Walt, Lisa, and I arrived in Tokyo on a Sunday afternoon in late October. The day was warm and overcast...warmer, it seemed, than the wet morning we had left behind in Hawaii.

We managed to successfully maneuver our baggage onto the Narita Express train and then onto the Yamanote line which was a bit more of a challenge because although trains on that line have many cars and run frequently, they are always packed with people from the first train of the day to the last. I always enjoy seeing what Japanese women are wearing, and the crowd didn't disappoint. Shorts worn with colored and patterned stockings and boots were in vogue along with a wide variety of neck adornments.

The next challenge was navigating our way through Ikebukuro Station, the second largest train station in Tokyo. After the laid-back sometimes maddingly polite manner of people in Hawaii, negotiating Japanese crowds is a bit of an adjustment. If you aren't somewhat assertive, the crowd will just swarm around you. You can't wait for it to thin out, because somehow it just never does.

Darkness had fallen by the time we emerged onto the busy street. Ahhhhh.....the surreal madness of Tokyo.....the lights, the traffic, the noise, the crush of people. The hotel was a 15 minute walk from the station through the busy streets, and although exhaustion was setting in, I savored every moment. Then we took a couple of quick turns, and it was suddenly quiet. We had arrived.

During our 7 week stay in Tokyo in 2005, we rented a small apartment through a company called Sakura House which specializes in providing various sorts of accommodations for foreigners. We appreciate their no frills, affordable approach, so we began our visit with a 5 night stay at the Sakura Hotel in Ikebukuro in a Japanese style room. When I thought about the Japanese style pillows I have experienced that are seemingly filled with tiny rocks, I wasn't sure that this was a wise choice, but the alternative for 3 people was a room with a twin bed and a bunk bed.

As it turned out, our room was rather large by Japanese standards. In addition to the 3 futons spread out on the tatami mats, there was a large low table. Unfortunately, there were only 2 low chairs with backs, but they were quite comfortable. The window opened out onto another building which was almost close enough to touch. It took a moment to find the toilet, which was in its own little room. There was also a shower room with a short but deep bathtub. Here are some pictures of the room.

After a quick dinner in the Sakura Cafe across the street and some cans of beer from the convenience store, we happily collapsed on our futons.