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September 2008 Archives

September 7, 2008

Catching up on the last week or so....

We had a nice time with Judy and Elaine! It was my first time to check into a Japanese hotel by myself (I stayed with them in Yamanashi while Akihiro was working at Tateyama). I was getting pretty proud of myself when I saw the room keys being withdrawn from a little box, but my pride was short-lived! She started talking about putting our shoes in our room or in the lockers in the lobby. I said in the room was fine. Hmm. that wasn't the answer she was looking for...so I tried the locker answer. Well, that didn't work either. So, I said that I would go get the other guests and our luggage and return. When I returned, the girl at the desk said very clearly (in Japanese), "Put your shoes in those lockers!" Then I figured it out--we took the shoe locker key back to her and then she gave me the long-awaited room key! As is many times the case, the hotel people were using very polite Japanese, which is much different than regular Japanese. Oh well! We enjoyed our stay there and the onsen--one that was wine scented and colored, and lots of other varieties--even a salt sauna!

Here's a picture of a watermelon we saw in Tokyo station for over $400! The large peaches are $20-40 a piece! Must be really good!

We went to a Japanese garden and thought this was a funny sign in the bathroom! This means that there is a toilet where you can sit versus squat!

Thursday we took Akihiro's two grandmas and his grandpa for a little trip to Hakone (the mountainous area about 2 hours from where we live). Akihiro's grandpa had been wanting to go to an onsen and since Akihiro had a half day work near Hakone, we decided to make a little trip out of it. It was quite an experience for me rooming with the two grandmas. I am about twice as tall as both of them, so I felt like a giant! We decided that it was better to do a lady's room and a men's room since we didn't think one of the grandmas who is really forgetful should be left alone. We had quite a few laughs--starting with one grandma looking for her glasses and finding them on the other grandma's face! Then it was the other one who was looking for an article of clothing all over, not realizing that she had flung it over her shoulder! One little grandma laid out her clothes for the next day at the bottom part of her bed and crawled under the covers. I was amazed to find out that in the morning the clothes were still lying perfectly--she wasn't tall enough to disrupt the bottom third of a bed! We did a bit of sightseeing with them and enjoyed the onsen and food very much!

We returned from Hakone on Friday evening and prepared for the next event--Sis. Haruko's funeral in Shioda on Saturday. I was a bit nervous as Akihiro asked me to play the electric piano to assist our singing for the funeral. There were about 70 people there! Yikes! Well, it went ok and Willis and Akihiro's service went well too. After the service, we ate a big dinner after listening to lots of speeches by family and local government officials. One interesting thing was that there was a glass of orange juice poured and placed in front of the picture of Sis. Haruko at one end of the dining room. Depsite the funeral being Christian style, the funeral home still practiced some of the Buddhist traditions of offering drink to the deceased person.

Currently I am in the Narita Airport Lounge waiting for our plane to Shanghai, China. It will be part business, part pleasure. We will be introducing Akihiro's businessman cousin to our Chinese friends as they may do some business together. Akihiro is really excited about eating Chinese food and the fact that we may get to ride the Maglev Train, a magnetic levitation train which is the fastest in the world from the airport to the city center! We return on Wednesday and leave Thursday morning for a long-ahead-planned trip to the north island with his parents and sister. We hope to catch lots of squid and other fish!

September 15, 2008

Back Home!

Well, we don't know how successful the business part of our trip to Shanghai was, but we had an interesting time anyway and continued to build a friendship of sorts with the Chinese business people and their families. We took a taxi from the airport and boy, what a ride that was--we were zooming by people, changing several lanes at a time and coming to sudden stops. My sudden intakes of air didn't seem to bother the driver--he just kept driving. We did get a good look at the tall buildings and bridges of Shanghai. One bridge we crossed had an exit that looped around like a coil and we went around and around three times before we got to our road. We were so thankful to finally arrive at our hotel--an old hotel that was the tallest building in China until the 1980s.

