Thursday, June 18, 2009
First 24 Hours in Japan
14 hours of flying, 1.5 hour train ride from the airport to Tokyo and 1 hour spent aimlessly wandering around Shimbashi trying to locate our hotel. Very few of the street signs are bilingual so good luck trying to find your way around the city, especially if you're without a map.
We made it to the Park Hotel Tokyo but not without a trip up 16 floors of a neighboring hotel to ask where in God's name we were. You know how it is when you're lost - later you find out that you were 200 yards from exactly where you needed to be but of course, you took the longest, most complicated route to get there. Yep, that was us. I will say that those whom we've had to stop for directions or ask for advice have been nothing but generous with their time and appreciative of the opportunity to tell us a bit more about Tokyo.
The Park Hotel is certainly one of the cooler places I've ever stayed. Very minimalistic. Excellent service. We didn't have much of a chance to take a breather, however, after throwing our bags down on the bed because we broke one of my travel rules - we didn't take out any Yen at Dulles before departing. Starving and thirsty, we headed back out into the Tokyo night to find an ATM so that we could have a hearty meal before turning in for the evening. Found one we did, but cash, we did not. Both of our cards were labeled "invalid" by three different banks! You should have seen my panic rising....."Oh man....we're halfway around the world and have no cash...what are we going to do??"
Befuddled by our predicament, my fiance and I settled for dinner at our hotel (since it goes on our room tab) and a restless night's sleep wondering what the hell was wrong with our debit cards. I will say that "settled" is totally the wrong word for what turned out to be one of those shockingly amazing meals. Tuna and tempura that certainly tasted fresher and looked better than anything I've ever laid eyes on in the states.
Turns out - and yes, this is totally embarrassing - that both of us screwed up the currency conversion and instead of trying to take out what we thought was $300, we were asking for $3,000 - far above our daily withdrawal amounts.
Today's a new day and I have cash on hand (my fiance still does not....long story) and we've had an amazing trek across this bustling, frenetic city. More on that another day, but I'll leave with saying that Tsukiji Fish Market - the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world - was without a doubt, one of the coolest travel experiences of my life. If you come to Japan, you MUST go there.
(Image via LA Times)