| Intro | Speech contest | Pizza delivery | Osechi foods | Gallery show | Marble house | Kamakura | Bonenkai | Bonenkai 2 | Emperor | Sapporo | Walking | Hanami | Visitors | Skiing | 7 Lucky gods | Visitor's survival guide | Kasuga |

visitor season

October 1998

We've been fortunate while living here to have a number of visitors come to stay with us. Having guests is an excuse to see new things and to show off our city. To see someone's reaction to riding the trains or visiting a temple is a treat. But there are too many things to see and visiting Tokyo can be a bit overwhelming, even for seasoned travellers. None of our friends drew the same conclusion about Tokyo--one pined for quiet suburbs left behind; another agreed that there is a certain appeal about being here that's difficult to describe.

Our first visitor scheduled his trip for mid-October. This was Mike's inaugural foreign trip so he was dealing with all sorts of new experiences--immigration, customs, money changing. I met him at the airport and we took the train into the city. Poor Mike needed a nap--long distance flights are wearying and the burden of having to puzzle through all the rigamarole is exhausting. My first overseas trip was to Japan, too, so I knew how he was feeling.

Mike's trip was relatively quiet as Tod & I had to work. Mike quickly figured out how to get to our offices and we met for lunch each day. Once, he spent the afternoon with Tod watching the ebb and flow of IT production support. But we did also get out and take in the sights of the city including dinners in Ginza and Shibuya and other districts with neon glow. Akihabara, the mecca of electronics gear, took up an afternoon and we saw Asakusa temple with its bright and bustling shopping arcade. Mike picked up a pretty yukata for his girlfriend, Jenny, at a shop there. We spent a fun afternoon at INTI, a huge amusement arcade--Mike taught me the secret of the skateboarding game and we had some photo stickers made.

My favorite part of Mike's visit was the day before he left for home. I took the day off work and we did nothing. Laid on the sofa and read books. Kicked back and listened to music. Napped. Talked. It was so nice to be quiet and alone with a good friend. It made me cry to think he was leaving the next day.

But all good things come to an end and Mike did return home. Luckily, the next visitors were due to arrive shortly so I didn't have time to be maudlin. In fact it was only two days later that John & Kris arrived from Chicago. Just enough time to launder the sheets and clean the house!

While both of these visits were going on, I was trying to prepare for my first gallery opening. It was great fun, but also very frustrating because most of the artwork I've done that I like was in storage in Pittsburgh. So I created a whole new concept based on my recent travels. It was a multimedia show--though not computerised multimedia.

John & Kris also had to bear our days at work. But they took their guidebook and ventured out to museums and other attractions. In the evenings we met them for dinner and heard their day's adventures. They saw lots of things we'd never visited and their stories were peppered with amusing mistakes and confusions that we knew all too well.

On the weekend, we went to Nikko where there are a number of Important Cultural Assets in the form of temples, including the famous carving of the "see no, speak no, hear no evil" monkeys.

Nikko's about two hours away if you take the express train. But we didn't and it took us 5 hours and 5 trains to get there. We travelled through the countryside at less than lightning speed. It was fun most of the time. Some interesting old guys talked to us, mostly in Japanese, but in some English and they made sure we got on the right train at one of our many transfer points.

Nikko was pretty, but I was feeling tired and sick and preoccupied with the show, so I didn't enjoy it as might as I might have. It smelled really nice there--the predominant tree is cypress. We visited only the Toshogu shrine, one of many in NIkko, as our late arrival brought us to town an hour or so before they were all closing. We watched and listed as a novice monk rang the huge brass temple bell to mark the end of the day.

After we left the temple, the sun was setting and the weather moved from an autumnal cool to a windy, bone-chilling cold. October is not the height of tourist season, so most shops were closed shortly after the shrines and the restaurants followed suit. But the Hippari was open and serving wonderful, warm food!

This restaurant is a legend. They've been in business a long time and have encouraged foreign visitors to paper their walls with business cards and notes. We spent as much time reading the walls as we did eating the noodles and other dishes we ordered. Soon we were warm and happy and ready to take the fast train home.

John & Kris' visit passed quickly and before we knew it we were alone again.

It was April before we had another guest. Betsy, who was a colleague of mine in Singapore, came for a weekend visit. Her two days here were very wet, but we made the best of them with a stroll throught the Hama-Rikyu duck park and a water taxi ride up the Sumida River to Asaukusa temple where we bought fortunes. Mine was not favorable, so I tied it to a convenient string so the bad luck wouldn't stick to me. Betsy's was very good so she kept hers.

We visited Meiji Jingu and saw the Treasure Museum, which houses portraits of Emperor Meiji and his Empress along with some of their household items and an incredible kimono with a dozen layers of wrappings. We couldn't imagine how heavy it must have been to wear.

Betsy came into the office to meet some of the people she'd worked with online from Singapore but never met in person--including a smorgasbord of attractive men we refer to as "the dishes." A little girlish sexism makes the work day so much more fun :-)

Observing our visitors has given us a good clue about stamina--one activity per day plus dinner out is about all the sightseeing you should plan to do. More than that and it feels like you're guiding a bus tour. "...and over there is the Rainbow Bridge. Now direct your eyes here to see the next amazing landmark..." Being run ragged is not an enjoyable way to spend a holiday.

Copyright 2003. Kristen McQuillin,