Thursday, 7 January 2010

I was in Japan for Christmas and New Years!

Matthew and I decided that this year we would do something different for Christmas. I was originally thinking that it would be nice to go home to Minnesota, but then I had another idea. How about we go to Japan and spend Christmas with my very dear friend Taylor Baldry?

Thankfully Matthew was keen on the idea and we booked our tickets. We were out in Japan from the 25th of December until the 4th of January. What a trip I tell you! Taylor had decided to teach English in Japan and we didn't want him to get lonely.

I didn't do much research on Japan before we left. Things were busy at work and even though I ended up carrying around a huge Lonely Planet guide book around with me, I never got around to reading it. I was happy to just show up in Japan and see what happened. I guess it also helped that Taylor would be there and he could do most of the talking.

I must admit I was a tiny bit nervous about traveling to Japan. Only because I felt like I was going to be in a completely strange and foreign land where I wouldn't be able to understand anything. That turned out to be true, but it wasn't a problem at all. In fact it was really nice to not be able to understand anything. It made it a true adventure.

We arrived in Tokyo on Christmas day at 10:oo a.m. We then waited dutifully for Taylor to meet us at the observation deck. The Tokyo Narita airport is very nice and it was easy to find where we needed to go thanks to the map also being in English. How thoughtful.

After waiting for Taylor for what felt like a long time we gave him a call only to discover he was waiting for us at the other Terminal. Oh, that Taylor. He eventually found us and after a jolly greeting we set off to his little town of Nitta.

Before we left I was talking to Taylor over Skype about the trip and he suggested that we should only bring very small bags with us. I hadn't planned on bringing a huge suitcase. I hate to be one those travelers who is staying with someone and turns up with a mountain of luggage. Matthew and I were sharing one large duffel bag on wheels and bringing a small carry on. Surely that would be ok? We were staying for 10 days and bringing presents.

When I questioned him about the reason for this he simply stated that we needed to be able to manage our luggage on our back because we were going to ride bicycles from the train station to his house. It was going to only be a 25-30 minute ride and wouldn't that be fun?

No, this didn't sound like fun and I immediately started to panic. My first concern was that we didn't have to backpacks and that the day before we left I would have to go out and find some. I then began to dread and resent the entire idea. We would have been on an airplane for 13 hours and then a 3 hour train ride!

Didn't Taylor realise that I am an old woman! The only sensible option to me was that we take a taxi from the train station to his house. I thought, gee maybe Taylor is really out in the middle of nowhere and we couldn't even get a taxi from his house. Or maybe it was going to be so expensive that it was just out of the question.

In the end I just told Taylor that we were very flattered that he thought we'd have the stamina to ride to his house, but that we would be happy to pay for a taxi. Panic over.

And that's what we ended up doing once we finally got to Ota station, hailing a taxi. It was a good thing because I was bit tired after the long journey to Ota. Apparently it should only take a person 2 and a half hours at the most, but the journey ended up taking 5 hours. I guess we got a little lost. The upside is that the trains are spacious and heated, so I slept pretty much the entire way.

For some reason I thought Taylor was about 30 miles outside of Tokyo, but I had just made that up because I was too lazy to find out.

It turns out that we could have gone by bike to Taylor's house since our luggage didn't make it and was going to be delivered the next day. It was really nice not having to lug the bags, but all the presents and English cheeseboard were going to have to wait until Boxing Day.

After getting to Taylor's we quickly freshened up and set off for our Christmas dinner at Taylor's local izakaya (local bar). This little haven was just down the road from Taylor's and we were treated to sushi and a hot bubbling Japanese stew, or nabe as it's called.

Sitting at that little table I felt the true spirit of Christmas. I never in my life thought I would be having Christmas dinner in a small town in Japan, but there I was. Enjoying fresh sushi and cold beer with my husband and friend I felt very blessed indeed.

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