Saturday, July 3, 2010

First Stop - Japan

I was up bright and early on Tuesday morning ready to catch the shuttle to the airport to start my overseas holiday. I stayed awake pretty much all night worried that I was going to sleep through my 1.30am alarm and miss my flight. Of course, by the time my alarm did go off I could have slept til Christmas. Mum and Claire had both offered to ring me at 2am just to make sure I woke up. Bless them.

The first flight was just a little one from Christchurch to Auckland. During the flight someone had an emergency down the back of the plane and a request for a doctor or a nurse was put over the loud speaker. Unfortunately there weren't any on that particular flight. Where are Catkin or Renee when you need them? I still don't know actually happened but we had to stay seated once we had landed until the ambulance staff had boarded.

After just an hour and a half in Auckland I boarded the plane bound for Narita, Japan. 10 hours just flew by (excuse the pun) and I caught up on a couple of movies and had a 20 minute nap. I can see why Air NZ has such a good reputation - the food was good and the staff were very friendly and attentive.

Dear Sayaka was at the airport to meet me. She had emailed me directions on how to catch the shuttle bus once arriving in Japan as it is a 2 hour journey from the airport to Omiya where Sayaka lives. Sayaka had requested a half day the previous day as they are quiet at work at present so it really was unexpected very nice to see a familiar face when I arrived in Japan.

Sayaka's house is small but very cool. It's an old home where she had lived when she was just a baby. Apparently 4 people lived here then but I`m not exactly sure how they all fit! Her father had been born in the living room and had grown up there. She shares her home with two black and white cats - Gruzzei and Mittenand. Mittenand looked a lot like Min but about half the size. Both were not so sure of me - even after I had been there for 3 days.

On Wednesday we cycled (yes that's right - rode bikes - on the footpath with no helmets even!) to catch the train to Ogose to Sayaka's parents place in the country. Papa san - Tsuneo (pronounced 'snail') and Mama san - Masako are the sweetest people in the whole of Japan. Masako picked us up from the train station and although she spoke no English and I spoke no Japanese we communicated through Sayaka and sign language. When we reached their home Tsuneo came out to greet me proudly wearing an Adidas t-shirt sporting the All Blacks name with the silver fern. He had worn it especially and doesn't even watch rugby.

They took Sayaka and I out to a tempora lunch in Tokigawa which is a small village two villages over. It was yummy and again we managed a good conversation.
They took us sight seeing to Jikoji Temple and then went to a paper making factory. Paper is a huge source of employment in Japan. It's very interesting and quite a process.

Later on, after a nice cup of tea, Sayaka took me to see a huge tree, then to Juonji Temple, and to a hydranga garden.

Masako cooked a wonderful dinner for us all and even prepared pink rice which is used only for celebrations. I felt very honoured. We sat around their table on the floor and they had a leg room pit which was very comfortable. I find my legs go to sleep when sitting for long periods cross legged and it can be embarrasing when I get up and try to walk with a dead leg! No one likes to be crushed by a falling foreigner!
They were very disappointed that they weren't going to meet Averil and Eru but Tsuneo gave me some bamboo chopsticks that he had made himself to give to them. What a nice gesture. Like I said, nicest people ever!
Masako drove us back to the train station after dinner and we got back to Omiya around 10.30pm. It really was a great day.

Thursday was THE day I had been looking foward to the most. After a nice easy morning Averil rang from the train station to say her and Eru had arrived in Omiya. Sayaka and I raced down to the station to meet them and there was shrieking, hugs, and kisses all round. It was soooo good to see them again after 18 months. They both looked so tanned, well, happy, and relaxed. It was nice to know they were looking after each other.
After dropping their bags off at Sayaka's we took the monorail to Stella Mall for a nice Japanese buffet for lunch and then a good look around the Mall.

We also went out for a late Japanese pub meal which was great too. Averil and Eru are now vegetarians and Japan seems to be a great place to get a wide range of vegetables and fish and the meals full you up without feeling stodgy.
This morning we caught the train to Tokyo and wandered around the old market streets for quite a while before heading to Sensoji Temple. After lunch (yes, we have been eating very regularly!) we took harbour cruise across to Odaiba for a look around.
Sayaka took us to have a look at the busiest intersection - traffic and people everywhere - and apparently it's like that all the time. An ocean of people.
I'm about to catch the shuttle out to the airport this morning. Next stop: UK.


  1. You are very organised, Danielle-san! I am so impressed with your commitment to your readers. I would like to point out to other readers that in the photo of Sayaka and I at dinner, I am holding one kernel of corn in my chopsticks, to demonstrate my mastery of these instruments. Thank you.

  2. Thanks Apes! Should I also point out that we could only eat one piece of corn at a time with the chopsticks and with such concentration? Meal times were long. Ha ha!