Note: This is the first post, in a planned series, about my recent trip to Japan. It’s not so much informational as it is narrative — how the trip came about at the last minute, and a brief itinerary. Here’s my line up for upcoming informational posts:
–16 Japanese Customs to Know Before You Visit
–Japanese (and Now My) Toilet Obsession
-Japanese Traditions I’d Like to Bring Home
-Tokyo Day One: A Walking Tour
-Tokyo Day Two: Day trip to Kamakura
– 24 Hours in Kyoto
Let’s Go to Tokyo
Ten days ago, my husband asked if I wanted to join him on a business trip to Tokyo. He would be busy in meetings all week, but while he worked, I could have a little fun, and explore a new city and culture.
“Tempting,” I said. “But I can’t just take off to Tokyo.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“Why not? Well, for one, I have responsibilities,” I answered. “What about the kids? There’s no way I can plan a trip that fast, and we can’t afford it.”
And, and, and. And…
The truth is I’d be a fool to pass up a travel adventure made more affordable by a hotel room paid for my husband’s company. I’ve never traveled East before. And I’d be a fool not to admit it sounded pretty darn great to get out of the country for a week and away from all the toxic election news.
I checked the airfares thinking the cost would provide me a definite “no,” and put my mind at rest. It didn’t. A flight I thought would be in the thousands of dollars this close to departure was $500 each way, plus I had enough award miles to cut it significantly.
I texted my mother-in-law to see if she could stay with the kids while I was gone and to my surprise, she responded right away with a yes. I asked the kids next. They said I’d be nuts not to go, and why couldn’t they go, too?
I texted my husband back.
“OK. Why not?” I said. “I’ll go to Tokyo.”
So here’s the deal. I’ll have approximately three days to explore Tokyo, and when my husband finishes his business, we’ll have a little more than day to do something together before flying home.
I know embarrassingly little about what to see as a tourist in Japan. I ordered a tour book off Amazon, Frommer’s Easy Guide to Tokyo, Kyoto and Western Honshu and did some quick planning.
Here’s my proposed itinerary:
Sunday: We leave Seattle at 11:26 a.m. and arrive at Tokyo’s Narita airport at 3:30 p.m. on Monday. Yes, with a flight time of approximately 11 hours, and a 17-hour time difference, we lose two-thirds of a day and fly into the future. We’ll get it back when we fly home.
Monday: When we arrive, we’ll take the Narita Express (approx. one hour) to Shinagawa Station. Our hotel is just a short walk from the station.
Tuesday: Having such a short time to orient myself — solo — in one of the world’s largest and busiest cities, I booked an eight-hour first-day tour with a local guide through Tokyo Walking Tours, which I found on TripAdvisor. When you have a lot to see in a short time, there’s little time for getting lost. My tour guide will show me some Tokyo highlights and teach me to how use Tokyo’s transportation system, composed of the city subway and private rail.
Wednesday: Kamakura day trip. This former capital of Japan, filled with shrines and temples, sits on the sea and is just under an hour train ride from Shinagawa Station.
Thursday: Solo day in Tokyo.
Friday: Take an afternoon bullet train to Kyoto, another ancient capital of Japan that my guide book says is THE place to see. It’s the only major city to be spared the bombs of World War II and is said to be the most historically significant city in the nation.
Saturday: Explore Kyoto. Late train back to Tokyo.
Sunday: Fly home.