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Archive for October, 2007

Left Aizu at 9.12am on the red train to Koriyama. Got kicked out of the reserve compartment so had to move to the unreserved carriage…well, I don’t read Japanese so had no idea it was reserved seating only.

Caught the Shinkasen at Koriyama. While waiting for this bullet train, a train passed by at full speed. Omigod! the noise was terrifying as it passed by!

When I got to Tokyo station there were signs to Narita Express, the train that I had to take to get to the airport. SOmetimes I lose the signs and had to ask. I met a lady from Sendai which is a town in the next prefecture (county) who had been in the uS for 30 years and now coming back to Japan. I told her that i was going to send Lucy to an international school in her town and she said she lived next to the school and that Lucy could stay with her. People are so nice here and polite too.

 I had to go deep into the bowels of the earth – three escalators down. Then when I got to the platform, I was still nervous about climbing onto the wrong train, but I soon found out that the electronic signs changes from Japanese to English every few seconds and it matches the ticket – train number, times etc. So that was ok. Once we got to Narita, it is the second stop I needed for the international departures and I had to go up five escalators (I think). Checking was easy and then I went to eat sushi for lunch at the sushi boat. lovely!

I am back for just over a  week. I arrived home the same day at 10 am but the flight to Reno was delayed two hours. Then we had a rip roaring flight from SF to reno . The plane was just landing when a gust of strong wind started rocking the plane and we were about 50 to 100 feet from the ground when the plane wings started tipping back and forth and bouncing around. Everyone was so quiet but I was screaming inside! So the pilot took off again. i could not believe it but we ended in Sacramento!! We had to wait for almost two hours ont he tarmac. They fuelled up and then just as we were about to take off the pilot said we are too heavy so they had to throw away some suit cases from the cargo!! everyone was craning their necks to see if it was their suit cases on the tarmac!!. finally, we took off and had a bit of a bumpy ride but we made it at about 8 pm!! We took off about 3.30pm from San Fran. Then there was a big accident on hi way 80 and that delayed us some more. By then I was starving but all the restaurants we went to in truckee were closed! It wasn’t Halloween yet already??!!

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Lucy the Lost Oct 28th

We dropped Lucy off at the airport in Fukushima. She called to let us know that she was in Sapporo and the bus she took from the airport to her school had dropped her off at a place she did not recognise. I said what do you mean? And she said it is in the middle of no where. I asked her to ask someone where it was (like she knows enough Japanese to even strike up a conversation!) but she said there was no one around!! Omigod! We were 500 miles away and felt so helpless. She did not have her school address in Japanese, nor did she have the dorm parents’ phone number.  What if she had taken the wrong bus and was several hundred miles away from her school? After lots of phone calls back and forth, she finally said she found a tram line after much walking, dragging her suitcase and carrying her big back pack. Thank goodness for tramlines. So she hopped on the tram and headed to her usual stop.  The bus had dropped her off several miles too early. I was also thankful that i had her flight changed from evening to and early morning one. Imagine if she had gotten lost in the dark!

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Moving Room Oct 27th

Dave got up early (too hot in the room) and went off running in the rain. We had  breakfast on the 12th floor of this hotel – the Washington Hotel. Smoked salmon, eggs, shredded green and purple cabbage salad, toasts, porridge and pickles galore.

We went to the small laundromat nearby – big machines that will wash and dry the clothes and then ring your cell phone to tell you that your washing is done!!

It got too warm in the room and there is no fresh air coming in so I went and asked to move to a room with windows. Fortunately, the girl at the front desk understood me and moved us down the hallway to another Tatami room, with two windows that open to the outside yaya!!!! I actually do not like this Japanese style room. My back hurts sitting on the floor to type this blog and the mat sort of smells a little of straw and when you first walk into the closed room, it does not smell too fresh. The fact that one can open the windows is a luxury in itself!! Dave always sent me to complain and i bet the front desk people hate me. 

