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Tuesday: final day, and reflections


I'd been supposed to check out at 10am, but the hotel had agreed to let me check out at 11am for free. Happiness. Flight at 5pm. I met Ai in Ueno at noon, and she led me to the very same kaitenzushi place I'd found on my own, hah. This time they brought an English menu, though. Also she could tell me how much tea powder to mix with the hot water. We split, I made the Keisei limited express, and was at Narita Airport 70 minutes and many ISO 800 photos of rice paddies from a moving train later. My Passmo card wasn't all that exciting as a souvenir, so I turned it in for the 500 yen deposit and the amount left on it... minus a 210 yen "commission", apparently. Narita security doesn't let you bring liquids on but doesn't X-ray shoes, which is amusing in a country where they're so good at taking shoes off. Upgraded my seats to Economy Plus, think it cost more ($160 vs. $120) and it didn't get me as much -- plane to Seattle, and to Chicago, were nearly packed. I bought some sushi in the airport and brought it with me, which didn't save me from kosher meals of cheese ravioli and French toast. The non-kosher breakfast was a hot dog-resembling sausage, a wobbly mass of egg, and some buried hash browns, so I think I won on that one. I got no sleep.

US Customs was pretty quick and straightforward and didn't care about my bags of tea, or even the nuts I'd bought in Narita. We had to go through security again, despite not having left a secured area, including liquid dumping again and this time shoes. In the airport I saw a sign for "get a private office! Wired for 15 minutes for only $8.99!" Um. I saw no signs of wireless, which seemed weird, but when I got home my eee wasn't picking up wireless there either, so I can't make fun of Seattle. Changing terminals was more novelty than I wanted at 2am, body time, but pretty snappy with frequent automated trains. Had to go from north terminal to main terminal to other side of main terminal to south terminal. Three trains!

So, time to look back on the trip. There's tons of things I did not do: go to Kyoto, or the countryside; take the shinkansen; leave Tokyo, apart from the dinner trip to Chigasaki, which is still in the metro area; make an anime pilgrimage (either seeing places in animes, or going to the Anime Center); see sumo wrestlers, Noh, or kabuki; talk to Japanese people in a non-commercial and non-asking-for-help setting; more. I have minor regrets about some of that. OTOH Kyoto was said to be even hotter than Tokyo and I was shy of leaving the city and negotiating another hotel -- heck, it took me three days to take the Tokyo subway, after I'd walked the cardinal directions from my hotel. Thing is, I'm a big city boy, and I've imbibed my Jane Jacobs, and a lot of my time in Tokyo was spent not in museums or gardens but walking and riding around, pounding the pavement and riding the rails, and I like that. I like the feeling that I have a tenuous, elusive, feel for the city, and could play sophisticate to some new tourist, even though in reality I just scraped the surface. I've been in many if not most of the major neighborhoods, and thanks to Ai's move gotten to experience a bit of the more distant residential neighborhoods, of which I've seen so many in anime. I've been in and out of little streets and convenience stores, both like and unlike American ones. So, all in all, a good trip.

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Damien Sullivan
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