Saturday, February 18, 2012

Flying to Europe to Get To Asia Part 5

  1. United First Orange County to San Francisco andUnited International Lounge
  2. United Business San Francisco to Frankfurt
  3. Lufthansa First Class Lounge
  4. Lufthansa First Frankfurt to Tokyo
  5. Tokyo for a Day
  6. ANA Business Tokyo to Frankfurt
  7. Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport
  8. United Flight Frankfurt to San Francisco
  9. United First San Francisco to Orange County
  10. Trip Summary

Walking Around Tokyo for a Day

I was so focused on first getting my award ticket on the 787 and then trying to get a first class seat on the outbound from Frankfurt that I completely forgot to plan what to see while in Tokyo.  Thankfully, my friend Dyana helped me out with a few great suggestions. 

I didn’t have any issues going through passport control and customs, although the customs officer questioned why I only had a backpack with me.  I took a little time to use the free wifi in the terminal before heading downstairs to the train station.  I had managed to photo capture portions of the Tokyo rail and subway map before I left Frankfurt so I could have some sense of navigation while in the city.  I purchased a ticket on the Express train which took me into Tokyo for my first stop, Asakusa.

Popping up out of the subway station on I side street, I followed the crowds to what I hoped was the Senso-Ji.  I walked a few blocks away and then game across a large gathering of people standing around one of the large gates which surround the temple area.  Just behind the gate was a whole pedestrian street lined with shops selling food, clothing, and trinkets.  The place was packed.  Every few feet a branch of cherry blossoms and metal flags stuck out from the roof structure helping to frame the view to the Kaminari-Mon gate.  The gate’s construction and the other buildings in the temple area are very detailed with structural elements sharing in the celebration of the design.  Many of the buildings in this part of the city are post-WWII albeit rebuilt from previous facilities.  The temple itself is passed the gate and adjacent to a series of gardens.  Once inside the temple it sounds a bit like Vegas as offerings are being tossed into metal bins in the front which sounds like slot machines dropping coins. 

Vendors Along the Packed Walkway



The gardens are a nice change from the urban landscape a few yards away.  I walked through the water features and viewed the other smaller temples around the shrine and then ended up at the five-story pagoda which dominates the area with its height. 

Senso-Ji in Background

Colorful Flags

Five Story Pagoda 

Across the Sumida river are a couple curiously designed buildings which I believe house the offices of Asahi.  The taller building has a golden tint to the glazing so that the light being reflected off of it looks like beer. 
Asahi Tower

Asahi Tower

I hopped back on the subway and headed to Ginza which is a central shopping area with high end merchants.  The buildings have some rather unique design elements and many are extremely narrow, maybe 10 to 15 feet at most.  Some of my favorite designs use some clever texture on the exterior skin or warp the building fa├žade a bit. 

I ate a late lunch at a bakery along the main street of Ginza and people watched for a while.  Although the sky looks clear in the photos, the wind was gusting hard and it was very chilly outside.  My heavy jacket kept me warm for the most part but I can already feel a bit of windburn from walking around all day.  I walked down a few of the side streets to check out the area in more detail before heading to my next stop. 

The Shibuya Crossing was crazy.  I was shocked at the number of people moving across the intersection right outside of the station.  Everyone waits until the walk sign goes green and the entire street is covered with people walking across to another side.  It was so crowded it was slightly claustrophobic.  The streets around the area are smaller yet still crowded.  Vendors are out on the streets trying to sell their goods and billboards advertise the latest Japanese boyband. 

I Thought They All Went Out of Business

After walking around Shibuya for some time, my feet were starting to hurt.  Walking around all day plus carrying a backpack with all my stuff the whole time added up to a lot of weight on my feet and back.  I hopped back on the subway and then connected to a different train to take me to Diamon station where I could catch the monorail to Haneda airport, about 45 minutes outside the city. 

The monorail ride was decently fast, thanks to the rapid version I managed to catch.  I was able to get a few more views of the city at dusk as I headed to the airport.   I was able to see Mount Fuji in the distance with some wispy cloud formations above.  I tried to get a few pictures of it but it didn’t work out how I wanted. 
Dusk Over Tokyo

Once at the Haneda International Terminal I was able to check in without difficulty.  I had secured a lounge invitation to the ANA lounge post-security.  In addition to the typical security check, I had to pass back through immigration where I filled out a small form and verified I was the same person who arrived earlier in the morning.  The lounge is not as nice as the First Class Terminal, but it is a welcome respite from the rest of the airport.  I arrived several hours early and at that point the lounge was practically empty.  By 9:30, that all changed and nearly every seat in the place was occupied. 

Haneda International Terminal

A Model of My Ride

Seating Area

Self Serve Bar Area

Dining Area

I was able to take another shower right after I got into the lounge and then relax a bit and work on my blog entries.  The only food they had out initially was some miso soup, sushi, and rice in fried bean curd.  There is also a self-serve bar station where I tried some Sochi and Plum Wine.  The later was actually good.  I wouldn’t touch the former ever again. 

Miso Soup, Friend Bean Curd & Rice, Water, Sochi, Plum Wine

It was a little chaotic and loud towards the end of the night in the lounge.  Boarding announcements were difficult to hear and I headed to the gate early per my usual practice.  Can’t wait to ride on the 787!


  1. AWESOME JOB MATT!!! I hope you liked your brief time there! Did you mix your shochu with anything? If you didn't, that's pretty much the Japanese version of vodka (although, not as much alcohol.) I wouldn't be surprised if you never wanted to touch it again! Mix it with a little apple flavored soda though, and you won't remember half the night cause it's so easy to drink.

    1. Thanks for all the tips Dyana! And, I did have the shochu straight up - I think I'll stick to the plum wine instead. I didn't take advantage of the beer vending machines though.