Part Two of “Japan for the holidays”

If you missed part one look here,

Day six, Into Yokosuka with my sister

Cynthia planned for her and I to have lunch, hang out around Yokosuka. So, we took the van for our little trip and again parked the van close to the base gate to make the short walk into Yokosuka. We headed to one of her favorite restaurants in town, a little Thai restaurant. We got there before they opened. But soon it opened, and we made our way up and had an enjoyable lunch. After eating, Cynthia introduce me to one of her new pastimes, visiting the recycling center! The recycling center is basically a thrift store where you can buy used products just like the Good Will or Salvation army store like in the States, but all the stuff is Japanese. We talked and searched through the little packed shop and while we were there we ran into Stacy. Cynthia’s friend who got her into thrifting at recycling centers. Searching through the center, I quickly found a bunch of things that would make great gifts for my friends. 2300 yen later (about $23 dollars) I had to cash out. There is so much to search through and thrill of finding something really cool holds true. It had been a long time since my sister, and I spent any time together along with talking about what we are going through in our lives. The time we spent together was personal and special.

Day seven, Trip to Mount Fuji and the Ice caves

One of next things on my list of things I want to see in Japan is the iconic Mt. Fuji. During our trips into Tokyo, you could easily make it out as it pops its head over the landscape. I told my sister and brother in law I wanted to see it closer than that. The night before, John prepared our trip of Mt. Fuji. He had found an observation deck at the base of Mt. Fuji. Along with he wanted to see some Ice caves nearby. In the morning, John was ready to go before the rest of the family. We all tried to dress in layers to stay warm for the change in elevation and for inside the Ice caves. We stopped by the base’s commissary, got some food for the road, gassed up the van and we were off to Mt. Fuji!

According to Google, our trip would take about two hours to get to Mt. Fuji. As we made our way through the windy roads with scenic views and tunnels galore, our ears were popping as the elevation changed. The closer we got, the sheer size and presents of Mt. Fuji grow more and more impressive. To get to the parking lot for the observation deck, we found one of the sketchiest roads in Japan! It was a mud covered one lane dirt road that had a bunch of switchbacks up the side this huge hill with one hell of a drop-off . John cautiously white knuckled us to the observation deck parking lot. There was a sweet old couple running the place. Not sure if they lived there but oh my, what a view they have! We spent some time there taking pictures as well as enjoying the spectacular view. Being there and looking upon Mt. Fuji is a memory I will not soon forget.

It was time to pile back into the van and down the super sketchy road. Once down, it was a quick trip to the Narusawa Ice Caves. Which are old lava tubes and due to its cold temperature, they were use as a natural refrigerator. We geared up and headed down. With a death grip on the handrails, we make our way through the first cave. Once there, it was very quiet and noticeably much colder. The ice was cut and place throughout the cave and was lite with lights. We made our way back up to the surface and paused for a breather. The slick steps and cold thin air were taking its toll on us.

After going to the second cave (Wind cave) we hit up the gift shop got some Mt. Fuji swag. Now what? It was only about 12:30 am and we had seen both things we set out to do. While we are here, let’s find something else to go and do. After some googling, we found the ancient village of Iyashi no Sato. The village is nestled in the valley near Mt. Fuji. Once there, in the parking lot, it was time for some much-needed lunch. And after a quick refuel, we made our way through the ancient village. One could only imagine living in such a fantasy like setting. It was truly like we had traveled back in time. Absolutely and unforgettable experience. I can understand why Mt. Fuji has “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”…UNESCO

By the end of our stay there, John was starting to get a bit antsy about the drive back to the base. We said goodbye to Iyashi no Sato and headed home. The trip by to Yokosuka was uneventful. To show my gratitude, I wanted to cooked dinner for the family. So, I introduced them to my favorite taco. Grill sriracha-marinated chicken, pineapple, onion, cilantro, cheese, salsa and sour cream. Oh yeah, we smashed a box of 18 shells with the quickness!


Day eight December 29.

