Trip to Japan 2013 – Day 5

I woke up a little later than usual. After dressing and washing up, I went to look for Jason and George. They hadn’t locked their door, so I walked right in. Nobody was around. Punks. They left for breakfast without me.

I went downstairs. I had an breakfast ticket because Bobby didn’t stay at the hotel. I walked through the entrance to the dining hall and spotted George and Jason near a window. I walked over. Unfortunately, the deep fried stuff from the day before was not being served. The only deep-fried food was calamari, which was not my favorite, so I had eggs, sausages, tofu with light soy sauce, and some salad, which consisted mostly of sprouts. It actually was kind of tasty with the dressing. I didn’t feel that that was substantial enough, so I ended up having some calamari anyway. And like the day before, we got our fill of machine-dispensed milk tea.

We chatted a bit and then went upstairs to gather our belongings. I did one last check to make sure I had everything, and then went to the lobby. We were early, so I went up the staircase to look at the stained glass window one last time and to take some shots of it. I then went outside for a bit to enjoy the sunshine. Aside from the strong winds, it seemed that our tour of Tokyo was not going to be hindered by unpleasant weather after all.

When I came back in, George and Jason had disappeared. That’s when a hotel clerk asked me about paying for breakfast. How did he know I ate?? I realized that I had left the ticket upstairs, so I had to go back upstairs to get it. I came down and gave it to the clerk, who politely thanked me. Then I saw George and Jason just returning from the gift shop. I told them about having to pay for breakfast, but clerk didn’t ask them for any tickets or money. Oh well.

We waited for an hour before the bus came. There was another, bigger group of Asian tourists who also boarded with us. We certainly hit the minimum number of passengers required this time, so the bus left right on time.

Out here in the countryside, there was not a lot of traffic. One small street we had to traverse was a one-lane street, and the rule was that whoever got there first had the right of way. However, our bus arrived with several cars behind us, so when we turned into the street and discovered another car already there, we could not back up. The other car backed up into an alley to let us pass. I wonder what would have happened if there were multiple cars from the other direction as well, and how a similar situation would have turned out in the U.S.

We got off the bus at the Honda Station and stood outside the station in the wind, waiting for Michelle and Kaori to arrive. I tried to get a sense of where we were by looking at a schematic of the rail system. I could not make any sense of it, and gave up.

Michelle and Kaori soon arrived. They had come from church after Kaori had finished teaching the youth group. Michelle was carrying a huge duffle bag, since she was leaving at night and not staying with the Bindewalds. Kaori was wearing a light backpack.

We rushed through the turnstiles (George just bought all three tickets at once, saving us time), but the train was late anyway.

I was quiet most of the time as Jason, Michelle, and George made conversation. Kaori didn’t speak much either, except in Japanese with Michelle. While the guys were holding on to the rails, Kaori just stood. Thus began our train-surfing lesson of the day. I was trying to figure out how she kept her balance as the train jolted around, wondering whether she had ridden the train so many times that perhaps she remembered where all the kinks and bends were (yep, my mind tends to invent the most ludicrous explanations for things). Then I realized I was subconsciously planting my feet when I didn’t need to. Being able to move made it a lot easier to stay balanced. Of course, we all tried to keep our feet together too, and see how long we could stay upright. Even Kaori had trouble staying up! While we had fun, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the other passengers might have been thinking, “Those stupid Americans, they don’t have any sense of propriety.”

I commented to Michelle that we haven’t seen a homeless person since we came to Japan. She informed us that there definitely were homeless people, but they didn’t come out during the day. She said there were sections of the city where tents would just pop up during the night.

Kaori also shared about herself a bit. I learned that she went to Chiba University, majoring in Peanut-Making… I kid. Her major was actually Education. She also knew Bengali. She said she was studying it to go to Bangladesh on missions. It was hard for me to hear though, so I wasn’t able to catch much of the conversation.

The train at Chiba Station was much more crowded. There was no space on any of the cars for more than a few of us, so George, Kaori, and I squeezed into one car. Jason just kept walking, so Michelle ran after him and got into another car with him. I was so glad that we had two tour guides. =]

As usual, George was the more conversational one, so he led the way in talking to Kaori, who recounted how Mark and Megumi met. I also asked her where she thought everyone on the train was going. She didn’t know, but speculated that it was to Tokyo, most likely for leisure—what people usually do on weekends. I guess I had been studying so long that I forgot what it was like to have weekends free.

