Tokyo By Day

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Japan  ,
Sunday, November 12, 2006

We had big plans for the day so we woke up at 4:30. A.M. In the morning. 4:30 is an obscene hour to get up to pee, much less get ready for the day. But we wanted to visit the Tsukiji fish Market and all the good stuff happens between 5 and 9. So we got ready and headed out into the cold, pre-dawn morning and made our way the several blocks to the appropriate metro station. An icy wind was blowing and it was nice to know that we could escape to the subway, then into the market itself for the coldest hours of the day. When we exited the metro there was a large sign "Fish Market Closed Today." We wandered up to the market to see if this was true. It was.

How does the largest fish market in the world close for a day? Where do people get their fish? Where are we supposed to go now? These are all questions I directed at the desolate docks in front of me. No answer came so we trudged back into the subway to escape the wind and decide what to do next. There wasn't much that sounded appealing at 6 a.m. but it seemed absurd to go back to the hostel and nap. So we decided we would try to find a hotel I had been wanting to visit. It's the Park Hyatt in Tokyo - the hotel from Lost in Translation. I had read that it was a must see despite the fact that it wasn't even mentioned in my guide book or pictured on any of our maps. But we had a general idea of its location from a web search we had done. So we hopped back on the metro and headed that way.

We emerged from the metro to find that it wasn't getting warmer despite the muted sun that was creeping up the horizon. The wind was brutal and not impressed with our fall attire we had donned that morning. But we forged ahead in the direction we thought the hotel resided. After several blocks and some lucky turns, we found ourselves in front of the massive hotel. It's immediately impressive, but so are most of the sky scrapers in Tokyo. The exciting part was the prospect of a stunning vista I knew we would find at the top. Our only concern was that we might not be welcome inside. I knew there was a bar and restaurant at the top, but they couldn't possibly be open at this hour. And even if they were, we weren't exactly dressed to patronize one of the nicest hotels in Tokyo. Lindsey was very self-conscious about her bright orange fleece and was hesitant to enter this swank establishment. I assured her she should be and walked a few steps ahead of her. The doormen were cordial and gave no hint that they thought we should be entering through the back door where we could join the other day laborers in the kitchens and washing areas.

If I know anything, which I don't, it's that you just have to act like you belong. We weren't dressed to the nines, and I had on a backpack (which doesn't scream business tycoon), but if we walked with purpose and looked disdainfully at all we passed, then we wouldn't be bothered. We strode confidently toward the elevators. We stepped in, pressed a button, and the lift delivered us to a lounge with a stunning 270 degree view of the Tokyo skyline. My breath was taken. Because it was breathtaking. Just incredible. We wandered from window to window taking in the privileged view. Traveling on the metro in the bowels of the city is quick and convenient, but this was the way to see it - from above. I felt like Zeus on Olympus surveying his kingdom (in this example I'm a Greek god). All the chaos disappeared into obscurity. All we could see were the architectural wonders, the tiny, slow moving lines of automobiles, and in the distance, a mountain range with a snow-capped volcanic crater, Mt. Fuji perched perfectly on the horizon.

We discussed our good fortune. If we came at any other time of day we would have been greeted by a hostess who would want to seat us (or ask us to leave quietly down the stairs). We would have had to order drinks to sit at these tables pressed intimately up against the giant windows giving us access to the incredible world outside. We most assuredly wouldn't have had the place to ourselves (as we did now), and we wouldn't have been allowed to linger from chair to chair, window to window, for what seemed like an eternity. We basked in another moment that screamed "What a life! How lucky you are."

So we left, feeling fortunate despite the paucity of our bank accounts. We had enjoyed a moment that most people spend fists full of money on. And it was all the better because it was free. We had cicumvented the class barrier that too often limits us, even if just for a moment. And that's what so amazing about travel. For a moment, on some back alley on the way to our meager hostel, we will pass a dozen souls that remind us how lucky we are, how privileged our upbringing, how considerably wealthy we should feel. But then a half a town away, there are cars and buildings and suits that can make us feel like peasants. Realistically, neither is true. Or both. I can't be sure. I do know that I felt like something wonderful had just happened, which could never be taken away.

So we set out to see what else the city had in store for us. And we got lucky again - at Meiji Temple.
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vvinteriver on

You're so lucky!
Just so fortunate...

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