Tokyo in one word: Incredible. After arriving to Tokyo Narita Airport, we had to sit around for about an hour and a half until the next shuttle arrived, but honestly it did us some good as I think both my mom and I just needed time to sit down and decompress from all the flying and driving we've been doing. Thanks to the recommendation of my friend and former fellow intern, Anne, I booked a room at the Grand Palace Hotel, which turned out to be much better and fancier than I expected. Plus, they're all decorated for Christmas, even though as I understand it that X-Mas isn't really a big holiday here. But it looks like the target demographic here is made up of business travelers, so it probably caters to them well.
My mom, however, wasn't entirely happy with the room since there was no air-conditioning. Since it's already autumn here and beginning to get cold (which I am so thankful for since I'm SO over hot temperatures for this year), the hotel doesn't have air conditioning available anymore in order to conserve energy. I understand this, but my mom kept pushing me to call the front desk about it. "I'm hormonally-challenged," she said, which I just began to laugh, literally rolling around on the floor at. So she called. While on the phone with the front desk, I could hear the Japanese attendant telling her that there was no air-conditioning when it is below 20 degrees Celsius (68 F), to which she just kept responding, "Why?" (which I also laughed at). Finally, someone brought up a fan, which calmed the room down.
Naturally, I was quite hungry after unpacking, so we decided to head out of the hotel in search for some ramen (and Japanese candy!). One of the Concierge desk attendants gave me a map of restaurants in the area, specifiying two ramen houses. One of them, she said, was more famous but she told me not to go there as it is "kinda smelly in a bad way." So we walked towards the other one. However, every restaurant we walked by smelled delicious. They also all had pictures of menu selections in the windows. Finally, I couldn't keep passing this up, and I saw a delectable-looking beef and rice bowl (I'm not sure what it was called since it was in Japanese...) along with ramen in a window, so we went in. The restaurant was immaculately clean, and it was very small, with a bar of 5 or 6 seats on one side near the entrance and two or three bar seats around the corner, and then two tables of two on the left side next to the windows. A machine with pictures of all the menu options on buttons, like a vending machine, was near the door. My mom and I stared at it a little, not sure what to do, and then we looked to the waiter for help. He stared back at us for a minute too, as if no one in the room knew how to speak ANY language at all. Then he came over and helped us order. It was definitely the most delicious meal I've had on this trip...and probably the best Japanese food I've had ever. And it cost us a total of about $5 USD. I have to go back before I leave.
Afterwards, we walked around the neighborhood to see what else was nearby. We stopped in a drugstore, where I bought a ton of Japanese chocolate and strawberry candies. I also stopped at one of the many vending machines along the sidewalks to try out how one works and also to get the cutest can of Fanta grape soda ever.
As we were walking, my mom didn't stop commenting on how nicely everyone was dressed and how clean the city is. She has been to Tokyo many, many times, but it seems that Tokyo doesn't stop impressing people. As my Time Out: Tokyo guidebook says, there aren't many trash cans throughout the city, but most citizens bring their rubbish home. Incredible.
Now, as it is past dawn in the place where the sun rises first in the world each day, I'm going out to explore.