Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A relaxed day in Tokyo

I woke up early again and got on the net while everyone slept. I briefly visited the Second Life art gallery of a guy from Nagoya that I'd met. I caught up on e-mail.

When the family joined me in the world of the conscious we headed out for breakfast at the French Pastry shop. I got an egg and onion something (tons of mayo, sort of gross) that I split with Andrea and a cinnamon roll.

Yesterday morning, when we were in a tearing rush to get out I found that (1) I had no more short sleeve shirts and it's darn hot here and (2) that my glasses were covered with grease. So, I put on a long sleeved shirt and went into the bathroom and tried to clean my glasses. The screw that held my left lens in popped out and despite spending ten minutes when I should have been helping Andrea with the kids trying to fix it I couldn't. So, I spent yesterday without my glasses and today after breakfast we headed to "Super Megane" to get them fixed.

We got there a little early and waited until they opened at 10:00. As soon as the doors opened I gained a ton of goodwill by saying "Sumimasen, watashi no megane o shuurishimasuka?" (Excuse me can you fix my glasses?) The woman that was helping me answered in English, fixed and cleaned the glasses, and refused payment.

While she fixed my glasses the other workers stood at attention outside the shop, chanted a welcome to the day, and then bowed to the world. I wish I'd been rude enough to film it.

Speaking of photographs: The Japanese love to take them, but many places prohibit them. I can understand and respect the bhudaist temples' prohibitions, but Ghibli museum (of which you can buy postcards and books), a manga shop, or the window of shop on Takeshita Dori? A shop owner came out and put her hand in front of my video camera as I walked by filming and pointed to a sign that said no pictures of the storefront. Give me a break.

But once again I digress from the day's activities. We went to Nihonbashi and Marunochi. We saw the Tokyo International Forum and Mitsukosh (a fancier big "depaato" - departmant store) than the one's near us. Then back to Shinjuku for lunch - we ate at a place that specialized in chicken. I had a chicken burger with soft boiled egg, which was the tastiest dish I've had to date on this trip.

I went to the bathroom in the depaato that housed the chicken place and it was, well different. Imagine a bathroom about the size of a smallish walk in closet. Next to the door is a sink, next to the sink is a urinal, and at the back a stall. All of that I can imagine in America. What that bathroom had, that no similar bathroom in America would is a clear round window, about 14 inches in diameter, in the door at eye level.

After lunch we went back to the hotel, dumped the kids in front of a computer, and left to find a coin laundry. We walked blocks through pouring rain. While doing our clothes we met another American, Eric from San Francisco. Andrea went to buy fruit and supervise kids as I sat and tended the laundry. I noticed that while Eric and I stayed and watched our clothes spin, the Japanese patrons would come, start a load and leave again. I've also noticed that bicycles, which are everywhere are seldom locked and if they are they're locked with a flimsy chain, not kryptonite locks. I've also noticed that the fancy hotels have locking umbrella stands but there's often a pile of umbrellas left by patrons at the entrance to the local AM PM.

We headed out for an evening stroll around the Ameyoko market, We should have waited to buy fruit there - much cheaper than the fruit Andrea bought, which was in turn cheaper than the fruit in the fancy department store areas. Still expensive by American standards though, as all fresh produce seems to be. We also managed to get the cool Japanese Q-tips (only 120, which I know I'll soon regret) and by visiting another 8 story toy store we finally found Zachary a present from Japan.

Dinner was at a kaiten-zushi restaurant again, where Joshua charmed with his Japanese but ate little. There I finally used a toilet where when you flush clean water flows through a sink above the toilet tank, so the water with which you wash your hands fills the toilet's tank for the next flush. Dessert was Haagen Daz and chocolate bars.

While it might not have been the most interesting day it was till a blast. I told Andrea that I thought this was the coolest, most exciting trip I've ever taken. I can say that even though I'm someone who's travelled a reasonable amount and done some really exciting things from scuba diving to sailing for weeks at a time, and living with natives in many countries.

Tomorrow we're off to Kyoto. We'll see Charlie and then on to Osaka where we will see Kumiko and Yoshi.

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