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From Omaha to Tokyo in about 24 hours…

Saturday 10pm, 2/18/2012- Wow. That’s what I have to say about the last 40 or so hours of my life. I can’t believe the whirlwind of craziness and things gone wrong it has been. Yet I made it halfway across the entire world. I’m safe and sound sitting in my hotel room, overlooking the bright neon lights of Roppongi and listening to the sounds of the hustle and bustle as the world goes by..

My plan is to try and write a short blog every day using photos from my camera, phone camera, and instagram. I’m on day one of about forty-five. Yup, that’s right. Somehow this two week overseas trip grew like one of those tiny sponge dinosaurs that you throw into a bucket of water does. Instead of the original manageable trip, it’s become a six week long monster. And I have a feeling going to be the trip of my life..

I tried to leave Omaha at 6:45 am on Thursday. In spite of trying to floss my shiny metal status on Delta (platinum if you have to know) they wouldn’t change my 5pm flight toting, “we can’t change any flights for free that have an international leg to them.” No matter how much I begged and pleaded- this but wasn’t getting off the ground any earlier than originally planned.

And this makes me flash back to last sunday.. I received a call from my bank informing me that they had turned off my debit card due to a merchant I had purchased from having been hacked. This was rather unfortunate and I tried to work through many different options to get another card in my hand befor embarking on this crazy trip. The only option was to have it shipped to my friends house in LA and have him bring it to me on layover. Which it part of the reason I was attempting to change my flight. So that if the card I needed never made it to me at the airport on Thursday, I wasn’t stuck reenacting my own version of the hangover in Thailand.

Fast forward to my 2nd flight Thursday, SLC to LAX. I had been upgraded to first class and happened to overhear the stewardess say, “the president is on the ground in LA.” And knowing that I was limited in layover time, you can imagine that I starting running through all sorts of scenarios that included me leaving the country with no money. Did I mention that the hotel ACCIDENTLY maxed out my credit card 2 nights prior? Although cleared up, the authorization has yet to lift. I spent the rest of the flight stressing out, borrowing the guys laptop next to me to try and email my friend about the card. Why is that you ask? Because I was sans method of payment and couldn’t even buy myself some damn internet!

We not only landed on time, we landed 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Because of the Obama thing though, the traffic surrounding the airport was absolutely insane so my friend was still quite a bit late.. The end result was me getting my card (thank you, Bill), grabbing a bite, and then arriving back to the airport and through security in time to walk onto the plane just as they were calling zone 1.

I passed out. The first 6 hours of the flight I was completely out and then the last six were a mix of work, eating, movies, and sleeping. Lucky for me I had an economy comfort seat. Even luckier for me was that the economy comfort seat next to me was empty. In what seemed like no time at all (which was actually closer to 22 hours of travel time) I was on the ground, clearing customs, grabbing my bags and getting on a train into the city.

There are two things that still amaze me about Japan.. The fact that in spite of the language differences, it’s so simple to get around. That and the fact that the subway and train stations are so immaculate that you could eat of the floor should you want to. I had no issues getting a 10000 note out of the 7&1 Holdings Bank ATM; some of you may recognize it in the states as 7/11. Last trip to Tokyo in 2009 for me, it was the only ATM I could find that would give me money! In no time at all, I was off the monorail and then the train and to the hotel; I spent the entire ride trying to figure out why my data charges were skyrocketing in spite of just having landed.

I beat my friend to the hotel by a few hours and sat down to get some work done utilizing the free internet that B Hotel Roppongi had to offer. I plugged into the wall not needing any type of adaptor surprisingly; I got a lot of work done that freed up my mind to be able to spend the rest of the day exploring.

On the counter in the Hotel B lobby was a stack of local papers and the entire front photo was a collage of a bunch of the UFC fighters. I rarely ask for autographs but I think I will in this case and then frame as a souvenir of this trip!