Cynthia, John, Bella and Little John went to church in the morning. I stayed home and chilled. On their way home, they stopped and got lunch for the kids. John, Cynthia and I were going to go into Yokosuka to have lunch somewhere. With took the van and parked it close to the base gate and walked into Yokosuka. We made our way through town and finally decided to have Shabu shabu. After a bit of struggling and frustration, we managed to order and enjoy our lunch. After eating, we decided to walk around the mall and do some window shopping. There were two adorable puppies in one of the shops. And while we were out, we sampled some sweets. The lunch trip gave Cynthia and John a little time away from the kids as well as they had time for themselves.

Day nine, New Years eve in Tokyo with Elizabeth

Earlier this year Elizabeth, a friend I have known for many years moved from Michigan to Japan. Upon my arrival there, I informed her that I was going to spend the holidays in Japan and hopefully we could get the chance to meet up, talk, site see or whatever. I felt it would be a shame if I had traveled all the way to Japan and not get a chance to see her. Soon after I got here in Japan, she suggested I travel to her to just outside of Nagoya, over 3 hours by train. And at the time, I didn’t feel comfortable traveling that far in a foreign country alone. The week leading up to New Year, it was looking more and more likely that we were not going to get a chance to see each other.

For New Year’s Eve, Elizabeth was planning to go to the samurai museum in Tokyo and then travel on to see Mt. Fuji. With Tokyo only being about an hour and half away by train, we made plans to meet up there and hang out in Tokyo. After our trip to Tokyo Tower and Akihabara, I wanted to spend more time in and around Tokyo. But this trip would be different. It would be my first solo trip into the Japanese capital . Having to navigate the train system as well as the busy streets of Tokyo. I was a bit nervously about it first. But during our other trip into Tokyo, it showed me what to expect as far as switching trains and locating stations. And after some time in google maps along with talking to Cynthia and John, I felt confident enough to make the trip.

The morning of New Year’s Eve, after a shower and a quick cup of coffee, Cynthia dropped me off at the train station at Yokosuka. While at the station, I added some more yen to my train pass. I then made my way to the correct train platform and before long, my train to Tokyo arrived. I nervous watched the little blue dot in google map move along the route. And as it moved in the right direction, I grow more confident in my ability to navigate. The test to come will be switching train. Getting off at the correct station, exiting and entering the correct station along with finding the correct platform and train. I rode the train from Yokosuka to Shinagawa Station. Then I would switch from the Yamanoto line to Shinjuku station.

Once at Shinjuka station, I would exit the train and head to the Samurai museum. I arrived in Tokyo early which I wanted to give myself enough time to find the museum. Elizabeth messaged me stating that she would be arriving a little later than expected. Which was fine. It gave me more time to wonder around Tokyo. As I made my way around, I came across a small park that has a Japanese shrine. I find the architecture and spiritual nature of them fascinating. The history, the colors and rituals all interesting.

Leaving the park behind, I passed by a coffee shop and thought this would be a good place to pass the time and people watch until Elizabeth shows up. While there enjoying a cup, she messages me that she is close and would near soon. I replied back letting her know I was getting some coffee and she replied back that she could use one too. I message the address and was going to meet me there. Well… google maps freaked out and I ended up sending her a different address from where I was. I noticed my error and made my way over to the other coffee shop which was in an underground mall.  So, I ordered cup number two and a pastry . Elizabeth soon arrived and we sat talked for a while before heading up and making our way to the museum.

It was a short and enjoyable walk over to the samurai museum. Once there, we got tickets, but we had about an hour to kill before our tour. We made our way over to the little shrine I visited earlier. We discussed various parts of the Japanese culture as we walked through the park. Once back on the streets, it was time to start heading to the museum for our tour. I found the samurai museum tour informative and enjoyable. Such a rich and tragic history. The last part of the tour involved a short demonstration with two actors role-playing. After the demonstration, we made our way back to the entrance, taking photos along the way.

Leaving the museum, it was time for some food. We both agreed with we are in Japan, we are going to try something Japanese. We came across a shop that looked promising and it turned out to be pretty good. During our meal, I mentioned that my sister enjoyed going to recycling centers. And to my surprise, Elizabeth enjoys them too. After a bit of googling, we decided to head over to Harajuku with the hopes of finding a recycling center. According to google, a quick bus trip could get us there in about 5 minutes. But as we waited, a taxi became our better option.


