Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Rest of Mom’s Japanese Adventure

So now it was May 3rd and we were in Nagoya, where we chuckled at the bike parking areas you needed to pay by the hour for. Almost a month ago from this late writing, but I only got back from Hiroshima late last night so sorry. Hopefully I can tell that story before too long; I’d hate to jump into a “cliff’s note’s” format.

We decided to ‘walk around’ and do nothing in particular; just head in the vague direction of Oasis 21, where the huge shopping and entertainment area in the downtown is. It was a good couple hours walk, as the girls talk as girls do, and we were frightened by large imposing election vans. If you didn’t know, it’s how they do elections in Japan; in the most annoying and noise polluting way possible.

These monster vans had huge loud speakers on top of them. This convoy had huge flags as they spouted the person’s name over and over, and I’m not sure what else; I’ve heard they say little more than “thanks for voting for me last time, vote for me again.” But I don’t know. I do know, that they were blaring some kind of crazy militaristic music, and flying the Japanese Naval flag; the one everyone mistakes for a “World War 2 Flag” with the sun and stripes around it.

Around 20 minutes later there was another convoy for a different political party (probably) playing the same frightening crap. It was so we were afraid to even look at their tinted-black windows’ direction, and it reminded us of videos you see of Nazi Germany. I have no idea who thinks this kind of stuff is a good idea. I heard later from my cousin that he saw the same thing in Shibuya, the busiest intersection in the world that you always see in the movies; it too reminded him of the world during darker days, but I digress.

The rest of the walk was really lovely, and we ran into a 70-something year old security guard that had ok English and was full of spunk. We also ran into the much talked about “Tokyu Hands”, which was full of 8 floors of craft items / cool stuff. We spent atleast another hour here seeing fun stuff.

Finally we made it to Oasis 21. Nearby there were some performers playing Jazz or something, but it was hard to hear over some other idiot politician blaring hate over his loud speakers. We instead went to the Oasis and ran smack into the middle of a huge children’s fair of some sort with live performances and games; Mom even made friends with some little kids that came up and talked to her.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the number of times I’ve seen lines for McDonalds that stretch out the doors. A nearby ice-cream place had its line going around the corner. Maybe the only store I was interested in, the Jump shop, had a line going around half the floor space, and the nearby Pokemon store had queue ropes outside. Both crowds of people weren’t moving, and the human bodies easily took up more space than the entire stores they were patiently waiting to enter. We didn’t stay at Oasis 21 very long.

On the way back, we decided to try a buffet. This one was extraordinary in that not only did they give you a time limit of one hour, but each table sported their own deep fryer. We used the whole hour dipping various breaded meats and vegetables into it. When our time was up, we headed back to the hotel and called it a night, but not before walking through the station.

Once there, Ann was walking a little bit faster a head of us, and before you knew it, two police offers swooped in speaking only Japanese and not trying to make it easy. Ann didn’t understand a word of course, but it could have been a lot easier if they just said “Passport” as it’s almost identical in Japanese. Once they saw my mom and I, they didn’t care nearly as much to check if she was visiting legally or not, but this racial profiling thing is quite depressing to see in action. But, as mom said later: “they’re just doing their jobs.”

The next day was a grueling 6 hour drive over around 300 kilometers, including 4 lane sections that moved maybe 5 kilometers over 1 hour during the worst of it. The only redeeming part of it was being able to see Fuji. When it was visible, it was hard to look at anything else. Perhaps that’s why it’s famous; it’s so visible from so many different places. We got in late to Odaiba and checked in, but were too late to see the Cirque Du Soleil that started at 4.

What we were able to do though, was meet up with my cousin Ryan during his last day in Japan. I hadn’t seen him in 3 years, so it was a bit of a shock. We all went for food at a nearby mall, and walked around Odaiba. We finished the night off on a trip up the Ferris Wheel Ann and I rode the week earlier. I was impressed, and happy that mom took the trip with us despite her earlier fears.

We parted ways and called it a night. In the morning we went to Shibuya to meet up with mom’s other friends: Hiro, his wife, and his daughter. Together we took a train to Yokohama where we could watch a baseball game. This was my first big professional game to watch, and Ann’s first big professional sport game of any kind; I needed to explain the rules to Ann so she wouldn’t be too lost.

