This is the largest city on Earth and it goes on for miles in every direction with at least four separate downtowns. We started with day trips out of the city to slowly get our bearings. Our rail passes still had three remaining days of use.
Mt. Fuji was high on the travel list but had low visibility that week. We still went to Fuji in hopes of a sighting, but everything above the base was shrouded in clouds. We spent our time in the city of Fuji at a pet shop fawning over cute puppies and kittens.
Yokohama’s waterfront park was a different kind of beautiful as it snowed all day. We walked around for two hours and the only other person we saw was a committed runner.
China Town was lively though.
We had separate adventures on our final rail pass day. I went up to Nagano and Matsumoto to see some more snow and another castle. I brought my Shiba to keep me company. I bought him at a 100 Yen shop ($0.91) and he took 90 minutes to assemble. They aren’t real Legos so the pieces don’t fit together uniformly. Aaron spent the day at the Toyota museum and a fish market.
We stayed near Ueno Park and the museum district. An interactive museum exhibit taught us traditional brush strokes for calligraphy. The volunteer helping me was very concerned that I kept getting the brush strokes wrong and that I couldn’t tell the difference between mine and hers. I practiced eight times with feedback before creating my souvenir. She looked at it and shook her head again, and then paused to reflect that her work with me was finally over and that it didn’t really matter to her if I was hopeless. She then smiled patiently and told me “good job.” The blue is “sky” and the purple is “dream.”
It gets dark early here so it was easy to time our nightly viewing of city lights. Some evenings were a bit chilly and we would read in a cafe while awaiting nightfall.
We ate a lot of sushi on this trip. I am usually squeamish about raw fish, but I finally came around. I even added wasabi! The conveyor belt style service with two pieces per plate is really great for trying new things.
At other restaurants we could point to a picture to order, but at grocery stores we had to hope for the best. Three times we scrutinized the shelves only to still bring home the wrong item: Sake turned out to be Korean Spirits, Soy Sauce was definitely not soy sauce, and wasabi peanuts were actually sugar-coated peanuts. That was a happy mistake that we bought on purpose the next day.
I didn’t eat at this restaurant, but I took a picture because the sign was pretty. I later learned it says “horse meat sold here.”
Our final day we stopped in at Kodokan Academy, the birthplace of Judo. This is an active gym with world-renowned training, and they let tourists observe from the bleachers. It looks like a lot of fun.
Good-bye, snowy Tokyo! Local news even interviewed me on the way out.
We have a brief stop in even snowier Moscow and then on to Israel.