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.
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Greetings from the Strings Hotel in Tokyo.