Weeks of travel with family and friends across what felt like all of Japan ended three days ago when I finally arrived back home in Sendai. Since then I've been anxiously getting things in order for Thailand. My flight leaves thirty after midnight tonight, about sixteen hours from now. In about nine it's off to Tokyo on my brother's rail pass, which he was kind enough to leave me after he went back home.
The day after getting back I went out and ended up seeing just about every member of my Sendai crew, including Ryan and Tammy, who pointed out it had been exactly three weeks ago that we'd set out to Tokyo together on that horrible, wicked, evil nightbus. I was asked so many times how my trip was, but I couldn't seem to answer anyone. We hit things so hard and fast that if I hadn't taken a camera along I'm not sure I'd know I'd done the trip at all.
The time up in Hokkaido was terrific, and even though we never saw fresh snow (just sunshine) the three or so days we were there, the Japanese skiiers stayed true to form and left all the best spots, particularly the ones out-of-bounds, untouched. The last morning in particular Jenn and I had a great run down a mountain and through the woods. I ended the run by spraining my wrist pretty bad, which has me nervous about climbing in Thailand - it's still hard to move after two weeks have passed.
Picking up my family from Kansai was great, and I giggled like a three year old when John's bear hug had me up in the air. The bus ride to Kyoto must have been terrible for the three of them, but luckily I think being in a foreign country gave them just that last bit of energy to finish the journey. Kyoto rained on us most of the time but that didn't stop our massive sightseeing consumption.
Jenn and I also managed to get out at night, and had a particularly wild night out with Nellie, a friend from the summer going to school in Osaka, and all the random people we met at Za Za Pub. Getting home at five kind of cut into our time in Nara the next day just a bit, but it was worth it.
That same night we went to Nara we stopped at my summer host family's place wich was conveniently located on the way home, and itadakimashita'ed an absolutely amazing te-maki (hand rolled) sushi dinner prepared by my Japanese mother and our dear Nellie.
After that it was Osaka and then before you knew it we were on our way to Tokyo and Jenn on her way to the airport home. Things slowed down quite a bit in Tokyo, partially out of necessity (aka, exhaustion) and partially because, well, it was kind of like touring with two groups and going down to one. We stayed in the rather posh Nikko Tokyo (日航東京) on the artificial island of Odaiba. Lucky for John, this meant we were right by a giant, 1-to-1 scale Gundam.
I made a request of the group that we take the time to switch up our touring from Japanese-culture / Japanese-history related things to find some sort of art museum, preferably modern. I don't think I was the only one overloaded on temples and shrines though. We ended up in the Mori Modern Art Museum out at Roppongi Hills and it was just what I was looking for. At the same time, I realized it wasn't the sort of thing that would interest my brother or mom too much. Still, it was a much needed diversion for me.
Tokyo was followed by a Shinkansen trip down to Hiroshima, where we stayed in another posh (but much more affordable) hotel, this time the Grand Prince of Hiroshima. It was another massive tower on an island, but the view was very much different. Tokyo's concrete mountains and hemmed in bay had been swapped mountains choked thick with green; the city of Hiroshima itself was squeezed in between the abruptly rising and falling landscape with a single hand of the harbor reaching out onto the bay. The same mountains that contained the city continued out into the sea, stabbing and piercing their way out of the water through the bay, covered with trees anywhere the tide couldn't reach.
We spent our one full day in Hiroshima at the Peace Memorial Park (think A-bomb dome), eating the famous Hiroshima okonomiyaki, and then passed the evening cruising out to and around Miyajima.
The family took off the next day and I spent the night with Gary in Osaka, who had conveniently avoided having to say hi to my family and friends by going to America to see his brother's baby on the exact dates we would be in Kyoto. Crafty guy.
After that, I got back to Sendai, completing the circle that is this post.
I hope to do picture posts and elaborate on some of the fun we (I?) had over these few weeks, but I still have to play some packing-tetris with my backpack. So, they'll just have to wait another three weeks 'til I'm back from Thailand.