day 4 – Shigeko and yokohama

Yamashita Park in Yokohama

My phone rang at 5:30am and I couldn’t fall back asleep.  We finally left our place at about 9am and headed to Oven Fresh Kitchen.  There was no one else inside, which we had never encountered before.  It was nice to sit without feeling we were disturbing anyone.

We made it through the first leg of our journey with no incident.  Then we transferred lines and reached the end of the line about 8 stops too soon.  I tried looking up the schedule but the WiFi was spotty.  Eventually we ended up in the right place and met Shigeko at the exit.

Oh, Shigeko.  She is one of the most generous people I know.  When I lived here before, she gave me a lot of rides and was my translator on many occasions.  She is the reason my roommate Stephanie and I had a place to live.  She both gave us a ride and translated when we met with the Leopalace 21 staff.  She paid Steph’s half of the money when they insisted we pay the full amount before moving in.  That’s just one of the many examples of her generosity.

After greeting each other and making introductions, we headed to the taxi.  Jason, Sierra, and I loaded into the taxi, while Riley and Nick went in Shigeko’s car.  We made it to her house in about 10 minutes.

taxi

After washing up, I helped arrange the kabobs and stir the stove top curry while Shigeko got everything else ready.  Her husband, who is retired but now has his own business, came downstairs briefly to greet us.  We sat down to enjoy the wonderful spread.  She had made curry and rice, tonkatsu (breaded deep fried pork), scallop katsu, sushi, salad, gyoza (pot stickers), kabobs, and she also had rolls, pickles and carrots, and tofu.  She had placed the pickles and carrots in a cup that I had bought for her, saying that every time she used it, she thought of me. :)

She insisted that we eat until stuffed, saying she didn’t want to have to keep all the food.  Then she brought out dessert: egg and butter custard rolls, custard and whipped cream rolls, éclairs, ice cream mochi, apples, and nuts she had gotten from Israel.  I presented her with the gifts I had brought, chocolate from a local chocolaterie, and a watercolor painting made by a good friend of mine.  Shigeko also had gifts for us: many, many Japanese snacks, which we will enjoy throughout the rest of our time here, I’m sure.

After dessert we took the bus and the train to Yokohama bay so we could ride the Sea Bass.  Shigeko paid for our fare in each case, insisting on it (see, she’s very generous).  We got off at Yamashita Park and walked around a bit, eventually making it to the Cupnoodle Museum.  They had run out of normal tickets so we got limited access.  Shigeko quickly decided that it was lacking anything of interest so we left within half an hour of entry.

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Shigeko was pretty parched so we went to Queen Square, looking for a cafe.  We ended up at a French bakery (they’re very popular in Japan) where she again paid for all our drinks and two bags of mini croissants.  We enjoyed the chance to sit down and squeezed ourselves into a booth.

When we were finished, we headed back outside to find a tour bus that would take us in a loop around the city.  We chose to get off at Chinatown to explore a bit.

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We ended up in one of the many restaurants, after Shigeko had tried to get us to stop at a few other places.  We insisted that we weren’t that hungry and getting a set of 6 or 7 dishes was too much.  We ended up with fried rice and fried noodles.  Still a lot of food, but tasty.  We were a big enough party to get seated upstairs, where they had many parties of Japanese businessmen.  It was a bit loud, but we were tired from a long, but enjoyable day, and mostly sat in companionable silence.

We had to exit Chinatown to get to the train station, and Shigeko stopped a few people to make sure we were headed in the right direction.  That’s one of the amazing things about this place, everyone, and I mean everyone, is willing to help if you ask.  She stopped a group of men clearly coming home from work, and they almost missed crossing the street to give directions.  The second person she stopped had ear buds in and took them out to speak to her.  A few times people have actually walked with us a bit to ensure we didn’t get confused.  This friendly and helpful atmosphere lends itself to feeling very safe despite the language barrier.

