Sunday, August 31, 2014

Half Way Around The World! (July 21-31, 2014)

I have a lot to catch up here goes. My last post was my raspberry jam I made before I left for Japan. Wow....Japan....I loved Japan but mostly I loved seeing my very good friend Tomoko and meeting her daughter Maiko. Tomoko was an exchange student that I hosted in 1988. It was great to hug her and see her country. To see how she lives and see her life first hand. We had so much fun together. We shopped and shopped for souvenirs for me to take back to the USA. We laughed about how many chopsticks, origami paper and fans I threw in the cart! Lots of Hello Kitty presents, pencils, Japanese candy, and stickers to spoil my granddaughters, nieces and nephews with. She said often..."You spoil grandkids."
I rode on the bullet train...traveling at 170-200mph. I took amazing photos of the bright green rice paddy fields and country side. I walked through a temple with gold chandeliers that were over 100 years old...and stood in the courtyard in awe of a 400 year old oak tree. I walked down streets with bamboo shades with bamboo fencing and bamboo gates leading into courtyards of hidden fountains. I experienced a crowded subway station..pushing through like cattle. (I video taped this as well.)  I watched a parade that only happens every 50 years in Kyoto. Where there were colorful carts with huge wooden wheels being pulled by 20-30 men in costume. Drummers drumming, flutes fluting a familiar Japanese tune. What an amazing experience of my life!
Tomoko and I dedicated one whole day for Mt. Fuji. We left the house at 5:30 in the morning to take two trains to Tokyo, and then we took a tour bus.  We stopped at a dairy farm to learn how to make ice cream and to have a Japanese Bar-B-Q. Then on to Mt. Fuji. It was spectacular to stand at the base of this iconic volcano compared to looking at it in a magazine or in a book. It was breathtaking. We arrived back in Tokyo after dark which gave me a chance to take some amazing photos of the Tokyo Station along with the lit up high risers.
We had sake together as we looked at old photos of her stay with me in America. Reminiscing with lots of giggling and joy! (It was my first time having sake...I liked it...a lot!)
We shared the photos with Maiko for the first time. Maiko is an amazing teenage girl. She plays classical guitar and I had the great pleasure of going to see her in concert. She is very talented. I could clearly see how much she loves to play the guitar. She played with passion. I fell in love with Maiko. Such a great personality, very kind, disciplined and cute. She left early in the morning for school to catch a train, studied all day and then returned on a train. She arrived home sometimes very late and tired but she always took the time to visit with me a bit before she went to bed. Tomoko's mom Yoshie was a dear too. We bounded quickly. Our common bound was being a "Mother" to Tomoko. She expressed her gratitude for taking care of her daughter years ago. 
I took hundreds of photos. Here is just a glimpse of my AMAZING journey. My journey continued in Manila, Philippines. My daughter had a work assignment there so that was my next stop. It is part two of an AMAZING journey of new friends and amazing sites that I experienced. Stay tuned.

Up Up and Away to Japan!

It was a great flight. I flew ANA. Great crew. They spoiled me!

Tomoko picked me up at the airport. It was great seeing her face when I came around 
the corner. Driving back to Chiba we drove under the monorail.

Tomoko and her mom Yoshie in front of their home. A three story brick home. 
Tomoko and her family live on the top two floors on the left and Yoshie on the right 
bottom. It is a high tech home. Tomoko started my bath and temp from a panel in the kitchen.

Japanese magazine rack in front of a travel agent. 

Kyoto Train Station. Amazing ceiling.

A "Real" Japanese sushi bar! I tried everything they least a taste. I used chopsticks
99% of the time I was there. Tomoko would ask for silverware for me, but I really wanted
to master those blasted sticks! I think I did on day 10!

Cart after cart coming. Japanese tunes playing. Hundreds of bi-standers
along the road. To see this traditional parade was one of my 
most favorite experiences.

Amazing costumes.

Drummers drumming.

Flutes fluting.


Yes, that is a cherry tree growing on top!

Some of these older gentlemen were in the Kyoto parade 50 years ago.

Tomoko's mother and father in law.

Our taxi ride to the temple.

400 year old tree in the courtyard.

Doors to a secret garden.

Japan had some really cool and unique street lamps.

Bike parking. Everyone, young and old, rode a bike. To work or 
for their shopping. 

An apartment complex.

Maiko playing with passion.

My yen....well...some of it! This equals around $155.00.

The Bullet train! The inside was just like an airplane, but roomier. We
even had attendants serving drinks and food for sale.

Gorgeous green rice paddy fields.

I took this photo with my iphone traveling at 200 mph. Good shot!

Mt. Fuji from afar.

Standing at the base of Mt. Fuji. What a memory!

The famous Tokyo Station at night.

The ceiling of the Tokyo Station.

Our basket of veggies. This was one part of our Shabu Shabu meal.

The waitress's all wore Kimono's. Our shaved beef, veggies, and
fresh noodles were cooked right at our table. Every table had a stove in the center.

Our dessert. Green tea, vanilla and pineapple ice cream. I had the pineapple.

A pile of souvenirs I bought. This photo doesn't show
all of it!!! I mailed two boxes back to the states. 

Our last night together. We had a party for just us.
We had sake, potato chips, pickles, and sun dried tomatoes.
We stayed up later than usual and talked and laughed 
until late. I spent some good quality time with Maiko
as well. I had the most wonderful time and made
some amazing memories. Tomoko spoiled me.
Thank you Tomoko I love you!

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