Day 1:Nov 4th/5th, 2002
Awoke at 4:45 AM, prepared myself and put J in the car in his Jammies and we went to get Mom. She was good but kept asking where we were going, and I kept answering her.. Conversation went something like this in Japanese:
At her house:
"Mom, We're going to Japan today, so here's some nice clothes, let's get ready." "We're going to Japan?" "Yes" "Ok"
On the road:
"Where are we going?" "The airport and Japan." "Oh. We're going to Japan?" "yes"
3 minutes later:
"Are we going to San Jose?" "No, Japan. "oh. We're going to Japan?" "yup. Japan."
5 mins later:
"Are we going to get tofu?" "No, we're going to the airport to go to Japan." "We're going to Japan?" "yup, Japan."
10 mins later:
"We're going to Japan?????" "Yes..."
20 mins later:
"We're going to Japan?" "Yes." "Is Jason going?" "Um, Yes.. I'm not leaving him at the airport with the car.." (she laughs) "so.. we're going to Japan." "yes, we are." "Oh. Ok."
We went to my friend Jesper's and got Renee, his girlfriend.. she drove us to the airport. Jesper called from the train station to wish us well.
Flight itself was good.. a bit of turbulence, but both J and Mom seemed to handle the long 11 hour flight well. We landed in Narita and I had planned to ship our large luggage to Saga. However, I did not have the phone number of my Uncle's house handy, not knowing that was critical. I finally managed to get my cousin Kinya-san's phone number next door so I used his addy and phone number. We then hopped on a plane to Fukuoka where one of Mom's younger brothers, Hiroyuki-san and his wife, Noriko-san and Kinya-san met us. Mom recognized Hiroyuki-san right away and had to be reminded of Noriko-san. Kinya-san was walking ahead of us, and I told Mom who he was but I didn't know till later that it did not register. It was really nice to see everyone. Jason was a real trooper. He managed to stay awake in spurts but when I needed him to walk, he did.
Kinya-san drove us to Saga-we stayed in Mom's Eldest brother Masayuki-san's home. Kinya-san lives right next door. Mom did well there this evening. She rested and spoke with Masayuki-san and his wife, Mineko-san at the table. Jason and I also hung out there for a while talking and eating some food that Mineko-san had prepared. Mineko-san seemed to enjoy Jason's and my company.
Day 2: Nov 6th, 2002
We awoke fairly early. Actually, Mom woke up probably close to 3AM. She awakened me asking if it was time to get up. I said "no, its the middle of the night, you need to go back to sleep." I went back to sleep, as did she. Once morning arrived, I discovered her depends had leaked a bit and Mom had wet the futon so later, Mineko-san and I had to wash it. Mineko-san gave me some clothes for Mom to wear and a shirt for me till our luggage arrived. I had some extra clothes in a small case for J so he was actually ok that way. After a Japanese style breakfast of gohan, veges and left over oden, I helped Mineko-san with some laundry. I later found out from Mineko-san that Mom would ask her every morning, "Are you Mineko-san?" She also asked Masayuki-san, "Are you Masayuki-san?" each morning. Making sure that it was them seemed important to her.
We hung out at the house and Mom watched Japanese TV, which she seemed to enjoy a lot. Jason and I took little walks around. I found the little park that I played with Nic and Alyssa in. I took pics of Jason going down the big slide. We went to a Supermarket and bought a few little items and wound our way back home. It was a nice walk to take. We did not return till after lunch was finished.
Mom did very well. She spent time talking with both Masayuki-san and Mineko-san about many things. She was very clear and remembered many things. Her youngest sister, Kazume-san stopped by before she had to go to work. Mom asked who she was, she did not recognize her right away. She spoke for a little while and remembered. Kazume-san took me to the train station to exchange my Rail-pass tickets but found we had to go to Hakata. We did some quick shopping for some necessary items as fast as possible because Kazume-san had to go back to work. I wanted her to be able to visit with Mom rather than take me places because we weren't sure she'd be able to get any more time off of work. We relaxed most of the day.
Later in the evening, my cousins children, Kenji (the eldest) Yukiko (the middle) and Naoto (the youngest) came to visit. Naoto and Jason became very close.. Yukiko also enjoyed Jason's company. Kenji was not around as much. He was busy with schoolwork at the University. Naoto wanted to learn lots of English. He found it difficult to understand Jason's speech. His impression was that it was easier to understand children younger than 3. After dinner, Yukiko-san and Tamiko-san (Kinya-san's wife) took me to the store to shop for a few gift items.
Day 3: Nov 7th, 2002
Again, we awoke early.. Mom was singing in bed at 4AM Oy. Things went well.. every morning she would say to Mineko-san.. You are Mineko-san aren't you? And the same to Masayuki-san also, but she seemed to be able to keep her bearings. Mom tried to go for a walk out the door, alone, but I caught her and asked, "where are you going?" She said "out." "Out where?" "I don't know". I brought her back in to the house to wait for us. Mineko-san walked with us to the ohaka to wash the stone work, give incense and light a candle to obaasan. After, Mom, Jason and I went for a walk to see if we could find Masayuki san at his far field. Mineko-san told us the general directions but we ended up taking the long way round. She also told us that there was an equestrian school by the rice field, and that we might be able to visit the horses there. We finally found our way there but no one was near by so we headed back for home and lunch.
