Saturday, May 16, 2015

Day with Yoshino

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!

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