We just made it on our train, which was quite crowded.  Shigeko got off after a few stops, hugging each one of us before exiting.  We had a way to go before our transfer at the busy Shibuya station.  We will return to Shibuya, but were feeling too tired to visit at that point.

We had a taste of the famous rush hour, though we weren’t pressed in like sardines, so not the full experience yet.  We thought we had gone to the wrong platform for our last transfer, but it turns out we were just at the opposite end of the platform for the wrong/right train.  We did have to get off at the stop right before ours to transfer one more time.  We finally made it back to our station around 9:45 and were thankful to be home.  We stayed up for a few more hours, just hanging out and talking, before going to bed at around 12:30.

day 3 – akihabara and ueno pt. 2, and karaoke

Woke up way too early at 6am.  Having fallen asleep around midnight, I knew this would be a rough day.  And I was right.  I ended up being pretty exhausted most of the day, though there were bouts of energy, thankfully.

We had our traditional breakfast at Oven Fresh Kitchen outside our station.  Oh, the yum:

roll with a baked potato inside & flaky apple pie

Engrish on our way to the station

We headed back to Akihabara so Nick could get some exploring in. On our way there, I was distracted and led us to the wrong station. We went through the turnstile and then discovered the mistake. When we tried to go back out, the machine gave us an error and we had to talk to the station master. He seemed confused but was able to clear the machine so we could pass through.

When we arrived at Akihabara, we first went into the Sega store, but discovered it was more of an arcade and so went to the next shop, which had 10 stories. There were a lot of rental boxes similar to the ones we saw at the shop where we bought Phil’s gift.  There were also lots of nerdy items to be found on the many floors and we were very curious about this floor:

Sadly, the store was closed.

Nick was looking for a computer keyboard and wandered into a few stores before an employee at Alienware pointed us in the right direction.  Sierra and I really needed to sit down, so we went to the McDonald’s next door.  The ground floor was where you ordered, then you could either go to the basement or 2nd floor for seating.  We chose the basement and enjoyed our cantaloupe smoothies in the crowded, slightly warmer than comfortable seating area.

The boys eventually joined us and we were on our way again.  We stopped for lunch at a crêperie.  Yummm.

waiting for our crepes

Crazy Crêpes – mixed berry flavor

Jason and I had used the last of our cash earlier and were looking for an ATM that would take our card.  I had signed up for a card that allows withdrawals anywhere in the world with no fee.  Any incurred fees are refunded.  I had tried a few ATMs and was starting to panic, when we finally had success at Lawson’s.  Yay!

We were on our way again and ended up back in Ueno park.  It was beautiful and there was a market of sorts going on.  Some people were selling random knick knacks, and there were tons of food vendors.  Jason got this ring and pipe:

lookin’ fabulous

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We wandered around the pond and ended up outside the park, on our way to the Tokyo National Museum.  We meandered through a residential area and stumbled across this temple:

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I love coming upon these temples and shrines in the midst of the big city.  The juxtaposition is startling and wonderful.

As we made our way back to the park, we came across a cafe and Jason voiced his craving for coffee.  I was thankful for the chance to sit down for a bit.

Bourbon Vanilla

Precious Moments

Kuromon (black gate)

We made it to the Museum and discovered that it was closing in an hour.  Deciding to come back another day, we crossed the street and were drawn to a street performer.  At one point he was juggling three katana and was very animated.  A great way to pass the time.

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We wandered through the park and made our way to the street level to get dinner in the food court.  Jason got a traditional Japanese pizza (it’s a thing), while I got the curry.  His pizza had teriyaki chicken with corn and small strips of seaweed (naturally).  I did warn him.

Gojoten shrine

seaweed cut out

After eating we went back outside and made our way through the street vendor section.  Not finding anything to capture our interest, we started looking for a karaoke place.  Karaoke in Japan is nice in that you can rent your own room. That way you don’t embarrass yourself in front of a crowd full of strangers.  The first place we found looked too fancy for us so we kept looking, eventually ending up at Big Echo.  For ¥2700 we could rent a room for an hour.  All but Riley sang our lungs out.  Good times.

