Three hour flight to Seoul, five hour layover; two hour flight to Tokyo, six hour layover; fifteen hour flight to Newark. Sigh...Such was the limitation of frequent flier miles and basically, our return trip would last over 30 hours. Did I mention I am an incomparable planner?
My mother took one glance at our itinerary and told me I was crazy. She adamantly refused to spend two whole days in transit/airports and demanded that we "break" the traveling by spending the weekend in Japan. Not Tokyo, she was very specific about this, but Kyoto.
An ambassador's daughter, my mother had spent ample time studying at Sophia University in her youth. In fact, my earliest stories from Japan were her depictions of fat, drunken Japanese men haunting the Tokyo metro late at night, grabbing young girls in their supposed stupor, and flashing them. It was quite traumatic for my aunts. When they got to my mother, she unleashed her secret weapon: the sharpened end of a safety pin. Regardless of where she pierced, they never bothered her again.
So the technological fascinations of Tokyo held very little appeal for her (although it did for me). The decision was made: to extend our "stop-over" to the historical and cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto.
First step was buying tourist bullet train passes from abroad, as they were extravagantly expensive in the country. Nevertheless, they nearly broke my budget at $400 per person for 3 days ($800 total and the tourism bureau assured me it was a bargain).
Then storage of our over-sized, month-long suitcases at Narita Airport. Remember, these were still bulging with multi-weather attire and boxes of Ritz Crackers, Fig Newtons, and Oreo cookies that we transported from the States, "just in case" my mother's stomach could not tolerate foreign food. Well, my mother tolerated the spice of kimchi, latong kalasa of Singapore, and dumplings from Malaysia just fine. We wound up dragging everything back, and I was down over $100 for 3 days storage!
Of course, we had to locate a suitable hotel, since my mother would not brave youth hostels. We found a bargain on Agoda.com, $400 for three nights, but it was limited to smoking rooms only.
So our spontaneous, adventurous foray into the legendary lands of geisha and samurai had not yet begun, and I was worrying about my wallet. We were on the last leg of our journey to the Far East, not many places accepted credit cards, and no, dummy that I was, I did not use an ATM card. I didn't even have a passcode.
Did I mention I was running out of cash?
(To be continued...)