When we woke up in the morning, Taisho made us a fabulous breakcast of curry yakisoba. The four of us hung out for a while and took some pictures. They charted a course to Haneda Airport for me, and said I had plenty of time when we left. Little did they know how horrible my luck is with that stupid airport. By the way, there was a tiny bit of snow left over from when it snowed in Tokyo 3 days earlier (something that doesn't happen all that often), which already got me excited about experiencing a real winter.
Anyway, Minako and I rode the first subway together, then I transfered to my next train. I swear that it said Haneda Airport. I SWEAR. I kept checking to make sure (though the trains in Tokyo are confusing because they don't always follow a non-branching path between 2 points like in places like Sapporo and Chicago). But sure enough, by the time I was in the Yokohama area, I knew something was wrong, and got off the train to ask for help. I found out that when I got on the train, I only sort of had the right one. Two trains show up at the platform at the same time, and only the one in the rear actually goes to the airport, even though they both say they're headed in that general direction. It was the same situation on the train going in the reverse direction. With only about 30 minutes left before my flight left, I figured I was screwed. So I emailed Miwako (even in emergencies, the staff on trains are freakishly stubborn about people not using their phones) and had her contact SkyMark Airlines. Fortunately, they were able to cancel my flight and refund my money, and there was space on the next flight. I know that I once missed a SkyMate Airlines flight to Sapporo by a few minutes, and they let me on the next plane at the same price. But for some reason I feel like this was at least the third time it's happened.
Then I fly, fly, fly through the sky, sky sky.
Then I arrived in Sapporo at the super-familiar and super-tiny luggage claim, and reunited with Miwako after the first 4 month stretch of our long-distance relationship. It turned out it was a good thing I screwed up and flew to Sapporo later... originally she was going to drive to the airport to pick me up, but the weather was crappy (aka awesome) outside, and the highway shut down due to snow. So we took an hour-long train ride back to Kotoni, and she drove the rest of the way. Holy crap, snow everywhere! Holy crap, it was cold out, but not unbearably so! Man, I love winter.
At Miwako's house (I had stayed there twice before in the past, but never met her family), I finally met her parents. Her mom was most excited to meet me, and had a million billion questions (and a LOT of stereotypes about Americrainians). Her dad is retired and spends most of his time lounging around reading the newspaper and watching TV and never talking to anyone. After we started eating (sukiyaki, something I haven't had in years), everyone started drinking and things got a little less awkward. Her dad only talks when he drinks, and as the night went on, he gradually changed into a completely different person. He also has an incredibly strong Hokkaido accent, which made it extra challenging to understand the extra challenging questions he kept asking me.
So not only did I get to meet the parents, but the next surprise was when one of Miwako's two older sisters, Saeko, came over. With her husband. And their three kids. The kids mostly did whatever it is kids do, other than the youngest, Mi-chan, who was afraid of me at first. But Saeko and Naoya were awesome. Later on, the topic of arm-wrestling came up, so we took to the kotatsu. I've always been terrible at arm-wrestling, and Miwako used to always kick my ass. But after about a half-year or so of attempting to exercise regularly, I finally beat her. So after returning to Japan, Miwako started working out so that that wouldn't happen again. We were about evenly matched, but I still had the upper hand. What was really awesome, though, was hearing that Miwako's sister is comically weak, and then watching her lose to everyone, including her 10-year-old son. The kids all wanted to challenge me, and we all became friends after that. Mi-chan turned out to be adorable once she warmed up to me.
(Miwako is the one on the left, by the way)
(Also, the dog is An-chan)
Eventually, Saeko & Co. left, and Miwako convinced her parents that there would be plenty of time to barrage me with a fury of questions about my culture and such all week long. So we finally had some time alone, and we watched Ponyo until we fell asleep. And I immediately felt at home in Japan again.