So, why “phase shift?” Part of it refers to shifting between daily posts and “as daily as I can”, and part of it is the difference between hotel living and apartment living. If you’re going to some place, staying in hotels, you don’t have much control over what happens there, and you have people coming into your space at times of their choosing, doing things to your stuff to make their jobs better. If you stay in an apartment though, it’s more like actually “living there,” and you don’t have to worry about things like maid service and such, it can be more like a piece of home you brought with you.
So, on Day 2 I shifted phase between staying at the Toyoko Inn in Monzennakacho, to staying in the Sakura House Apartment’s Monzennakacho apartment building. Jetlagged, I woke up at about 4:45 AM and dithered around until about 7, when I got hold of John via text and met downstairs for the free breakfast. Note this is one thing where hotel living is a plus, sometimes people give you food for free! After stoking up on a typical Japanese breakfast of rice balls, pickled vegetables, and miso soup (and a croissant, of all things) we headed out to the subway station, whereupon my 5 year old memories of how to get to places proved me wrong, and we wound up a few blocks away headed in the wrong direction. I did manage to see some nice things along the way!
After getting sorted out, took a quick subway ride to Otemachi, the subway station “closest” to Tokyo Station. It’s really not that close, and most of the walk to connect is in a long underground hallway, much like Crystal City in Arlington, but without the shops, and about the same length from end to end, about a mile. Once in Tokyo Station, though, the image you may have of a “bustling metropolis” becomes real, people moving with speed and deliberation, brightly colorful shops at every turn, and all underground, with a multitude of signs to the dozen different train lines and tracks and counters. It can definitely be dazzling to the first-timer, but having navigated it on two different trips, it was fairly easy to get to the Chuo Line tracks, to get to Shinjuku and the office of Sakura House. ( I wish I could show pictures of it, but there are signs in the station saying “no photography”, most likely to avoid traffic congestion by shutterbugs. )
Before getting on the JR system, I figured it would be a good idea to buy a rechargeable Suica card, which allows you to flash the card at just about any turnstile on the JR, subway, or private rail line, and can even be used as a debit card to buy things from newsstands and vending machines. Much better than buying a ticket each time, at least much more convenient, and less likely to get lost. So, a quick ride on the Chuo Line brought us to Shinjuku station, where via fortuitous happenstance, I managed to get lost yet again! But, in doing so found the station for the Odakyu Company, which is a conglomerate company that owns their own rail line, shopping center, hotels, and a large part of the infrastructure at Hakone, which is the tourist area near Mount Fuji. This is where my brother Darrell and I tried to see Mount Fuji on our trip in 2010, but failed to do so due to weather. (You can read our adventures on the “Nerdtour 2010” link above)
At any rate, after figuring out how to get out of the station, we made our way to the office of Sakura House. Getting an apartment through Sakura House is worlds easier than getting a normal Japanese apartment, but it still consists of a lot of paperwork, which has to be gone over, and read to you, and paragraph after paragraph initialed. The staff is almost all young post-college aged kids (yeah I went there) who are eager to help, and happy to talk about anything, especially those who are still getting English like the kid who handled my paperwork. Foolishly, I didn’t even think to get pictures, but I think I can rectify that later. At any rate, after about an hour, and paying 99,000 yen for the month’s rent, I had key in hand for my own little piece of Tokyo (and I do mean “little” ^_^)
After unpacking a lot of my stuff, I took a bit of a nap, before heading down to the Akafudado store. When I was first here in 2007, I thought it was just a grocery store, it turns out to really be a general store, with a grocery section on the first floor, a women’s clothing store on 2, menswear and a “dollar store” on 3, and a home-goods store on the fourth floor! I was in search of bath goods, since I didn’t bring a towel or washcloth with me, and some light food for dinner. I figured the “100 yen store” (the “dollar store” equivalent) would have cheap towels and such, but unfortunately their selection was far too tiny, so I went up to the 4th floor, not really knowing at the time what was up there. Fortunately, they had just what I needed, and I got two large towels and three washcloths, which I intend to leave behind for the next tenant. The previous person who had my apartment left behind some dishwashing soap, a couple of rolls of toilet paper, and a roll of towels, so I figured I’d “pay it forward” with my own contribution when I leave. It’s kind of expected, and a nice thing to do anyway! I bought the things up there, then made my way back down to the grocery section, where I bought a couple of bottles of tea, some croquets, and a thing called “Pizza Pan”, which is a piece of bread with some cheese, tomato sauce, and some kind of meat baked into it. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looked pretty good, and what is an adventure without trying new things? Especially a Japanese take on a Western snack!
And so, the first “real” day in Japan drew to a close, and I managed to stagger back to the apartment just in time to collapse in to bed. The next day, lots of stuff! A park, a meal, a clock, and a bunch of boats, as well as the “Statue of Liberty!”
You’ll have to check back tomorrow to see what that means! =^.^=