Japan is the first country I’ve ever been to where I really don’t speak a word of the language. I know hello and thank you, but as Greg points out only the words appropriate during mid-day or in semi-formal situations and I’m sure I don’t even sound confident then. I’ve been surprised by how little English we’ve seen or heard during out week here. Luckily I have Greg who speaks way more Japanese than even I realized and of course there are smiles, pantomimes and pointing at pictures. Without Greg though I’m not sure I would have successfully made it out of Tokyo.
Speaking of which, Tokyo was fantastic and a lot of what I had imagined. Lots and lots of people, more neon lights than I’ve ever seen anywhere and crazy Japanese game shows on the TV. We went to Harajuku, spiritual home of the Japanese tween, and the Meiji shrine which felt like the complete opposite.
We spent the first two days of our time here in Tokyo and then another day at the end of the trip where we came back and found a local L.L.Bean store. Seriously, it was just like a Bean store at home and everyone there told me how much they wanted to visit Freeport. So much fun!
For the rest of our time in Japan we went north to Fukushima and Sendai in search of cherry blossoms. Since it’s that time of year, Greg and I actually based our trip on going to wherever they would be blooming and didn’t settle on Sendai until a week or so before we arrived. I’m so glad that’s where we wound up. Sendai is still a big city, but felt far more manageable than Tokyo.
On Tuesday we woke up to hear about Boston. It certainly made for a somber start to the day, but we took the bullet train north to Fukushima and hiked up “Flower Viewing Mountain” to see the blossoms. They were absolutely breathtaking, a wonderful distraction, and totally worth the hike even while lugging all of our stuff along (which also made for a pretty good sense of accomplishment).
That night we took the train just a bit further to Sendai and spent the next day just settling in for a bit and exploring our surroundings. We also happened to be at Starbucks on Wednesday night when I experienced my first earthquake. It was a 5.9 (ish, depending on who is reporting it). The building started to shake and everyone, Greg included, got a cell phone alert explaining what was going on. It was certainly disconcerting, and especially given the area we’re in, but seriously everyone around us just glanced at their phones and went right back to what they were doing.
On Thursday we walked across town to go see the Aoba castle. This was once the home of Date Masamune - feudal lord of the area. Only a few of the outside walls of the castle still remain, but they were impressive and the view over Sendai was worth the walk too. Greg and I had been trying to figure out what we wanted to do with our last full day in Sendai when the idea of a baseball game came up. We got back to the hotel, looked up the schedule and realized there was one that night. So we took a cab across town and had a blast watching the Tohoku Rakutan Golden Eagles play the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.
Friday was just another day of hanging out and taking care of some life stuff. These are some of my favorite days so far. I love exploring local grocery stores (the pictures below is barely a fraction of the interesting sea life we saw at the market) and some of the funniest moments of the trip so far have come from the most routine tasks. For example, Greg and I were trying to do laundry and had run out of detergent. Wanting to make sure we were getting soap and not bleach we googled the name on the package for a description and got this; “If you are concerned about the fall colors, put the juice in the shadows, every five minutes, color, what color of the wash.” We had a good laugh, decided that was good enough for us and our fall colors still seem to be ok.
Hope everyone is doing well and of course lots of love always! We’re off to China next (fingers crossed - I’ll explain more later).