After lunch, Mom's friends came over. Jason was napping under the heated table. She did not recognize her longest time friend.. Chieko-san. Chieko-san managed to keep her feelings "light" but I could tell this was not easy for her. It was sad to see Chieko-san's reaction. While talking to her, Mom came to realize who she was, but it was still very sad.. She remembered her other friend Fumiko-san. They sat and chatted for quite a while. It was nice to see her enjoy her friends company. Mom seemed very pleased that they came to see her.
Later on, Jason and I went to look for the horses again. Mineko-san had Masayuki-san pick some carrots from the garden that we could give to the horses. We went directly there and spoke to a woman who turned out to be Kinya-san's friend.. her husband and Kinya-san hang out.. We had fun feeding the horses.. she was impressed at Jason's ability to feed the horses with a flat open hand. She led us around and introduced all of the horses to us. They were very gentle animals. Jason really enjoyed that.
After dinner, Yukiko-san and Tamiko-san took Jason and I shopping. This time for a pair of Zori's for J and a phone cord and 3 prong to 2 prong adapter for my power cord. I felt lucky to have found those items. Jason and Yukiko went to an arcade to get some pictures taken. They came out very cute. We went to Kinya-san's house and hung out there. Jason decided he wanted to spend the night with Naoto and Yukiko. They watched Monsters, Inc. together. Jason really took to playing with Naoto. I think Naoto really enjoyed Jason. They called him "J-kun"
Day 4: Nov 8th, 2002
Awoke early..(do we see a pattern here?) I spent most of the morning packing and preparing things to ship. This day we depart for Fukuoka.. Hiroyuki-san and Noriko-san came to get us just after midday, but we were waiting for Kazume-san to come and take us to visit my grandmother's sister. Yukie-san (obaasan's sister) lives in a beautiful house about 15 minutes drive from Saga. Another of Mom's friends, Yokoo-san made her way to Yukie-san's house so that she could meet my Mom. Mom was active but the social skills were not great. Kazume-san played the piano for Mom. It was very good to see Yukie-san. She looks like obaasan a lot. She was happy to see Mom. Mom remembered her. Jason was just a bit unruly, but it was understandable for a 4 yr old stuck in a ritzy, don't touch house for around an hour. When we returned home, Hiroyuki-san was still there with Noriko-san. They would take us to Fukuoka for a short stay with them. We went out for a Chinese dinner. We stayed in the Washington Palace hotel. Both Hiroyuki-san and Noriko-san were very happy to be with Mom.
Day 5: Nov 9th, 2002
Again we awoke fairly early. We went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Mom had Japanese shoku - Jason wanted cereal (no such luck) so he opted to wait till later and go to the grocery store to get something. I ordered the scrambled eggs and toast. The hotel serves either the Japanese fare or the eggs and toast. After breakfast arrived, Jason decided he wanted some of my toast.. then ate some of my eggs.. then continued to polish off everything else I had ordered. I ordered some extra toast for myself. We went back up to the room for a bit, then went down to go for a walk.
Hiroyuki-san and Noriko-san came at 9:45 to get us. We then went to Daifuku to the temple there. There was a children's festival happening there. The kimono's that the children were wearing were quite impressive. There was a Flower show happening too. It was very nice. There was a children's ride park where J got to ride many different train rides. We stopped at an Udon Shop for lunch. After Daifuku, we went to the "New Fukuoka", built on the sea. They brought tons of rock and dirt from the mountains and built an entire section of the city on there. We then went to see and ride on the World's Largest Ferris Wheel in Fukuoka City. I had Never seen anything so HUGE!!! It measures 120 Meters high. It was very impressive.
After that excursion, Jason reminded my uncle that he was going to take him to play with toys. We went to their home to rest, and Hiroyuki-san, Jason and I took a walk to the Game Palace and Toys-r-us. Jason had a field day. Jason was given a gift of a Thomas the Tank Engine battery powered train set. After our walk, we returned to their house and headed off to the "Royal" for dinner.
I found both Hiroyuki-san and Noriko-san to be very sweet and fun. It was good to really get to spend time with them. I hadn't had the chance to really spend time with Noriko-san before. She was very sweet to Mom, and they spent much time laughing and joking. It was very wonderful.
Day 6: Nov 10th, 2002
Heading for Nara. Hiroyuki-san and Noriko-san came to get us fairly early to catch our train. We took the Shinkansen from Hakata to Shin-Osaka. (7 stops and about 3 hours) Jason enjoyed the ride. Masayoshi-san and Sumie-san came to the station to meet us. It was wonderful to see Sumie-san again. We drove to their home directly. The ride from the station to their home was very nice, we got to see the Osaka Castle from the freeway and the mountains were very pretty. The new house is gorgeous. We dropped Mom and Jason off at the house with Tomomi. Ayako was preparing to go to work. Sumie, Masayoshi and I went on some errands. We got to go to a wonderful fish market where I saw many many unusual fishes and things. We had a great dinner of sashimi and rice and other goodies and a nice Japanese bath. Mom went to bed early. Jason made himself quite at home. When Satoko came home from work, he promptly climbed up into her lap and snuggled down. She was very pleased and thought he was so cute! He charmed her. After playing for a bit with Masayoshi-san, Jason went to bed. Tomomi is still reserved but she seemed to enjoy his open-ness, too. I stayed up for a little while and chatted with Sumie-san. It was a fun day.
