My Eight Month Coma 1

Last week I travelled back in time to Tokyo.  You’re probably thinking that makes no sense because everyone knows that Tokyo is actually 13 hours in the future (from NYC).  Nevertheless, that’s what it felt like.  Or maybe I’ve just been in a really long coma.  Yes, some things had changed (many many friends were missing) but I could easily explain that away – they were off traveling.  What I’m trying to say is that even though its been 8 months since I left Japan, it felt like I woke up from a long sleep and I was right back where I started from.  My 100 words of Japanese returned and came flowing out of my mouth upon arrival at the airport limousine bus counter in Narita airport.  Directions to taxi drivers were a cinch, the staff at the American club welcomed me with open arms and a few shopkeepers in Azabu Juban were friendlier than they would have been to a total American stranger.  I had hoped that my time away would have given me perspective and that returning would give me the closure I really wanted and needed; the figurative final stamp in my passport sending me on my way.  I was too emotional when I left to really process the departure.  This, unfortunately didn’t happen.  There was no perspective, no closure.  I found myself pretending that I still actually lived there.  Looking back on those very very brief 5 nights/4 days, I’d say that I didn’t do anything any differently than I would have if I still lived there (with a few exceptions that I’ll get to later).  I went to the fundraiser of my children’s school, ate ramen (2x), had a foot massage (or 2) went to the supermarket, the American club, had sushi in Tsukiji, went to a shrine sale, took trains, spent the night in a ryokan, saw a fire festival and had a girls night out.  So, you’re starting to get the point, right?  What I did in that short period of time was not a vacation itinerary – it was my plain old vanilla life – or the life I used to lead.  Which was anything but vanilla.  Hence the lack of closure.  But i’ve returned home happy to know that even though I’ve been gone for 8 months my friendships lived on.  We picked right back up where we left off – if anything, I appreciate them more.  And, those exceptions I mentioned earlier… well, lets just say I was fortunate to have an opportunity I won’t ever forget.  I spent those five nights and four days happily ensconced in the MacArthur Suite at the US Ambassador’s residence.  Kisses to John and Susie Roos.  Maybe next time, the coma won’t have to be so long…

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Ban On Plastic Bags in Your Town? You’re Killing Us – Literally 1

bagsI first started using the word incongreenient when I moved to Tokyo in 2008.  I wasn’t sure if it was actually a word but that didn’t bother me.  It suited my purposes well. Tokyo was years ahead of New York in terms of recycling and the process left me weary.  It was not unusual to see six different receptacles for sorting your garbage, hence the need for a word like incongreenient.  When I returned home to New York in 2012 I moved to a town (Rye) that had banned plastic bags.  I must admit to the huge eye roll and the reoccurrence of the usage of my trusty new word.  I shook my head each time I would run into CVS to buy a small box of tampons and be given a huge (grocery sized) bag to put it in.  This couldn’t possibly be a good thing.  So now the back of my car has at all times an assortment of reusable bags that I have purchased at Whole Foods, Stop and Shop and Trader Joe’s.  I don’t always remember them when running into the store which causes me to frequently buy a new bag or four.  But the term incongreenient has taken on new meaning and might not even fit the bill anymore.  A new study was done in 2011 in California and Arizona which tested reusable bags and found that 51% of them contained coliform bacteria.  Here’s how it gets there.  We shop, we don’t always separate meat from vegetables in our bags, we empty the bags without washing them and then we throw them back into our trunks where they sit and roast (depending upon where you live and the time of year) and voila! the bacteria grows ten fold.  The study reports that we can eliminate this risk by 99.9% if we wash our bags!  Excellent news.  However it goes on to say that only 3% wash our bags.  Immediately following the plastic bag ban in San Fransisco, the ecoli admissions at the area hospitals grew by 46%.  Sometimes, when lawmakers pass laws with knee jerk reactions to appease their citizens we end up with unintended consequences.  And by the way, those plastic bags that use too much oil to make and pollute our waterways and kill marine animals – they only represent .6% of our total litter problem.  Now that is incongreenient.

What Will Your New Life Look Like? 2

*this entry is dedicated to all my friends who are on the move…

What will your new life look like?

