|Lucky capture of cherry blossoms and Mt. Fuji|
Day 1: After staying up until almost 1 am, we woke up about 4 am to leave for our early morning flight. We made a short connection to Chicago, followed by Toronto (wrong way!). It made for a LONG travel day, finally arriving in Tokyo about 4:45 pm, about 6 am the next day (Iowa time).
I unfortunately do not sleep well, if at all, in planes or cars. So I was pretty wiped out when we finally arrived in Tokyo. Despite the long day our flights went smoothly and much faster than I anticipated. It was helpful to be able to choose movies to watch from my own viewing screen at my seat. There were a bunch more movies I wanted to see but didn't get to...that's a good thing-- less time to get bored. Things I did not do...study or sleep.
|Some cinnamon pretzels for breakfast in Chicago...He looks way better than I do on such little sleep!|
If you ever travel in Japan, you need to get a Japan Rail Pass. The JR trains run throughout the country and are an affordable way to get around on many of the bullet trains and subways. You do have to purchase in advance, before arriving in Japan, and activate them once you arrive. Unfortunately for us, the line was VERY long. They finally opened another counter and we booked a train into the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. We also exchanged our dollars to Yen (1 yen is almost equal to 1 cent) and rented a cell phone so Abe could contact some of his friends. And strangely the first people we met in Japan was a family from Des Moines. (Cue: "It's a small world after all...")
(Also, on a side note, 7-11 is a very popular company in Japan and a great place to make international ATM withdrawals. I think you may even be able to do money exchange as well.)
|~4 hours of sleep in 2 days..but finally on a train into Tokyo|
I had no trouble sleeping that night as I missed a whole night's sleep by that point already.
Day 2: We did wake up earlier than I would have liked to get an early start on our trip to Kyoto. Aiko made us breakfast -- ham, toast with cream cheese, steamed cabbage with a soy saucy-sauce, and juice. I was thinking, "This is how Japanese people stay thin...they eat cabbage for breakfast!" Not sure if that was a Japan thing or just an Aiko thing but I thought it was a good idea!
|Looking (and feeing) tired|
She helped us navigate our way through the subway station and onto the JR train to Kyoto. She was heading home to Osaka, just a stop past Kyoto, so that worked out very well that we could ride together. I was so happy to meet her. She was such a neat lady, a professor of economics, and a former commissioner for fair trade in Japan (the only woman).
|Aiko-san and Erin-san|
Kyoto was 3-4? hours away by bullet train from Tokyo. I honestly cannot remember how long as it was a blur--maybe beause I realized that I can sleep (some) on trains. Sometimes. After jet lag sets in.
|My first bullet train|
We caught some great views of Mount Fuji on our way!
|I love the little Japanese truck and the future rice fields in this one!|
|The Japanese call it Fuji-San. I think it is fun to say!|
|I think we got some good ones, especially considering they were as we sped by on the train!|
We arrived in Kyoto about 12 or 1 pm. After leaving our bags at our hotel, we made our way back to the train and to Nara.