Japan Day 11
March 4th, 2001
@ Kyoto & Tokyo, Japan
All Photos © 2001 Ting and Randy Vogel

 Ting at Lunch
 Randy's Lunch

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 or something.

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 moderately full. 

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!

 Randy at Lunch
 Suntory Museum Ticket
 Randy Snoozing in the Museum
 Ting in front of the Museum Sign
 Museum Sign
 Narita Airport Terminal 1
 Randy with Luggage Cart
 Randy Feels the Weight!  NOT!
 Check-in counters at Narita International Airport
 Near Capture of "Big Shoes"
Big Boy, Japan
 Health Food Rack
 Stained Glass Mural
 Loading up our Plane
 Airport through Plane Window
 Randy Snacking on a Riceball
 Mmmmn Beer!
 Randy with Wine
 the Dawn's Early Light Show
 San Francisco International