Will you live in a city? A home with a backyard?  Will you hear the waves crash while you eat dinner?  What will you do after the kids go to school?  Play tennis?  Go to a new job?  Clean your house?  Do laundry?  Play cards?  Will you drive your children to school or will they walk or take a bus or a train or a bike?  Will you go out every Friday and Saturday night or will you stay home and have dinner with your kids?  Or order in?  Or cook for friends?  Will you still dance?  And sing?  Will you travel domestically or use a passport?  Will you join a book club or just read magazines instead?  Will you ever use your bike as a means of transportation or just on a beautiful summer day?  Will you return to Japan next year?  Or will life get too busy?  Will you look through your photos and wonder if life will ever be as fun or will you just get on with your day?  Will you have three course lunches?  With a glass of wine?  Will you travel on trains?  When you hear the Japanese anthem will you be moved?  When you see the white flag with the red sun will you smile?  At 5pm will you wait to hear the bell?  Will you go out of your way for a Japanese meal just to practice your unused words?  Will you still use a rice cooker when you make dinner?  Will you Skype?  Will you go to the doctor more?  Will you still walk to where you are going?  Will you still be curious?

The Calm in the Storm 2

On March 14th, Annie’s 12th birthday and 3 days after the Great East Japan Earthquake, I woke the kids at 5:30 a.m. and we left our apartment for Narita Airport.  Our plan was to get on the morning flight to Bali, a week before our planned spring break vacation.  We didn’t have tickets for the 14th but with the aftershocks constantly rolling underneath us, the unknown nuclear reactor situation and the closing of the kid’s schools, Tom and I thought it best I take the kids and leave.  It took a lot of time and yen to get on the flight but with tickets in hand we ran to security to make it on the 11am flight.  Standing in line at immigration, there was a very large aftershock – so big that everyone left the line and ran for cover.  If you’ve ever been in Narita’s immigration room, you’ll know there really is no such thing. So after we got Sophie out from under the huge piece of glass hanging from the ceiling, we waited for it to stop and continued to the gate.  We boarded the flight a few moments before its scheduled departure. Usually I hate to fly and have to take a few pills to relax in my seat.  This trip, I thanked god when the wheels left the ground and for the first time in two decades, the turbulence didn’t bother me.  We landed in Denpasar seven hours later, tired and relieved, yet sad to have left Tom behind.  The taxi drove for over an hour through crowded streets, where motor scooters outnumbered cars ten to one.  The ride was one we had never taken and the stimuli blew by us at 80 kilometers per hour.  We were glued to the windows taking it all in.  After days of worrying and stress, the new surroundings were a huge relief, something to take our minds off what we had just been through.  We arrived at our hotel in Ubud, dirty and hungry, and the warm welcoming people who took our bags and led us to a table outside by the jungle were like a vision.  We ordered huge amounts of food and ate it all – they were even there with a cake and a candle for Annie – a birthday she will never forget.  The relief we felt that we were safe in Bali was palpable and I’m pretty sure none of us had a problem falling asleep that night.  We spent ten days at that hotel, taking full advantage of everything Ubud had to offer – white water rafting, bike rides through rice paddies, yoga, monkey forests, nighttime rides on elephants, laying around by the pool, massages, authentic Balinese food, shopping, playing cards and numerous games of Bananagrams – cocktail hour under the thatched roof bar – smoothies made from fresh tropical fruits. We fed our minds, bodies and souls and we talked a lot about what happened and our lives back in Tokyo.  We worried about Tom and talked to him often.  We went over tons of What If scenarios and facebooked our friends to see what they were feeling and learn of their plans for the future.  This vacation was like no other and will forever be melded with the earthquake.  I am so grateful that we were able to go and I’m truly thankful to all of the wonderful people in Bali who cared for us – hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to one day return under better circumstances.  Namaste.

