Monday, September 11, 2006

Bullet time

Monday, September 11 - Caaaaaaa-Rack! It's 4:30am and I'm shaken out of bed by... a car crash? Or maybe an earthquake? Nope. Thunder. The sky lights up and illuminates my room. Twenty seconds later, another brain-jarring crash. I rush to the window to check out the show. Crazy electricity fills the horizon. To the south, a dazzling hot white bolt splits the sky in half. I try in vain to capture a quick video of the storm, but of course the lightning stops. Sigh. Back to bed.

Today Teena and Deb have to work, so Nana and I must venture out on our own. We'd been nervous about this day for awhile. I mean, really, have you seen a map of the Japanese train system? Talk about a sloppy bowl of soba noodles.

We decide we're not leaving Japan without a ride on one of the fastest forms of public transportation on the planet. We manage to take some train to some other train, then transfer to a different train altogether. Finally, we make it to the Mother of All Trains. The world famous Shinkansen - Bullet Train.

It takes us all of 20 minutest to get to our destination. The small town of Odawara. After a quick lunch of ramen and pork, we hike out to the town's big landmark - Odawara Castle. A beautiful piece of ancient Japanese architecture that was originally built in 1417, then rebuilt in 1960.

We take a quick tour of the Edo-era castle and its on-site zoo, then hit downtown. Odawara's a sweet little city, chock full of cool shops, restaurants, video arcades, pachinko parlors and more barber shops per capita than I've ever seen. Nana and I buy a few souvenirs, including a badass adidas duffel-purse thing, and head back to the train station. Time to meet up with Teena and Hiroko for a 6 o'clock tofu dinner.

Well, it takes a good hour and a half to make it back to Tokyo, but as it turns out, Teena's running late too. In fact, we end up on the same train as she, and we all meet up together with the always-punctual Hiroko. Hiroko treats us to a phenomenal multi-course dinner at a high-end tofu restaurant - a unique experience to end our stay in mainland Japan.

So tomorrow we get up early and fly to Okinawa. Time to get the bags packed...


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