Tokyo is a wondrous city, full color and light and vibrant energy and lots of people. It is a also a city that honors it’s past and traditions as we experienced at the Nakajima-no-ochaya teahouse in the family garden the the Tokugawa Shogun.
We arrived in Tokyo yesterday evening after an amazing flight aboard the new 787 Dreamliner. What a beautiful airplane, it was noticeably smoother and quieter than any jet we’ve previously flown in. One of the coolest things were the new polarizing window shades. Instead of those pull down window shades we are all so familiar with, you know the ones where you pull it all the way down to block out the light or open it a crack to let a bit of bright light in so as not to disturb everyone around you. Those are gone and replaced by variable polarizing shade built into the window. They seem to work much like a variable neutral density filter a photographer might use, effectively letting you dial the amount of light to be let in. Fantastic!
Prior to our trip I had spent spent time figuring out how to get around in Japan and settled on a Japan Rail (JR) Pass. The process is somewhat Byzantine. You have fill out an online form asserting certain facts in order to qualify for the purchase of an exchange coupon This must be done prior to leaving for Japan since they cannot be bought inside the country. These coupons are then sent to you via FedEx. Take the coupons with you to Japan. When you arrive in Japan you must bring the exchange coupon to a JR train office. You must then fill out another form so the coupon can be exchanged for the actual rail pass. The rail pass must them be taken to a different JR office and date stamped to be formally activated. Even with the JR pass, seat reservations must be made when traveling from the airport to Tokyo or between cities.The city subway system does not use JR passes, so a standard fare must be paid.
For us, the exchange of our coupons, filing out forms and activation of our rail passes took over an hour, so be sure to plan for this additional time. Snacks and water are available on the train from the airport to Tokyo but they only accept yen, be sure to exchange some currency in the airport prior to boarding the train. Nope, no credit cards either. We will be spending the next few days learning more about the Japan Rail system as well as the numerous private rail lines that coexist with it.
More about today next time.