We had been meaning to go grocery shopping every day, but had been too exhausted every other night.  While the night was still young, we made our way back.  But not before I had a delicious cremia.

We made it back to our station before 9:30, did our shopping, and headed home.  Great day.

day 2 – moomin park, akihabara, and sakura (kinda)

Tuesday found us waking up early again, though not as early as Monday, this time getting up closer to 7.  We again lounged around for a few hours, waking up and planning for the day.  Nick was to land around 5:15pm and we would meet him at the bus stop.  We stopped at Oven Fresh Kitchen for breakfast, each getting a few baked goods and relaxing for a bit before catching our train to Moomin Park.

I had discovered Moomin Park from a Youtube channel Texan in Tokyo (no longer uploading videos, but very informative and amusing) and this video.  I like free things, and this looked adorable as well.  The train ride was about 30 minutes and we were definitely outside of the touristy part of Japan, which I was very much a fan of.

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Google maps led us right to the park (unlike our journey to our Airbnb the first time).  And I was not disappointed by all the buildings.  We had to remove our shoes to enter each building, which proved a bit time consuming with tie-on shoes.  At one point we entered a no shoe area but then went upstairs where people were wearing shoes.  It was a bit painful on the rocky concrete, but we couldn’t be bothered to go down to get our shoes until we were ready to leave.  I’m going to post a ton of pictures, rather than trying to explain this place.  If given the opportunity, I highly recommend a stop here.

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We took a slightly different route back to the train station, stopping at our first convenience store (otherwise known as “konbini”), Lawson Family, for lunch.  When we exited, we discovered a temple across the street.  We hung around a bit, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and koi pond.  I love walking around because you discover so much about a place that you would miss by driving through.

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We had decided to head to Akihabara while we waited for Nick to arrive.  We traveled for an hour and a half, and easily made our way there.  Except when we tried to exit the last train station.  I was following the signs to the exit and ended up right back on the platform we had arrived at.  Fortunately I figured out my mistake before making another circle.

And oh, then we arrived at the Japan that most people think of.  Buildings with advertisements everywhere and many, many people milling around.  Here are more pictures:

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We were on the lookout for gifts for a few friends and family.  We ended up in a shop that had many cases of figures from all kinds of anime, and other popular shows and movies.  No pictures were allowed but we wandered around for a bit, knowing that there was a perfect gift for Phil somewhere in the building.  We figured out that each case was rented by the seller to display their figures and hope for a purchase.  We finally found the perfect gift for Phil on the basement level (much less packed than the ground floor).  Jason won’t let me unwrap the plastic around Phil’s gift, so I will not post a picture.

We didn’t get far, just the next shop over, before making another stop.  I had been looking for a tripod and this shop looked promising.  It did not have a tripod, but it did have tons of amazing gift ideas on the 5th floor.  I ended up getting gifts for all four of my family members on this floor.  As they are to be surprises, I will not post them here.  But look at this awesome umbrella we got!

so cool

We wandered around a bit more before making our way to Ueno, where our host said there was amazing sakura.  We walked through the street vendors and past this man who had an owl on his arm.  He was advertising the owl cafe, which I’d love to see, but feel is a bit unethical.

i love owls

the pressure is real

Ueno street vendors

We made it to Ueno park but sadly the sakura hasn’t quite bloomed, but we’ll return in a few days when they have.  There were a few that had some blossoms and you could easily spot them by the crowds of people gathered around, taking pictures of and with the tree.

even the manholes are pretty

this looks like it’s in full bloom

in the middle of the city

It was a short jaunt to the next station but when we got off, we were at the southern exit, rather than the northern.  We got lost a few times and at one point a man came up and asked if we needed help.  He then proceeded to guide us through the maze of people to point out the direction we needed to go.  People are so helpful here!  There was actually a sign that instructed Japanese people to help lost tourists.

