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Japan, yōkoso!

October 7, 2009
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On Monday, September 21, 2009, I said goodbye to my mother at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and boarded a plane bound for Tokyo, Japan. A thunderstorm erupted; we sat on the runway and after a few hours took off. I read Kafka on the Shore, played Pokémon Platinum, listened to Way to Normal, and inaugurated a third travel journal. Fourteen hours and a few meals later, I landed at Narita Airport, where I withdrew 30,000 yen from an ATM to buy a Keisei Skyliner ticket and a bottle of green tea. To my pleasant surprise, the tea tasted like green tea: cold, unadulterated, surprising because the bottled “green tea” sold in the United States and Europe is only sugar water. Having purchased a Skyliner ticket from a surly smoke-scented woman who rapped out crisp new bills like a blackjack dealer, I discovered that Japanese trains do, in fact, leave exactly on time, when I stepped onto a Skyliner which left thirty seconds later. As we wound through northern Tokyo I watched the endless procession of apartment buildings until we stopped at Ueno. I transferred to the metro and took the Ginza line to Tawaramachi, emerging on an Asakusa thoroughfare. On the wide sidewalk I passed a drum store, a soba shop, and a sushi restaurant. Ahead was a large, squat, and ugly building ornamented with “ROX” in glowing multicolored letters. I turned a corner, passed some vending machines and an Italian restaurant, turned another corner past more vending machines, and reached my hostel, Asakusa Toukaisou, where the receptionist, Sayo, came down to check me in even though I was way past the deadline. I explained that my plane was late, but she didn’t mind at all. The common room contained two computers and a table placed low on the tatami floor with cushions for seats. I sent some emails, then climbed onto the bottom bunk of my wooden bed and sank into the plush and luxurious futon.

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