Monday, July 30, 2012

Tokyo Drifting 3: Fleeing Sumida

The Tokyo tokkyū limited express train is a splurge. Good thing I’m made out of Yen, right?

At last… I present the breathless (for me, anyway) final hours of last month’s quick trip to Tokyo. Will this live up to the melodramatic teaser ending from my previous Tokyo Drifting 2: Senso-ji Temple post? Let’s pretend it will.

A friend from the journey recommended that I seek a peaceful contrast to my previous evening of Tokyo nightlife craziness. Sumida Park fit the bill.

In about four hours, my flight home to Portland would depart from Narita airport. Being mindful of the time, I followed up my tour of Senso-ji Temple with a walk down to the Sumida River. The nature park that stretched alongside the river banks would be a relaxing place to unwind before beginning my train connections to the airport.


A young Japanese gal rode up to me on her bicycle as I gazed at the flowers growing along the footpaths of Sumida Park. She must have assumed I was interested in the bike-friendly aspects of the area. We walked over to the specialized bicycle tire grooves carved into the stairway of a nearby underpass, and she enthusiastically demonstrated for me the ways of a seasoned recreational bicycler.

At some point, it finally dawned on me how long I had been standing there, struggling to understand her. In less than 10 minutes, my train was scheduled to depart from Asakusa Station. The problem: Ever since I left my capsule/hostel that morning, I had been walking AWAY from the direction of the train station.

I abruptly excused myself and began to run as though my life (or at least my job back home at Delta Airlines) depended on it. The beautiful scenery of the park blurred past as I frantically sprinted through it for several minutes. No way would I catch that train.

I leaped down the stairs of Asakusa station, clutching my small backpack and gasping for air. There was still time to catch a number of local trains to my next stop, but I had blown my connections to Narita airport. Painfully resisting my budget backpacker traveling sensibilities, I slapped down the big Yen at the kippu jidō hanbaiki kiosk to purchase a premium express train ticket, direct to Narita Airport.

The tokkyū limited express train [photo at top] sped to Narita Airport in just under an hour, which put me back on schedule.

My friend Kevin, flying home on standby from the Philippines, was waiting at the airport gate when I checked in for the nearly full flight. His boarding priority dwarfed mine. Despite shrewdly (or foolishly) using one of my S-3 low priority seating requests I was assigned one of the last seats in the Business Elite cabin before the flight doors closed, with Kevin and I onboard.

CameraZOOM-20120612145530670_orig_1.jpgAfter nearly 3 days overseas with virtually no sleep, I flew home from Tokyo in Delta's Business Elite cabin. Somehow the traditional Japanese meal course that I ordered on the flight home managed to be even better (Fresher ingredients from Japan? More irradiated?) than the one I ate on the flight over to Tokyo.

With a belly full of French caviar, crab, scallop quenelle, grilled chicken, cod roe, wasabi tofu, and marinated tuna… I slept.

Bonus pic:
DSC_0423.JPGOn Kathy's birthday, Lena plays with the Japanese toy I bought for her in Tokyo’s Nakamise-dori street fair. I hope that Lena will come along with me for my next visit to Asia this year.

Lena can pick out her own souvenir toy next time!

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