While our first full day in Tokyo was rainy and cold, the next morning brought sunshine and an early riser. Our oldest granddaughter wanted some one-on-one time with Grandma and was willing to sacrifice sleeping in to get ahead of her younger siblings. We finished breakfast quickly and walked to a trail next to a small river. The walk was beautiful as we followed the babbling water and enjoyed the fresh air and the sunshine that illuminated the Japanese maples arrayed in autumn colors.
I received a lesson in hand washing, a ritual that is done before entering a shrine or temple so that you don't carry anything bad into it. The trough of water had a scoop that you use to pour the water on your hands. I remembered the ritual from our son's Shinto wedding service. (He and his wife were married in a church in the states and then we went to Japan for a traditional service with her family.) High on a hill above the river was a temple but along the way there were several smaller shrines.
When we returned, she took her grandfather along the walk and then to a 7-11 store (they still have those in Japan) and found an ATM so that he could get some yen. A hundred yen roughly equates to a US dollar. The kids are learning a new money system as well as new cultural experiences.
Our outing for the day included a stop at a Chinese dumpling place whose dumplings were filled with broth as well as pork or crab meat. They were delicious. After walking around a bit there to see the stores we happened onto the Sweet Forest. It was tucked into a corner but once you entered, it was like going into a food court at a mall back home only this food court only featured different types of desserts. Bob and I settled on a chocolate banana crepe while others had a strawberry crepe or a gelatin dessert or a waffle with ice cream. Definitely a favorite place.
Another train ride to another prefecture (section of Tokyo) and we found ourselves at the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world at Shibuya station at the Hachiko exit. The exit is named for the Akita Inu who would walk with his master to the station each day and then wait for him to return from work. One day his master had a heart attack and died and the dog, Hachi, kept watch at the station for nine years until he finally died. There is a statue on the square in front of the station dedicated to Hachi.
True to its designation, the intersection was packed with people as the walk signal changed and people crossed in all directions. We walked a bit and saw quite a collection of people some dressed in costume probably for the Christmas season. We were a bit tired. Lots of walking and trying to stay together in all the crowds. We decided to head for home and watch a Christmas movie.
After we kept falling asleep during the Muppet Christmas Story, we decided on an early-to-bed time especially because the next day our littlest needed to go to school for one more day. She is in a Japanese school while the older kids are in an international school. The international school follows a schedule much like ours back home but they have a month off instead of two weeks.
The next morning we walked our little one to school--about a kilometer. Usually daddy takes her to school on his bike. Then it was off to the dentist for the two older ones and a movie for later. Some things are still routine even at Christmas time.
After the movie and a taste of soy-buttered popcorn, we met up again with everyone in the Grand Hyatt in the Rappongi district which was next to the theater, We enjoyed the Christmas decorations and explored the area stopping to indulge in a little Coldstone ice cream. Then walked what seemed like a couple of kilometers to see the older kids' school.
The last time we were in Japan the family got to make a visit to the Pachinko parlor in Sapporo. It's the Japanese version of a casino. Since I didn't get to go that time, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. My son and husband indulged me while my daughter-in-law took the kids shopping. It didn't take long to decide it wasn't my cup of tea. From the outside you would never guess how noisy it was. We had to shout in each other's ear. Pachinko machines have little metal balls that fall down vertically through a series of pins and if they go into the right holes, then you earn more balls. The balls that are expelled at the bottom of the machine will earn you merchandise which can then be taken around the corner and sold thereby earning you money for your efforts. It didn't take long to waste $8.
The evening ended with "hamburgers" at a place called The Butcher. The meat was excellent but came on a plate with mashed potatoes and your choice of sauce. I had a lemon-soy sauce that was very good. Not your usual hamburger joint but truly a good meal.