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Turning Japanese

How do you spend two weeks travelling Japan, with a teenager in tow, during the season of the ‘Crimson Leaves?’ By seeing incredible nature and having numerous experiences, good, bad, funny and serious, but all of them, unique. In fact, sometimes I felt like this old eighties song:

Leaving Australia

I was a little unsettled by a shaky start when we arrived at the check-in counter at the airport for our departure. Miss Teenager Now Adult suddenly realized she had left her passport at home.

“Why didn’t I check this myself?” I chided myself inwardly, as we made a frantic phone call to a family member, who lived nearby.

They came to the rescue with a hasty trip to the airport ‘drop off’ zone! Lucky they live so close, I thought! Apparently even flight attendants occasionally forget their passports, (and it’s usually at Christmas time), at least according to the Airport Ground Steward we chatted to.  He did not seem especially sympathetic to forgetful Staff, but was a tad more reassuring for Miss Teenager Now Adult. She responded to this kindly reassurance by slipping back into the standard mode of ‘parents are so embarrassing / awkward teenager,’ reproaching me sharply with a instruction to, “Stop Talking Mum,” albeit in hushed tones, so the Steward would not hear.
However, her surly adolescent mood was placated when confronted with a chirpy and upbeat check-in clerk, who offered us a Business class check in, as a thank you for trialing their new facial recognition software. “I hope this new software isn’t costing jobs,” I gently admonished as we zipped through passport control.

First Impressions

This wasn’t my first trip to Japan; although it had been some time since I had been in Tokyo itself, so I was anxious to see how much had changed since my visit 14 years before.

On touching down in Narita, we were escorted to a luxury limousine electric van, the comfy, serene interior of which made for a silent sixty minute glide/drive to Shinjuku, our destination for the next three nights.

As bedazzling as the metropolis outside the window was, I felt certain the quiet interior of the limousine belied the sounds outside. Endless streets of high rise skyscrapers, a sea of commuters on the streets and buildings lit up like Christmas trees wizzed by our window, in a never ending parade.

Inside the glass encased megaliths, I could see Japanese citizens still working hard at their desks, even though it was 8.30 in the evening. A diligent population!

Food


Miss Teenager Now Adult was not at all keen to eat anything for dinner. For some reason, she seemed to have lost her appetite on the plane. Rationalizing that she needed to eat something to sustain her energy levels for the following day of planned walking, we ventured down to the main streets of Shinjuku, and found convenience stores variously called: ‘Family Mart’ or ‘Ministop’ or a little ironically, ‘Lawson.’ I let out a sigh of relief when we bypassed the temptations on offer in the street vending machines. It seems that Japan has brought that range to an absolute art form, as you can see in the photo.


Little Miss chose to eat noodles and potato chips, [surprise, surprise], which certainly required her to use a few detective skills to discover which flavour might be similar to her Aussie preferences. Of course, she remained unconvinced Green tea flavored Noodles or Matcha Potato chips would be welcomed by her thoroughly Australian digestive system.

To our surprise and delight, she was so impressed with one flavour, (something akin to sour cream and chive flavored potato chips), she promptly posted a ‘Two minute noodle and chip review,’ on Snap chat, her favorite social media platform. They must have been impressive, I guess.

It is all about the Lettuce in Japan

As for me, I grabbed a humble ‘sanger,’ featuring a large amount of lettuce. Being a former vegetarian, I loved the tribute to green matter on the Family Mart sandwich. Basically it was a lettuce sandwich with a tiny amount of ham and cheese, rather than the reverse! Yay for lettuce! I was later to discover lettuce and greens were a recurring culinary theme on this vacation. No wonder a Japanese diet is considered healthy.

Hotel Shinjuku Washington

Our Hotel room was most likely large by Japanese standards, but adequate for two of us. We were perched on the 23rd floor, so the view was nothing short of spectacular.

Our view

As with most hotels and indeed traditional Ryokans, Japanese accommodation comes with almost everything one needs, so you can ‘go light’ with your luggage. As well as complimentary disposable guest hairbrush, hair ties and toothbrush, Q-tips, Nail files and other hygiene tools for personal use, we were supplied with complimentary slippers and Pajamas.

But be warned the pajamas/yukata, supplied, are unlikely to feature in a fashion magazine any time soon, so they ARE for personal eyes only…. hence the reason I didn’t take a photograph of me wearing them! [Think time warp to retro hairdressers of 1950’s and you would not be too far off].

Having said that, the pajamas and the Washington hotel itself, was extremely comfortable and provided us with a good dose of our required beauty sleep, only surpassed by breakfast the following day. But more of that, another time.

Washington Hotel Shinjuku

Close to Shinjuku station, Meji shrine and Gyoen National Garden and Metropolitan Government Building

Chome-2-9 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023, Japan

Described on Google as a “straightforward hotel offering a refined steakhouse & a posh restaurant with city views.”

Fancy that: We had breakfast in a posh restaurant. Something to ponder about.

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