When we first arrived, we were initially worried that we wouldn’t get tickets with golden week causing stadiums to be sold out all over the country, and the long line we were met with. After some anxious line standing for a while, the other side was scouted and had no line at all. Apparently how they work it, is one ticket line for the home team, and one for the visitors. This just meant we would be cheering for the Hiroshima Carp and not the Yokohama Baystars. Oh well (?). The fan chants and songs were amazing regardless.

For $25 each, we had some amazing seats. It was really hot initially, but the sun got low enough half way through the game, and what a game it was. Almost every inning there was something exciting happening, and we saw almost everything you could want at a game, other than the team we were rooting for winning. It wasn’t a heartbreaker, as I had lots of beer, and hot dogs, and fried rice among other things. That’s not the only weird food item they were selling, and they also had things like KFC inside.

After the game, we went to the nearby China town. I warned mom and Ann before, China Town is one of the most expensive places you’ll stumble across unfortunately, despite its reputation telling you it should be affordable. We had an ok supper that was way overpriced and parted ways.

May 6th, two days to go. Despite that, we didn’t spend much time in Tokyo; instead we went back to Yokohama and walked around for most of the day. Half of the walking was around the marvelous harbor area, and eating a dozen crispy cream donuts. This was our first real time having them, and they tasted just like tasty donuts to me; I don’t see what the huge fuss over them is.

Yokohama is a beautiful place as you can see from my other pictures and stories from times I’ve been there. Mom laughed when I used my compass, as apparently it’s a famous story she uses when she goes back home. It retrospect it is amusing, but I find it wildly helpful, as Japan’s backwards maps always have North pointing in whatever direction they want, and the roads are twisty enough to make you lose your way in 10 minutes. It was neat looking into the water this time, as it was oversaturated with jellyfish, and we even saw a huge rat swimming for shore.

Anyways with the lovely harbor behind us, we were in the huge China town again, thinking we could maybe find some affordable duck or something fun to eat. Alas, despite there being over 100 restaurants, everyone perused had around the same overly expensive front. Instead, Ann and Mom did their girl thing and look through some of the fun shops. Atleast many of those places didn’t insult you; I wonder where Chinese people go for a taste of home.

For our final full day in Japan, we went to Tokyo to bum around. To get there, we rode a sky train for a good while, and it was one beautiful ride. I took lots of pictures, and my descriptions could never do it justice. We went to Asakusa, a huge temple and flea market area, where the girls did the last of their shopping together. We saw another orange tree, pagoda, and other nice stuff I’m sure I wrote about before in her last trip.

After a couple hours, I was spent, and we stopped for a kebab at a Turkish restaurant nearby to rest the feet. It was raining on and off, so it wasn’t too bad to stick around the market district. We briefly tried to walk to different areas until we got wet, then took a train to Ginza where we would meet Mervin again, and have our last supper in Japan.

Mervin got us reservations for a vampire restaurant. The atmosphere naturally was amazing, complete with a coffin in the middle of the floor, a fully dress vampire waiter, and appropriately themed food and drinks. On the limited menu were wonderful things like cow cheek meat. While amazing, we were still hungry after, and went out later for a little something more.

It was getting late already, so we went back to the hotel. It was a busy, wonderful holiday, where I got sick once atleast, Ann got Ill, and on the last day mom completely lost her voice. We spent the morning walking around Odaiba, partially saying goodbye to the place, before packing and driving to the airport. We had breakfast in a fabulous mall, themed like ancient Rome.

At the airport, the goodbye wasn’t as hard as it has been in the past; we both knew it was a “see you later.” When I held Mom’s ticket to double check her gate, I briefly felt a tinge of jealousy; I really was ready to go back to Canada as well. She had told Ann over and over to come, so we’ll work on the paperwork for that as well. We watched her walk away, and reluctantly started to leave ourselves. Ann went to the bathroom to shed a quick tear while I sat down in silent reflection.

It was really wonderful for my Mom to come visit me yet again in Japan. I’ll be back in 2 months myself; I hope I have come closer to being the kind of man I aspire to be, and feel truly ready to leave this wonderful chapter of my life, and start a brand new one.

Ann and I went back to the now even quieter apartment room, had a simple supper, and to our surprise in the morning, there was Mom calling me on Skype. She had got home ok, and my brother John was already thanking me for his present. In fact, the time that she called in Canada, was the exact same time her plane left Japan.

It made me feel silly for being sad in the first place. We had a wonderful trip, and soon I’ll be back at home, eating her great cooking and having different crazy adventures before taking off on another big one.

"Adventure is not outside man; it is within." -David Grayson


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