We got late check-out and caught the 1:50pm Friendly Airport Limousine back to Narita Airport. The airport itself is a pretty wild experience with beautiful shops and high end restaurants. Honestly though – we were both a bit too out of it to fully engage. It was a really nice combination of excited and forlorn though… we’re both psyched to get home and back to life. Brian has a remarkable laundry list of to-do’s including a movie contract, a toy deal, 2 scripts to complete, 1 to edit and I think 3 other projects that are near to going to print. I can’t even imagine what his email looks like right now! I’ll be up to my ears in work and quite frankly, we have a summer to enjoy @ home. After what turned out to be a very difficult 2008, this year has worked itself out to be quite amazing so far. And we’re only in May! I know we’re both going back with a laser focus on working hard and ‘making it count’ so that we can get our asses back here next year. I think we’re even aiming for the same time frame in 2010, although, I would not be too upset to see what winter looks like in Tokyo.

I know we’re going to miss this. This has been the best trip of my life. Bri’s too. For him, this was the realization of a life-long dream. He keeps saying that as long as he can recall, this has been the trip he’s wanted to take. And that it did not disappoint. We flew 7,000 miles to find this special city and fall in love with it and its people and their culture and again with each other. I am so proud of us for doing this and so impressed to rediscover the beautiful human being that I married. Domo arigato gozaimasu, Tokyo. Watashitachi wa modota.
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So this is our last complete day. . .

We ventured back to Akihabara for an awesome toy shopping spree. We found Gundam, r/c trains, action figures, vinyl exclusives, capsule toys and key chains for everyone on our list (not to mention a pretty impressive list of crazy goodies to display in our living room). We even bought our own mini-Gash-a-Pon machine! Yes – we will leave Japan with our own vending machine! We hit another Sega arcade and made it to another conveyor belt sushi place before heading back to the Hotel to figure out how the hell we were gonna transport our 12 bags (literally) of toys (Ha! Toys!) home. We joked about bringing an empty suitcase with us. No laughing matter…

So, after our insane and mature shopping spree we returned back to the Cerulean and caught a quick nap. We woke up energized and itching to explore s’more! So we did a quick test pack (we can buy NO more and will be leaving a number of toiletries and sundry products in Tokyo) and headed out to Shinjuku to Din Tai Fung on Mr. Jerry Ma’s recommendation. That man knows how to eat. Apparently there is one of these Taiwanese Dumpling houses in Taipei, one in LA and this one in Tokyo. Really, they need to get to NY. Beautiful! We ordered 5 bamboo steamer baskets full of dumplings. We had pork dumplings, shrimp dumplings, chicken dumplings, pork and shrimp dumplings and curry dumplings. And beer. So good!

We spent the rest of the night trawling the Shinjuku stores (yes, we bought more toys – but it only because Brian found the Ultraman & villians he was looking for and the Sgt. Frog characters we wanted. Although, I am still regretting that we didn’t get the Blue Ninja Sgt. Frog character…) Needless to say, our living room shelves will be gorgeous, GORGEOUS!!! I also finally worked up the courage to pick up a crepe. I went for the strawberry, red bean, vanilla ice cream version and was amazed. I ate four bites and was stuffed to capacity. I hope these never make it to NY. I will be 400 lbs. if they do. It was another ‘late’ night in Tokyo as Brian and I trained-it back to Shibuya for 1 last walk through the crossing and over the foot bridges. It was the perfect last night.
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Now, I knew that I’d be upset as the end of this adventure of ours drew to a close. I did not know I would be this upset. We have two days left and I am amazed at the trip so far! I think the best thing at this point, however, is not to be sad that this trip is over but instead to look forward to getting back home to our cozy little beach house in time for summer. We have a great concert waiting for us when we get home (Opeth on the 26th) and I am just pining to get back to work. Every day that we make it on the subway, Saturday and Sunday included, I see people coming from and going to work and school and university. It is really inspiring. This entire country has integrated the work-hard-play-hard culture into the very fabric of their being. I respect that and I just strive to include that into our lives. The entire work regimen coupled with their core beliefs and even spiritual take on life has really struck a chord in me. I’m going to continue my Japanese lessons and hope to bring another language and set of values (that so closely resemble Brian and mine!) into our home to pass on to our little munchkin. We decided today that we need to make it back here. We are going to get home and plan to return in 2010. We are going to work our booties off to make that a reality. Work hard play hard. In Japan.

