Thursday, Friday, Saturday

So, like I said, Thursday we moved out of our apartment and into our hotel room. The move out process was surprisingly easy. The representative from Sakura House turned up on time, she was French and basically just checked things off of a list before handing us our deposit in cash. The cash was handy since, as I mentioned before, Jermaine and I were running out of money.

When we got downstairs we called Kai on the phone and let her know we were heading out for Shinjuku. She said she’d meet us at the train station and we took off. Finding Kai turned into more of a problem than we’d thought it would be with all of our stuff. We ended up calling her on from a pay phone and having her meet us where we were instead of trying to find her, which is kinda like finding a needle in a needle stack.

Kai found us and escorted us to the Nishi Shinjuku Hotel which would be our home for the next two days. The hotel was NICE! Our room was small by American standards, but after spending nearly a month in a room that was around the same size as the entrance to our apartment in Seattle, it seemed spacious. The bathroom was totally luxurious, with a full sized tub! So amazing. Plus, the bed was actually sort of comfortable. We were very excited to spend all our time there.

After we got ourselves settled made sure Kayoko understood how much we appreciated all her help, we set out for lunch at an Indian restaurant around the corner from our hotel. The food was good, but Jermaine and I were mesmerized by the huge flat screen monitor they had playing non-stop Indian music videos. Indian cinema is so much more over the top than American cinema.

Once we left the restaurant, we decided to set out for Tokyu Hands, which is sort of like Japan’s version of Target, but much cooler, because Kai needed to buy a new bike lock. Tokyu Hands was located inside a large department store, and after we’d purchased the bike lock, on our way out of the mall we passed by the bag section and ran into where the LeSportsacs were located. I love LeSportsac. I’ve wanted one for a long time. They are so cute and sporty. The store had the new designs out, some of which were only available in Japan. Now, I may have been able to resist a bag that I could get at home, but there was no way I was going to be able to pass up a bag no one at home could get. I love having things no one else does. Love it. I bought a small purse and wallet/keychain in grey with pink octopuses on it. It’s adorable.

As we passed through the jewelry section we also saw jewelry made of plastic and jewels to look like cakes and danishes. Japan is so full of the adorable, it’s hard not to feel like I’m going to explode all the time. When we finally managed to make it out of there, we headed to an electronics store to try to find a digital picture frame. However, though they are popular in the US, they’re not in Japan. We found some, but they weren’t the kind we were looking for so we headed back to Tokyu Hands to see if they had some, but they didn’t so instead, we just shopped for more souvenirs.

After we finished all that business, it was time to eat again, so we headed to the Yoyogi park area to visit the Italian restaurant Kai used to work at, Il Chianti. This was an intimate, candle light restaurant with a low ceiling and a bar that offered a view of the kitchen area. There was a wine fridge that looked like it was very well stocked in the bar section. The instant we entered the restaurant, Jermaine and I were excited to try the food, it looked really good. We’d been planning to meet up with Yutaka again and Kai had called him to invite him to dinner with us. While we waited for Yutaka, we ordered beers.

Yutaka showed up with another messenger he worked with, Ako. She was nice, and reminded me and Jermaine of someone we know here in Seattle. She’s a vegetarian, which surprised all of us (besides Yutaka). I’ve never met a Japanese vegetarian. At least, not a native Japanese, living in Japan. Vegetables and fruit is so expensive, plus meat is such a way of life in Japan, it’s really unusual. She talked to us about how hard it can be, that she now eats some fish because it is so hard. She’s been vegetarian for 10 years, ever since she worked on a farm and couldn’t kill her own meat. She decided, if she couldn’t kill it, she couldn’t eat it. I liked her reasoning. We were pretty good about ordering things that she could eat, sort of. We didn’t know she was vegetarian when we ordered, and Kai ended up ordering some vegetable pasta dish that wasn’t on the menu for her.

