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Our trip started on October 31, 2019. It was Halloween when we left the USA and we arrived in Tokyo the day after Halloween. We were told to avoid this holiday because things get a little wild in Tokyo. We flew from Minneapolis on a direct overnight flight to Haneda Airport arriving mid afternoon Tokyo time. As we flew into Haneda we were surprised at the amount of pollution in the atmosphere.

We went through customs  and then spent about 40 minutes in a line to pick up our JR Rail Pass. We purchased a 21 day pass that allowed us to travel on any JR rail line in Japan. This turned out to be a great deal and avoided many hassles as we moved around Tokyo. All we had to do was display the pass as we entered the JR tracks. There were a couple of issues with the pass. First, we had to go to a JR station office to make reservations on trains. Second, when we entered or exited the JR Stations we had to go through a manned booth and show our passes. Normally this just involved walking through and flashing our passes. During busy times we sometimes got stuck in lines and couldn’t easily get through. Both of these problems are going to be fixed in April of 2020 prior to the Olympics.

Our son lives in Tokyo so when he met us at the Hamamatsucho station he provided us with a prepaid Suica card which allowed us to travel on most public transportation in Japan. In our case we already had a JR Pass so we used the JR Pass on JR lines and the Suica card on other lines. This did result in some confusion on our part.

We took the Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho  Station . This was included on our just purchased JR Pass. He accompanied us to help us find our way to the Axas Stay Hotel in Ishikawa-dai. We took the Yamanote Line to Gotanda where we picked up a local line to Ishikawa-dai. We checked into the hotel and our son made sure we knew how to work the various appliances. There were directions but they were not always correct.

He then walked us over to his apartment which was only about 15 minutes away. We stopped to eat at a little restaurant near his apartment We now had a good idea of the lay of the land and walked back to our hotel after a long day.

The next morning we were up before six am. We have never been jet lagged when traveling from east to west. We were scheduled to meet our son and his girlfriend late in the morning. We couldn’t convince them to get moving early in the morning.

More photos from the day can can be found on my website.

We wanted to get moving early and decided to go for a walk. This Lotus Dealership was the location where we turned to go to our sons apartment. It was only fitting that it had the green and gold colors of the Green Bay Packers. It was on sale for 120 thousand dollars. Would have been great to buy it and bring it home but it might be a little cold driving it around Wisconsin.

Just down the street from the Lotus Dealership we discovered Senzokuike park. It was a beautiful day for a walk and there were quite a few people in the park.It looked to be a beautiful little park.

 

There were already quite a few boats out on the lake when we arrived. Boating is a popular pastime in Japan.

There were a few kids around dressed in consumes. I’m not sure what was going on but the previous day was Halloween so it may have been some carryover.

Walking across the main bridge in the park we noticed the fish wanting to be fed and a few ducks in the water.

The park contained a number of shrines including red Itsukushima shrine and the Inari Shrine.

We were finally able to get our son up and moving so we headed over to his apartment near Ookayama Station. As it turned out it is a very nice neighborhood with plenty of shops and places to eat. It is also right next to the Tokyo Institute of Technology. This is one of the reasons he has two 1 GB internet connections in his apartment. He never lets us forget it since we have a 25mb connection that is capped at 50GB.

After picking him up we walked back to Ookayama Station where we caught the train to Shinjuku where we were going to meet his girlfriend for lunch. The train was busy since it was already early afternoon. On the trip on son took the opportunity to give us some advice on train travel. To start when you arrive at the platform there are lines to indicate where you should stand while waiting for the train. When the train arrives those on the train are allowed to leave in an orderly fashion. Once everyone leaves then those in line board the train in an orderly fashion. If the train is crowded you should remove your backpack and either put it on a rack above the seats or wear it in front. There is no food eaten on the train. There is no talking on the phone on the train. In fact it is unusual to hear people talking on the train. Most people have their phone out but they are reading or texting. If the train is crowded when people board the train they then turn and face the door. then they then start backing up as others enter the train. If it is really crowded there are pushers available to push people onto the train. When the train is crowded and it arrives at a stop those near the door step off of the train to allow those wanting to exit to get off then they get back on the train. When entering or leaving the station you stand on the left side of the escalator and let people walk on the right side.

Lunch was my first attempt at using chopsticks. For some reason I totally blacked out the fact that we would be using chopsticks in Japan. I made a mental note to check on the internet to find the correct way to use them.

 

We then walked over to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. On the way we passed an Apple Store and Louis Vuitton.

There was a small entrance fee for the Gardens. It continued to be a beautiful fall day and many people were out enjoying the weekend. We headed over to the Shinjuku Garden Greenhouse to look at the flowers. Wow what a great collection of flowers and plants.

After visiting the Greenhouse we walked around the park enjoying the beautiful gardens. We encountered this boy looking at something in the water. He was in this position the entire time we were in the area. I was tempted to walk up behind him and yell Boo but I didn’t think that would likely end well.

There were some nice reflections in the water and the roses in the rose garden were still blooming.

It was getting late in the day so we walked back to the park entrance.

We took the train back to where Justin and Carla gave us a tour of some of the back allies of It was still relatively early, around 5pm, and they pointed out that the type of folks on the streets would change dramatically after 9pm.

Piss Alley was one that we walked down. It got its name when many of the bars in the area didn’t have toilet facilities so patrons had to walk outside to relieve themselves. There are many small eateries and bars in the area. We were told that some of them have been turned into “private clubs” to keep foreign tourists out. We happened to be in the area at the end of the Rugby World Cup and found this sign on one of the doors.

After a long day we took the train back to Ookayama where we dined at a noodle restaurant across the street from our sons apartment. Fortunately he was with us because we would have never figured out how to order. You had to order from a kiosk then take the ticket to the counter and they would bring you the food.

We then walked back to our hotel and started planing the next day.

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