Today we spent the entire afternoon & evening exploring the rest of Shibuya. We found a huge manga shop called Mandrake decorated like a steampunk cave that was down eight flights of stairs in a random entrance on the side of the street. More of our – hey,-let’s-just-see-what’s-here tactic that has been part of what has made this trip so crazy & wonderful. In fact, up another one of these crazy twisty alley street we found Kirin City… a European style but fully Japanese gastro pub. We had a couple of mid-afternoon nama biru and ordered some squid, grilled in its own ink and a plate of pig’s paw. Weird and delicious. We got really lucky with the shopping too as we scored on an old-school book of a cancelled 1970’s live-action show (think: Power Rangers) based on Jiraiya and an awesome Japanese vinyl of a muscle man: Kinnuku Man. We also found a whole heap of Japanese-only t-shirts for a steal. Sweet!

And then, finally, after a week here, on our second to last full day in Tokyo, we sat down for our 1st proper sushi meal in a restaurant! We were (as always!) the sole gaijin in the place and grabbed two seats at the bar of a rotating sushi place. We ate until we couldn’t anymore! We ate tuna and eel and egg and dumpling and a few pieces that I have no idea what they were. We had hot green tea and fun, fun, fun. If you can believe it, we spent $12. Ha!!!! We’ll be going for another one of these, I think!

I can’t say it enough – but this place has just been amazing! Magical almost. And I am loving it.
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As if I have not said this enough this trip – today exceeded all of our expectations! All of them. Brian impressed me once again as he soldiered through a nine hour tattoo session. Yeah. Nine hours. We arrived @ Horizaru @ 2pm and he showed us the redone version of Jiraiya. It was great. And he got to work immediately. I think Brian should write this portion of the blog as it was his experience, but let’s just say that he traveled on a mental journey that included waves of pain, happiness, fear, joy and I don’t even know what else. The result of which is a truly spectacular traditional Japanese ½ sleeve that goes from shoulder to just above the elbow. It is fantastic. And very sore, I think!

I also got a little ink of my own in the form of the cutest, most colorful little hummingbird feeding on some pink cherry blossoms. It was sweet – Brian explained to Horizaru-san that I was his little hummingbird and that I was very colorful and the tattoo should reflect that. I love it. And now I want more.  Not too much more. Maybe a ferret and/or a monkey and/or a frog… In what seemed to be the shortest 15 minutes ever, Horizaru-san added some ink to my ankle in what is quite possibly the nicest little ankle tattoo I have ever laid eyes on. It’s exactly what Brian described and nicer than I could’ve imagined!

We stayed at Horizaru-san’s studio until 11pm! We met his wife, a friend and saw some for-real Yakuza style tattoos on this gentleman that we had met the day before. He hung out for a while to watch Bri’s work. It was funny to see the two of them, shirts off, comparing ink in 2 different languages. (Kireina = beautiful & watashi wa nei re desu = I like that.) Bri’s work turned out to be a real event! A sort of spectator sport as Horizaru told his wife and friend that he was the comic writer (manga sakka) that gave him some books. It was pretty trippy to see this Japanese guy sitting in the tattoo studio reading Silent Assassin. I wish I could explain it better but there is just a true, deeply embedded cultural difference in how comics (manga) are viewed in Japan. Everyone reads them. They sit (or stand) on the train either playing portable video games or reading manga books. The shops sell them with patterned book covers so that you can read whatever ya want discreetly – but the books are being read by everyone, everywhere.

We made it home on our trusty Yamanote Subway line and grabbed some ibruprofen from the front desk & some biru from 7 Eleven before settling in for our latest night yet. We were up til 1:30am! Good times.
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After a full-on 12+ hours of sleep, I believe that I am sufficiently recovered enough to be able to eat yogurt, drink water and venture out to Tabata to meet Horizaru-san for our Tattoos.

