Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Return Home

We woke up Wednesday morning with a heavy heart. It had been only 10 days, but as I keep saying it was like we had just arrived. And neither of us really wanted to go back, there was still so much to see, so much to do. Hell, we've only really seen just half of Ikebukuro, let alone the rest of the city.
Breakfast one last time at Pronto, then back to the room for final packing. One last luxury, we call to the front desk for a bell hop to take down our luggage. We check out, and we're on our way.

Things we'll miss: (in no particular order)
The two guys in suits doing exercises in the morning on the children's show we saw every morning
Japanese commercials
Those Yaji/Kita posters everywhere.
Richard Gere and Kiefer Sutherland pimping for some Japanese companies.
Breakfast Hot Dogs
Pocari Sweat
Milk Tea
Vending machines every 10 feet
The AM/PM and the vast array of food that we had no idea what was in it, but was tasty anyway.
Neon and flashing lights on every building.
The noise of the pachinko parlors as we would walk by
Finding random shrines as you were walking along
The juxtaposition of the ancient and modern, and the extravagant and humble.
The clean, efficient and punctual rail and subway system.
The tiny cars, that could fit in my back pocket.
Engrish everywhere.
Dividing prices by 100 to figure out what they really cost.
Tall buildings everywhere
All the boys and girls in school uniforms
The bold and creative fashion sense of some Japanese. ;)
All the Kogals who could be my sister's clones.
Saying "Sumimasen" at least 20 times a day.
Hearing bored boys and girls mutter or whine "Welcome" every time we wandered into a store, or they saw us for the first time in said store.
Hearing store clerks tell us in Japanese the price of something, how much money we have given them and how much change they are giving back to us.
And the "Arigatou Gozaimasu!!" as we leave a store.
Putting our money in trays.
Pausing every block to take pictures.
Sakura petals everywhere.
The impossibly clean streets
Multi-floored manga and anime shops everywhere we went.
Waking up every morning and realizing that we were halfway around the world in a foreign country.
"Where's Bruce?"
Hanging out with Erica, Patty, Bruce, Kelli, Gideon, Janice and Lorelei every day.
The fabulous heated toilets with the deodorizer, the water pressure controls, the bidet and the "ass bidet". Their toilet technology is vastly superior to ours.
and of course: HOT COFFEE IN A CAN, BABY!!

Neither of us really wanted to go back, but we were out of money and didn't speak the language real well, so we really had no choice. Though, we definitely will go back, it's just a question of when.
I took pictures on the ride to the airport, trying to soak it all in to keep in our minds and our hearts. Both of us fell in love with Tokyo and it's spoiled us to all US cities. Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and even Philly are pretty, but they're pretty the same way your sister is pretty. Tokyo was gorgeous and beautiful and I'd do almost anything to see it again.
I think I truly understand the phrase "half a world away" now.

We got to Narita and the shuttle company employees unloaded our luggage. We checked in and had our luggage checked, all the airline employees were polite and courteous, almost apologetic, as they checked our luggage. Donna was afraid that we were over the weight limit with all the purchases we made, but our two big bags were just under. We were glad we bought that suitcase the night before. We had a bag of random snacks that we had picked up at the AM/PM the night before to bring as gifts for my co-workers, and we decided to carry that on, since it was very likely that they'd be crushed in a suitcase.
One of the things that had us scrambling was the prohibition of lighters and matches on airplanes that went into effect on the 14th. So, there went a bunch of gifts for Donna's coworkers.
Once we were through check in, we wandered the airport mall, looking for last minute gifts and found a few. And then it was off to our gate, first through customs which was efficient and quick and then the walk to the gate.
Our flight was a little late arriving so the boarding time was a bit delayed which was good, as we got to use the massage chairs that they had nearby, and stock up on some more Pocari Sweat and Blendy for the flight.
We finally boarded after a while and found ourselves at the ass end of the airplane, but with windows. The flight was also pretty empty and the 777s had personal LCD screens in the seat backs. So it was definitely an upgrade over the flight over, but the flight itself still sucked. Not only did we have crappy movies (National Treasure, Spanglish, Neverland, Shall We Dance), but we couldn't get comfortable enough to sleep. Definitely business class, next time, at least.
The highlight of the flight had to be watching the sunrise over the Alaskan Mountains. That was really pretty, and I'm sorry that my camera couldn't capture the detail and subtleties.
We landed at O'Hare around Noon and experienced our first real culture shock. O'Hare was loud, and chaotic and the people were huge. And it was here that I also understood the phrase "Ugly, Rude Americans." Customs and Immigration was two guys checking four flights of people that arrived at the same time. People bumped in front of us, without saying a word.
We had some time, so Donna was able to catch a smoke and avoid being Cranky Donna for the flight back to Philly.
The flight back to Philly was packed, and it was full of businessmen who didn't seem to realize that they were flying coach with the masses. The steward assigned to our section was apparently on his fourth leg that day, and was clearly haggard.
Everytime I've flown back to Philly, I've looked out the window and marvel at how pretty the city looks from the sky, and I've always wanted to take a picture of it as we were approaching. It may have been the rose colored glasses of being in a foreign, exotic city, but arriving in Philly and driving home, it all seemed so bland and empty and spaced too far apart.
Finally we arrived home, hung out with Dallis a bit who was watching our apartment and we crashed hard when he left. And now here we are back home, and both of us still wish we were in Tokyo.
I guess that's why passports have lots of pages for stamps. ;)
The last batch of pictures are here and here. Final total, including the bad ones: 856 pictures, and I still think I didn't take enough.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Serge, it was a real pleasure to meet you and Kelly. Much belated thanks also for letting me have the KOTOKO single for the Kannazuki no Miko OP and ED! Cheers, Zyl.

2:23 AM  
Blogger Serge said...

Your welcome. It was good to meet you too. Hopefully, we'll run into each other again at some point.

11:30 AM  

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