First, let’s set the mood with a video from the Keisei Skyliner:
Now, a few things we learned along the way:
- If, like us, you’re coming from a longer trip elsewhere and carrying lots of stuff that you won’t need for while you’re in Tokyo, Narita Airport has bag storage facilities which will keep your suitcase or duffel of “unneededs” safe in storage for about 500-800 yen per bag per day. There’s one at departure and one at arrival in each wing of the airport.
- At immigration into Japan, visitors are supposed to get a digital fingerprint scan by pressing two button scanners with their index fingers. Thousands of people from all over the world press their unwashed index fingers onto those scanners every day. I forgot that, rubbed my eyes, and was rewarded with a lovely case of conjunctivitis that night. On a related note, Tokyo medical info site Himawari led me to Ueno Eye Clinic, right around the corner from Ueno Station. That map belies how difficult it is to actually find the clinic; it was purely by luck that we found it after several minutes of walking past side streets and alleys not shown in the image.
- At the clinic, desk staff and nurses didn’t speak much English, but they had the necessary papers, and gave me a sheet for me to tick off symptoms, and a medical card with my name transcribed into Hiragana. I didn’t wait long at all, and the doctor, a friendly woman with good English who had lived in Nashville for a time, checked my eyes and prescribed two eye drops, an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic, which we picked up at a neighboring pharmacy. Total cost: about 6,400 yen, out of pocket. That’s cheap. My eyes were fine for the rest of the trip.
- If you visit Tokyo Tower, be sure to also drop by Zojo-ji, the Temple beside the Tower. It was the family temple of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and is still adorned with their crest. Inside, rows of seats face the shrine so you can watch Jodo shu Buddhist monks in their chants and ceremonies without disturbing them. I found this a far more peaceful and authentic cultural experience than the more chaotic and tourist-trappy environment around Senso-ji.
- If you’re coming from Keisei Ueno station, are pulling large rolling bags, and are going to somewhere along Asakusa-dori, ignore any directions that say to go through Ueno JR station, and instead take the sidewalk and bear right around the station building. Walking through Ueno Station means dealing with both stairs and crowds of commuters while hauling a huge suitcase all over.
- Almost no one takes credit cards, except when buying stuff at Yodobashi and some of the other large electronics stores in Akihabara, so have lots of cash handy.
- If you eat at Tenryu in Ginza, it is customary to order the gyoza, their signature dish. We missed it.
That is all. We now close with the Jodo shu Buddhist monks of Zojo-ji chanting the nembutsu:
YOU ARE NOW BUDDHIST.