Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Domo Arigato...

Some of my most prized flights were into Japan, and yes, every. single. time. I would deboard the aircraft this song would pop into my head.


Of course now, when I think back to my flights into Tokyo, all I can see is the flooding and the airport patrons and personnel standing on top of the building waving for help. During the flooding I had a sick fascination with the airport footage. Had I met any of those personnel? Did they have families lost to the flooding? When I think of Haneda, I think of those people.

Fancy hydrant cover, wonder if I can find one of these babies on Ebay...
We flew into both Haneda and Sendai occasionally through both our DOD flights and leisure flights to and from Tokyo to Honolulu. When we flew into Haneda, we often stayed near the Harajuku district which of course WOULD get me all hot and bothered because, UM HELLO, Gwen Stefani fan up in here! I can not remember the name of the hotel I stayed in there, but there was definitely a 7-11 right next door which is always helpful! It was in Japan of all places that I actually got adventurous and took a train. In a foreign location! All by myself! The earth must have tilted on it's axis just a little bit more that day because that's not something anyone would expect out of me as a traveler. Ok, well, I kind of lied. I talked another Flight Attendant into doing it with me because there was not a chance in Hell that I was going to get lost all by myself, plus I had to find a Starbucks! And getting lost alone in a foreign country is not one of those things I'd do for a latte.

If you think their multi-tiered interstate system is crazy, you should see their intersections.
We took the train from Akasaka to Asakusa to visit the Sensō-ji shrine. Let me tell you, it was like the Disney World of shrines. We got lost trying to find the entrance to the actual shrine because you had to walk through about 20 miles of vendors selling t-shirts, cheap plastic toys, bamboo products, anpan buns (think donuts with a sweetened red bean paste filling that I mistakenly took for chocolate... don't judge, I don't read Japanese) and pretty much everything else you can think of. It was well worth getting lost for though. The shrine itself was humongous and appeared to be a mecca of sorts for the faithful. It was definitely a humbling experience. Back in Akasaka, we had the Nogi Shrine in our figurative backyard. As in, it was within my "bubble" about a block away. The Nogi shrine was much less populated, meaning far more peaceful, and the architecture of the shrine was breath taking.

It was the caped monkey statues that really did it for me.

 I was also a big fan of the glasses of water they left for their monk statues. Hydration is everything, people!

 Saki drums labeled with neighboring cities names. I'm still unsure exactly what their purpose was, but I enjoyed spinning them. I probably committed some sort of sacrilege by doing so.

Since we were in more of a business district, there weren't many touristy things surrounding us so we entertained ourselves as well as we could knowing sub-minimal Japanese. Across the street from us was a McDonalds where I discovered the Japanese people loved them some egg on their burgers (HORK HORK TRIPLE HORK), there was a Sanrio type store a few blocks down that was never open, and the best little find was a tiny hole in the wall actual china shop. 

 Who's hungry for puffer fish? Anybody? Hello? Bueller?

If you know me, you know I am the literal bull in the literal china shop. To say I was nervous would have been an understatement. But I did find one thing (well, two technically) that took a little old man plus one translator over the phone to figure out. The Husband and I weren't yet married and I wasn't big on bringing home souvenirs from every place I visit, but I discovered in this shop these handcrafted china "Chinese Zodiac" animals. Of course, I didn't know my Husband's symbol and let's just say I'm horrible at charades. He held his finger up to me, picked up the phone and made a call. Through the help of the wonderful woman on the other line we discovered my Husband is a rabbit and of course, I am a dog. Figures, right? I asked him (through her) if the dog and rabbit were good for each other and he explained that it's good for rabbit that the dog keeps him on his toes. My Husband? He can give a big "Amen" to that one. I was sold. I had no idea how much money I paid the man, but I knew there were commas involved in the number and I was secretly holding my breath as he swiped my card that it would go through, because OMG what if that was my rent money I just paid for two little animals that barely fit in the palm of my hand!?!?? We still have those animals, and even if I'd discovered I'd used all our rent money on china figurines, I wouldn't have regret the purchase.

Love them. Now you know what to steal if you want to break into my fancy ass basement and break my heart at the same time. You can take the couches and the retro deep freeze, but don't touch my little animal friends!

Part 2 coming tomorrow! Let's fly to Sendai!


  1. How fun! I have never been to Asia. My little brother thought he would be stationed in Japan once, but never made it. Dangit! He's stuck in North Dakota instead.

    1. Ouch, North Dakota? Maybe if he squints really hard...