We eventually got off at Asakusa Station (I think). We walked across the subway station looking for places to put our stuff. I didn’t have that much cash left, so I was also looking for an ATM. We emerged in a little alleyway. There was a locker room where we found a big locker for cheap. We managed to stuff everything in it for a measly ¥400. We were quite proud of ourselves.

There were some small shops in they alley. I wondered which one we were going to eat at, and what kind of food we were going to have, but it seemed Michelle had her own ideas. Since we didn’t have that many meals left in Japan, I think Michelle wanted us to go somewhere special.

We walked out of the alleyway onto a bigger street. We turned a corner and were immediately greeted by hundreds of people. Cars filled the street. We suddenly saw a truck bearing giant female robot models while blaring rave music. It seemed to be an advertisement for a cafe.

At a corner across from the giant 雷門 gate (Kaminarimon), we saw several guys wearing what seemed almost like ninja suits. It turned out they were rickshaw pullers. Michelle asked one of them for his recommendation for lunch. Later, she told me that the rickshaw pullers probably knew the town the best, and they must get really hungry from all the physical exertion, so they probably knew the best places to eat.

We made our way to this restaurant. There were many people out and about. I assumed this was the typical weekend in Tokyo. The restaurant was hidden on a side street somewhere. This lack of demarcation between commercial and residential zones is something I find rather interesting (and attractive) about the city. Maybe I just haven’t lived in enough cities. Anyway, we soon found the place Michelle was looking for. The place was small, with two columns of tables and a narrow aisle in between. The tables only seated four, but one of the other customers gave us a fifth chair, and so we squeezed in, three with our backs to kitchen and two across from us. I was on the edge of the three-person row, but had to move because the waitress had a hard time getting through, so we had to shuffle around. It turned out I was the lucky one and got to sit with the girls.

We discovered that it was the policy of the restaurant that we each had to order a drink. Most of the drinks were familiar and I could get them in the U.S., but there were two drinks I found interesting: a melon drink and ラムネ (which sounded like “lemonade,” but was actually a traditional Japanese soda). According to Jason, he had Ramune in the states as well, though it was pretty expensive.

Michelle and Kaori ordered for us. I had no idea what they got, but was prepared to enjoy it. The first dish that came was a mixture of meat and veggies and a bowl of batter. They put it in front of us, and gave us tiny spatulas. I wasn’t sure if they were going to come cook it for us, or whether we had to do it ourselves. After a few minutes, we proceeded to do it ourselves. We mixed some batter into the bowl of chopped cabbage, pieces of pork, kernels of corn, and stems of sprouts. After mixing it up, we poured it on the grill and stir-fried it. As it was cooking, we spread it into a ring, and then poured the remainder of the batter into the center of the volcano, trying to reinforce its walls with our spatulas so that it would not leak. The batter never really hardened, so after a while, we decided it was safe to eat. All the dainty little spatulas started cutting into the “pancake,” and it was soon devoured. I kept trying to learn the word for it (もんじゃ焼き, or monjayaki), but the only thing I could remember that it started with “mon,” which reminded me of mango…

The next dish was called お好み焼き (okonomiyaki), something I had before in the States. It had no batter, so we just stir-fried it on the grill. We made it into a pie and cut it into fifths. George was impressed by my skill of cutting into fifths. I admired his skill of making volcanoes.

I wasn’t sure if it was polite in Japan to serve others first, but Jason, being the gentleman, went ahead and served Kaori. Not to be outdone, I took the big spatula and dropped a slab of the pie onto Michelle’s plate. She was an American after all, so whatever the Japanese custom was, it was at least safe to do that. When I asked about it though, Kaori told us serving others was a very polite gesture, so when the next okonomiyaki came out, I tried to serve them before anyone else got a chance, hahahaha.

The last dish was fried noodles and disappeared pretty quickly. I was wondering if this was all the food we ordered. It seemed to be the case. But since it was a somewhat late lunch anyway and we were going to go beef-tasting in the evening, I did not worry too much about being hungry. In fact, I never really felt I was really that hungry in Japan. Perhaps I was just too tired or preoccupied with my surroundings to be hungry. Or maybe it was my confused circadian rhythm.

