Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tokyo for Christmas: Day Two

Day Two of our Christmas in Tokyo was crammed with sightseeing, train rides and what seemed like endless walking. We left the base at 7:30 am and walked down to the train station which is about a 15 minute walk. Once we got to the train station we had to figure out where to buy our tickets and which tickets to buy. Once again, luckily we had Nick to lead the way. It's amazing what all he has picked up here in his 18 months or so, meaning being able to communicate with the Japanese. With our tickets in hand, backpacks on back, cameras, video cameras, hand sanitizer, kleenex, gum and a few yen (Japan currency) we were jumping on the train.

Nick & Danny in front of a train map at the second train station.

We wanted to get an early start because we had a 2.5 hour train ride ahead of us. Too bad we didn't think about the fact that everyone else would be getting on the train to go to work. It was unbelievably crowed. Standing room only and shoulder-to-shoulder. Most of the commuters were sleeping either sitting or standing!

Dan the Man had diligently studied the train map and charts the night before so he was pretty familiar with what route we needed to take and where we needed to get off (on paper that is.) When we actually got to the different train stations, it was a little more complicated than it looked on paper, especially when the massive crowds of people who actually knew where they were headed were pushing you along. Dan the Man felt like he was in a massive herd of cattle! LOL!

I was impressed at the way everyone was dressed. Almost all the men were in suits and the women were wearing dresses, pantyhose or stockings and high heels. The children were all dressed in school uniforms. The ages varied, with the men ranging from their 20's to their 70's. The women appeared to be in their 20's to 50's and the children were of all ages. It also seemed like there were more men than women. I wondered what all they did, what jobs did they have, did they enjoy this commute everyday, how long did it take them, especially the kids, how long did they have to ride that train for every day? What a completely different lifestyle from ours.

The whole 2.5 hours we were on the train we didn't leave the city. I couldn't wrap my head around the number of apartment buildings and how many people must have lived in them! I think that I saw more apartment buildings on that train ride than I have in my whole entire life. No joking! Crazy... It appears that most Japanese hang their laundry out to dry rather than drying it in a dryer. Seemed like every other apartment balcony was covered with laundry drying and the balconies are tiny. Not many people have yards and if they do, they are tiny!! And I mean TINY. I did see a few, not many though, gardens growing with lettuce, onions and other cold weather crops. It must not get below freezing here, at least not yet, maybe later in the winter it does. Makes me appreciate my space back home so much more! My house is enormous compared to most of the homes I saw today.

Billboards at the train station.

We also saw more bicycles in one day than I bet there are in the whole state of Nebraska! We could see several bicycle garages from the train that must have housed hundreds of bicycles. If Americans had to walk and ride bicycles as much as the Japanese do, we would be so much more healthier. Those who do ride their bikes to work, must still have to walk a long way because they park their bikes in those garages. We really do take our cars for granted.

Our train ride ended in Kamakura. After that long ride it was time to use the bathroom. There was a long line and by the time it was my turn I was doing the potty dance. Finally an open door so I eagerly go in, actually at a trot, not wanting someone to cut in line. I get to the stall and shut the door behind me and wouldn't you know it, it was one of those toilets in the floor! I don't know how else to explain it, except that it was an elongated hole, but a porcelain bowl thing recessed into the floor. What in the world?? I couldn't come back out and try for a regular toilet or else I'd have to get back in line again and besides, that would make me look stupid! So I figured it had to be just like squatting out in the corn field, right? So I did my best and that is exactly what I did. Not sure if that was the proper way to use that toilet, but hey, it worked for me! And while we are on the subject, toilets over here have two flush options, a low volume flush and a high volume flush. Who knew? Why don't they do that in the states? Probably saves a lot of water. Dan the Man had to lift the toilet tank cover off at the hotel to see how it works. He was pretty impressed saying that it was a pretty sophisticated operation in there!


Dan the Man, our trusty self appointed travel guide had scoped all the travel guides and had some destinations in mind for us to visit. Once again, looked easy on paper, but actually navigating the streets was a different story. We got lost a couple of times and changed our plans a few times since we couldn't find what we were looking for.

