June 16, 2012

A Free Day In Japan!

For the first time in over a year, Lady Hiva and I are going home to Hawaii for a holiday. We have been looking forward to this trip for the past several months—Lady Hiva especially. She has a three page shopping list and a whole empty suitcase in anticipation for the trip…hahaha! (It’s true!) We left Manila Philippines 0800 June 15, 2012, we arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii 0800 June 15, 2012! The best part is we had a free day in between to spend in Japan!

Because our flight left at 0800, we needed to be there at 0600 to make it through customs etc. That meant we were up at 0400. Now, those of you that know me well can attest to this, when I am tired I tend to get annoyed and snappy over things that normally may have not bothered me. In this light, as we flagged down the taxi for the airport I readied myself for a stern conversation. It seems all too often taxis try to charge more if they can. (That is my diplomatic way of saying they rip us off) However, as we were driving, with Lady Hiva and I squished on either side of the car because our bags (all three of them) were taking all the space in the middle, the driver was singing to the songs and laughing at the witty one line jokes on the radio. His voice was not particularly beautiful, nor was he one tune or knew all the words, yet his cheerful nature really was contagious. I realized I need to be more like him. Instead of being annoyed at the crazy drivers in Manila or whatever other reason I find to be annoyed, I should just sing along and be cheerful. I resolved to not be annoyed at all today as we traveled.

For the most part I did really well. Lady Hiva even commented at one point that I was really calm despite the fact there were times it would have been VERY easy to be frustrated. There are just some things in Manila I will never understand….like when they block off a whole walkway and make every walk in one narrow path for traffic going both ways, or when they make you go through security a fourth time right before you get on the plane and put you in a section without a store so you cannot have or buy any water, or when to use the bathroom at your gate, you have to go through security and then when you’re done using the bathroom, you have to go through security again???  What do they think you’re going to do in the bathroom that warrants a security check? I started to laugh as I waited for Lady to come out of the bathroom and person after person was flabbergasted that they had to go through the security (I mean full on take your shoes off, empty your pockets, full pat down security)TWICE  just to use the bathroom. When Lady came out she was so frustrated she SHARPLY told the person standing outside the bathroom how stupid it was. So I guess we switched roles for the day! Hahaha!

As we were boarding the plane I was watching people. It is always interesting to see how people react to traveling; it is usually not a pretty site due to the stress of it all. There was this one girl that evidently did not want to sit in her middle seat, so she sat in the seat near the aisle. She would not move even when the guy that was supposed to sit there came OR when the flight attendant asked her to move! I could not believe the entitled attitude this girl was showing. If I was the guy I would have pushed the situation until she moved, JUST BECAUSE of her prideful attitude. In the middle of those thoughts, the guy came over to where the girl was sitting (right behind me) and he said to the flight attendant trying to remedy the situation, “if that middle seat is empty, I can take that seat if she really wants to sit here.”  WOW! So for the second time today I was reminded how I need to be a better person. Here I was thinking about how I would react to the girl’s attitude and he was humble enough to take the other seat, even if it meant the middle seat on a 4 hour flight. He became an inspiring person in my life in that moment. (However, I must confess that as we were standing up to get off the plane and waiting for the line of people to exit the girl was literally pushing me in the back to get passed me---that was NOT going to happen! Who does this girl think she is? Does she not know how to simply say, “Excuse me?”)

Lady Hiva did the research the night before we left to see what can be seen in Tokyo during a 6-8 hour lay-over. The airport for Tokyo is actually in Narita, a small town 34 miles out of the city. We decided to take the train to Narita town. Similar to Bangkok and Hong Kong, the train system in Tokyo is clean, easy to use and a fast way to travel. As we stepped out into the city Lady Hiva and I both could not stop commenting on how clean it was, or how nice it was to see fresh flowers and trees!

The streets are narrow, flanked on both sides by small square buildings. Some of these buildings have the look of traditional Japanese architecture, other have a more modern feel to them. Either way the façades are all really artsy and fun to see. One thing we both liked was the fresh flower bouquets welcoming people into the store or restaurant. At first we thought they were flower shops! It was a little bit foggy and a light mist so we had to buy an umbrella as we walked around. Everyone was really friendly. They kept to their own business but when we needed directions or wanted a photo they were more than happy to help. We especially liked the little old ladies that worked in the stores. They were so cute as they tried to answer our questions with a  limited English vocabulary and sign language. As we were buying some mochi—REAL mochi as Lady said—there were this little frogs and turtles in front of the till about the size of your fingernail on your little finger. Each of them had a character painted on the bottom. I asked what it was for and she answered by saying something in Japanese and pointed to my wallet, then she said, “Happy…Happy, Money.” Then she made her hands big in the air and said, “Happy money, BIG money!” Oh, so it is a good luck charm for wealth! And so our conversations went with everyone we met.  

The Narita town temple is surrounded by a small quaint community with shops open to the street and red paper lanterns hanging everywhere. I would have really liked to see the place at night lit up. I am sure it is beautiful. However, even during the day the temple grounds are gorgeous. The buildings are ornately painted and the grounds immaculate. Gardens reached in every direction. We found ourselves whispering most of the time because the peacefulness of the grounds merited respect. For almost an hour we wandered the temple grounds, stopping to admire the trees or the flowers…or the ponds of fish and turtles. You would think we are a bit nature deprived! HAHA! Such a beautiful place; definitely worth visiting if you have a long lay-over in Tokyo.

On the way back to the airport we bought some souvenirs and did some more shopping. We tried fresh bread with Azuki beans in it, delicious! Then we ate at a restaurant to get an authentic Japanese meal. It was expensive, but SO worth it! Both of us were glad that we did not just stay in the airport, our one free day in Japan was amazing! Once we got back to the airport it was fun to see the Tongan Rugby team. We would run into one player in one store, then two others in the next store. Seeing Polynesians is a big deal. That does not happen very often in Manila. We also ran into one of our friends from Hawaii, we were running in one direction and he in the other, so we literally high fived as we passed each other. Talk about random. He is from Hawaii, we are coming from Manila and we are in Japan and run into each other! I guess you just never know what to expect. 

I really LOVE my Lady Hiva!

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