We finally made it to the Tokyo Shuttle stop and settled down to wait for Nick.  Bus after bus arrived, but no Nick.  We started to worry when we knew he had landed a few hours before but hadn’t made contact.  While Sierra and Jason waited out in the cold, Riley and I went inside one of the nearby stores.  I wanted to find a tripod, and I did!  We made our way back to the bus stop, but still no Nick.

We finally made contact and he had arrived at the southern exit, where we had originally been!  We got lost again, and again were helped by a friendly Japanese person, who said we needed to go back the way we came.  Oh man, theme of the trip.

We had indeed passed right by the turn in our hurry and finally made contact with Nick!  Poor guy hadn’t been able to connect to the airport WiFi and wasn’t able to tell us when he boarded the bus.  The Tokyo Shuttle had apparently been very booked up so he took another bus.

look, it’s a Nick!

We decided to take the wrong/right way back home to avoid the crush of people and made it to our station by about 9:30pm.  Exiting the station, we stood around for a bit before deciding to go to McDonald’s.  We ate our meal, then returned to our abode, exhausted, but happy.

(full) day 1 – lalaport

Having gone to bed at 9:30, I was not surprised to get up rather early.  However, I also woke up around 2:30am and finally decided to get up around 4:30am.  Turns out everyone else had the same problem.  Our host had messaged me to say he was coming over at 8:30am if we would be up and so I of course let him know that would be fine.

We sat around the small coffee table playing games on our phones or, in my case, writing yesterday’s blog.  I was still writing it when our host showed up.  I had a question about the little stovetop thing in the kitchen and he showed me how easy it is to operate.  I think I’ll do a separate post about this place, it’s pretty unique and cool; thankful to have our own place to come back to everyday.

Jason and I had some small gifts from home and presented them to him.  I think he was surprised, which made me happy.  Gift-giving is kind of a big deal in Japan and I am very appreciative that we’re able to stay here.  He had offered to take us to Fujino and we solidified our plans to go on the 4th, leaving here at 7:30am.

After he left we stayed here for a little longer (you might have seen how long yesterday’s post was) before heading out to get brunch and then heading to LaLaport Tokyo-Bay.  It was about 10:45am by the time we got to McDonald’s.  There were more traditional Japanese places around, but we were too hungry to try and navigate.

Finishing our food and discovering that the train we wanted was to leave in about 4 minutes, we decided to go back to Seiyu to see what some of the other floors had to offer.  We only made it up to 4th floor (shoes and electronics) before having to head back to the station.  Our train was delayed, but we weren’t sure by how long, so we stood in the pretty frigid air for about 10 minutes.  It was raining again too, but there was a nice overhang at the station.

cold but happy

our train station

We didn’t get lost when transferring several lines, though we did end up on a local line (makes every stop), instead of the rapid (skips some stops).  Still trying to figure out the schedule.  The last line was a little confusing.  We only needed to go one stop, but the app said that it was on either side of the platform.  Maybe we could have gotten there with either train, but we ended up waiting for the second one.

Once we got off the train, there were signs directing traffic to LaLaport, so helpful!  We walked under the giant overpasses where freeway traffic lumbered above, and then an elevated walkway directly to the 2nd floor of the mall.

I was struck by how white and bright everything was.  The storefronts seemed to flow right into each other, not really having distinctive separation between stores.  Further in there was distinctive separation.  The mall was separated into two main sections running parallel, with some storefront walkways connecting them here and there.  We didn’t walk through it all, but we did walk through a good portion and it was huge.