Once there, google said it was about a block away. But what it didn’t say was we had to walk through an extremely busy street. Holy crap! It was super packed, and as you would expect we didn’t find the recycling center. It was still fun people watching and window shopping. The sites, the sounds and the smell of the food was all a bit overwhelming but still exciting.


The sun was starting to go down along with the temperature. Elizabeth wanted to find a place to charge her phone before the second part of her trip. Starbucks should have a place for charging and along with a quick cup of coffee. Turns out, I think we found the smallest Starbucks in Tokyo! After a quick warm up, it was time to head to the train station and to part ways. I had fun spending time with Elizabeth and hope we get a chance to do it again. I made my way back to the base with only one hiccup. Understandably, after that enjoyable day, I did not make it to midnight to ring in the New Year!


Day ten, New Years day

That mornings writing took me a few hours due to all the things Elizabeth and I saw and did. The family slept in a bit after staying up and celebrating the New Year. After all we been doing and seeing it was going to be another lite and easy day. Especially after spending New Years eve in Tokyo. Cynthia, John and I was thinking about going somewhere for breakfast but due to the limited choices for breakfast on base, we decided to go to lunch at Chili’s . We got a table by the window that looks out on to the bay. After lunch, the whole family loaded up the van and headed to Cynthia’s favorite place in Japan, Sankeien Gardens.

As we exited the highway, making our way through the narrow streets until we reach the Gardens. From the cramped and crowded streets to this open and peaceful space, it was like stepping into another world. The Garden had a sense of peace and serenity. The noise of the world faded out as if it knew it did not belong in such a place. As I was taking it all in, my sister which was farther along on the pathway, text me to come on! That this wasn’t even the good part! And she was right. In the matter of a few turns of the path, the park opens up to a small pond with several traditional Japanese style building placed around it. From houses to bridges to even a temple built in 735, was all move to this tranquil place.

On the drive back to the base, as houses and building passed by, I started reflecting on my time in Japan. Walking the streets of Tokyo, being in the presence of Mt. Fuji along with experiencing the Japanese culture with my sister and her family. I was and still am envious that they get to live here for a few more years. Japan is truly a magnificent place. It has been such an unbelievable trip.

We were going to have dinner at an Italian restaurant on base, but it was closed. There were other restaurants open and everyone ordered food from different places. But we all sat and ate together. After dinner, we dropped Bella off at her friend’s house and we got home and chilled out the rest of the night.


Day eleven,  My last day in Japan

I made my way downstairs, got some coffee and talked with Little John and Cynthia. After a lite breakfast, it was soon time to say my goodbyes. Bella and Little John wasn’t going to go to the airport. After all my suitcases packed in the van, we were off to Narita international airport, which was about 2 hours away. The trip was slowed by traffic but still managed to get there about an hour and a half before boarding. After finding parking, we headed to the proper terminal. After a brief check in at the kiosk, I turned to my sister and brother in law, told them thanks for everything, that I love them both and it was off to my gate after security.

Got boarded and seated without any difficulties. Again, flying in Premium Select on Delta’s flagship, Airbus A350. My plan this time, was to try and stay awake the whole flight, (11 and half hours) get home around 3 in the afternoon, try to stay up until 7 to get my sleep schedule back to normal. As I watched movies and shows, before long it was time to eat breakfast. About an hour or so after breakfast, we started our descent into the metro area. And just like that, the flight was over, and I was back in Michigan.

Of the little time I spent in Japan, it has left a profound and positive impression on my mind and body. Japan and its amazing people have altered my perspective of the world. Showing me a kinder, more courteous and well discipline society. Even after a week from my departure, I’m still having dreams about being in Japan. As well as waking up thinking I’m still there. During my stay, I never felt unsafe or unwanted. Everywhere we went, we were genuinely greeted and welcomed. On the physical side, it took me a full week to get over the jet lag. I had never been so tired for so long, but it was worth it. If you ever have the chance to visit Japan, Go! I saw a lot during my stay but there is much more I still want to see. I’m hoping to post “Japan 2.0” this time in 2021!

Arigatou, Sayonara



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