I woke up to a room seeping with morning daylight as it escaped the edges of the black-out curtains. Our room is on the 36th floor of the Keio Plaza and the white light of dawn is intense. The room is spacious! Uncommon in a city where hotel rooms are notorious for tight quarters. As I sit at the desk that faces a wall, I quickly take in the the two low queen size beds, night stand in between them, the table and two stuffed chairs that stand next to the large floor to ceiling window, the dresser and flat screen TV. It is a very nice room.
Trying to keep costs down, I had booked a smaller room. To our surprise, we were told that we were going to be upgraded at no extra charge. It was an awesome gesture by the “check-in” agent. Our comfort seemed to be of some concern as I noted the agent frown at our booking information. They had larger rooms available and would we like to take those instead? Needless to say we were thrilled.
From the moment we disembarked from our plane, we have been treated with courtesy. I cannot express how wonderful it feels to be received with a kind gesture(a perfunctory bow or smile), willing guidance as we sought a limo bus(one of the options available to Tokyo that takes you directly to your hotel) and overall respectful attitude. How easy it is to reciprocate!
Our first night in Tokyo was a sensory overload! After we rested a bit in our hotel, we decided to embrace the night and explore our immediate surroundings. Shinjuku is known for its night life. Clubs, bars, restaurants and shops are adorned with bright lights. It seems like Las Vegas on steroids! The energy from the crowds and the lights fed my enthusiasm.
We didn’t get far before our stomachs slowed us down. We needed to find food! I pulled out my smart phone to get some ideas from Yelp. There were Ramen, Sushi, Yakiniku(Korean BBQ), Teppanyaki and other restaurants near us. We settled for a Ramen joint that had rave reviews. Fuunji. As we walked up to the restaurant, we noticed to our dismay that a line was spilling out of the restaurant and forming across the street. Our first family “pow wow”centered on “were we willing to wait for our dinner?” The reviews were so convincing that we decided to wait along with the 20 plus people outside.
Fuunji is a small place with about 15 seats. Just inside the entrance stands a vending machine used to place your order. Pictures of Ramen dishes and prices line the top of the machine. You insert your yen and then chose the type of Ramen dish you want. A ticket pops out which you hand to the cooks as you sit down. The place is so small that you stand in line directly behind the guests as they are eating. A little awkward, but we’re in Japan and the locals don’t seem to care. The ramen was amazing! The broth was flavorful, the meat tender, the molten egg sumptuous, the noodles a perfect texture. Wow, I’m getting hungry just writing about it! So happy Yelp led us to this place. And so glad folks take the time to share their great experiences.
Afterward, we continued our exploration. Through narrow alleyways where cars are prohibited, we walked past strange sights like the Robot Restaurant, Godzilla peering over the Hotel Gracery and a conveyer belt idly carrying sushi to patrons sitting both in booths or at the bar. This was a place we were going to visit on another day.
Today we make our way to the oldest Buddha temple in Tokyo, Sanso Ji and the Sumida River and surrounding area. Impressions to follow.