We boarded the train once again, this time to Tabata – I sit on these trains and genuinely feel bad for the Japanese that visit NYC & I vow, here & now, to help any tourist that asks for it once I’m home. We are total frickin’ barbarians!

Anyhoo – Tabata was adorable and a totally new Tokyo area full of hills and small houses and apartment buildings. Horizaru’s map was amazingly easy to follow (maps are used instead of addresses here in Tokyo because buildings are addressed according to when they were built, NOT where they are in relation to one another making it unbelievably difficult to find things unless you know where the heck to go) and before we knew it, we found ourselves in front of his charming little Tattoo storefront. It’s just him in his studio and the design is super simple, clean and modern w/a distinctly Japanese feel. Brian wanted a traditional half-sleeve tattoo depicting a ninja from a Japanese folktale. We were both impressed with Horizaru-san’s idea and rough sketch and agreed on a 5 hour time frame for both Bri & my work the next day. Simple enough!

We were all types of excited and energized after the appointment so we took a detour to Akihabara on the way home! We spent about 6 hours roaming the side streets, alleys and neon-lit canyons perusing manga, porn, electronics and some of the dopest toys I have ever seen in my life. Ever. Each store had more exclusives, imports & never-before-seen items than any comic convention I’ve ever been to… combined. I think we spent about $50 on capsule toys alone! This city is obsessed with vending machines! There are beverage vending machines, restaurants composed only of food vending machines, they sell toys, clothing, phone cards, accessories and entertainment out of these huge machines that just pop up everywhere. Also, near the food and drink vending machines are the only locations you’ll find garbage cans and recycling bins. And Tokyo-ites are recycling obsessed. There are literally 5 different bins for 5 different types of refuse… takes a little bit of getting used to. Especially since my Japanese-reading is a bit off…

We went to a couple different arcades and Brian played through and almost beat the Japanese version of Street Fighter IV – all on one coin!!! So fun. We tried to stay late, past rush hour to avoid the crowd. Didn’t work. We experienced the squished-together-like-sardines-in-a-can ride home. Interesting time, don’t need to do that again. Craziest part was despite the unimaginable number of people in the subway car – it was still super quiet. And we actually witnessed someone giving up their seat in all of the crowded craziness for a pregnant woman. I love Tokyo.

And of course, we were home & in bed before 10pm. Ha!
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Ok – so I’m just gonna post a little about today. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to start the day off with booze and black coffee. I have, however, learned my lesson and will not be doing that again any time soon. Our plan was to get to Harajuku to see the cosplay kids, do some shopping and end at the famous Meiji-jinsogi Shrine.

Instead, we made it out to a Harajuku Sunday, saw a funny “No Smorking” street sign, got a Doner kebab and I got so sick! We didn’t make it to the Meiji-jinsogi shrine, I didn’t see my crazy cosplay girls… I barely made it back to our hotel room! Today will live on in infamy as Harajupoo. I was in bed, asleep by 7pm and felt like complete hell. Poor Brian! He did, however, head down to the 7 Eleven for a weird green beer and some snacks that pictured angry green bean men. Ah, Tokyo.
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What a day! Just when we thought it was awesome, we outdid ourselves. We started the day in Shibuya again (so much to explore!) and tried some Japanese pizza for lunch and were quite pleased. It didn’t have any cheese and it really reminded me of the Neopolitan pizza I had in Naples. Good job, Tokyo! We then got onto the Subway (as we are now TOTAL experts) and made our way to Asakusa. More attributed to our awesome timing of this trip, the Sanja Matsuri is all this weekend. The entire population of Asakusa turns out for a mini shrine festival celebrating a bountiful harvest & peace. We gathered in the streets to watch three different portable shrines carried on the backs of the worshippers down the streets toward the famous Asakusa shrine. More on that later…

Asakusa is about 30 mins from Shibuya and the streets are crazy, a completely different Tokyo flavor. There were gates at every corner that were composed of dozens of paper lamps hanging about three stories high. And the streets were little more than wide alleys with shops, houses and small apartment buildings lining either side. It’s located along the Sumida River and one relatively small bridge connects two sides of the city over it. We exited the train station and immediately followed the portable shrines up one side of the town and back to the bridge. There’s a really decent view of the city from this little red bridge. It was pretty damn awesome. Since we weren’t ready to head back to Shibuya yet, Brian decided to take us up one last alley-block to see if there was anything we missed.

