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Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 16: Please Tell Me We Aren’t Stuck in Tokyo

Sunday morning welcomed us with 8 inches of snow! Wowie! Again, breakfast was at 8am and our alarm sounded at 7:45. We did not want a repeat of yesterday morning so we quickly tried to tidy. We joked the previous night about not attending breakfast because we did not know if we could handle another salad and an assortment of raw fish again, and questioned whether or not we’d receive a phone call if we didn’t show up. Would they come knocking if we didn’t answer the phone? The clock struck eight as we were slipping on our slippers to scaddadle down to the restaurant where breakfast was going to be served overlooking the river. As I took a step out the door, the phone rang. Chris jumped to answer it and sure enough, “breakfast 8 o’clock?” Chris also got into a discussion about a shuttle after checkout. Chris was asking me, while on the phone with the front desk, what time we should take the shuttle. I asked if we could just talk to them in person to make it easier. Apparently it was too hard to get this request across because I finally heard Chris say 10 o’clock. He looked at me with a laughing smile and I giggled. We were off to breakfast.

For this meal, we no longer had the security blanket of our own private dining room, everyone was out in the open. Once we walked in all eyes were on us, yes still the only people of English decent in the Ryokan. I immediately became very self-conscience of my eating etiquette. We had an egg that we could fry in a little griddle that stood over a flame. Sounds easy right? Yea, maybe if the egg shell wasn’t abnormally thick and sturdy. Chris tried it first. He began with trying to crack the egg on the hard griddle itself. All this did was create a lot of nose and unsteady the balancing griddle. He then tried it on the hard plastic bowl the egg came in. After a couple attempts he was successful. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it should be that hard, I just figured Chris was struggling a bit but that there was no way that I’d have to make that much of an effort… Most of my egg landed on the table and all over my fingers. Napkins aren’t provided. I said sorry.
Though we said we’d take the 10 o’clock shuttle we instead decided to pack up, leave our bags at the front desk, and go take some more pictures of the shrines/temples in the snow! On our way we took another picture of our Ryokan.
We did not pay for the complete entry pass but instead just paid for access to one of the five shrines. The scene was breathtaking. The contrast between the crisp white snow and the bright vibrant colors of the buildings is a sight I wish we could have capture more accurately with our camera.
Walking around town was very interesting. No one seemed bothered by shoveling the snow. In actuality it looked more like a fun community and friendship building activity. By late morning most of the sidewalks were cleared and the road itself was cleared much earlier in the morning, before we even woke up! They got this snow thing down!
We went back to the hotel, gather our things, bowed more times than I can count, and then we headed to the bus stop. We hoped that the schedule was not any different for the weekend because all we could understand was the time schedule. We waited until about 7 minutes passed the time the bus was supposed to arrive to begin talking about walking… However seconds after the new plan left our lips the bus peaked over the hill.
When we got to the train station we were strapped for cash on hand but figured we could just pull out some money at an ATM because surely there is an ATM at the station. Nope. The station also did not take debit or credit, and the nearest ATM was 20 minutes away. Not wanting to confront the snowy blizzard outside again we pooled our cash and happened to scrounge up a few cents more than we needed to purchase two tickets for the cheapest train to Tokyo, thank goodness! This ride was not as nice as the ride we had to Nikko but it was warm and still comfy nevertheless.
(View right outside the station at Nikko.)
When we got to Tokyo we were hungry. After the last few days of our unfamiliar foods we decided to go more local, and by local we mean McDonalds. Yes, we settled for McDonalds with pleasure. Chris asked if I thought they’d take a card, of course I figured they would. Surprise, surprise, I was wrong, “I’m sorry, only cash.” We asked where an ATM was, the woman told us that there was a convenient store a block away. We left McDonalds and to our amazement we found a Family Mart with an ATM. We tried one card forwards and backwards, it was rejected. We tried another card, forwards and backwards, upside down and right side up,  it was rejected. Chris pulled out his phone to call the numbers on the back of the cards. Bank of America didn’t answer because it was way passed hours of operation due to the time difference. The number Chris called for his government card went through but the woman informed him that there should not be any problems, the account was fine. I don’t know why we thought the cards would now work but we gave it a go again. After loitering around the machine for some time, it should not have been a surprise that the man that works there came up to us and asked if everything was alright. Come to find out that this ATM only took local cards, cool. We were informed that there was a bank nearby that we could get money at but that it was closed on Sundays (how does that help?) and a 7/11 across the street that we could try for another ATM. The machine at 7/11 didn’t work either. I was not convinced we were doing it right since the ATM clearly said VISA. I tried to inconspicuously watch how some of the other people were sliding in their cards. This is pretty tricky by an ATM… I managed to catch a glimpse of one card orientation and gave it a go myself. Success! It was at this moment that both Chris and I confessed how nervous we both were about not being able to get out of Tokyo, but didn’t want to frighten the other. Yes we initially started the ATM hunt for cash for food but ultimately, if we didn’t get our hands on any paper, we weren’t going to be able to put more money on our Suicas to get back to Yokosuka.
I CANNOT believe I am going to say this but McDonalds was glorious! As I’ve gotten older I have made the conscience effort not to eat fast-food. I think Chris thought I was joking at first when I agreed to eating there. Though McDonalds is a burger and fry place, in Tokyo, I think McDonalds would be just as successful without these two items. Everyone there was drinking the McCafe or whatever it’s called.  Some were so bold to have that and an apple turnover. I guess Chris and I really out did ourselves with our quarter and double quarter pounders and fries. After our meal I noticed a flier on the tray. January 7th marked the beginning of ‘Big America2.’ What this boiled down to, that we could deduce from the pictures, the limited time only, for the second time, addition of 4 very larger burgers: Texas2 Burger, Idaho Burger, Miami Burger, and the Manhattan Burger. Let me break these burgers down for you bottom to top,
Texas2 Burger: bun, relish, cheese, patty, bun, onions, chili, bacon, patty.
Idaho Burger: bun, brown sauce, cheese, patty, hash brown patty (Idaho, duh), bacon, green sauce, onions, bun.
Miami Burger: bun, ketchup, patty, cheese, lettuce, tortilla chips, chili, bun.
Manhattan Burger: bun, mayo, patty, Swiss cheese, roast beef, lettuce, onions, bun.
Hmm, what does this say about our country?… And how do these burgers match their names? Besides the hash brown thing… I don’t know. I guess it’s not important. Gross.
It was fun to get a preview of Tokyo. Some weekend soon we hope to get up there for a day or two!
(Chris and the Tokyo Sky Tree in the background.)
The train we boarded in Tokyo took us right to our home station. When we got up to our apartment Kelli skyped me and invited us down for dinner. We had a refreshing time experiencing community and enjoying coconut curry. It was a good welcome home with stories and laughs. Blessed to have the people we do over here in Japan.
When it came time for bed Chris went down before I did. Something I didn’t share about our weekend was that I was having horrible, terrifying, unspeakable nightmares while there. I was petrified with the idea of going to sleep that night. I didn’t want to put myself through those things again. Come 3:30am Chris came stumbling out of bed asking me when I was going to join him. I busted into tears. Chris came over to me, cuddled me, prayed over me and then took me to bed. I fell asleep while he read Psalms to me. Praise the Lord that I did not have any horrific dreams that night.

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