Toward the End

Today I am writing from a microscopic hotel room in Tokyo near the fish market.  My original plan for this—Charlie’s and my last 24 hours in Japan—was to visit some kind of far-out experiential art museum nearby and to check out the fish market.

But once again, it took us so long to get here … only three trains this time, but we got turned around at one station and missed a train, and at the last station the attendant insisted I owed an additional Y 60,000, which is about $60.  This was on top of about $60 I’d already paid.  I tried to understand why, but he couldn’t explain in English and a line was forming behind us, so I just forked over the cash and made a beeline for the exit.

The only consolation is knowing that Japanese people have a reputation for being scrupulously honest, so my assumption is that I screwed up somehow.  Another consolation is that, if that’s how expensive rail travel is here without a Japan Rail Pass, then my JR Pass paid for itself many times over.  Too bad it expired two days ago.

It was a stressful four-hour journey today for other reasons.  Charlie bought a large stuffed dolphin at the Shimoda aquarium and there was no room for it in his bag.  So he carried it in a big plastic bag along with his stuffed baby seal.  This was in addition to his backpack which contains his epipens, allergy medication, skin ointment, sunscreen, and myriad other over the counter medications.  He also had to pull a roller bag behind him, and it’s like a black hole—tiny but extremely heavy because it’s loaded with Japanese books.

I was busy hauling my own case and also wearing a backpack with my laptop inside.

At one station, I wanted Charlie to talk to the station attendant in Japanese, but he was feeling shy.  I huffed, “Fine!”  We got on the next train and it turned out to be going in the right direction, but I felt terrible.

I apologized.  “You’re only nine.  You shouldn’t have to be responsible for doing all the talking.”  He shrugged.

Even though people are very nice and helpful and the train system is quite efficient and clear, it’s still extremely complex.  Here’s Charlie holding up the schedule for the train from Shimoda, one small city.

None of the apps I downloaded were helpful.  Google lies.  Today, it directed me to a Tesla dealership instead of to the hotel.  It will likely be my only visit to a Tesla dealership.  One of the salesmen walked us outside and gave us very good directions to the hotel, which was a 10-minute walk away.

Vince will pick me up at the airport tomorrow, and my brother will pick up Charlie.  I’ll be staying with Vince and his family for four nights because the Chinese couple who rented my place while I’m gone won’t be out until Wednesday.  Vince has informed me that I’ll be on babysitting duty, which is fine.  The girls and I will go to the municipal pool and I’ll take in the sunlight that’s so vital to transiting 14 hours backwards.

What will change in my life due to this trip?  Something always does.

I will eat more Japanese style.  That is, I will try to pay more attention to the presentation of my food, instead of just scooping up a hunk of brown hotdish into a large bowl.  I would have loved to buy a collection of little porcelain and lacquerware bowls, but I had no room for it.  I will take a look in my local thrift store and see what I can find.

But at the same time I’d like to capture some of the Japanese esthetic of simplicity of décor.  I’m not sure how.  Every wall of my place is covered with art, and I am coming home with two more pieces.

As with almost every trip I take, I come back with an increased awareness that I love to be in nature.  Again, I’m not sure how to “actionize” this, but it’s a good reminder of where I’d like to be headed.

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