My stay in Shizuoka was way too short, because it was pretty much time to head back to Tokyo as soon as we got up. We headed towards Shizuoka City, and I bought a ticket for the Shinkansen. We had a little bit of time to kill, so we decided to go visit the giant Gundam statue that I had seen last year in Tokyo with the moped kids, which was now located in Shizuoka. Kengo hadn't seen it before, but when we finally found it and stood in line to see it up close, I was running dangerously short on time before my train left. So we raced back to the station and I just barely made it in time. This visit was way too short... Kengo is one of my closest friends, and I love hanging out in Shizuoka, but with Miwako in the picture, I had to sacrifice Honshuu time for Hokkaido. If I hadn't completely forgotten that a brand new airport had opened in Shizuoka last year, I could have flown directly to Sapporo instead of having to go back to Tokyo, but I guess that's what happens when you spend very little time planning out your travels.
The Shinkansen was disappointing because (a) I didn't get a window seat, and (b) the guy by the window was asleep with the shade drawn the whole time. Oh well, I still got a pretty neat view of Mr. Fuji racing by. In tokyo, I made my way across the city to Haneda Airport, where I remembered that the monorail gives some pretty spectacular views of the city only after I had already sat down in an inconvenient place.
Originally when I was (sort of) planning this trip, I was going to stay in Tokyo for another day or two, but Miwako convinced me to come to Sapporo on Saturday. Then she found out that she had to go to Tokyo for some sort of work training on Friday. Her flight back to Sapporo was about 40 minutes after mine, and it was only like 3 gates over. It was a weird feeling knowing that she was probably in the same building as me, but we both decided that meeting up in Tokyo at the airport just wouldn't feel right. Also, she was with a coworker and we thought it would be awkward to meet for the first time in 6 months in front of her. So I boarded my plane and flew to Hokkaido. I could see at least 10 different fireworks shows going on in various parts of Tokyo and beyond, which was pretty badass since I'd never seen that before. Then I made it to Sapporo and waited for Miwa to show up and then she did and then I introduced her to my good friend Cheburashka. THE END.
A fun thing about Tokyo in summer is that even if you didn't drink the night before, sleeping in an un-air-conditioned room with no fan can sometimes cause you to wake up feeling like you have a hangover. That was the case whenever I stayed at house of TAKMIZ, and that was the case after staying at Akazou's. After waking up drenched in sweat, taking a shower doesn't seem to help because the second you step out of the shower and start drying off, you're covered with sweat again. Or at least, I'm covered with sweat again. Gross. After packing up my things, I headed out for Musashiseki to see the new TAKMIZ house and to hang out with Mizue. She still hadn't fully recovered from the stroke, so I nearly headed out really far from where they actually live until Takkun called me and gave me proper directions. When I saw her in winter, we didn't really have all that much time to talk, so it was fun catching up. Her Japanese is about at the same level as mine, which was kind of funny, but also a little comforting. She showed me her various study materials, and although her reading and writing are probably a little better than mine was when I lived in Otaru and still tried to read and write, she felt the need to apologize for how difficult of a language it can be to learn, since she can now sympathize with every student of Japanese ever. So we hung out and had lunch, played with Tsukuru, and I got to spend some quality time with my old friend, TanTan the cat. GiGi, whom I helped rescue three years earlier when he was an abandoned kitten, didn't seem to remember me, but I guess being an abandoned kitten makes you scared of everything.
Eventually I made my way to Ueno so I could [barely] get on a bus headed towards Shizuoka. I can't go to Japan in summer without going to visit Kengo! This was my 6th summer adventure to Japan, and the 6th time I'd gone to Shizuoka (and the 5th time I forgot how to get to where Kengo lives). Traffic on the highways was super crazy due to whatever holiday was going on, so the bus took an extra hour to get to Shizuoka. Finally I arrived, and Kengo and I went and gorged ourselves on some pretty fantastic yakiniku. The food in Shizuoka never disappoints. It was disappointing, however, that ever since the police started cracking down on drinking and driving, people play it way too safe. So while I enjoyed delicious beer, Kengo had a non-alcoholic beer.
After eating, we met up with Chiaki and headed out to the ocean to play with fireworks. Just like last year, she was the designated driver so that Kengo and I could drink (including inside the car, which happened twice during this trip... another weird Japanese drinking cultural thing to add to my list). Good times. After that, it was back to Kengo's house to drink and/or relax, because Shizuoka is good for those sorts of things.
Mopeds in Tokyo! Again! I didn't really have plans for today, and sora and Tsucchee! were both free, so I borrowed one of Akazou's mopeds so we could go riding around. Then it broke down several blocks from his house. So I got to ride Tsucchee's moped back to Akazou's house to borrow his other moped. Then we went on a short ride to find lunch, where we met up with sora. The three of us rode around for a bit until we found Hana Yashiki a weird tiny amusement park buried in the middle of Tokyo, where we were met by Tok. The place kind of reminded me of that weird tiny amusement park in Portland. The best part was when you first get on the tiny roller coaster which was CLEARLY meant for children. There's a diagram showing you not to drop things on the ride, including your camera, money, and cigarettes. Like, they made it really obvious that you shouldn't drop your cigarettes while riding the roller coaster meant for children.
Aaaanyway.... after being amused for a while, we rode around some more and ended up in one of my favorite places in Tokyo that I hadn't been to in many years, Kappa Bashi. Besides the fact that walking down the street makes you feel like you NEED to open your own restaurant as soon as possible, there are a couple of shops featuring the best thing in the world, plastic samples of food. I swear that someday I will buy an ￥8000 bowl of fake ramen and display it proudly in my front window.
After that, we headed back to Akazou's place to park mopeds, and my moped experience #2 in Tokyo was complete. We walked to a nearby Chinese restaurant, and met up with Sako, another one of the moped kids that I got to hang out with (and get drunk with) last summer. The food, of which there was a ton of, was awesome. Akazou kept insisting that I drink some sort of Chinese alcoholic beverage. It was strong and pretty easy to drink, but somehow it tasted very Chinese. After eating, of course, we went to karaoke. By this point, it was just Akazou and sora and I, but Tokyo Mopedder's president, Billy, made a cameo appearance. The three of us boys pretty much just sang Unicorn all night, and apparently the only song that sora sang I missed because you had to take an elevator to a far away place just to use the restroom. Oh well, I'll just assume she was a badass.
Also, HERE is Tsucchee!'s account of the day. Notice (or not since you probably don't read Japanese) that he didn't refer to me by name... he called me the American from Seattle. Weird.