Day 0 -aka the adventures of O’Hare, JAL flight JL9, and the bus ride to the hotel…
I woke up at 2am so that I could shower and start get ready before Mom and Monkey. Mom was up by 2:30am and Monkey by 3am. Tammy got over by 3:30am and we filled her in on all the little details of the fur babies and the house. Steve got to the house by 5am. After we brought the luggage outside, we determined that my SUV would be the better of the vehicles to get us down to O’Hare. Not that there’s anything wrong with Steve’s car (or toaster as Monkey calls it) but due to the mass amount of luggage/carry-on’s (5 suitcases and 4 carry on’s….ok, so one is Monkey’s portfolio, but still) that we absolutely had to bring along.
After a brief pit (read as potty) stop at the Oasis, we finally arrived at O’Hare….and it was snowing….a lot…A LOT…big fat ugly flakes…
With check in and TSA check done the three of us headed to the Admiral’s Club Lounge. I snapped a few pictures before we went to wait at the gate.
Due to Mom’s knees and her need for the walker to help steady herself, we were first to board…after first class of course. Comfortably seated we just waited for the plane to take off.
The flight pattern didn’t differ from the last time we ventured to Japan. The only difference was less snow (THANK GOD!) and more clouds. I didn’t snap as many pictures this time, mostly because I was sleeping….in hour long increments…at least it was sleep…which was more than I got last trip!
Fast forward 13 hours…13 long…very long…almost excruciating long hours…we finally landed in Japan. We always wait for everyone else to leave the plane, mostly due to Mom and her knees….aka…slowness…but also because I don’t travel with a sherpa…”I” am the sherpa left to carry the heavy ass bags. Ok, so Monkey carried her own…still…HEAVY ASS BAGS! As we were leaving the plane, I asked the head flight attendant if I could peak at first class. She not only said yes, but took me and Monkey on a tour of business and first class. WOW….I wish I had the extra $$$ to fly first class. I bet they don’t have ear issues up there LOL
I’ll spare all the boring details of retrieving our luggage (which was brought to us…Mom’s walker was MIA when we got off the plane – it was supposed to be waiting for us at the plane door. It was mistakenly put in with the luggage so someone from JAL went and got all our luggage…ALL 5 cases and brought it to us!). I’ll also spare all the boring details of trading in our train vouchers for actual passes as well as our bus vouchers for real tickets.
The bus ride was longer because of a pretty big traffic jam. Instead of taking the regular route, our driver – bless his soul – ventured off the beaten path and onto regular roads. I was awake the entire bus ride so I was able to check out most of Tokyo via street level.
And that was pretty much day zero.
Day 1 aka our first day back
We woke up early-ish (8am) and took turns showering. After we dressed and I got my make up on we all headed out to Lawson for food stuffs… the staples of fruit, milk (which turned out to be a hybrid of milk and juice…not a very good hybrid either…my bad for choosing it), tea, water, Monkey’s favorite cream puff, and convenience store sushi (which is much better than it sounds.)
Back to the hotel we went with the spoils of shopping…oh I bought yogurt too….oh and Haggen Daas Sakura (Cherry Blossom) flavored ice cream – a mini serving. We shared and savored all the wonderfully delicious foods and then went to Tobu (a very large department store kiddy corner from the hotel) in search of a new shirt for me. The weather was forecasted to be in the low – mid 50’s today and I had brought primarily sweaters. Needless to say Monkey got a new pair of shorts and tights….and I didn’t find a shirt that I liked….go figure. So, we headed back to the hotel for her to change and put the Starbucks (oh yeah, we also stopped at Starbucks) in the mini fridge that’s in our room.
After that was out of the way, I changed into my Dir en Grey t-shirt, Monkey changed into her new tights and shorts, and off we went to Harajuku and Meiji shrine. Holy crap is Tokyo busy on Saturday afternoons in Spring! We opted to visit Meiji first before shopping on Takishita Dori.
After getting off the train we headed left for the shrine. As we turned to go over the bridge to head into the shrine grounds we spotted two mascots for the Red Cross. Of course we had to get pictures of them and one of the three of us with one of them..much to Monkey’s chagrin hehehe. I also ‘accidentally’ photobombed a music video that was being made..go me! LOL
The shrine was as beautiful and serene as I remember it. The time may not have been New Year’s Day but the grounds were buzzing with loads of people – tourists, shrine visitors (those that go to the shrine ‘regularly’), and people attending weddings. We were privileged to witness a wedding procession….OMG…so effen cool! (I took pictures!) We also got to see another bride as she was getting dressed in her wedding attire…HOLY HELL…amazing wedding dress and hair..I want to have someone dress me up and fix my hair like that! (There are pictures of the second bride getting dressed as well as the first bride – with the entire wedding party/attendants and just her with close ups of her hair.)
We opted to head back to the hotel after we were finished at the Shrine. We didn’t get into the Gardens because there were too many people and Monkey was getting cold – it was around 4pm and the sun was getting ready to set. We almost didn’t make it through the throngs of people…and by throngs I mean a million people all heading into the Harajuku train station. We must have had a guardian guide because we got through and made it to the train without incident. The first train was so packed with people that I couldn’t see through one set of windows to the next….so, we waited the whole 5 minutes – max – to the next train. That one was also full, but not as bad so we made our way onto it…for the whole 15 minutes it takes to get to Ikebukuro from Harajuku.
Because of the milk mishap of the morning, we thought it best to stop at the grocery store in the basement of Tobu, which is conveniently on the way out of the train station. About another million people were shopping for their evening meals as well, so we decided to get a few items for dinner – chicken, fries, and tempura veggie balls. I also bought a present and sakura beer from one of the hottest Japan guys I’ve laid my eyes on – in person. Sure, he wasn’t a Kamijo, but still!!
Oh yeah…forgot to mention that on the first night here, I went down to the bakery to get something light for dinner. On the way back to the room I was gifted with the chance to ride the elevator with an amazingly hot Japanese rock star…but I can’t put my finger on what band he’s in and I didn’t have the balls to ask for his picture…probably because of the cutest Japanese woman accompany him…who was wearing the most amazing pair of shoes – black velvet Mary Jane platforms…I have shoe envy now.
Ok, back to today. With food in hand we stopped at Family Mart – across the street from Tobu – for milk…because I forgot it at Tobu. Monkey spied some Attack on Titan candies, so of course we HAD to buy them. Lucky for her the candies were no more than $2. With milk and candies in hand we FINALLY made it back to the hotel.
Over dinner we decided watch tv…which is always amusing in Japan. Yet again, the tv did not disappoint us. We settled on a Sumo match – pictures of the tv match were of course necessary! I don’t think I will ever understand the sport of sumo…but damn is it entertaining!
And that leads us to now. Monkey has passed out behind me and is snoring away, mom is working on a Crossword puzzle and I’m taking breaks from typing to watch “Songs of Japan” on tv. The program is pretty cool. There are people from all over the world that are chosen to come and sing Japanese songs in front of judges. There are four singers pitted against each other with the winner going to the next round. It’s like American Idol only much cooler…except the adorable 21 year old gay man from Portland, Oregon was beat out by some hootchy from Europe. Personally, I think he was robbed….his voice was amazing and the song was spot on!
So, with a very full day behind me, it’s time to take off the make up, get the jammies on, download the pictures onto FB, and pass out. Tomorrow is another adventure waiting to happen!