We started with salad that had prosciutto on it which was excellent. It came with the house dressing that is made fresh from scratch every day at the restaurant. If I could have, I would’ve smuggled some home with me. It was totally excellent.

Salad and salad dressing:

Jermaine and Yutaka:

Me, Kai and Ako:

The wine we ordered to go with our food was really good and we ended up ordering two bottles of it by the time dinner was over.

After the salad, we had basil pasta:

Next, we had Cheesy Pasta!:

This is the Garlic Chicken, or what was left of it:

After that came the vegetarian pasta, but no picture of that or the pizza we had after the salad. Oh well.

Here’s the berry sorbet:

And, the tiramisu:

We sat and talked for a while after we were done eating. When we left, Kai walked us back to the train station and we found our way home, fat and happy.

Friday we spent the whole day inside our hotel room, only leaving to eat lunch and dinner. For breakfast, I went out by myself and picked up some bread and drinks.

When I got home, I found Jermaine in the robe provided to us by the hotel:

For lunch, we went out for curry at CoCo, predictable. Dinner, we went out for yaki niku for the last time at the same place we’d had it for the first time. The food was alright, but it wasn’t as good as the first time we went there. Oh well, the bed was nice when we got home.

Saturday we gathered up all our stuff and checked out of our hotel room by 11am. We had the hotel staff watch our luggage while we went to breakfast together. Then, we picked up our bags and met Kai at Shinjuku station. We mixed up our information and Kai thought we were eating with her, and we wanted to hang out with her for as long as we could before taking off for the airport, so we actually ended up eating spaghetti lunch right after breakfast.

Lunch took a little longer than we’d thought it would and we had to rush to make it to the platform on time for our train. As we pulled away from the station, Kai waved goodbye to us. I hope to see her again soon. She’s planning a trip to Seattle next March, and she’s staying at our place.

The airport was efficient and we made it to our gate on time. Once again, Jermaine had trouble sleeping even though he’d taken a Zannax. He even had a couple of drinks this time and still nothing! Still, we made it home and through customs. Jermaine’s dad picked us up at the airport and took us home so we could drop off our stuff before heading over to Jermaine’s parent’s house for breakfast.

Jamal, Sarah and Eisley (their brand new baby girl) came to eat with us. This was the second time we met Eisley, who turned 1 month that day! She’s such a cute baby.

Here is Eisley with her grandma:

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Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

So, since I’m not sure we’ll have internet at the hotel, I thought I’d make a quick post about the last two days, plus today.

Tuesday, we lazed around the apartment until the afternoon and then we went to eat curry at a curry shop.

My yasai (vegetable) curry from CoCo Curry!:

Jermaine and his more involved, hotter curry at CoCo!:

After curry, we went to shop for stuff at this traditional Japanese arts and crafts store called Bingoya, sort of near Shinjuku.

Traditional Japanese Crafts:

When we left that store, we had a rather large sack of goods we had to go back to Komagome and drop that stuff off before heading to dinner with Kayoko and her parents at Japanese/French restaurant, Ahill, where the chef Kai used to work with at an Italian Restaurant in Yoyogi now worked. Kai’s parent’s train was delayed because someone got hit by it (eek!), so we headed to the restaurant and ordered a couple of drinks while we waited for them.

Restaurant:

My Place Setting:

Drinkin’:

Once Kai’s parent’s arrived our food started to arrive.

First, we got a plate with three little “salads” on it, there was one with a crab, one with bonito and one with some kind of a squid, or something like that:

After the first course, the chef (Kai’s friend) came out to ask us how we were doing:

Okasan choses this time to give me a gift she’d bought for me:

It was a lovely pearl necklace on a gold chain:

I thanked Mom and Dad for their generous gift:

Next, we were served the second course, spaghetti with crab and sea urchin and tiny tomatoes:

Then, we got the next course, I think it was crab meat, in a clear glaze:

For our fourth course we had a choice about what we got, so I had like a crab cake thing, with cheese potatoes:

Kai got foi gras, or however that’s spelled, you know, goose liver pate:

Jermaine got some kind of fish, I think, with a carrot on top:

After this course, we took a group photo:

Our fifth course was a gazpacho soup with tomato and watermelon with cilantro:

The main course came next.