Holy crap. There was stuff that we missed. It was as if we were hosting our own Travel Channel show. We rounded the corner and found ourselves in the middle of a mile-long street market complete with stalls, merchants and booths carrying everything from Monchichi dolls to bean pastries and chopsticks. (Yes, we bought all of these things) The best part, however, was the enormous Shrine that dominated the end of the alley. When I say enormous, I mean HUGE. Like how-did-they-build-that huge. And it only got better. We wandered from stall to stall; we bought goodies, ate snacks and made our way down to the end. The end had two huge demons presiding over a near-endless sea of food vendors. For real food vendors – food vendors selling fried octopus balls, whole salted fish on sticks and weirdo chicken innards grilled over charcoal. It was spectacular. And delicious. And we got to see it just ‘cuz Bri decided that we should walk one more block before getting back on the train. Awww yeah.

We ate and walked until we could not anymore and made it back to the Cerulean for our new, 9pm bedtime. How old are we?!
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We got so lucky this morning. A consequence of our jet lag and our over-activity yesterday was that we woke up at 7am. A good thing too because today we saw Fuji-san! The mountain was huge – much bigger and more grand than anything on the landscape. Such an amazing site. The mountains that dot the horizon are big and beautiful and we simply assumed Fuji was among those. Nah. Fuji dwarfs the rest and is snow capped, almost perfectly symmetrical and absolutely enormous. Almost brought me to tears! I really had no idea that it would look like that. It’s completely shrouded in cloud cover most days this time of year and we totally lucked having such a clear view.

And then we went to Sumo. Yea, that’s right – Sumo. Guess who happened to book their maiden voyage to Tokyo during the Grand Championships of Sumo Wrestling! That would be us! We picked up two tickets to the 2nd floor balcony section. Similar to the rest of this Japanese experience, I am not entirely certain that the scale of this can be put into words. We tackled the subway system and despite a minor hiccup (a lost ticket, “Nakasa chiketta”) we made it to Ryoguku to the Sumo Arena. Wowsa. The neighborhood is dominated by the Sumo Arena and the Tokyo Edo Museum with lines of shops and restaurants catering to tourists and, of course, the Sumo wrestlers. More on that later!

We sat through 4 hours of the most intense and ceremonial fighting ever. It was frickin’ sweet. Amazing. Like a UFC title fight, the first few hours of the day were occupied with the lower ranked bouts. Then, at about 3:30pm, the place filled up. There was not an empty seat in the arena for the last 3 hours or so. And the noise – crazy. The referees sing and shout traditional phrases and the crowd cheers for their favorite fighter in chorus. And the fighters – never seen anything like them! Each bout is like a prayer. They dance and sway, start and stop and then crash into each other trying to knock the poop outta each other. The best part, however, might have been just watching Brian watch the fights. He sat, riveted, unmoving… another childhood fantasy fulfilled!

Then we kicked it up a notch. The flood of people leaving the arena after the tournament was pretty crazy. Plus, it was 6pm and smack dab in the middle of rush hour. In Tokyo… we decided to stroll through the neighborhood and scout out the perfect location for dinner. We were in a Sumo town so we wanted a Sumo meal. Oh boy, did we get one. We picked the nicest looking place and wandered in. Once again, Brian and I were the only gaijin in the place. Of course, we saw a waitress pass us w/an enormous bowl of goodies. It passed us, we pointed and asked (Nan desu ka?) and kampai! We grabbed 2 seats @ the bar. We sat in front of a huge tank filled w/fishies & squid. Before anything else happened, we watched the chef grab a squid out of the tank and less than 2 minutes later it was sliced and placed in front of the couple next to us. It was still twitching. Crazy. Bri ordered us 2 beer (Ni nama biru dozo) & thus began the meal that kicked my butt. Chanko nabe is supposed to be 3,000 calories and eaten by a sumo wrestler. Bri and I shared it and could barely finish it. It was daunting and fabulously delicious. There were chicken meatballs, fish chunks, soft tofu, fried tofu, mushrooms, cabbage, squid, clams, fried octopus balls, pork and a number of other ingredients that we could not identify. It was lovely. Mid meal, the waitstaff caught everyone’s attention to announce that one of the Sumo wrestlers was in the restaurant. The man walked through the place bowing to everyone. The other patrons were bowing and calling his name and clapped when he went downstairs to the private dining room. It was so cool!

