Saturday, April 3, 2010

#3: Made It

The flight to Tokyo went smoothly, despite a cranky, whining toddler behind me who kept kicking the seat and waking me whenever I finally managed to drift off. There was plenty of food, a good choice of films (I saw the extremely clever and well voiced Fantastic Mr. Fox and the ultimately tiresome Michael Jackson's This is It, which was interesting, however, in showing [without pointing it out specifically] how energetic and disciplined MJ was as a performer in the days before his death). My fears of bad timing were all dispelled when the plane landed an hour and a half early and I was actually able to get through customs, take the elevator to the 4th floor, pick up my rental phone, and get back down to the first floor in time to board the 4:35 to Kichijoji. But this was Tokyo rush hour, and the usual hour and a half trip took two and a half. Prof. Kei Hibino, meanwhile, was waiting for me at the station on what was a rather chilly evening. As the bus ground its way along the highway, I was delighted to see in several parks we passed that the cherry blossoms were still in full bloom after they blossomed a week ago, and they looked especially lovely in the twilight, their delicate pinkness highlighted by electric lighting set in the ground wherever they were planted. Chilly and damp as it was--rain had begun to fall--crowds of hanami (flower-viewing) visitors were gathered to celebrate their brief appearance and imminent demise.

Kei helped me settle into my apartment at Seikei University's International House. This is a typical dorm-like residence for visiting academics--two small rooms, a kitchenette, and a private bathroom. It's intended for families, although I'm alone. Other apartments in the building are smaller and mainly intended for visiting students, who share such amenities as a common room and bathroom facilities.

Kei brought me up to speed on the Suica automatic card for using the bus, trains, and subways, and we later visited the Kichijoji Station so I could add more money to the card he'd bought for me prior to my arrival. I also tried out my new Citibank debit card at several local ATMs only to confirm that it wouldn't work. I believe that it will work at 7/11, if not at other convenience stores, and with the post office's ATMs, but a visit to the local Citibank ATM demonstrated that there, at last, I had a friendly ATM waiting to dispense money whenever I was in need. If you visit Japan, be aware that--apart from those at the ubiquitous 7/11 and post offices--most ATMs will not honor your American credit or debit cards.

The main reason that got me out of the apartment, however, after all that sleepless traveling, was my discovery that there were no towels. This necessitated a trip to a local department store. The short trip by bus cost 210 yen (or around $2.25) each way. At least the dollar has continued making inroads against the yen, and today was nearly 95 yen to the buck.

It's nearly midnight and I'm not especially sleepy, despite my barely having slept in 24 hours, and my having taken a melatonin pill. Tomorrow I'll visit the cherry blossom festival on Seikei's campus with Kei, his wife, and his six-year-old daughter. Should be fun. Now to see if the night before me will be one of shut or open eye.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you made it, safely. I'll follow your blog. I've always wanted to visit Japan. It's the one place I still want to visit. Have fun and don't work too hard.