Thursday, May 28, 2015
Larry got a cold while in Kyoto, and I got mine the night we left Japan. We can do nothing but recover this week. While I rest and recuperate, I want to highlight my favorite aspects of this wonderful trip of a lifetime.
First and foremost, I tapped into a new level of spirituality there. I knew I was in for an awakening when I saw the baggage handler bow to an approaching limousine bus that would take us to our Tokyo hotel. Did I really witness him bow to a bus? Before departure, the handler came aboard the bus and bowed to us all before returning to ticket bags for the next group. On the super express train to Kamakura, a conductor bowed to us all in the car before entering and turned to bow again before leaving after checking our tickets. I found this behavior fascinating and surprising. Lastly, as we boarded a cable car before rising up a mountain, the attendant bowed as we left and bowed again as we arrived. Everyone bowed to everyone else in this country. I found I began to bow to anyone whose eyes I met or just approached everywhere we went. I really enjoyed feeling respected and offering back respect to complete strangers and new friends alike. Respecting others: what a concept.
Shrines were everywhere. Not only did we visit ancient temples and shrines in Tokyo, Kamakura, Kyoto and Nara, they were on most street corners and popped up everywhere. Shrines were both elaborate and simple, but unmistakable. I found myself bowing as I passed them on the street. While visiting the ancient ones, I made a point of bowing and praying in either Buddhist or Shinto style. I offered my coin, clapped or put my hands together in prayer and bowed in gratitude for the blessings and resources that brought us to this unique and sacred place. Then, I began to pray for a grandchild. When I saw all the written prayers and wishes for hundreds of visitors, I decided it was okay to ask for something too. Taking a moment to pray and be grateful was calming and brought peace to my heart and spirit. I had forgotten about it, and vowed to make a point to do this more once I got home. I lit candles and stopped at the smudging pot to cleanse my spirit at every opportunity. I loved it.
I began turning from eggs for breakfast and started choosing mackerel or salmon with steamed vegetables, rice and miso soup with seaweed for breakfast. I wondered each time I chose these how I would continue to eat this way when we returned home. We were eating enough food and did not overeat. We did not eat much sugar, and drank minimal alcohol during our visit. And, we drank a lot of tea, especially green tea. I felt great. We walked long distances every day, and although my feet and hips hurt at the end of each day, I was happy for the exercise. I felt great the next day and looked forward to more. Our eighty-five-year-old friend, carried a step counter and walked every day. He became my new mentor, and I vowed to get back to a daily walk on returning home. Larry said he would join me. We haven't done this so far, because we are sick and haven't gotten back to normal yet. I still have to go food shopping, and gain energy to spend time outside. I gave myself this week to recover.
I fell in love with heated toilet seats and bum washers. Larry has already researched "Toto" toilet products, and we can purchase seats for our existing toilets. It's just a matter of how much we want to spend for a hardwired version or something simpler. We will definitely purchase at least one for each house. I can't wait. I already miss that warm cozy feeling when I sit on the commode. I do NOT miss those versions in train stations and restaurants that required me to squat. My knees had such a hard time with these. Next time I travel, I'll bring my pee funnel.
I loved learning about the ancient history of the architecture and landscaping in this country. I am not particularly interested in war-related history which pervades all countries. I did find learning about the Shogun and Geisha very interesting, though. They are just different from my historical frame of reference. And, I loved the lettering. Signs were so beautiful. I saw people on subways and trains reading Japanese books from right to left; top to bottom. I could follow their eyes, and smiled to myself. It was just so different. I embraced the differences, and they gave me a healthy perspective on my own way of life.
This new perspective is why I love to travel in the first place. I look for similarities in human behavior, lifestyles and cultures. And, I notice the differences and enjoy learning about them in order to appreciate them. This appreciation allows me to compare life in the United States or my own neighborhood, and choose new tools for my life's "toolbox"; incorporate those behaviors and aspects I like into my own life, or not depending on what it is. Expanding my world view is very important to me. Understanding humanity, growing my spirituality, incorporating variety into my wellness routine are all crucial to my overall good health and happiness.
