Our story so far..

Hi everyone!  I've been here for a few days and I finally had the time to put some stories together, was able to download the pictures onto the Mac (minor technical difficulties), and was able to stay awake past 8 at night to distill my thoughts.  Here we go!

The flight over on AA was fine, 13 hours long.  It left on time from JFK, a surprise in itself.  I got a last picture of midtown from the Admiral's club.

The 777's routing took us northwest and along the north coast of Alaska.  This picture of one of the views of the flight path shows our route, but the plane is a little to the right of our path.  Other pictures had it pointed let of the path.  Perhaps the system is showing the plane's crosswind correction?

Up here we're just off the northern coast of Alaska, around the Gates of the Arctic National Park.

Further on it was apparently cold; if you look carefully you'll see what appear to me to be frozen lakes.

Out here we're near the International Date Line.

Flying through that imaginary barrier we went on over Siberia and on toward Japan. 

We skirted the Kamchatka Peninsula, as we have done beforeWhy?

So we landed successfully and I walked through the very long terminal to the immigration line.  A flight or two from China had arrived just before us, and it took more than half an hour to go through the line, which is actually good since a sign in the line said it was a 60 minute wait from where we were.  Note to those entering Japan, since my last visit they implemented a mandatory fingerprinting and photo of each entrant, which undoubtedly slowed down the line.  All was well for me though. 

After getting my luggages and working my way through customs (nothing to declare, arigato), I headed for the Friendly Airport Limousine counter for a ticket on the next hourly bus to the nearest hotel to mine.  Next one was in half an hour, so I had time to get some Yen from the "cash services" machine, use the men's room (you can choose from both western and eastern toilets) and get a Pocari Sweat to quench my thirst.  The bus showed up on time and off we went. 

Last time I arrived at NRT, it was nighttime so I didn't see any of the route into Tokyo.  You get to see some of it now.

Still inside the airport, I noted this rock garden which also includes manhole covers.

A couple of notes from inside the bus: you can get Yen at some 7-11's.  Last time I had to use the Japan Post office which would get money from US accounts, and it wasn't open on weekends.  This may be a good alternative, though I haven't tried it yet.

And here's some info for you coming to NRT.  Study up!

Along the way I saw this hotel, which advertised in large neon lights two rates, one for "Rest", the other for "Stay".  I'll leave the difference up to your imaginations.

Very many power lines out here.

I assume an apartment/condo complex.

I must have seen at least six of these, which are very large fields with very tall supports all around which hold up a net.  I'd imagine it's baseball fields or golf.

According to my friend Judit, this is the new Disney hotel at the Tokyo Disneyland.

This is hard to see, but as we proceeded further, to the east (or south depending on where I was) there was this solitary windmill which appeared HUGE, totally dominating the skyline and very much larger than the buildings around it.  Research showed there are actually two of them, and they're just northeast of Haneda airport.

A more conventional area getting closer to downtown.

I liked this building with the hole in it.

Getting close to the downtown Ginza area.

Another neat building.

I suspect this is the Asahi Shimbun newspaper building.

Must be getting close to home, which is nearer the Tokyo Tower than it is tall.  By the way the tower is 50 years old this year.

From the Tokyo Prince I had to get to my hotel, and I decided to walk rather than hire a taxi, since I figured it would take too long to explain I just wanted to go around the corner.  It was hot but hey, it's July.  Here's the room, smaller than the one I had last time but not by much.

Ah, the Lavamat Turbo.  The bed looks small but is full-size or maybe a little larger.

They provide a nice initial snack basket, including Cup Noodle!  I had a little problem with that last time, it's oh so good.  In Japan they're heavier, have larger shrimp and are just more tasty.  The inventor of Cup Noodle passed away in 2007 and I had one that day in his memory. 

After going to the Pororoca next door, I brought some food back, including this kind-of-Seattle-like coffee beverage.

After getting settled in, I slept for a while, but woke up Sunday around 4:00 am.  I had lunch with Dennis and family at the TGI Friday's in Roppongi and had a decent cajun shrimp pasta dish. 

So it's been 2 years, what's different?  Well the building across the street is still being built:

What else?  The beer vending machine up the street now sells coca-cola soft drinks instead, there are very many more Tully's coffees, and the the fresh food isn't half price at Pororoca after 7PM.

Sunday night I noted a nice sunset so I went up to the roof to get a photo.   I heard a party going on so I tried to sneak in and out, but it turned out the hotel staff were holding the party for a couple that were getting married, and they made me stay and have a drink and some food.  So a couple of Asahi Super Dries, some smoked salmon, pickled baby octopus and lasagna (yes) later, I went back to my room and slept.  I think I'm finally on Japan time.  Yesterday I think I had made it as far as New Zealand time

A few other random pictures.  Here's an interesting very new office building, I'm told it's the largest in Tokyo.

It has a Pokemon store.  Sorry, "Pokemon Center".

The World Trade Center.  There's a mall there with an awesome bookstore, which carries not just regular books but also some pretty technical manuals, like how to program a Z80

This office is next to a set of railroad tracks used by JR East and the Shinkansen, shown zipping right along.

I walked home today, it's about a mile.  I saw this temple (Zojo-ji) from my hotel last time, finally got to see it closer up.

Yesterday we went to lunch at a restaurant at a hotel and had a really nice Japanese lunch, included an assortment of bites that were like little spring rolls stuffed with shrimp, fish, and I think crab.  A nice miso soup which had some small shellfish in it, and some excellent light tempura shrimp, eggplant, peppers, and fish.  Today we went to a chinese restaurant and chose this super awesome spicy noodle soup which seemed very similar to Pho with some of the same flavors.  It was delicious! 

So there we are, dear readers, you're now up to date.  Over the next few weeks I should have some updates from Osaka, Kyoto, and a puppet show.  See you soon, be safe!