Couple of other fun tidbits from last week's trip:

  • Food and beverage costs in Japan have an amazingly large range.  My favorite ice cream was only 100 Yen (90 US Cents), a can/bottle of Coke can be had almost anywhere (literally, there are vending machines on every block) for 120 Yen ($1.10).  A pint of Guinness at the Inishmore pub was 1000 Yen (yowsa!), and a coke there (only 190 ml) was 500!  We had a great sushi lunch on Thursday for a mere 1000 Yen, yet a yakitori dinner on Tuesday ended up setting each of us back 3000.  
  • I've described a couple of the interesting foods we ate, but left out some other morsels.  I frequented the local Starbucks, of course, but they were weak in the breakfast selection department (though not weak in the trash department -- they had seven different containers where you could put your trash, including "burnable paper waste" vs. "non-burnable paper").  Instead, I had some steamed buns (Chinese, actually - char siu bao), plus a couple of small sushi maki rolls, from the nearest convenience store (7-11, Lawson, AM/PM, etc.).  The sushi rolls were interesting, as the nori (seaweed) was packaged in its own separate compartment from the rice and tuna, kind of like a Kraft Singles slice of cheese.  you had to pull apart the plastic and push the "roll" into the seaweed to do final assembly; I guess this was to keep the nori fresh.
  • One I had forgotten....Japanese hotels tend to have buckwheat pillows in the room.  It's a very different experience than fluffy down feathers.... but I liked it.  I'm a side sleeper, so maybe that was why it was OK for me.  I don't know how a stomach sleeper would like those.
  • Ed's travel tip for Japan -- patience is a virtue when dealing with Narita airport.
    • Our flight landed at 1:30 PM, yet I arrived at my hotel at 5:30 PM.  Depending on the runway used, taxi time to the gate can be up to 25 minutes.  The Limousine Bus into Tokyo took another 100-ish minutes (though the return trip was much faster, one hour).  Even despite this, I recommend the Limousine bus if you are travelling to a major Tokyo hotel -- it is much easier than taking the Narita Express or Skyliner trains to a central station and then having to transfer to a subway line or taxi.
    • Passport control at Narita: Probably one of the slowest immigration procedures I've ever been through.  The queue was about 40 minutes in length inbound, and another 45 outbound (between security and immigration).  Also, Narita checks your passport on your way into the airport itself -- I don't remember this by train, but it's been several years since I took the train there; it is definitely true by bus and car.  In the very quick check on our bus, I am not sure what the point was, really -- it seemed like they were just looking to make sure pictures matched names.

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