Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sleepless in Shibuya

Not having had any jetlag on the first night, it came to haunt us on the second. Elwyn and I woke up at 3am. After lying in bed looking out of our panoramic windows for an hour, I we finally had a little snack and played with spaceships. We watched the sun rise over the cloudy Tokyo skyline at 5am.

It feels like it will be a long wait until our 7:30am hotel breakfast.

Hot, Humid and Happy

The flight finally arrived in Narita 9pm Tokyo time, cutting into our holiday by six hours. The flight, once it got off the ground was uneventful, the boys sleeping well and Karen and I catching a few hours of shut-eye during the nearly 10 hours in the plane. Narita airport is a masterpiece of efficiency, cleanliness and orderliness. We breazed through immigration, customs, baggage and shuttle busses as easy as riding on BC Ferries.

The Holiday Inn in Narita was also amazingly welcoming. We got there, and a bellhop dealt with our bags (no tips allowed), toy gifts were given to the boys and we got a corner view suite on the top floor. Lovely. We all slept again, getting into the local time zone.

We took the free shuttle back to the airpo rt and bought our train passes, boarding the express to Tokyo Station. I had a great second breakfast of ice cold canned coffee and umiboshi (rice in seaweed with a salmon surprise in the middle. Yum! We found huge steel lockers to store our bags for the day so we could explore downtown before heading to the hotel.

There we met Karen's old friend Neil and his daughter Koyuki. She's 2 1/2, bilingual and knew the boys from earliet this summer in Vancouver. We went for a walk around the east grounds of the vast Imperial Palace. It was very hot and humid, with our clothes sticking to us everywhere. There was not enough ice cream in Tokyo to keep us cool.

After walking through the various fortifications, fish-and-turtle-filled moats, stables, gate houses, and other royal buildings, we ascended to the old Royal castle, which is now just a ruin from some 19th century wars and polished off all the crasins Karen had thought to bring.

Back to Tokyo Station for lunch, where Koyuki and Alden finally warmed up to each other a bit. She was long past her nap time and they headed back home, so we carried on to our hotel in the National Children's Castle.

This large building is a publically built facility for kids, with art rooms and music halls and play areas (etc, etc), with a small hotel attached. We were lucky enough to get a room with great views to the bustling Shinjuku area of Tokyo.

We played in the facilities for most of the afternoon, and other than the humidity (which bothered Elwyn more than anyone) the kids had a blast in the 5-story playground. They 'swam' in massive plastic ball-pits, ran around on stilts, motored on hand-cranked steel carts, zipped around an indoor wood-and-steel playground thing (air conditioned!), and wound down in a fun arts and craft room. They were complete tired by 7pm.

We turned in early (settling for a simple pasta meal and enjoyed the sites out our window.

Tomorrow, a bit of shopping and then the train out to the hot-springs resort town of Atami.