Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Journey to Japan (Part 1)

Japan has always been one of those places I wanted to go but never thought I'd see. I had given up on the idea several years back. My family isn't very well off in money, to put it bluntly, I grew up poor. Poor people have too many unfulfilled goals due to money. Goals become dreams, dreams become wishes, and eventually we resign ourselves to the necessities of life. Japan was one of those wishes I had put away.

I read so much on it and there was so much that I wanted to do there. All you can eat sweets cafes, the alternative fashion 'Harajuku', and of course maid cafes. Years of this reading filled my mind with ideas of what to do and what to see, but in the end they became just wishes for me.

So when I got the word that I would be going to Japan, I was too stunned to be elated. I couldn't believe it.

I live in a place where we don't have to worry about just having the necessities. I live in a place where going to Japan is a few years of saving away.

There was quite some time in between reserving the plane ticket and actually getting on the plane. I filled it with planning on what I needed to take with me. The south is a warm place mostly. In fact, here where I live is a lot warmer than a lot of places in the south. I should say before I go on, I love snow. I think I've said this a million times. I used to see snow at least once a year when I lived in the upstate, but now that I'm by the ocean, I never see it. The trip was planned around Sapporo's Snow Festival (Yukimatsuri). It was a dream come true. A festival dedicated to snow?! Well, I'd have to pack warmly. Again, living where I do, I don't have very many warm clothes anymore. This meant shopping for fleece tights and a nice new coat for Christmas (You can see it in my Christmas post of this year!)

And of course, with packing my clothes, I had to choose what clothes I thought best represented me. Here in America, it's very usual to see people many dressed down everywhere. T-shirt and jeans, sweatpants, things like that. In Japan, it's very different. Everyone who goes out always looked like they had somewhere to be. It ranged from school uniforms, business suits, blouses with skirts to alternative fashions and street clothes. What I mean to say is that everyone tends to have a little more style than just casual clothing.

As the last few days closed in for our departure, it was made sure that my kitties (Drift and Sabby) were going to be taken care of. We had someone stay in and keep watch on the house.  Leaving my kitties was the hardest thing I had to do, but I knew I would be back in three weeks time. Maybe I looked crazy when I kept telling them I'd be back in three weeks and to be good and hugging them like crazy before I left, but it needed to be done!

Then the day arrived that I would be leaving for Japan. Driven to the airport and after going through security, I was officially on my way. Of course, we had to stop in Miami to transfer and stay the night in Dallas, but this was all part of what needed to happen in order to get there. We left Dallas early the next morning and finally boarded the plane. It was 13 hours from Dallas to Narita airport. I slept for most of it, honestly.

Fast forward those 13 hours later and there I was, staring at my first set of vending machines in Japan. For those of you who don't know, vending machines are more than just common in Japan. They're nearly everywhere. You'll have several machines for each block in the cities. These vending machines don't just vend soda, though. Unlike our American counterparts, these vending machines will serve you tea, coffee, soda, juice, soup, non-carbonated soft drinks, milk; they even have hot and cold drinks in the same machine. Ever heard of a vending machine that can serve you a can of hot chocolate?

Then off to the first hotel I'd be staying in. It was still in Narita, not too far from the airport. I still hadn't seen a city yet; it was mostly trees and road between the hotel and airport.

The view from the Hotel room. It included an Italian restaurant in a garden.

It was getting pretty late by the time we arrived, so I spent some time getting to know my hotel room.

Some things I noticed:
- I'd be sleeping on a futon bed thing. (When I refer to futons, it will not be in reference to fold out couches but the soft bed mats that a lot of Japan uses). This one was a futon on a fold out bed type thing.
-The toilet seat was heated and had all kinds of buttons to use for the bidet.
-They provide you with not only soap and shampoo like most hotels I know in America do, but also combs and toothbrushes.
-Of course they had yukata for you to wear after you bathed or showered.

This was a western style hotel and it showed, but at the same time ( and I'll probably say this about other things as well) it was just a Japanese take on western style.

It wasn't long before I realized that it was dinnertime. Luckily through all of my sleeping on the plane, the time change didn't bother me very much, but my stomach was upset from the switched mealtimes. Basically, I had no appetite for the first few days.

We headed out into town and eventually decided on a curry place. I had been really excited to have curry in Japan since I really like curry. Unfortunately, again, I had little appetite and didn't get through my curry katsu. (Katsu basically being fried pork or chicken or another meat depending on which you order)

The last thing left to do was to go back and make plans for the next day. It seemed like cat doughnuts, cat cafe, and the KitKat store would be in my future. (A very catty day). 

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