Arrival in Tokyo

I arrived in Tokyo Haneda airport around 1600 (most international flights arrive in Narita). Getting to central Tokyo is incredibly easy: get your Pasmo card for ¥3000 (about $37CA, including ¥2500 stored value), tap the card to get onto the monorail, change to the JR Yamanote loop line around downtown Tokyo and pick your station. Tokyo's public transit is the best in the world - bar none. Fast, clean, efficient, frequent, and on time to the second, there is no better. I've always enjoyed subways, but being a traveller you come to deeply appreciate all these qualities in a transit system. I remembered that it was this good here, but I guess I didn't believe myself: I was astounded all over again.

I find myself obsessed with the minutiae, worried about the next station, the next line change. When I'm IN JAPAN. I've lost the wonder, become jaded: it's actually a bit depressing. But, having realised that, some of it is starting to come back. Just think "I'm in Japan" and I smile. I've never lost the wonder of getting in a large tin can with wings in Toronto - and getting out of it 13 hours later on THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE PLANET. That's a marvel of technology, that is.

So, what does it mean to be in Tokyo? Trains - like the U.K. - roll into the platform from the wrong direction, a thing I've never adjusted to. They drive on the same side of their right-of-way as cars do - which is the opposite to us. And consensus opinion says that's also the side of the walkway or sidewalk you should walk on. I've already nearly rammed people by attempting to walk into the Men's on the right side of the door. It's such a reflex action to walk on the right side of, well, everything.

Everyone is even more polite than a Canadian's reputation. Politeness is embedded in the culture. And you give and receive things (think cash, a hotel room key) with two hands, not one.

The hotel room is tiny. That was expected, but it's so small it was a bit of a challenge finding a place where I could open my bag. There's the bed, but I'd like to leave the bag open. It's ended up narrowing the corridor from the bed past the bathroom to the door. But the room - tiny as it is - is also loaded with technology. Including a very quiet air conditioner, which I'm appreciating. And then there's those notorious toilets. Loaded with knobs, it calls itself a "shower toilet." Since it also has a "bidet" setting, one wonders. It can also be used in the more traditionally North American manner, but then ... we should try new experiences when we're travelling, yes?

Speaking of which - they tried to equip me with three days worth of razors, toothbrush and toothpaste, and some other assorted toiletries at the desk. And I was told I could pick up my pajamas from the large glass case facing the elevator: they weren't kidding, they have pajamas for all.

As it's raining fairly steadily, I used Google Maps to locate a restaurant nearby with a decent rating. I found Isen Honten less than a block away (despite their lack of an English sign). They're in a 2.5m wide laneway which back home would have been dirty and covered in graffiti, but here is meticulously clean (like the entire country). They do pork cutlet and shrimp tempura: I had the "Special Pork Cutlet Box" which was very good. Ironically, the only conversation in earshot as I watched the chef fry the food was in English - although the restaurant's clientèle is mostly Japanese.

Tomorrow is Ghibli Museum, which means I have to make my way to Mitaka. With Japanese public transit, the only threat is the complexity (and rush hour). Man I'm looking forward to seeing this: having missed it in 2014, it's become my mecca.

photo: Pork Cutlet at Isen Honten (hardly a genius image, but the only photo I took all day)

breaded, deep fried pork cutlet with egg on rice, small pickled vegetables on the side