I sit at a strange Japanese keyboard at five in the morning. Other than my frustrating tendency to wake up at four each day, the trip so far has been amazing and totally fulfilled my dreams. (I did forget to bring my camera cable, so you'll have to wait for pictures.)
Tokyo, where we spent our first three days, is truly a great city. The energy is astounding, and there is absolutely everything there that you could ever imagine. The people seem incredibly chic and well groomed, and styles indeed range from Goth Lolita to traditional kimonos to Parisienne elegance.
We took a fantastic bike tour (Tokyo Cycle Tours) that led us all over the city. Our charming guides (Masa, a travel journalist, and Yuchiko, who also works in the travel industry) led us through the fish market, shrines, the Imperial Palace, out to the futuristic new dockside area, the Tokyo tower, and all kinds of surprising places in between. Even though it was my first time on a bike since my accident last August, I managed to keep up and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
We stayed in the Dai Ichi Annex, which I booked online and got a great bargain for the most luxurious hotel I think I have ever stayed in. I have enjoyed the amazing variety of toilets, everything from the traditional squat model to the ones with every direction of sprays and musical accompaniment you could imagine. People are indeed polite and helpful, and with the help of a translation book, we have even been able to communicate. I have the not-so-sneaking suspicion that we are regarded as horrifyingly coarse, unkempt and huge foreigners, (no one wants to sit next to us on the Metro) but Japanese manners go a long way!
We met up with our friend Jean-Pierre on the second night and he took us out to Harajuku and the Meiji shrine the next day. Then we got in the shikansen bullet train to Kyoto, had a glorious view of Mount Fuji on the way and arrived just as the sun was setting. Today JP and I will go to the temple market hunting for old kimono, and geta for my dear friend Gretchen.
Wish you could all be here!