Mom got abalone:

Jermaine got pork with a grape glaze:

Dad and I got Fillet Mignon, medium rare, which came with dried apricot, freeze dried soy sauce (which is the most awesome-est thing ever) and sea salt, and was garnished with a cactus frond:

This might have been the best meat I’ve ever eaten, lets get a little closer:

Kai got the Sirloin Steak:

After the main course came the curry course, but after the meat I was so full, I couldn’t really eat much:

Next was what the menu described as a “cheese amusement,” a blue cheese with a honey, a milky goat cheese on a parsnip, and a mascarpone with some of the freeze dried soy sauce, it was excellent:

Finally, we had dessert.

Dad got a pudding, I think it was mango:

I had creme brule with an orange sorbet on top:

Jermaine got what I think was a raspberry tart:

Kai got a melting chocolate pot, rad:

Mom got sorbet, kiwi (for sure), vanilla (maybe) and some kind of red berry:

We finished with coffee. The food was really nice. On the way home, I was SO FULL, I felt sick. That kinda sucked.

Wednesday was dedicated to getting Jermaine out to Ashikaga to get his tattoo on. Pretty much I spent the whole day reading Shogun, and Jermaine spent the whole day in pain. It was awesome.

When we arrived, Horimasa showed Jermaine the design and they agreed on placement and size before he applied the design to Jermaine’s leg:

Initial design placed on Jermaine’s leg:

Tools:

Initial outlining:

Masa kept going back over the outline and reworking the lines to be sure that the design was correct:

Here it is right before Masa did the final work on the dots:

Line work and initial shading of the hair was done with a gun, and it’s done!:

You know what the comes after the gun! IREZUMI!

Here’s a good look at the tattoo with a good amount of the irezumi work done:

Movie:

Of course, this wouldn’t be a post about being stabbed repeatedly with a serrated tool without some pictures of blood!:

Getting very close to being done:

And…DONE:

Here’s another look:

How does Jermaine feel about it?:

His tattoo is the best I’ve ever seen, everyone will be jealous. I can hear him right now in the shower, it sounds like the tattoo isn’t feeling too good when wet. Jermaine made an appointment to see Horimasa when he’s in San Jose and SF, to complete his lower leg sleeve. Horimasa seemed to like Jermaine’s idea for the remainder of the tattoo. Again, I’ll post pictures when they’re not on the camera.

Thursday, that’s today. We’re cleaning our apartment in anticipation of our inspection at 2pm today and then meeting Kai in Shinjuku to check into our hotel. Jermaine and I are running out of money, so the next two days will be spent inside, watching tv, which sounds awesome.

More later!

Today, Monday, Day 22

It was raining when we woke up today. We had thought about going to this craft store, but eh. We were still tired from last week and this is a vacation, right? Besides, I didn’t have any underwear. So, we did laundry and lazed around the apartment. I’ve been writing this, and Jermaine has fluctuated between awake and asleep. Right now, there appears to be anime on the tv, which neither of us can understand, but feel compelled to watch. We ate curry for lunch, that’s about the most exciting thing we did, besides buy ibuprofen which considerably helped my shoulder. Tomorrow, we’re meeting Kai and her parents for dinner (we’re hoping for French) and maybe going shopping for stuff during the day. Wednesday is Jermaine’s tattoo day, Thursday we have to be out of our apartment and into our hotel (which Kai already helped us reserve), plus we’re thinking of going back to Cal, with Kai (she took Thursday off from work to help us into our hotel, she’s awesome), Friday we’re planning to just stay in the hotel and order room service and Saturday we leave for home at 4:55pm Tokyo time and arrive back at home at 9:30am Seattle time on the same day. We’re hoping that Jermaine’s mom makes us breakfast when we get home.

