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.
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.
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.
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.