Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's good to see friends and family

It snowed here last night and the slushy remains lay atop half walls and car bumpers this morning as I made my way to the bus en route to base. I haven't lived in snow territory for many years.
Ben and Olivia Schreiber's father visited us this past week. Allan's cousin Paul is always a fun guest. We met at the airport and went by bus to the American Military Hotel, the New Sanno, in Tokyo.

He stopped in Japan on his way to Bangkok, India and (I think) Hong Kong. It was business for him with, we hope, a little fun added.

We had been to the New Sanno for a holiday party, but we didn't meet Natasha during that visit. She's a very sweet cat who stays at the checkpoint. She was so calm, we weren't sure she was live! Seeing another cat makes us miss our two guys, Joey and Sam.

The best thing about this hotel is American mattresses. Whatever horror stories you've heard about Japanese beds is true. We've been to 4 hotels so far and the beds are like granite! We are soft Americans, I admit it!

After a little rest time we hit the town. Our first stop was dinner. Kenji, the manager of the restaurant where we ate, is Cuban and Japanese. We mentioned it to Paul, so when he stopped at the table, Paul spoke to him in Spanish and they were old friends in no time.

Allan really likes sake, and doesn't miss too many opportunities to try different kinds. He and Paul had a mini sake tasting.

I headed back to the hotel early, leaving the men to see the sites of Roppongi. Our plans were to see the Tokyo fish market early in the morning, and I need more beauty sleep than I once did.

We got up early to schlep to a grimy, smelly, fishy place. It's famous and has to be the largest fish market on the planet. Why they allow tourists here is a mystery. These carts (above) are zipping around everywhere.

If you don't get run down, you could easily get slimed by a guy in a rubber apron covered with fish guts.

We snacked on some steamed crab claws, (at 7am) but most of what we saw was headed for restaurants and markets. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me (never again). We heard from Paul that he went back the next morning, and in fact ate in the same sushi place where the three of us had breakfast. It was good, but I'm trying not to make my entire blog about food, so I won't dwell.

On our way to the Imperial Palace, we came to this building. Does this look like Independence Hall or what? You know, Philadelphia, the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock - those other rebels. Well, I say 'yes'. Except I think the one in Philadelphia has a bell tower. I seem to remember something about a cracked bell.

This is the Imperial Palace, which is of course, where the Emperor lives. We got a little closer, just to the right end of that bridge. As you'd expect, lots of tourists were looking and photographing the guards and the palace.

The Palace is open to the public two days a years, the Emperor's birthday (in late December) and New Years Day. Japan is not actually run by the Emperor. They have a Prime Minister and a congress of sorts called the Diet. The current Emperor is Akihito. The period of his reign is the Heisei Era and this is the 20th year, so on government documents, the year is listed as Heisei 20.

Some nice tourist took this photo of the three of us. That building is the guard house to the left of the bridge.

Buses dropped off groups of tourists and this field trip of junior high school boys. You can tell by the military looking uniform. High school boys wear a blazer, slacks and tie (and very often, penny loafers).

The palace was directly behind me when I took this photo of the Tokyo skyline. That's Allan and Paul in the foreground. We headed in that direction, and found the Ginza District, which is the Rodeo Drive of Tokyo. I actually made a purchase - no, two purchases.

Justify FullOn the way to Ginza, we passed through a park where this fierce Samurai warrior stood guard.

Paul spotted a cute bag (purse) and asked the young lady carrying it for a photo. When I reached them, she was telling him and Allan that she was from Hong Kong. Of course she spoke English. Everyone from Hong Kong that we've met so far speaks very understandable English. Her two friends arrived to ask if she were becoming an international model. She said 'No, just the bag'.

Before heading home we stopped here. Weary travelers everywhere can hit the 7-11.

We took the train to Yokosuka and Allan worked a half day.

Paul, we had fun. Come again and bring Henry!

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