So, we’ll see how close to the plan we stick. Until then, I’m out.

Sunday, Day 21, THE BEACH!

Kai took us to the beach in Zushi on Sunday. We had to get up early and meet her at the train station in Shibuya. Then, we caught the train to Zushi together. It took about an hour for us to reach Zushi. It’s a smaller town, and it felt like a beach town.

We walked from the train station down to the beach, and were surprised by how foggy it was, and how many wind surfers there were riding in the water. I didn’t take any pictures, but it was a nice day at the beach. I played in the water a little, but I couldn’t get all the way in the water because of my fresh tattoo. Jermaine spent the majority of the time under the beach umbrella Kai rented, sleeping. It was cute. For breakfast we had food from one of the many stands lining the beach. Jermaine had a hot dog, I got a chicken pita sandwich and Kai got the curry.

For lunch we ate at another restaurant on the beach. By this time Kayoko’s friends had arrived, so we all ate lunch together. We had a variety of things, shirmp, beans and rice, croquettes, French fries and yakisoba. Then, we bought a WHOLE CHICKEN, it had been roasted on a rotating grill and tasted awesome. The 7 of us easily ate all the food, plus beers.

We had traveled to the beach in order to see one of Kai’s friends perform as a backup dancer for a singer who was doing a show at this club on the beach, so after we ate we went to that. It was interesting. The singer was like an R&B act, with backup dancers and a rapper. You don’t see shows like that in America. It was like a small, indie rock show, but with R&B, instead. Plus, unlike in America, the crowd really seemed to get into the act, waving their hands and dancing. In Seattle, we make fun of people who move at shows, in Japan, Jermaine and I were the odd men out.

After the show, Kai needed to get on the train to make it back to Tokyo in time for her Hula dance class, and we left with her. By the time we got back, my swimsuit hadn’t dried yet, so I had a huge wet spot on the back of my dress, it looked like I’d wet myself. It was very embarrassing having to walk through the train station like that, so Jermaine very sweetly offered to walk behind me and guided me from behind to be sure he’d always be there. Aww.

Once we got home, we showered and had a little bit of down time before heading back out for Ebisu to meet Kai for dinner. We had invited Yutaka, but his phone was dead, so I don’t think he ever got the message telling him about dinner. After walking around for a minute (we’d wanted to eat at a Mexican place, but it was closed, boo) we settled on eating at a Chinese restaurant.

What we ate:
I missed the picture of the Shrimp in Chili Sauce, but here’s the Cashew Chicken:

Dumpling:

Beef and Bell Peppers:

The Chili Tofu that made Kai and Jermaine’s tongues feel weird, and that I didn’t eat because it was hot and I was full:

We finished with tea, which made us all even more sleepy. We headed out and went to bed.

Saturday, Day Whatever…Oh yeah, Day 20

We didn’t do a lot the day after I got my tattoo. I felt alright, but I couldn’t (and still can’t) move my left arm very much. We revisited Blue Lug, Sexon and Kalavinka with no luck on finding a frame for Jermaine. Boo. Jermaine did decide that he will have Kalavinka build his bike and is on an extensive waiting list.

On the way back to the station we were hungry, so we stopped for more YAKI NIKU!!

FOOOOOOD:

This, plus the meat above, comprises what the Japanese consider to be two orders of meat. We ended up ordering 4 orders of meat. We are fat Americans.

Veggies and Meat:

Veggies!

If you look close, you can see the smoke from the food being sucked up into those slots by a fan. Pretty neat!

This is Jermaine, trying to remember the name of the band that’s playing on the radio in the restaurant:

This is me, remembering that it is the GooGoo Dolls. Who wins? I think we might both lose, actually:

The end.

