Here is a decent shot of blossoms along the river up near Mt. Mitake. More on that in a bit. Don't forget to open this blog in a browser so you can see the slide shows.
Sarah lives west of Tokyo in Musashino, about a 40 minute train ride into downtown Tokyo. Her community is a clean quiet suburb and she teaches at the local university nearby. While wandering around Musashino and then Tokyo I noted a lot of pedestrians as most people utilise the Tokyo train and bus system. I saw few motorbikes, which is much different than SE Asia. There also didn't seem to be as many cars and they were VERY well behaved. I kept balking at crosswalks as Sarah stepped right out into oncoming traffic. In Thailand we'd have been killed on the first go! Not so in Tokyo. Very good car manners but the bikes are another matter altogether. Bicyclists are common in Musashino, mostly on the sidewalks. Walkers MUST move for the cyclists and seriously keep watch out for them as they are not watching out for you. Sarah oriented me to the train system and I was able to commute to and from downtown Tokyo without further assistance. My only issue with their commuting system is related to the "men with the white gloves..." During peak commute time, there are men in uniform with white gloves that will shove every last person they can into the train. Luckily we saw the gloved men on one outing but our train did not need a packing. Whew!
I was able to stay in an extra apartment at Sarah's complex when I wasn't at my work venue. That made for a great way to live "like a local" including using a tiny bathroom. I can only compare a Japanese apartment bathroom to a "head" (bathroom) on a small boat. All space in a Japanese home/apartment is used very efficiently. Sarah has made her small apartment very homey and has it very well organised.
One of my favourite things from my adventure was to visit a very good friend of Sarah's who had invited us to dinner. Etsuko is an amazing Japanese woman who was an editor before retirement and travelled extensively. She lives with her husband Take, and her sister Masako, who's smile lights up the room. They have a lovely Japanese style home with sliding doors and tatami mats on the floor. (sliding doors use space much more efficiently) Etsuko has a full western kitchen and she cooked up a Turkish dish preceded by some Japanese style appetisers. Everything was so good and it was special to get a home cooked meal, particularly in another country and culture. Some other friends, Richard and Joan, who are also originally from the USA joined us for dinner, and we had a rousing conversation over great food and a few beers. (mostly Richard and I drank the beers)
At the top of the tram is an old village and a lovely temple complex. One website I visited said this shrine has been a centre for worship for at least 2000 years. Musashi Mitake Shrine is at the summit and enshrines a white wolf in the form of an “oinusama” (sacred dog) because it is said to have acted as a guide for the mythical hero Yamato Takeru when he became lost on the mountain. Many people hike with their dogs to this beautiful place. We had a misty, rainy, overcast day, all the better to enjoy a bowl of hot soba noodles before we headed back down the trail.
I would highly recommend a trip to Tokyo, especially if you have a cool cousin to hang out with. Thanks Sarah for everything!