Japan is known for many things, among them the prolific amount of vending machines.  We came across a slew of toy vending machines, stacked two or three high, with an indication of the possible items inside.  There were a few cat ones and I finally settled on the cat bread-face one.  Here’s what I got:

“in-bread,” haha

Sierra and Riley were in the Pokemon store for a bit while I made my decision and then wondered through a home decor store.  Jason’s co-worker had requested a salt and pepper shaker set so we were on the lookout.  We finally found them at Daiso.

salt and pepper, respectively

I had been pretty hungry and wanted to find somewhere to eat and drink something.  While we had our water bottle, it’s rude to eat or drink while walking around, so I had tried to refrain.  We found one place that looked promising, but they told us that they were closing at 3pm and it was 2:30 at that point.  We ended up at Ducky Duck and couldn’t decipher the menu, so just ordered dessert.  The ice cream wasn’t super sweet and I enjoyed the different flavor.

yummm

We were also looking for a video game for another friend, and found it in the Toys R Us.  Having accomplished two of our three missions (salt and pepper shakers being the first, and finding a good gift for another friend as the third), we started to head back.

While we had been inside the sun came out.  Yay!  The crazy cold wind had also stopped so the wait on the train platform wasn’t too bad.  We had to wait for a few trains to come and go before getting on ours.  We went the one stop and then transferred lines.  Unlike our travel to LaLaport, this time we got on the rapid and were able to make it to our transfer station within 40 minutes.

Riley wanted to eat at a real Japanese restaurant.  When we exited the subterranean train station, we were faced with a few options.  I spotted a curry place across the street and was able to “convince” everyone we should go there.  We crossed the street and entered the narrow space to take our seats.  The one staff member pointed to the machine at the entrance, and tried to explain with lots of gestures that we were to order from the machine before sitting down.  He had a menu with some English and we used it to figure out what we wanted.  Unfortunately, we had used the last of our ¥1,000 bills at the train station and were left with not enough coins, and bills that were too large.  We ended up going to a drug store down the street to get the bill split.  I tried to get the employee to just give us change in smaller bills (thank you, Google translate, for making that conversation much less painful!) but she said we had to purchase something.  I found a toothbrush for ¥100 and got our change.  Riley got some hand soap and we were back to curry.

Oh.my.gosh.  It was so yummy!  It was a little too spicy for me, I think I had 5 or 6 cups of water, but mmmm, it was tasty.  I had decided not to be vegetarian on this trip as I figured this would make eating much easier.  But honestly I have been eating around the meat.  The only thing I haven’t done this with is the McDonald’s chicken nuggets.  Because nuggets.  We’ll see how this goes.

We tried to go back to the station from whence we came, but there were no signs for our transfer.  We looked at a few maps, and a man who had been in the restaurant came up and asked if we needed help.  He told us to go back outside and walk down the street.  I thought he had said “take a right,” so we walked a few blocks before realizing that was definitely not what he meant.  We went back to the station to re-look at the map.  Unlike US maps, Japanese maps are turned so that the direction you are facing is up.  We figured out that we needed to take a left and quickly found the right station.

We got back on the wrong/right train we had been on the day before, and were thankful we had gotten on when we did, as the end of the line means everyone else gets off and we get to sit.  When we went back to the previous station, a ton of people came on and we were extra thankful for our seats.  This train helpfully had a screen showing us which stops were next.  I realized that we’d gotten on the right line but the wrong train, the end destination was not the one we wanted.  It shared the same stops as the one we wanted, up until the stop before ours.  Which meant that we got off at the stop before ours to transfer to the next train and then take it one more stop.  Ugh.

We got back to our station after 9pm and made the cold walk back home.  We only sat around briefly before climbing into bed at 10pm.

日本 redux

Well, I’ve made my way back to Japan. It’s been almost 10 years since I was last here (I came back to the States in May). This time I’m here with Jason and a few other friends, Sierra and Riley, and Nick (who will be here on Tuesday). I will try to post daily as this will preserve my memories the way it did 10 years ago.