Day 19, Friday, Irezumi

Ok, now that that monster of a post is out of the way, let’s talk about tattoos!

We woke up and met Yutaka, who looked as though he hadn’t slept, at the Kita Senju station, ready to head out to where Horimasa lives in Ashikaga. The train took about an hour to get out there, and it was moving, so like I said, Ashikaga is far from Tokyo. It’s kinda in the countryside, by a lot of rice paddies and hills covered in awesome-looking trees.

We waited for Horimasa, or just Masa, to pick us up at the convenience store across the street from the station and while we waited we bought snacks and beer. Masa arrived in a really nice SUV, picked us up and carried us to his apartment, inside a large, pink building.

We sat down and he handed me a baby! His baby! She was three months old, and named Macha!

Macha:

Masa brought over some botan designs for me to choose from, I picked one out and he ran to the store to photocopy it. While I waited, I held the baby and Jermaine and I looked through some books of tattoo work that Masa had done. All of it was amazing.

Yutaka found the design that Masa’s working on for Jermaine’s leg, it looked really great! Jermaine got very excited, but too bad, today is my turn!

When Masa got back, we talked a bit more about what we were going to do and decided on the size and placement of the botan, and then he started working on me.

Studio:

Tools:

Placement:

Outline:

And, once the outline was done, we moved to the irezumi portion of the tattoo process. Now, for those of you who haven’t already wikipedia/google searched “irezumi” that’s the process of tattooing that originated in woodblock printing, and takes its name from the original tool that was used to carve woodblocks. Basically, you take a short, sharp blade attached to a long, narrow shaft (in this case it was medical taped to the shaft), dip it into some ink and jab the blade into the flesh, like, a million times to apply the color. So, I’ve got a couple of tattoos, right? Sure, I knew going into it that the process would likely take 4 to 4.5 hours total, and that this would be the longest time, to date that I had sat for a tattoo. But, I thought, you know, “I’ve done something like this before. It will be an experience! Maybe it will hurt, but I’ll be ok.” Hahahahahahahaha! About 30 minutes into the process of him jabbing me with the knife, I was really starting to think that this was probably not a good idea anymore. Not just the pain, but the sound, a “Tsss, tsss, tsss,” was almost making me sick. I had to take a break. We continued, and Horimasa finished the white outline of all the petals. It was not fun. He told me we were going to take a break, and he went to pick up a friend, another Masa, to hang out with us.

Jermaine and I talked while he was gone. I told him that it was different than tattooing, it hurt differently, but that I was going to try to make it. When Masa got back, he prepped me for more irezumi work, part of which involved spreading a clear, yellow liquid over my tattoo. I asked him what it was, “Lidacane.” Oh my god, I was saved! It burned for a second, but then it totally took the edge off the irezumi work he was doing. It still hurt, but not nearly as much as before. I was going to make it.

Preparing the tool:

The colors:

Starting to work:

Progress:

Pink is done!

Tattoo done!

Even with the lidacane, by the end I was SO READY for him to be done. Jermaine asked me later if I thought I’d do irezumi again, “No, I don’t think so.” We’ll see, though, maybe I will forget? I have tremendous respect for people who have sat for whole body irezumi work, done without any numbing solutions. It took about 3.5 hours, which is a long time to sit around and let someone poke you. Horimasa looked tired, too. I know everyone else was.

Sleeping:

After all that, we were hungry, so we headed to an udon/soba restaurant for a late lunch.

Masa 2’s Udon, he got 2 stacks. Sorry it’s sideways:

Horimasa/Jermaine’s Udon:

Yutaka’s food:

My Ten Zaru Soba:

Jermaine made and appointment to meet with Horimasa next Wednesday to have his irezumi baku done. We paid, and left for the train station. When we got back, we ate more curry and rice.

Day 14, 15, 16, 17, 18?

I’ve lost count.

