This post is several days late - mainly because I couldn't figure out the Japanese signs enough to get on the Net on the first night, and the second night we (meaning me and my friend Eri) were in a traditional Ryokan in the Japanese country (read, what Internet?)
Anyway, it was a painful start when I left on Wed morning to catch the Northwest flight - dragged self out of bed at 3.15 am, caught a cab, completely shocked at the taxi bill by the time I got to T1. And face... lines and lines of security checks. Damned. American carrier + missing JI leader who threatened to blas Changi Airport off the face of this earth = stupid questions by security staff way too early in the morning.
Sheesh and NW leaves so early that its travellers don't even get to enjoy the legendary shopping of Changi cos everything was closed! Save for the bookshop.
Anyway. the flight was fine, caught snippets of flims while flitting in and out of sleep. Sporadic moments of lucidity - wonderfully - coincided with the meal services. Hit Tokyo early, but clearing the immigration was a nightmare.
Eri-Chan was waiting for me as i got out of the gate. Such a sweetheart she is, considering that it costs over 70 bucks for a return trip to the Airport!
The first thing I noticed getting out of the airport area? Cherry blossoms galore! Yup, I have hit cherry blossom season straight on. PS: The Japanese are nuts about the season. Whole segments on the news at night is devoted to whether the day after should be a good time to go admire the sakura. PS, while Cherry Blossoms in full bloom are nice - but the Japanese think that when the petals start falling is the bee's knees when it comes to admiring the trees. PS: individual blooms are actually white, but together they form that delicate pale pink that we associate the blossoms with.
Within the first three hours of hitting Tokyo, I was admiring the sakura at Ueno Park, munching on REAL takoyaki balls - not quite the stuff they have in Takashimaya heh, and some delicious soupy thing they call Oden. Then it was off to a traditional japanese tea house for cloudy sake, but it is VERY sweet. Weird, never tasted anything like it
Met Eri's parents on the first night - man, her mom outdid herself with dinner - it was brilliant. Her parents are absolutely fun and hilarious. Eri's dad would fit right in in America with his liberal views, and he's quite the comic actor. despite not being able to speak a single word of english, and me not able to manage anything in Japanese - they were wonderfully entertaining and lots of fun.
Yesterday, we went to Hakone, and indulged in hot baths. Now I know the proper etiquette its not quite as intimidating, but maaaan, they sit in the hot water for AGES.
Anyway, the traditional dinners are huge - and the breakfasts too! It was quite an eye opener. And of course, all done super traditional style. And you eat in your own room, not in some cavernous dining hall. Which makes it all very intimate and nice, i can see why... ahem... the train to Hakone (the area) is called... Romance Car. I'm not joking.
Did a couple of touristy things too like get on a pirate ship right out of Pirates of the Caribbean in the nearby Ahi lake. Hahahha. Visited a shinto shrine and all. It definitely makes a difference having a native Japanese speaker around I tell you...
Alright enough with the Japanese update. Off to do some real work online - getting quotes from movers as I gotta move out soon.