We had to drive about 5 hours to fly out of SFO (waaay cheaper than our local airport, and less likely to get fogged in, surprisingly). Made it to Mom and Dad’s with about two hours to spare before  we had to leave for the airport.

Hung out with Mom and Dad for those few hours before Dad drove is to the airport. Our flight was to leave at 1am on Saturday so we got to the airport at 11pm to check our bag and get through security. I had checked the airline’s website for baggage rules and thought we were okay with our 66 pound check in. Turns out the limit is 50lbs. -_- Fortunately it was only $32 for the overage. However, our carry on was also juust over the limit too. Ugh. But the guy was super nice and said that he would let it pass. We got through security with no issues and made our way to the gate.

waiting for our flight at SFO

Tons of people waited to board and when we finally got on the plane, I was amazed at the enormity of the thing. We were in row 65, seats E and D, not even the last row. There were 10 seats across, and I was thankful not to be sitting at the window seat.

I unfortunately did not take any pictures inside the plane, but the accommodations were very nice. I have flown across the country a few times but have never had meal service (not entirely true, when I was young, my mom and I flew to Texas and I believe we did get meal service, but that was many years ago and things have changed). This flight we had two meals, and they were both very tasty. We also had a great selection of movies and I ended up watching 4 over the course of our two flights (The Girl on the Train, In Time, Never Let Me Go, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children).

I didn’t want to be super exhausted when we arrived in Japan, so my plan was to sleep during the last 8 hours or so of our first flight. This meant staying up for the first 6 hours. I was okay until about hour 5/5.5.  Thankfully we had brought our neck pillows and I was able to actually sleep deeply enough to dream for a few hours. After that, I would drift off for a little bit. I think I might have slept for about 6 hours but then they served breakfast and I was pretty much awake.

We arrived at the Taipei airport before our scheduled time and found our next gate, after going through a mini security where we didn’t have to empty our  water bottles or take off our shoes (yay!). I thought we were at our gate and have never seen such interesting seats at a gate.

Turns out the gate was downstairs:

that’s more like it

waiting in the Taipei airport

This next flight was only about three hours. When we first got seated, we were in the front row of the section and had ample leg room. The two ladies next to us (who appeared to be mother and daughter) asked if we wouldn’t mind switching seats with the younger lady’s husband and other child (she had a baby already in her lap). While we enjoyed getting the extra leg room, we were happy to switch, allowing us to have a screen to finish our movies. They served us another meal and I both finished my movie and watched another.

We arrived in Japan at about 11:30am on Sunday, pretty much completely skipping (or flying?) over Saturday.  We had to go through security and have our passports looked over, index fingers scanned, and pictures taken. Our passports have stickers that allow us to stay 90 days.

another airport picture

We went downstairs to grab our luggage and await Sierra and Riley’s arrival.  They were scheduled to arrive about two hours after us. Thankfully we were able to connect to the airport WiFi to connect with family back home and while away the time.

Not realizing there was another set of escalators further down, we weren’t able to greet them as they came to get their bags. By the time we realized and had gotten down to their baggage carousel, they were already in possession of one of their bags. The second bag was quickly retrieved and we made our way to customs, which we got through quickly.

Finally out in the main part of the airport, we had to get to terminal 1, where we could pick up our on-the-go WiFi. The information counter staff told us which free bus to take and I also utilized the currency exchange. The USD is a little stronger than Yen right now.

We got on the bus right away and were in terminal 1 within 10 minutes. Then it was back to the information counter to find out where to get the WiFi box. Up to the fourth floor and we were quickly connected.

We also needed tickets to get from the airport to our lodging and were able to purchase Tokyo Shuttle tickets for ¥1,000 ($8.98) each. The Shuttle wasn’t to leave for another hour, so Riley and I took the opportunity to find a machine to purchase Pasmo cards.  We had to go to the lowest floor and brave the crazy train station foot traffic (we had wisely left our luggage with our spouses). We did manage to find the machine (thank you, Tokyo Cheapo, for the helpful pictures!) and got the necessary cards, heading back upstairs and to our spouses. The bus was not long in arriving and we got out of the cold and wet (I haven’t yet mentioned that it was grey and rainy).

