HND: Hello Haneda!

Seating Area at the Sakura Business Class LoungeSakura Lounge EntranceFirst Class LoungeBusiness Class Desk by the WindowBusiness Class Lounge

HND: JAL Sakura Lounge, a set on Flickr.

During the six years that I lived in Tokyo, I have gone through the Haneda Airport only three times, on regional flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong. The experiences then were mostly positive, with the exception of boarding and disembarkation not through jetways but by bus; although two of those flights were with Japan Airlines. (I would understand a foreign airline like Cathay Pacific not getting a preferential treatment; but this was JAL, one of the nation’s main two airlines.)

The rest of my trips originated and ended at Narita. You can blindfold me, and I can still find my way to and from and around the airport: Any trips from home to the Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Tokyo stations, and then with the N’ex (Narita Express) to T1 or T2; Continue reading

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NRT: Narita Express vs. Airport Limousine

You’ve made it through the long dash to the immigration, and then through the long queue there; customs are behind you, and now you are at the Narita Arrival Hall, and given the options of how to reach the city. There are actually at least 5 ways of which I can think: Private limousine or taxi; pick-up by a friend or company car; take the slow train; take the fast train; or take the airport-city bus.

I have experienced three of these methods, but one of them, the taxi ride, can cost upward Continue reading

Bridges, Creeks, and Maple Trees

Ukai Toriyama by bloompy
Ukai Toriyama, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

If I ever imagine a Japanese Eden it would be in the form of Ukai-Toriyama in Takao-san (Mt. Takao), a sprawling compound of lush greens and Japanese Maple trees, divided by creeks, united by bridges, and dotted with a multitude of pavilions, none of which has the same architectural design.

When my friend asked me out to eat lunch here -a mountainous area 50 minutes away from Tokyo’s Shinjuku station by an express train- I had no earthly idea that I would end up in such heavenly a place. From Shinjuku-eki, we took the Keio train to Takaosanguchi. A complimentary bus from the Ukai Toriyama company picked us up and delivered us to the Continue reading

From Here to Eternity . . .

Kokuritsu-Kyōgijō StationIt may not look like it, but this Oedo-subway-line escalator at the Kokuritsu-kyogijo (by Sendagaya JR Train Station) seems to be one of the longest escalators I have ever seen in Japan, in the U.S., or in Europe. When you hop in it and stay put, it takes quite a while to reach the top (or the bottom). I actually started reading Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” at the bottom and finished it three steps before reaching the top. And I read that twice.

Currently Tokyo is building its 13th line, somewhere down beneath the Meiji-dori (Meiji street), one of the busiest streets in the city. While that is not yet near completion, Oedo line will for the time being carry the title of “the last” subway to be built in Tokyo.

Oedo line, the 12th subway line, was inaugurated on 12/12/12 (December 12 on the Japanese year 12 [the Japanese year starts on the beginning of the reign of a new Continue reading

The Shinjuku-2-chome Festival

The Shinjuku-2-chome Festival by bloompy
The Shinjuku-2-chome Festival, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

Gay Pride Parade began in Tokyo a few years back, but about three years ago it stopped. I could only speculate why, as I have yet to find out the real reasons. Be that as it may, 2005 saw the rebirth of the Pride with a Lesbian & Gay Parade on Saturday (August 13) starting from and ending at the Yoyogi Park (which I unfortunately missed because of a food allergic reaction) and a festival today at the Shinjuku-2-chome, home to the local LGBT Tokyoites.

The Parade went through the Shibuya district, then turning onto Meiji-dori, heading toward Harajuku (via the Omotesando-dori) and back to the Yoyogi Park. I overheard people Continue reading

The Yanaka Course and Nishi Nippori

In January, my cousin who visited from Amsterdam went to the area of Tokyo called Nishi Nippori. She recommended the place to me as she found the place tranquil and wonderful a site with many temples, shrines and houses preserved from the old time. I tried looking up the area in the guidebook and the Internet, but the former yielded nothing and the latter came up with only a scant result. So, equipped with nothing, I set out yesterday to go to the area blindly.

I was accompanied by a friend who had been wanting to explore an area called Yanaka, which, according to his reading, hosted a number of temples, shrines and houses that Continue reading

Convenience Everywhere!

Convenience Everywhere! by bloompy
Convenience Everywhere!, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

I remember Japan as a land of gadgets: there is no end to what this country can invent.

I remember a friend of mine who gave me a book filled with Japanese gadgets, including this small table you can “wear” in front of your tummy (the table is hanged much like the cigarette tray worn by cigarette girls in the US in the 40s) so that you can lay your forearms Continue reading

Confetti of Petals

Confetti of Petals by bloompy
Confetti of Petals, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

It feels as if there were many weddings and birthday parties taking place these last few days for there were so much confetti strewn across the city. In fact, Tokyo (and all over Japan) is experiencing what the French call elegantly “La Fleuraison de Cerises”, better known here as the Cherry Blossoms. In private gardens and public parks, canopies of the Continue reading

Japan Immigration Gets More Strict

NRT-Landing Forms-Front by bloompy
NRT-Landing Forms-Front, a photo by bloompy on Flickr.

There was an article late in 2004 that said that Japan Immigration at the major airports like Narita will start taking digital photographs of visitors coming into the country, much like what the United States had started doing recently. Prior to my arrival at Narita today, I prepped myself while still airborne, making sure that no one would take a horrible mugshot of yours truly after 11 hours of flight.

As it turned out, the photo-on-the-spot thing had not yet taken place, but what I noticed earlier was that the landing card had changed. It used to ask for a home address, which Continue reading

Almost Greek to Me

Since my travels to Europe in the 70s I have visited many public squares: in small towns and in big cities; during the fall, winter, spring, and summer; at dawn and near dusk, day and night. In my subsequent travels −after learning about the Greek agora and the Roman forum during college− I tried to recreate the feeling of being in that ancient marketplace, in that old public square. Did anybody ever stand and think that the very spot she or he stood on would one day be a subject of a study? What went on the mind of the people as they walked among the architectures that dwarfed them? In Nashville, Tennessee, stood the only standing replica of the Parthenon of Athens. While I was in college, many times I would visit the park where the monument stood and walked around the structure, but the feeling I was searching for eluded me.

Then today it happened in what I thought was the unlikeliest place in the world: the Ebisu Garden Place, one of the many contemporary temples to the gods and goddesses of Continue reading