Last Stop

Trip Start Sep 11, 2005
Trip End Dec 13, 2005

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Friday, December 9, 2005

We have reached our last stop on the big trip. We have mixed feelings about it all. We have enjoyed the trip so much. The fact that we are out of money reminds us that it is time to go home. So we are enjoying our last few days in Tokyo before we head back to Dallas.

This leg of the trip has also been special because we have met up with friends of the Hoffmann family. My cousin Kathy, Aunt Ruth and Uncle Kenny have known a family here in Tokyo for several years. We have been lucky enough to spend some time with them and it has been a treat.

The night we arrived in Tokyo we found our way to a hotel and Toshi and his family met us for dinner. Charlie and I were not sure what to expect. We had a Japanese meal, in full Japanese style. I had a crash course in using chop sticks and managed to somehow get the food from the plate to my mouth every time. Charlie says he has been trying to teach me that since our first date. I am just glad it finally caught on. Everyone laughed often as I attempted to eat the food. They would clap for me when I managed to do it with ease. It was a fun evening.

Our meal consisted of various forms of sushi, baked fish and noodles. They showed me how to eat it all. I smiled as I ate each bite. We exchanged stories of our families. It was neat to sit across from people who knew my family, my hometown, and even my Grammie. They had been to the lake, the place where Charlie and I had gotten married. They had the same glisten in their eye when they talked about the place and the fun they had there.

Toshi's mother did a good job of practicing her English on us. She is taking classes to learn the language. She is over 80 years old. It impressed me that she was so interested in us and in the English language. Despite the language barrier we had a wonderful time getting to know her. She is a very neat lady.

Junko, Toshi's sister was also very kind. She has been helping us work out the details of getting together with their family one more time. This will happen tonight, our last night on our trip. I think it will be a good way to finish up the trip and we are looking forward to it.

Early the next morning Toshi met us at our hotel to take us around Tokyo. This was a special treat. Usually we just roam around until we find what we are looking for. Our first stop was Tokyo Tower. From here we were able to see the hugeness of Tokyo and the many skyscrapers. It was a nice view in all directions. We then found our way to a park area where we began our river cruise of Tokyo. We admired the city as we cruised up the river. The river is lined with bridges and we carefully cruised under them all. As we sat on the boat we talked with Toshi about his time in Indiana and when he might be back. It was a relaxing, enjoyable time. From there we headed to a famous Buddhist temple, Senso-ji. We had seen several other temples, but it was a more meaningful experience since he was able to explain to us what the people were doing. We wandered through the nearby shops and found our way to a sushi restaurant.

The restaurant was a small place with a conveyer belt that circled the table with many different kinds of sushi. Toshi and Charlie grabbed various kinds. I found some oranges and quickly grabbed those and began to nibble. Toshi then handed me some shrimp which I ate, again with a smile of course. Next we were asked to try something, so we did. After we got it down we were told that is was octopus egg, yummy. We also had something that they said was plum, that was the most difficult for me to get down. I ordered some cucumber sushi, it was extremely spicy. Charlie thankfully finished it off for me. Charlie has loved the food here in Japan. He said it has been very delicious. Since I don't typically eat fish it has been more challenging for me. I have survived though. I think about Curt, Charlie's dad, and how he always asks me to try new things. I have definitely been doing that. I think he would have really enjoyed the places we have eaten. I have enjoyed them, but for different reasons. I enjoy the company and the cultural experiences.

After sushi we went to a coffee shop. Toshi says that the Japanese like to go and relax after a meal with sweets and coffee. He ordered me a vanilla ice cream which made me happy. Charlie had coffee and Toshi had some meal that I am not sure how to identify. It was a nice time together. We really appreciated Toshi showing us around and making us feel so welcome in his country.

From there Toshi headed for business and we went to the Imperial Palace. Mostly it was a large garden area and the Palace is closed off to the public. It was a nice day so we enjoyed roaming the grounds and trying to get a peak at the palace. We couldn't see much though.

Eventually we found our way back to our hotel and found out that they didn't have any more rooms and we would need to find a new hotel for the next night. We were already paying way more than we wanted, so we weren't too upset. We proceeded to call hotel after hotel and they were all booked. That can be a frustrating situation. The only rooms we could find were way back at the airport, an hour away from central Tokyo. We decided to make the most of it and be content with that.

When we woke up the next morning we tried to hit as many sights as we could in Central Tokyo. We took the subway to different areas to get a feel of the town. It is a very big city, with very little English. It made us thankful for our time with Toshi the day before. It was nice to have a translator. We tried to finish up our Christmas shopping, but we are still having difficulty. After a long day of be bopping around we headed to the airport to check into our room.

We are staying at the Hilton, which we were a little bit excited about. When we think Hilton we think pool, hot tub, luxury. Plus it was the cheapest room we could find and the same price as our other ghetto room. We think the name of this hotel should be Hilton a la carte. Every time we try to do something fun they inform us that we will have to pay for that. So with our heads hung low, we head back to our room with our empty wallets. It cost $30 to swim, can you believe that? Needless to say we will not be swimming here. Tokyo is a very expensive place to visit. We are not sure we can afford to stay here much longer.

The money we have allotted for our trip is now gone, way gone. So we will be heading back to the United States of America. It seems crazy that it has been 3 months since we left. I can definitely say that we are different people from when we left. We still basically look the same. I didn't miraculously lose a bunch of weight like I was dreaming. Charlie's hair is wild and long, but he still looks like Charlie. Most of what has changed is on the inside. We are in the process of pondering it all and will report back soon. The next update you get we will probably be from home. Home to us, is the USA. Indiana, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, it's all home. We are headed home.
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