Day 7: Nov 11th, 2002
We awoke at a relatively normal hour (8AM) today. Mom woke a bit earlier but I managed to get her to sleep some more. Sumie-san made breakfast and we had a relaxing morning at home and just prepared for Sumie's class.
Sumie-san's students were scheduled to arrive mid-morning, so I made sure Mom and Jason were ready. Sumie's 3 students were quite delightful. The first woman who arrived was Chikako Kuniyoshi. She was the least familiar with English but she did very well. The next to arrive was Sachiko Ushijima. She had a bit more practice with English. She seemed much more confident to try to speak and answer my questions. Lastly, Shizuyo Murata arrived. She was a great student and a very talented knitter and preparer of Japanese foods. It was a fun class. Jason played with the ladies and Mom came in for a little while, too. She seemed a bit disoriented and wanted to eat the treats and seemed impatient to go.
Everyone then went to lunch where Satoko works, a buffet style restaurant. There was much food and enjoyment. Chikako-san and I both banged our heads on the very low doorway to the little room that was our table. Jason had a blast hugging all of the young ladies working there and especially Satoko. That was fun and Mom did fairly well in the restaurant.
We then parted ways with the ladies and walked to the co-op store to get some food for dinner. Sumie-san planned to make Okonomiyaki for tonight. Yum!! After a bit of searching, I found some cereal for J and some other tidbits to eat. On our way home, Mom kept saying how tired she was. At home, we prepared for dinner, did some laundry and relaxed. As people came home, things got livelier and fun. Jason **loved** playing with Satoko. He would not leave her be. But she loved the attention so it was good. Jason was playing with Masayoshi-san and Satoko mentioned that she had never seen her father laugh so heartily and seem to enjoy himself like that before.
Dinner was terrific. I learned to make okonomiyaki. That was fun and tasty. We began planning for tomorrow - our day to go to Todaiji Temple. Mom seemed happy about that. We got ready for the night and Mom and J went to bed. I stayed up checking into mail and checking in with Kris. It was a good day.
Day 8: Nov 12th, 2002
We awoke as usual now, around 8AM. Sumie-san made a good breakfast and we started preparing to go out. We went to Todaiji Temple with Sumie and Satoko. At the train station, we were allowed to borrow a wheelchair for Mom. This made things a little easier for Mom but work for me and Sumie. Mom was a little reluctant to be riding a wheelchair but it made travel faster and we got to go in sooner. Jason wanted to ride on the chair more than mom did. The walk to Todaiji Temple is about 15 mins, and has an uphill grade. We saw very few deer along the path.
As we arrived at the Temple, Jason got to feed the deer and also some Koi. There were not very many large Koi. The deer were a bit bolder than years previous. They pushed and sometimes bit at peoples clothing to get food. The temple itself was quite impressive. The autumn colors were ragingly beautiful, as was the backdrop of the Temple Grounds. Satoko, Jason and I went up to another section of the Temple grounds, and saw some gorgeous scenery. The view from the Top most temple was breathtaking. Satoko and Jason had quite a lot of fun together.
We stopped at the Temple Museum Restaurant for lunch and I looked around at the gift shop there. After our meal, we went into the town of Nara and shopped for gifts. There were some beautiful things on display. Mom wanted to buy some tsukemono for her sister. This was the first time she had mentioned wanting to buy a gift or anything. Mom did well on this trip. She seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. The train ride was fun, too.
Day 9: Nov 13th, 2002
Jason and I went to Universal Studio Japan by ourselves. This was quite the adventure! We started out in the morning and went on the JR lines to Nishikujo Station. We then hopped on another train and got off at Universal City stop. It was very windy but tolerable. The whole day was spent at USJ. The first attraction we went in to was the ET ride. Jason thought it was fun but "just a tiny bit scary, but not really". We went to many other attractions and play areas. There were many U.S. Characters running about. Jason seemed to enjoy seeing them. One of the fun shows was the Monster Rock and Roll Show. There was a small roller coaster in the Charlie Brown attraction that Jason thought was fun.
At one point it seemed as if it were going to rain, so I purchased 2 plastic "raincoats" that are sold to guests that do not wish to get wet on water rides. They were a great deal for 100 yen each! They look like a pullover with a hood sized for an adult. Obviously too big for Jason, but with a little tying and rolling up of sleeves, it fit just fine and kept him warm. It made a great wind block, too.
As we walked through the park, I started to wonder if they had any "kid" rides. Those seemed few and far between. There were no carosels or ferris wheels or other "boradwalk-like" attractions that I could find. I was a little surprized at that. We had lunch at a "California Burger Shop". It was designed in the 1950's Teen Hang-out Decor.
