A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Tokyo Without A Clue


We arrived at Tokyo’s Narita Airport with no guidebook, no map, no yen and no clue.  One thing became apparent right away — Japan does not yield its secrets easily.

Here’s what we learned in our first twenty-four hours in Tokyo:  Not much English is spoken.  Affordable Internet access is hard to find.  Few ATMs accept foriegn bank cards.  Credit cards are of limited use.

Yet the Japanese people are extremely helpful and gracious, even when communications barriers are insurmountable.


We spent most of our first day in Tokyo problem-solving.  We learned that ATMs in Post Offices and 7-11 Stores accepted foriegn bank cards.  We found a reasonable map and learned to ride the subway.

We even found a semi-useful guidebook that had both Japanese and English descriptions of Tokyo’s top sites.  While we can’t claim to understand Tokyo, we did manage to navigate it.

Though it had been a cold spring, the cherry blossoms were just beginning to bloom, bringing thousands of families to Ueno Park. For us, it was a reminder of home.



In 1912, the people of Japan gave hundreds of cherry blossom trees to Washington, DC, as a gesture of goodwill to the American people.  Each April, thousands of tourists come to Washington during cherry blossom season.

Of course we’ve never bothered to visit downtown Washington to see the cherry trees in bloom.  But then, who is a good tourist in their hometown?

Our Tokyo pictures are here.


1 Heather Dowd { 05.01.09 at 10:42 am }

Have a GREAT time in Japan. It is my second home. I taught English in Kyushu for two years. I have people there I still call family.

“Yet the Japanese people are extremely helpful and gracious, even when communications barriers are insurmountable.”

I found this true all the time also. I’m glad you’ve already experienced it.

Other tips: public transport is always on time…don’t be late! Know the words konnichiwa, arigatou, and try to use chopsticks whenever you can…and you’ll get in good with locals.

Food: sushi of course, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, yakisoba, sukiyaki, nabe, and a japanese BBQ (yakiniku).

The cherry blossoms in Kyoto are beautiful…Kyoto is my favorite city in Japan.

Have a great time!

2 Doug Spiro { 05.01.09 at 11:11 am }

I am sure it is much more fun to see the Cherry Blossoms in Japan!

Your pictures are beautiful!

3 ST { 05.01.09 at 11:36 am }

My kinda travel–“no guidebook, no map, no yen, & no clue.”

I’m off to Vegas next week, then in a couple of weeks New Orleans. Shooting trips.

Love to y’all, st

4 rhythm_blues { 05.01.09 at 8:11 pm }

I’ve been enjoying your website for a long time, but haven’t posted before. Heather’s comments made me smile. Japan is OUR second home too! The father of my then-boyfriend, now husband, was transferred to Tokyo when we were in college, so we spent part of 2 summers in Japan with him before moving to Kyushu to teach English after graduating from college. We were in Fukuoka Prefecture. We still go back to Japan regularly and keep in touch with lots of folks.

Have a great time in Japan, and thanks for letting me live vicariously through you. We are considering a family sabbatical in a few years.

5 Heather Dowd { 05.04.09 at 9:16 am }

I was in Kumamoto Prefecture @rhythm_blues on the Amakusa Islands. My host mother was from Fukuoka so I went there a few times to visit her family. Fukuoka city had the best ramen noodles (taste and the experience)!

6 Longhorn Dave { 05.05.09 at 2:27 am }

Tokyo can be a challenge, but is pretty amazing at the same time. I want to go back and do it right.–not at the end of an exahusting business trip like I usually see it.

I see from flickr that you guys are already in Madrid. Can’t believe you are almost home. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

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