Arriving in Tokyo a day ahead of any official events of the AJC mission was godsend. From the smooth cocooned flight in a United 747 upper level (watched four movies, read 3 New Yorkers–and am still behind!–and wrote a little, very little) to airport bus to the lovely Imperial Hotel, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, it was an easy, albeit long, trip over. Weather warm and sunny by day, pleasant at night.

Last time we were in Tokyo was 2003 en route to the Amy-Jonathan wedding in Beijing. It was the summer of SARS in China, we’d blocked out two weeks, and decided they didn’t need us more than one. Where else to go? Jonathan suggested other spots in China, but we decided “not this year,” so we stopped in Japan. We had a nice time both here and in Kyoto then and vowed to return. Never thinking it would be three days with AJC, but some day we hope to get to other, non-city areas. Probably not the best time for that this year. The people we’ve talked to seem resilient and happy, but, again, we’re in Tokyo, where the suffering was minimal. There are signs all over about conserving energy and earthquake relief charities.

Those of you who followed my Beijing Olympic blog know that I’m obsessed with having a child live in a place where going to a public restroom is a source of angst and apprehension. Not so in Tokyo! First of all, Japan is SO much cleaner than China in general. You feel you can eat off the bathroom floors of the trains. In China you don’t even want to go to the bathrooms on the trains. And Japan has Toto (toilets), with features that offer both sanitary and pleasurable features.

Toto control panel's visual demos of its features

Eli and I pride ourselves on getting around independently when we travel. Yesterday we were determined to beat the jet lag of arriving mid-afternoon by trying to stay up until a reasonable hour at night. So, we put in a little swimming pool time, then got out on the streets and stopped for a light snack dinner at a street restaurant nearby. It worked; we got a normal night’s sleep and felt great this morning!

Today we did a ton of walking, including to the famed Tsukiji Fish Market area. Although the wholesale market and auction aren’t officially open on Sundays, there were a number of vendors doing business, and we managed to find a great place for lunch. One of us loves sushi, and the other made do with a tempura vegies and a tamago (egg) negiri.

Eli at sushi bar--history is made!

Tonight the AJC mission kicked off with dinner at the beautiful synagogue and educational center of the Tokyo Jewish Community. Several expat board members (American, Israeli, Canadian) joined us, and Eli and I were privileged to sit with Rabbi Antonio di Gesù, a Sicilian-born gay Jew by choice who was ordained at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and served a congregation on Long Island for several years before coming to Japan.

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