To say we were sad to leave the Park Hyatt Hotel was an understatement. We loved it there. But alas, this was our 3rd (and final) week and we had planned to stay and be with family all week.
We took a cab from the hotel to Shinjuku station. The plan was to head back to my sister Naomi's place, do some laundry (since it had been raining all week, we sometimes changed 2x daily) since we had run out of clean clothes, and then head to Tsurumaki to see family.
Every taxi car had this HUGE GPS in their vehicles. It may not look like it here, but the screen was very big
The taxi drivers have remotes for their GPS so they can quickly access their GPS without having to reach over, and press the touch screen. All taxis are also lined in the backseat with this white linen/lace dressing.
We got back to Naomi's house. Our initial plan was to unload our laundry, grab some fresh clothes, and then head back out to the train to go to Tsurumaki (1.5 hour train ride). However, my aunt Sumiyo called me, and told me that my uncle Hiroshi and my grandfather wasn't going to be far in the area and they could pick us up in a few hours. What a relief! This allowed us to do all of our laundry, relax, and grab some lunch leisurely. After 2 weeks of constant walking, our legs were tired but no blisters (yet).
Darin and I walked to Maruetsu, which is a local grocery store, to pick up some food to make at home. On our menu:
- Chicken Karaage (Japanese fried chicken bites, with a soy-ginger-garlic flavor). It is common to dip the chicken pieces into Japanese mayo, and then pour a bit of soy sauce on top
- Yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles, one of Darin's favorites)
- Gyoza (Japanese potstickers)
- Shumai (Somewhat like potstickers, but they're steamed instead of pan-fried)
- Japanese croquette (mashed potato filled with ground beef, battered in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried)
- Crab Cream croquette
Ebi Fry (Japanese shrimp battered in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried)
On our way home, we couldn't not stop at Takagi bread bakery, located right around the corner from the house. You can usually smell the scent of fresh bread down the block, so I couldn't resist. I got the Curry Pan (Bread filled with curry inside)
Lunch was so good, but we had so much food! We couldn't finish it all.
Although we had managed to wash all the laundry, the clothes were still not dried by the time our uncle called us to let us know he was on his way to pick us up. Since many Japanese homes don't have dryers (everyone hang dried their clothes), and because it was raining outside, the clothes were hang-drying inside and weren't dry. At all. My uncle suggested we take them to a coin laundry place near his home and dry them there. It'd only take 30 minutes. So off we loaded his car with our stuff and cleaned-but-still-wet laundry.
We stopped by the launderer, and let them dry our clothes. Then we headed to the house. My aunt Sumiyo is an excellent cook, and made us a feast tonight.
I normally don't like kimchi, but I loved this one
Homemade macaroni salad
Takuan (Japanese pickled horseradish)
Japanese tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlets)
Along with sauces- Japanese mayo and Tonkatsu sauce
She made this soup which was outstanding
Nimono- Japanese fish stock filled with seafood (octopus, squid, fish, etc)
After dinner, we all snacked and sat around the table talking. My uncle knows a bit of English especially though his line of work. Many Japanese actually understand more English- they say they understand a lot more than they can speak. All of us talked for a few hours at the table and shared stories of our trip- we had a great time spending time with family.
I am so glad Darin felt at ease with my family. I could tell he genuinely enjoyed spending time with them, and I could also tell they really liked him too. My sister Naomi, my brother Ben, and I are all very close to my mom's side of the family despite the long distance between us. It really felt like old times despite not being back in Japan for about 14 years. We all laughed so much, especially as my relatives and Darin tried to talk back and forth in (broken) English. I was excited that Darin and my family could get to know each other, and have a fun time doing so.
While talking, we snacked on dried squid- it sounds gross, but it's really good. Darin's first time trying it
Shrimp sticks- Darin really liked these
Sweet potato sticks
... And some butter peanuts
We also watched some DVRed footage of the tsunami and earthquake that they had recorded at the time of the events. My uncle Hiroshi was at work when the earthquake happened. He told us about how he couldn't stand at all, the floor of his building was shaking so hard. Windows had cracked and were breaking around him. He (and all of his colleagues) had fallen to the ground and trying to brace themselves from the strong shakes. Glass was breaking all around him, shelving was toppling over, amd it was all he could do to not fall. Books were hitting him, but he couldn't even try to move- he couldn't move at all. He said he thought he was going to die that day. Obviously, there were no trains working, and him (as well as everyone around him) were stranded at the office that evening. He also said that Tsurumaki (where he lives) had suffered some cosmetic damage- one of the nearby apartments started to lean (due to uneven ground), the roads were completely cracked and split, and parking lots became uneven due to the quakes. They lost electricity, there was no food left in grocery stores, they couldn't even purchase rice. They lived by flashlights and candles for a full week following the event. They were so lucky to not have been injured during that time.
I took these pictures roughly 2.5 months after the earthquakes so my uncle Hiroshi said a lot of the most important cosmetic damages have been fixed, but we did see some that were still being repaired.
Here is a small crack in the road that completely went across the entire road. This is considered a "minor" crack. There were apparently some cracks that were quite wide, and those had been already repaired
Some concrete decor that crumbled due to the shakes