As long as we can, we will continue to explore the world. Life is much too short. On this trip, I learned that it would serve us well to reduce our stuff, and compact our lives. Less is more, because it allows us to concentrate on inner well being. Everyone we met in Japan smiled, seemed happy, was respectful and lived a full life. These are attributes I am interested in fostering in mine. "Made in Japan" has new meaning for me now, and I am grateful for this new knowledge and understanding.
Thank you to our gracious and generous Japanese friends, and to those strangers (turned new friends) who made our trip most enjoyable. Thank you also to my Facebook friends who followed along with this blog and offered me support and encouragement to keep posting. Arigatou gozaimasu, Oki-ni, and Sayonara.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Yoshino met us in the lobby at 8:30am. We thought we`d beat him for a change, but NO! We took an express train and a couple of buses to the far end of Nara to see Horyuji Temple. It houses the oldest surviving wooden structures in the world, "conveying images of Japan as it existed more than 1,300 years ago." It was magnificent.
Next, we slurped noodles for lunch then got back on a bus to Nara proper. We found a sightseeing taxi and went to the third summit of Wakakusayama where we enjoyed vistas of the city and surrounding mountains. It is said that a god rode a white deer down to the mountain and that`s why the deer remain cared for and roam free all over, including the park in town. They are everywhere, and people sell crackers to feed them. It was really cool. I petted a couple; so did Yoshino.
He also lead us to the top to see the boulder that was the burial place of elite people 1,500 years ago. What a view!
The driver dropped us at Todai-Ji Temple where the biggest Buddha you could ever imagine lives in a gigantic building. It was truly amazing.
We enjoyed our last dinner in Japan in a lovely Nara Chinese restaurant with magnificent views of the city, and headed back on the express train to Kyoto pleasantly exhausted and satisfied in a trip well lived.
Yoshino was a wonderful and generous host. We are so happy we came. Thanks to all who travelled along with us through this blog. Your feedback was very kind. I truly appreciate it. Namaste.
Friday, May 22, 2015
Today was our Ph.D. defense in Kyoto public transportation. We found the local bus that took us southeast of Kyoto Station to the station a short walk up hill to Fushimi Inari Shrine. We never saw such a place.
The shrine is a menagerie of orange gates surrounding small shrines leading to the thousand gates. The gates have so many levels, all up hill, that we gave up before reaching the top on Mt. Inari. It didn`t matter. What we saw was magnificent.
A small group of uniform-clad school girls lead by their teacher asked us if we would speak English with them. I got them to say, "Go Red Sox!" It was precious. We took pictures of each other and continued on our respective ways.
We found our way back to the train station and figured out the stop closest to Sanjusangendo. This is a temple that houses "the thousand armed Kannon": a thousand, golden, multi-armed gods with 28 soldier gods in front and a huge Shiva-like god in the middle. It was incredible. No photographs allowed. We had to remove our shoes. The building is the longest wooden building in Japan. I lit a candle and said a prayer there.
We got a curry lunch, then boarded another train that took us to the furthest northern part of the city. There we walked to the Kyoto Handicraft Center. I was able to completely finish my souvenir shopping there.
After disembarking the train at what we thought was the closest station to Kyoto Station, we got lost. We were hot, tired and had aching lower halfs. It was not close, and we kept turning around until we got past buildings that blocked the Sky Tower, our landmark. GEEZ.
Yoshino flew in so we met him for dinner. Tomorrow he has big plans to show us Nara: home of the largest Buddha and the oldest temple. Stay tuned. It`s our last day of vacation. We can`t believe it.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
We took a fun and interesting half-day city bus tour including Nijo Castle, Golden Pavilion and the Imperial Palace. Our local guide, Yumi, was a little Japanese Ever-ready Bunny. Keeping up with her orange pom-pom amidst the crowds of tours and school children was challenging. But, it was a beautiful, warm day.