We began our journey through a tiny crowded street which had shops on both sides. It was cool and full of interesting things. I wish I had one of those little voice recorders to record my thoughts on this trip. It sure would make it easier to remember my thoughts and impressions that I get along the way. We saw an ambulance that was called a "Doctor Car." We thought that was a little funny! Another observation about the vehicles on the street was that they were extremely small. Dan the Man keeps saying we need to get one of those toy cars for running to town in. The concrete trucks are even small. Danny thought that they would only hold 3 yards of concrete while a regular concrete truck in the states holds 7 yards. There are NO semi-trucks or trailers.

Concrete Truck

Restaurants have plastic replicas of the dishes that they serve in display cases outside the restaurant along with how much they cost. I read somewhere that if they prices weren't listed, chances were that the only people who could afford to eat there wouldn't be concerned with the prices. That wasn't us, we looked for prices!

Here are some other interesting things we saw along this little shopping district.

We then found our way to several shrines and temples. We decided that once you have seen one shire or temple, you have pretty much seen them all. Not very many had any signage in English, so we really didn't know what we were looking at. I thought what it would be like for a Japanese to come to my home and follow the sights of the Oregon Trail and not be able to read any of the English signs to know what they were looking at. I'm sure they would get pretty bored with it after a while. Also being a Christian amongst all the Buddhist worship and idols actually made us a little uncomfortable. Dan the Man made the observation that the Japanese culture/religion is just steeped in idolatry. I did love the look of the temples and idols and also the fact that many of these items were hundreds of years old. The gardens around the temples must be spectacular in the spring, summer and fall months!

We ate lunch at this little hole in the wall cafe. Literally it was about 8 feet across and 14 feet deep. They only had enough chairs for about 20 people at the most and that would be with elbows touching. There was one table and two counters against both sides of the cafe. The seats were close together and no taller than an kindergarten's chair! They had about 5 items on their menu. Nick got some curry pork dish he liked and Dan the Man and I got some chicken thing with soup. Neither one of us liked the soup, too much seaweed for us!

We timed our train ride perfect and didn't have to content with the work crowd returning home after work so praise God we all got seats on the train. Nick and I caught cat naps on the train while Dan the Man stayed awake so we wouldn't miss our stop. We finally made it back to the base around 6:30. We were so tired we grabbed dinner at the Burger King drive-thru on base.

I must say that after a full day of being out of our comfort zone, Mr. Dan the Man made quite an impression on me! He was fantastic at reading the maps and making plans as to what we were going to do. I guess he was so terrified at the thought of us not knowing what we were doing and the possibility of us getting lost that he thought he'd better take the bull by the horns and lead the way! I figured we wore him out and he had had all the sight seeing he needed, but that was not the case. He was the one who was rearing to go again today while Nick and I were dragging our feet.

Nick is coming down with a cold or something and really wasn't feeling up to par today so we took it easy and moved our sight seeing to a more rural part of the country. I'll post more later. I also have video of the vacation which I will post when I get home and can edit it. On Tuesday we have scheduled a tour to Mt. Fuji!!

I can't believe today is Christmas. It doesn't feel at all like Christmas here. We are going to go out to dinner tonight, but all the places here on the base are closed so we'll probably have to eat Japanese food. I think I'll go online and read the true Christmas story from the bible to celebrate the birth of my savior. I hope that you and yours are having a wonderful time celebrating the birth of Christ and spending precious time with your family.

Merry Christmas!!


  1. Merry Christmas to Nick, Dan the Man, you and the rest of your family, Kathy. Corina and I realy enjoyed your blog on your Tokyo trip. Have a ton of fun and enjoy Japan! Meri Kurisumasu!

  2. Enjoying your blog! Christmas is in your heart, not where you are at! Be glad that you are there, the wind has been blowing like crazy, hope it stops soon! Cold and Blustery Christmas Day! Jackie

  3. Hey there! Just wanted to let you know that here in good old "green" Washington we have the two flush toilets in a bunch of places.