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The Japan Trip: Day One

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Photo Credit: David July — A sign welcomes air travellers to Japan in a corridor at Narita International Airport, Narita, Japan, 14 March 2008 When I first announced my decision to take a holiday in Tokyo tokyo, Japan nihon, there were only forty-six days until departure. While that may be sufficient time to plan a trip in the United States, it felt a little sudden for a trip to the other side of the world. However, I was not particularly concerned about getting along. In fact, I think we did remarkably well all things considered. The two quick mishaps I can recall immediately are a few minor miscommunications and twice exiting the subway car one station too soon. As time passed, my Mom—who as you will recall accepted my offer to join me—called me with ideas for places to visit and things to do. Her extensive experience with personal, global travel for pleasure was an invaluable tool in deciding what to do and when. I will admit it was one considering factor in my original invitation! By the time I loaded the car and headed toward Intestate 10 eastbound on Thursday, 13 March 2008, a basic idea of our daily itinerary existed. First on our list upon arrival was a visit to the monetary exchange booth and the East Japan Railway Company higashi-nihon ryokaku tetsudo kabushiki-gaishai (JR) office, both conveniently located in the airport terminal. Ahead of those items but after my two and a half hour drive from Tallahassee to Jacksonville existed the longest two-flight segment of my life. The itinerary was as follows: Northwest Flight 1581 was scheduled to depart Jacksonville International Airport (KJAX) at 1205 EDT, flying 827 miles (1331 kilometres) in two hours twenty-seven minutes on a McDonnell Douglas DC 9-30 aircraft where I sat in window seat 18-A. It was scheduled to arrive at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (KDTW) at 1432 EDT. This flight would be followed by Northwest 11 leaving Detroit at 1530 EDT, flying 6398 miles (10,296 kilometres) in thirteen hours (!) on a Boeing 747-400 where I sat in window seat 53-K. It was scheduled to arrive at Narita International Airport narita kokusai kuko (NRT/RJAA) at 1730 JST on Friday, 14 March 2008 due to travel through the International Date Line. Overall, the flights were uneventful. I was looking forward to taking pictures of the mountainous regions I anticipated flying over, but was quickly disappointed to learn we would likely not fly so north as to penetrate the Arctic Circle nor pass over the mountains of Siberia. This information was provided on the in-cabin video system, which consisted of a three-color projector in each cabin section and television monitors in the ceiling above the aisle near the flight attendant galley and toilets. Photo Credit: David July — Northwest Airlines Flight 11 cabin GPS displaying our present location, somewhere over Canada, 13 March 2008 Not only did it show our flight plan and GPS position en route, but also text data in English and Japanese including (as recorded during flight at 1825 EDT passing north of Calgary, Alberta, Canada) altitude (31,992 feet / 9751 metres) groundspeed (515 MPH / 829 KPH), headwinds (65 MPH / 104 KPH), outside temperature (-57°F / -49.4°C), distance travelled (1412 miles / 2272 kilometres) and distance remaining (5021 miles / 8080 kilometres). Photo Credit: David July — Peering down at the mountains from 32,000 feet, somewhere over western Canada, 13 March 2008 Of course, the in-flight "entertainment" took precedence over this useful and interesting up-to-date information so it made brief appearances at the start of the flight, a few times between television sitcoms and Discovery Channel shows, after the movies and right before and after landing. Photo Credit: David July — Beautiful mountain terrain in the snowy cold of the Last Frontier, east of Valdez, Alaska, 13 March 2008 Using Google Earth and aeronautical charts, I have been able to pin down part of our course to Tokyo and identify the airports we saw from the airplane. In between airports, we saw lots of snow and some pretty impressive mountains. The first image of an airport I captured is of lesser quality (not pictured here), after early surface vistas and before the mountains of Alaska. I was not able to fix the location of this airport. I originally suspected Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada due to the distance travelled between this photograph and the second airport spotted, but finally ruled it out by satellite image comparison. Photo Credit: David July — Beautiful mountain terrain in the snowy cold of the Last Frontier, east of Valdez, Alaska, 13 March 2008 The next airport I spotted was next to a smaller city and near some mountains. I have confirmed this location to be Valdez, Alaska. The population of 4020 enjoyed a high of 37°F / 2.7° C and a low of 19°F / -7.2°C the day we flew over. Photo Credit: David July — The City of Valdez and Valdez Pioneer Field Airport (PAVD), Valdez, Alaska, 13 March 2008 The last and largest airport and city we flew over was Anchorage, Alaska. The 282,813 municipal residents comprise more than two-fifths of Alaska's total population. They enjoyed similar weather with a high of 31°F / -0.5°C and low of 21°F / -6.1°C for the day. Photo Credit: David July — The Municipality of Anchorage and Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (PANC), Anchorage, Alaska, 13 March 2008 Having fixed our location at two US airports, I was able to calculate the mileage and speed. We passed over the Valdez Pioneer Field Airport (PAVD) at 2117 EDT (1717 AKDT) and came to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (PANC) at 2131 EDT (1731 AKDT). At a distance of 108.5 miles, it took us 14 minutes to fly from one to the other at a speed of 465 MPH / 748 KPH or 0.6 Mach. It was 1758 JST / 0458 EDT on Friday when I passed the "Welcome to Japan" sign (in the article header). We exchanged our money and obtained our JR passes without issue, meeting Steven steven in the process. He had graciously agreed to meet us at the airport so we could navigate the intricate and varied subway/train systems of Tokyo with a guide the first time. For the record, I had been up for twenty-two and a half hours at this point and was happy to get to Steven's apartment and to bed. This is not to say I did not enjoy those initial train rides. From the airport we travelled by subway to Shinjuku Station shinjuku-eki, where we transferred to the Odakyu Limited Express to Machida Station machida-eki. Once there we took the Odakyu Electric Railway odakyu dentetsu kabushiki-gaisha Odawara Line odawara-sen to Odakyu-Sagamihara odakyu sagamihara-eki where we finally left the train system via the south exit and took a taxi—our first of only two total trips by cab in Japan—to Steven's apartment. After some quick catching-up with Steven and Emma emma, a needed night's sleep began. The excitement would have been unmanageable if it were not for my complete exhaustion. We slept a little longer than anticipated but needed some amount of rest before beginning our week of walking. Heading out by 1030 JST, we planned to visit Tokyo Tower tokyo-tawa, Minato City minato-ku and surrounding areas. Built into this day was the expectation of some navigational or communication troubles, but we ended up doing quite well I think for our first full day out alone. Our morning walk from Steven's apartment in Sagamigaoka sagamigaoka , Zama zama-shi, Kanagawa kanagawa-ken to the Odakyu-Sagamihara Station was about fifteen minutes and took us past the local Three-F three-f convenience store, a school, numerous homes and local businesses and finally the Sagamihara business district. There you could find a Seven & I Holdings Co., Ltd. kabushiki-gaisha sebun & ai horudingusu department store (the same owners as 7-Eleven, also present in Tokyo), pachinko pachinko parlors, a great Ramen ramen noodle joint called Ramen Jiro ramen jiro and much more. The walk to and from the station would become a daily routine for us. Photo Credit: David July — Looking down platform two, Odakyu Odawara line, at Odakyu-Sagamihara station, Sagamihara, Japan, 15 March 2008 We got to Tokyo Tower just before 1430 JST to find a long, but organized queue. There was a man with a large sign standing at the end to identify where people should join the queue and two staffing a gate before the ticket booth where only so many people would be permitted through to purchase tickets. Once inside the lobby doors, female staff members in bright blue uniforms guide you to the zigzag rope queue that leads you to the lifts to the main observation level at 492 feet / 150 metres. From there we would purchase tickets to the highest special observatory at 820 feet / 250 metres. Photo Credit: David July — Looking up at the 1093 foot Tokyo Tower, Shiba Park, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, 15 March 2008 Also down by the queue and entrance area were the tower's character mascots the Noppon Brothers noppon brothers. It turned out to be less clear than we thought, but the panoramas provided were still amazing. Situated in Shiba Park shiba koen, Minato, Tokyo Tower was constructed in 1958 and claims to be the world's largest self-supporting steel tower. It is obviously modeled after the Eiffel Tower, Paris, France but at 1093 feet / 333 metres is 43 feet / 13 metres taller. An added bonus was the ability to walk the outdoor stairs of the tower from the main observation level to the roof of the main building and into a small amusement park at Foot Town foot town. Photo Credit: David July — Looking north from the the 820 foot special observation level at Tokyo Tower, Shiba Park, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, 15 March 2008 After eating a Japanese pasta dish at Pizza-La Express and a quick walk through the neighboring Shiba Park, we moved into Minato City and explored the Zojo-ji temple zojo-ji and Sangedatsu Gate at Zojo-ji sangedatsu gate of zojo-ji. Zojo-ji is a Buddhist temple founded in 1590, but severely damaged and repaired following World War II. We caught the end of a ceremony being performed by monks complete with chanting, bell ringing and incense. Photo Credit: David July — The northern building of the Zojo-ji temple, Minato, Tokyo, Japan, 15 March 2008 On our way back to Steven's apartment, we made a detour at Shinjuku Station to walk around that popular area at night. We did not stay out too late for fear of missing the train home. It was a great first day packed with fun, learning experiences and 207 photographs. Photo Credit: David July — Looking east down Road Four from the pedestrian overpass near the Sompo Japan Headquarters Building, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, 15 March 2008
Mount Sutro mount sutro presents The Japan Trip Series the japan trip series [ Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six ] Photograph Gallery
Photo Credit: David July david july