Nijo Castle was built in 1603, and was the home of the first Shogun.
Yumi lead use through the many halls with differently painted ornate ceilings. She described how the Shogun lived and used each room. All rooms had murals painted on every wall. Some murals were meant to portray power, others peacefulness. This was his temporary residence. His wife lived in Tokyo. The entire building was constructed out of Japanese Cypress. It had a Nightingale Floor that squeaked like a bird to warn against Ninja attack. It was plainly beautiful; not loudly painted or ornate.
Next we visited the exquisite Golden Pavilion. This is a lovely building covered in gold leaf. It sits in the middle of a beautiful pond with gardens that "borrow from nature", meaning it uses existing landscape features in the planning of its gardens. It is a beautiful place.
Lastly, we were escorted through the grounds of the Imperial Palace. We walked all around the outside of the buildings and the garden with the same landscape style as the Golden Pavilion in that it "borrowed from nature": tall trees symbolize mountains, pond symbolizes ocean, rocks symbolize the beach. It is beautiful and peaceful.
When we returned from the tour, we walked to To-ji Temple. It was the Shogun`s home, and his birthday was on the 21st of May. So, on May 21st every year, the public is invited to the grounds to hold a huge flea market. We got there late, but it was very much a flea market like any other, just more Japanesey. We had fun.
Legs, hips and feet were killing us, but I wanted a drink. There was an Irish pub outside Kyoto Station, do we dropped in. It was like Cheers bar in Boston. We chatted with foreigners from Canada and the US who now live and work here. It was great. We made new friends and hobbled out smiling. It was a great end to a lovely day.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Mayumi met us promptly in the hotel lobby and whisked us off in a taxi to Tokyo Station. She gave us our bullet train tickets, paid for the taxi, and waited with us until it was time to board the train.
She met our friend, Yoshino, the first day we arrived and spoke with him. Now she was curious to know more about him. We spent the time Googling him and looking at the pictures I took of our time with him. We spent a little too much time on this, so we rushed to our train car. She waited in line with us to make sure we got to our seats.
As the train pulled out, there she was waving and bowing until we were out of sight. Talk about excellent service. She earned her tip and was grateful. While we road this super express train to Kyoto, she contacted our new guide, Michiko, with details about what we wanted for lunch and shopping preferences.
Michiko was right there when we exited the train. She is also very nice and 28 years ago, lived in Worcester, MA for four years! She asked what kind of lunch we wanted and took us immediately to her favorite Japanese restaurant in Kyoto Station, where our hotel resides.
While we waited for food, she reviewed the portfolio of information she created for us about the city, shopping and sites to enjoy. Once again, we were treated like royalty by a very friendly, efficient and happy woman. She left us to eat on our own and returned to escort us to our hotel.
Good thing she did too. Kyoto Station is a city in and of itself! She also escorted us to the pickup hotel for our Maiko dinner theater experience tonight and our half-day tour of the city tomorrow. Then she showed us where the ramen noodle "street" was. Yes, there is an indoor street of many little restaurants from every region of Japan that serve ramen.
So many choices; so little time.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
We got some good rest yesterday, and ate fairly light this morning. Even without dinner last night, we have felt full. We are learning about eating enough and not too much. What a concept!
It was back to New Hotel Otani for pick-up and delivery to the bus terminal for our day-long tour. What a day it was! Our guide, Nana-san, was a pure delight. My only regret is she was always in silhouette so I never got a good picture of her. She was beautiful inside and out. We were cared for, entertained and educated. It was really fun. She began by singing us a greeting song to the tune of Happy Birthday. Her voice was lovely.
Nana-san was concerned the weather was not good for seeing Mount Fuji or much else along the ride, so she came well prepared. She rigged a way to hang homemade posters in the aisle of how the mountain is layered; how the crater is layed out with shrines and hiking trails, and pictures of the mountain. She passed around prints of Mt. Fuji paintings and wood prints, and introduced us to the Mt. Fuji song created by the friction of the bus tires on the road. The song is different going up and coming down. We learned about Japan history, how rice is grown and the Japanese language. She had a song for everything! We sang along as we learned to count to ten.
