Narita Is Not Just an Airport
In planning my trip to Japan, I had expected to find Tokyo daunting. Instead, though I am generally not drawn to large cities, for me Tokyo was love at first sight. Maybe Tokyo is not really a large city at all, but a comprehensive assortment of small ones placed adjacent to each other for mutual convenience. Anyway, Tokyo, I love you.
We spent one night in Narita, relaxed and comfortable in a most accommodating inn across the street from the temple. We shopped for souvenirs and antiques. Unable to look one more fish in the face, we went looking for a hamburger and amazingly found an American hamburger restaurant. It wasn’t really American but it was meant to be — there were posters of John Wayne and Spiderman and Audrey Hepburn, and the tables were set with metal knives and forks. The hamburgers were really huge succulent oblate meatballs, profoundly flavorful, presented on homemade brioche rolls in a paper sleeve for neatness, and we were the only Americans. On a whim I addressed my hamburger by cutting it into squares and eating it with a fork. Was it my imagination, or was there a certain flavor of “so that’s how it’s done” in the air? The French fries were exquisite. It was another great meal in Japan. I wonder how many travelers go for the temples and stay for the food.
Narita-san is probably too close to the airport to turn up on the tourist radar, but Alex and I agreed that after ten days in Japan it made a perfect place to decompress before leaving. It would also be a great introduction to Japan, an ideal first step, if Narita is your entry point.
Well then, Japan -- Incessantly friendly. Easy to get around in. The new is as fascinating as the old. Memorizing a few tourist phrases in Japanese, a highly accessible and expressive language, goes a long way. By all means wear a Totoro shirt. Do take the time to worship, because it is easy to do and impolite not to. And prepare to be surrounded by beauty, beauty and peace, even when you don’t yet realize it.
I must add, when I got home and unpacked, the first thing the cats did was crawl into my suitcase. They want to go with me the next time.