The Journey's End

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Photo Credit: David July — Looking down platform two, Odakyu Odawara line, at Odakyu-Sagamihara station, Sagamihara, Japan, 15 March 2008 Once this article is online, I am heading right to bed. This will hopefully mark the start of my internal clock’s re-acclimation to Eastern Daylight Time. After leaving Detroit some two hours late due to snow, not to mention the two and a half hour drive from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, I made it to bed just before midnight on Friday, 21 March. When I woke up at 1800 on Saturday, I was not at all surprised. Nor when I stayed up all night and went to bed at noon Sunday. I woke up today at 0430 and immediately decided to get up, shower, dress and ready myself for work. By the time 0530 rolled around, I was anxious to do something more than sit and read the news online, so I headed to work and started an hour early. Leaving early is always nice, so I managed to get some errands run, too, before returning home. Needless to say, the trip to Japan was as unbelievably wonderful as I had hoped and expected. There is obviously much to say about the adventure, so I will be writing several installments over the next few weeks. Included with these articles will be select photographs from the nearly 1500 I took while in the Tokyo metropolitan area and Hiroshima. I am looking forward to getting these memories in print, if for no other reason, my own reference and backup. Until then, oyasuminasai (oyasuminasai, goodnight).
Mount Sutro mount sutro presents The Japan Trip Series the japan trip series [ Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four | Day Five | Day Six ] Photograph Gallery
Photo Credit: David July david july