We stopped for a delicious Japanese lunch at a nice hotel. The layered sections of sashimi, tempura and other delights were served in a gourd-shaped thingy. It was really delicious.
The weather in Hakone and on Lake Ashi was so bad they shut down the vernicular to the top of a smaller mountain and the boat cruise. Instead she rearranged the same events on a different mountain and on Lake Kowaguchiko. It was a wonderful experience with spectaular views of Mount Fuji. The sun came out and it was a lovely, warm afternoon.
Because the tour advertized Hakone and Lake Ashi, Nana-san felt compelled to take us there anyway. It became a welcome bathroom break.
She made sure we had all our connecting train tickets, and printed everything out for each family. She was thorough, efficient, kind, funny and sweet.
We have not tipped one person since we came here. The guide books encouraged it, but Yoshino said "no tipping anybody". We discovered it is really not expected. Nana-san was not offered a tip by anyone, but Larry and I wanted to tip her. I asked her politely to please accept the gratuity with our gratitude for all her hard work. She was flustered, but thanked us. It was awkward.
We tip way too much in America. Just saying... people here take pride in providing excellent service, and it is enough. Imagine that.
Monday, May 18, 2015
This was the first day on our own. After only a couple hours sleep, we had a lighter breakfast and left for The New Hotel Otani to be picked up. I can`t believe I`m eating Mackeral; steamed carrots, turnip and squash, and curry with vegetables over rice porridge for breakfast. I really like it.
We used the maps that our local guide, Mayumi, provided last Friday to find our way to the hotel. We arrived a little early, so we made a preventive bathroom run. We came out to find a Page carrying a sign reading "Mr. Larry Gardner" on it. I didn`t think I took that long!
As we approached the pick up area again, an Indian woman was firmly saying, "I think you should be more sensitive. I must get something for my baby from my room!" She was most annoyed with a young man we were being directed towards. We thought these were our only tour mates. Oh God, was all that went through my mind. Is this how the day will go? The man was in fact in charge of pickup and needed to get us moving as there were three more hotels to stop and pickup more attendees before delivering us to the bus terminal for our tour.
The terminal was chaos. We finally got in the right line and on our bus. The local guide was a professional young woman with a thick Japanese accent and an annoyingly high quality to her voice. Her speach and instructions for the day were somewhat patronizing and repetitive. "You will call me (Name I can`t remember)-sam. You will only call the driver, Driver-san because that is his job, and only speak to him in Japanese." Such was her humor and the tone for our half-day tour. The screaming baby with the smelly diaper that clearly annoyed her, and almost broke my eardrum when his daddy brought him behind us so the guide could talk was a test of all our resolves.
Tokyo Tower looked like an orange Eiffel Tower. We were escorted to the highest enclosed observation platform, 333 meters high. The views were magnificent, but I couldn`t hear a word the guide said. She practically ran ahead of us all morning, creating a stressful atmosphere and always began talking when she arrived whether the rest of us were there or not. Needless to say, we did not tip her. But, we got great shots of Tokyo from above. The observation floor just below us provided scary but really cool views through the floor to the ground way down there.
The Imperial Palace was closed, and we were escorted around the outside garden along the streets. "There are the two and three-story watch towers, but you can`t go into the palace grounds, so you`ll have to come back on either December 23rd or January 2nd(the Emperor`s birthday) when you can meet him and the Empress. They will stand behind bullet-proof glass on a platform above you and give a five-minute speach five times a day." Really? I think not, bitch. Why was this on our tour, we thought?
Our favorites were sites we planned to visit on our own because the Sanja spring festival was this past weekend and we couldn`t attend: Asakusa Shrine and the Nakamise Shopping Street between its sacred gates touting an experience from the Edo period (Tokyo`s old name).
