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  • 2012 Japan Trip, Part I

    Posted on July 6th, 2012 Michele Sun No comments

    I have wanted to write about my Feb trip to Japan, though I have been to Japan many times in different seasons, but I have the greatest time and most wonderful memory from this time. For me it’s more than just another trip to Japan, it’s a surprising and beautiful journey!

    Couple weeks ago I was doing a photowalk in San Francisco with a friend, and I brought my Sony point and shoot camera with me. Of course compared to his SLR mine is very amateur, but the objective  is to open my eyes about photography and learn how he sees things. When we took a coffee break in the City, he uploaded my pictures using his notebook so we could look at them together. He discovered three pictures in my camera dated 2/25/2012,  surprised  that I had those pictures and I could not tell where they were taken. I knew they got to be in Tokyo from the time-stamp, but I had no idea where it was or when I took them!

    Must be karma that this friend just flew in from Tokyo on that Sunday morning, so he could tell  me these three pictures were taken at Shibuya Crossing — one of the busiest crossings in the world. And those pictures were actually taken on the 26th in Japan time zone, the day I ran the Tokyo Marathon. I posted that three pictures on Facebook and thought the discovery of these mysterious photos was interesting. Max commented on the photos and reminded me that he actually did tell me about “Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest crossing in the world” when we were in Shibuya (渋谷). Now I feel entirely bad that I don’t actually remember we were standing at that spot, and we even had pictures with the Hachiko (think Richard Gere and Hachi); furthermore, and very sadly, Feb 26th is one very fuzzy image in my head.  I told Max that I only remember walking to Ikebukuro JR station (池袋駅)  in that cold early morning, feeling abandoned and a little scared standing in the crowd by Metropolitan Government Building (東京都庁舎),  and the next thing I remember was crossing the finish line at Big Sight. Now looking back, I did self-question in my head about “why am I in running cloth but Max is in street cloth?” while waiting for light changes at the intersection near Ikebukuro JR station.

    Apparently not only I have filtered hearing, but also selective or fading memory L, therefore I better write up this trip as soon as I can before I complete lose it. I will start from where I left off in the “Tokyo Marathon Write-Up II” post, after picking up the race packet upon our landing in Tokyo on Friday, Feb 24th. That Friday night we had our first little adventure eating dinner among chain smoking Japanese males, and it was exciting to experience the bell and whistle at night in Tokyo again.  I pretty much had passed out from exhaustion and fatigue that night, but could only sleep for less than two hours due to jet lag.  Sat Feb 25th, we participated the International Friendship Fun Run around the blocks of Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery (明治神宮外苑), in tons of gallons of rain and completely got soaking wet, but that was a very fun and neat experience!!

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    After hot shower and change, I felt a bowl of noodle soup to keep myself warm was definitely needed, and I wanted something healthy prior the race, so we picked a very clean place within the Sunshine City plaza for udon noodle soup – a very relaxing lunch among all the beautiful Japanese girls, and believe it or not Max was the only guy in the restaurant and a Caucasian :-p. Then we embarked on our trip to Ghibli Museum( 三鷹の森ジブリ美術館) after meal, which probably was the primary reason of, if not only, Max’s coming to Tokyo. Ghibli Museum features the heart & brain of Hayao Miyazaki’s (宮崎 駿) works, and is situated in Mitaka (三鷹) — about 30 mins from where we were. We took the JR Chuo Line (中央線) to Mitaka (三鷹) station, and then just leisurely took our time walking to the Museum. The town of Mitaka was very neat and laidback, and I just love how the streets, houses, shops, trees, little creek, bicycles and children all blend in together in harmony. The place certainly felt very Miyazaki-ish, and I am sure the city must have put in lots of effort to keep it that way. I even felt that Max blending in with this place very well, and he was like part of this very beautiful painting. It’s like looking at him through a new lens!

    Have you ever had that experience? Without prenotion or realizing it, certain person just became part of the journey of our lives.

    The minute we arrived the Ghibli we got totally overwhelmed, because there was a HUGE Totoro (トトロ) right by the entrance – at least 5X bigger than me.  Since I already bought the passes at JTB office in San Jose, we went directly to retrieve our tickets which were strips of film. The museum was like a castle to me, and there were no clear directions of which way to go or what to see first — visitors were supposed to “get lost” here.

    I discovered that just as a writer or film director, Mizayki have spent tremendous amount of time doing research  for  his characters and objects, even they may seemed to be random. For instance, there were many different books, drawings and pictures on varies model of airplanes, which Mizayaki often used as theme (flight) in his animations: Castle in the Sky, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Porco Rosso…etc.  The interior of the Ghibli had the look and feel of someone’s home, a bit tidy, messy but very cozy.  There were staircases that led to outside of the museum, and we found sculptures in the rooftop garden, café… we were not only lost in the museum a bit, but lost in time perhaps?

    The afternoon felt like a second grade field trip, and the more relaxed and childish side of me started coming out maybe? But I wasn’t aware of it. By 4:00pm in the afternoon, we started heading back to Tokyo since I had a carbo-load dinner to attend. While retrieving our steps back to the station, I found a kimono specialty shop and a cute French bakery – this place had a nice little town and romantic feel.  The train ride back to Ikebukuro was more crowded than coming out here, but we made it back in time to change and get ready meeting our friends from Netherland.  The carbo-load dinner and next day’s race experience are mentioned in my Tokyo Marathon Write-up II.

    Everything after crossing the finishing line was kind of ambiguous and unclear, and I don’t remember much about that Sunday Feb 26th. I wasn’t tired that afternoon after the marathon that’s for sure, in fact I was feeling pretty hyper (must be the runner’s high), so I did not even take a nap which I confirmed with Max again while drafting this. After a very hot shower, I just put on my purple Zensah compression calf-sleeves and put my feet up against the headboard for recovery. Not sure how long I stared at my hard earned medal with a silly grin on my face and I don’t remember if I had any conversation with Max or not, I think I must be very into the “zone” even after the race. In the evening, I know we took JR to Shibuya 渋 谷 to meet with Anita and her friend, and remembered the ride being very crowded and complicated. We had dinner celebrating my finishing Tokyo marathon together somewhere in the nice Roppongi Hills (六 本木ヒルズ) area and according to Max we took a taxi there. I often got teased about taking pictures of my food, and very glad that I did exactly that at the celebration dinner so now I actually have proofs that I ate that night. With the help of iPhone I can even tell you that we ate at an Okonomiyaki place in Roppongi, because the pictures have location tagged J. From the  pictures, the food and sake looked really yummy, and I really wish I can remember how the food tasted like. From the look and smiles on our face in pictures, we must have had a great time that night.

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    After dinner Anita’s friend took us to the Mori Tower  (六本木ヒルズ森タワ) in Roppongi Hills (六本木ヒルズ) to get view of beautiful and sparkling Tokyo skyline in the dark velvety sky; unfortunately I don’t remember any of these either, but I can tell you this because I saw the picture Max posted on Facebook wall. And he even showed me how magnificent the exterior of Mori Towerbuilding was, so at one point I was standing and looking up the Tower that night.  Not sure how late we stayed at Mori Tower or what we did exactly, and I can’t recall  how we got back or how long it took to get back. According to Max, I slept all the way back to Ikebukuro on his shoulder while standing on the JR train. That was some new acquired skill I would say, bravo Michele!! How did I walk back to the room, wash up, remove my contacts, change and go to bed? I absolutely have no idea!!

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