After lunch, we came across a facepainting booth that Jason really wanted to do, so Jason got his wish. The young lady that painted Jason's face surprized me. She heard me speaking to Jason in english so she started speaking english, too. She sounded very American, so I asked her if she was living in Japan permanently, or visitiing. It turns out that she was a Japanese-New Zealand born and raised in Japan, and had gone to the American School in Tokyo. She had never been to America, but had gone to N.Z. to visit family there. She was very sweet and did a beautiful job on Jason's face.
We found out that there was to be a fireworks display at the Christmas Special Celebration Show, so we decided to stay till then. While we waited, the wind came up and threatened to cancel the show, but with luck we did get to see it. After that show, we headed for home. We managed to miss one train and had to hop a different train then change trains at another station. We made it to the train station and while it was a very short distance, we took a taxi home. It was a fun day.
Mom stayed home with Sumie and went to the beauty shop belonging to one of Sumie's students. She was very very happy to be "prettied" up. Sumie-san said she did quite well. That she was sociable and doing well. Jason fell asleep in his favorite spot.. under the heated table.
Sumie made a great dinner. It was a large cooking pot set in the center of the table with a broth in it and you dropped your own meats and veges in to cook it. Very tasty!
Day 10: Nov 14th, 2002
Today we went to the Osaka Aquarium. Masayoshi-san took us for a tour of different places. Mom decided that she did not like the aquarium and refused to enjoy any of it. She saw one display at the very start that she did not like, so suddenly, the rest of the Museum was no fun to her. She was rather stubborn about it. Masayoshi-san, Jason and I sure enjoyed it! We got to see a Manta Ray, many types of dolphins and several exotic fishes. I do have to admit, that the Monterey Bay Aquarium is difficult to beat, but this one was very nice.
After we left the museum, we went for a ride on another very large Ferris Wheel. This one was 112.5 meters (369 feet) from ground to apex and the wheel diameter is 100 meters (328 feet). This ferris wheel is located at the Tempozan Harbor Village. It was fun to see Osaka from way up high. She at least, enjoyed that. She seemed to want to “go” somewhere all day today, but once we were on our way, she seemed very impatient to “go somewhere” again. It seemed like a no win day, but at least she was in an ok mood. We went to a small cafe for lunch at the hardor that was nice. Mom saw that Masayoshi-san ordered sake, and she decided that she too, wanted sake. Masayoshi-san shared some of his with her. He seemed to think that was amusing.
We were stopped at a red light, and she said to Masayoshi-san, "Iko." (meaning, "Go.")
He casually replied, "Lito ga aka yo, Ittara dame, demo, shinitakattara, Iku."
On our way home, we stopped at a rest stop along the highway. The rest stops in Japan have everything from a convenience store to street vendors and little kiosks with hot food to sell. There was a vendor for Hot Corn on the Cob "tomorokoshi" that Jason saw as we were leaving. It was too late to ask Masayoshi-san to stop the car so I could get him a cob of corn. We made it home, (alive.. incase anyone was wondering) and Sumie was waiting to cook dinner for us. I remember that the food was great. One of Satoko's friends came over to study with Sumie, but first had dinner with us. She was very sweet. Mom seemed to be in just a funny mood today.
I prepared much of our luggage to be shipped to Kris’s house for the next leg of our journey. I also packed a couple of boxes to go to the states, so I would not have so much to haul. This was a good thing! We went to the shipping company to send most of our luggage ahead.
Day 11: Nov 15th, 2002
I made breakfast this morning for everyone that was still here. Oh boy.. a makeshift "American" style breakfast! Well, it was toast with an egg and a slice of "ham"on top, and a small side of rice with tsukemomo. Everyone ate, so I guess it was ok.
Masayoshi-san took another day off to take us to Arashiyama. The colors were gorgeous there. It was a long drive but beautiful. We got to see parts of Kyoto and Nara that we had not yet seen. When we arrived in the Arashiyama area, the roads were packed with tourists, cars and tour busses. It was hard finding a parking spot, but find one we did. We walked around the base of the mountains and stopped for lunch at an Udon place. It was very tasty. The walk into town and over the bridge was very pretty. The bridge was a beautifuly painted old style bridge with 4 large posts with carved inscriptions. There was a large open area that had vendors selling different snack items. Jason had been craving corn on the cob that he had seen on the way home last night. Luckily we found a “tomorokoshi” vendor andI was able to get him one. They put some teriyaki sauce on it that he did not want, so I ended up buying a second one for him Plain. (I wasn’t so sure about teriyaki on corn, either,.. but it wasn’t all that bad.) We walked around the town and shopped, too pictures and snacked on samples.
Masayoshi-san bought some “tsukemono” for Sumie-san. I bought some for Mitsuyo-san, too. Jason loved the samples of takuan and other tsukemono that they were selling, but because of refrigeration, I could not purchase some of the really yummy ones and had to stick to specific types of tsukemono.
The drive back was also very nice. I took a lot of great pictures of the mountains and changing colors but Jason decided to see what it “looked like inside the camera”. We lost a whole day worth of pictures. I was not happy about that, but I guess that’s what kids do.
