Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Wednesday, August 17, 2016 21:09:17|
Asia 2016: 9 - Mizusawa to Narita, Japan
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
The hotel people had a taxi waiting for us - all we needed to do was hand them the room key - the staff at Hotel Route-Inn were very friendly and helpful. We were early for the 27 minute train ride to Ichinoseki, and once there had ample time to transfer to the Shinkansen section of the station for the 32 minute ride to Sendai. We are in the north of Japan, yet only 97 minutes from Tokyo by train. It is amazing to see a Shinkansen go through an enclosed station at speed - they are doing hundreds of kilometers per hour and there is a pressure wave as they go by. It is not possible to see an individual window on the train - the windows are a blur. It scared the heck out of Marilynn.
The final train was a 54 minute ride from Tokyo to Narita Airport on the reserved express. It starts deep underground in the huge Tokyo station then surfaces shortly after leaving. We got off in terminal 2, and found out from information that hotel shuttle buses each have their numbered stopping point, and the time they stop to the minute. We missed ours by two minutes, but as it was too early to check in chose to wait an hour for the next one rather than pay for a taxi. Most hotel shuttles are 40 seat buses.
When we checked in they had the room wrong, in spite of doubly confirming through Expedia and phoning the hotel while in Japan. The receptionist was helpful in locating a room with 2 beds, but there would be a wait, so we went to the only open restaurant, which was about to close.
No one in the restaurant spoke any English, a surprise as apparently airlines use this enormous hotel. I decided on a hamburger and Marilynn a rice bowl with hamburger meat. It was a major battle trying to explain fried onions even with the phone translator. What I finally got was some some kind of powdered onion on the hamburger, which was bloody awful. Marilynn's choice was on a flat plate, and her hamburger meat also tasted terrible - our suspicion that the meat was bad was confirmed when we both felt sick later. The after taste in our mouths was horrible. Even for foul food the prices are huge - $30 per person for breakfast, the horrible lunch cost $53. The room was fine, and our luggage was in it when we finished lunch.
Eventually we gave up laying around feeling sick and went up to the top floor bar for happy hour while waiting for the hourly free hotel shuttle into the town of Narita. Shuttles are something they do well, and they run on time to the minute. The bartender spoke a fair bit of English and was able to point out places to eat in town. We borrowed hotel umbrellas, as the first effects of what was supposed to be the worst typhoon to hit Tokyo in 5 years were being felt.
We walked in rain and wind about three blocks to a recommended English Pub call Barge Inn. Having upset stomachs, neither of us felt like eating much, but apple pie was on the menu - genuine comfort food. Marilynn had hers with brownies and mine was with lots of ice cream. This did a great job of offsetting the effects of the hamburger meat.
On the way back to bus and a convenience store for breakfast supplies the storm had intensified - it was difficult to keep the umbrellas from blowing inside out and rain was coming down in sheets. There were not always sidewalks on the narrow street so being splashed by passing cars added to the mix. By the time we went into the over air-conditioned convenience store we were soaked through, and froze. The shuttle bus on the way back was packed.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
We slept in this morning, had breakfast in bed and did some laundry. We had hoped to get together today with Anthony, but through miscommunication he arrived at the hotel but didn't call the room where we were. The typhoon had a change in course overnight so missed Tokyo - we awoke to bright sunshine. An airport shuttle got us to terminal 1, where we travel from tomorrow, as in checking the tickets it was discovered there was only economy on the Seoul to Jeju Island flight tomorrow and I wanted to be sure we had seats with leg room. When we found the place to check in the attendant said she could not assign seats, so we had a subway sandwich and took the shuttle back to the hotel, hopping from the airport shuttle right onto the shuttle for Narita Town which also runs every hour.
The Buddhist Temple in Narita is not to be missed. Anyone stuck in Narita Airport with a four hour or more connection could taxi here to explore the complex - it is large, but with many buildings and temples close to one another. Inevitably, there was a long flight of stairs to the first level where there is a huge ornate temple with a bronze Buddha, and also a circular library built in 1700 containing hundreds of priceless manuscripts. The first temple was founded in 940 AD, and a temple was built in 1940 to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary.
When we hiked up to the next level there was a ceremony underway in the large temple, where a sign said all were welcome, just take off shoes and carry them in the plastic bags provided. The sweet smell of incense, beats on a big drum plus the ring of small bells punctuated the ceremony, conducted by colorfully dressed monks. With holiday week being over it was not crowded.
After exploring other buildings, and against Marilynn's objections, I headed down a trail to an area of small lakes that could have been the lushly forested caldera of a volcano. There were huge carp in the lakes, swimmming close to anyone standing on the shore in the hope of being fed. There were also turtles. The penalty for seeing this was a long uphill trail on the other side, and back down to a town street where a taxi took us the the Barge Pub again. Today there was a decidedly unfriendly Negro bartender, who over charged for drinks and served me a beer in a soapy glass, which he would not even consider replacing. We left promptly.
Dinner was at two different yakatori restaurants, where we had various meat BBQ on sticks. Some of the interesting choices on the menu were gizzards, liver, chicken skin, pope's nose, squid guts and various meats. We tried several, and all were delicious. At the last place I had egg and rice - the egg was served unopened - I had to break it over the rice. Japanese eggs are different - the yolks are not runny. It is possible to eat an egg yolk little by little without it losing its form and running into the egg white.
Once again we stopped at the convenience store before catching the shuttle.
Tomorrow in the early afternoon we will leave Japan for Jeju Island, South Korea.