The next morning we went out to explore a little bit before our afternoon appointment. In the morning after a late breakfast, Akihiro and I went out for a walk. We were going to try to go to the post office to send a package to Li-san's brother and sister. Well, anyway, we got directions to the post office from the hotel, walked out the front door of the hotel and were immediately confronted by a young man trying to get us to go to his shop where they sell bags, watches, clothes, etc. We said "no thanks" and said we were going to the post office. Well, he said that the post office was in the opposite direction. I didn't believe him and so continued to go the way the hotel said. Then his friend came who could speak better English. We fell for it, so we decided that it might be an experience. As I thought about it, I figured out that they wanted to take us to a post office close to their shop. They said the post office they would take us to would be closer than the 5 minutes that the hotel had said. Well....about 15 minutes later we arrived at the post office. Well, these two guys who had accompanied us to the post office really wanted to show us their shop, so we decided we were up for an adventure. We turned onto this little alley and went into these little rooms where they had lots of brand name stuff for sale. Akihiro saw a brief case and thought maybe he would try bargaining for that. I hate that system, but he had a lot of fun with it. He thought he got a real bargain for a "Mont Blanc" briefcase (a copy) at about seventy dollars. Well, when we got back to the hotel and talked to one of our Chinese "friends" we found out he could have got it for about 1/3 of that price. Oh well. He likes it and had fun buying it.

That night we went out for dinner with the Chinese guests to a Thai restaurant and they served us shark fin in a good sauce. It was really good and easy to eat--much easier than the chicken foot! We sat at the traditional Chinese style table with the glass plate in the middle that turns around. I got to meet one of our Chinese friend's neice who speaks very good English. We had a nice time.


The next day we took Akihiro's mom with us to show her the bargaining place. Akihiro thought it would be fun to buy some souveniers--like a Rolex watch--for grandpa. So after much bargaining which Akihiro loved, we got 5 "brand name" articles for pretty cheap. That afternoon we went to see some of our Chinese friend's properties and development areas. It was amazing to see the new towns they have built--very nice, new and beautiful. There is still much poverty though. The changes have come very rapidly--it appears like too rapidly for people to adjust. Some parts seemed like the border towns in Mexico, yet others were like beautiful resorts. It is hard for me to reconcile it all! We also got to see some rush hour traffic--interesting to see whole lanes allotted for bicycles and motorcycles. This picture isn't very good, but you can get the point. Traffic was crazy--kinda like Mexico--lots of honking and it appears that traffic signals and stop signs are somewhat of a suggestion rather than the rule.

That night's supper was really interesting! When we walked in we saw these plates of various pig parts. I was glad that this plate didn't end up at our table later!

What did end up at our table was pig ears (actually not too bad), turkey knuckles, mountain turtle and veggies, jelly fish, and some other more "normal" foods. I think Chinese people must like the texture of soft tissue type things. The best thing we had was these little balls of sesame paste that were wrapped in dough and fried. The outside was crispy and the inside was warm and sweet. I ate my fair share of those and our host saw that I liked them and gave us some to take home.

Pig ears!

This lobster was for sashimi--it was very fresh--in fact as I tried to take the picture, his long pointers moved towards me! I tasted it, but prefer my lobster cooked! (Not that I have it very often!)

We didn't get to ride the magnetic levitation train on the way from the airport because our flight was late, so we rode it to the airport early Wednesday morning. 300 km seemed really fast, but it was amazing how fast it was when it met the train going the other way at the same speed--whoosh--no time for a picture or even really see it. It was somewhat exhilerating and we tourists thoroughly enjoyed it (despite the grins from the regular travelers!). maglev%20train.jpg

Thought this was interesting--can you guess what kind of restaurant this was?

Our trip to Hakodate with Akihiro's sister and parents was nice--lots of doctor talk with Akihiro and his sister both being doctors--and lots of good food. We caught a few fish and I even caught a shark! (Actually it was a baby one--about a foot long!) Akihiro's Dad said they were fairly good to eat at that size, so I chopped it up and we will try it tempura style!

Today was a big catch up day for laundry, etc., but it was just nice to have a "normal" day! I remember my dad saying that you go on vacation so that you appreciate home more--indeed that is true!

September 18, 2008

Third best night lights in the world!

We have been to Hakodate, Hokkaido (the north island) many times, but are usually too tired in the evening to drive up the mountain to view the city at night, even though it is famous! Too much fishing, I guess! Well, this time we did and it was a beautiful site--the city is on a strip of land between the main part of the island and a mountain that juts out into the sea, so the night lights make an interesting shape. We could also see the professional squid fishermen out fishing with their nets and bright lights.


On a "darker" note, I forgot to mention that I got my first speeding ticket in Japan on our trip with the grandparents. I was trying to listen very carefully to Grandpa's stories and wasn't paying attention to my speed. Well, I was 22 km over and got a nice fine. After the fact, Grandpa remembered that the strip of road we were on is famous for speed traps--a bit late, Gramps! Oh well!

About September 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Welcome to ITO NEWS in September 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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