When we finally arrived home, everyone was waiting for us to go to dinner where Satoko worked. It was a very different place from lunch time. The food was also very good. We met many of Satoko’s friends and also one of her bosses, a manager. For some reason her manager looked really familiar, but I’m not sure why. He also spoke English quite well. He did say he worked in the states for a short time, but I didn’t ask where. Perhaps I should have!
After dinner we headed home and I packed the remainder of our stuff for the trip tomorrow to Tokyo. I also packed 3 boxes to ship to the US. Sent one box to Connie, my friend, and the other two to Mitsuyo-san’s house. It lightened my load by quite a bit.
Day 12: Nov 16th, 2002
We started out early to get the boxes mailed to the US. We needed to be at the train station in Shin-Osaka by 11am. We barely made it there because the post office took longer than expected. But, we made it. It was a long trip to Tokyo, about 5 hours. Jason had fun, but he did get a little restless. Mom did well. I was happy that Yumiko-san was going to meet us.
When we arrived in Tokyo Station, we waited at the platform for Yumiko-san. I recognized her immediately! She had not changed at all! Shino-chan and Wataru-kun had grown up so much!! Tsuba-chan, the youngest boy was adorable! I had not yet met him, and Yumiko had not yet met Jason either.
From the station, we figured out where the Ryokan that we were staying at was, and decided to try to take a taxi. The Ryokan is in a town called Tamachi. We ended up splitting in to 2 taxis, and got to the Ryokan. We checked in, and sorted out our stuff and decided to head out to see parts of Tokyo. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at a cheap Japanese fast food place. It wasn’t bad! We did some light shopping and wandering then Mom was tired so we headed back to the Ryokan, and Yumiko and her kids headed for home.
When we arrived at the Ryokan, I settled Mom into bed and went to the caretakers to pay our bill. They did not take credit cards. Cash only. I did not have that much cash on hand. Oooops. So I asked where there might be an ATM I could use. Down the street 2 blocks, there’s a bank. Great!
I made sure mom was ok, grabbed Jason, and took off to the bank. My bankcard did not work. Hmm. Use the little phone on the cradle at each ATM, and asked, my VISA does not seem to be working. Turns out that the only cards that works at this bank is Japanese issued cards.. Ok.. where can I use My card? I need a “Cash Kiosk” at the train stations. Ok. I can do that. I grab Jason and head for the “Cash Kiosk”. At the “Cash Kiosk” I try again and gee.. it ~Still~ doesn’t work. Ok, Call another bank person using the little phone on the cradles at each ATM, I’m at a “Cash Kiosk” and my card still does not work. Oh, you need an “American Bank Station” Ok. Where might one of ~those~ be??? At the Akihabara Station? And how far is that? Oh. 30 mins by train.. Ok… So I call the Ryokan, tell them where I’m heading and to please don’t let my mom leave and make sure the room is secure.
Jason and I head now, for the train platform, wait for the train and head out to Akihabara. Poor little guy is tired, it’s been a long day for him, and here I am hauling him all over the dang place. But I wasn’t going to leave him at the Ryokan with Mom alone. That might have been disasterous. He’s a real trooper and plugs along with me.
We get to Akihabara and go down to the information center and they send us to the police station. That one puzzled me but hey, they had the answer! They pointed me in the right direction and showed me where the CitiBank Building was with the right kind of ATM. Jason and I headed that way. It’s now about 9:00pm and Jason is doing a great job walking with me. The lights on the buildings are astounding. Like Las Vegas or something! It’s quite the scene. Jason really loved it. He was oohing and ahhing at the lights and at the height of some of those buildings.
At one major intersection we wait for the light to turn green for us. It turns green for ~all~ pedestrians in all directions! It’s like going through a blender of about 500 people going every which way all at once! An amazing intersection! I was amazed at the number of people walking around at that time of night. They all seemed very comfortable and there was no sign of “fear” or “caution”. Just as normal as can be.
We stop for a little soda at a Mos Burger and keep walking. We finally arrive at the right ATM and I go to get some cash out. In my haste, I miscalculate the exchange and try to withdraw 200,000 yen rather than 20,000 yen and get a “You don’t have enough money for that” error. I call the bank person using the little phone in the cradle at each ATM and say I have at least that much $$ what’s wrong?? She asks how much are you trying to withdraw? I say about $200.00 American she says, Oh. Did you type 20,000 yen? Ooops. Thanks for your help!!! ~blush~ how silly do I feel now?
So finally, cash in hand and a little extra to boot, I head back to the station. We wait for our train back to Tamachi and it arrives very soon. Once in Tamachi station, we have to walk back to the Ryokan. At this point Jason is complaining a bit, and I don’t blame him, coz I’m tired too! But he keeps walking and does a great job. We finally get to the hotel and find the lady to give her the money for our room. She asks about taking a bath but I don’t think Jason would want one so I say no. He surprises me and says, “I want Ofuro!” So I call the lady and let her know. She is very obliging and sets us up with towels and shows me how to operate the showers. The bath is Gorgeous. It had 8 shower heads, (stools and buckets to match) and a Very Large Pool sized Ofuro. Wow. I want one.. well maybe not that big. With a nice bath behind us, we settle into our room and sleep very soundly. Mom slept through the whole time we were gone.
