Open your mind; travel

I returned from a short trip to Tokyo a few days back.  This was a real eye-opener – my first trip to Japan.

They say first impressions last; they do. My first encounter was of course with the JAL crew in Singapore Changi Airport.  It was a refreshing change from the numerous flights I have made previously.

Even checking in and waiting for your flight is a refreshing experience !   The counter staff actually smile; at 1 am in the morning!. My flight to Tokyo was at 1-50 am.  We reached Haneda Airport before the scheduled time of 9-50 am.

We took a train to our first destination – Roppongi.  This would be a good starting point for anyone travelling for the first time to Tokyo – the Mori Art Museum is here, The Observatory is on the 52nd floor ( great city views) and there were some exhibitions (this time I was on Japanese Anime (frankly I don’t follow this and I was totally lost ).  Before I forget, the trains in Japan arrive on time.  They even show the arrival times of the next 3 trains on the platform.

Another must see item is the Tokyo Tower – looks exactly like the Eiffel Tower. Only that it is in red and also higher . There are 2 lifts for the 2 observatories – one at 150 m and another at 250m. The views are spectacular.

I slept in a capsule – this is a double deck space – all of 2m x 2m – with TV, WiFi and a power socket and of course a mattress, pillow and blanket.  Costs just 2800 Yen a night – about SGD35.  Quite difficult to find a hotel room for that amount in Central Tokyo.

I don’t have to tell you about the food – only the best. I also saw something familiar – long queues outside some restaurants. Well, Singaporeans know exactly what this means.  I had dinner at a small restaurant outside Tokyo Central train station. In 2012, they won an award for the best Ramen noodles in Tokyo (out of 7000+ in the contest).

Everywhere I went, I met people who were willing to help ( often we had to use sign languages, point to something in our guide book ! ), they smile and they always bow after we thank them; they wore neat uniforms, they took pride in whatever they did – everybody – the porter, the policeman, the waiter, the bus driver, the hotel reception staff, I did not find a single person who looked unhappy with their jobs .  Of course, being tourists we see a certain part of the country.

Finally, one point about public places. It was difficult to find bins for throwing rubbish. They must all be well hidden ! The place is clean or should I say people kept it clean. The toilets in the Airport – they are a marvel – high tech with lots of features. I took a picture – won’t post here.

It is true – travel opens the mind.  So do make Japan one destination not to be missed.