I wandered into the hotel’s restaurant area which after a little miscommuncation with the front desk clerk, I determined is free with a room, but since we hadn’t checked in (till 3pm) meant I had to fork over 1000 yen which translates over to $12.58 according to the current exchange.. Try as I might, there was no convincing the guy at the desk around the fee through our language differences; knowing what I know about Japan, there would have been no success at this even if we didn’t have the barrier. Oh well, love me a raw egg cracked over rice; some are grossed out, but this is VERY common over here!

My friend arrived some time after 10:30 and we both used to lobby bathrooms to clean up a bit (check out the tushie warmer toilets!) before heading out into Tokyo for the day.. I’m a huge fan of going to foreign places and wandering around until you get lost.. You often find some of the most amazing places (and the most incredible photos) by doing so.

As we stepped out into the street, the sights and sounds of tokyo hit me like a mack truck. It was glaringly bright and the traffic and people sounds were extremely intense. My eyes quickly adjusted and I glanced around Roppongi, an ironically familiar place halfway across the world from home. We had absolutely no destination; I knew that I wanted photos and Scott had never been to Tokyo before. We turned down the main drag of Roppongi which was painfully dead during the day. I knew not to be fooled- a mere 12 hours later and this place would be filled with people from all over the world; many with not the best intentions in mind.

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I walked him into the store, Don Quixote, a Japanese Zakka store which is something every tourist must experience at least once. Its an overwhelming array of colorful knick knacks and things ranging from the useful to the absolutely absurd. I’m of the mind if you can invent it in your head, you can find it in one of those stores. I recall having been through that exact store with Denis Kang in 2008, and again with Joe Warren’s team in 2009 where I purchased a pair of cheap tennis shoes to ease my aching feet. We got ourselves lost in there for well over an hour looking at Louie Vuitton’s, wondering their authenticity, trying on sunglasses, exploring nooks and crannies, before hunger pains took over and dragged us into the street in search of some food.

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We wandered aimlessly looking for something that would appease our appetite. A pet store of the kind you never see in the States anymore sidetracked us for about 15 minutes before we walked into our first restaurant. We walked out immediately after observing that you had to purchase tickets for your meal, and that there were no photos on the vending machine so no way for us to even figure out what we were ordering. Exit stage left! Not long after we found another spot and ducked in (really, the places to eat are infinite) and knew we were in good spot because it was packed full with many locals. We ordered by pointing at the photos on the menu and soon we were enjoying noodle bowls and gyoza over mugs of coca cola. We decided to check out Azabu Juban area next as noted for its shopping.

One train stop away had us getting lost in Azabu Juban. Something about a long drive caught my eye so we walked up to the top and came upon a temple as well as cemetary. I got caught up for quite some time taking photos of the amazing grave stones of what must have been some very wealthy Japanese families. There was still snow on the ground in between some of the plots from when it must have snowed a few days prior.

We wandered around Azuba Juban a little more before deciding to head back to the hotel. We managed to get ourselves fully lost on the way back, but that was kind of the point. We reoriented and ended up back at the hotel at 3:30pm and checked in. Some work, and a nap kept me occupied till it was time to go in search of some food early that evening.

Not sure where to eat, we wandered deep into Roppongi where the sights and sounds were more on par with what was typical of this nightlife district.. Not jet lagged, but was definitely feeling the effects of a long day so I just wanted to eat and preferably head back to the room. After an aimless meander that lasted about 30 minutes, we came across a chinese restaurant that caught our hunger more than it caught our eye. Knowing that the last of our patience was used up, we stepped into the small restaurant.

Wonderful smells accosted us and we quickly ordered from the menu. I chose a beef with mushrooms over rice, and Scott picked a beef stew; We started off with a plate of gyoza as an appetizer. Everything we chose from the tea, to the very last drop of sauce on our plates were extremely tasty and satisfying so we left with happy, full bellies.

We made our way back through the streets of Roppongi stopping only at a store for snacks and water before calling it a night.

To be continued….

Thank you for reading! please check back for more stories from my trip!

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About Tracy Lee

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