5-12-2014 through 7-12-2014
Days 107 through 109
We were keenly aware that our time in Japan was almost over. We really liked Japan—there were so many things we didn't get to see (and we really wanted another crack at Kyoto) that having to leave made us a little sad. But, at the same time, Japan is somewhat expensive for the world traveler, so our budget was telling us it was time to move on. Here's how we spent our last three days in one of our favorite countries so far.
Friday, 5-12-2014. Day 107.
We had two things to do today: get to a nearby medical clinic and visit the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka (which, unlike the clinic, was not nearby).
Medical Clinic, Round III
Samantha was still suffering from a lingering cough, so we wanted to get that checked out again. That meant our first stop was the Tokyo Medical and Surgical Clinic so we could get her a proper diagnosis. The doctor she saw asked some questions and actually did some real diagnosing (as opposed to the Hong Kong doctors who just prescribed a lot of pills). We left there a few hours later feeling pretty good about the visit.
The clinic is right by the Tokyo Tower, which, at 333 meters, is the second tallest structure in Japan (behind the Tokyo Skytree). It's got an Eiffel Tower-inspired orange-and-white lattice that really stands out against the skyline.
There are two different observation decks you can travel to for some really outstanding views of Tokyo. We didn't do this, though—time (we had to get to the Ghibli Museum by 2:00 p.m.) and cost were up against us. But at the base of the tower we found these two guys.
They are the mascots for the tower, collectively known as Noppon. The one on the left is Older Brother and the one on the right is, you guessed it, Younger Brother. I have no idea what their story is.
After spending so much time trying to buy tickets to this museum, we were really looking forward to going. We hopped on the Tokyo Subway and after a transfer to the JR line (special bonus: this was the last day our JR rail passes were valid!) we arrived at Mitaka Station and decided to walk over to the museum, about 20 minutes away.
An unexpected side effect of taking the short walk from Mitaka Station to the museum (instead of paying to take the bus) is that you get to through Inokashira Park, where you'll enjoy many tranquil scenes like the one pictured below.
We arrived at the museum a few minutes after 2:00 p.m. and there were a lot of other people who were showing up at the same time. We stopped for a few photos with Totoro, the museum's official greeter, and then got in line and went inside. Short version: this was a pretty magical place (but photography was not allowed). You can read the full write-up of our visit and see a few more of the pictures we could take at Geekdad Passport: Ghibli Museum.
That night, after taking the subway back to our neighborhood, we ate dinner at Frijoles, which is a total Japanese knock-off of Chipotle—right down to the type treatment of the logo. The food was a little different, though; it was a lot sweeter than the Mexican food in California.
Saturday, 6-12-2014. Day 108.
A Day for Family
After lounging about and doing close to nothing for the first part of the morning, we caught taxi and zoomed out to visit my cousin, who's been living Japan for more than 20 years, and her family. We spent the afternoon and into the night hanging out with them. We had a great time and our girls were pleased to have some more time to hang out with their 2nd cousins. For dinner we ordered in Indian food from their favorite restaurant, which was quite delicious.
We stayed there somewhat late into the evening, which got us home much later than we normally do, but it was worth it. I really enjoyed re-connecting with my cousin after 35 or so years, and my daughters were really happy to meet cousins they never knew they had. We're looking forward to a time when we can get together again, maybe even on this trip ...
Sunday, 7-12-2014. Day 109.
This was our last full day in Tokyo, and we had to get ready to move on. We were heading to Seoul, South Korea the next day, and we had to get geared up. Seoul, you see, was cold. Regular weather reports were putting the temperatures at -6°C. Now I'm from Wisconsin, so I've lived in colder weather than that—but it's been more than 20 years since I've tolerated those barbaric conditions and the old blood has thinned a bit. And my gals aren't really what you'd call cold-weather types.
So we decided a trip to Uniqlo was in order. They sell affordable clothes that would suit our needs, and, fortunately, there was one at Takashimaya in Shinjuku, a shop that Samantha was keen on visiting. So we had that whole two birds, one stone thing going on.
After picking up a few cold weather items (extra layers and new socks for everyone—nothing's quite as great as new socks!), we tried to get something to eat at one of the restaurants on floors 12, 13, and 14. But every single one was packed with long lines out the door and eager diners waiting on chairs that lined the hallways. There's a Din Tai Fung there, which, of course, had the longest line (so we had to skip that one).
We ended up taking the elevator to the basement floor where endless stalls sell all sorts of pre-packed goods (sandwiches, sushi, buns, rice balls, breads, vegetables—you name it) and picking up a few different things for lunch and dinner.
We took our treasures and rode the subway back home, where we began the final preparations for departure. Although we didn't know it right then, our trip was about to get a little more challenging.