We rented a car for tomorrow – have to take Lucy to Fukushima Airport. We don’t know where to ask for the bus timetable so we rented the car instead. She has to be there by 8am. We managed to get the rental car person to program the navigation system to take us to the airport. I hope it is to the correct airport…sigh….

It has been raining for more than 24 hours. I hope there are no floodings and no typhoons for Lucy in Sapporo.  

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We took the Yamanote Line from the hotel in Shibuya to Tokyo during rush hour. It was insane!! This morning it was like the umbrella brigade – every suited man and woman was wielding a brolly. It rained for the first time since we arrived – thank goodness for that, because we are leaving Tokyo.

Yesterday we walked round the Imperial Palace in Tokyo city. When the train spits us out at the station, and this is true at every station, we gawked around wondering which exit to take for there were A LOT of exits. People are kind and polite here, so when u asked they will always point you to the right exit. We could see glimpses of the palace roof but we cannot actually walk about on the grounds where the royalties live. There is an area called the East Garden where we strolled and just enjoyed the day. It was nice and sunny and cool.

 

After the palace, we went back to Shibuya to check out Tower Records. I read that they have lots of English Books and magazines and Lucy wanted to see if she could find something to read.  The exit you need is the Hachiko Exit and this is the main shopping area. Still, we needed to ask several times before we found Tower Records, all 7 stories of it! I read all the gossip magazines that I could lay my hands off and for a change, the magazines were not all bound and sealed in plastic!

 

Dinner was  a hamburger at Mickey D’s. It was lovely after all the noodles and tempura. Then we just stared in awe at the triangular three way pedestrian crossings. When the lights turned green for the pedestrian, swarms of people crossed the roads, a thick mass in the middle of the road. When the lights turned red, the roads cleared but you could see people start amassing again on the sidewalks, then the show started again. I swear they were the same men and women in suits criss crossing – putting a show for us tourists! We were climbing on walls, trying to take pictures of this phenomenon!

 

Shibuya is also a great place to see the lights and all the giant tvs on big tall buildings. They were awesome to watch.

 

Back in Aizu, I got caught up with all the tv shows on the sling box that I missed while in Tokyo. The Tatami room was so hot and we had no fresh air. I need to move out of this room.

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Ghibli Museum Oct 23rd

We took the JR train from Shibuya to Yoyogi and then change to the CHou Line to Mitaka. Then, we had to take a town bus #9 to get to the museum. Lucy says “It is AMAZING”. For those not in the know (like I was) “This museum is related to the work of the Studio Ghibli, a japanese animation team founded by famous anime sensei Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. The museum brings you in the world of Ghibli characters and of the animation movies in general. ” I lifted that off some website – it was very cute and interesting and Lucy was just in 7th Heaven. We saw a short film and that was very good too. We spent about 3 1/2 hours walking around.  The gift shop did not have some of the stuff that we saw at others stores – like the totoro blankie that Lucy and I saw in a store in Asakusa. She did not get it yesterday because she thought there would be more choices at the museum. I love the rooms where the sketches and artwork were – I bet liza would have a great time in there. They displayed all the different powdered paints that they used on their artwork – amazing.

When we left Mitaka, we headed towards Shinjuki. On the way to the museum, I spied a bag of wool and I talked to the lady and asked her where she got the yarn from (in broken Japanese) and we did find the store. Although there were some lovely yarns, I did not get any (amazing in itself!) because they were fine fingering and sportsweight yarn plus, I have plenty to get thorugh for the next few years!!

We mooched around in the department stores; the office and stationary department had a stunning array of colorful pens, pencils and chalks and markers…wow!! (see I did not use the word amazing)

We had a nice dinner at one of the restaurants on the 12th floor. We had salad, soup, sashimi, rice, tempura, pickles, and another little bowl of savoury stuff. I love how they all come in little tiny bowls.  That’s how they stay slim, I would guess – tiny portions…but how come I have put on so much around my middle these two and a half weeks? 

