Date: Thu, 11 Jun 1998

Day 20. This is it. This will probably be the last email from Japan. Hope this has been enjoyable for all of you. We got up moderately early, showered and dressed. We then packed our bags; I was surprised how empty those things were! I'm not used to having so much space after cramming so much stuff into that one suitcase for so long. We carried the suitcases downstairs and checked out of the ryokan. I asked if we could leave our bags there for a few hours while we went shopping, and she said ok. We gave her the last of the Texas books and the big silly guidebook for other guests to use. We didn't, but hey.

Out we went to Ueno and Takachimachi for some last-minute shopping and breakfast at a panya. We were in search of one district in particular, and were constantly stopping for directions. After my wallet was succesfully empty, we ate at a restaurant in Ueno station before returning to the ryokan. The okaasan called for a taxi which we rode to Tokyo station rather than trying to lug our oversized bags into the subway and through Ueno station and on a JR train to Tokyo and down more stairs and... It was very strange because since we had only ridden trains, we didn't get a good real-world idea of where stations and areas existed. Suddenly, after we passed Ueno Station, we found ourselves right next to the Akihabara Animate where we were yesterday. We didn't even turn; it was right down the road from our ryokan, just out of sight distance. It was a weird feeling knowing how difficult it was to get somewhere by train, but how close and easy it was by car. But in a car, there's nowhere to park.

We walked in to Tokyo Station and were constantly meeting our three-week nemesis: stairs. Yuck. Kel couldn't carry the big bags (although neither is as heavy as they were on the trip) so I did my He-Man impression and carried them down multiple staircases. We found our car and sat for 20 minutes. The Narita Express arrived, and we had 8 minutes to board so we took our time. We loaded and stored the luggage, and I got out the tickets to find our seats. Taihen!! It was ROW 11, not CAR 11!! We raced into reverse gear and tore down the track - luggage wheels smoking from the speed - all the way to the OTHER end of the train and car 1. We crammed on the bags and found our correct seats. "I don't like you," said Kel. I told her we were too cozy and we needed a little last minute terror to remind us of the trip. "I don't like you," she repeated. We got to the airport, checked in and now we're boarding. Plane leaves at 4:45am CDT, so we're probably gone by now. Just in case they take my battery again. See ya'll later. Hik.

Date: Fri, 19 Jun 1998

After it all...

Well, we're back. Everything went really smoothly on the flight back. They didn't take my batteries after all. But the cable did break again when I was trying to send email, so I did my best MacGyver impression and fixed the cable there in the airport. And Kelly said I shouldn't worry about bringing my pocketknife. Hah! She has learned the valuable lesson of the pocketknife. A very handy device for everyday. :)

We boarded the plan to Los Angeles after mulling around in an extremely crowded airport terminal for an hour or so. There were Japanese tourists everywhere who were snapping pictures of each other in the airport (not to propagate a stereotype or anything). We sat in virtually the exact same seats, but actually had a Japanese man sitting next to us this time, so we couldn't stretch out so much. It wasn't so bad, except he left his tray down (and he had the aisle seat) and went to sleep for most of the ride, leaving us stranded unless we wanted to bother him. I noticed that the Japanese passengers were mostly getting western meals, while Kelly and I got the Japanese ones. Guess everyone is trying to get away from the norm.

We watched Man in the Iron Mask, and tried to watch Krippendorf's Tribe, but the didn't play it again when we could watch. I flipped channels virtually the whole ride, but I couldn't sleep no matter how much I tried. The good news is that the ride seemed VERY short. I can't explain that. I wanted more so i could watch more of the movies!! Go figure. We went through customs in Los Angeles without much trouble. Walking down to our terminal, Kelly was happy to read all the signs - she wasn't used to not having to look for the English translation. It was an odd feeling; she said she would look atthe sign and expect to not be able to read it and start looking for English!

We wandered through the magazine shop, catching up on US events over the last three weeks. It's funny how many things happen in three weeks! Imagine if we were gone for longer. I was not doing well, having not slept in quite a while. Kelly was perfectly fine, for some reason. We got on the plane and sat in the very back. The flight back didn't seem long to me; I slept a lot finally. We arrived in Houston and Kel's mom was waiting for us. I was disturbed to hear an announcement and not be able to understand any of it (it was in Spanish). My mom met us in the baggage claim, and we left; Kel went home with her mom , and I went home with mine. It was the first time being separated in 23 days! Very weird.

I had dinner from Boston Market and was reminded of the rudeness of the American service industry. How wonderful. I talked with my mom and dad until 1 am, when I finally hit the hay for a nap. Eyes popped open at 4:30, but I rested until 5 (7pm to my body). I got up, gathered our stuff and said bye to my wonderful parents. I drove over and picked up Kelly, then we headed back to Austin. We were both hyper and danced to our new J-Pop CD's on the way back. :) I dropped off Kelly and headed to work. I was fine until just after my great Tex-Mex lunch at Chuy's. Then I started fading. I went bowling with Eureka, but by 7:30 or so, I was about to pass out. I returned home and slept on the couch until Kelly called me at 10, then went into the bedroom where I slept until 5. I could no longer sleep after 6, so I watched TV after that. Jetlag sucks. -- M

Date: Fri, 19 Jun 1998

In conclusion:

It's taken me about a week to adjust back to normal hours. Sleeping is still bizarre. It seems that going over it wasn't hard to adjust; coming back it was downright impossible. I'm really missing the country at this point. I want to play my game again, get some more okonomiyaki (I tried to make Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki on Sunday, but it's still not right. Must watch the tape again.) and watch our cool game show. I miss the 7-11 rice balls, the good service, no tipping ;), plastic food in the windows, and train commutes. Even Kelly has been missing Japan. As much as she wanted to come home, she's anxious to go back. Bianca's planning on it next year, perhaps we'll join her for a shorter period than this time.

We've learned a lot about Japan, and for travelers like ourselves, we're going to turn this site into a fountain of knowledge, our own personal weekend traveler guidebook. Won't help much, but it will help those who are doing the same thing as ourselves. At any rate, I hope everyone who's read this has enjoyed it. I hadn't realized how much I had written! By the way, yes, it was all done on a PalmPilot, and almost all in graffiti. Kel's was done on the keyboard widget for the most part.

Special Thanks To:

Monty for helping make the trip possible and supporting us in our endeavours.

Casey, Toren, and Cindy for doing the technical part of setting up a PalmPilot for Internet email and letting us borrow it.

Our parents for caring about us, and taking us to and from the airport.

Bianca for worrying and helping us along the way.

Michael for taking care of our zoo and bills and being brave enough to tell a bank that the ATM screwed up making a withdrawal on someone else's ATM card. ("Are you the primary cardholder?" "No." "Where is the primary cardholder?" "Uh, in Japan." "Uh-Huh.")

Colin for handling the technical support and email on the US side.

Everyone for reading this and dealing with the smallest insignificant details we included. It's good to know people cared and worried about us.

Thanks a lot. -- Marc and Kelly


:: Beginning : Tokyo : Matsushima : Hakodate : Sapporo : Kyoto : Hiroshima : Beppu : Shikoku : Tokyo : The End : Travel Notes ::

Marc Hernandez :: Kelly Bickford