I put in the rest of my cash for the bill and seriously hoped we would pass by an ATM soon. But we never seemed to be near any, so for the sake of convenience, I ended up borrowing $100 from the Bank of George and exchanged it for ¥10000 at the Bank of Michelle, who each were carrying loads of cash. Go figure. George and Jason each also traded in their $100s for ¥10000. I asked if Michelle or Kaori had any dinner plans and offered to treat them to dinner (as long as the restaurant accepted card, I wouldn’t have to worry that I didn’t have the cash).

On our way back, we saw another strange truck playing techno (it was a little less unusual than the first one we saw earlier, but no less gaudy). This naturally led to the topic of cafes and—you guessed it—Maid cafes. Michelle told us her one experience with a maid cafe was that it was really expensive and the ice cream wasn’t even that good. Not only was the ticket over ¥2000, but they also tried to get her to take a ¥4000 photo with a maid, which she got out of. I sure wasn’t ever going to go to one of those things.

We went back the way we came, and arrived at the gate to the path to the Asakusa temple. After having our picture taken by a stranger at the gate with a big lantern, we went through it and joined the sea of people travelling to and from the Buddhist temple. On either side of the street were booths of vendors, selling souvenirs, trinkets, food, more trinkets, and more food. Over the storefronts hung branches of cherry blossoms. The crowd was not too noisy, and the ground seemed to be clean, so I didn’t mind the people too much.

We stopped at a shop selling small fake ¥10,000,000 bills. It looked really cool, until we looked closely and noticed the rather ridiculous eyelashes, which seemed as if they had been drawn with a pen. At first I thought it was a prank, but noticed all the bills were like that. The store owners told us (or rather, told Michelle) that it was to prevent people from thinking they were real.

We stopped by a small booth selling green tea ice cream, and we each bought one. George and Jason paid for Michelle and Kaori, as Michelle had wanted dessert for her unmatched exchange rate. We weren’t allowed to walk and eat at the same time, presumably to keep the streets clean, though it would probably have been a good advertising tactic for the vendors. Jason also bought these balls made from rice flour. I think they were covered in some kind of powder (peanut or sesame?).

As we were eating, we saw a grandma holding a shiba, a very cute breed of dog. A small audience had gathered around her, and were fawning over the cuteness of the puppy. We soon joined the circle and took some photos of it, Michelle chatting with her.

Afterwards, we were ushered to a side “street” to finish our dessert because of the lack of space on the main path. But the interesting thing is, people listened to her. It seemed like everyone here really valued order, which was further evidenced by the number of disposal bins for different materials (some plastic, some paper, some food).

A few booths down, Michelle introduced a Japanese toy to us. A colorful wooden ball was attached to a gavel by a string, and the goal was to toss the ball up into the air with one end of the gavel head and catch it with the other by rotating the gavel, and so on. One of the ends was smaller than the other, which made it very difficult. Michelle demonstrated for us, and each of the guys had a turn playing with it. As the others were playing, I thought to myself, “How hard would it be to pick it up?” It turned out it was quite hard. Yup.

Jason and George told Michelle that their hallmark activity was going around places and eating. They did not disappoint her. Some ways down, they found a booth of deep-fried balls with filling and bought one for each of us. We huddled in a circle, and shared our balls. There was a custard ball, two green teas, a peanut one, and a sesame one. They were all pretty good, but I think peanut and custard are pretty hard to beat.

We finally came to the temple. We went up the stairs briefly to take a look. A giant lantern hung above the entrance. Through the gate, there was a crowd of people facing the interior where the shrine sat, separated from the people outside by a glass window. A monk seemed to be performing some rites inside. I snapped a few photos and then descended the stairs of the temple. I never felt comfortable around shrines and temples.