So, Sunday (day 14), as I’d suspected, we stayed in, did laundry, ate curry, and slept in preparation for departing for Osaka on Monday morning.

Monday (day 15), we got up and made it to our train on time. We got there early and bought bento boxes before boarding the train. I got shumai and Jermaine got katsu. The train ride was good, but it made me sick to my stomach. My brain has been unable to deal with motion since my trip to Greece.

Once we got off the train in Osaka, mom found us immediately on the platform and there was an almost tearful reunion between the two of us. After we hugged, she proceeded to lead us through three train stations on our way back to Kyuhojiguchi, where the house is located. Mom had me lead us from the train station back to the house, because I’d told her I remembered how to get there. On the way, though, we stopped at a bakery and got a bunch of strawberry shortcake slices and some other goodies for dessert and at a meat shop, for the meat for dinner.

Sweets:

Meats:

Meat, and food in general, in Japan is a spectacular experience. I would feel sorry for vegetarians and vegans, missing out, but vegetables are better here, too, so it evens out.

When we got back to the house, Jermaine and I hung out on the back patio and mom brought us some seaweed chips and tea while we read. Soon, Nana, Kayoko’s oldest brother, Yasukazu’s daughter arrived to visit with us. She’s 7, and she played with the dog, Lychee, in front of us to get our attention. When we came inside and sat on the couch in the living room, Nana would go outside and knock on the window behind us and when we looked back, she’d hide. It was cute.

Lychee:

After a while, Sakiko, Kai’s older sister, came home and visited with us for a while. It was so nice to see her again! She got married two years ago to Keigo, who also lives at Okasan and Otosan’s house while Keigo goes to law school. Sakiko told me that Keigo wouldn’t be home until after dinner, but I was excited to finally meet him. They were dating the last time I was in Osaka (7 or 8 years ago) and he was actually studying in England at the time, so I never got a chance to meet him.

Soon, Machi, Yasukazu’s wife, and Shougo, Yasukazu’s 5 year old son, arrived. Shougo had been at Judo practice so he was wearing his judo outfit. They arrived around the same time that Otosan (dad) arrived, so we were all introduced at the same time.

Jermaine and I read until dinner was ready. Okasan made us dinner! She’s the best cook.

Beef and Lettuce:

Wieners and Tomato and Cucumber Salad:

Eggplant with Peanut Sauce and Jellyfish:

After dinner we ate the sweets we’d bought on the way home and then Nana, Shougo, Jermaine, Sakiko, Otosan and I played a card game. Shougo was pretty upset he wasn’t winning, and he made the funniest faces!

Playing Cards:

Machi is very pregnant with a baby boy, and will give birth at the end of this month (she knows the exact date because she’s delivering via c-section), but she played with Shougo and exhibited no signs of physical duress.

Machi and Shougo:

Before they left, we took a photo with the kids:

Not much later, Keigo came home and we met! He was really nice, and spoke English, which was nice. But, we were pretty tired, so we went up to bed and read for a while. Not too long after we got in there, into our futons and were reading, the door to our room was flung open. Both Jermaine and I thought it was someone coming to say goodnight to us, but who waltzes in like they own the place? The dog, Lychee. Mom had told us that while Kenji’s there, he sleeps in the room that we were in, and I guess the dog believes that it’s his room, too.

Lychee and Jermaine:

Lychee actually spent the night snuggled up in my futon.

Tuesday, Day 16:
We started our day by visiting a bread shop and getting some stuff to eat on the train on our way to Kyoto. We had been told that it would take us 2 hours to get to Kyoto, but we both agreed that this was probably an exaggeration. On our way into the station, we ran into Keigo, who goes to school in Kyoto, and he helped us to find where we were supposed to be going, but then had to take a different train into Kyoto.

