To Japan (and Back Again), Part 1

As we told you we would, we went to Japan. We’re back, technically, though our internal clocks are still firmly in tune with the Pacific Rim. The children, especially, refuse to sleep when sleep is called for, insisting on loafing about all day and wailing all night long in piteous protest while Robbi and I try (and fail) to sleep.

We’re glad to be back, but what a trip it was. Rather than drown you in one of my irresponsibly long megaposts, I’ve decided to dole out tiny slices of Japan over time.

I will start with our journey.

We decided to fly out of JFK, which meant driving to New York, a terrifying place we avoid whenever possible. While waiting in line for our turn to pass through the Lincoln Tunnel, we became dismayed by the crumbling infrastructure.

Fortunately, the overpass did not collapse, and we made it to the home of our friends (and traveling companions) Holden and Michelle (and Baby Calla) just in time to cage our children and get some sleep.

We woke, we rose, we drove across the city. Apparently, Alden did not log her requisite hours of beauty sleep. While we waited to check in, she stretched out in the geographic center of the gate with monkey and blanket and proceeded to lounge as only a two-year-old can.

Meanwhile, Kato and Calla admired themselves and one another.

Once she felt sufficiently rested, Alden took Monkey over to the window and explained the physics of air travel.

Apparently, he gets a nervous stomach, but Alden was able to make him feel better.

The hour arrived. We boarded the plane. And we were off!

Holden, Michelle, and Calla were tucked into the bulkhead across the way.

It was a long flight. While Alden and I slept, Kato flirted with the ladies.

Eventually we tucked him into the bassinet (cheerfully provided by our good friends at Delta).

A little creepy, to be sure, but nice to have.

Because we were flying west, the sun never set. Tokyo is 13 hours ahead, so although we left New York at 5:00pm, we arrived at 6:00pm (albeit 6:00pm the next day).

As we started to descend, I looked out the window.

Suddenly, there was Japan.

We got off the plane.

Went through customs.

I was baffled by my surroundings.

Everything in Japan is written in Japanese.

And everywhere you look are Japanese people!

It’s galling. And demoralizing. Fortunately, Seiko was there to meet us at the airport. Being Japanese, she has some familiarity with the language and culture of this strange land.

Without her, we likely would never have figured out how to buy our rail passes.

Eventually we boarded the sleek and shiny Narita Express for the 80-minute train ride into Tokyo.

Remember the chunks of crumbling concrete piled haphazardly by the side of the highway in New York? That sort of thing doesn’t fly in Japan. Japan is clean and neat. Japan has its act together.

We got off the Narita Express in Shinjuku Station (http://en NULL.wikipedia, the busiest train station in the world and not the kind of place you want to find yourself at 8:00pm after a sleepless 13-hour plane ride with two babies. Fortunately, Seiko helped us navigate our way to the train line that would lead us to Kyodo, the neighborhood where her sister Reiko lives.

Nearly 24 hours after rising that morning, we arrived at Reiko’s house.

A splendid feast was waiting on the table.

The food was delicious and interesting and…I was just too tired to eat it.

Fortunately, futons were already set up for us in the tatami room.

I was in Japan, exhausted and ready for bed. Nothing would come between me and my sleep. Except…

Kato, who actually slept quite a bit on the plane, was not buying the idea that it was bedtime.

Fortunately, Seiko came to the rescue again, entertaining the little man while Robbi and I fell into a stiff coma.

When we awoke the next morning, I did a little Karate.

After which, Seiko and Alden opened the typhoon shutters to let the sunshine in.

We folded up our futons and put them in the closet.

It was a gorgeous morning in Japan. But the rest is a story for another day.


  1. Welcome back. And thanks for sharing news of your trip. Looking forward to more.

  2. Okaerinasai!! Can’t wait to hear more. I’m already nostalgic for my time in Japan.