Date: Sun, 7 Jun 1998

Day 16. Nothing much today. We got up, got dressed, and headed out the door to catch the train to Tokyo. Breakfast at station panya; haven't found one station yet that didn't have a bread shop. We left Matsuyama for Okayama on Honshuu. The most beautiful part was crossing the bridge from Shikoku to Honshuu - lots of blue water and islands. I think it's better than Matsushima by far. Got to Okayama and had plenty of time to get bentoo and get on to the Shinkansen to Tokyo (14 minutes). Ate on the train, wrote email, and Kel's into the last bag of Happy Turn. 40 minutes to Tokyo. No more long trains after this one. Kel keeps wiping her runny nose snot on me and then laughing hysterically. -- M

Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998

Day 16 part two. We arrived in Tokyo and like pros, transferred to the train to Ueno, then the subway to Iriya. We headed down the road back to Sakura Ryokan where we stayed before. It was almost like coming home for me (and a little for Kel), knowing what to expect. We got the same room again which Kel didn't like because it was "the sicky room". We hung around a bit and did a much-needed load of laundry. I called my host parents and said we'd be coming over tomorrow to get the other two suitcases. I called Chika and Sho (the cute answering machine message was the right number) and they were delighted to hear from us. We're going over Tuesday afternoon to visit. Sho's coming home from work and we'll be there. It sounds like Chika needs the company bad with the new baby and all.

We then headed out to Shinjuku so Kel could see it when she wasn't sick. Completely packed with people, it was energetic and lively. This being the place I lost all my stuff last time, I noticed I was a lot more nervous and protective of my camcorder. We headed to the kaiten-zushi place I always used to go to, and waited about 15 minutes for two seats. They wouldn't let me video though. We sat down, and between the two of us had 44 pieces of sushi and two drinks for a paltry 3024 (just under 20 bucks). We were both stuffed. We headed down the street to Kinokuniya Bookstore where we learned of Frank Sinatra's death (boy the things you miss) and finally figured out who the woman who just got married was (she was on every channel for days when we first got here - she's a singer). The store closed at 8, so we headed over to Tower Records to finally buy the J-pop CDs we wanted. We can buy stuff now, since we only have to get to the airport. We bought a bunch of CDs, then headed out the door back to the station. Everything was closed up because it was after 9 already, and save for bars, this country shuts down at 9. We caught the necessary trains back to Iriya and headed to the ryokan by way of 7-11, where we picked up drinks and ice cream. There we broke out our multiple CDs, ate ice cream, and hit the hay. --M

Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998

Remember me? This is Kelly; I finally get to write. Er, I mean:

Day 17.We rode lots of trains, visited some people Marc knows, I got some FFVII and Fushigi Yuugi stuff, and we saw Marc's host family again, and they gave me a yukata. The End.

I'm sure M-san wants to write tons more so I'll let him. Bye now. :)

Lest Kel would have you believe, I am not hoarding the Pilot.

Shee-ya, right. - Kel

She can write whenever she wants but is usually engrossed in a book or sleeping when I do it.

This space intentionally left blank. -K

So anyway... We got up really late today, so late that we didn't get out of the ryokan until 10:30. We headed to Shinjuku, where we caught the faster Odakyu Line to Machida, the big town close to Obirin University, where I attended nearly four years ago. We went to Mc'Ds for lunch again then headed to the JR to go to Obirin. We caught the Yamanote Line to Fuchinobe, two stops from Machida. I looked for the free Obirin bus but didn't see it, so we boarded the city bus. Right about that second, an Obirin bus appeared from around the corner; they moved the stop. We rode the city bus to Obirin then walked to the International Study Office. Kel wasn't happy because we were going to meet people she didn't know. We walked up to the office and I opened the door and - whoops - that's not the Kokusai Center! The office was all redone. I stepped back out and looked again. Right place, but it was gone. I walked back in and the lady inside directed me to another building. We walked across the street and found the office in the adjacent building. As I walked in, Yoshie (pronounced yoh-shee-eh), the woman who worked there saw me and her jaw dropped. She snapped her fingers and said my name. She asked if I remembered her and I said, "of course - Yoshiko!" Doh! She corrected me and I slapped myself in the head.

