On To Japan!

Our flight to Tokyo was, thankfully, uneventful…aside, of course from the early morning wake up call and jaunt to the airport (3:45 AM!).  We landed in Narita (a very quiet airport…really, very little noise even with hundreds of people around.

We made it quickly through immigration and caught the Keisei Limited Express to Asakusa.  I have stayed in a few places in Tokyo and I really like Asakusa.  Historically, this area was an entertainment district during the Tokugawa Shogunate and remains a center of attraction for Japanese folks to this day.  Literally thousands of people crammed the streets.  We arrived during a political rally as the streets near our hotel were all blocked off for the speeches of candidates.  They stood on a bus with a platform on top….they traveled around the city on this bus and spoke from loudspeakers to a huge crowd.

After making our way through this dense mass of humanity, we headed through the grounds of  Senso-ji temple past vendors in stalls leading into the temple proper.  We wandered, a bit, trying to find this small, traditional Japanese hotel…or Ryokan.  I had the street address, but the problem is that once off the main thoroughfares, all signs are in Japanese….I know a fare bit of Kanji, and these signs were all written in traditional script.  Well,  hmmm.

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We Made it to Japan!

So, we turned to Apple Maps.  I keyed in the address and it popped up the hotel and location with walking distance and a direction arrow….EXACTLY what I needed!

(An aside about cellphones and WIFI in Japan.  Just about anyone’s cell phone will work in Japan.  When I first arrived, only GSM phones worked and cost a small fortune.  I rented phones in 2008.  Now, TMobile (my provider) allows for free texts and free data at 2G speeds.  In a pinch, the service works well enough to grab data for maps etc.  I just turn the data off when I am not using it (past experience here).  As far as WIFI goes, Japan is getting better, BUT it’s hard to find free WIFI in the country.  A new app I downloaded, NTT Broadband, works at finding you find free access…it helped me more than once during this short trip.)

Back to the story: We found the spot about 300 feet down a very small street.

The Entrance to the Ryokan
The Entrance to the Ryokan

The place could not be any nicer and centrally located….steps away from the vendors and the temple.  Our check in was seamless.  If you travel to any part of Asia and are looking for a way to expedite your travels and book rooms, www.agoda.com is really a great booking web site.  Every time I have used them I have had no difficulties at all.  You get a receipt to present to the hotel with the details of your stay.  It works exactly as you imagine it would…no issues.

After I found out that Natascha and Halle could travel with me, I extended the trip by a few days and added this side trip to Tokyo.  I booked these traditional rooms as a way to experience Japan with Halle and Natascha.  They can

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The small room…tatami mat and all!

speak about the room and whether or not they enjoyed it!

As you will see in the photos, the rooms are small, with a futon on a tatami (rice) mat.  The futon leaves a lot to be desired; those used to sleeping on pads in a tent will have no problem.  Those looking for more plush surroundings should look elsewhere.

The hotel  and rooms are very quiet, even though they are packed into a very small space….Halle and Natascha are next to me (302 and 303) and I cannot hear them at all.  On the top floor, the hotel includes a hot bath for guests….the small space is really wonderful and includes a room that looks exactly like an onsen.  Halle and Natascha enjoyed a first night in the tub together.  More details in the next post.

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