Burn Them At The Stake In An Orderly Fashion 2

Pictures don’t lie.  This is what it appears to be.  A large bonfire with people on top, making a mad dash out of hell.  But it was taken in Japan, in the tiny mountain village of Nozawa Onsen and so really, there was nothing to fear.  The Japanese put on incredible shows during their bizarre festivals and yet you know every aspect has been planned, organized and practiced and the risk of injury has been almost eliminated.  Every January 13th – 15th, the villagers of this tiny town re-enact an ancient ritual.  Sacred trees are felled and dragged into town where the 25 and 42 year old male villagers construct an intricate wooden shrine pavilion seven meters high and eight square meters wide.  This is serious construction business and its done in silence.  It takes two days to build and is completed on the morning of the 15th, the actual festival.  The festival is called the Dosojin Fire Festival and it takes its name from a folk deity believed to ward off danger near the village boarders.  These male and female statues are constructed out of various materials and its hard to walk around the corner without seeing another couple.  

A large group of Tokyo friends with husbands and children made the trek to this snowy destination for a weekend of skiing, fire and fun in the snow.  We stayed at a great ryokan called Sakaya.  I love the way they welcome their guests: 

and right outside the entrance was a foot onsen waiting to warm the feet of frozen skiers.  After a “delicious” dinner of typical japanese delights (fish guts and other assorted body parts) we made our way as a large group down the charming snow covered narrow roads to the festival, about a 10 minute walk from our inn.  Surrounded by spectators (most of which had an Australian accent as this is their summer vacation and many many Australians flock to the Japanese Alps for ski vacations) was this huge ark like structure encircled by the 25 year old men at the base while the 42 year old men sat and stood on the top, occasionally throwing branches at the townspeople below.  There were others bearing torches whose job it was to burn the structure down.  The young men protecting it tried their best to hold them back.  This give and take lasted over an hour until the townspeople broke through the line and set the structure on fire.  But not of course until the 42 year old males made a careful descent down their twig ladder.  I’m sure the sake consumed by all involved helped the fire to burn.  And burn it did.  It was a cold dark night that soon turned the skies light and the spectators warm.  Golden sparks lit the skies like firecrackers on the fourth of july.  

Momiji-gari: leaf peeping in Japan 2

ROAD TRIP!!! One car, six girls, bags of snacks, cups of coffee, even a homemade carrot cake – we were on our way to Takayama and Shirakawa-go, a 4+ hour drive from Tokyo to a land of thatched roof houses and magnificent fall foliage.  We had 36 hours to see and do as much as possible and even though the car navi said it would take 5 1/2 hours to get to Takayama, we put the proverbial pedal to the medal and made it in

4 – an hour before our lunch reservation at the hundred year old soba shop.  This gave us time to scope out the town of Takayama, a foothold of the Tokugawa Shogunate; a feudal regime of shoguns.  We visited the Takayama Jinya, an historical asset that was built as a villa originally but then taken over as an administrative office.  It was beautifully restored.  The kitchen, with current appliances would have been right at home in a ski lodge in Aspen.  Here is a photo.

 

 

 

Lunch at the hundred year old soba shop did not disappoint. The bowl was almost too beautiful to eat, but it didn’t stop us from diving in.

 

After lunch, we spent an hour walking up and down the edo style streets, walking in and out of the small shops, buying more snacks and fun Japanese crafts.  The streets were fairly crowded for a Monday and many Japanese were dressed in Kimono.  Around 4pm, we made our way to the ryokan, the Japanese inn where we would spend the night.  Although it was located on a main street, next to a gas station, as soon as you entered through the torii gate, past the iron gas lamps, you left the modern street behind.  Actually, as soon as we pulled in to the parking lot across the street, a man ran towards us as though he was waiting in the window, watching for our arrival.  He grabbed every bag he could possibly manage (even though many of us were taller than him) and led us inside.  We were immediately welcomed and invited to sit by the fire for a welcome cup of tea and Japanese sweets.   Our room had two floors, a living area downstairs with a private deck with our own onsen outside and a sleeping room upstairs.  We cocktailed in our living area, snacking on wasabi rice crackers and vacuum packed chestnuts and played “would you rather” which got pretty survivor-like quickly.  Before dinner, we went in the onsen and soaked in the hot water outside in the pitch dark.  Warm and a bit fuzzy, we dressed in our custom chosen yukata and went to dinner in the inn.  I’ve included a photo down below of our table waiting for us in our private dining room.  Like most ryokan, dinner was completely Japanese and we had fun seeing who would eat what.  The two most adventurous in our group, Katherine and Efrot seemed to have no problem eating almost anything on their plate but the rest of us needed input before taking a stab at some of it.  The main course was Hida beef which we cooked ourselves on hot stones over a grill in the middle of the table.  The five small bits we were all served were delicious and left us wanting more.  And so, when the final course of the main meal was served: beef to be eaten raw, we waited until our server left the room and Libby threw her raw beef on the stone and cooked it too.  We all followed her lead.  After dinner we were invited to the main room of the lodge to do tin art with the sensei.  He had cut beer cans into squares and framed them and showed us how to turn them into something beautiful.  I made a replica of one of the thatched roof houses we would see the next day.  Here is a photo:

