We left Sapporo very early to catch our 7:30am flight to Haneda. Since the New Chitose airport was more than 1 hour ride by car we hired a taxi to get there. The taxi arrived at the hotel at 5am. We were a little worried if we would have enough time to check in at the airport. However, there was nothing to worry about our lateness for checking in since the airport itself opened after 6am (the hotel clerk said 6:20am). LeIndeed, when we arrived there a little after 6am the airport was still closed. But, the guard-people at the airport opened the gate as they saw many people waiting at the door. The checking-in process was swift and soon we waited for the boarding for our flight in the lobby after picking up breakfast at the airport store. The ubiquitous Japanese morning service set at the store (a sandwich, etc. + coffee/tea, etc.) was a good deal.
Everything more or less went well (except for a momentary scare during the taxi ride when the driver went slightly astray on a deserted highway after nodding for a few minutes; it was my husband who was sitting next to the driver that called out the dangerous driving – though the driver said it was caused by strong winds). But I have to say this: getting up at 3am to catch a flight again misaligned my bio-rhythm. At the New Chitose Airport we said good-bye to one of our grown children who had to go back to the US to satisfy an extremely demanding work/training schedule.
We arrived at Haneda before 10am and took a taxi to Le Daiba, a hotel in Daiba, immediately across from the iconic architecture of Fuji TV station designed by Kenzo Tange. My head was a little foggy from the lack of sleep. We discussed our plan for the day while having coffee and cakes in the hotel café/restaurant and decided to visit the Science Museum, Mirai Kan (The Museum for Tomorrow). We checked out luggage at the hotel and headed to the Museum in a free shuttle bus that circulates on Daiba (Japanese call it Odaiba). When we arrived at the museum there was a long line to purchase the tickets. The place was filled with people, mostly children, probably because it was Sunday. As we waited on the line, I heard the announcement that there would be 1 and a half hour wait after purchasing one’s ticket. So we decided to go back to the hotel to rest.
Our hotel rooms, from whose windows the blue sea of Tokyo Bay was seen, were spacious (particularly compared with the Sapporo hotel), comfortable and nicely decorated. After resting for a few hours my husband and I decided to visit AquaCity which is a conglomerate of entertainment, shopping centers and restaurants. (The other of our grown children who planned to spend time together with a friend who had been staying in Tokyo area did not accompany us.) We had a late lunch at a hand-made soba (buckwheat noodle) and kushi-yaki(grilled skewered vegetables and meat) restaurant. In the restaurant there was a large extended family (as I analyzed them the old parents and the oldest-son couple were farmers) that was finishing up their lunch. I found their interpersonal dynamic rather fascinating – I know it might be a little rude to do so; nevertheless I tend to make such observations. After lunch we visited Sony Explorers Center which was full of families with children.
Daiba might strike some people as kitschy with its miniature Statue of Liberty, man-made beach, a giant Ferris wheel and illuminated parks. However, I think Daiba is in many ways an interesting place to visit for sociologists: it shows aspirations of the Japanese people. On the whole, Japan caters to the middle-class as opposed to the upper-middle or upper-class people of the society. For example, the price range of many things, starting from restaurant food, is quite wide, satisfying people of many different economic levels. And within this middle-class Japan (despite a recent social tendency to economic disparity) Daiba seems to show the future of Japanese society. In this visit (I have visited Daiba several times before) what I noticed most was a number of families, mostly a nuclear families, in which fathers were taking care of the very young children. (In the past, the caretakers of the very young were almost always mothers.) Since there were so many fathers holding babies no father seemed embarrassed. I suppose this might be a phenomenon in a big city like Tokyo; but I suspect this trend will spread further onto the other places in Japan.