Author’s Note: This is my 50th post. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I started this blog, but I’m glad that you’ve been here to share the ride. It’s been a true pleasure to share my escapades with you. I look forward to the next 50 stories.
In what seemed the blink of an eye, we were on our last full day in Japan. Once again we had the day to do whatever we pleased, so Mat wanted to take Dave and I away from the touristy part of Tokyo and experience its real side.
Early in the morning, the three of us caught a subway to the Azabu-Jaban district. Once we stepped out of the subway station, it seemed like we had journeyed back in time. No traffic. No noise. All was quiet, scenic, and peaceful. The streets were lined with little homes. It was a magnificent world.
As we walked along the streets, Mat demonstrated his knowledge of Japan as he launched into an interesting lecture on the anime series, Sailor Moon, and its connection to the Azubu-Jaban region. He pointed out that a lot of the embassies were in this district and it was incredible to pass all of these gated homes and see which ambassador was living there.
We also passed several schools, explored a little cemetery, and visited a couple of shrines. After the shrines, Mat took us on a scenic route through a little park. As we wandered through the park, I suddenly had a great moment of clarity. Every once in a while, I have these moments and when they hit me everything seems so crystal clear and simple. It’s as if God has momentarily opened my eyes and is letting me know that everything is going to be all right if I keep the faith and that right now, even if it doesn’t seem like it, I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. As I watched a waterfall in the park, I let myself sink into that moment.
All too soon, we were on our way again. Upon leaving the park, we found a little library and Mat and I decided to stop inside for a moment while Dave waited by the fountain. When we entered the library, we were given special passes so we could use the resources. Mat and I examined a few newspapers and then went back outside to collect Dave and find a place to eat.
I discovered a rather inviting little café and we decided to grab a meal there. I seem to recall that we had the special of the house which were pork cutlets and rice. After the respite, we headed to the subway station and were off to visit the Tokyo Sky Tree.
The Tokyo Sky Tree is one of the tallest structures in the world. I thought the view was amazing from Tokyo Tower, but it had nothing on the Sky Tree. The Sky Tree has two observation decks: a high one and a REALLY high one. Needless to say, we visited both.
The view from the REALLY high deck was jaw dropping. I don’t think I could see the whole city, but it couldn’t have been far off. From this height, one could see just how massive this metropolis truly was and it was a sight I will be unable to forget. I only wish it hadn’t been such a cloudy day because I would have been able to see Mt Fuji in the distance on a clear day.
Once we had had our fill, we headed back to our hotel to get ready for a final group dinner.
We went to a traditional Japanese restaurant called Izakaya. Upon entering the foyer, we were required to remove our shoes and were seated around a long table. We sampled many different foods, but what made the dinner truly special was the company. We had been together for most of the week, but this was the event where we truly got to know one another. We had begun this journey beyond imagination as touring companions, but we were leaving as friends.
The next day arrived and we packed our bags and met in the lobby to say our final good-byes. Mat and Dave had an earlier flight which would ultimately take them to Mat’s hometown in Phoenix where they would rest up for a few days before Mat escorted Dave back to Omaha and visited his family and friends. Mat had been right. . .I did have the time of my life. And as we said our farewells, our eyes all shared the same idea. . .our little trio would return to Japan to experience it again and anew.
After I saw Mat and Dave off, I walked Mike to a Hello, Kitty store in Ikebukuro so he could get some souvenirs. As we headed back to the hotel, I noticed a ramen restaurant that our group had passed on multiple occasions. The food there must be incredible as there is always a line out the door and Mat said the same had been true when he had first visited Tokyo two years previously. For once, the line was short and I was sorely tempted to wait and try the ramen. But it wouldn’t have felt right without Mat and Dave to share it with, so I resisted the urge, though we three have made a vow to hit it up when we return.
About 1pm, my bus arrived and, once again, I rode the 90 minutes to Narita International Airport. I stopped and exchanged my remaining yen for dollars and made a bit of profit on the exchange. Yukie helped get us our boarding passes and saw us off, taking a final photo. But I knew it wasn’t good-bye for Japan. It was merely see you later.
The flight home was a bit smoother as the Gulf Stream now sped up our flight, reducing it to about 9 hours. This time, there was an empty seat between me and the other person in our row, so I was able to stretch out and get a bit more shuteye. I remember it was about midnight when finally got back to my home and my internal clock was screwed up something awful. It was nearly 3am when I fell asleep and I actually slept all the way to 11am.
The jet lag which I had managed to keep at bay in Tokyo struck me with a fury when I returned to Omaha. I imagine jet lag is what being drunk must feel like except without the misery of a hangover. Every few hours, I would nap for a little while as my body battled to reset its biorhythms. It took over a week before I was fully recovered. As I shook off the last remnants of Japan, I finally realized the adventure was over, but the memories will last forever.