I don’t envy the Japanese officials who are trying to stage an Olympics in the middle of a pandemic. In fact, word is that they considered cancelling the whole shebang just three days before the Opening Ceremonies.
According to polls and protests, a majority of Japanese aren’t on board with the Games, due to rising COVID cases, limitations on their activities, cost overruns, and, of course, the usual scandals that surround any Olympics. Sponsors like Toyota aren’t happy either, and are downplaying their roles.
Some $15 billion has been invested in the Games so far, with no spectators allowed except for the media and a smattering of VIPs. How many bento boxes from the mostly deserted concession stands can they consume?
The weather is hot and muggy and may be brewing a typhoon.
The director of the Opening Ceremonies was… Continue reading
Fourth in a Series
In most years, we would have landed in Tokyo right at the peak of cherry blossom season.
Alas, my wife, Catharine, and I arrived in the Japanese capital a few days too late in early April this year because the winter there had been unseasonably warm and most of the delicate cherry blossoms had already drifted off the trees in this breezy city.
Nonetheless, some trees remained in full bloom, as did many other types of fruit trees. And as we walked through parks that offer a wonderful respite from Tokyo’s crowded streets, scores of Japanese families were still laying out their traditional picnic blankets and baskets under the cherry trees, blossoms or no. And having a great time of it.
From our little Airbnb-rented apartment in the teeming Shinjuku district, we set out to explore… Continue reading
Third in a Series
Arriving in the Shinjuku train station, Tokyo’s busiest, can be a bit intimidating, especially after a trans-Pacific flight with little sleep and in the middle of rush hour.
An unfailingly polite people in every other way, Japanese commuters plow through the station like bullet trains, with little deference to gobsmacked tourists staring in bewilderment at the maze of signs and passageways. These folks appeared to be on a mission, and accomplishing that mission — getting to wherever it is they’re going — wasn’t about to let us stand in their way.
If you don’t like crowds, you might want to avoid Tokyo — the world’s largest metropolitan area at nearly 38,000,000 people — and beat a quick retreat to the Japanese countryside.
Fortunately, our Airbnb host, Yasu, had provided us with a video of… Continue reading
Second in a Series
My previous travel experiences in Japan had been very brief before my wife, Catharine, and I flew off to Tokyo in early April, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
How much of a language barrier would we find? Is Japan as expensive as it’s reputed to be? Would we face greater-than-average logistical problems there?
Those taking an organized tour to Japan can avoid most of these potential problems, of course, but — just as some people enjoy figuring out how cars or watches work — I like figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B while traveling as efficiently and economically as possible.
I also like to follow my own schedule, choose my own lodgings and restaurants, and not have to follow a guide around. (This isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed some wonderful… Continue reading
First in a Series
My wife, Catharine, and I are just back from two weeks in Japan, with the jet lag to prove it. And while I don’t count jet lag among the reasons to travel to (or from) Japan, it would never be enough to keep me away.
Here are eight great reasons to travel to Japan — 10-hour trans-Pacific flights notwithstanding. (This list is intended to provide an overview — I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of traveling there in future posts.)
- The People. We were continually amazed and impressed by how polite and helpful the Japanese people are. This ranged from our airbnb hosts and attendants in subway stations to cashiers in grocery stores, servers in restaurants, and just about everybody else we came in contact with. We were never made to feel unwelcome or rudely dismissed… Continue reading