Saturday, July 19, 2014

Last Day in Tokyo

To soften the blow of returning to work for Jason, we opted to fly back to Seattle on Saturday instead of Sunday.  We booked a late afternoon flight, anticipating that we'd have more sights to see.

After some deliberation, we fell back on our Western European ways and opted to go to an art museum.  But first?  Breakfast.  And where better than the place across the street from the hotel:

Really, it was out of curiosity.  Although I could not recall the last time I ate at a Denny's in the States, after seeing them all over Japan (oddly, Outback Steakhouse also seems to be a popular chain) we wanted to see how much the menu varied here:

The answer is not too much.  Aside from a side column offering rice and miso soup (naturally), the dishes looked to be about what you'd expect.  The main difference turned out to be the simplicity of the menu (you see the entire thing up there with the exception of smoothies) and the smaller, much more reasonable portion sizes:

That's an avocado smoothie with chocolate syrup, if you're wondering.  It was very avocado-y.

We hopped on the metro to Ueno, the Smithonian-esque park home to several museums.  The billboards and banners we passed advertising all of the different exhibitions were enticing, but we had already set our sights on the kimono collection at the National Museum.

We paused to take a photo or two of the museum itself:

when suddenly two young boys in black pants and button-up white shirts came running up to us.

"Excuse me!  Excuse me!"  they called, even as they stood right in front of us.  A man, a little older than us, soon jogged up and joined them.  

He greeted us and explained that he is an English middle-school teacher here with two of his first-year students (so, they're probably about 12?  13?).  Their task - to find and interview native English speakers.  With prompting from their teacher, the boys asked, "Can we interview you?"

Heck yeah!  I was absolutely delighted by the whole affair - from their self-written questions (Where are you from?  What sports do you like?  What food do you like to eat?) to their beaming teacher who helped them with phrasing and vocabulary but kept the conversation 90% English (impressive, since they're first years!) to their moms who started the event watching from a distance under umbrellas but crept closer and closer as they couldn't resist listening in and occasionally mouthing the questions and our answers along with the boys.  They were clearly so proud of their boys, it was adorable.

At the end of the interview, they let us ask them questions (we opted for the safe, "What sports do you like?") and then told us we were their very first interview.  Aw!  We praised them and their teacher for doing such a good job, and with many bows from all of them we bade them farewell and continued on our way to the museum.

With only an hour, we scanned the museum map and made our top picks.  First up - kimonos.

The kimono display (which produced glares that kept me from getting a decent photo) included both embroidered and dyed kimonos, some from royalty displayed on 2-d standing plastic stands with accompanying woodblock prints from the same period to give you a sense of how they looked in context and some from Noh plays with masks and headdresses and a few paintings of performances:

We had enough time after that to swing through the armor:

I especially enjoyed the use of hair on the helmets:

Is the mustache for protection?  Intimidation?  Warmth?  Hipster points?

With much left to see (and self-assurances of future trips to Tokyo), we went back to the hotel to grab our luggage and catch the train to the airport.

Farewell, Japan!

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