So we say good bye for now to Tokyo

Day 11 Thu May 26, 2005 Depart Tokyo Arrive Chicago

So we say good bye for now to Tokyo, a great city. Super-clean. Busy. Organized. Ultra modern skyscrapers with Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines and Japanese gardens scattered in between. Still most of the signs are in the Japanese letters, including at restaurants and stores. But you do see a little more English letters written here. (Well, it would be hard to see less, until now we have almost never seen anything written with our letters). A few more people seem to speak a little English as well. I don't think not speaking the language in another country is that big of a deal, actually its pretty fun. Learn your manners in their language, and smile a lot, and point and pantomime and it all works out. I did feel very uncomfortable being illiterate. Everything is written in those symbols, and we were completely and totally not able to read.

We are going to take the subway system to Narita airport. Kazuo and Kyoko are going with us, thank goodness. The public transportation system is super clean, its safe, its busy, its organized. We have been trying for three days to figure out this subway system with no luck. Every time Harold sees Kazuo and Kyoko involved in a lively discussion with at least one local about how to get from point to point, he says to me "and remember they can speak the language and they can read". It seems quite efficient, but I think you'd need to bring a guidebook with the subway maps in English. The subways are way underground. This is not a handicap friendly city. And it is not a "tourist who brought too much luggage, received too many gifts, and shopped too much" friendly city. To get to the first subway we must have gone down and up and down again 10 flights of stairs. No kidding.

It's no wonder these people live so long. Oh yes, its the great food and the green tea and being so happy. Japanese have the longest life expectancy in the world. But the life expectancy in Tokyo is actually a little longer than the rest of Japan. The difference, we think its walking up and down and up and down all these stairs in and out of the subways!

We discover at the airport that Harold's sake cannot go on the stow-away luggage, so we have to repack. After that's done we go window shopping with K&K at the airport. I find some really cool stuff for my scrapbook of this trip. And we have to say good bye, for now, to our wonderful hosts. Yes, we'll see you in a few weeks, but we will greatly miss your country, your people, your food, your history, your hospitality. .Our great friends Kazuo and Kyoko. Kyoko, who welcomes us into her home and makes us feel totally at home. She prepares us delicious, healthy food. You have no idea how much we ate all week, and we both lost a little weight. She "rents" us all our supplies for the first three day trip, until our own luggage arrives. ("Rentals" she says, "no charge for you"). And Kazuo. Who we are now calling "Lets go! Kazuo!". He took off work so he could be our Number One Tour Director-San. For weeks he was on the Internet and telephone, plotting out each day, making hotel reservations, getting front row seats for parades and tours. He loans us a Harley, his big comfortable touring Harley. While they bounce around Japan in their sporty Deuce, great for around town, but not designed for comfort. We are so grateful, we are so honored. Thank you both. Arrigatou, domo arrigatou, (and yes K&K we are bowing as we say this, very deeply and smiling. You have taught us Good Japanese Manners)

So we get through immigration, and security fine. Because we used our points to fly business class, we get to go to United's Red Carpet Club to wait. It has complimentary snacks, cappuccino, and a bar. Wonderful comfortable living room style seating. Internet hook up. Little offices for making private phone calls or working. Showers and sleeping arrangements. And beautiful artwork. From now on, long flights, business class.

This is weird. We are going to leave Tokyo Thursday May 26 at 4:55 PM and arrive in Chicago Thursday May 26 at 2:00 PM. That's right, we get there three hours before we left! The pilot says "so if you had a bad day, you get to start all over again"

We have a nice flight back with the business class. Its not as fancy as first class was, but it's comfortable and we sleep well. I cannot eat the food, I'm too spoiled from the wonderful Japanese food. Harold eats the food and then feels sick. We get rested and go to collect our luggage, Harold is still not feeling well. After an hour we admit that they have lost one of our bags, yes, again. Clear customs, go to United counter. He feels on a direct flight its not lost, its in the back space or someone else took it. Checks the computer, no problem, our luggage was just UNDER something big and they didn't see it to remove it. They'll bring it right out. More luck, nothing broken.

How fortunate we feel that we got to see this marvelous country and to know these incredible people and enjoy their delicious, healthy food. Japan is a truly magical place.

In the past we have had some interesting offers to visit people and places, and we did not act on those offers. Missed opportunities. We both turned 50 this year, and vowed not to miss these special opportunities. So when Kazuo and Kyoko invited us to Japan we said yes. We were both very excited, but very nervous. On our own, we could never have seen this country the way we just saw it. From a Harley, with two fabulous hosts. We are definitely feeling very blessed. Lucky.

And for those of you under 50 that are reading this. Don't turn down missed opportunities in life. You'll thank us for that advise. And for the rest of us now over 50. It's never too late. SEIZE LIFE!

Thanks for riding along, we enjoyed your company.
Suzi & Harold