How I Love Japan (Part One)

We left for Japan, my husband and I, on October 11. I looked at this plane, JAL, and I could hardly imagine the next 13 and a half hours in which we would be inside, flying to Tokyo. (Fortunately, I had Haruki Murakami’s latest book, Killing Commendatore, with me.)

When we arrived in Tokyo, we were taken 60 kilometers from Narita Airport to Tokyo, where we were staying at the Asakusa View Hotel. The above picture is the view outside of our room’s window, giving us the skyline of the east side of Tokyo. The needle-like structure is the Tokyo Skytree, which is the tallest tower in the world.

We immediately went out to discover our surroundings. I had to snap a picture of a convenience store, especially after reading Convenience Store Woman last month. We were told that there are approximately 60,000 convenience stores in Japan; people need them to be close by with their small refrigerators at home.

I photographed drink machines, as I have constantly read of characters in modern Japanese literature buying a can of coffee from one. Indeed, there is a myriad of beverages from which to choose.

One of Japan’s most popular beers is Asahi, and this building is the headquarters. Can you see how the tall golden building was meant to represent a tall glass of beer with the foam on top? But, the golden tadpole puzzled me, until I learned it is the Flame of Passion (for beer) which was meant to stand upright. Sadly, it blocked the residents’ view of the apartment building behind it, and was consequently forced to lay on its side. Now it has become more famous than it would have been if it had kept its original position because it looks so…odd.

The top photo is the Senso-ji Temple, guarded by a thunder god to keep the evil spirits away. Which the vermillion color is also supposed to do.

Before leaving Tokyo, we visited the Hamarikyu gardens where we took a stroll through “the playgrounds of Japan’s old shoguns”. The contrast between the skyscrapers of today, and the teahouse of the Edo period, amazes me.

Tomorrow, I will share pictures of day 2.

41 thoughts on “How I Love Japan (Part One)”

  1. Oh, I look forward to your next Japan reports Bellezza. We’ve been there three times are are planning our fourth, perhaps next year. I laughed at your 13.5 hours in the plane. For us Aussies 13.5 hours in a plane is a doddle as it takes us more than that to get to Europe or the US. However, it takes us less to get to Tokyo – about 10 hours AND we have NO jetlag, because the time difference with us is so small, which is wunderbar.

    Anyhow, I look forward as I said, to more pics and stories.

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    1. So good to hear from you, whispering gums! We met two women from Australia, and for them the flight was a mere two hours. I would go every month of that was the case for me. I’m glad you’ve been three times already, and you are planning a fourth. I don’t blame you one bit!

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      1. Thanks Bellezza. But, two hours? There’s nowhere in Australia that would only take two hours. 7-8 hours on a direct flight from Cairns would be the shortest. They were having you on, or they had flown from somewhere much en route from Australia and didn’t make that clear!

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        1. Ah, that’s interesting! I wonder what they meant…?
          As for my own flight, I found it so odd that we flew west, over the International Date
          Line, to go to a country in the east. And, we left Tokyo on October 23 at 10:50 a.m. to land in Chicago on October 23 at 8:30 a.m. I thought to myself, “Some of the things Haruki Murakami comes up with are actually not all that odd. Strange occupancies happen all the time, in one way or another.” (Of course, I do understand there’s science involved, and all that. It’s just weird on the surface.)

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    1. You might not be glad I’m sharing so much a few posts down the line; there might be a thing as too many pictures, so I am trying to be gentle. However, I have loved yor photos of the Grand Canyon and other adventures; indeed, we are blessed to have the chance to travel. Like reading translated literature, it opens my mind tremendously.

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      1. Oh, I love seeing travel pictures (and sharing them myself!), so there’s no such thing as too many. Glad you enjoyed my Grand Canyon pics. I am hopeful that we can return in another year or two.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your trip with us. I’ve wanted to go to Japan for years and am seriously considering a cycling adventure there next May. Oh, and 13.5 hours on a plane is nothing. I fly to Australia from London every couple of years and that’s around 24 hours plus layover. For me it’s generally 36 hours door to door. I hate it.

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    1. I can imagine how difficult that flight must be, and every time you fall asleep they turn on the lights to feed you or a baby starts crying. Not even Murakami can help prevent that! However, I cannot recommend Japan strongly enough. Far more important than my pictures is the attitude of the people. Never have I seen a more respectful, elegant culture. Never, and I have been to many countries (including my own).

