>Our last day in Tokyo.
I woke up feeling a sense of well-being and contentment mixed with sadness, knowing that in a few hours, the trip I had been working so hard to plan for most of the year, would come to a close.
We packed our stuff for the last time, sorted out where the dirty laundry would go, stuffed them in the appropriate packs etc, and then checked out of Kangetsu Ryokan. The kids were disappointed that our stay in Kangetsu was so brief. They really liked and enjoyed their ryokan stay. Well, I too felt the same way. Kangetsu was a mite out of the way, but I think it is worth the commute – the quiet neighbourhood is a real haven in noisy, busy Tokyo.
We stopped outside the ryokan to take a few pictures and then headed to Chidoricho station. From there we planned to head all the way to Ueno station where we would buy tickets for the Keisei Skyliner.
It was a smooth morning ride all the way from Chidoricho to Kamata and then to Ueno. We passed the big neon signs of Akhihabara district before Ueno station and I wished we could have gone for a walk there – it being the key electronics and manga district of Tokyo. A drink in a maid cafe would have been fun! I promised myself – next trip.
But our peace came to an abrupt end when, at Ueno station while trying to figure out where the Keisei station was, we realised that the Burberry paper bag was missing. In it was the 38,000yen Burberry Blue Label bag my brother had asked me to buy. Aaargghhhhh!!!!!
Where did we leave it? Was it on the street outside the ryokan when we stopped to take pictures? Was it on the platform at Chidoricho? We racked our brains trying to remember. I think it would be safe to say that our morning was utterly ruined.
I decided that KH would go ahead to the Keisei station which we discovered to be just across the road with the kids. I would make the long trip back to Chidoricho and Kangetsu to try to find the bag. Hope was slim since we are talking about a brand new Burberry Blue Label still in its packaging. But then this was Japan where honesty is the best policy and the Japanese are known for their low tolerance on crime and petty theft. I was just crossing my fingers that some kind soul had picked it up, denied their temptations and deposited it at the station master.
So we parted ways. I got on another train heading all the way back. I scoured the platform at Kamata – no luck. Through halting Japanese and English and sign language, I asked the station master and the office – but no one had turned in a Burberry bag. So I took the train onwards to Chidoricho.
Have to say that while I was anxious about the bag, I did enjoy my ride. It was the only time in the trip that I got to feel like I was travelling alone (a rare pleasure!) and could observe the people around me carefully. I liked the quiet neighbourhood in the morning – it was still as quiet as ever. Seeing kids on bikes in their baseball uniforms heading for practice or a game was another interesting sight. Chidoricho provided no luck. The pavement outside the ryokan was also empty. No Burberry paper bag.
I headed back to the ryokan and asked for help. The lady manager was kind enough to help me. She was very concerned about the loss and very kindly allowed me to make an international call to let KH know what was the outcome and to tell him I would meet him half an hour later than we planned since I was delayed during the search. She also very kindly called the police, called the stationmaster at Kamata, at Chidoricho and all to no avail. I felt that she went out of her way to help. But as she said, shaking her head ruefully, it WAS a Burberry Blue Label…
So empty-handed, I headed back to Ueno, thinking geez lucky it wasn’t me who was last carrying the bag. Had it been me, KH would never let me hear the end of it! Especially since the card was purchased on HIS credit card!
Back at Keisei station, I hit upon the idea of making a police report, hoping that this would help us cover our losses if we could claim from insurance. It was hard making the police report – we were like chicken and duck – no common language again! The policeman had to call an interpreter on the phone. And they would not give us a copy of the report – which stumped me no end as to how I was supposed to make a claim when I couldn’t even have a copy of the police report! They just told me “your insurance people will call our insurance people here and talk!” Huh?? But it was hard pushing them and so we just gave up – Japanese bureaucracy was a brick hard wall that was pointless butting heads over.
While I was gone, the kids and KH had gone up to Ueno park, checked out the lily-filled Shinobazu pond and a shrine nearby. They had their last purification and bell-ringing-deity-wishing ritual for the trip.
Since we really didn’t have much time left – the Keisei Skyliner left at 3.20pm giving us barely 2hours left in Tokyo city – we decided to take the subway one stop down on the Ginza line to Asakusa.
The place was crowded with people. We headed to Nakamise Dori. This was a street dominated by souvenir stands and stalls selling rice crackers on both sides. And it was jam packed with people – largely tourists, but also locals who were getting a piece of the rice cracker action.
In one swoop, we did most of our shopping for the trip just on Nakamise dori. We bought bags, yukatas, postcards of the Japanese woodblock prints, fake samurai toy swords etc. At Sensoji, we did as everyone else did – wave the smoke from the incense burner around us for good health. And I got my last fortune slip – it said dad would get better! Caitlin bought and loved the takoyaki balls – and yes it was a roadside stand, like pasar malam style, but it sure tasted good!
From there it was a train ride back down to Ueno, to Keisei where we bought some drinks from the vending machine for the ride to Narita. At 1900yen, the trip was cheaper than the Narita Express. So maybe the next time I head back to Tokyo I’ll just take the Keisei Skyliner.
Watching the urban landscape zoom by in the sunset was sad. I was saying goodbye to a place that still intrigued me and I wasn’t really prepared to go just yet. It seemed like the past few days just flew by in a blur.
We travelled over bridges that spanned large rivers, passed the ubiquitous pachinko parlours, the neon-lit signs, the grey ferro-concrete buildings with square windows that passed for apartments, and as the urban sprawl faded, we travelled amidst padi fields, bamboo forests and tiny towns. Our train into Narita that first night took place in darkness. So this was our first and last look at the countryside just outside Tokyo. I was taking it all in, drinking it in as much as I could, not wanting to waste or miss any last impressions.
I missed Tokyo even as I was leaving it.
All too soon, the ride ended and we arrived at Narita. At Narita, KH and I split up again. He barely made it for the Northwest check-in. I headed for the SQ counter.
There I saw a familiar face and a familiar brood – Rita and the Tans! We checked in quickly then did a whirlwind shopping spree before getting on the plane. For one last happy sushi meal, I bought a nice nigiri set and a tekka maki set from a sushi restaurant just outside the gate. Gillian and I ate this on the plane after take-off. I also bought a yukata for myself and some mentaiko (at 1000yen this was cheaper than Isetan in Singapore!) .
Take-off was smooth. Trin was nursed during take-off. I had a window seat because Gillian was too busy on the inflight entertainment system getting her fill of High School Musical – yes, again!
From the air, the lights of Tokyo looked like a string of diamond dewdrops suspended on a spider’s web. A huge spider’s web that sprawled across the landscape as far as the eye could see. It was breathtakingly pretty. I tried to look for landmarks of the places we had been to, but it was just too big and after a while, I gave up and just looked out at the darkness and the glittery lights far far below.
I promised myself for the umpteenth time that I would be back.