As a note, until I return to the US, updates will generally be posted early to mid morning of the update day.
Connie, Zack, and I made it to Japan ok, so let's get this travelogue started!
May 22nd- 23rd (Mon - Tue): Traveling to Japan
Why another Japan trip? Well, for starters, I love it there and like to go back frequently (and it's been three years since the last time). Plus, Connie had never been, but wanted to. Plus my parents had promised to pay for trip for us as a late wedding present, which we never got to use last year thanks to having to switch jobs and move to Virginia. Finally, my parents had originally planned to go sightseeing with me in Japan back in 2011, but canceled at the last minute due to the big earthquake. Since then, I've been trying to get them to resurrect those plans. And having them around to help Connie and I with Zack will be really great. So this trip will be a bit different than my previous ones, which focused mostly on exploration. This time, we'll be mostly visiting places I've been to before, with me playing tour guide for everyone else. As such, I might not go into as much detail about some things and locations as in past travelogues, since I've covered them before. But anyway, on with the show...
Connie and I left Monday morning and had no trouble getting on our first plane and then switching in Toronto. Zack was great on the first (short) flight, sleeping most of the time. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case on the much longer (13 hour) flight. He was mostly awake so we can to almost constantly hold, rock, and entertain him. That was a bit stressful but, in the end, we made it to Tokyo. We landed in Haneda Airport (which was converted from a local to international airport only a few years ago), which I've never been to before, as all my previous flights were through Narita. It's supposed to be really nice but I didn't have a chance to look at much other than the customs area and the train station, so I can't really comment. Fortunately, it did have a direct train to Sengakuji Station, which is where our hotel is. It's a little bit of an odd spot for a hotel, actually, right in the middle of relatively quiet residential area. Though there's a much more major and metropolitan train station a 10 minute walk (or 2 minute subway ride) away.
By the time we checked in, it was around 5 in the afternoon and we were both pretty worn out so we just walked around outside a little and went to the nearby Shinagawa Station to grab some soba for dinner before calling it a day. Though I did take advantage of the hotel's very nice public bath as well. I really missed Japanese baths...
May 24th (Wed): Tokyo Basics Part 1
With this being Connie's first time in Japan, I naturally have to take her to some of Tokyo's major sightseeing spots. Today, we started out with an old favorite, Asakusa. If you don't remember, Asakusa is famous for Sensoji Temple and the surrounding shopping arcades, which are a great place to stroll, eat, and shop for souvenirs. Since we arrived a bit before most of the stores opened, we started out by exploring the temple and its grounds. I had forgotten just how many little shrines and statues were nearby, aside from the main building. Despite it being a weekday during the school year, the place got pretty crowded by mid-morning, with quite a lot of tour groups, many of which were made up of junior high and high school students.
After finishing up at the temple, we moved on to the shopping streets and arcades (covered shopping streets). They're mostly as I remember (including my favorite taiyaki place), but I think the owl cafe is new. What's an owl cafe? Well, it started out with cat cafes, where you can buy overpriced drinks and hang out with lots of cats. The idea caught on so much that the concept began to expand to include other animals, owls being one of them. While the idea of a cat cafe doesn't excite me much, I have to admit that I wouldn't mind trying an owl cafe sometime... Anyway, we walked around, browsed some shops, and ate lunch at a pretty good soba place before moving on.
Our next stop, Tokyo Skytree, the world's tallest tower (though not the world's tallest building, which technically isn't a tower), currently celebrating its 5th anniversary. On a side note, they currently have some sort of Attack on Titan promotion going on, though I didn't have a change to check out the details. The Skytree, fortunately, wasn't especially crowded and we were able to get tickets and head up pretty much immediately. While it wasn't quite clear enough to see Mt. Fuji, the views were still great. We could even look down at Sensoji.
After spending some time admiring the view, we headed down to explore the shopping mall filling the first few floors of the tower. There's some nice stores and restaurants there, including some otaku focused ones (most of which I don't remember seeing on my last visit), including a store selling Gundam inspired clothes (cool but way too expensive for me) and a Pokémon Center. We had a pleasant time walking around and stayed long enough for dinner before calling it a day. It wasn't especially late, but it doesn't hurt to take it easy the day after such a long flight.