We ate, we drank and we thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Then, we caught the subway back to Shibuya (no lost tickets this time) and crawled into bed at 9:30pm.
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We woke up @ 7am to Japanese children’s programming and the funniest 7 Eleven experience. Ever. Apparently, Hello Kitty and 7 Eleven are celebrating some partnership because the store was covered in pink and everything was Kitty themed. Love it! Our breakfast consisted of the strongest Japanese coffee, a fish & rice wrap (Salaryman sushi) & a weirdo flan-like yogurt stuff that Brian loved. We took our time in the room, fully enjoying the hotel. I’m thoroughly pleased that we went for the upgrade. This will be our ‘home base’ and it just offers so many amenities and is truly comfortable. I think we’re both still suffering through some jet lag, so we took our sweet time moving around and getting ready. When we finally left we wandered around a different corner and stumbled into an enormous Manga shop. It was huge, aisle after aisle filled with every conceivable book type and title, accompanying toys, gadgets and capsule gifts, art supplies, videos and music. Made us realize Brian truly was born in the wrong country! Not to mention that the Cerulean (our dope-as-hell hotel) is located right in the heart of Shibuya’s fabulous music district. There are no less than a dozen music stores ranging from the more modest mom & pop type guitar shop to the super high end, multi floor instrument superstore. There are Japanese kids running around with guitar cases strapped to their backs – its really cool. It’s strangely quiet in the stores though, very unlike Sam Ash & Guitar Center at home, no one is trying out any of the instruments. Seems so Japanese.

Our next little adventure had us wander up an alley street tightly packed with countertop food places. We looked into a super crowded one and plunked down next to a table of teenaged girls mid-shop and an older, suited salary man. The owner of the soup shop, an outgoing middle aged woman tried her English on me while I tried my Japanese. It was easy! I ordered noodles and pork (tashume) & asked her what she’d recommend for Brian (nani ga osusume desu ka). Lunch was a brilliant $15 for my soup and Bri’s onion, pork, cabbage, mayo dish. So much mayo everywhere!

We made it to the Famous Shibuya 109 which is like a mecca for uber-trendy teens and has more than 7 floors of the latest and greatest in Japanese fashion for the under 30 set. Of course, I found plenty to love! I got an enormous pair of green plastic sunglasses, a funky hooded t-shirt with some insanity written on it that makes no English sense, a fabulous girlie robot necklace and the dopest sneakers ever. They are bright magenta patent leather and black and white hightops by some Japanese shoe company. They are comfortable and I am in love. It was an entire day of shopping for me. My sweetie spoils me.

It was such an exhausting experience and my bags were so heavy that we had to head back to the Cerulean. We stopped and picked up 2L of water, a big biru and some rice snacks. I made myself a bubble bath and soaked until I was all pruney. Bri sat w/me in the bathroom, enjoying his huge biru and the crazy view from the bathtub window. Invigorated and re-energized, we headed back out! This time we walked in a different direction from the Hotel and made it what is a super, super touristy area. There were more higher end chain stores (Japanese & Western) and the food spots looked more pricey. This was also where we found McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC & a few others. Tokyu Hands, one of the department stores our Hotel’s company owns, turned out to be a one-stop-shop for everything Japanese. There were Tokyo-ites there buying their kitchie supplies and raincoats and a ton of foreigners picking up some crazy doodads that are certainly unattainable anywhere outside of this country except for maybe an import website for quadruple the price. We got a cool little samurai kit to display in the living room. He’s pretty awesome.