After we finished our works of art, we returned to our sleeping room to find 6 futons laid side by side.  We tucked in and fell fast asleep; well the rest of the girls did and after an ambien, I joined them.

Our plan was to wake up early and go to the morning market by the river but when the alarm went off at 7, it was raining and so we went back to bed and decided to skip the market.  We did manage to get back on the road by 10 and we expected a 50 minute drive to Shirakawa-go using the new road and tunnel but 30 minutes later, after driving through one of the longest tunnel i’ve ever been in, we were there.  And the magic began.  Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO world heritage site and as soon as you drive down the road and spot the first of many of these very special houses you immediately know why.  Shirakawa-go has some of the densest snowfall on Earth and it is believed to be the reason why these homes were built with these roofs.  Here are a few of the houses but they are literally scattered everywhere.  We pretty much ran through fields, amazed by each one we would find – there were at least fifty of them spread out in the small village.  Each one unique and yet the same.  Many of them have been turned into small shops and minshuku (inns that are more basic then ryokan).  It started to rain while we were there but we soldiered on, not stopping until we had seen the last house and shopped in the last shop.  We were hungry but there was no room anywhere as the bus loads of Japanese tourists had arrived and so back in the car we went to Takayama for a tasty lunch of more Hida beef cooked on our own individual grills.  After lunch, we quickly got back on the road, knowing it would be a long drive back to Tokyo.  What we hadn’t figured on was SNOW!  An actual blizzard.  We came through the end of a very long tunnel and found ourselves at the top of a snow covered mountain road where the traffic had come to a complete stop.  Two cars had already crashed into the side of the mountain and every other car bus and truck stopped in their tracks while their drivers put chains on their tires.  After years of driving to Windham in the snow on dark Friday nights, I felt confident to serpentine through the parked cars and buses and continue slowly down the mountain.  We drove for about 1/2 hour in the snow and then popped out of another long tunnel into Fall weather.  With a huge sigh of relief, we continued on towards home.  It was only 36 hours but it was plenty.  We came, we saw, we ate a lot of food.

 

