Friday, June 15, 2007

Tokyo Day 2...

Our first full day in Japan! This is the view from our window. The window has a rice-paper screen instead of curtains- very neat :)

We hit the ground running, up much earlier than we should have been, but that's jet-lag for you. Brendan got to bed about 8:00 pm last night & didn't wake up until 6-ish. Charlie followed him by about an hour, got up when Tomoko called us at 10:00, & then was up when Brendan was. I didn't get to bed until after 10:30, but woke up at 3:15 am & could't get back to sleep, so I dozed on & off until 7:00-ish. We were all pretty fresh & ready to go, though. When we spoke to Tomoko last night we found out that the Ghibli Museum plans had fallen through, since by the time I'd called her from home & confirmed the time we could go, the tickets had all been sold by that time. Plan B was just as good, though. We enlisted her help (& the Tokyo-ite friend she's staying with) to figure out how to get to the Pokemon Centre & arranged to meet Tomoko at the Ginza metro station at 10:30 this morning. Charlie had been worried that we wouldn't get up in time, but that turned out not to be an :) We even had time to watch the latest Gekiranger episode (on the internet, with subtitles, as we usually do). The estimated travel time was about half an hour, so we left about 20 minutes early to find the station we needed to leave from. (All this after a breakfast of Japanese 7-11 baked goods & green tea :) The online weather forecast had predicted rain, but the sun came out anyway & it it was a beautiful morning.

Brendan's first real difficulty with intrusive OCD thoughts (aka "tics", since they make him do so) came on the walk to the station. He was very close to melting-down & even trying to think beyond them & concentrate on where we were going (Pokemon Mecca) wasn't helping. We kept stopping & trying to set a "kekkai" (barrier) but it wouldn't last long. Over the past few days the worst tics have not been triggered by anything he sees (the usual way it happens) but by something going on internally, so it's hard to shield him from them, which makes it hard to distract him from the triggers. After stopping 4 or 5 times beacuse he was so upset he couldn't keep going, & looking madly for something to distract him, I noticed that the building we were standing beside had a map, with some places labelled in english, & wouldn't you know- one of the places was "Pallet Town". Hard core pokemon fans will know that Ash Ketchum (known here as Satoshi) is from Pallet Town. I pointed-out the label to Brendan & he was just as intrigued as I was that it was a real place. Next thing we knew, he was distracted from the tic & able to get to the station.

Once at the station we decided to by passes, rather than figure out the fares each time & that saved a lot of hassle (once we figured out how to properly feed the money into the machine). The first really great thing we noticed was that everything was labelled in english, too, so it was really easy to find the right place to catch the train (heading in the right direction). Having taken subways in New York, Boston, & Washington DC, we found that navigating the Tokyo Metro was actually easier (scary, huh?). Charlie took a good gander at where we came in (vary handy for the return trip) & the ride was just 3 stops, change to another line (easily found), 2 more stops, find the right exit (where we agreed to meet Tomoko) & there we were! So was Tomoko & it was a wonderful reunion. (OK, so it's just been a couple weeks since we've seen her, but we've been missing her a lot!). We walked through the historic Takashimaya department store on our way to the street, & I decided to stop at the restroom there- where I had my first run-in with one of Japan's famous toilets that talk & spritz &... but darned if I could find where the flush button was! I finally decided that I was going to have to do an "ugly American" & just leave it because everyone was waiting for me. When I consulted Tomoko she said that the lack of button for flush (& I pushed most of them, believe me) probably indicated that it was an automatic flush toilet... let's hope.

After a few false starts & Tomoko stopping in a store for directions, we found the Pokemon Centre! It was mobbed... And if you consider that every child over the age of 5 was in school, you can probably imagine the scene of many, very young children plus their moms swarming the place. Brendan held it together very well :) He was quite focused, since we'd been talking about going there for months. He found the "nuigurumi" (plushies) that he wanted (but no Pichu for me :( ) & we found the "Deoxys" movie but not the most recent one (we'll keep looking). Brendan demolished his umbrella for Japan (from Santa) within a few weeks of getting it (it's a teeny one that telescopes out & he had a great time whipping it out like a lightsabre until it just disintegrated...) so we found him one with Pikachu & Pochama (his new fave) on it. We had a couple of gifts to get & I added some keychains & "chirigami" (kleenex packets :) to the mix. In spite of the mob, the checkout line went very quickly, so none of us got grumpy from waiting :)

