We flew through Tokyo on our way back from our latest trek to Mera Peak, Nepal. At the very last minute we realized that we had no specific plans for the next day in Los Angeles, our hometown, so there was no reason why not to spend our first day together in Tokyo.
Step one was to get a room at the Westin Tokyo…yes, a familiar brand for us but always a great base of operations in a strange city. We took the Executive Limosine, a bus service from Narita Airport to Ebisu, the location of the Westin on the west side of the city. Looking back, this was a two-hour bus ride that wasn’t pleasant after a long flight and we’ll be using the trains to make our way back to Tokyo Narita.
Once at the Westin, we dropped our bags, grabbed a delicious snack at the Executive Lounge, and headed for the concierge. We were told to walk to Shibuya, just to the north a kilometer or so, and to check out the big screen displays and glitzy lights of the “Times Square Tokyo”. The concierge actually referred to it in broken English as “Lost in Translation”. It lived up to our expectations, even if the buildings were much smaller than New York.
As an additional point of interest, it was Halloween Weekend in Tokyo, and while not a Japanese tradition, a holiday they seemed to have embraced in costume if not in real meaning. True to our expectations, the dominant costumes were that of dominatrix-policewoman, short-skirted bloody nurse, Playboy Bunny, and other pseudo-sexual themes. We’re not sure Tokyo’s youth needed an additional excuse to dress in super-short skirts, men to dress as ladies, or for a few to get stumbling drunk.
Just north of Shibuya, we walked through first an outdoor food exposition, bought ‘street meat’ that appeared to be a hotdog on a stick, and then found warmer clothing at a Gap alongside Yoyogi Park. This section of Tokyo was much quieter than the frantic Shibuya. It was actually peaceful.
Shinjuku was a return to the big shopping centers and busy life that we saw in Ebisu and Shibuya. We spent very little time before heading back toward Shibuya, which was the most lively place along our walk, Shibuya.
We walked through countless neighborhoods and past many Italian restaurants (the most prevalent non-Japanese type) and more than a few convenience stores before arriving at the Westin. What better way to end an unexpected day in Tokyo than glasses of cold sake at the creatively named “The Bar” back at the Westin? It was notable that the Japanese are one of the few First World countries where smoking is still allowed indoors, and we opted for a table outside the bar, which stressed our server as she knew the rules but struggled with the pushiness of Westerners making a demand.
I wish we could say we woke early and enjoyed a Shinto Shrine and a cool, sunny, zen morning. That was the plan the day before, to be sure. The truth, however, is that we were in our first truly comfortable beds in a month, free of smoke, snow and cold. We slept like refugees. It was divine. Breakfast was in the Executive Club on the 17th floor with a zen view of Sunday morning Tokyo…
After a first attempt at walking to Shinagawa Rail Station and getting turned around by too many Japanese who evidently didn’t know their way on a map, we took a taxi. Orderly, clean and clearly marked, we were on our way back to Narita with a minimum of effort. A fun and interesting 24 hours in Tokyo.