Lao Tzu’s words have never meant more to me. From New York to Tokyo is actually a journey of over six thousand miles, but you get the point.
Merriam-Webster defines a trek as a long and difficult journey that is made especially by walking. Was it long? Yes. Difficult? So far so good. Walking? Hell no. I have taken a two planes and a few trains to get here. So why Tyler’s Trek? Because Tyler’s Travels was taken and Tyler’s Trips was a little too risque.
I was up at 6:45am and had a breakfast of eggs and Irish sausages. I’m not really used to eating much for breakfast and it had me in and out of the bathroom all day; it could’ve also been nerves. My flight from LaGuardia Airport departed a little late but I had no problem catching my connection in Toronto. I tried to sleep on the first plane but it was not very satisfying. The waiting area in Toronto was really nice. The seats were comfortable, there were charging stations and iPads to browse the internet.
The second leg was a brutal thirteen hours. It was the longest flight I’ve ever been on. Flying west in the morning, we chased the sun. It was bright the whole thirteen hours. There were tons of kids on the plane. These Canadian kids are adorable, but man are they loud. Every time I tried to sleep, I was woken up by either a kid or a flight attendant or an announcement. It was a very unproductive thirteen hours, not getting fulfilling sleep, nor watching good movies (nor enough movies considering the length of the flight). There was a good selection of new and foreign films, I just wasn’t in the mood to read subtitles on a small screen on a plane and I chose wrong. The Little Prince was a very well done animation and the short film Stutterer was also very good, but Hail Caesar! and The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials were both awful. The food on the plane consisted of lunch, a snack and breakfast, which was served at Toronto dinner time. Naturally, it felt like there was a missing dinner. Lunch was good: chicken and couscous. The snack was a cup noodle, which was misleadingly described as chicken noodle soup. And breakfast was that gross mushroom omelette they serve on planes.
When I retrieved my luggage at Haneda, I found that the Samsonite badge on my new luggage was coming off. It’s hanging on just on one side and I can’t seem to get the other side to stay. I found two counters for baggage delivery and I got on the line that was significantly longer, figuring the correct line must be the one with all the people. But after I asked someone, she told me I could go to either line so I switched. I paid for the service by credit card and it was the only place I went to all day that took credit card. The machines for train tickets only take cash. For such a modern country, I am surprised credit cards are not more widely accepted.
The train is super confusing. There are two different systems, confusing enough on their own, that overlap. Plus the maps are not laid out geographically. There are just a bunch of colored lines crisscrossing. And if that wasn’t hard enough, the names of the stations have way too many syllables. That being said, the train system is immaculate, both stations and cars. There is a barrier to prevent people from falling into the track that opens when the train doors open. The Keikyu line was entirely in Japanese but when I transferred to the Yamanote line, there was English. Yamanote is confusing because it is circular so you have to make sure you’re going the right way. I was ok because Google told me where I had to go, but I would not have been able to figure it out on my own by looking at the map. Also the turnstiles are open, so there is a level of trust bestowed on the commuters riding an otherwise expensive train.
The trains themselves weren’t that crowded when I was riding but the stations were very busy. It was difficult trying to stay out of the way. Maybe it was just the time of day, but there weren’t many people casually dressed. I also observed what appeared to be a polite fight in which two people try to bow deeper than the other. It goes on for a little while. Observing Japanese etiquette will take some time to adjust to.
Japan is unbearably hot and humid. It is so much worse here than it was in New York yesterday. The trains I took were mostly above ground where it was all hot and gross. But from above, I could see the Tokyo landscape. The architecture is kind of interesting. Everyone seems to have a balcony where they hang their clothes to dry. And the staircases in the apartment buildings are external running outside the building. The hallways are also exposed to the outside. We also passed by a lot of large buildings that appeared to be shopping centers. And of course, lots of temples and cemeteries.
I met Danny at the train station and he brought me to his apartment, a small room containing a bed, desk, chair and small kitchenette. There is a small well at the entrance for shoes. The bathroom has a deep tub, and a single control for the sink and tub. You turn the knob to change where the water comes out of. The toilet has a dual flush control. And the toilet paper is a long rectangular shape, even longer than in France.
We had dinner at a local restaurant. He lives in a residential neighborhood. He pointed out the stop sign on the floor, which was essentially just a blinking light on ground at the intersection, not so much a sign. He lives on a big street, the same one the monorail runs through. It is pretty quiet, but very noticeable. The lights run by every fifteen minutes or so until midnight. The size of the street doesn’t correspond to a large number of shops or restaurants. It is pretty much just apartment buildings and an elementary school. The school kids with their soccer balls have a run of the place. We went to a small side street to eat. The front door slides open, though I probably would have pulled it. I couldn’t read anything on the menu, so I let Danny order for us. We had eel over rice and a heavy miso soup with fish, with a small side salad and onions. His Japanese is pretty good but the waitress still knew he was foreign. I don’t know what I would’ve done without Danny. Tokyo is not a particularly English friendly city.
There is a 7-Eleven every few blocks. We went in to get something for breakfast and to withdraw money from the ATM, which thankfully had an English option. Danny recommended the rice with roe, while he opted for an American breakfast of bread with cream. Apparently, it is uncommon to use credit card for small purchases.
By this point, I was exhausted. I passed out on Danny’s floor around 8:30pm local time, which is 7:30am EST, almost 25 hours after my day started.