As far as I know, there are no direct flights from Vietnam to LA. You can stop in Hong Kong, Taipei, Bangkok, Incheon (Seoul) or Tokyo (Narita). Since we had to stop somewhere anyway, we decided to make it Narita and also fit some in some sightseeing in Japan. When I went to Japan 4 years ago, I learned about Goodwill Guides, free tour guides who are generally students, housewives or retirees who volunteer to show foreigners around Japan. For our short 8 hour layover in Narita, I emailed the Kashiwa Goodwill Guide Association and luckily, we found out that Kamiyama-san was available to show us around.
Kamiyama-san picked us up from the airport and took us on a quick cultural immersion experience. Our first stop was the Narita Wholesale Market. It’s actually three markets: a seafood market, produce market, and pre-packaged food/supplies market. Our focus was mainly on the seafood market since our quick layover was too short for us to visit the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. Although we were there at 8:30am, the wholesale market was already winding down so we took a quick glance, bought some coffee using a Japanese vending machine (which, by the way, is much cooler than American vending machines), and had some sashimi at a restaurant by the market. When Kamiyama-san told the restaurant proprietress that we were visiting from America, she wrapped some of her delicately-made origami art and gave those to us.
Our next stop was Naritasan. After parking the car, we walked along Omotesando Road to the entrance of the Shinshoji Temple. The Buddhist temple was stunning and consisted of several buildings in the compound. We were lucky enough to experience a special ceremony that was performed by the monks and my purse was even held over the fire to be blessed during the proceedings. The temple complex adjacent to Naritasan Park, which is showing beautiful colors in this weather.
After Naritasan, we headed to a conveyor belt sushi place for lunch. I have to admit that I was initially not thrilled about going to a “fast food” sushi place but the whole experience was eye opening. Although we have conveyor sushi places in the US, those only have one rotating belt with plates. The restaurant in Japan also had an upper belt for special food delivery items, which can be ordered using a touch screen above the table. Within a couple of minutes of each order, our food was sent down the upper belt straight to our table.
I love Japanese technology. Although our stay in Japan was short, we were able to catch a glimpse of the country and experienced the hospitality of the people.