6pm hit us like a ton of bricks. Bri started getting dizzy and hot and I was super nauseas. We had to start the long trip back to Cerulean just in case one of use fainted or vomited. On our way back we passed a soup place and decided to check it out since it was more than 5 hours since we’d eaten. Very weird place! You pick your dish from a list (in Japanese) from an enormous vending machine and pay for it there. Thankfully there were tons of pictures and plastic models of food. We crossed our fingers, pushed our buttons and with our $11 deposited hoped for the best. We were the only non-Japanese in the place (you know that means it was awesome) and it was great. I got an udon bowl with a side of pork and onions over rice in a Japanese barbeque sauce. Brian’s was a pork and egg ramen with a side of a rice and curry dish. I do not know how we will ever be able to eat this once we leave. And the crazy part is, this is our 6th meal here and we still haven’t tried sushi! The other stuff just keeps looking soooo damn good! Its all good, good, good.

The night ended with us crawling into bed and passing out. By 8pm…
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We landed in Tokyo after a not-so-terrible-at-all 13 & ½ hour flight. Seriously, it wasn’t bad!

Our luggage was super easy to get. Narita airport staff actually takes it off the conveyor belt and leaves it lined up in neat, orderly rows. And the ‘Friendly Airport Limo’ ticket was simpler to get than I imagined even though the staff spoke no English. My Japanese lessons are already paying off! It took us just over an hour to drive from Narita through Tokyo on an expressway to get to the nicest hotel I have ever been in. It is huge, clean, brand new and beautiful. It reminded me of the best Vegas hotel without the layer of hooker on it. We upgraded (TOTALLY worth it) to the Deluxe room with the view. The view, of course, referring to the enormous picture window overlooking Shibuya and Mt. Frickin Fuji from the awesome soaking bathtub. Yeah, our bathtub had a view. An awesome view! Of course our room was spotless & designed in that modern style that Bri loves. We had a nice plate of fresh fruit waiting for us and please believe me when I tell you that you have never tasted Kiwi until you’ve eaten it on the this side of the world. And we had some crazy mango thing that had edible skin and was just lovely.

After a quick shower we threw some clothes on & went for our 1st adventure. We were situated on the side of a major highway running through Shibuya. There are foot bridges and sidewalk paths that lead away from the hotel toward the center of the city. We just headed off and found ourselves up one of many, many little side alleys in a for-real Izikaya. And we jumped rite in! Bri ordered the sweet potato shochu and I got the rice shochu. It was gross and nothing like its tasty, sweet Korean cousin. More like a combination of whisky and lighter fluid. Then we ordered a bowl of squishy tofu, an order of grilled chicken livers yakitori and some pork face skewers. They were amazing.

We wandered some more and found a Sega arcade. Brian battled some guy in a wacky Japanese version of Street Fighter. He played a Taiko Drum game and kicked my butt 3 to 1 in knock hockey. It was basically the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy. On our way out of the arcade we went to what I thought was a dessert stand for some ice cream or some fried dessert thing which wound up being a gigantic fried squid ball topped in a soy & mayonnaise sauce. It was a little unexpected but totally tasty. At this point we were rounding 11pm and were exhausted. On the way back to the hotel Bri took me thru the famous Shibuya crossing – the crazy street with like 47 crosswalks all intersecting under fabulous lights and neon that rival Times Square. The scale was too big to put into words. I am awed! We hit up a little convenience store before making it back to the hotel for some cheap-ass Japanese biru, weird Doritos that we don’t have @ home and this pouch of pulpy Vitamin C stuff. We were too tired to finish our ghetto cans of biru and passed out!!!
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The packing mess started in the living room & quickly spread across the dining room table & exploded into a massive tangle of t-shirts, shoes & pants on what was once our bed. I have every pharmaceutical & cosmetic product lining my kitchen counter tops and there are toiletries on nearly every surface of the bathroom.

We are packing for Tokyo and I am happier than happy.

Bri's finishing the design for his new business cards to give out while there & I'm remarkably close to finishing my lists of to-do's. Yippee!!

