Clean Trains, Tokyo, and First Impressions

I promised that I’d blog to share some experiences from Japan, and since next week it will be a whole month since we returned, it’s past time!
Land Ho!
After 13 hours on the plane (direct Newark to Tokyo = super long!), I was dead tired of flight attendants and confined spaces, so land was a welcome sight. I had an aisle seat, so no photos from the plane, but looking down on the countryside around Narita Airport you can see the difference immediately. No sprawl and lots of open green space surrounding clustered settlements.
Once we got through customs (everyone is so polite and efficient!), we made our way down to the train station under the terminal where a helpful Japan Railways (JR) woman helped us buy tickets for the train to Tokyo. As we’re waiting for the train to leave, we see a crew coming through to clean and sanitize the train. Just like New York, right??
Cleanest Trains Ever!
Into the Abyss
By the time we found our hotel (Shiba Park Hotel…pretty nice!), showered, and napped, it was time for dinner. Rather than stick to our neighborhood, we decided to venture out into Ginza, which is Tokyo’s swank 5th-Avenue-like shopping district. All three of us immediately knew we were in the right area when we found Brooks Brothers:
I immediately felt home.
After reveling in the glow of BB for a few minutes, we found a decent all-you-can-eat Shabu Shabu joint down a side street. They had an English menu but no English speakers, which turned out to work just fine. We could say “biru” (beer!) well enough to get by. We ate more than our fill of beef and pork (no fish just yet!), then headed back to a bar we spotted across the street from Shiba Park.
Standing Bar
Simply called “Standing,” it was a tiny joint that catered to the salarymen who worked in the Shiba Park neighborhood. The patrons didn’t really welcome three Americans in their joint, but the bartender and waitress were super-nice to us (I can’t believe we didn’t get a picture with/of them!). We ordered a round of beers and of course…a round of sake.
With what little Japanese we know (ummm, none), we tried to buy the waitstaff a round, which eventually they understood (but, being so polite, never charged us for their drinks!). Here’s the weird thing – the bartender placed sake glasses into small wooden boxes, then filled both the glass and the box. You drank the glass, then the box. Not sure if they were just messing with our heads there, but I’m thinking it was some variation of masu-sake.
Anyway, Shabu-Shabu + 4 or 5 beers + masu-sake + jetlag = TERRIBLE hangover the next morning. But I’ll save that for later. In the meantime, check out this cool fire hydrant!
Fire Hydrant in Tokyo

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