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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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last day

Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 6:50 am, Tokyo time

Last day in Japan! The typhoon seems to have missed Tokyo (all we got was a ton of rain and wind). Elsewhere in Japan, unfortunately, the effects were bad enough that four people were killed in mudslides. Jeff and I spent most of yesterday indoors hiding from the downpour, shopping for souvenirs in the Oriental Bazaar, having tonkatsu for lunch, browing Harujuku.

Part of me wishes we could stay a lot longer, but the other part is ready to go back home (besides, it's time to let our friend Alison have her apartment back). We've done and seen so many wonderful things during this trip, and I'd definitely like to come back to both Japan and the Wickaninnish Inn someday.

Here are just a few highlights of this trip for me, in random order:

- Morning beachcombing at the Wickaninnish Inn in B.C., especially the morning I spend an hour at a single tidal pool.

- Hanging out with our pal, Alison George. Alison is one of the most positive, energetic, generous, motivated and brave people I know, and I'm very proud to be able to call her a friend. My admiration for her has grown during this trip, watching her interacting with the locals with comfort, continuing to seek out new experiences. I thought it was difficult being in Philadelphia for six months without Jeff, but at least I was able to make frequent trips home. Alison's here in Japan, five months' pregnant, working extremely hard in a senior position, speaking a foreign language all day, only able to see her husband in person twice during her entire stay. Her apartment is basically just one room, yet she opens it up to Jeff and me for twelve days, letting us sleep on her bed and borrowing a cot for herself. THANK YOU, ALISON.

- The fish market in Tokyo. This is still the highlight of my Japan experience.

- On our way to our ryokan, passing an intersection and seeing four women in full kimono dress, sweeping up leaves with a twig broom.

- The first time Jeff and I went to a Japanese restaurant without Alison. As the main "communications" person, I was terrified, especially when I realized that no one in the restaurant spoke any English. I remember how delighted I was when, through sign language and broken English/Japanese, the waiter and I actually did manage to communicate enough to get us the set dinner and something to drink. From that moment on, the language barrier became an exciting (and fun!) challenge to overcome.

- Meeting Bill the Fossil Guy in B.C. and then getting e-mail from him later.

- Conveyor belt sushi.

- Checking out all the different things they have in Japanese grocery stores that they don't have back in Canada.

- Seeing Japanese people's reaction to Jeff; sometimes I'll even purposely walk behind him or distance myself so I can observe reactions better. I'm used to being the only non-Caucasian in a room or town; seeing Jeff be the unusual one is an entertaining change. :-) There are other obvious gaijin in Japan, of course, but Jeff still gets stared at by both men and women of all ages. Sometimes schoolgirls will gawk and then whisper behind their hands, giggling. I told Jeff that this probably means that they think he's cute but he's pretty sure it's because they think he "looks like a freak". He doesn't mind, though. Some Japanese also seem fascinated by the fact that Jeff and I are a couple.

- Visiting Meiji Shrine in Tokyo (an experience I didn't get to Blather about; will have to do that when I get back home).

- Japanese office supply stores.

- Rosemary and mint shampoo at the Wickaninnish Inn, as well as the other Aveda amenities supplied in our room. I had never tried bath salts before (though was curious because Lissa had mentioned she likes bath salts more than bubbles); quite liked them.

- Bento boxes. Not just from ekiben stands, but the astonishing variety you can get. Most are relatively inexpensive; I could eat these all the time.

- Seeing the huge, mottled back of a gray whale slowly arch through the water about ten feet from our boat while on the way to Hot Cove Springs one drizzly afternoon in B.C. MAJOR thrill; I had never seen a whale in the wild before. The boat ride over to the Springs was also pretty exciting, especialy freefalling over crests of 5-6 foot waves.

- Aloe vera and white grape juice.

- The shinkansen. Incredibly fast, efficient, comfortable, clean. Sure wish trains at home could be more like this.

- Aloe vera yogurt.

- Sacred Sea Thalassotherapy treatment at the Wickaninnish Inn.

- Being able to visit my mother's childhood city.

- Getting sucked into the Japanese soap opera (can't recall the name, sorry) that Alison sometimes watches in the morning for language practice. It seemed to me that almost everyone overacted, the plot (designed to end in a cliffhanger at the end of each 15-minute episode) was contrived, yet I found my attenion glued to the screen, wondering desperately if the old guy would finally get up the nerve to propose to his secret childhood love, if the unhappy and cynical young artist woman would ever find true love, if the hopefuly young musician guy would ever propose to his girlfriend. Alison has promised to send me plot updates after Jeff and I go back home.

- Red bean icecream on a stick in Tokyo.

- Sitting in a thick terrycloth bathrobe by the fire, reading a book and listening to the ocean waves outside our room at the Wickaninnish Inn. Our time at the Inn was incredibly relaxing, with lots of quiet time. The timing was perfect; by the end of our stay at the Inn, we were well-rested and ready for the excitement and adventure of our Japan trip.

- Getting interviewed by the school girls at the Golden Temple in Kyoto.

- Our stay at Yoshi Ima, the ryokan in Kyoto (thanks to Alison and JeffL for recommending this place). It was more than we had hoped for. Wonderfully "old Japanese" scenery, amazing food, friendly staff, and we thoroughly enjoyed trying an old-fashioned Japanese bath and taking part in a tea ceremony.

- Hearing live koto music while wandering around a park in Kyoto.

- Watching the sunset on Long Beach, near Tofino, B.C.

- People-watching in Japan. LOVED this, and want to come back for a chance to do more of it. So many different fashion styles, even more so than back home. It's quite the experience to be walking through downtown Tokyo and see a woman in full kimono dress striding through a busy intersection, passing a teenager in her black and white Goth maid outfit.

- Strawberry shaved ice in Kyoto.

- Having Internet access during our travels. Many, many thanks to our friends Ryo and Alison for enabling this during our Tokyo stay! Thanks also to my dad for giving us Japan phone cards, which certainly made our arrival in Tokyo go much more smoothly. Imagine us arriving in Tokyo station, totally brain-fried from the long flight, needing to call our friend Alison but having no change, and unable to read the instructions on the different-coloured public phones. The phone card enabled us to call her pretty easily. Thanks also to those of you who posted messages to me in Blatherchat during our stay. :-)

More Japan/B.C. highlights and photos will be scattered through future Blatherings.

Meanwhile, Jeff and I will be doing some more Tokyo wandering tomorrow (Wednesday), but then we have a 12-hour flight back to Toronto. I still haven't been able to find a book light, augh. Since I had a non-working book light on my Air Canada flight to Vancouver AND from Vancouver to Tokyo, I'm somewhat paranoid. Don't think I'd be able to survive a 12-hour flight without being able to read. Wish me luck. :-)

In a few days, Jeff and I are off the cottage with my sister and her family.

Today's Blatherpics:

- Our friend Alison talking to her husband back in Toronto; they call each other every night. Photo taken in the ramen restaurant I really like.

- Toronto, Canada t-shirt. Not especially interesting in itself, until you consider the fact that Jeff and I found saw it in a trendy youth clothing shop in Harujuku, downtown Tokyo.

- Wall graffiti near Harajuku.

- Teenage girl dressed in the "Goth Maid" fashion that seems popular with some right now.

- Yummy-looking pastries. Sadly, Jeff and I had just had lunch and weren't hungry enough to even share one. Maybe tomorrow...

- Two Japanese girlfriends going shopping.

- This "bunched-up sock" look seems to be very popular with many schoolgirls.

Today's Poll:

Do you consider yourself to be an adventurous person? (choose YES for adventurous, NO if you tend to prefer the safe and familiar)

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