Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Japan/USA - Day 14 - Back to Reality

     I am limping pretty obviously on my right ankle today.  We had just settled down for bed when the doorbell rang.  Neither Katsuo nor Keiko was home, so we figured it was a neighbor.  I threw on some clothes but, when I went to answer the door, forgot there was a step down and literally fell out the door into the startled faces of our new friends at the restaurant 2 blocks down and around the corner.
     We'd gone there for dinner and given the 3 girls some Disney Pez candy we'd brought along.  They tracked us down to give us a pretty gift box of towels.  Japanese really are ninjas!  (I did the same thing againb- fell down the step when I went back to check that the door was locked, but we won't talk about that, because who would be so stupid as to sprain her ankle twice in the same way, and on the same day?)  Anyway, when I fell out the door on top of them and was so obviously startled they kindly left the gift and a note.  I'll send them a thank you note since I never did thank them properly.
Keiko very kindly returned home from Tokyo early this morning, fixed us breakfast, then had to head out to work again.  She has about a 2 hour commute each way to work, so has had to take a small apartment in Tokyo to sleep some nights.  It was good to see her again.  Later, Katsuo returned from his night shift and was anxious to see to our comfort- rather than ready to crash in his futon as I would have been.  (Really, staying with Keiko and Katsuo has been like staying with your mother's sister's family, whom you've always heard about, but never met. They treat us exactly as I would treat distant relations coming to meet us for the first time.) They even have acquired some of the Ramune in glass bottles that James craved for us to take home!
       So now we have James' blistered feet and my turned ankle.  We really are the walking wounded!  I wanted to see the Tokyo LDS Temple, but it turns out it's just too far away for us to make it there and back in time to catch the 3:00 bus for the airport.  Obviously concerned with my limp, Katsuo tried to convince me to stay in and rest, but no way was I wasting my last day.  Katsuo found some ice packs in the freezer and I stuffed them in my sock.  Then I limped to the convenience store to buy the Japanese  equivalent of Vetrap.  With my ankle nicely supported and numbed, I was ready for one last adventure.
     James wanted to go back to Akihabara, so we headed that way on the train, but ended up getting off at Ueno because we were afraid, by the time we got there, it would already be time to leave.  We happily perused an outside shopping area that seemed more frequented by the locals than by tourists- lots of clothing and produce, rather than touristy knick knacks.
     We had an interesting lunch from a local street vendor - he had 2 spires of roasted turkey and beef, which he sliced paper thin, put in a pita-looking shell, and covered with cabbage and some sort of sweet chili sauce - really good and not an octopus in sight!
     We had a little snag when our train back was taken out of service.  (I don't know if this was routine, or due to the earthquake yesterday.  We never felt anything on the Shinkansen, but I told James when we switched trains that there must have been one since there were earthquake kits stacked up in small hills along the tracks and railway workers in orange vests.  Keiko later confirmed that there had been a small one.)
     Anyway, James went to the information desk and found us another train that got us back just in time for our bus.  Katsuo kindly met us at the station with all our baggage (he hasn't wanted me to have to limp back that far) that he brought by taxi. (How nice is that!)  We said our goodbyes and climbed on our bus, wistful to be at the end of our fascinating adventure.
Pineapple on a stick in Ueno.

Beef and chicken with cabbage on pita bread.  Yum!

The street shop- slicing roast beef and chicken from the towers of meat you see.

James at the airport gloating about the new Pokemon game that won't be available in the US for months.

Keiko said, "Japan is all about not crossing the line."  She noticed the casual way James and I exchange food and taste off of each others' plates.  "In Japan," she said, "We would never do this."  "My food, is my food. Your food, is your food."  She talked about how food is served in small dishes-never touching.  Even in a buffet, there are divided plates like we use for children, so each dish does not touch another.  She showed us the laundry separator bags she uses because even men's and women's clothing must not be washed together.  The woman fixes food for her husband, and she eats separately.  Even married couples sleep apart.  The line between man and woman, husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, all these are set by society and not to be crossed.  I wonder how much this will change as successive generations of girls challenge their role in society?  Certainly, we come away with much love and appreciation for this lovely country and her kind citizens.  We have been treated only with the greatest respect and courtesy by all we have met.

     The flight home was crowded, so James and I didn't have that empty seat between us, and the service was much poorer than our flight to Japan.  I think this was due to whatever medical emergency they had on board taking up staff.  Three times they called, first for a doctor, then for any medical personnel.  (I did get up after the second call and tell them where I was if they were desperate enough for a veterinarian, but they must have eventually found someone who treats human animals.)
     I was worried the emergency was the Indian child in the row across from us, who was coughing like he had TB, and who spent most of the ride in the back lavatory where they were calling for help, but the family and child disembarked with us after the paramedics had taken the medical case off via an emergency exit, so it must have been someone else.  Always so nice to breathe recirculated airplane air next to what sounds like a terminal (no pun intended) cough.
     So, the plane was delayed for a while as they off-loaded the emergency case, then we were taken off the plane outside the terminal and bused to a large building with signs saying "Sterile Area."  Just as I was thinking, "Great, the kid had some sort of Avian Influenza and we're all going to be quarantined," the crew started handing out passes for people with short layovers (that was us!) to go through customs first.
     We buzzed through the line, picked up our luggage, made it through another line, rechecked our luggage, and made it to our flight with a half hour to spare.  You could tell instantly when we were back on an American air carrier - they threw our pretzels at us and filled our drink order in classic American "don't bug me" style.  Sigh.  I'm going to miss that part of Japan a lot!  Right on cue, in the LAX terminal, James starts sneezing again.  I took all those allergy pills with me and he didn't need a one!  Now, American allergens recognized and under assault, James' eosinophils are back in business.  Rats.
     James slept most of both flights, but I am feeling seriously jet-lagged.  Rob kept all the birds alive (Good Job Rob!) and it looks like the guys made an actual effort to clean the house up a little.  Yay!
     Craig met me at the airport with a salad - true, it was a pre-made one from Albertsons, and the croutons were mush but, hey it didn't have any kelp in it, so that makes it a real salad.   I'm so tired, I don't think I'll even hear the fireworks tonight.  Happy Birthday, America,  it's good to be home.

Cynthia Smith, DVM


  1. Hi Cynthia,

    I just wanted to comment and let you know that I read through your entire trip report after searching for folks who have traveled from Seattle to Japan. I live in Kent and am planning a trip in April of 2013 to Tokyo for 6 nights/7 days and thought it'd be good to hear about other peoples' experiences. It sounds like it was tiring, yet truly an amazing trip. I am very much looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Cynthia,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog and appreciate the time you put into it. Your writing style made me feel as if you were in the room with me telling me the story. It will prove incredibly helpful when we take our sons (ages 21 and 18) to Japan in June 2013. You answered many of the questions I had that weren't addressed elsewhere. I love that you told your children that they could pick anywhere in the world to visit when they turned 17. We have done something very similar with ours. We offered each of them the ability to choose our spring break destination in their senior year of high school. Our youngest chose Japan, but one week at spring break wasn't enough time to make a trip that far worthwhile, so we are waiting until the rainy season (like you). If you have time and are so inclined, I'd love to see your list of tips and helpful hints for the trip. Thank you again for your insight.


  3. Dear Cynthia--I've greatly enjoyed reading your blog as I start planning for my first trip to Japan next Spring. You're a wonderful writer, and I can't wait to read about your next adventure. All my best-Kathy