After a bit of taxi-ing, we get off the plane and onto buses, and are taken to Customs and Immigration. Sadly, there are way more "Foreign Passport" holders, and it takes 45 minutes to get my stamp. I'm not kidding. By the time I got to the luggage dealy, my stuff had been removed in preparation for another plane landing.
Out the other side, and for the first time in my life there is a uniformed driver waiting with a sign, for me. I'm whisked to a van, where I make the driver, whose name I can't spell, move his stuff so I can sit up front.
The road from the airport is a beautiful 4-lane divided highway, through green, small hills, with the occasional farm nestled in the low spots (they're not deep enough to be valleys). Everything is basically like home, except for that tiny, futuristic look to the cars and trucks, the buildings being that traditional curved-roof style, and the text on the signs. Oh, and we're on the left-hand side of the road.
It takes about 45 minutes to get into Tokyo proper, and the colour LCD GPS on the dash starts showing the yellow and red warnings of traffic jams ahead. It is about 5:45, and the front edge of a hurricane is brushing the coast, with hard rain and gusty winds.
The architecture here is quite adventurous. Buildings bulge, have domes or circles on top, and one that we go by is an inverted pyramid. I comment to the driver that it's like home, but with a different flavour. I see a huge Ferris wheel off to one side, and I think I am going by the F1 circuit at Suzuka - but I'm too tired and excited now to make myself well understood. We go by a second giant wheel after crossing Tokyo Bay, so now I'm not sure. At one point, the driver stretches out his hand towards my hand on my thigh - I'm not sure why, at first - Oh. He's comparing the size of his hand to mine. "Big" he says. 30 more traffic and rain-filled minutes, passing under monorail tracks, and I'm at the Akasaka Tokyu Hotel.
|I check in without incident, and scope out my room. The bed is large and firm, and the rest is not all that important.|
|The views left and right out the window. That left one really says "Karaoke - stay away" to me.|
|The bathroom is well-appointed and modern. Perhaps too well-appointed and modern. The good news is that the phone by the toilet has no buttons - you can get a call while you're answering a call of nature, but you can't place a call. Click on that picture to the right to see the toilet control panel I have not yet had the courage to try.|
I scope out the mini-bar, but when I realize that a 6-oz can of Coke is 500 yen - US$5.00 - I decide to check out the hotel convenience store. 140 yen for a 10-oz can seems so much more reasonable - until you convert it. Also, I get toothpaste - the only forgotten item (so far). It's really minty, with a sort of apple aftertaste. Kinda.
It's now 7:00 p.m. I've been awake for 26 hours or so. Almost time for sleep. I go to the tea room for a sandwich and 7-up (2400 yen. Gak!) and then finally bed down. I have odd dreams. Really odd, even for me.