Tomoko took this picture of us before bidding farewell to go to her conference (that's why she's still in Tokyo- she won't be leaving for home until just a couple of days before we go there, too). She reccomended that we check out a large bookstore, Maruzen, on the way back to the metro station, since she thought they would have Kamen Rider Den-O stuff there. Then we bade her "mata raisshu" (see you next week!) & headed over there. Once at the store, we realised that we couldn't read any of the signs... after some discussion as to the proper way to do it, Brendan approached a clerk & asked, in japanese, where the kids' books were. They understood him perfectly! We easily found the right floor & section & were soon surrounded by Kamen Rider & Gekiranger books & magazines.The magazine had all sorts of goodies stuffed into it, cardboard masks & equipment that you can assemble, & the books were full of detailed diagrams of the different characters & their equipment. Brendan was in heaven.

The trip back home was uneventful :) We were going to stop & eat somewhere, but Brendan (& we) were getting too tired to cope with new stuff, so back to 7-11 for lunch food. I gave Brendan my hiragana & katakana charts & he puzzled through some of the books while lunch was being made. This kid'll be reading the katakana (he's pretty fluent in hiragana already) by the time we leave, I bet! After lunch Charlie made a foray on his own to get some traveller's cheques cashed & explore, & Brendan & I watched the "Deoxys" movie. (The apartment has a dvd player- yay!) When we were at the Pokemon Centre the checkout lady warned usthat this was a region 5 dvd, but we were able to explain that we knew this & it was ok. We have one of Brendan's computers set to region 5, but we'll probably get a region-free dvd player when we get back home. As the movie was loading Brendan said "I'll bet Brock's (known in Japan as Takeshi) voice will be lower in this version." We agreed that we'd probably like all of the voices better than the english dubs, & we did (we've really come to prefer the japanese esthetic for choosing voices for animated characters). We also noticed some scenes that didn't make it into the english version, plus the music was better in places, & the pokemons' voices were better, too. Pikachu is one of the few original voices that makes it into the english dubs, because his name is the same in both languages, but most pokemon have different names in japanese (we picked up an illustrated japanese pokedex at the bookstore, too) so they have to change their voices in the english dubs. We thoroughly enjoyed the movie :) And afterward we were feeling energetic enough to go to the grocery store & a little park, which Charlie had found on his ramble, & buy "real" food.

This is Brendan & me looking over the books we bought :) By the time we got home from walking to & from the store (& puzzling out labels & discovering that they don't sell paper goods at grocery stores, so another stop was needed) we were all feeling very tired. Brendan ensconced himself on the Dragon Fable site & Charlie & I lay down "for a few minutes". I was out for nearly 2 hours! Charlie was just about to get me up when I woke up & realised that I needed to cook some dinner. We'd found rice & edamame at the store, so I made some for Brendan & me (Charlie found a frozen tortellini thingy). It was a bit dodgy, since I'm spoiled at home by having a rice cooker & have never actually cooked japanese rice on the stove, but it worked! By dinnertime Brendan was really exhausted & nearly unable to keep himself together, even in the presence of comfort food. While we were eating, though, he told us that he felt like "something that had just come out the backside of a cow" & started to giggle madly. We discussed how to say that in japanese & his good humour was restored enough for him to eat & get his jammies on. While we'd been cooking we put on the japanese version of PBS, (NHK) in hopes of catching Pythagoras Switch. We didn't, but the show that was on was hysterical (real dogs jumping rope with clowns) so we watched until the kids' programming was over. Charlie got Brendan into jammies & proposed reading to him for a bit. He came out of Brendan's room about 2 minutes later- Brendan had literally fallen asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow!

We spent some time catching up with email & contacting another friend in Tokyo, our next-door neighbour's daughter Marian, & then decided that we'd stay closer to home tomorow. There's a buddhist temple nearby that looks interesting & more of the neighbourhood to see & reataurants to find. We're hoping to go to Odaiba, maybe with Marian, on Sunday morning & see the Miraikon science museum & a few other places.

What a great first day in Japan! We all worked together & managed to do some of the things we'd been hoping to do for weeks: see Tomoko & visit the Pokemon Centre!

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