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Sunday afternoon we go to Shinjuku Station, the largest station in Tokyo, and take the JR line to Ikebukuro Station.  We’re looking for Sunshine City, the site of Pokemon Center, Cami’s desired destination.  A hundred thousand others are on the same destination track today.  We travel the length of Sunshine City’s Dori Street, full of game stores and arcades and incredibly loud music.  We stop at Shakey’s Pizzafor lunch.  Yes, that’s the same Shakey’s we remember, founded in 1954, with the same great pizza.  The Sunshine City building is similar to a three level shopping mall, with Pokemon Center prominent on the second floor.  Pikachu is the featured character, with the largest stuffed version priced at $140.  The store is full of kids and parents, well behaved but noisy and lively.  As we’re leaving, Pikachu himself arrives to screaming throngs and dances to their delight.

We are amazed again, but happy to leave the madness of Dori Street and reverse our route back to Shinjuku.  We explore the shopping areas there before returning to the hotel and dinner at a nearby quiet restaurant.  We reflect on the huge numbers of people we’ve encountered in the past three days and how polite and pleasant they’ve been.  They’re nicely dressed, often very fashionably, and attentive to their cute, cute children.   They have been helpful when asked and kind.  I begin to appreciate the challenges of living with such density and admire their success in doing so.

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It’s Sunday, Tom’s birthday in Japan, but still Saturday in the USA.  We connect via Facebook for happy words. 

Our morning adventure begins with breakfast at Starbucks and the short walk to The Metropolitan Government Building, two tall, 50 story buildings with observation areas on the 45th floor.  The Olympic 2020 signs on the building are the only indications we’ve seen of Tokyos events to come.  It’s a cloudy, overcast day, but we go up the North tower and we’re able to see our hotel, a faint Tokyo Tower in the distance, the green parks scattered around the city, and a tiny temple set amid the tall buildings.  Tokyo extends as far as we see in all directions, and the buildings are so varied in size and height and architectural style. It seems to have evolved in a haphazard way.  At street level, we are impressed and amazed at how clean Tokyo is.  We haven’t seen graffiti, litter, and have noted a lack of trash barrels.  There are none!  We guess that with over 13 million people, any trash containers would always overflow, would be impossible to service.  This is reinforced as we continue our next adventure of the day to the Ikebukuro Station area.

The rain stops, and we explore the Asakusa Kannon Temple area.  The Senso-Ji Temple is known as Tokyo’s mother temple, complete with lions and giant snowshoes to keep away the evil spirits, an incense burner to ward off headaches and evil thoughts, with a woman who comes to stir the incense.  The temple and Asakusa Shrine were all reconstructed after WWII, except for the Niten-mon Gate, that stayed intact, where we met before we returned to the Tokyo Hilton.  That was another adventure, passing more samba dancers on the way, going to the Ueno Station to find the JR line back to Shinjuku.

Good morning Tokyo!  It’s Saturday.  We’re up early to spite jet lag, for a walk to breakfast, to overlook the red light district, to find the JR line at Shinjuku Station and ride to the famous, incredibly crowded, Takeshita Street.  We braved the hordes, really great people watching, found a new hair bow, had lunch at a 2nd floor pasta place, then took a taxi back to the hotel.

Afternoon, we joined a Gray Line bus tour of Hama-Riku Garden, in the rain, where Hashi, our guide, described the sea-water lake, the several tea houses, classic bridge and jumping mackerel.  We continued to the Port of Tokyo, Hinode Pier, for a ride on the Sumida River, thankfully under cover as the rain continued.  The river through Tokyo is mostly industrial, with many beautiful, colorful bridges, all with lovely names and stories to o with them. The boat was crowded and noisy, so we didn’t hear the stories, but enjoyed the ride and were met at the Asakusa Pier by a ninja warrior who performed for the group.

We walked up the Nakamise shopping street to the Asakusa KannonTemple.  Ah, the rain has stopped and we walk the opposite way of a huge parade, Tokyo’s annual samba festival, with hundreds of Japanese people in Brazilian carnival attire, complete with dancing girls on floats, celebrating the samba.  The crowds are too huge to get photos.  It’s an odd and colorful mix of cultures.  Coming so soon after the Rio 2016 Olympics, it seems somehow fitting.  We spend some time at the lovely KannonTemple, a beautiful example of a Buddist temple.  After a drive through the Kappabashi area, with many home goods stores, Cami, MJ and I, plus our American friend from the hotel (on his way from his job in China to his home in Albany, NY) are dropped at Ueno Station where we navigate our way on the metro back to Shinjuku.

We arrive on time, at 1 PM, after 13 hours in the air, to a beautiful hot and sunny Tokyo day.  The airport limousine ride from Narita airport to Tokyo is two fascinating hours through some countryside and mostly solid development.  We are clearly in a foreign Land.  We’re staying at the Tokyo Hilton,  in Shijuko, a colorful bustling part of the city.  After settling into the hotel, we take a shuttle to Shijuko Station, the nearby area they call Times Square, have a hamburger and return to the hotel as the sun sets and the lights come on!

Karen, Mary Jo and Cami are celebrating the beginning of Cami’s Senior year at UW Stout with a quick trip to Tokyo.  Adventure and excitement ahead!

Karen and bridge playing friends enjoyed a few sun-filled days at Mary Erickson’s lake home on Whitefish Lake near Hayward WI.  Darlene Lacey, Joan Carroll, Karen and Mary had good summer fun.

Good friends, good food, some swimming and boating, great card games, and glorious sunsets!