Thursday, October 18, 2007

Konichiwa! We're in Japan!

Now the trip REALLY begins! We arrived in Tokyo yesterday and we have surprisingly had a fairly easy time navigating our way around. There is just enough English around to keep from being utterly confused. The subway system sure is a mess though. But if you pay attention, it's easy enough to follow. The Japanese definitely seem to be hospitable people and we have enjoyed our first day here. No homeless asking for change, minimal honking cars, minimal sirens. Pretty amazing for a city of 13 million people. It's crowded, but not dauntingly crowded. Tokyo is certainly quite Western though. We are looking forward to experiencing more of the culture in other areas of Japan.

To finish off the United States, we drove to San Diego, through the cacti of southern Arizona, along the Mexican border, and past some brief sandy desert areas in south-eastern California. We even briefly drove at sea level in the middle of southern California. Pretty cool.
San Diego was nice. It was the weekend, so the streets around the HI San Diego Downtown Hostel were quite busy. Hard to find street parking until very late at night. During our first day, we walked around Seaside Village and alongside the piers. We were pretty tired from the past busy days so we didn't do much. The next day, we visited the Horton Plaza to get travellers cheques and to visit the post office and a travel agency. We discovered it takes many days to get at Japan Rail Pass... In a scramble we found a Japanese travel center online that had passes for immediate issue that was easy to find. After securing our JR rail passes we drove to the coast and walked around the Cabrillo National Monument. Cool coastline, lighthouse, and visitors center.

Then it was back to Los Angeles! We took the Pacific Coastal Highway from Laguna Beach, through Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach, etc, all the way into LA and back to Julie's in Santa Monica. So we can actually say that we drove the Pacific Coast Highway all the way from Laguna Beach to San Francisco! :)

We said our farewells to Julie the following morning, dropped off the rental car, and made it to our departure gate in the airport a good couple of hours ahead of the flight. No problems. The flight to Tokyo was 12 hours! And we actually flew over Alaska and part of Russia en route! Pretty cool. It wasn't very cloudy so we were able to take pictures of both.

We landed at Narita airport in the late afternoon, took the train into Tokyo, and figured out the subway system enough to get us to the Tokyo International Hostel for the night. Very cool private room for a fairly reasonable price. Our own bathroom with Japanese bath area. Pretty interesting.

Today, we visited the Embassy of India to arrange our visas. It went smoother than anticipated. They need to get confirmation from Canada that they can give us the visa then we go back for them to process the visa. During all this we get to keep our passports. Not bad. After we walked around the outside of the Imperial Palace grounds. A surrounding moat keeps the public out. Pretty cool and very picturesque. The Imperial Palace is where the emperor of Japan lives. The garden is the only area open to the public so we enjoyed the walk around. Very pretty. Then we went up Tokyo Tower for a view of the city. The tower is much like the Eiffel Tower. A little taller but not nearly as nice. Decent views though.

Tomorrow we head to Kyoto to experience a bit more of the culture. Looking forward to it!

San Diego Pics | Tokyo Pics


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