We had a full day (and I do mean a full 24 hour day) of travel as we left Gwanju, South Korea at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday morning to 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning when we finally arrived in Tokyo. The ferry ride across the Yellow Sea was a blast. Our boat was called a “Beetle” and it was a hydrofoil, which means it rises up on blades and uses water jetting though the system to race across the top of the water. Our first difficulty of the day was when we arrived at customs in Fukuoka, Japan. Apparently they had not had any US citizens enter Japan this way and it really aroused suspicion about us. Since we also couldn’t answer the questions they were posing to us in Japanese (Kevin was trying to speak Korean, but no one understood that either), we were held up for quite awhile at customs while they located an English speaking agent to question us and finally stamp our passports and let us through into the country. That was a little nerve racking. Then we had to get ourselves to the rail station and trade our rail vouchers for the actual passes we would use while in the country. We figured out a bus schedule well enough to get on the right bus, but were anxious to not miss our stop and to become lost in Hakata. It was such a relief to get off that bus and find ourselves in the right place, but our relief turned to concern when we finally got our passes and then discovered there were no more trains to Tokyo that night and we could only get as far as Osaka.
We ended up finding a friendly rail worker in Osaka who took pity on us poor Americans and got us bus tickets to travel from Osaka to Tokyo. We phoned Mark and told him our plans and waited anxiously in the rain for our bus which departed at 11:50 p.m. When we finally were seated, we were so exhausted we fell into a stupor as this bus trundled us all through the night towards Tokyo. During the rainy night we would awake and listen to the names of the stops and try to guess how much closer we were to our destination.
I’ve always loved my brother, Mark, but I have to admit I’ve never been so happy to hear his voice as I was Wednesday morning as we wrestled our luggage off that bus and he said, “Can I help you?” I almost burst into tears of joy to turn around and see his sweet face. We put ourselves in his very capable hands and trusted in his skills of navigation and language and have had a fabulous time ever since.
The inside of Mark's & Nana's Apt. Bldg.
The outside view of their Apt. Bldg (Tokyo Towers)
After getting us to his apartment, we were shown to the spectacular guest lodging Nana had reserved for us. It was on the 26th floor of their building and had a spectacular view of the city and the huge river running through Tokyo. We freshened up and started to feel human again. Then Mark, Nana and Avery took us to the Imperial Palace and gardens and gave us a tour of that part of Tokyo. We ate a delicious Japanese lunch and dinner and enjoyed an evening with Eric, Ethan and Avery before calling it a day (what a day!) at about 8:00 p.m.
We needed the sleep because the next morning (Thursday) we took the train to Kyoto and had the most amazing day seeing many cultural and historical sights. Kyoto is truly a Japanese treasure! We rode taxis and walked all over the city having such an incredible day seeing Buddhist Temples, Shogun Palaces, Pagodas, Zen Gardens, Etc. The three hour train ride home that evening was even special for me because I was seated next to an American from San Francisco named Vivien and we became friends during that journey and I look forward to hearing from her by email so we can continue to become better acquainted.
Friday morning was another gorgeous day in Japan. The weather has been spectacular. It feels like September here instead of November and the leaves are so incredibly beautiful. I’ve collected several bright colored Japanese Maple, Ginko and Elm leaves that are just a sampling of the amazing fall colors showing here now. Our day in Kyoto was made even more memorable with the spectacular fall foliage at every place we visited. I kept thinking a tree couldn't be more beautiful than one I was looking at and then we would turn a corner and see an even more amazing combination of colors.
Friday Mark and Nana took us to several shopping districts in the city. Cami wanted us to bring her some true ‘Tokyo Street Fashion’ so they took us to Shibuya. It was like Broadway in Manhattan only more people and more shops and more crazy. Nana bought Cam the cutest hat and I found her a skirt. If she’ll add her own black tights, cute top, scarf and boots, she will look like a Tokyo Girl!
Mark took us to a special place in Shibuya for lunch where we had teriyaki eel for lunch. Then we walked through the sensory overload area known as Akihurba where every kind of digital, electronic, 'gadgety' item known to man can be found. We collected the boys after school and all of had a traditional dinner eating Sushi while seated on mats on the floor. I’ve had the California rolls before but this was my first experience eating the raw slices of mackerel, yellow tail, tuna, etc. The thing that really amazed me was watching three little boys eating all the raw fish, fish eggs and other things many adults, let alone children wouldn't even try.