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I am excited to the point of distraction. I have Japan on my brain! Brian found a frickin' hilarious video of 1 of the bands that we like landing in Japan & sitting in quarantine on the plane for an hour before allowed to disembark. Maybe we'll be able to make one of these ourselves...


We are getting down to the wire. The wire!!! I pick up the suitcases in the next couple of days & start the packing process. I am on a daily check in with the airline and look at my passport a minimum of three times a day. I also read six different Tokyo Food blogs every evening and am staring, obsessively, at the Tokyo subway map.

Honestly – I don’t even know what to do. I think I’ve taken care of almost everything that can be taken care of at this point. I’ll start a packing list:

Jeans
socks
make-up/hair stuff
Pants
sneakers/sandals
shampoo/soap/lotion
t-shirts
dresses
PSP/DSi/ipods/computer
sweatshirts/sweaters
pocket books
undies
jewelry
jackets
meds

Also, I married a super star. I'm really, really frickin proud of my sweetie. He's livin' the dream!
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Twice I called native Japanese speakers, and twice I totally chickened out! I called our hotel in Tokyo and aside from it being a choppy connection from half way across the globe, I REALLY couldn’t understand what the nice lady said. When I asked her if she spoke English in English (damn my fear!) she switched me over to another nice Japanese lady that helped me out with my questions.

Then, when I called a Japanese Travel agency in the city to make further inquires, I had and passed on another opportunity to ask in Japanese if the lady spoke English (eigo ga hanasemas ka?) I just assumed so (she’s in NY for fuck’s sake!) and instead, said thank you (arigatou) when we got off the phone. She laughed and then I laughed.

Good story, Jess.

Yeah – so we’re a week and a day out and I am excited. My Japanese lessons have switched from teaching in English to Japanese only (not too bad!). I have filled all appropriate prescriptions and have a few more loose ends to tie in the coming days.

Airport Limo passes – We can buy these here to make it a little easier when we get off of the plane at Narita.
Currency Exchange – after much research, it appears we have a few, cost effective options to get our yen to spend. Firstly, we will do a $ exchange at the airport. Not only are their rates the most competitive, they reflect the most up-to-date market value. Also, it appears that the 7 Banks at Tokyo’s 7 Eleven stores carry ATM’s that are foreign card friendly. We will be able to access our bank accounts there should we need more cash.
Packing – have not even started to think about it.
Electronics/ Entertainment – we recently realized that our seat on both flights put us in a row with a recharge station. This means Brian will be able to rip some movies for us to watch without the worry that we’ll run out of juice before landing. Also, I’ve borrowed a heap of books from my brother & will have my computer.
Comfort – bought Bri a memory foam neck pillow for the ride that I really like. Will totally pick one up myself!
Activities – I keep looking at all of the stuff we could potentially do … and although I know we will have no shortage of activities even if we choose to simply wander the streets in awe struck admiration and wonder, it looks like we are actually going at the very bestest time of year. May is ripe with festivals!
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I spent the better part of two hours trying to make my way through the now 6 tenses of verb conjugation. There are godan verbs, ichigan verbs & irregular verbs. You drop the ru, add an atte and in some cases use the ‘dictionary’ tense. It is making my head spin! And also showing me in black and white how little I know even about the ins and outs of my own language. There are qualifiers and particles that go after, before and between words – wa and wo go after, de goes between and there are a few others that go before… I am very confused. And I have yet to even approach Kanji!

Eleven days!

I also called American Airlines to see what a Biz Class upgrade would cost. I should’ve known, but a single outbound upgrade from where we are to where we’d wanna go is $3,400 or 25,000 points and a fee of $350. Guess where we are not sitting! I think we’ll save the upgrade for the hotel suite with the fancy bathroom and unbeatable view. I mean, enough Ambien CR and they could probably just tie me to the wing for all I’ll notice.

I get more and more excited. There was a Tokyo article in a magazine in one of my offices today that was written by a snarky first time visitor. It seems he spoke less than we do and still wound up having a frickin’ sweet time. Yippee!!!!
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