Day 13: Nov 17th
We get up early and get ready to head out for Saitama where we will be meeting with Yumiko and her family and with Mr. And Mrs. Oshima. I am most concerned about being able to see Ojisan as I had heard that he had been ill recently. Yumiko-san, her kids, Mr. & Mrs. Oshima and Mariko, Yumiko’s sister, meet us at the Kitamoto station. Ojisan looks so well. I am so relieved to see him look so well.
They rebuilt their house on the same piece of land that they have always lived on. It is a house that has 3 parts! Mariko has an apartment in one upstairs area, Ojisan and Fumio-san have one section on the right downstairs and Yumiko and family have the other section downstairs on the left. It is a very nice design because it allows for 3 families to live separately yet together.
Mom was very happy to see Ojisan and Fumio-san. They sat and talked for quite awhile. We had lunch in Yumiko’s house. We made Okonomiyaki and it was great. Jason loved it. The unfortunate part was that we had to be back in Tamachi by 2pm. Everyone was disappointed that it was such a short visit but, we were all glad that we were able to meet.
We hopped on the train back to Tamachi to meet with Mr. Fukuda, a poet that had met Mom previously, who would take us to Ochamomizu. There was a poetry meeting happening there and many poets were going to be there. This is where we met up with Kris Kondo, Pat Donegan and Uchiyama-san, a poet and friend of Kris. Mom spent time talking with many people there. She seemed to be having a great time talking to the people there. Jason, Kris and I decide to take a walk around town to keep Jason entertained without disrupting the poets.
While wandering around outside, Jason saw the parking elevators and turntable for the cars. We must have spent an hour and ½ watching cars turn on the turntables and come in and out of the stacking elevators. I was finally able to peel Jason away from there and go inside where Mom was visiting with her poet friends. We got our luggage and prepared to get on the trains to go to Atsugi, where Kris Kondo lives. This would be our next stop. We arrived in Atsugi late in the evening so we had our dinner of sushi from a shop near the train station and sat around the kitchen table chatting and getting ready for settling in. We got to meet Karen, Kris’s daughter, but we did not meet Joji until later since he worked that night till late. Kris and I stayed up later than everyone else and chatted. We finally went to sleep around 1 AM.
Day 14: Nov 18th
We awoke at around 7AM when Karen was preparing to go to school. This day we planned on spending in Atsugi running errands and seeing the town. After Karen headed off to school, we started our morning routine. We had some yummy homemade Japanese style breakfast, and got dressed and ready to get rolling. While I was getting Jason undressed from his pajamas, Kris came running in to our room and asked, “Is Kiyoko in here?” I said, “no..” Kris said, “She’s gone!” and ran out the door to search for her. I grabbed my shoes and started heading out the door while telling Jason, wait for just a minute.. I have to find Bachan.. he protested that, he too, wanted to go look for Bachan.. so I ran back in, grabbed a pair of pants for him to put on and a shirt, urging him to please hurry. He got his pants on and just as I was trying to throw a shirt on over his head, Kris came back with Mom in tow. She found her knocking on a neighbor’s door wanting to go in. Kris retrieved her and apologized to the neighbor for disturbing them. Whew..
We finally got ourselves ready to go and headed for Atsugi. I needed to get some money exchanged and some supplies for the last few days of our stay. So we went to the bank, and after some confusion about addresses and phone numbers, I was able to get my travelers checks cashed. We also made reservations for the shinkansen ride to Shizuoka and for the train to Narita on the 21st. We also went to McDonald’s for lunch. I think it tasted different. Jason thought it was good. The only thing about the dining area that I did not like was that you have to walk upstairs ~through~ the smoking section to the third floor which was the Non-Smoking section. And of course the bathrooms were all in the smoking section. Arrrgh. It seems that while we are finding more and more Non-Smoking sections in Japan, it’s nowhere near as smoke free as California. My lungs definitely had a workout in Japan trying to find clean air, but it was not nearly as bad as 10-20 years previous.
We also went to a wonderful “warehouse” style grocery store. I found lots and lots of goodies to buy for presents! Food is always a fun thing to bring home. I also bought a few things for dinners at Kris’. It was a fun store!
We got home and relaxed for a bit, then because we had promised Karen that we would bring home McDonalds for dinner, we felt we should keep our promise to her. Jason thought it was a good idea, so we all piled into her car and headed there. After dinner, we went home and prepared for the next days meals. Kris prepared a very nice “Oden” on her space heater. I got Mom ready for bed and we all sat and talked in the kitchen while Jason and Karen played. Joji came home earlier and was able to talk with us for a bit. Mom went to bed early as did Jason, but again, Kris and I stayed up and talked and played Skipbo. Skipbo is a fun strategy card game. It was really great to hang out with Kris and just talk. I think we finally headed for bed at 2AM.
