Warm and sunny today in Tokyo as we set off for our Nagomi Visit. We had arranged to have lunch with the Mihashi family who live in the Tokyo suburb, Toneri.
The Mihashi's were lovely - Miyuki had traveled all around Australia as a backpacker in 1992 so her English was much better than my Japanese! Her husband Yoji spoke very little English but was lots of fun! They had two boys Yuma (13y. second grader, junior high school) and Kairi (9y. fourth grader, elementary school). The boys were into sport (swimming, soccer and basketball) so really liked our gift of an AFL footy - Kairi didn't put it down all afternoon, even when he was helping to cook the lunch! The boys also liked Harry Potter, Pokemon and electronic games - which was perfect for Ben who quickly made two new Japanese friends!
Miyuki and Yoji welcomed us at the Toneri liner (monorail) station with big smiles, bows and handshakes, then we walked to their local swimming pool to meet up with the boys who where there with an aunt (we think).
We then all headed to the local sūpā to buy some supplies for lunch. Upstairs there was a Daiso (100 yen) shop where Kerryn and Emma purchased some cute Japanese fans and other souvenirs. It was good to walk around the supermarket with Miyuki who explained what some of the more unfamiliar items were - interesting and also useful for our future shopping at the sūpā!
On the way to their apartment, Yuma had already hatched a plan with Ben to buy some Pokemon cards at a local convenience store.
The Mihashi's apartment was on the 8th floor of a large block. It was small compared with our house back in Australia but very comfortable and quite lovely, with view of the Tokyo Tower from the balcony.
Miiyuki and Yoji had a tasty menu prepared for us and we enjoyed helping to make the lunch. Miyuki showed us how to make nori rolls (with tuna and salmon sashimi)
and we made takoyaku with Yoji,
then we all sat down to a magnificent feast!: atsuyaki tamago (rolled omelet), horenso no gomaae (spinach with sesame dressing), poteto sarada (potato salad), edamame, nori maki, wakame no suimono (clear soup with seaweed) and takoyaku (octopus balls) with iced tea and beer! Oishii desu yo!
Miyuki had even got us some nattō, traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. She said, with a playful smile, that it was like Japanese Vegemite! Well I was brave and tried it out - tasted ok too, and might even taste good spread on toast (just like vegemite?)!
Through a mix of Japanese, English and hand signs, we chatted about life in Japan, which was really interesting, and talked a bit about Australia, including a comprehensive lesson on AFL football - I'm not sure the Mihashi's quite understood what we were going on about - kicking goals and behinds, and all the finer points of Aussie rules, but Kairi was a quick learner and was soon handballing the footy like a pro!
We also learned that through her backpacking days in Australia, Miyuki loved lamingtons and Wheetbix with custard!
For dessert, Miyuki and Yoji, had even more delicious treats for us: matcha purin (green tea pudding), manju (steamed cake with red bean paste filling), mitarashi dango (dumplings on a stick with salty-sweet sauce) and sakuranbo (white cherries) with coffee, and Yoji brought out some sake for us to try too.Totemo oishii desu yo!
After lunch Yuma, Ben and Kairi got out the Wii and got stuck into some serious gaming - Super Smash Bros, Mario Sports and Tank Tank Tank! Before long, Kairi was dragging Joel over to the couch to join in the gaming action. Meanwhile Yoji showed us his badminton gear and special arm strengthener - he must have a mean serve!
Then we set up for a group photo on the couch, which soon descended into chaos as Ben started a "tickling fight" with Yumi, Kairi and Yoji, racing around the small apartment to peels of laughter - what a ruckus and lots of fun, and only goes to prove that, not matter the country or culture, boys will be boys!
The Mihashi's walked us back to the Toneri Station, where we said a long goodbye to our new Japanese friends! As the train pulled away from the station, Ben said that this had been the best day in Tokyo, we agreed that it had been a real highlight of our trip, and he wished that we could stay longer in Tokyo so he could visit his new Japanese mates again!
We got off the Toneri liner at Nippori and, on Miyuki's suggestion, walked the historical area of Yanaka, through the Yanaka-reien, one of the largest graveyards in Tokyo, and past a number of interesting older style Japanese houses to enter the top end of Ueno Park.
Ueno Park is most famous for its cherry blossoms, in spring, but it is also a significant cultural site with a number of museums, a zoo and lots of shrines and temples. As is was a warm and sunny Sunday the park was quite busy and we enjoyed strolling along under the shady trees in the late afternoon of this glorious summer day.
We made our way to the Tōshō-gū shrine and Kan'ei-ji's five-story pagoda,
but the nearby Flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki peace memorial really caught our attention - this small eternal flame, in the centre of a peace dove, has is origins from the atomic bombings and is a poignant reminder that there should never be another nuclear weapon used anywhere on earth.
At the bottom of Ueno Park we stopped of for some kawaii panda pan - soft bread moulded into cute animal-shaped buns and filled with custard, which didn't last long with the hungry kids....
Then onto the subway to head across the city to the
building consists of a complex of three structures, each taking up a city block and over 200m tall with observation decks on the 45th floor. Up we went to take a look - it's difficult to get a real feel for how huge Tokyo is; you can ride the subway for more that 30 minutes to re-emerge in another bustling area of this sprawling metropolis - but apparently you can see Mt Fuji from the TMG in daylight; however, with the sun just setting, the night time view of Tokyo was a sea of lights and buildings seemingly going on forever - it truely is a city of cities......