Tokyo Tower, Imperial Palace, and Tommy Lee Jones..Oh, and a geisha dinner
TOKYO - That's quite the day, starting with an early morning tour of this buzzing metropolis and finishing with a boat ride to the most beautiful hotel setting I've ever seen. Not to mention dinner with a geisha.
I'll fill you in more some day in Star Travel, but suffice to say it was a crazy day in Japan. I had a morning
tour that included the Tokyo Tower, which offers some really cool views; especially since the rain stopped
just a couple hours before the tour began, and thanks very much for that. We later toured the temples of Asakusa, which was another first for me and a really wonderful experience. Not to mention some
driving aboutin Tokyo, where it was great simply to look out the window of the bus and snap photographs of weird things. We've all heard about Hollywood types endorsing products in Japan that they wouldn't necessarily endorse at home, a la Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. So on the way to Asakusa I had to snap this phot of Tommy Lee Jones endorsing Boss. And he IS the Boss, notwithstanding my favourite singer from new Jersey.
Anyway, that was good. But the temples were the best part of the day; watching older folks bow gracefully to the gods (my tour guide said there are 8 million gods in the Shinto religion, and that's a handful) and waving purifying smoke on their foreheads or offering coins in one of the temples. Of course, it makes for great people-watching, including school kids and attractive women in mini-skirts and expensive boots and older folks on bikes and everything in between.
My tour guide laughed when we got to the Imperial Palace to snap a few photos; from a polite distance of course. "It's 1,140,000 square meters, and only two people live there," he said. "Most people in Japan have an apartment that averages 70 square meters."
He didn't seem upset about that, but I couldn't help but detect a little cynicism when he said that the average member of Japan's Parliament makes 10 times the salary of the average citizen.
Later, I heard the same figure bandied about for geishas. I took the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto in the afternoon and a nice tempura dinner that came complete with a performance from a Meiko, a geisha in training. She was lovely, just 19, and did a couple dances for us and answered some of our questions. Look for more later in the Star, but suffice to say she was lovely and personable and quite wonderful to chat with about the life of geishas, which is a lot tougher than you might think.
I checked in later at a remarkable, and I mean remarkable, hotel or ryokan called the Hoshinoya in Kyoto. My cab driver had a helluva time finding the place. When I finally got there, I found I was only at the reception area and had to take a 15-minute boat ride up the most peaceful river you've ever seen.
Wow. The rooms is very Japanese in style and it's got to be 600 square feet; with several rooms that include a waiting room, a huge bath with a rectangular, wooden tub and special bath salts, a huge work room that I"m using now and a generous bedroom with a sitting area overlooking the river. It's all done in natural woods abut with wireless Internet and a radio. Thankfully, no TV. It's dark now and I can't see the property, but I can see the lights of the ferry boat that brought me up the river reflected in the still water and I can see the high, forested hills that rise up both sides of the water. I absolutely can't wait to see it in the morning light.
It's appropo of nothing, really, but our tour guide in Tokyo warned us a couple of times we couldn't smoke anywhere in public in Tokyo. But he said we could grab a beer from a vending machine any time we wanted. I find that odd.
Better yet was a sign I spotted on the wall outside a sex shop (on our bus tour). It said, well, you can see by the photo what it said. Isn't that great? Foreigners and couples are great, but no drunks in the sex shop. One, I suppose, can only imagine.
I also like the phrasing "Drunkard is not welcomed." Not that I speak Japanese a whit, or any language other than English, but it's always fun to look at translations that just a little bit off. One hotel I spotted in Kyoto this afternoon had a map of the lobby and the various restaurants on the main floor and had the words "The guidance of breakfast" printed across the top. Sounds like a good name for a pop band, I think.
More Monday on my day in Kyoto and on a weekend visit to Shinjuku and Roppongi in Tokyo. I'm also checking out the Park Hyatt, made famous by Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation; a true classic.