Day 15: Nov 19th
Today we would wake early and go to Miyagase, a small town where Kris teaches. This small town is near a dam and there is a beautiful park there at the base of the dam. The ride there is gorgeous. It reminded me a little of Highway 9. It wound around the mountains and rivers and there were some beautiful places and small towns along the way. We arrived at the park for the dam and walked all around there. We would need to stay there until noon time when Kris would come to get us. We had been invited to have lunch at the school with the teachers and students and take a tour of the school.
The park was a beautiful place. There was a very large staircase that went from the top of the dam to the bottom of the valley. At the bottom of the valley was a large open area to walk and play and a small stream that had rocks for hopping. The kids hopped on rocks while mom and I watched. We walked all around the park looking around at many things. Mom got a little impatient because we didn’t have a specific destination but she did ok. It took a long time to climb the stairs and I managed to find an alternate route upwards that was just a slope up, rather than stairs. There was also a little train that ran along the outer pathway that people could ride for a tour. Jason and Karen rode the train. It’s full trip was 35 minutes long. Mom and I waited for them at the top of the hill.
There were small stores at the top of the dam that were selling fresh made “osembe” and specialty treats made from “soba”. They were also selling tsukemono and trinkets, too. I bought some fresh baked “Osembe” and decided that there’s no comparison.. the store bought stuff just isn’t as good as fresh made!
We finally made our way back to the entrance to the park and waited for Kris to return. While we waited, Jason found a beautiful moth on the ceiling of the restroom. Neither he nor I had ever seen anything quite like it before.
Kris arrived just a few minutes after noon to retrieve us. We drove back to the school and arrived just a tad bit late. The principal of the school welcomed us at the entry. We were escorted to the lunch area and were treated to a wonderful school lunch. The school lunch served at this school was much nicer than the ones in the states! We had rice, salad, grilled fish, noodles, soup, bread and butter and dessert. Yum! Jason ate every bit of his lunch, as did I and Mom.
The kids at the school were just wonderful. They showed us the animals that they kept in the little farm area (chickens and rabbits) and their garden and all of the classrooms. The most unusual thing about this school was that the number of staff out numbers the number of students. It is a public school with 8 students and almost 20 staff members.
The teachers are respected and very well liked there. I watched as the teachers interacted with the kids and they had so much patience and willingness to interact with the kids. Kris says that this kind of situation in Japan is also very rare. I find it amazing that they would keep a school with 8 students open. Mom seemed to really enjoy walking around the school and seeing the kids. She spent a bit of time talking to the Principal and Kris.
After our tour of the school, we headed off to Mrs. Iwasawa's house. She is a great friend of Kris. She is a sweet lady, an her home is beautiful! We spent some time chatting and eating delicious treats and drinking some wonderful tea! Yumm!! From there, we headed for the Onsen. The Onsen that we went to is one that is very famous in Japan. I forgot the name of it, but it was ~WONDERFUL~!! Mom really enjoyed being there. We soaked and played and talked and relaxed. Jason loved that that the tubs were like swimming pools of hot water. It was hard to keep him (and Mom) from jumping right into the tubs before showering first. I managed to get Mom scrubbed down first then got Jason. After that, it was a free for all at the tubs. Mom really enjoyed the outside pool. It was really beautifully set. There were other tubs and pools and water massagers inside. That was fun, too. The whole experience was really wonderful. After being in the water, it was finally time to get out and get dressed. I found it a little difficult to convince Jason that it was time to leave. But after some coaxing he finally decided it was time to go. The dressing rooms had some wonderful after bath moisturizers and creams that Mom loved. There was also a refreshing drink there too. Jason enjoyed a few of those drinks.
We left the onsen and headed for home, but stopped for dinner at a restaurant that Kris knew well. The food was delicious, especially after such a relaxing soak at the Onsen. We arrived home, changed in to our Jammies and sat around the kitchen table talking. Around bed time, I got Jason and Mom settled and prepared for our journey to Shizuoka tomorrow. I returned to the kitchen and Kris and I played Skipbo and talked till odd hours.. This was now, a regular event that she and I both really enjoyed… and that I miss now.
Day 16, Nov 20th
We got up early so that we could get our train to Shizuoka to visit Emi and Haruka Goto. I had not met Emi, but knew that she was very important to Mom. We took a local train from Atsugi to Iiyama then the Romance Car Train on the Odakyu Railway to the Odawara Station where we would get on to the Shinkansen heading to Shizuoka. The timing was tight but we managed. The ride from Odawara to Shizuoka was about 1.5 to 2 hours.
I was most concerned because while I got a seat with Jason, Mom was sitting in the car behind us. I told her several times, “Do Not Get up till I come Get You” she promised she would wait for me. At the first stop we made, intuition told me to jump up and go to where she was seated. I found her standing near the exit, preparing to leave. It was crowded with people, but I managed to call to her, excuse my intrusion to the people standing and get to her before she left the train. I got her back to her seat and tell her again to stay there until I returned to get her. The ladies sitting next to her, noted that I was dealing with someone who wandered started talking to her and telling me that they were going to Shizuoka, also, and that they would make she stayed on the train. She began chatting with the ladies and settled down for the remainder of the ride. I checked on her quite often, and she seemed very happy chatting with these ladies. I thanked them profusely as we got off the train.
