Captain Mark, one of the soldiers from Camp Zama that we hosted for Thanksgiving, invited our family to The New Sanno Hotel for Brunch today to thank us for including him for the holiday dinner. The New Sanno happens to be down the block from our apartment building and is a hotel owned and run by the US government and you can only go inside if you are active duty personnel or their guests. We had to be escorted into the building by Mark and he had to flash his military ID wherever we went. The brunch was in a huge dining hall that reminded me of the dining rooms in the old Concord Hotel in the Catskills. It was a huge all you can eat and drink buffet with every American speciality you could think of (except pancakes for some strange reason). The girls enjoyed mac and cheese and fruit loop treats among other assorted goodies they haven’t had in 6 months. They peppered Mark with questions about being a soldier and he answered all of them. We learned that the hotel cost $42 per night and that if he wanted to fly home to America he could get a “hop” on a military plane at the base for $25 – however you can only fly standby… What struck Tom and I were the size of the people at the brunch. We usually feel like the largest fattest people wherever we go but today, we were average size, and SKINNY!!! After brunch, Mark took us for a tour of the hotel. It was fun to see all the added features of a hotel built and run for the armed services. There was a NY deli, a store where you could buy clothes from the states in US sizes, a magazine and book shop with magazines in normal US dollar prices (Mark was nice and bought me a current selection), a snack shop where you could buy Ben and Jerrys pints and pop tarts, an ATM machine that spit out US Dollars and an Americanized Japanese restaurant (think Benihana). They also had a casino with slot machines, a sports bar with ESPN and AFN on the televisions and a nice pool and gym facility. Walking home from the hotel, full on eggs benedict, a shopping bag full of magazines and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day. After a few hours at home, the girls got dressed in their new outfits (purchased the day before at the closest thing to a US mall I’ve found in Tokyo – Lalaport) and we were off to their first music recital. It was run by the music company that gives them lessons and they had been practicing their pieces for the past two months. Annie just started playing violin when we arrived in Japan and Sophie has continued her lessons that she started in the Fall of ’07 in New York. There was no prior rehearsal and we weren’t sure what to expect from the other musicians. The program included 24 different “acts” including piano, violin, guitar and flute. The age of the musicians ranged from around 6 to adult. One of the first to play was a boy with Down Syndrome who was around 6 years old. He played his piano piece beautifully. He was so patient with the song, never rushing any notes and his mother recorded it from the audience wiping away the tears as he played. It was really beautiful. There were two more musicians who were disabled, it seemed like they had Asperger’s Syndrome. They both played beautifully. There was quite a range of talent, from close to beginner (like Annie) to off the charts amazing – there was a 12 year old boy violinist that was insane. The concert lasted over two hours and all of the little children sat through it without hardly moving. It was very impressive. By the end, the girls were absolutely spent but it was an afternoon of smiles and pride.