Friday, March 9, 2001

Today we leave Japan. But our plane doesn't depart until 6:55 p.m., so we still have time to do some stuff. We said bye to Traci and the kids and rode the subway into Tokyo. We hadn't seen much of Tokyo since the day we'd set aside to do that it was pouring down rain. This was our last chance.

Tokyo Station is humungous. One could easily get lost in there. I know because we did - a couple of times. We could only find one open locker to store our stuff, and it was just barely big enough for my bag. Yet with some muscle power and ingenuity, we managed to cram Tom's stuff in there too.

Guard towers at the Imperial Palace

Kokyo, the Imperial Palace, is just a couple blocks down the street from Tokyo station. The palace itself is closed to the public, but you can wander around its outskirts and see all the homeless people sleeping under the trees, so that's what we did.

The Homeless

The present palace was completed in 1968. It replaced the palace built in 1888 which was destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II. It occupies the site of the castle Edo-jo from which the Tokugawa shogunate ruled all of Japan. In its time the castle was the largest in the world, but except for the moat and walls, nothing is left of it today. We were going to vist the Imperial Palace East Garden, but we found that it is closed on Fridays.

Imperial Palace and Niju-bashi bridge

We'd passed a park with a bunch of fountains on the way to the palace that looked pretty cool. The sign called it a waterfall garden. We went back there and hung out for a while. It was more enjoyable than the palace. Behind the waterfall garden was the Palace Hotel. After talking to my dad when we got back, I learned that was where my parents and I had stayed when we visited my cousins in Tokyo 17 years ago.

Waterfall garden

Back at the station, we looked and looked for our locker. I had made notes of all the businesses surrounding it, but we couldn't find it. We ended up showing the lady at the information desk our locker key, and she pointed us in the right direction. I told you this place was big.

We got on a subway headed to Narita Airport, and about halfway there the subway stopped and, inexplicably to us, everybody got off. That subway line was supposed to go all the way to the airport, so we were quite dumbfounded. Luckily for us, a nice Japanese gentlemen saw us sitting there with dumb looks on our faces and came over and explained in very clear English that there was a change today and we needed to change lines to the subway on the next platform. I guess they were making announcements in Japanese saying that. Good thing for us we looked stupid!

We got to Narita, checked in, and happily, I haven't much anything eventful to report from our flight. I slept most of the way. Tom did spill his whiskey and coke on me a short way into the flight and the sky-waitress was really put out with me for reaking of alcohol. I don't know what her problem was. If I wasn't mad, I don't know why she felt like she needed to be.

We entered the country in Portland, and as soon as we got through customs, we had to go through x-ray and metal detectors again. We hadn't been out of airport securtiy. Apparently they thought we may have purchased weapons on board the aircraft. The first thing we did in the United States was to get some Mexican food. Being that we were in an airport in Oregon, it wasn't that great, but it would have to do till we could get the real deal. We flew on to Cincinnati and then back to Knoxville.

Traveling is fun, but there's no place like home!


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