A Great Day To Be An American 1

Team USA with Ex-Prime Minister Taro Aso and US Ambassador John Roos

The day began with gale force winds at 4am, waking myself and my family.  As I burrowed my way into Tom’s chest, fearful that the windows of my 18th floor apartment would blow in, I questioned the gods who once again would keep my in-laws from watching their grandsons play a football game together in Japan.  In October, 2009, they flew to Tokyo to watch them play only to have the game cancelled due to swine flu.  Another opportunity presented itself when the All-Stars from the Kanto Plains Football League were invited to take on the U-19 Japanese Football team in a friendship match strangely named the Camillia Bowl.  Back they flew to Tokyo, this time bringing Tom’s sister Nancy as well.  The day before the game was sunny and 70 degrees and the boys had their final practice at the Atsugi Naval Facility.  The team was comprised of all-star players from the American School in Japan,  Zama, Kinnick and Yokosuka (the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force facilities based around Tokyo).  The boys had practiced only four Saturdays prior to taking on the Japanese.  At 5am, the winds died down and the sun came out.  The game would be played after all.  The stadium was in Kawasaki, about 1/2 hour outside of Tokyo.  The boys left earlier by train and we followed later in a mini-bus, rented for the occasion.  We got there a bit early and were able to take over the stands at the 50 yard line.  We brought our family flag with us, the one that was flown at the capital building in Providence Rhode Island and we hung it with pride in front of the stands.  Exactly at 2pm, the anthems of both countries were sung.  Afterwards, the ex Prime Minister of Japan Taro Aso, the US Ambassador of Japan, John Roos, and Admiral Kevin Donegan from Yokosuka came onto the field for the coin toss.  Thomas was the head captain and joined the dignitaries on the field.  Japan won the toss and elected to receive.  After the end of the first drive, Japan failed to score and it was Team USA’s ball.  Hayden stepped onto the field as the starting QB and it felt as thought I stepped onto the field with him.  He bent down behind the center, called the cadence and my heart beat wildly.   Things were moving in slow motion.  The ball snapped and it was in Hayden’s hands and then time sped up. It wasn’t long before we had scored the first touchdown and then the points began to rack up on the US side.  In the first quarter Hayden threw the ball to his big brother Thomas for a touchdown.  The US fans were screaming; many of which had Jardine on the back of their sweatshirts.  Deep into the third quarter the Ambassador came down out of the VIP booth and we got to chat about the game and the boys and how well they were doing.  He asked if maybe they could tone it down a bit – it was getting a bit uncomfortable in the booth!  And then the prime minister handed down a box of frosted Costco donuts for the Jardine boys.  We sat in the stadium surrounded by the parents of the players, the moms and dads who were in the armed services, proudly wearing their son’s team jerseys, screaming every time they made a great play.  When the game ended, it was 61 -0 and Thomas went onto the field to accept the team trophy from the Prime Minister.  Thankfully he remembered to bow when receiving it.  And Hayden was on the field too, accepting the award for Best Offensive Player of the game.  We packed up our blankets, sweatshirts and empty beer cans and ran onto the field for photos with the boys.  Thomas was asked for his first autograph!  Midway through the game, my mother in-law whispered to me that it was the most important game of her life (and as a coach’s wife, she’s seen her fair share of games).  It was a great day to be an American and an even better day to be a Jardine.

Superbowl Monday? 2

Last year’s Superbowl was forgotten like an item on a to do list only to be remembered a day later with a gasp and regret.  This year, I wanted to make sure I was a part of the festivities.  My friend Libby and I signed up for the Superbowl Breakfast at the Tokyo American Club and arrived around 7:45 am to find a male dominated (90-10 ratio) suit wearing sweaty banquet room with multiple flat screen TVs and a breakfast buffet.  The coverage was loud and in Japanese and we started to doubt our decision to attend.  However, a TAC employee got on the microphone and in an even louder voice told the crowd that magically, after the coin toss, the coverage would switch to English.  We relaxed.  There were long tables set up with screens on either side so that you sat across from someone at the table but they were looking behind your head at their TV and you were looking behind them at your TV.  It was an awkward set-up.  The game began and the play by play was in English however the names of the players were spelled out in katakana which looked pretty funny.  When it was time for the first commercial, we were hit with the bad news.  We would not be a part of the viewing audience.  The coverage switched back to Japanese and we got to watch the players milling around the sidelines waiting for the commercials to end.  Very very disappointing.  But thankfully the game was so exciting that it made up for the loss of entertainment.  At half-time three raffle prizes were called out – I was the “lucky” winner of a corporate apartment for two nights and 2 tickets to the cotton club.  The breakfast was whisked away and in its place at 10am were hot dogs, chips and salsa and mini rueben sandwiches.  Since I had just flown in the night before from New York and the jet lag was just kicking in, I was thrilled with the multiple categories of food being served.  I don’t think Libby felt the same way.  When the game ended, the men were quick to exit, to make it back to work before lunch time.  Libby and I went to the card room to play bridge.  It was the first superbowl where i made it to the end without a short nap, or falling asleep completely.  Of course that had something to do with  the lack of alcohol and the time the game was played.  It wasn’t the best way to see the game, but I was glad I was a part of it this year.