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We had breakfast at Beck’s Cafe and we people watched. Streams of men and women in dark suits spill out of the subway gate and then pass the cafe. Reminded me of black ants when moving their food….

I have never seen Lucy so happy – today she grinned from ear to ear especially when we were in Harajuku. That’s the place where Japanese girls dressed up in colorful and fancy clothings; although that wasn’t what made her sooo happy ..it was the Kiddyland Store. Five floors of wonderful toys for the young and old. Lucy was just delighted to see all the Totoro stuff.

We had lunch and took our food to the non smoking second floor. Directly below us, we watched men and women stop by the “Manners Street” kiosk to have a smoke. In Tokyo, smoking on the street is banned in a lot of places so they have to gather round this kiosk, puffing  to their hearts content!

We also watched a beggar man raiding the garbage next to the kiosk. He was feeding himself, using a pair of chopsticks and when he had enough, he shut the lid, wiped his mouth with his handkerchief and walked away!

Lucy mentioned that she also saw a well dressed young man in a suit reliving himself in a bush!! I guess you find one of those in every country – more in some countries.

Later in the afternoon, we went to Asakusa (the U is silent) to see the Sensi-jo temple. It was built to honour the goddess of mercy who was caught in a fishing net by two brothers centuries ago, or something like that. All around the temple were thousands of vendor stalls selling knick knacks and trinkets. Every time I picked something up, Dave’s voice – “which box are you going to put that in” ring in my head and so I saved myself a few yen by not buying anything. This place was about 20 stops away from our hotel (on the subway), so we were pretty tired by 8pm.

We did go to a department store on the way back. Lucy wanted to get  a half slip but they were 84 US$ each!! Then we looked at boots and shoes – they all range from $140 to about $400 a  pair. How can these young girls afford to buy anything here!!! They are all so well heeled and well dressed. I just trudged along everyday in my Danskos and I felt very comfortable – just amazed me how they can walk in those teeny tiny heels all day long!

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Tokyo!! Oct 22nd

Last night, we all slept in the Tatami Room at the Washington Hotel. They had turned off the air con and the room was hot. We complained and the front desk guy came up to open up the two windows which did not open to the outside BUT to the foyer below. So there was no fresh air coming in and when we were going to bed we had to shut it because poeple were loud and the ciggies smoke were drifting into our room from below. We were not happy campers at all. I think Dave should move out!

Lucy and I left Aizu on the 8.17 am train to Koriyama, then we had 8 minutes to transfer to the Shinkasen (bullet ) train to Tokyo. I was in a state, panicking as usual, asking people where the platform etc. We got to the platform and a few minutes later, this apparition appeared very slowly (I was picturing the train to whooosh into the station!) looking like something I have never seen before! It had a veeery looong nose before you can see the cab where the driver was. Our seat was on the second floor. Everything was so clean. When the train started to move, I decided I had better find the toilet before it went into warp speed. Oh, the toilet was clean too!

When we got into Tokyo station, we were at a lost as to where to head for to go to our hotel. Dave said go on the subway but this Japan Rail lady said to go on the Yamanote line, which is train above ground. Anyway, we decided to do what she said and fumbling around the area, we ended up on the Yamanote platform with no ticket but we jumped on anyway, on the advise of this girl who spoke English and was at MichiganState once. We paid at the other end but we really need not have paid because our Shinkasen ticket was good for that line too.

We found our hotel after fumbling around and getting out at the wrong exit; had to walk on the streets to get to it but if we had gotten out at the correct exit, we could get into the hotel with no problem at all.

Reiko , the relo  person, took us to the Furniture Rental place and much to Lucy’s dismay we were there 4 hours over!!! Phew! I was exhausted. But i think I got most of our furniture rented. I think Reiko helped me organise in my head how to manouvere (sp???) the subway and when i need to do that and when I shd just use the Yamanote train. The Yamanote train goes around in a circle so it shd be easy…hope hope.

Tomorrow is Lucy’s day so more later..

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