This post is a flashback to November 2008, when we made our first trip to mainland Japan together. It was so fun to be in a big cosmopolitan city, enjoy the variety of shops and restaurants, and best of all, experience a little taste of autumn since Okinawa was so tropical and warm.
We stayed at a Japanese business hotel, and I don’t mean something like the Marriott. It was more like a hotel for chain smoking used cars salesmen– ash trays all over the lobby and a men’s only spa. We got a kick out of Sean nearly bumping his head on the illuminated sign every time we walked down the hallway.
Despite the chilly and rainy weather, we did most of the normal sightseeing.
River canal cruise in which we passed under 12 unique bridges and ended at a Japanese garden.
Hama Ryku Gardens to visit the 300 year old pine tree. This tree was really amazing and the picture doesn’t reflect the grandeur of it. It grows sideways out of the ground, and they have to hold up the branches with various posts to keep it from digging into the ground.
The Emperor’s Palace
East Imperial Gardens
One of the highlights of our Tokyo trip was a bar we found called “Boots”. Sean just couldn’t resist checking it out after seeing the name.
We were so warmly received here! The people (all Japanese) sitting at the bar split up to make room for us up there with them. The owner, as it turns out, is a country music fanatic! He plays the guitar in a Japanese country music band, regularly visits Nashville and Austin, has 10 cowboy hats, and thinks Graceland is the best place in the world. He even proudly displays in the bar his custom-made crocodile boots with the motif of a Shogun warrior stitched into them.
We also checked out the famous shopping area called Ginza. This area is like Fifth Avenue in NYC with gleaming and luxurious department stores, beautiful things to buy, and attractive people, and prices that are out of sight!
All the major department stores have a floor that has counter after counter of confections and gourmet food items. I’ve never seen anything like this in the states, and they are so fun to browse. In one store, we found a counter that sells something called “Photo Chocolates”. Essentially, they take photographs and project the image onto the chocolate bars. Not cheap as you can imagine!
Don’t these look like they are coasters or playing cards or something? They are chocolate that you can eat!
We also found the most interesting store– 4 floors of train sets and miniatures for serious collectors and train fanatics! This place was unbelievable. I was amazed by the detail in these trains and little scenes. We tried to capture in close-up how fun there were…I love this one of a Texas Dance Hall.
My all time favorite store we found on this trip was the Chopstick store with literally thousands to choose from. There was even a work shop on top where you could view a craftsman sharpening and shaping them right in front of you.
This trip to Tokyo was the first of a dozen trips we made while living in Japan. It’s funny to look back on this first time because our impressions were so fresh and we were so naive about the country still. After a while, certain things about Tokyo didn’t surprise or confuse us anymore and they became common-place to us- that is, until we hosted visitors and we were reminded by how unique the lifestyle is there.
It’s been over three years now since we’ve been back in the States, and some of my memories of our Japan life are sadly starting to fade. That’s why it’s great to do these flashbacks and be reminded of the little details.