My husband, our cat, and I arrived in Japan on Wednesday afternoon so I could begin the 100 Summits project. As always, Japan was beautiful from the air:
The patchwork quilt of green fields interspersed with towns and villages, looks similar to other agricultural areas from thousands of feet in the air. But the plane descended, the curved tile roofs, bamboo groves, and sparkling, water-filled rice paddies of Saitama revealed their distinctive details.
We passed through customs and animal import inspection quickly, and hopped on the N’EX (Narita Express) for the 90-minute ride to central Tokyo. (Haneda airport is closer to the city center, but travelers bringing pets currently need to arrive at Narita due to Japanese import requirements.) We’d been planning Oobie’s move for over a year, so she needed no quarantine and left the airport with us. (I’ll blog about traveling to Japan with a cat next week, in case you want to know how the process works.)
We’ve rented an apartment in Shinjuku-ku – one of Tokyo’s largest wards – for the first six weeks of our stay. (My travel and research needs will keep us fairly mobile, so we’ve opted for short-term apartments for the first few months at least.)
Our current apartment sits around the corner from a subway station, a Family Mart, and a grocery store, which makes it a convenient spot — especially for my husband, who’s spending his first few days in Japan. We’re also less than a block from a fabulous bakery that offers all kinds of delicious breads and pastries, like this “sunny side up toast” with bacon and an egg.
Many people associate Shinjuku with brilliant lights, shopping, and a bustling tourist scene — and it has all that, but it also features many quiet neighborhoods filled with apartments, little restaurants, izakaya (small informal pubs), and shops that cater to locals rather than tourist crowds. I took this photo about two minutes from our apartment, while out for an afternoon walk:
One of the oh-so-many things I love about Japan is the wide variety of complements and contrasts the country offers. City lights and pop culture co-exist peacefully with quiet neighborhoods, ancient temples, and traditional ways of life.
In the months to come, as I set out to climb the hyakumeizan (100 famous mountains), I’m also hoping to share as much as possible of the history, culture, and life of this amazing country I love so much. I hope you’ll join me along the way!
The climbs themselves start Sunday, May 20 – when I’ll set out to climb Mt. Akagi, a sacred volcanic peak in Gunma Prefecture. Tune in Monday to find out how it goes! The adventure begins!