Is Thanksgiving Really Two Weeks Away? 2

CIMG1550It’s been way too long since I wrote an entry and I have plenty excuses that I will not bore you with.  I seriously can’t believe Thanksgiving is a week from Thursday.  When we last left off, the girls and I had arrived home from Hawaii and the boys had won their first championship in 26 years.  We didn’t waste any time getting back into the groove after vacation and a few days after getting back I went on an all day hike up and down Mt. Mitake.  It took us a few hours, three trains and a funicular to get to the point on the mountain where we would begin our climb (actually descent).  We spent almost 45 minutes going down at least a thousand root-like steps but were rewarded with a magnificent rock garden path that wound around the mountain for at least another hour.  At the top, there is a beautiful shrine and small ryokans (japanese inns with onsen hot spring baths) that were initially built to house the Japanese who came to the shrine on a religious pilgrimage.  It seemed like a wonderful place to stay but we hiked back down and returned to Tokyo by 7:30 at night.  It was a perfect day.  The girls and I had an opportunity to make our own personal chopsticks out of old baseball bats used by professional players in the Japanese league.  First we were tested on our use of chopsticks (which we were all using incorrectly) and then we cut and sanded our wood and painted our designs.  The ohashi as they are called were taken back to the factory where they will be dipped in lacquer and then returned to us.  I am very excited to carry them around and impress the Japanese when I whip them out when we go for ramen and soba.  Halloween came to Tokyo in a big way in Minato-Ku (the gaigin ghetto and basically the only place to trick or treat) and the girls dressed up and went trick or treating with friends in the neighborhood.  Annie wanted to be an M&M and the costume didn’t exist in Tokyo so I made it from felt with velcro and I sewed the thing myself!  After four kids, it was the first costume I actually made myself.  Pathetic?  Maybe just a little.   Our friends Mona and Gordon threw an over the top Halloween party that caused the police to come twice.  The house was decorated like a movie set and the food was beyond good.  I dressed up as Amy Winehouse and won best costume.  I got a really cute blow up doll as my prize.  For Tom’s birthday I made reservations at the Hyatt Resort in Hakone for a quick overnight.  We left the kids in Tokyo (by themselves!) and took off.  Hakone is a hot springs area where you can see smoke rising around every curve of the mountainous region.  The hotel was what you would envision a Japanese hotel to look like; very zen, very beautiful and very simple (but it was luxurious too).  There was a large fire pit in the lobby with comfy chairs and we got to wear our yukata (robes) with an over yukata (not sure what these are called) in the lobby, at dinner, basically everywhere we went.  It was fabulous.  When we checked in, it was dark and we couldn’t see the view but in the morning we pulled the shades back and the mountains were in our bedroom.  The day was amazing.  We started at the open air museum (the picture above was taken there) and then went to the ropeway which took us to the top of the rim of a volcano where the views of Mt. Fuji and lake Ashi were stunning.  We made the mandatory shrine stop at Hakone Shrine  – there is a beautiful red torii gate in the lake and then had an excellent Italian lunch by the lake.  We made it back in time to have dinner with the kids.  They survived without us and we are going to make sure to do more overnight trips.  They are so invigorating.  The Friday night before the last home football game, my friend Libby and I cooked a ton of food and invited the entire Varsity Football Team over for pasta night.  We went through three huge lasagnas, 6 pounds of ziti, 55 meatballs, 6 garlic breads, 2 huge caesar salads, 60 cupcakes and at least as many oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  We were able to sit everyone around one big long table and it was a really fun night.  It was nice to finally meet the boys without their helmets on!  After the dinner, Tom referred many many boxing matches (of course Hayden has two sets of gloves he bought in Thailand) and the place got pretty rowdy as you can imagine but no one called the police so that was good.  I’ve been busy leading tours for the American club too.  The first tour I led was to the Mashiko Pottery festival about a 2.5 hour bus trip outside of Tokyo.  There were over 100 potters – totally cool, hip, Japanese women and men who would have been at home in a surf shop if they weren’t potting.  I bought a few treasures and thoroughly enjoyed the day.  The next trip was an overnight to Mikimoto Pearl Island, the wedded rocks and Ise Shrine.  This area is several hours away from Tokyo and is reached via bullet train and local train.  We went to the pearl island where Mikimoto started his cultured pearl business with the amah divers.  These are old women dressed in white linen dresses and hats who dive for pearls and collect them in wooden buckets that float on the water.  Its a pretty crazy thing to watch (check it out on youtube).  We then went to see the Wedded Rocks which are a pair of rocks located by the shore (one is large, the other small) that the Japanese believe represent husband and wife and were the birth of all the islands of Japan.  They are tied together with a thick rope and there is a shrine on land called the Frog Shrine.  We stayed at a Thalasso Therapy resort right on the ocean and had a fabulous french meal.  The next day we had a menu of treatments to choose from, all involving water in some way.  It was so relaxing.  A train ride away in Ise we visited Ise Shrine – the most sacred of all Shinto Shrines in Japan.  Every 20 years, they take down the old shrine and build an identical one right next to it.  People say it is to keep the skill set of the craftsman alive.  We came at a great time as the new one was almost finished and the old one was yet to be destroyed.  It was a lot of see and do in 36 hours but it was fantastic.  Last night I led a yakatabune tour (the japanese junk boat I rented last spring with my friends).  It was a great night – 65 and no wind in Tokyo on November 14th.  You can’t ask for better weather than that.  And then today, to finish off the blog, Tom and I spent the day at Meiji Shrine to watch the 3-5-7 festival.  Each year on this day, the Japanese dress up their children in formal kimono who have turned three, five and seven during the year and bring them to their local shrine to pray for a good life.  Meiji is a very famous shrine and it just happens to be very close to where we live.  We got some great photos and enjoyed another balmy 65 degree fall day.  We’ll be 24 in total for Thanksgiving on the 26th.  I am so happy to have my family all together this year.