I am not sure how long we rode the bus, as I started to nod off. We made it to the station, and wandered down the street until I saw a stairway to somewhere underground. I figured there would probably be a train station somewhere down there and led our group down the stairway. . .

. . .and into a big underground mall. Huh. Anyway, we walked around for a bit, following vague signs for the JR line. Finally, we found it and the line we needed. Poor Jason was lugging around our ginormous bag and having to take it up and down the stairs and weave around the hundreds of people also wandering the station.

Made it to our first train and in 14 stops got off to make the transfer. Wound through foot traffic and down and up stairs, first going to the wrong platform (sorry, Jason!). Our train seemed to be going back in the direction we had just come from. When we stopped, I checked our app and realized we were going in the wrong direction. We were there for a little while and I was able to ask the conductor if we were on the right train. He said we were and so we all hurriedly got back on. Turns out we were at the end of the line, so I was both right and wrong. We made it back to the station we had just been at and in 7 more stops, were at our final destination.

We exited the station and were promptly lost. Having no idea which way we needed to go, tired, cold, and wet, we started in one direction, me navigating with Google maps. The dot was a little laggy so it wasn’t until we’d walked a few paces that we realized it was the wrong way. Turned back around and trying a different direction I started to panic when the dot drifted off course.

I stopped into an open shop and asked the man where we needed to go. Thank goodness for Google maps not being in English. The man did not speak any English but could see where we were trying to go. He reoriented my map to show me where the train station was in relation to us, and then came outside and walked down to the alley, showing me where we should turn left. Thanking him profusely, we were on our way again.

My allergies had been acting up since our second flight and I was now using my jacket sleeve to wipe my nose (tmi?). But the rain was also keeping my jacket pretty wet. Even though the air was cold, the movement of walking kept me warm. I also knew that, despite the current unpleasantness, this would make for a more interesting story (see how right I am now?).

We easily found our way down and across the street, then made a turn down a small alley and around another bend. Then, nothing. We couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to go. The dot indicated we were right on top of it, but it did not look right. All the addresses were in Kanji so we couldn’t use that to narrow anything down.

The rest of the party found shelter under a bike parking area with an overhang, while I went to figure it out. I started walking the way we had come, and saw a woman come out of one of the buildings. I flagged her down and she apologized, saying she didn’t speak any English. I showed her where we were trying to go, but we both determined that we had gone in the right direction.

I thanked her and made it back to the group, very puzzled. We were able to look up the Airbnb post and saw a picture of the front of our place. Based on that, and the caption of the picture, Riley figured out the approximate location. We shouldn’t have turned down the alley. We went back to the street and found it in no time.

Finally getting the keybox and door open, we were happy to be inside. No more than five minutes after our arrival, a knock came at the door. It was Melissa, a friend of our host. She showed us the space, which switch opporated which light, how to use the hilariously tiny washing machine, and how to use the shower.

the itty bitty washer/”dryer”; turns out the dryer side just spins the water out, you still need to hang dry.

After she left, we decided we should go out and get something to eat. It was about 7pm at this point and there was no food in our place. We had spotted a McDonald’s outside the station and a grocery store. We easily found our way back to the station and got our dinner. Then we headed to Seiyu for groceries. After wandering three of the possibly 8 floors, we got our food and headed back home.

I was still feeling pretty gross and knew it was very Japanese to shower at night (which is what I do at home anyway, but I was also very tired and considered waiting for morning), and made use of the shower while a load of laundry was being done. Not long after, we all went to bed, around 9:30.

shower

I am so happy to be back. I’m going to see my host family over the next weekend and another good friend, Shigeko, on Thursday. It’s still rainy today, but we’ll be fine. Hello, Japan!