Getting from Kyohogiguchi to Osaka was fast, and we thought we’d proved we were right about it not taking 2 hours to get there, but then the last train took FOREVER! Yes, it is 2 hours from Kyuhogiguchi to Kyoto, for reals. Once we got off the train, we got some cash from the post office and bought bus tickets to Kyomizu temple.

Kyomizu is my favorite temple so far in Japan. It was built in honor of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, and is also the site of a spring, that you can drink from. Its built onto a forested hill with a great view of Kyoto.

Kyomizu:

You wash your hands with the water that comes out of the dragon, before you enter the temple’s main grounds.

Another Hand Washing Station:

These were in front of most of the shrines. The idea is that you wash your hands before praying.

This is the shrine that you just washed your hands for:

All in the forested hill around the temple were these signs. I asked Kai about them and she said that she thinks that they’re marking trees that have been dedicated to families that donated money to the temple. They looked amazing:

You can see this temple in the distance from Kyomizu. We walked out to it, it was really old.

Here it is, up close:

Looking back towards Kyomizu:

The whole forest is covered in maple trees:


I’m sure it would be beautiful in the fall.

When we got home from Kyoto, mom took me, Jermaine, Sakiko and Keigo out for dinner at “the best okonomiyaki restaurant in Osaka.” It was pretty awesome. We ate SO MUCH FOOD! And, just when we thought it was all over, they brought out more food! Crazy! I forgot my camera, so no pictures of the food, sorry.

The whole time we were in Osaka, we’d been wearing hoodies and long sleeved shirts, trying to keep our tattoos a secret, because Kai had told us that her parents, mom included, really did not like tattoos and we were trying to be respectful. The night before, however, Sakiko had found out about our tattoos because I showed her pictures from our trip. I thought she would keep it a secret, but at dinner, she outed me! I was just sitting there, eating my food and Saki says to mom, like out of nowhere, “Heidi has a tattoo on her arm, have you seen it?” Well, of course she hadn’t! Luckily, mom was ok with the tattoos. Turns out, it’s really dad who’s not ok with them. Mom tried to read my tattoo, but again, the script proved too old and I go on without knowing what’s on my arm. They all agreed though that it was probably part of a haiku. Nice!

Wednesday, Day 17:
We set off for Nara on Wednesday, to see Todaiji, which either has the world’s largest Buddha, or the world’s largest wooden structure, which the Buddha is inside. I can’t remember. Nevertheless, it was awesome.

First, there are “tame” deer, which you can feed. Unfortunately, the deer will come after you, even if you don’t have food, so they’ve always kinda creeped me out.

Jermaine and the Deer:

There were a lot of school kids there, these ones are feeding the deer:

You could easily get very close to the deer:

Past the deer was the temple:

The gate:

There were two of these huge, wooden statues guarding the gates:

This is the second gate, these let you into the main grounds of the temple:

This is Todaiji Temple:

Buddha!

Idol next to Buddha!

Side of Buddha!

Another GOD:

Heads!

There was a hole cut out of one of the pillars that was supposedly the size of Buddha’s nostril. Climbing through it was good luck, so a bunch of the kids visiting climbed through:

To give you an idea of how small that hole is, here’s the trip through from the front:


It looks a bit like the column is giving birth to the boy, if you ask me.

Idol to the right of Buddha:

Leaving Todaiji:

On the way back to the train station Jermaine and I stopped for food, soba and sushi:

When we got back to Osaka, we read more, packed and said goodbye to mom before heading back out to the train to get back to Tokyo. Once we were back, we ate curry and went to bed.

Thursday, Day 18:
Finally, at the end of this insanely long post! On Thursday, Kai treated us to a trip to the Studio Ghibli Museum. For those who aren’t familiar with Studio Ghibli, that’s the group who is responsible for such wonderful movies as My Neighbor Totoro, Nausica and the Valley of the Wind, Laputa (Castle in the Sky), Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away, to name a few. I LOVE Ghibli movies, and so does Jermaine (one of the reasons I love him).

