Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Mind-Blowing Dichotomy of Tokyo

It's technically a lie to say I live in Chicago; I never actually have.

But for all practical purposes, that's where I'm from.

Though I'm a lifelong suburbanite--save for 3 years living in Los Angeles, but there I lived in suburban-like Encino--from having commuted via the CTA to & from the Loop at rush hour to attending huge concerts, ballgames, Taste of Chicago and more, I'm quite familiar with the "big city"ness of Chicago.

I have also visited many of the largest cities in the world.

New York, London, Paris, Rome, St. Peterburg, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Cairo, Delhi, Mumbai and many more.

So I've experienced hordes of people, and masses taking mass transit--hence the name. 

And the intimidation factor I would imagine many might feel upon arriving in Tokyo like a commoner--to take a cab from Narita Airport to my hotel would've supposedly cost $260 or so; hence prohibitive--hasn't been too bad for me in terms of figuring out the subways and getting where I want to go.

Numerous subway lines--actually operated by two different companies but both accepting the Suica Card--essentially like Chicago's Ventra card for transit payment--criss-cross Tokyo.

Even more so than Chicago's largely perpendicular subway & 'L' lines, this is reminiscent of New York, London and Paris, and it's kind of fun to figure out the connections one needs to make.

I can't say I did arduous research to select my hotel, the APA Hotel & Resort Nishishinjuku-Gochome-Eki Tower. I forget how, but I had come across, affiliated with American Airlines and it's frequent flyer program. The relatively new APA--part of a chain throughout Tokyo and Japan if not further--offered a rate under $100/night as well as giving me 7,000 AA miles. 

A rather good deal and as it turns out the hotel is just steps from a subway stop. Not a major one and I frequently have to transfer but still that's a major plus.

So I've been getting around Tokyo pretty well and do not feel overwhelmed, although the combination of ALL the people--in some spots it is just crazy--and the 95 degree heat has threatened to overwhelm.

Although my hotel name includes the word resort, there's really just a small pool that costs $10/hr. to use. And unless I haven't figured it out, I get no TV channels for free.

Hence I'm not really going to just hang out and relax all day but the truth is, at 50, I'm older and yes fatter than I've ever been.

Generally my health is good and I've had no real problems on this trip. And rare is the vacation--going back 20+ years--where I haven't worn myself out on a daily basis.

So to simple "How's the trip?" the answer is it's been great in terms of what I've seen and photographed--the Imperal Palace grounds, Senso-ji temple, Tokyo Tower, the Great Buddha of Kamakura--and even various experiences such as attending a Yakult Swallows baseball game and chatting with the fan next to me.

I've also had some good food--such as at the food stands of Tsukiji Fish Market, though the actual market recently moved--but though Tokyo's is known for its plethora of high-end Michelin starred restaurants I don't think there will be any gourmet splurges on this trip. Which is fine.

So I'm having fun and enjoying some quieter spots--even for meals--to balance the intensity.

But even with some time in a whirlpool and a good night's sleep, my legs still hurt.

We'll see what today brings.

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