As I talked for a while, Ootsuka-sensei, one of the heads of the Kokusai office and a very fun lady turned around and saw me. At first you could tell there was no recognition, then suddenly her eyes went wide and she realized she knew who I was - but she had forgotten my name. She said several times that she was embarrassed about that. I told her I messed up Yoshie's name, and Yoshie said at least I got the Yoshi part right. :) We all talked for a long time and caught up. Ootsuka was upset that Peter, another guy who came with me to Japan, had come to Japan and not visited. We talked about Cloyce, and Ootsuka broke out my Glamour Shot picture I gave her nearly 4 years ago. She laughed, said how cute I was and made kissy faces at it. We talked and talked, and Ootsuka tried to convince Kel to come there for study abroad. Kel said she wanted to but she was graduating and didn't have time. Kel was uncomfortable talking to people she didn't know, so I finally broke off the fun, we said our goodbyes and left. But they have email, so we'll be able to keep in touch. We caught the schoolbus back to the station (Yoshie said they just moved the stop two weeks ago because it was too crowded by the station) and the train to Machida for some shopping. More later. --M

Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998

Day 17 continued. We got off in Machida and headed into the city. Machida is a big area, but is not nearly as dense as Central Tokyo. It still has the small towny feeling. We were in search of the Machida Animate, but stupid me forgot the addresses. Doh. We wandered around for a long time to no avail. We stopped in a Baskin Robbins for some quick sugar energy. Across from the BR there was a statue of a pig ramen chef and another kaiten-zushi place. We headed back out, determined to find the Animate. After another particularly long unfruitful trek, we passed a model shop, and I thought I could ask there, but we kept walking. Finally we came upon a Mister Donut and made a u-turn back to the model shop. There I asked about Animate and the directions he gave led us just past the Mister Donut on the right. Doh. We headed back down there and sure enough, there it was.

We bought some stuff (not too bad) and raced back out to get to my host parents on time. We stopped off at the model shop to buy the Macross model I saw, and again to buy a melon for my parents. A 1000 melon. We caught the train to my host parents' and they welcomed us in. We gave them the Hell mud and the melon. We all sat down and we told them about the trip. We watched some of the video, but the SteadyShot on the camcorder doesn't work as well as I thought, so Kel got a headache. They gave Kel a yukata, much to her surprise. They really liked her; they kept saying I should go back without her and she could stay there. Hey Bianca - I'd bet they'd love to have you stay. They had a PlayStation, so Kel and I loaded up Biohazard 2 (Resident Evil 2 in the States - I'll never understand the US name change) to see the differences. It wasn't. It's even in English with Japanese subtitles. Only some of the menus are different. I then played a shooting game, the same one I played at an arcade in Beppu. Wow - I want this game.

They gave us our luggage, then asked us to stay for dinner. Just before dinner, our favorite game show came on so I hooked up the camera and taped it. We ate a wonderful dinner and they asked Kel if she'd come and homestay with them. She said she didn't have the money and she had no choice but to graduate next year. My host mom asked lots of questions about American universities. We finished dinner and went to watch some TV. They brought us some melon which was delicious - a great choice of canteloupe, I must say. I played the game one more time, then we got ready to leave. They again said I should leave Kel and return without her. :) I asked Okaasan to buy Mononoke no Hime(a Miyazaki anime - supposedly his last, and a box office smash in Japan) when it comes out later this month and gave her money. We said goodbye to Okaasan and Yoshiko. Otoosan drove us to the station where we thanked him profusely. As we walked through the gate, he clutched onto Kel's arm to keep her there. :) We pushed our way past this drunk guy who was arguing with the station master. We waved goodbye to Otoosan once more and he drove off. We rode the trains back to the ryokan and planned to get up early to go to the fish market. -- M

Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998

Day 18 -Tokyo. The alarm went off at 6am, but tired as we were, we decided to put off the fish market until tomorrow. We slept in instead. We got up really late and hopped on the subway to our normal hub train station, Ueno. The main goal here was to visit the Ueno Zoo and more specifically, the two pandas TonTon and LingLing.

Kel was waaay too excited, but it was understandable having never seen live pandas before. We maneuvered past the pigeon convention and kindergarten students and pushed our way into the zoo. Once inside we had no problem getting to the pandas which were right by the entrance. They were both in full slumber mode, looking more like stuffed pandas than live ones. But Kel loved it. We headed around the rest of the zoo, which was much better than Kyoto's - the animals here look comfortable. And their cages at least try to mimic their original habitat. We left the zoo and headed to Akihabara where we began The Great CD And LD Splurge. This was only a surface attempt, though, since we didn't have a lot of time. At 2 we rode the trains to Shibuya, where we caught the Tooyoko Line to Hiyoshi. Once there, we followed Sho's directions and called Chika.

Chika and Sho are friends of Bianca's (and ours) that were living in Austin for a while through Sho's company. Chika got pregnant, and the lousy US government asked (read "forced") them to return to Japan lest the kid become a US citizen. So in December they sadly returned to Japan and have been living in Yokohama ever since. Their son, Yoshi, was born in January. Chika showed up 20 minutes later sans baby. She said her mother was taking care of him, so we could go places. She suggested a few places, but Kel and I had already experienced those things (ie bookstore) recently, so she said she needed to buy something for her baby. She drove us to Super Kids World, the Japanese equivalent of Kids r' Us.