Again, our guide was useless but she did help me auickly find my good fortune paper when I shook out a stick from a metal fortune-providing tube. And, she directed us to the entrance of the shrine. When we approached the inner sanctum, we were turned away by the monk. Our guide sealed her no-tip fate.
The building and concomitant shopping experience, complete with smudging station, were worth it though. I prayed, smudged, and prayed again. My cup of tea. But, we needed iced coffee, so we found a lovely cafe to rest our weary bones and aching feet; eat rice dishes and rest a while. The young wait staff were friendly, kind and spoke enough English to make our virgin excursion into unescorted Japan a joy.
We also did some shopping. The sweet older women with no English, but kind faces, nice smiles and helpful, patient hearts assisted me in buying a few souvenirs.
We found our own way back to a train station and through the subway maze to our hotel. We crashed at 1:30 pm and never left our room to eat again. We are just that tired. The best layed plans...
It was still a good day, and tomorrow we`re off to Mount Fuji.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
My first attempt at describing this amazing day wouldn`t publish. I guess it`s too long. Since sleep continues to elude me, I`ll try again.
The Tokyo subway system is an absolute underground maze. We took several trains and buses and finally emerged at our destination an hour away. We were off to see the Great Buddha.
On the way, we came upon what Yoshino called "the ladies shrine". It was a temple created by the first chief nun, widow of a Shogun, in 1285 as a refuge for battered women. The law did not provide women the ability to divorce, but they could get one after living here three calendar years. It is nicknamed "The Divorce Temple". Chanting permeated the air along with birdsong and peace was my only feeling here. It is also a huge cemetary built along a hill with paths and stone steps framing Zen gardens and small monuments. It is just lovely.
We found a cute restaurant where we slurped Soba noodles and ate tempura. The toilet was Japanese-style: very low to the ground. Luckily there was a rail to use and hold myself over it. My knees couldn`t do the job.
We walked to Kencho-Ji Temple next. It is a compound of beautiful old Japanese architecture with a Buddha in every building. The most disturbing one was "Fasting Buddha". It resembled Starving Buddha to us with exposed ribs and a gaunt, sad face.
Here we made a 500 yen ($5) requested charitable donation for the victims of the recent earthquake and "accident" to experience a tea ceremony. Little girl apprentices to lovely Geisha served us and taught us how to drink tea. Everybody drinks green tea that is earthy tasting; an acquired taste.
Then I was invited by an older woman to learn simple flower arranging. It was a memorable visit where I felt respected and cared for. Did I say how much I love the bowing?
We went next to Kamakura Shrine where people leave prayers and wishes. We watched a lovely traditional wedding. People prefer getting married at shrines. Tourists took pictures of this very intimate looking event. On our way out, we met another party parading to the pagoda. I bowed and they smiled back.
The Great Buddha was beautiful. We washed our hands in the appointed watering place before entering the grounds. The gardens everywhere were spectacular! I bowed and prayed as I did at each site in thanks and gratitude. I passed on paying 20 yen to walk inside the Buddha, though. It just seemed wrong.
Our glorious day left us hot, exhausted and my feet "bahkin`". So we ended with delicious Chinese food. We`ll not see Yoshino again until Friday when he will once again play tour guide.
We`re taking a bus tour of the city today as our first official tour. I haven`t had much sleep. Time for an espresso.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Dr. Kouichi Yoshino was a Spectroscopist with Harvard University at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA where we all worked. His wife, Shisuko, was a Librarian. She was born a city girl in Tokyo and he was a country boy far outside that city. His parents eventually moved there.
They lived in a Cape-style house in Lexington, MA. That house was jam-packed full of furniture, papers, books and "stuff". He retired after I did about 2008. They decided to move back to Japan, but keep the Lexington house for their three adult children to use, and to stay in when they returned to MA to attend classical concerts at Marlboro College and Tanglewood.
