By the time the Shinkansen rolled out of Shin-Osaka station, I was already in a panic. The WordPress editor’s justify function wasn’t working well and the Guttenberg editor had earned my ire. A three hour trip with no chance of publishing post would delay many weeks of meticulous musings and pondering. It would also delay the vacation posts, which I’m hoping to get done by the end of October, 4 weeks later than planned. It wasn’t ideal, but the constant fidgeting with the app was taking me away from the bliss of looking outside the window into the countryside. The phone went back into the side pocket of my travel bag. To my chagrin, we were still stuck in coach, rather than traveling in the luxurious Green Card, thanks to the Rugby World Cup. The JR Pass was both a blessing and a curse, but as W said, the seats were bad enough to remind us we had to go back and redo this trip, just as much as we needed to redo Barcelona.
A bit uncomfortable in his seat – short pitches rob him of valuable leg space – my husband used the time to play solitaire, backgammon and Whirly Bird. I gave that last game a shot but I kept dying a little after 7k points or 30 seconds. The motion sickness kicked in after the third backgammon loss, and got worse after playing Mahjong, so I moved away from his device as well. The phantom train rocking movements were stronger than before but I didn’t pay too much attention. Ironically, it would take two more weeks for the effects to subside and my balance to return to normal. I kept bumping into walls or keeling over. The unintended consequences of the international jetset!
The sun was shining brightly when the Kodama engine arrived at Shin-Yokohama. We quickly made our way to the platform and jumped into the line that would take us to Sakuragicho, a couple of steps away from the Royal Park Hotel which occupies the top floors of the Landmark Tower, the second tallest building in Japan. In past trips, my coworkers would stay in this rook looking tower with views of Mount Fuji and Tokyo, in a very swanky suburb of the city, while I was stuck in the Sheraton right off the Yokohama station. The view from the 59th floor didn’t disappoint but W wasn’t impressed that easily; the overcast low visibility weather didn’t help prove why I had selected the venue in the first place. 🤦♀️ We laughed and recalled how the past versions of ourselves walked past the structure and went straight to the mall excited to see the Snoopy store, almost 12 years ago.
It may sound ridiculous but that store was exactly the first place we ran to after checking in. We were happy to see it was still there, in the same corner, on the same floor!
With measured restraint, we deferred buying up the entire lot of Peanuts themed merch and settled on a few cards and items for the car. The bags were already at capacity and there was no room for the very coveted duty free store Yamazaki. Tired, and a bit hungry, we spotted a restaurant on the main plaza called Santa Monica that specialized in meat platters. It wasn’t rodizio but it passed muster. The coolest feature of the modern eatery was the outdoor patio space to sit and enjoy the crowds next to your doggo. Sadly, we didn’t spot a trusty canine during our visit. 🤪 The menu had so many tasty meat choices – lamb, chicken, beef, pork -, healthy veggie sides and appetizers that it took a good 20 minutes to weigh in our options. W wanted to order one of each but the server’s advice to take it slow because the portion sizes were more USA and less Japan. Common sense prevailed, and we kept the order small. Phew!!
A game of charades later, in a mix of Japanese, English and Spanish, the staff surprised us by customizing some plates to maximize our experience. We walked away owing the staff a debt of gratitude for not letting us overindulge and for thinking outside the box to make the experience memorable. I was amazed that they rather have a happy customer set than a wad of tourist fast cash at hand. Faith in humanity restored! The kind and compassionate demeanor of the locals never ceases to amaze me. 🥰
W asked to go for a walk down to the brick buildings and historical sites, which used to be shipping warehouses in the early 20th century, to burn off the meat sweats and possibly some calories. He he he. Yokohama was the first port and city to allow gaijin or foreigners to live in Japanese soil, albeit segregated by moats and fortified walls. Today, the modern and welcoming Minato Mirai 21 area includes the Kisamichi Promenade, the Cosmo Clock – known as the biggest ferris wheel clock in the world – the mall, and Cosmo World, a small amusement park next to the water and the Nippon Maru museum. It now welcomes foreigners in high fashion style! Sprinkled throughout the area were a couple of micro breweries, which were not open back in 2007. From a distance, you could see white tarps and clean up crews, remnants of a wine tasting festival that screamed “Millennials welcomed here”. Wish we had spotted it earlier. I’ve never had Japanese homegrown wines, only sake, whiskey and beer.
Our goal was to hit Chano-Ma, the top floor restaurant that we had found amidst a rainstorm back in ’07. Wet and chilly, the soups and hot fare helped warm us up after failing to heed the weatherman’s advice of carrying an umbrella. We brought a poncho this time around. Even though the place was still there, and was inviting and well priced, a new Chicago style pizzeria and brewery had opened up across the hall piqued our curiosity. The deep dish fare was waaay better than expected, even though they weren’t traditional pepperoni and sausage types (think seafood). The creatively labeled beers from Rio Brewing were very well balanced and fresh, making me feel a bit guilty. W still couldn’t drink thanks to the antibiotics he was taking for the resilient pneumonia that escorted him through Nippon. I chugged the sampler fown solemnly, making sure not to anger the vacation gods by taunting him.
Overall, the first evening and night in Vancouver BC’s sister city, was uneventful, calm, serene. We were able to kick back and relax, going to bed content and with a bullet proof plan to revisit the Tokyo Skytree in the morning. Cloud cover permitting, we could see the Landmark Tower from the tree, the tallest stand alone structure in the island. The last day of this journey had to go off smoothly to redeem some of the offenses the bad timing and the year 2019 had committed against us. It was a tall order, a herculean task, and in the very sense a pyrrhic victory, but I had faith we could at least split the differences, forget the contentious parts of the holiday, and go back home feeling a bit less anxious.
Seven days was definetely not enough time to enjoy the land of the rising sun…