoen is a spralwing place, with some parts perfectly manicured and some parts completely wild (sort of like Tokyo, I suppose). There was some fall color, though very different from the fall colors that you'd see in New England. The palette in this location has many more colors at the darker end of the spectrum (especially the deeper burgundies), than does New England. A few photos of the park are at
https://picasaweb.google.com/1154876...eat=directlink in the unlikely event that the link works.

Eventually made it back to Ameyoko, and scored a great hat and a pair of gloves that a man my age should not wear. Now off to dinner .. cheers,
DonTopaz is offline  
Nov 28th, 2012, 05:17 AM
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Really beautiful photos! No photos of the hat and gloves?

I'm hoping my husband makes the effort to go to Shinjuku Gyoen but he's busy giving seminars apparently and now his Japanese colleagues have added in an unexpected overnight trip to Kyoto. I guess he'll experience Shinjuku station and the bullet train!
sassy_cat is offline  
Nov 28th, 2012, 05:24 AM
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Great photos! Thanks!
Mara is online now  
Nov 28th, 2012, 06:06 AM
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Great shots Don! Looks like you got to Ameyoko a little later in the day as it looks dark. Hope you took a bento into Shinjuku Gyoen....great place for lunch.

Since you mentioned your bike escapade in Kyoto later you might want to take a 1/2 train ride out of Shinjuku on the JR Chuo line to the Nishi Tachikawa stop and walk right over the bridge and into Showa Kinen Park which is THE park in Tokyo. Tachikawa is a suburb of Tokyo. Go pass the Tachikawa stop to the next stop at Nishi-Tachikawa. You can get off at Tachikawa but the walk is longer to the front gate from the station. At Nishi Tachikawa you can walk over the over pass and into the Nishi-Tachikawa gate. The ginko tree tunnel here is legendary especially in the koyo season. Rent a bike inside the front gate area and have a blast exploring this Tokyo gem if you have the time and inkling.....

http://www.showakinenpark.go.jp/english/index.htm

what a perfect time to be in Japan you dog.....

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Nov 28th, 2012, 06:10 AM
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Beautiful photos - worth visiting Tokyo just for that.
Craig is offline  

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