I have arrived in Japan, after a long time traveling. I couldn’t get a direct flight through to Hiroshima, and had to stop in Tokyo for 24 hours. I got a hotel in Shinjuku and made the most of it. The Airport Limousine shuttle bus took me from Narita airport almost to the door of my hotel – VERY convenient and inexpensive for the 1 1/2 hour trip.
The sky darkened during the bus ride, and most of what I saw did not look all that remarkable. Not until we got into the city, and I watched the people thronging the streets beneath tall, lit signs, stacked vertically not horizontally. Then finally I felt like I was in another country. It was not too late when I arrived at the Hilton, but I was really wiped out from all the travel.
I tried to keep myself in bed as long as possible the next morning to force myself to adjust to the new time (16 hours different here than Pacific time). But I was out the door by 6:30 am for some exploring. Monday was not Memorial Day in Shinjuku, so I joined the swarms of people heading for work. They were all dressed to perfection and I was so glad I had decided to dress nice in blouse and slacks. I walked a couple miles to what is supposed to be a remarkable garden and park, but wouldn’t you know it: closed Mondays. The long walk built up an appetite finally (I didn’t get hungry at all the day before, while I sat for a billion hours on the airplane and was fed nasty airplane food.), so I went back to the Hilton and tried out their buffet – which was incredible.
I went out again and traveled in a different direction to find another park. This one was a regular city park and was pretty, but not remarkable. However, there is a shrine on the edge, and I walked through that. Just as I was leaving, a newly married couple, in traditional robes, came out of the main building to get photos taken. They both looked incredible. I couldn’t bring myself to take a photo in case it was disrespectful.
The homeless people were the most amazing thing I saw in that park. Isn’t that a riot? They kept their cardboard boxes and tents tidy and organized. There was a little tent community in one part that had tidy paths and no trash or smell whatsoever. As I passed, one man carried a soda can to a recycling bin in the park, then he walked back to his cardboard box. Homeless people who had left the area bundled all their belongings into a compact little package, covered in tarpaulin, and then attached to a fence with a bungee cord so it wouldn’t blow away in the wind. There was no one to watch the bundles. Their things would have been stolen in the U.S.
And speaking of theft, theft of bicycles must not be an issue in Japan. There were hundreds of them accumulating along the sidewalks as I continued to wander around while people made their commute to the city for work. People would pull up between two other bikes, put the kickstand down, and walk off. I did not see a single solitary bicycle locked. Not one.
Then I went to the shopping area of Shinjuku. Not to shop, but just to look. I didn’t get much farther than the shops in and around Shinjuku Station – a huge train and bus station. There are small kiosks in many levels all around, under, and on top of the train station. Underground for several levels, above ground several levels. I wandered and followed interesting tunnels and corridors for a couple hours.
Finally it was time to catch the shuttle back to Narita airport. I found my gate and checked in without too much trouble, but the flight was delayed. I was feeling ragged because of my disrupted circadian rhythms, and had no phone (my particular cell phone will not work in Japan) and no Internet to keep my mind active. Finally a few of us climbed aboard a tiny jet and made the short flight to Hiroshima. After a frightening mix up, I found the shuttle van that was there to take me to base. The van is supposed to wait for the last flight of the day before it leaves, however, so we sat at the airport for a few hours. No one was on the last flight, so we finally left and arrived on base at 11pm. I was never so glad to have an actual bed, rather than trying to sleep upright in cramped airplane seats.