March 7, 2009

Very early in the morning, Aunt Colleen woke me up and packed me into her briefcase for our trip.   The limo arrived and we drove from Aunt Colleen’s house in San Jose, California to the San Francisco Airport.  We had a 10am flight to catch for Tokyo, Japan, on ANA Airlines.

We arrive at the airport on time, and head for the airline lounge.  There are people here from all over the world, waiting for their flights home, or for flights to adventures just like us.   Walking through the lounge, I could hear all kinds of different languages spoken.  Other people were busy reading or on their computers.  It was very interesting to see everyone.

At last, it’s time for us to board the airplane.  We get seated, and off we go to Tokyo!   We read books for a while, watched Slumdog Millionaire on our little movie screen and then took a nap on the 11 ½ hour flight.  I really like sleeping in these flat beds.

March 8 – 11 hours later!

It’s raining and cold when we land in Tokyo, and it is 3 pm on Sunday afternoon.  Just 11 hours ago it was 10am on Saturday.  We crossed the international dateline on our trip, so the time here is one day later than at home.   We make it through passport control and customs in record time, and it’s off to the other terminal to meet Scott.  His flight from New York City landed 10 minutes after ours.   We found him with no problem.   I’m glad Scott is here – he speaks fluent Japanese, and I can see it is needed in Tokyo.  Not all signs are in English, and it can be difficult to get around if you don’t speak or read the language.   Last time Aunt Colleen was here, she got lost in the Tokyo subway system.  I don’t want that to happen while I’m with her!

We take a really cool train ride into Tokyo.  The famous cherry trees are not really blooming yet, but there is a little pink showing on some of them.   Finally – we’re in a big city – it must be Tokyo!  Tokyo Station is an old building that is very big and confusing, but we eventually found the taxi stand and were able to go to our hotel.  Michael will arrive later tonight.

All hotels in Tokyo are on the top floors of very tall office buildings.  You take a special elevator that whooshes 50 floors up to the main lobby, and then from there another elevator to your floor.  Our room is really cool.  The bed is low on the floor and there is a huge painted silk picture on the wall.  Our view looks out on the river, and I can see boats all day and night.

Dinner tonight is a special treat.  Scott is taking us to an Izikaya – a special restaurant usually only Japanese people know about.   We ate lots of little skewered meats and vegetables that are grilled over lines of charcoal behind the bar and handed over the glass wall to us by the chef.  It’s still raining on the walk back to the hotel.  Wow – are we tired!   It’s time to go to sleep now.  We have a big day tomorrow.

March 9

Today is a busy day.   After a traditional Japanese breakfast of raw fish, miso soup, tea and rice porridge, we walk through the underground passageways to Aunt Colleen’s meeting with Kyodo News Agency.  Kyodo News Agency is the famous national news agency of Japan, and they are very important in the news business.

Shabu-shabu dinner in Tokyo

After a long day of meetings, it is the custom to take your hosts to a very special meal.  Dinner tonight is at a famous restaurant on the Ginza that serves shabu-shabu.   This is a traditional Japanese meal where meat and vegetables are cooked in a pot of water, and then dipped in yummy sauces.  Here is a picture of all of us at dinner.  You can see the pots of water, and the vegetables still in them.  Aunt Colleen’s holding me, but I’m behind the pot of water and you can’t see me in this picture angle.  Michael is next to Aunt Colleen, Scott is behind her, and the other gentlemen are the men Aunt Colleen works with from Kyodo News Agency.

After dinner the rain let up long enough for us to take a walk.  The Ginza is the fashionable shopping area with a lot of the same stores as Rodeo Drive, but here the buildings are all very tall, and every one is totally lit up with brightly colored lights.  It’s dark outside, but the lights from the buildings make it look like day time.   We’re really tired now, so after a walk down the Ginza to see the sights, we went back to the hotel and to sleep.

March 10

We wake up very early – we have to take the train back to the airport and take a flight to Taiwan.  Scott and Michael both know about me, and are happy to have me along.  Scott has a son my age who has read the book Flat Stanley, and Michael has 4 grandchildren.  They are having a lot of fun finding great places for my pictures.

Flat Harald at the Tokyo Subway

Here is a picture of me with Aunt Colleen at the Tokyo Metro station, waiting for the airport train.  You can see the Japanese characters on the signs.  It’s so early in the morning; there was hardly anyone there, so it was easy to get a good picture.  Tokyo is very crowded usually.   Two minutes after we took this picture, a train came in and hundreds of people piled out and ran to the stairs to catch their next train to work.  Aunt Colleen calls it the Morning Migration.  Everyone is in dark suits, raincoats and with umbrellas – they really do look like birds!

We are now going to fly to Taiwan.  This is so exciting.



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