Hi friends and friends,

Been awhile since our last major trip, although we had a great little family reunion up in Portland, Oregon over the summer. Working constantly, on exciting projects and also trying to keep the IRS happy. A break was definitely in order.

Arrived in SFO to find that our flight was delayed due to our lovely San Francisco fog. I'm not being sarcastic, we love the fog, but in this case we were not thrilled at the possibility of missing our connection out of LAX on Singapore Air. It did give us an opportunity to play with Walter Kitundu's piece. Magnolia printed the birds.

When we finally boarded over an hour late, we waited on the runway for at least 20 minutes. When we landed at LAX, Virgin did their best, asking everyone to remain in their seat while a group of us gathered in front ready to sprint for the International terminal with 20 minutes to make our flight. Singapore said they would hold the plane for 10 minutes. We managed to overcome the doom and gloom escort from Virgin who told us there was no possible way we could make our flight. A baggage handler poked his head in through the gangway door and told our escort that Singapore had called and said they were holding the plane for us. We ran for over a quarter of a mile (thank God no heavy carry ons, although some people were carrying kids), were rushed thru Security by Singapore and managed to make our flight, just a little sweaty, where the lovely Singapore Air stewardesses graciously ushered us into our seats and handed us a glass of champagne. Ahh, that's more like it.

Don relaxing on board.

Arrived Narita after a comfortable flight and made our way to our hotel, the wonderful Hotel Niwa, which I highly recommend except that it is not necessarily in the best location for general touristy things. Very comfortable and stylish with a fabulous breakfast, half Japanese food and half Western. First World, as Don says.

Era enjoying her Japanese/Western breakfast. Hotel Niwa's front garden in background.

Our first morning in Japan, overcast and a very occasional sprinkle. Decided to go to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, several miles away, and across the river. We promised ourselves we would do lots of walking on this trip. 

On the way to the museum, we passed some scenic sights, and couldn’t resist hopping an Edo-style floating world boat to cross the Sumida rather than using the famous Nihonbashi bridge.

Just kidding, the Edo-Tokyo Museum is famous for its recreations of scenes from the Edo period. The wooden Nihonbashi bridge (built, or ordered to be built by Tokugawa) was replaced with stone in the early 1900s. 

We took this photo looking down from the replica of the wooden Nihonbashi Bridge in the Edo-Tokyo Museum. Taiko drummers, just like the ones we have down the street at Magnolia. 

A replica of the first Mitsukoshi department store. Back then, several hundred years ago, they specialized in fabric.

Hokusai and daughter. Our guide, Kaoru, told us that they moved a ridiculous number of times, I think it was 19, because neither of them liked to clean, so if things got too dirty they would simply pack up. Actually, I can identify somewhat.

Kaoru, our wonderful guide (and a volunteer), to the very far right. From L to R, a Russian couple, a young Latvian, Don and Kaoru. Thank you, Kaoru.

Got very adventurous for dinner and went out in the cold night to find Hyouri, a recommended ramen spot under the tracks of our local train station, Suidobashi. Quite a line out the door.

First you have to choose your ramen. You do this by looking at the photos, memorizing the first few characters of the kanji (unless you know kanji), finding those kanji characters on the various push buttons, and then inserting your money. This is a real class joint.

Verdict: not bad. Doesn't compare with our wonderful Japanese breakfasts. Yes, I am wearing a bib.

And now for our Quirky and Only in Japan section:

No Smoking While Walking!

Beautifully wrapped sandbag? On the street.

And probably should include the ramen vending machine above.


Era and Don