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  3. That skyline picture brought back memories. It’s very similar to the view I had on my last trip three years ago. My other abiding memory of Japan is how friendly and polite everyone was. If you looked at all lost when trying to navigate the streets, someone would invariably come and ask if they could help. You won’t get that in London or New York

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    1. I want to write about the people and the culture, because as I mentioned on a comment to kimbofo above, the people were really what made this trip great. Their sweet voices, gentle bows, never a cross word spoken in anger that I heard. Anywhere. And the quiet! The buses, trains and streets were so quiet! I loved it all.

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  4. I am extremely jealous! Lovely photos. I will get to Japan one day, just need my kids to grow up and move out and then I’ll have some money again! Looking forward to the next update 🙂

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    1. I hope you get there, and I understand the wait. It took until I retired from a full career of teaching to have this opportunity. I loved being able to go in October, when there would be even less possibility of tourists. Except I was surprised how hot it was! The Japanese are convinced of global warming, although I don’t see it in Illinois, and it never got below 72 the whole time we were there. With the humidity it felt like 82! Regardless, nothing can spoil Japan.

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    1. I can just hear Bourdain saying that…and he’s right! Every corner, little back garden, or side street has something amazing to notice. For a country which is so crowded, they surely know how to capitalize on space and make it beautiful at the same time.

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      1. That’s exactly it – every door step, every little path, everywhere – something interesting to see – usually something gracious. I’d go into every temple or shrine I could because of all the delightful little details.

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  5. M, I love those photos! Thank you for sharing about your trip. How was it? I can only imagine how amazing it must be to visit Japan after reading so many books set there and about there – so awesome!! I keep thinking of Murakami as I look at your photos. I can’t wait to see more 🙂

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    1. Nadia, it was wonderful. You’re so right; all the reading I have done greatly enhanced my experience. (One tiny complaint I feel embarrassed to say, but I think you would understand, is that we never made it to the Traveler’s Company store. I had so hoped to buy more things Midori. But, that is very selfish of me because it was the trip of a lifetime.) By the way, the new Murakami is awesome!

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  6. These are lovely and thank you so much for sharing with us! My son-in-law’s sister and her husband went to Tokyo for their honeymoon – an interesting choice for some Texas kids. They had a great time. Look forward to seeing what else you saw and did. 🙂

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    1. I thought Killing Commendatore was wonderful! I still have about one eighth of it to go, but I’ve read enough to say it’s wonderful. 😉 It reminds me a bit of The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, a tiny bit. There are all the traditional Murakami things: pits and other worlds and mysteries to solve. I am utterly enchanted as usual.

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  7. I would love to wander around the forests, gardens and temples of Japan, rain or shine. With a Murakami book and a cat, of course. Maybe someone would even ring a temple bell. Thank you for sharing your trip, it really made my day!

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    1. Abby, what a great comment! “Maybe someone would even ring a temple bell’…have you read Killing Commendatore? I suspect you have, with the bell in the shrine and underground pit. I only wish there had been more time to wander around the forests, gardens and temples in Japan. And, I didn’t see very many cats. The only one I really remember was being stroked so lovingly by a homeless woman in a park.

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      1. No, I haven’t read the book…yet. I just know what hearing someone ringing the temple bell means, and the value behind it.

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  8. Bellezza, thank you for sharing your wonderful photos and post. I’m so glad visited Japan. There’s a great deal of art in Japan, and not just at the (many) museums–it’s everywhere!

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      1. I knew what you meant, dear Suko! And now I finally know the wonders of Japan. Not all of them, certainly, but enough to have a taste. I wonder if anyone ever gets a full feast of it. I consider it such a privilege to have gone to that country, even if it was only for 14 days.

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  9. Great pictures. Japan is an amazing country, and thanks for including the photo of a vending machine. I am curious that this is something which Japan has taken on a whole new level. Apparently, it is possible to buy all sorts of stuff from these machines there, from drinks to books and even lingerie (in some places).

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  10. Looks like it’s a tad gloomy in this photos. I love all the snaps you took. Every time I read Murakami and he mentions a convenience store I get a kick out of it. Here, we certainly have these types of stores but most people don’t buy full on meals there. In Japan I know they sell all kinds of things… ramen, pizza, etc.

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