In 2011, they sold that house. I asked him how they let go of and got rid of all that stuff. In Tokyo, they live simply in a tiny two-bedroom apartment smaller than our original summer cottage in Tiverton, RI, for those who knew it. They moved a few pieces of furniture to Tokyo including the Form `N Teak (a furniture store in Lexington) table and chairs, a leather loveseat, a couple off large stereo speakers and a lovely grandfather clock. They left the rest for their children to dispose of.
But, at the behest of those children, they personally eliminated the office of papers and wall-to-wall shelves of books and the National Geographic collection back to 1950. The kids threw away lots and put a "free" sign on the rest in the front yard. Yoshino touted the power of the "free" sign to us with a smile.
They talked to us about "the Japanese way" of living quite a bit. This included the use of many small dishes for food, and a bathing room. This room with a door is attached to an entry room with a large sink and an all-in-one washer/dryer unit and contains a covered tub complete with wall inset tiny TV. After showering, they soak in the tub to get warm. They change the water every two days. Interesting.
I`ve talked about the Toto toilets. Theirs also contains a faucet on the tank for washing your hands after. No need for a separate sink, and it is in its own small room. The entry hallway has a little stool to sit on to remove your shoes. They provided us with slippers at the door, and flip flops to go out on the balconies of which there were two, also small.
Shisuko grows potted plants on their balconies. For shading, she grows a climbing Goya plant on a trellis on the East balcony, and climbing Morning Glories on a slanted trellis on the West balcony off Yoshino`s bedroom. She has her own small room off the living area.
They have no need of a car. The transportation system in Tokyo is excellent, and they walk everywhere. Yoshino carries a step counter.
Yoshino loves to watch Sumo Wrestling on TV as does his wife. I got into loudly reacting to those huge slamming, almost naked bodies myself, and they got a good laugh from it. He organized and basically runs an online Society of people who travel between Japan and Boston. Shisuko loves to shop and soak in the many hot springs around the area. They seem to be very playful and happy as a couple, and had no problem letting go and cutting back their lifestyle. There is a lesson here.
When we first met on this trip and I gave Yoshino a big, boistrous hug, he said, "You haven`t changed." He was smiling. I replied, "Why would I?" He is also the same friend I remembered from work, and his smaller life is no less full. I must keep this in mind as we contemplate downsizing eventually.
We got a decent night`s sleep and got up about 5:30 am. After figuring out the machine and making espresso in our room, we showered and went down to an included buffet breakfast. There was a wide and varied buffet we enjoyed very much. The kiwi fruit was ripe and delicious to boot. I can never find a decent kiwi at home.
Our friend, Yoshino, was waiting for us in the lobby when we came down. It was rainy but warm and humid. Thus began our orientation to Tokyo public transportation at the Nagatacho subway station.
He explained where and how to go each step of the way (and there were many), but by the time we left in the evening, he decided to escort us on the bus and subway as far as his free pass would get him and leave us to travel the remaining two stops on our own. Thank goodness. I couldn`t remember any of his instructions from the morning.
We began by exploring a very posh shopping mall in Ginza complete with Prada, Louis Vutton and the rest. I thought my sister, Jeanne, and friend, Nancy, would enjoy the experience more than I did. In the basement were all the food stalls. Larry got some candied ginger, his favorite.
Next, we headed to the fish market area. This is what I picture when I think of Tokyo: narrow streets of food stalls, household goods and people jammed together like in a sardine can; trying to politely manuever our way to his favorite sushi restaurant. It was great.
We waited on a bench in the pedestrian street for our turn, and eventually were escorted to seats at the counter. The chefs were so fun, yelling out "Welcome!" in Japanese (nobody spoke English, but everyone was friendly, smiled and bowed out of respect). I love all the bowing. I can`t remember any Japanese, but I bow and smile right back. It seems to work well.
We ate many things I never had before like little bait fish with eyes and salmon roe (I really liked them), drank sake and laughed a lot. I realized I`ve never been to a real sushi restaurant before. This was the perfect place to break that cherry.
After lunch we headed in the direction of his apartment via his daily walking route along the Arakawa River to the locks. We meandered through little neighborhoods we`d never see on a tour, patting a little Maltese puppy along the way while its owner kept saying in a little voice (for the dog), "Arigato!", just like all us dog owners do.
