Sunday, May 4, 2008

Japan V

Since we were getting the next day off, one of my classmates and I were looking for ways to get to the Tokyo Disney resort. The Keio Plaza happens to be one of the resort's "Good Neighbor" hotels, offering a free shuttle to the resort on a set schedule. My classmate went to the front desk and asked for tickets, but they said we couldn't take the shuttle since we were with a separate tour group. I called the front desk and asked, but they told me the same when I gave my room number. My classmate called from her room, and they would let her get tickets, but suddenly there were no spaces left on the 9 a.m. shuttle! We analyzed tons of different bus, subway, and JR maps, and found ways to get there by train, but it was confusing and time consuming. We called one last time, for the 6 a.m. shuttle so my classmate could make her dinner reservations, and they finally gave in! Within minutes a hotel employee was at the door with two tickets. Score!

Now, with a group of six of us, we headed out to Roppongi to a recommended sushi restaurant. The restaurant was in a huge shopping center that reminded me of the mall on the Las Vegas strip. It was cool and rainy, but we borrowed umbrellas from the hotel. The restaurant seated us at a private table toward the back - to get in, we had to take off our shoes and put them in a small locker. I had to make special note of where I put them, because even though they were numbered ... they were numbered in Japanese! OK, not really sure if they were numbers, but certainly not marked in Roman characters. At first, I thought the tables were very traditional, since the table was almost even with the floor. Instead, the floor under the table was lower, so the booth was normal. There was a conveyor belt on one end of the table, and all sorts of sushi rolling by. Some of the sushi was looking a little ... old ... but we could see the chefs, and they watched for plates that had been out too long. The best part of the meal was getting our check. Just like my first sushi dinner, the plates were color coded for price. But the waiter simply stacked the plates, scanned them with a handheld scanner, and it printed a receipt! The waiter was good humored about our astonishment, and let us take pictures.

We strolled around Roppongi, but the stores in the shopping mall closed around 8 p.m. A couple of people in our group wanted to meet up with some other people in our class at a bar, while the rest of us went in search of the Hard Rock Cafe for souvenirs. It was tucked back from the main street, but we found it, and headed for the train station to get back.

At the train station, our platform was practically at the bottom - many floors underground. It was crowded, but people suddenly started to leave. We couldn't understand any of the announcements, but waited in hopes that the train would come anyway. When a few times passed (and the trains are amazingly on time), we finally asked a group that were speaking English nearby if they knew what was wrong with the train. Only one in the group could sort of speak Japanese, and told us there was an earthquake and the trains were being inspected. Way underground is not the place to be if there's an earthquake! A little further down, we found a conductor who told us the train wasn't coming, but the reason was lost in translation. Although he tried helping us find an alternate route, we gave up, went upstairs for a refund, and caught a taxi. On the way out of the station, one of the monitors said "accident" for our train, so at least it wasn't an earthquake. With the four of us, the taxi was about $5 each, and the driver had a CD of old American music. He didn't say much, but was kind helping us figure out how to pay!

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