It’s All Relative Reply

Gonpachi - all of us together - a rare event

Gonpachi - all of us together - a rare event

My mom and my step-father came to town last week.  It was their first time in Japan.  I mapped out some favorite spots to take them, keeping in mind that they would be spending two days alone in Kyoto.  I eliminated all visits to shrines and temples while we were together in Tokyo which was a nice opportunity to visit some of the less frequented places.  We managed to fit a lot in.  The first full day it rained and I made a few adjustments to the itinerary and we spent the day at the Odaiba Onsen.  My mom didn’t want to go in the baths but we managed to fill most of the day with other Japanese inspired treats (the flesh eating doctor fish, shiatsu massage, foot baths) while the men enjoyed their time in the bath – Thomas Jr. went for the first time too.  I think he liked it.  We had drinks at the Roppongi Hills Club courtesy of our mutual friends Cliff and Isa and ate a very so-so dinner at Two Rooms in Aoyama.  I think that place looks better than it actually is.  We finished the night up at Bauhaus, a small live music club where supposedly three generations of rockers play together – the grandfather is by far the best.  We hit all the hot spots like the neighborhood ramen shop and the conveyor belt sushi restaurant, we even got to go for our weekly fix of La Jolla Mexican on Sunday night.  Lucky for them, they happened to be here during one of the two Grand Sumo tournaments held in Tokyo each year and we went with all the kids to see the opening day.  I think the adults enjoyed it the most.  Hayden is still convinced that sumo wrestlers are not athletes.  They visited both of the kids schools and were there to cheer on the Mustangs in their first Friday Night Lights of the Varsity Football season.  Tom Sr. was in the booth announcing and Hayden threw a touchdown pass to Thomas and won the game.  We spent a day at Tsukiji, the fish market coupled with Ginza and the Mitsukoshi Department Store food halls.  Even though I warned my mom, she tried the gooey omochi ball and spent a good deal of time dislodging it from her mouth and searching for a garbage can (impossible in Tokyo).  While in the area, we met up with Tom for lunch in Marounouchi on his lunch break.  We shopped and ate and walked in Shimokitazawa, a hip urban part of Tokyo where many college students live.  They have the most interesting little stores.  We visited Ningyocho to buy antique kimono and obis – I bought the most fantastic white wedding kimono.  When the box arrived a few days later Tom gave it a strange look.  Then I explained it was going to be hung on a wall.  I think he thought I was going to wear it.  The thing weighs about ten pounds.  After a busy few days, I put my parents on a bullet train to Kyoto where they celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.  They overdosed on temples and shrines and Japanese food and were spent by the time they arrived back in Tokyo.  We ended the week eating pizza at Savoy, going to the top of the Mori tower, shopping at Tokyo Hands, “climbing”  Mt. Takao via the funicular to watch the monkeys pick bugs out of each other and then we ate at Ukai Toriyama – an absolute must restaurant stop with visitors.  On their very last night in Japan, we ate at T.Y. Harbor, outside on the water watching the Yakatabune boats cruise by.  Then it was off to late night Karaoke with the Hopkins and the Halls.  Could it get any better than that?