The last day of vacation is always the toughest. After sleeping
in late, we got up and got ready, then squeezed all of our gear back into
our bags before taking them downstairs to drop off at the baggage check.
We paid our hotel bill, donned our rain gear, and then walked out to find
a place for an early lunch.
The weather was cold, drippy, and dreary, so we settled on a french
cafe located above one of the exits to the Akasaka Mitsuke subway station.
As you can see in Ting's picture, the walls were covered with cute, hand-drawn
cartoons. And the food was as yummy as it looks. Randy had fish, while
Ting had beef.
The weather was still ugly when we left the cafe, so we decided to
visit the Suntory Museum of Art. They were having a special exhibit of
artifacts designated as 'national treasures' and such, but we were not
allowed to take photographs, so we cannot show you what we saw. The five-cent
description is: lots of calligraphy scrolls, plates, lacquerware, ceramics,
wood-carvings, jewelry, textiles, and some beautiful screens depicting
the seasons. The museum was just large enough that we were able to exhaust
both our free time and our patience for standing around looking at art.
It was still raining when we left the museum, so we hustled back
to the Akasaka Prince. After picking up our bags, we hurried back to the
subway station for the ride to Tokyo Station, from where we transferred
to one of the private rail lines that runs out to Narita Airport. Our uneventful
journey to the airport took just over an hour. Ting sat next to a couple
of men who were from Hong Kong. They talked about coming to Japan to get
shoes. It was an ordinary conversation, but it struck her how much more
affluent Hong Kong has become in the last 20 years. Twenty years
ago, it would have been beyond the means of most Hong Kong denizens to
afford a trip to Japan. Now, it is simply another hop on a shopping expedition.
As the train approached Narita airport, we realized that there
were different stops for each terminal. Ting consulted the entry stamp
on her passport and determined that we needed to get off at Terminal 1.
Once off the train, we dreaded the long haul to the check-in counter with
the bags until we noticed the luggage carts. Not until we reached the escalators
did we realize how extraordinary the luggage carts were. The body of the
carts tilted with the ascending escalator while the wheels anchored into
place automatically. In the US, luggage carts are not made to go
up escalators, so there always seems to be a line at the elevators to get
luggage carts to a different floor. Such a practical piece of engineering
and for all the brain power in the US, we still had not figured it out!
We had additional time to kill before boarding, so we amused ourselves
by strolling around the airport, taking pictures and checking out the sights.
Looking at all the wares for sale in the various shops was much more fun
in Japan than in the typical domestic airport in the US, probably because
there was so much that was unfamiliar. After stocking up on extra food
and drinks for the flight back, Randy went and changed our spare cash from
yens back into dollars.
After passing through outbound customs/passport control, we walked
down to our exit gate for more waiting. As we entered the lounge for our
flight, Philip Glass walked past us in a big hurry, but he didn't stop
when Randy said, "Hey there Philip!" Must have been on a run to the bathroom
Soon it was time for us to board our plane, so we handed over the
boarding passes and walked down the jetway. Thankfully, the 747 was only
Ting watched all the movies and read her book, hopping over Randy
every 15 minutes or so to do a lap around the plane to stretch her legs
and check out what the other passengers were up to. Of course, she wandered
back for the meals, which are all-important events on an 11-hour plane
ride. Randy stayed put listening to music and reading magazines. Sunrise
from the sky is an altogether different experience than from the ground.
Without mountain ranges in sight, the sun rises over the edge of the planet
in sheer primordial splendor.
Our flight landed at 7 in the morning, and as our luggage had priority
handling tags, we were able to pick it up and breeze through customs in
no time flat. Out in the terminal, there was a display of hats from Beach
Blanket Babylon; of course we had to take a picture of the beautifully
crafted S.F. skyline hat!
It was cold and drippy outside, just like Tokyo. We waited sleepily
inside a leaky bus shelter for our airport shuttle to arrive to drive us
back home. Much to our surprise, traffic going into the city and eastbound
over the bay bridge was really light, and we were home hardly more than
an hour after landing. Another vacation comes to a safe conclusion!