I have a few posts on the trip as a whole, but I have to dedicate an entire one to our first half-day in Tokyo. Originally we had planned to have this be a strictly-backpacks-only trip, carrying the barest of essentials. Alas, I realized in the course of packing that we were going to be on a plane for 8 hours with a toddler who is extremely sensitive to overstimulation and the odds of her sleeping were about the same as me voting for Sarah Palin. The things that are in the purple bag are items we brought to entertain her on the plane and outnumbered and outweighed things we needed for the actual trip. So this was our final haul:
Take note–this is the only time that the stroller will ever come in handy, when it is being used as a luggage dolly. Even so, carrying Maggie in a Beco and hauling the rest, we thought we had done well.
Our flight got into Narita at 1pm and we got off the plane about half an hour later, and I giddily took pictures and such until we had to begin the long slog through immigration and customs. After that we had a bit of money to change to yen and a train ticket package to purchase so we could actually get IN to Tokyo because god forbid Japan put an airport within an hour of the actual city (one of my only real complaints, and one surely based upon the fact that the city borders far predate aviation).
And so it was that we disembarked at the main Tokyo Station, all gear in hand, baby wilting from the aftermath of an 8 hour flight, reeling from exhaustion…smack in the middle of rush hour in a city with about 12 million residents.
Thus it was that we hid behind a pillar until we figured out where the hell we were supposed to go and packed onto a train loaded with ads and some very severely-dressed businesspeople. We did make it to the correct stop for our hotel, only to realize we had an insufficient map and it had begun to pour rain.
We did make it to the hotel, a lovely establishment, and here’s where I’ll diverge for a moment to say that despite the fact that the rooms were free (this was not a sponsored trip, I would say so if it was, we just had Starwood points to use) I was hesitant about staying here. Despite the push-button bidets and the Japanese characters on the keyboards in the business center, this was very much a westernized hotel. It just didn’t quite have the authenticity that I craved, even though I knew we were going to stay in traditional ryokans later in the trip.
This troubled my mind for a few minutes until Tom, bless his business-traveling heart, pulled a Ryan Bingham and threw down his Starwood Platinum Member card at check-in. The clerk promptly handed us our special upgrade cards, good for dining free at their breakfast buffet (which if we had indulged–we wouldn’t have at this price–would have cost us $105 for three people). Delving a bit deeper, we also learned that these upgrade cards entitled us to free Happy Hour cocktails in the plush, stately Bamboo Lobby Lounge. Free unlimited cocktails.
In the immortal words of Ron White, “…That’s some good news.”
Sure, it maybe wasn’t the most authentic Japanese experience, but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that when the universe hands you free beer and a breakfast appetizer of Brie on toast points, you don’t say no. You wrap the Brie in prosciutto and get an extra helping of smoked salmon and bring a Tupperware to the buffet to stock up on pastries for the baby’s snacking needs, and then when you come home you order three or four draft Kirins. It wasn’t a capsule hotel, but it was great. And it was free.
Maggie liked it.
More later about the adorableness of EVERYTHING in Japan, traveling with a toddler, and Maggie’s newfound rockstar status. Apparently not too many blonde-hair babies make it to Japan.