On the sound advice of a friend ( thank you, Dang! ), I decided to make good use of my 10 hour layover at the Tokyo/Narita airport (on my way home after a month in Vietnam) by getting the fuck out of it. I landed at 5 am at the other Tokyo airport, Haneda. Oh, you didn't know there are two airports in Tokyo? Neither did I. It was a detail I overlooked when changing my flight home and was surprised when I had to collect my checked bag at Haneda, wait in line at customs to get a visa and then take an hour bus ride (or was it two hours? I slept most of it) to the Narita airport. Slight hiccup but I would have had to wait in line for a visa at the other airport as well plus I got a nap in on the bus ride which would not have happened otherwise. Once I arrived at the Narita airport, I rechecked my bag, got some yen out of an ATM and spoke with a nice lady at the information desk. It was really easy to buy a subway ticket inside the airport, hop on the train and get off just two stops down the line in Narita Town. If I remember correctly it was about a 10 minute commute. My friend had mentioned visiting the temple which was maybe a mile from the subway station. At this point it's about 10:30 am, the sun is out but the air has a little bite to it, and I am wearing a jacket for the first time in over a month. I step out of the subway station sleep deprived and in a bit of a fog but quickly snap out of it. Compared to humid, tropical Vietnam, the crisp air and cool, forgiving sunshine of Narita Town felt electric. Soaking it all in, I walked a couple blocks up to the main road in search of a hot coffee, excited to experience a new (to me) part of Asia.
This was the first place with food that I walked past before getting to the Main Street so I took it as an omen and had ice cream for breakfast. If you only have a few hours to experience a place, spontaneity is your best friend. Go with your gut. Don't waste your precious time planning things out too much.
Fell in love with these crowns (helmets?) that were outside of a antique store. They were super heavy and seemed a little pricey (I was still used to the incredibly low prices of Vietnam) so I passed on the opportunity to own one. Whatever the opposite of "Buyer's Remorse" is, that's what I have now. I should have bought one.
On my walk back up to the train station, heading back to the airport, I lucked out and spied a graveyard through a very small gap in the surrounding, tall wooden fence. It was on the main drag the whole time, completely out of view, I had walked right past it earlier without noticing a thing. Dying to go inside, I held my breath as I tried the handle on the iron gate and was pleasantly surprised when it opened easily and without a sound. It was so peaceful inside, a sanctuary away from the bustling of life outside it's gates. I felt grateful that my visit to Japan included some time spent with ancestors, even though they weren't my own. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect ending to my visit to Narita and to my month long solo expedition in Vietnam.
Although it was such a brief visit, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to dip my toes into Narita Town and can now say that I've (barely) been to Japan. Can't wait to go back.
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