Sunday 03/31/24 (In Japan) Spring is in the Air!

Well, morning started bright and early, like 0300 early. So probably not bright, but very early……….yes, we have jet lag and cannot seem to wrap our mind around the 13 hour time difference. While it is 05:00 as we write this is it 4 pm yesterday at home. The boys are settling in for their afternoon nap at home while we are waking up to being our day. Yesterday was very eventful. We started the morning off with a hearty breakfast while we chatted up a couple from Ohio, a physician and lawyer, who, like us, are avid travelers. We had a great time chatting but it was soon time for them to leave on their tour and for us to begin our day.

As soon as we were out the door we headed out to explore the local area. We wandered around the subway station and its labyrinth of underground tunnels was like a world in itself. Being Saturday here in Tokyo did not slow down the many people heading to destinations despite the early hour. We, at some point, decided we had better head back to the room in order to meet an old friend of Dave’s, Kyoko, who he met twelve years ago and has kept in contact with her all these years later.  The life-sized iguana seated on the bench was a good marker point to know we were headed back in the right direction. Thankfully we managed to make it back by following the crumbs of clues that told us we were headed back to the hotel. Kyoko came up to our room where Kathy had an opportunity to get to know her and we planned for the day. She had some great ideas and we headed off to “Shinjuku National Garden”, a park famous for its cherry trees. Today, being near the start of the blossom season and the Garden being hugely popular in Tokyo, we were required to have a ticket to enter the park and access was limited. Thinking ahead, she had made reservations for us and we managed to slip through the throngs of people milling about wishing that they had a friend like Kyoko! The weather was perfect as we wandered around and around. The park had spans of trees without any blossoms, since the season started late this year, and then sudden bursts of flowering large trees and bushes appeared. In its own way, it made it more special when we found the bright arrays of various shades of white, pink, and red on the blooming trees. The colors set in front of the vivid blue sky was amazing. Sitting down on our “picnic towels”, we had lunch in the shade. Kyoko had brought us all lunch from a local bakery/deli and Kathy was delighted to see one of her favorite sandwiches, a BLT. While not the same as the US version, it was excellent and tasted marvelous! Dave had a smorgasbord of small sandwiches in different flavors.  It was great people-watching, talking, and relaxing as we ate our sandwiches. Full from our lunch, we again started walking to discover more cherry trees of various types some in bloom, some trying to bloom in the warm spring day, and some trees hesitant to bud out, waiting to make sure it was really spring. As we were heading out we got lucky enough to see a bright green parakeet, which was way larger than normal proportion, a Godzilla parakeet clipping the flowers off a blooming cherry tree. Scattered on the ground were all the petals from his exertion to suck the nectar and then toss away the remains.

Heading out, we listened to the grumblings of our stomachs and went to our dinner spot, a place Kyoko had made reservations at for dinner. It was around a dark corner, in a back alley of the street, in a room that was as big as our living room at home. Crammed into the small area was a bar where people sat around with their food and two small tables. (A back room held a few more tables) Cognizant that Kathy had to be careful with what she could eat without dying of anaphylaxis, we perused the menu. The dining is family-style and small trays/bowls/plates are presented to share. Kathy stuck with a beef stew and some rice, while Dave was more adventurous and tried chicken, seaweed rice, fried mozzarella on a stick, and some other items not quite identifiable.  He’s pretty sure Kyoko tried to squeeze some squid into his diet. It was a truly authentic and fun experience and one of the best meals we have ever enjoyed. We were with a good friend experiencing a meal that was both delicious and fun.  It truly amazed all three of us that a chance meeting of Kyoko and Dave 12 years ago, where they spent only 4 or 5 hours together, led to such an amazing day as if we were all life-long friends.

Heading back to the hotel meant wandering around following our phone as Google maps directed us to turn right, turn left, and oh! you have left the route. Wandering again through the underground tunnels we said our goodbyes to Kyoto as she headed back to take her train back home.  Shortly thereafter, we exited the tunnels and found our hotel at the top of the stairs. Phew, we made it back. Time to catch up on some much needed sleep!


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