By this time, it was almost three. I was pretty sure we were going to be late to the Redeemer Tokyo service that Kevin invited us to. But we had one more thing to see, so Michelle led us eastward toward Sumida River, toward the tall tower that had been in our field of view pretty much ever since we arrived. We came to the river and had an unobstructed view of the Tokyo Skytree (which had just been completed), which was more than half a kilometer high. A little to the south, there was a square shaped building with a gold-colored gourd-shaped structure on top. Michelle told us it was supposed to be a cup of coffee with steam on top, but everyone called it the “golden turd.” We took some nice photos there and then we had to hustle toward the metro.

We got our stuff out of our locker and then boarded the subway. The ride was about twenty minutes long. I didn’t really know where we were going, but George and Jason had been in contact with Kevin, and Michelle seemed to know where to go, so I just followed them. At the station, we walked quite a length along some tunnels. We finally emerged out onto the street. This was supposed to be the place, but we did not see any people anywhere. We looked around and found the entrance on another side of the giant commercial building under which the tunnels sat. There was a sign that indicated that Grace City Church Tokyo was on the second floor, so we knew we were at the right place.

We walked in, went up the stairs, and were greeted by some women in the foyer. There was a children’s class going on, taught by a young man who seemed to be giving me dirty looks. I dropped my stuff off, and then picked up the last translation device left. We quietly made our way into a large meeting room used for the service. We walked across the back of the room and up the side aisle, sitting behind Kaori and Michelle. The earpiece was shaped strangely, and so I took a few moments to figure out how to put it on. I saw that George had it on already, so I just copied him.

As the Japanese pastor preached, English translation followed. I was curious whether it was prerecorded and if so, how it was timed, but I soon observed a man sitting right in front of the pastor, speaking quietly into a microphone. I was pretty impressed at the live translation (as well as the directional microphone). The sermon was on Luke 24:13-35 and the pastor was focusing on the “hearts burning within us.” I didn’t remember too much from the sermon because I was distracted by the setting. The service was both foreign (literally) and famiilar. The pastor would speak a few words or sentences and the translator would be quiet. Then a few moments later, I would hear a short English sentence from the earpiece. Michelle was sure he wasn’t translating everything the pastor said, but translation is hard work, so one couldn’t expect too much. From what I heard, UN translators would take a break every 15 minutes because simultaneous interpretation was so mentally demanding. Not only does one have to parse in one language, but one has to synthesize in another, all in real-time.

The congregation was about 140 people, in 7 rows of 20. We had communion after the message. After the whole service was over, the worship team’s pianist played some Chopin (if I recall correctly) as people socialized. The scene wasn’t too far off from what it would be like in the U.S., except the members consisted of a lot of Japanese people. The pianist seemed to be very talented. Kaori and Michelle greeted some people they knew. The Christian and especially the Reformed community was so small that people knew each other from one church to another. According to Kaori, Mark was pretty well-known here. I also saw Kevin Otsuka, but didn’t talk too much with him, since he was talking to others. I just listened in here and there. Jason was able to connect with a guy from New York, where the “original” Redeemer was located. The guy talked about his work in a recent ministry event that gathered artists together and to which some very talented people came.

After a bit, I walked into the anteroom, where drinks were served. I spotted トイレ on a sign outside, so I was able to find the restroom without trouble. “トイレはどこですか?” I thought to myself. Recalling the first question Mark taught me made me smile. I came back and poured myself some juice, and then sat down. George soon joined me. He was preoccupied with his phone. Kaori sat down too. I think we were tired of walking and standing most of the day.

I got to speak with Kaori a bit more. I wasn’t exactly sure what we talked about, but I did ask her what her name meant. She explained that her name meant “fragrance,” as used in 2 Corinthians 2:14 (“aroma” as translated in the NIV). Then I remembered that I had heard that word before in an old song I used to listen to back in my high school days—Utada Hikaru’s “First Love.” Only then, it was the “fragrance” of tobacco. Not the most appropriate imagery…

We were among the last people to leave. Outside the building, the sun lit up the clouds in such a way that made me think of heaven. Then Kevin led us on our way to dinner. Wagyu beef tasting was the order of the evening.

Outside the Shibuya Station in Tokyo, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people standing around. I was a little curious as to why there were so many people. Kaori told me that it was a popular meeting spot. There was also a bronze statue of a dog under a tree, and many people were taking photos with it. Michelle explained to us that the dog of the statue belonged to a professor. When he went to work, the dog would wait at the station for him to return. One day, the professor did not return, but the dog faithfully waited there every day thereafter. It was quite a touching story of loyalty from man’s best friend.

