Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Smiths Go to Japan!

Two days after Christmas, my American family came to Tokyo!!! After a great morning and early afternoon during which Okaasan and I toured Ameyoko, Ueno Koen, and ate lunch at a sushi restaurant, I boarded the Skyliner headed for Narita Airport. After a little while of waiting at the arrivals gate, I finally met them! After all these months apart, it was great to see them all- even though my father was in a wheel chair due to a bum knee. Baggage in toe, we took what ended up being a 2 hour bus ride to Shinjuku, where we checked into the Hilton Tokyo. Following is a summary of the wonderful visit we had:

Day 1:

Checked-in, exchanged Christmas presents (woo for two Christmas'!) and performed a frantic search for food. We found a great restaurant in Roppongi where the food was delicious and the wait-staff extremely courteous. I had my first real taste of an extended translation period, and stomaches full we returned to the hotel for a good-night's sleep.

My family's very first meal in Japan! They were REALLY jet-lagged...I kinda felt bad for being so awake haha.

Day 2:

Headed straight for Sophia University, so my family could have an idea of where I've been spending so much of my time over the past 5 months! Immediately afterwards, tried to walk to Yasakuni but, for whatever reason failed...ended up near the Imperial Palace but, unfortunately not the side with anything of interest! Eventually, we succombed to a taxi and made it to the famous War (or is it Peace?) Shrine...Afterwhich we headed across town to Asakusa (my favorite!) I was able to show everyone what's so great about the place- the lit up shrine, the streets lined with traditional Japanese snacks and crafts, the old-fashioned green-tea and red bean dessert place, etc. Finally, to cap off the busy day, we took in all Tokyo from the top of Roppongi Hills!

Christopher and I in front of some of the many empty sake barrels at Yasakuni.

Day 3: We went to Kappa Bashi (where you can see plastic food and buy any kind of restaurant equipment...thus it's a great place for Japanese dishes, bowls, etc), a shrine nearby that I don't know the name of at the moment (gotta check sorry!) and Ueno. For lunch we stopped in for katsudon (!) and ramen. My mom had rice (the food issue was a bit difficult for her here...they tend to eat fish in Japan).

Christopher and I inside the shrine I forgot the name of.

We ate dinner at a kaiten (revoling) sushi bar. My dad was in heaven, my mom liked oinari (rice inside tofu skins), and Christopher took pictures.

He's the weird one, I swear.

Day 4: The first half of the day was spent at Meiji Jingu (the Meiji shrine) in Harajuku. After being amused by Snoopy-Land (a store selling nothing but products related to the Peanuts), we headed into the shrine...not realizing until about 20 minutes later that the walk from the entrance to the main shrine itself was, well, 20 minutes! This was made increasingly more difficult due to my father (who has a really painful knee at the moment) having to push his wheel chair and my brother and mom pulling a big suit case (filled with gifts for the Kato's). Eventually, however, we arrived at the main shrine, and it was well-worth it (well, for me...ask my family if they agree! haha)...the shrine was big and impressive. On the way out, we were laughed at by a passing couple...apparantly our struggling was of some humor to them. Were they Japanese? No, of course not! They would never dare do such a thing...were they American? Hmmm...perhaps.

After Meiji, we headed over to Tabata to meet the Kato's! Finally, the big moment had arrived- my two families would meet....

...and get along! We had some lunch, opened a ton of "hi nice to meet you, thanks for taking care of Brian, Merry Christmas!" presents and then went to eat dinner in Ginza. The Kato's had reserved a private room at a famous tofu-only restaurant (for my mother, a vegetarian) WOW. It was amazing! Half the stuff you kinda just looked at and said, "That's tofu?" It was all delicious and I was really glad to have my two families together in the same place. Christopher got along great with Mune and Tomo, as well.

Day 5: Disney Sea!

Disney Sea was nice, but different. I feel everything was simply geared to a completely different audience, once with more subtle tastes. Thus, rides such as Journey to the Center of the Earth (a supposed 'thriller') were fun but...not quite what I expected. The Japanese, though , go nuts over the place. They scream on the one drop (yes, only one) on JTTCOTE like it's a crazy coaster...and they don't seem to mind the mysterious absense of characters, nor the fact that the Indiana Jones present within the Indiana Jones ride (mechanics seem to be a replica of Dinosaur from Animal Kingdom) is not based on Harrison Ford's likeness.

So I complain, yes. But really Disney Sea is a great place that has a lot of's just different. The scenery is beautiful, however, and I can see why it's known as a big date place.

Having fun...and perhaps turning Japanese???

Christopher, being a gaijin, was obviously asked to pose in a picture with curious Japanese.

We went to a Thai restaurant after Disney and, to our shock, horror, and excitement discovered the entire staff was in costume. This is the chef, a man who secretly desires to be a Power Ranger. There were also maids, bears, a Spiderman or 2, etc.

Anyway so after Disney and some dinner, my family's trip to Japan was over....short, but busy and fun! I had a great time showing them around, benefitted by translating every day all day, and was so happy to have them see where I've been living and what I've been seeing for the past 5 month.

Sorry this post is so late! I'll be updating further to explain why I've been so busy!


Rose said...

Hi Brian!
I think I can speak for all of us when I say we had the most wonderful time in Tokyo. It's a place w/ history, extraordinary people, magnificent sights, and extremely unique places of interest.

Rose said...

Hi again, Brian,
The Japanese people, as a whole, can not do enough for you. They are sincerely caring, giving, helpful, and considerate people.
Our favorite time in Tokyo was w/ the Katos. We now understand, first hand, all you have told us over the past several months. We truly believe they were your guardian angels looking over you. They are a wonderful family we hope to see again.
You did a superb job navigating us around Tokyo and communicating whenever you needed to.
Thank you for a memorable time!
Love and hugs,