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Trip type: Personal

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-NRT

Much like the pilgrims, we spent this Thanksgiving in a new country (because I’m so pilgrim-like). E’s sister and brother-in-law moved to Tokyo in June and we could not resist the opportunity to visit a new country (and continent!) with our very own personal tour guides. In my infinite travel planning wisdom, I thought that the week after Thanksgiving would be the perfect time for a week out of the office. This logic was pretty good except for the part where it meant we needed to fly out the day before Thanksgiving…you know, the busiest travel day of the year.

Luckily, MSP had things under control and the lines were not horrible when we showed up three hours before our flight (skipping the line with the status card didn’t hurt, however). After bumping into some friends and former neighbors (and E giving a wave to some lawyer he knew who was getting a pat-down), we had ample time to sit in the Delta lounge and catch up on work before setting the Out-of-Office replies and getting on our way.

Well, trying to anyway.

Boarding went smoothly enough and we were soon strapped in and ready for our 12+ hour flight (a direct flight seemed like such a good idea when I booked it buy OY that makes for a long sit). And there we sat…and sat…and sat some more until finally the pilot came on to say that they were waiting for the print-out of how much weight we were carrying. I still cannot figure out how, on a plane that took over an hour to board, they could not have this done in time for an on-time departure. Not that I’m not used to sitting on the Tarmac waiting for Delta to be ready to go, but seriously? And just like that, our 12 hour flight became an hour longer. Sigh.

Tokyo Park Hyatt view

View from the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt (the bar from Lost in Translation).

But we made it! And Tokyo was phenomenal–truly. The city is mesmerizing, the food is incredible, and it was great to get some family time in a new place. A few tips should you venture to Japan anytime soon:

  1. Like the Brits, the Japanese drive on the left…which means they also walk on the left side of the sidewalk. It took me about three days to get out of everyone’s way.
  2. There is no graciousness like that of the Japanese culture. Do not reach to snag a shopping bag once your transaction is complete; the associate will walk you out of the store and hand it to you.
  3. Eschew your American tendencies to get to the front of the line all the time. The Japanese line up in marked queues at the subway stops and wait until passengers have disembarked before getting on the train.

    Kamakura shrine

    Gorgeous shrine in Kamakura

  4. On that note, never worry about making a train–they run every few minutes without fail. No need to make a mad dash.
  5. Smoking is generally allowed in restaurants but not at sushi counters.
  6. Soba might be one of the best things ever invented, right behind soup dumplings.
  7. An earthquake is nothing to get overly concerned about (usually). We were at the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar on the 52nd floor when a 4.9 magnitude earthquake struck. E thought it was fun. I thought it was terrifying. The waiter asked if we wanted more rice crackers.
  8. It’s almost impossible to mentally calculate what something really costs between dollars and yen (at least for this English major). Don’t sweat it; it’s all money well spent.
Mori Tower View

The view from the 53rd floor of the Mori Tower – Mt. Fuji’s in the background

All in all, a great time. We unfortunately did not venture far outside of Tokyo but were hardly left wanting for more to see and do. Although we were dead on our feet for a few days due to severe jet lag, we agreed that it was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken.

Second post about our trip home to come!