My watch died during the night, so Yoshino took it to a local place for a battery while his wife greeted us outside their apartment on the eighth floor. She insisted on the top floor so they`d be the top pancake if the building collapsed in an earthquake. Their building shook quite badly four years ago, but escaped undamaged. Instead of heading under the kitchen table, Yoshino stood holding their grandfather clock to keep it safe. Incredible.
Shisuko served us cake, water and green tea while we enjoyed Sumo wrestling on TV. Did you ever watch this? I was mesmerized. In between, she brought me out to their balcony to explain the neighborhood. Her whole family lives there. They are so happy to be back and don`t miss living in the States one bit. They have everything they need in easy walking distance. Then she went to pick up my watch.
A little after 5:00 pm, we walked to a local restaurant that Yoshino explained was informal and cheap. There, Shosuko introduced us to fried, skewered chicken bones and skins. I didn`t care for either, but tried them to be polite. We had other, tastier fare, thank goodness. Families soon arrived to sit in low-to-the-floor tables on pillows after removing their shoes and placing them on the racks for that purpose. We sat in the section next to it that didn`t require us to sit shoeless. It was charming. We all bowed to the staff in thanks on the way out to the street. Shosuko returned home and Yoshino escorted us most of the way back to make sure we returned safely to our hotel.
It was a lovely day and we look forward to his taking us to Kawamura tomorrow. Larry is already snoring beside me, and I`m ready at 8:30 pm to turn in. Sayonara!
Friday, May 15, 2015
Apparently, travelling west over 6,700 miles at 1:30pm is a great time to leave. There was no line to get through security, and arriving in Tokyo at 4pm the next day also means no lines to get through customs. So far everyone is friendly, and provides efficient, fast service.
Our plane was very modern and comfortable in economy with impressive liquid crystal windows instead of shades. We had personal TVs with headsets and blankies. We got free alcohol and they fed us very well. I watched many of the academy-award nominated movies I never got to see during our 13-hour flight: Kingsman: The Secret Service, Still Alice, Birdman, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything.
After breezing through customs, we found our way to the airport limousine bus service for an hour and a half bus ride to our hotel. We were not only met by our friend, Yoshino, but our very friendly local guide, Myumi. We were very surprised to learn we are the only members on our tour. We feel very special indeed.
Both Myumi and Yoshino gave us a briefing of our itinerary, and then we adjourned to our very small, but very Japanese room. It is complete with paper-looking slide window shade panels and bum-washer toilet seat. Yoshino made a point of warning us about the Japanese toilets. It can be shocking if your not prepared for the very precise aim of the spray. Hilarious!
We are wiped out. Larry napped a bit, but I got no sleep at all. We are crashed in our room with a TV that has nothing to watch, literally. We must get some rest to meet Yoshino at 9:30am tomorrow. It is supposed to rain half a day, so he`ll take us for sushi at the fish market, then to his apartment. His building is owned by relatives and is on a small river. He wants to show us his daily walk which is 3,000 steps.
Sayonara for tonight, Friends.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
All our house-sitting/dog-sitting arrangements have been made. Thanks to four of my wonderful sisters! Now I can let go of those worries. On our way to Logan Airport, we picked up our son at his office, and he dropped us off at Terminal E.
We breezed through checkin and security; bought a couple of inflatable neck pillows for our non-stop flight; water and a nice thank you bottle of single malt for our friend, Yoshino, who will greet us at our hotel in Tokyo.
Now, we wait at our gate to board the 13+ hour flight. I`m a little nervous. Larry is reading a travel tips manual for Japan he downloaded on his Kindle. I just need to breathe.
We`ve never been to a country where we can`t read the alphabet. But, that`s the beauty of smart phones with translation apps, right?
We are so happy Yoshino will get us oriented for two days before our tour starts. And, he`ll be with us again the day before we leave for home. Ok. I`m getting excited now.