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2018-11-05 Day One and Two in Tokyo!

Written by Jeff Drake
11 · 06 · 18

We arrived yesterday afternoon with a – thankfully – rather uninteresting flight. Actually, the one thing interesting about this United flight is that we experienced some of the worst airplane food we’ve had in some years. The food was almost unbelievably bad!

It was 10 hours to Tokyo from SFO, but the time passed quickly. I watched two movies, one was syfy, the other horror. Both movies were not bad, but I will have to Google them to see what the hell they were both about. The endings were cryptic.

The long flight also allowed me to finish another great book. The author is Kristof Koch. He’s a German-American neuroscientist and runs the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle. The book is titled, “Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist”. It’s a really good introduction to the hot new field of Integrated Information theory (IIT). I’ll write more about his theories in a different blog in the near future.

Handling the Narita airport was a piece of cake, fortunately. We zoomed through customs and were both amazed at how efficient the baggage handling was. So fast! We found a row of ATM machines right where the Youtube video said we would. The 7-Bank ATMs use Cirrus, which is good for us. We waited in line for a limousine bus ticket because the line was very short, otherwise there were machines nearby. We walked outside and caught the bus, easy-peasy.

Things to remember: They drive on the wrong side of the road here, like the Brits. So, when you are walking or taking an escalator, you have to walk or stand on the left. People get irritated if you don’t. And people do NOT like to be irritating in Japan! Thus, we have to also remember that phones are not to be used on public transportation (buses or trains)! There are signs reminding you that talking on your cell phone may annoy another passenger. Can’t have that! Actually, we like that. We were both impressed with how polite and friendly the airport personnel all were. It even put Portland to shame, I think, and PDX has been voted the best US airport for 6 years in a row.

We had our first Tokyo ramen meal last night at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant near our hotel. I have to say it was just okay. We were bushed and didn’t feel like learning what some call the most complicated subway system in the world while we were so tired, so we didn’t want to venture too far.

The hotel is also okay. It’s very clean and the service is friendly and helpful. It’s not a luxury hotel by any means, but our room is fine. Lisa and I kind of go back-and-forth on hotels booked by OAT (or any other tour company). On the one hand, it’s irritating to know you are spending a lot of money on a luxury hotel and then only be at the hotel at night to sleep. You wonder, “Why am I spending all this money?” Believe me, we’ve done this. And on the other hand, when you are in a hotel that’s nice, but lacks ambiance, you feel like you’d be willing to spend more for nicer hotels. It is what it is.

We both managed to stay awake until 10pm last night, ate some melatonin and crashed. We woke up at 2am and ate a couple more pills. I got a lot of sleep last night, Lisa didn’t, so she’s sleeping a bit right now while I’m blogging.

This morning we took our meal coupons and went to the restaurant next to the hotel for breakfast. It wasn’t United airlines food, but it wasn’t great either. At least the coffee machines made remarkably good coffee. (Yeah, I’m allowing myself a cup of coffee everyday, but no more than two.)

Our plan today was to go to Shibuya and see the area, which is supposed to have lots of shops and restaurants. IT also has a famous intersection that is something of a tourist destination. There are like 5 or 6 corners that converge and when the light turns green, there are masses of people crisscrossing the intersection at once. It made for some potentially interesting photo opportunities! Especially because everyone was using an umbrella. Umbrella?

It turns out that the Japanese have 50 words for rain. Now we know why! The forecast said 60% chance of showers today. Wrong. It should have said there was 100% chance of a good downpour! But hey, we’re Oregonians, so we felt right at home. We both managed to get good and soaked.

We took the subway to Shibuya. It is definitely a bit confusing, but we finally got it figured out (we think). The most difficult thing so far is just figuring out where your platform is. At least at the airport and at the train station, there are Japanese/English signs everywhere. The ticket machines are slick and easy to use. It’s a nice way to travel around Tokyo, for sure!

Not to be put off by our so-so ramen meal last night (which was actually pretty good), we went to Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya. Yelp reviewers were raving about this place. We had to wait 20 minutes to get a seat! You don’t sit at tables. Every person gets like their own “slot” at a counter, essentially a stool and enough counter space to have a bowl of ramen and a cup of water or tea. The seats have wooden blinders of sorts separating you from the people on either side of you. This place is all about eating and getting out, not a place to hang out and talk. In our case, we unfolded the one between us (they are designed for this) so we could talk easier.

We then proceeded to have what we both agree is the best ramen we’ve ever had in our lives! Oh man, it was good! You order and pay for your food from a machine before you sit down. You have options for your meal, which are requested by filling out a little form they hand you. For example, they give you options for how much Dashi you want in your both. I love Dashi (a broth made with bonito fish flakes), so I requested strong broth. I also requested medium tender noodles, medium garlic and green onions. Oh, and extra spicy! The pork was lean and extremely tasty! We read about this type of restaurant in Tokyo before. Apparently some of them allow people who are waiting to actually stand behind you while you eat. How uncomfortable would that be? LOL! I’m glad we didn’t have that experience. The photos show you what I thought of my lunch!








The rest of our group is due to arrive today and we start our group tour tomorrow morning. Tonight, if the rain will ease up, we’re planning on taking the subway to Shinjuku, which is a famous area to visit at night. Streets lined with noodle shops, bars, restaurants, (and a Red Light area). Many of these food stalls only seat 5-10 people. The people-watching is supposed to be a lot of fun! And the food is great!

Talk to you later!

Let us know what you think…



  1. Denise Fischer

    Oh, i love ramen! Looks so good!

  2. Kathleen

    Good first days. Ramen looks delicious!!!


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Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.