This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 28, 2010

On the Move to Tokyo

On Saturday, June 26 we leave Kamakura. A half hour by bus and we are in Fujisawa. We meet Mika's sister and brother-in-law at a cafe near the station. We then realize that we were so busy running around Kamakura that we forgot to bring something for Miki and Yasutaka. So far we have been pretty good with this custom. This is our first flub and a big cultural no-no. The Japanese always bring something when visiting a home and seem to be always giving presents. Luckily it is her sister, and they seem to accept my excuse that after four years in the US Mika has forgotten all of her Japanese manners.
They leave us and our heavy ball-and-chain suitcases at the cafe to run some quick errands. I run to a nearby supermarket and buy some European cheeses, crackers and caviar. We all meet up again, put our luggage in the car and go to their home.

Miki and Yasutaka both work doing something with hard drive development, the likes of which I will never fully understand. They have a very nice, modern house. The toilet lids have a sensor to raise automatically. When guys go #1 you press a button to raise the seat. The alarm system says, "welcome home," when you enter and reassures you that you will be safe when you turn it on at night. There is a built-in tv in the wall of the bathtub.

Mika and I are actually pretty tired and are very happy just relaxing at the house for the afternoon. I use the internet while the three of them watch a Japanese movie. For dinner they have invited us to an unagi(eel)restaurant. Reservations are at 5:30. It is a bit early for dinner, but apparently this restaurant opens at 4:00 PM, makes just one dish, grilled unagi, and sells out very quickly. The restaurant is tiny, five very small tables against one wall and a counter with about seven seats on the other wall four feet away. I am on the inside seat, and the table is so small that Mika has to get up so that I can access my camera bag on the floor. I get out my camera and realize that I left my memory card at the house. Mika gets up again so I can return the camera to the bag.

We all receive the same tray. A square bowl of rice with four delicious slices of grilled unagi on top, some pickled vegetables, and a bowl of miso soup with a surprise treat at the bottom - eel heart. I am on the inside seat. With no elbow room I have to eat with my arms pressed against my side. The skin friction and is creating worrisome armpit sweat. Luckily we finish our meals and leave before a major crisis. In case you are wondering, eel heart is kind of chewy.

This link is someone else's photo of the unagi dish: Photo of unagi

Miki and Yasutaka both work a lot. Yasutaka pretty much gets home after 8 PM every night. They like traveling, but have very little time to do so. This evening we catch up on their small trips via technology. Yasutaka has saved all of his photos on a computer and has it rigged up so he can access all of them from the 50+ inch television monitor. He has seven remote controls on the coffee table. We should probably expect this from a guy who works with hard drives. His Mt. Fuji pictures are much better than mine.

The next morning we have a casual breakfast, shower and have our turn to show photos. Personal photos really look great on a giant monitor. But seeing photos from our DIY construction work in Denver makes me tired. We head back to station. Mika goes to Tokyo earlier to meet friends. I leave after lunch. I try to convince Miki to meet us in Bali.

Sisters taking Mika's 20 kilo (44lb) suitcase for a walk

I take the one hour train to Tokyo. Tokyo consists of many different areas. The subway stops are by street like NYC. It is by area, like having a Chelsea or East Village stop. The train goes to Shinjuku, probably the largest station in the city. I have two hours until I meet Mika so I go get a haircut and browse around. We meet up and now have to go somewhere to meet her friend and our next host. It is almost painful watching Mika travel around the city with her huge suitcase. We decide that in Indonesian cities we are only taking taxis.

We meet up with Chie and her friend. Chie is an pre-school art teacher and Mika's oldest friend. Chie is very budget conscious and has lived in Tokyo for a long time. She knows lots of good places to go. We eat at an Italian style family restaurant. Our dinner in the most expensive city in the world costs about $8 a person. We go back to Chie's apartment. In most Tokyo apartments space is at a premium. We are very grateful Chie has let us squeeze into her last remaining floor space. Before sleeping we have to roll Mika's suitcase into the hallway so there is room for our legs. Time is now moving very quickly.

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