Monday, August 18, 2008

In Which I Start to Talk About Japan

I have already talked a little about Japan; for previous summary posts, try First Japan Post, Second Japan Post, Third Japan Post, Fourth Japan Post, Fifth Japan Post, or Japan Summary Post.

Anyway. Once more, with details!

At the start of my trip, I flew into Tokyo on my own--the Js wouldn't arrive until Saturday--and I was deathly ill, an experience I never want to repeat. I had read several guide books telling me how polite the Japanese were and how I needed to cover my mouth when I coughed and you CANNOT blow your nose in public, but not one guide book addressed the problem of what to do when you break out into a coughing fit in a crowded subway and it's either blow your nose or drip onto your seat, and your mucus is bright green because it's so infected. Shockingly.

I survived the whole way from the airport to the neighborhood I was staying in, Ikebukuro, and I couldn't decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing. I was really, really sick. I don't remember which line I took from the airport--I think it was private, i.e., not one of the main lines that services the Tokyo area. If this sounds confusing, it is. Tokyo's subway system is not centralized; it's a mishmash of about three or four different companies, but they do at least attempt to work together. After several mistrials, the Js and I found that the best thing to do was to buy a low-fare ticket--making sure it's for the correct company--and then go through with our whole trip, possibly changing Metro companies without knowing it, and then, attempting to exit the subway station. If our ticket was accepted, we got to go; if the machine spit it back at you, you could take it to a machine and add a little more on, the surcharge for switching companies or the extra distance or whatever. It was easier to do it this way than try to predict how much we'd need or if we'd cross subway lines.

However, at this juncture, I was all by myself and got to struggle, which was fine--this was part of the reason I'd flown in early in the first place. I wanted to get a few days by myself. I arrived in Ikebukuro and, after wandering around for a few minutes in the dark with all my luggage, broke down and took a taxi. Ikebukuro isn't popular the way Ginza is, but it's still very crowded and I was surrounded by crowds of young Japanese laughing, talking, smoking, and I was very aware of how nerdy and out of place I looked and I just wanted to get to the hotel. My ryokan, the Kimi Ryokan, was very close to the station and I got right in and encountered my first problem: for reasons known only to the universe, I had had serious debit card issues right before I left for Japan. I had lost one and the other expired, or something, so I get to Japan and I have no way to get any more cash, all my money is in the account that I can't access because I have no PIN number, and I have $300 from traveler's checks to last me until Blog Knows When, and all the guide books I read told me in no uncertain terms that Japan is a cash-based country and NOWHERE takes credit cards. I was so worried I would do the wrong thing that I accepted my guide books as gospel, and it didn't even occur to me that places like Starbucks would definitely take my credit cards until the Js arrived and laughed at me, carrying my wad of cash around.

Anyway.

In spite of my misplaced fear about cash, my ryokan was one of the few that would NOT take credit cards, and I didn't have enough cash on me for more than a few nights--and I was staying five, and I had to eat some time--and so I had to tell the front-desk guy that I would pay just as soon as I could, really. He was nice about it --for the moment. I was shown to my room--no key cards, everything is done with real keys and locks--and I almost cried with relief, it was perfect. I highly recommend the Kimi Ryokan. It is very small and basic, but very clean and very lovely, with gorgeous dark wood everywhere. I got a real Japanese bath, struck out for some food, and crashed into bed.

The next morning I woke up at 3:30 with a coughing fit and figured, while I was up, I might as well get up and sight-see, which I did.

One of the reasons I've postponed getting my pictures up for so long is because I had the devil of a time trying to figure out how I was going to juggle so many formats. Finally I figured that I would write posts, like this, and divide my pictures on Google Picasa accordingly into photo albums with notes, and I would embed the photo album for each post, like below:

Flying Into Tokyo!

Does this work? Comments, questions?

1 comment:

deweyintoronto said...

Yes! The album works. No! You can't tell how sick you are. Yes! I am very jealous and now want to travel somewhere immediately. And cannot. Stupid first trimester!