May 22, 2013 Japan

On the Ginza line heading to Asakusa

Trains are efficient, clean, and feel more spacious than the Underground, but not as smooth as British trains. Prices aren’t bad. BART could learn a lot: Destinations are shown lit up on a sign above each door. Racks for baggage above seats. A little song plays before doors close, a different tune at each station, plus a warning chime on the train.

Weather is mild and warm. Second day for a dress, but I would happily wear kimono if I had the time.

1:30 pm – In a park by the river, Asakusa. Looking at the Sky Tree, watching rains go by over the bridge.

The Japanese are unfailingly polite, but more so in the country than the city. Here the politeness is more perfunctory, a little less sincere. Still, it is refreshing and very welcome. I try to keep up, despite feeling like a huge, fat, smelly, ignorant foreigner. And I’ve seen exactly that today. They are everywhere in Asakusa.

The gravel path here is wide and shady, swept clean daily. There are cigarette butts on the ground but no litter. No trash cans, either. Tourists wander by in their floppy hats.

There are few places to sit in Sumida Park. I can see signs posted on trees near me, and I hope they don’t say “no eating or drinking” because I am chugging a can of peach nectar. Next challenge is to find a garbage can.

I can hear a martial arts dojo nearby, and someone playing a saxophone, I think. I am sunburnt.

3 pm – a little lost, but content. Eating dango in what appears to be an old quarter near the temple. Bought 3 kimono at a little shop, one cotton, one silk, one asa (linen?). So beautiful.

Every shopkeeper speaks enough English to take money. Not as polite as the ones in Ginza. I blame the heavy tourist traffic.

I’m out of cash and ATMs here don’t like my cards. That’s a problem. I need 190 yen to get back to the hotel in Ginza. I think I have that.

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