Sunday, November 27

Day Two: Narita

My second day was dreary, drizzly and ultimately a perfect photo day for my trip to Naritasan. With the help of a kind / annoyed JR employee I caught an express train to Narita without ending up at the airport.

Upon exiting Narita station I stopped at the visitors' information office / window and picked up a couple maps of the area. These windows can be found in many cities at the exits of the stations, and for people like me who need a map they're great. I made the decision to eat before continuing to Naritasan and took my maps to the ramen restaurant next door.

Note the boys in their
school uniforms passing by. I know you can't really see them, but use your imagination. Anyone who has watched any anime dealing with highschoolers has an accurate idea of what they look like. I bet if these were an option, boys here wouldn't be so adverse to wearing a uniform. At least I think they're pretty snazzy. Of course by using the word "snazzy" just now I have probably irreversibly rendered them uncool.
It was pretty cool to be in the restaurant, surrounded by the sound of slurping noodles, joining in.

From here I continued on to Naritasan via Omotesando Street, a quaint, narrow street lined with shops and the 12 animals of the zodiac

Naritasan is a sprawling temple complex, containing an array of buildings.
Beyond the main grounds there is a park with walking trails, a cemetery, a small lake and waterfall.
Walking through the grounds in the rain, on my own was a really neat experience, one I'm glad to not have shared. There's something to be said for experiencing things by yourself that make them that much more experienced. There are certain emotions you are allowed to feel and attach to moments and places that might not happen if accompanied. Sometimes having someone with you only allows you spectator status, while being able to stop and reflect or just to absorb your solitude allow you to feel more a part of your surroundings.

After traipsing through the woods and cemetery, I returned to the main temple and was drawn to the services going on inside. After some hesitation I finally removed my shoes and went in, sitting near the door, and experienced the Buddhist ceremony. Another moment I am glad to not have shared. And I will not share it here.

Finally I decided that I had had enough walking with a heavy backpack in cold, rainy weather, and I headed back to the train station. Purchasing my ticket was a snap. Finding the right train was a different story. After much waiting about, milling about inside the station, getting up the courage to ask the man in the window, in Japanese, what time the train was, and finally asking a Sri Lankan man if I was in the right place, I made it onto the train. My problem was that the normally convenient sign showing the next train did not have Tokyo Station as the final destination, and I didn't recognize the one it had. Turns out is was the station after Tokyo Station. That ride home may have been my first time sleeping on the train in Japan. Propped up by the folks on either side of me.

A note about
Japanese trains, they are not like trains I have experienced here. Which means Buffalo Rapid Transit, AmTrak and the NYC subway system. Some trains, ie, the one you might take from the airport, are similar to AmTrak in that you sit facing either forwards or backwards. Refreshments are sold airplane-style from a cart. The local or rapid trains one might take between nearby cities are the subway-style trains.
However, the Tokyo Metro and these local to semi-local trains are way better than the aforementioned Buffalo / NYC trains. For starters, the seats are cushioned, in the seat and the backrest. A feature especially appreciated by long-distance travellers like me, or the drunk guy across from us on the way back from Odaiba who completely fell over sideways, hitting his face on the seat. Second of all, they're clean. I can't stress that enough.


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