We then headed to their apartment. She was listening to the Armed Forces Radio Network to keep hearing English and to keep herself in practice, but she said it wasn't enough; she was still forgetting. I told her I could relate. As we arrived, she apologized for the apartment, saying it was a company apartment, and therefore small, old, and dirty. It wasn't that bad! It was actually very cozy. As we walked in, we were introduced to Chika's mother and the cute chubby-cheeked kid himself, little Yoshi. We had a great conversation with Chika's mother (well, I did. she didn't speak English) in which I told her about the trip and she asked questions. She's a really nice lady and she was facinated. She eventually said she had to go and we said goodbye. She told us we should come back next year with Bianca. After she left, Chika told us that her mother was a great help to her. She went into the bedroom to feed him, so Kel and I flipped channels.

After she was finished, she said she was going to order pizza, so she wanted us to pick. The Japanese make strange pizzas. Besides corn, they also put asparagus, various seafood items, and mayonnaise on them. We picked 3 kinds for her to choose from. About that time, Sho came home from work. Kel thought he looked really cute in a suit. He certainly wasn't comfortable in it though, since he changed into jeans and a t-shirt as soon as he said hi. We all talked about various things and had a great time. Sho said he'd never been to Kyushu or Shikoku, and Chika said the same. He later relished in the humor that he had been to Big Bend but Kel and I had not.

All the while Yoshi was being the baby that he was, sometimes crying, sometimes happy, sometimes apathetic. Chika was driving herself batty taking care of him. Sho would take over sometimes, and one time only being in Kel's lap made him stop crying. It was very cute. We ate the pizza and had multiple helpings of Chika's Texas Hash - it was delicious. We talked and talked into the night. Chika and Sho are so nice and so funny. I wish we had more time to visit. We gave Yoshi Bianca's present - a stuffed black panther and he wouldn't put it down. He did the same with the book we gave him. Eventually we said we had to go, so they drove us to the station. We said goodbye, and got on the trains back to the ryokan. There we washed some last minute clothes and passed out. -- M

Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998

Day 19 - Tokyo. Tomorrow we return to the US, and this glorious trip will come to an end. Even Kel is feeling upset. We did actually get out of bed (futon) at 6am today, since we really were going to the fish market this morning. Kel was crabby when she got up, but she got better once she woke op. We caught the subway to Tsukuji on the same subway line. We consulted the city map outside the exit and headed to the Fish Market. Upon arrival though, we expected to see hundreds of people bartering over huge frozen tuna. Instead we saw no one. We did see some foreigners who asked us if we knew where it was, which we didn't. We followed them to a guard station where we learned that it was CLOSED today. Doh. Oh well. I wasn't upset since we tried and it was beyond our control.

We ate breakfast at McD's, and actually saw what Sho had said. Just above McNuggets and just below Gift Certificates is something you'd have to pay a lot for at a US McD's: "Smile 0". It's actually on the menu. We took the subway to Tokyo Tower and paid to get up to the lower observation deck.

The view from Tochoo is much better. And it's just as the guide book says- it's a huge tourist trap. The elevator down even drops you off on the second floor filled with every tacky accessory you could want. We raced out of there. Interestingly, there was a DeLorean in the parking lot. We took the subway to Ebisu and the JR to Shibuya where we changed money for the last time at The Bank Where Time Has No Meaning. We headed deep into the love hotel zone where Dr. Jeekahn's is. That used to be an amusement center with a VR Battletech that 4 years ago was really hopping. Now it looks like it's been turned into a bar. How sad an outcome for such a cool game. But I guess NetMech is a cheaper alternative if you don't mind the lack of a cockpit. Oh well. We did see one couple sternly discussing which love hotel to go to and then go in their chosen establishment.

We headed back to the shopping area where we shopped like mad. We had shabu-shabu for lunch, where you cook thinly sliced meat and vegetdbles in a pot of boiling water in front of you, then dip them in sauce and eat. At the end you drink some of the broth you've created. Delicious. It's like making soup, but you're constantly eating the ingredients. We took a slight detour looking for the Japanese Fencing Federation, but couldn't find it. We headed to Akihabara for more shopping.

With some help from the folks at Liberty and a drugstore, we located the Animate nearby. Kel was depressed to learn that they didn't have one bit of Fushigi Yuugi merchandise. All day long it had been drizzling hard, and someone accidentally took my umbrella at Liberty. How annoying. We hit one more used bookstore, then returned to the ryokan with our booty. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant; Kel had a rice omelet like in the movie Tampopo, and I had curry rice. A quick stop at 7-11 for some Happy Turn, and back to the ryokan for our last night in Tokyo and Japan. :( -- M

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

Marc Hernandez :: Kelly Bickford