(June 29 - July 22, 1999)

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Tokyo continues to be a culinary feast.  Diane is out doing her thing every day and gets back to the hotel before we get back from work around 6:30, or so.  The routine is to find out who is going to dinner and then to decide where to go.  This, you may imagine, is not necessarily an easy task given everyone's likes and dislikes.  I figure I'm pretty lucky in that I eat almost anything.

Diane and I had an evening by ourselves last week and we went to a sushi place in Belle Vie we have come to favor.  Although service is wonderful all over Japan, it was really noticeable the evening we were in the sushi place.  It was very crowded and just about every seat at the bar was taken and almost all the tables.  There were five sushi guys (or whatever they are called) behind the U-shaped bar and three servers for the tables (and they also served the drinks to people at the bar).  We were in there for about 1 1/2 hours and these servers never stopped moving, even almost running at times.  Always with a smile.  Always greeting everyone who enters the place (not a very big place).  As a matter of fact, when you walk in, everyone, servers and sushi makers, say 'hello', or whatever it is they are saying in Japanese.  Think Waffle House.  ;-)  I have long been impressed with the service provided in Japanese hotels, restaurants, and shops.  I think the only place I have detected some people who aren't very happy to help would be in the subway and train stations.  If you don't speak Japanese they really don't want to bother with you, although I have also encountered some nice folks who would try to understand what you are asking for and try to help.

The entire team (Art, Merle, me, Diane, Jim, Carol) went to eat a Korean BBQ place that we like.  We got a big table with two grills built in and started to order.  Diane and I ordered for our grill and Carol ordered for the other grill.  We pretty much ordered the same stuff, such as marbled beef, ox tongue, veggies, chicken, but Carol also ordered some pig's knuckles that she misconstrued as having some meat on them.  They looked like pig's feet and there wasn't much, if any meat on them.

It was Carol's last night on Tuesday night and we ate at Trader Vic's, which is a restaurant in the hotel.  Before anyone who knows about Trader Vic's asks me how we could eat at Trader Vic's on an 8000Y (about $80 at current exchange rates) meal allowance given that some of us checked it out back in 1999 and decided that 12,500Y steaks were not for us, let me explain.  Tom, a former colleague, doesn't give up so easily and I heard that he found out they served dinner in the bar area (which looked like a restaurant to me given we were in a paneled room and couldn't even see the bar).  It's a 4-course meal for 3700Y, plus drinks.  Still pretty pricey by the time drinks are added in, but not as bad as 12500Y.  The ambiance was great, the service was great, the food was great, the price was great.  We enjoyed the evening.

Merle, Jim, Diane, and I finally got to Moti's Indian Restaurant one night (the one in Akasaka).  Merle's wife, Linda, arrived on Thursday.  We ate at the yakitori and tempura restaurants in the Belle Vie building on Thursday and Friday.  I'm not sure why we haven't frequented the tempura place more often.  It was a great meal. 

The weather was pretty good last week and I was able to walk to work almost every morning.  I really love my routine of walking to work , stopping at Starbucks for a cappuccino and scone on the way.  Almost every morning I pass this same little boy.  He can't be any older than my 8-year old grandson Richard.  This boy is dressed in shorts, short-sleeve shirt, floppy hat, and has a small backpack on his back.  We meet at just about the same place each morning.  Talk about a routine.  You could set your watch by me and this kid.  He just kind of eyes me and keeps going.  I say ohayougozaimasu and he just nods and keeps walking.  He wasn't about to talk to a gaijin.

One morning, Diane was up so she walked with me and got her tea and scone.  We ate in the Starbucks and then she continued on with me up and over the bridge that connects the two sides of the road.  I go down a staircase in the middle because this is where the road splits and IBM is in the middle section.  She went back to the hotel to start her day.

Saturday was a nice day.  Art, Merle, Linda, Diane, and I went to Yokohama for the day.  I had been there twice before, one of those times with Diane.  It's about an hour from the hotel and has one of the largest Chinatowns in Asia.  As we meandered through the main street, we checked out some stores, took lots of pictures of the buildings and gates, and checked out the restaurants for a place to eat lunch.  We decided on a restaurant that offered soup and noodle dishes, as well as larger fare if anyone wanted a bigger lunch.  They took us upstairs and gave us a private room at a table with a big lazy susan.  We all ended up having soup and noodles, of which they had several selections.

After lunch we continued on our walk towards the bay and Port of Yokohama.  Merle, Linda, Diane, and I decided to take a 1-hour sightseeing trip into the bay.  It was on a good sized boat that had a capacity of 600+ people.  Not a great trip, but time to relax after walking a few hours.  Art didn't want to go on the trip and told us if he wasn't there when we got back, to assume he headed back to the hotel, which turned out to be the case.  We walked to the end of the park along the bay and then headed inland to the train station for
the ride back to Akasaka.  It was a nice day and a welcome break from the rain.  Because......

It rained on Sunday.  It was a miserable day.  Not to be deterred, we decided to head out during a break in the rain and go to Shibuya because Diane wanted to look for something at the Tokyu Hands department store.  She didn't find what she was looking for (some kind of necklace), but she spotted a Harley-Davidson shop across the street.  This was a great break since she was planning to hunt down a Harley shop that sold T-shirts that said 'Tokyo' on them for her friend Susan.  She found the shirt she wanted and saved probably half a day next week in looking for a shop.

We got back on Saturday and Sunday to watch the last hour of the sumo basho that started on July 4.  I have come to like to watch sumo and so has Diane.  We even recognize some of them before their names are announced.  There are 6 bashos per year, every other month starting in January, and they last for 15 days.  I have been to Japan five times and each time I was lucky enough to be here during a basho.  It is televised every day, but ends at 6 PM so I don't get to see any bouts during the week.  Two channels broadcast the basho and one of them has an English translation from 4-6 PM  There have been some pretty exciting bouts.  I know for sure I will be back at the hotel on next Sunday for the final bouts.

It was a quiet week and weekend.  I would have to say that it has been a week of ANTICIPATION of the arrival of my boyhood friend Frank on Tuesday, 7/13.  He arrived in Japan this past Saturday and we spoke briefly.  He and his wife and son were on their way to Hokkaido to visit with her parents.  Frank and his son will arrive at the New Otani on Tuesday, and Matsuko will arrive on Sunday, the
day before Diane and I are scheduled to return to Atlanta.  As Frank told me on the phone Saturday, who would have thought that two kids who came from humble backgrounds in Birchwood Gardens in Levittown, Long Island would ever meet up for a visit in Tokyo, Japan 38 years after we graduated from high school.  I'm sure no one would have bet money on that at the time.  What a hoot.

Until next time.

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