Once off of the train, I found a phone booth and called Emi and Haruka. I told them where we were and they said they would be there in 10 minutes. Mom was impatient to take off but I managed to get her to wait. Mom had a hard time recalling who Emi was or what she looked like. I was hoping that they would recognize Mom and figure out who we were. They did! Whew. When they came up, I told Mom who they were and Emi immediately started telling her about where they had met and whom they knew together and how Mom had stayed at Emi’s on a previous trip. The plan was to have lunch together and visit, but I needed to add an unexpected shopping trip to buy a change of clothes for Jason. We found a restaurant at the shopping mall above the train station. It was a really nice sushi bar that had a line out the door. So Emi and Mom waited in line while Jason, Haruka and I went for a quick run to the Kid's Department for a change. I found a cute pair of jeans and a very nice pair of undies for the little boy that waited way too long.
We made our purchases, swapped clothes on Jason and headed back to the restaurant. Jason took an Immediate attraction to Haruka and would not leave her side. We had a great lunch together, and headed off to find dessert. The dessert shop was down the far end of the row of restaurants. We went for coffee and tasty treats. While there, Emi told a really funny story about the first time she met mom.
It seems Emi was attending the Haiku Retreat at Asilomar and Mom was taking her there from somewhere in San Jose. Well, when they first met, Mom was ~very elegant, dainty and refined japanese woman~ and then... they got in the car to go to Ben Lomond, and when they got on the freeway, Emi was **SHOCKED** at the speed at which Mom drove!! She said, this very dainty and elegant lady gets in the car and next thing I knew we were FLYING down the road... Now keep in mind that the speed limit on the freeways in Japan is about 45 to 50 mph, and it's considered "speeding" to be doing any more than around 55 to 60.. and 65 is outrageously fast.. never mind that on most freeways here in the states the average is 70. While for my Mom, the speed she was driving was normal, for Emi, it was Shocking. I just found that story really hilarious!! Especially the way that Emi told it. We laughed and giggled through our dessert.
Mr Jason, getting just a tad bit bored at us adults yakkity yakking, began to fidget and bounce about, amd next thing I knew, Emi was grabbing Jason's hand and calling out to Haruka that they were going "shopping for a toy" I protested and said this was not necessary, but she was off and running with Jason.. so I said "SMALL TOY, Small!!!"
Haruka, Mom and I sat there and finished our cakes and tea and coffees and chatted even more. Mom seemed to really enjoy being there. We learned alot about Emi and her talents and a lot about Haruka, too. I learned that Emi is one of Japan's National Treasures and Haruka is a professional Classical Singer. Wow. I asked about her music and what it took to be a classical singer. It's amazing what they go through.
While we waited for Emi and Jason to return, we talked about many things. About the time that we had finished our dessert, Jason came back, grinning ear to ear, holding Emi's hand and carrying a bag bigger than he was! Emi, you did not have to do so much!!! It was a Thomas The Tank Engine Rail Activity set. Jason was one Happy Camper!!
We left the train station and mall and hopped into Haruka’s car to go to their house in the city. On the way there, we passed by a castle and Jason asked if that was Haruka’s castle. I took a picture of them at the castle. Haruka told Jason, “no, it’s not my house but the Prince and Princess have stayed there.” At that point Jason decided that she was “Princess Haruka” and that he was her Prince. He also sang for her, his “Thomas Song” the one he made up. She was so pleased that he sang for her.
Their house was a very wonderful place. We visited in their living/practice room and Emi treated us to her fantastic piano playing and Haruka and Emi sang several Japanese children’s songs for us. We were just amazed at the quality and sound of Haruka’s voice. Emi and Mom sang many, many songs together and they even made a recording of their music.
Jason naturally wanted to try his hand at piano playing and Emi, ever so graciously grabbed him up, showed him how to hit the keys and as he was “Pounding Away”, she sang “Bebop” to his music. It was an amazing thing to hear because Jason’s banging sounded like real Bebop music. Jason was just ecstatic!!
We then went out to dinner at a wonderful little restaurant and afterwards headed back to the train station to go back to Atsugi. It was a fantastic day and meeting Emi and Haruka was wonderful! So wonderful that I forgot my camera there.. Oops. I called Emi and asked if she would mail it to me, she did! The ride home was fun and all we did was talk about how fun the trip has been. We arrived in Atsugi and Kris picked us up, and at home we prepared for our trip back to the US. Kris had the Takkyubin company come to the house and take our large cases and stuff to the airport so that we only had our smallest packs for the ride to Narita.
Kris and I played our last hand of Skipbo and made plans for the next days departure. It was a little sad to be leaving.
Last Day: Nov 21,2002
We got up early had our last, home cooked, Japanese breakfast and loaded the remaining packs and things into the car. We headed to the train station where Kris would show us the right platform to be on and how to go to catch the Express train to Narita. We said our goodbyes and got on board the train.
We got to the airport with plenty of time to spare and spent much of the day shopping and meandering the airport. Finally, it was time to board the plane home. I think we were all just a bit sad to be leaving but happy to be going home.
For Kiyoko Tokutomi - Dec 28, 1929 - Dec 25th, 2002