We met Kai at the train at 11am, and headed to the part of town that the museum is located in. This part of town has a really nice park, with an awesome open air cafe, that we ate lunch at.

Cat I saw along the way, the sign says “do not touch”:

Cafe:

Food:
My Green Curry:

Kai’s food, I don’t remember what she got:

Jermaine’s Food, again, don’t remember what this one’s called:

After lunch, we met with Kai’s friend, Yama, and headed to the museum. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the museum, but these are some I took outside:

As we arrived, Yama, Jermaine and Kai:

The Building:

Robot from Laputa:

Me and Kai with the Robot from Laputa:

Jermaine and Robot from Laputa:

The inside of the museum was totally amazing. It managed to capture the fantasy of the Ghibli movies in a totally honest and non-cheesy way. It made me want to cry. There were scale examples of the workstations of the creators and a scale, furry cat bus that kids could climb on. Circular stairways up, sky bridges, this really cool room that described the process of film-making. Seriously, awesome. There is even a movie theater where they show a short cartoon made especially for the museum every 20 minutes. We got to see a movie about a water spider and a water skipper. Jermaine and I were initially disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to understand the movie, since it would be in Japanese, but we were excited none the less to see an original movie. Then, to our surprise, there was no speaking in the movie so everyone could understand. AWESOME!

After the movie, we’d pretty much explored the whole museum, so we went to the museum’s cafe, which I had sort of expected to be lame, you know, like a theme park eating facility. But NO!!!!!! It was totally amazing! There was a sink where you could wash your hands before eating and everything was just like something out of a Ghibli movie, but again, not in a cheesy way. The outdoor cafe served beer “from The Valley Of the Wind!” and all the food served in the indoor cafe was completely beautiful looking, and delish. Everyone working looked nice, and they were all totally professional and looked like they wanted to be there. You could watch them preparing your food! I was so excited. It was a perfect day, completely.

Food:
Jermaine’s Katsu Sandwhich:

My corn soup and fresh bread:

Yama’s strawberry shortcake, I had one too!:

Kai’s Crepe with Pumpkin cream and parmesean (sp?) cheese:

Jermaine’s coffee, it was called the Straw Hat Cafe:

Yama’s Sunset Cream Soda, with actual dollop of ice cream:

My Blue Sky Cream Soda, they both had ice cream and real straw straws:

After that, we were spent. We walked back through the same park we started out in and headed back to Ropongi for dinner with Kenji, Kai’s second oldest brother. On the way, Kai called Yutaka for us to help us talk about the irezumi tattoos we were hoping to get the next day, Friday. Turns out he was working in Ropongi, so he joined us for dinner!

We ate at the restaurant that inspired the bloody Japanese fight scene in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Kill Bill. It was pretty rad, but we didn’t get to sit indoors, it was too full. Outside was fine, though, it was warm enough out. We were all still pretty full from lunch, so we just ordered appetizers.

Food:

Kai and Kenji:

Jermaine and Yutaka:

Heidi and Jermaine:

So, as I said before, Yutaka was there to talk about the irezumi that Jermaine and I were interested in scheduling with the tattoo artist that Yutaka was friends with. Turns out, the tattoo artist is a member of a very famous and talented tattoo family, the Hori family. His name is Horimasa. The design that I wanted, a peony (or botan in Japanese), was no problem, but Jermaine’s tattoo, a baku (or a dream eater) was something that Horimasa had never done before and would take at least 8 hours to complete, so that wasn’t possible on Friday. Yutaka said that Horimasa would do my irezumi, but he’d just talk to Jermaine about his design and we’d schedule it for some time next week. Yutaka had taken the day off from work on Friday so he could help us get out to Horimasa’s house which is located in Ashikaga, quite some distance from Tokyo.

Kenji paid for dinner! So nice! We left to get home and go to sleep in preparation for meeting Yutaka at the train station in Kita Senju the next day at 10am.