Soon we crossed the “world’s busiest intersection.” Kevin told me that this was the intersection on the cover of Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. When the light turned, hundreds of people would scramble across the intersection. Many people took photos in that short interval. One guy took a photo of his friend lying on the ground. Another photographer waited until the people cleared out to take the photo, but unfortunately for him, Michelle decided to be mischievous and ran out into the intersection to photobomb the picture, even as the light turned. The stragglers scrambled out of the intersection so the guy couldn’t take another photo for the couple. I felt bad for them, but it was also very funny.

We then walked many blocks. Among the sea of people, Kevin at over six feet tall wasn’t easy to lose sight of. Occasionally, we came across a street whose name I recognized from a stop I heard on the subway. Kevin and Michelle led the way, with Jason and George following. Kaori and I brought up the rear. She asked about my life in the States and about my background, as she knew a little about me from the speech. I don’t remember that I talked much. We had been walking at a slight incline for about 10 minutes, and I was thinking about random things and just taking everything in. We finally came to a huge T-intersection, when Michelle and Kaori split from us to meet Michelle’s friend at the subway station, who was going to join us for dinner.

Kevin then led the way to the restaurant. The street on which we were walking was a bit dark. When we finally got to the restaurant, it was in an alley that was even darker, so Jason joked about our bodies being discovered the next day. _ When we got to the restaurant, we were seated in a room for 15. Kevin had made the reservations, so I assumed a bunch of Kevin’s friends were going to join us, but they were actually George’s friends—well three of them were, at least; he knew them from poker. The rest were all strangers to him too, but almost all of them worked at Twitter. They we were on some business trip or vacation or something. Jason and I sat in one corner at a small table, George sat at the corner of the larger table to be next to us, and the Twitter guys sat around the large table. Kevin joined us at the little table. There were three spaces near me, one on my right and two across.

Kaori, Michelle, and her friend Michi came in about thirty minutes after we were seated. Kaori ended up next to me again and Michelle and Michi sat across from me. Somehow, I had expected that arrangement. Michelle introduced us to her friend Michi, who apparently learned English and picked up a British accent from watching Harry Potter. Quite impressive. Michelle told me how they met, and it was the most convoluted story I’ve heard. I had learned it, but then forgot it. It went like this…

When she studied in Chiba, Michelle met a German guy whose friend (a girl) was married to an American guy, whose family lived near the Grand Canyon, so when Michelle and her German friend came to the U.S., they stayed with the American guy’s family. However, her Japanese friend was visiting, and he brought his friend too. When the friend of the Japanese friend went back, he told his friend about the fun that he had in the States, so the next summer, the friend of the friend of the Japanese friend came and Michelle went out to meet him. When Michelle returned to Japan to work, the friend of the friend of the Japanese friend introduced her to Michi, and that’s how they came to know each other. Yop.

I suddenly remembered I needed to let the Bindewalds know when I was going to be back home. I was pretty sure we would stay out pretty late. Michelle fortunately saved the day again, and told me she had already contacted them and had arranged for them to keep the door unlocked from me. Man, what would I have done without her? She pretty much made the trip.

In any case, having Michelle there made all the difference for all of us. She improved our experience tenfold, as she was the only one fluent enough in both Japanese and English to be able to translate the things that the waitresses (who happened to be very pretty) told us about each course: which part of the cow it was from, how to eat it, and with what sauce. The courses came out at about ten to fifteen minute intervals. The waitresses would grill the pieces of meat at the table for each of us. They knew the right timing and how to fold the expertly cut slices.

The meat was Kobe beef, which came from Wagyu cattle. (Kobe Bryant was apparently named after Kobe beef!) These cattle were purportedly fed with sake and beer, which gave them their distinctive flavor. In Japan where beef is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, they were considered to be grade 5 beef—the highest. For some of the dishes, the beef was to be eaten with sea salt and light onion topping. Some dishes came with special light sauce. In one of the courses, the beef was to be mixed with raw egg yolk. Another was to be eaten with daikon. For another course, a small ball of rice came in a disproportionately large bowl; the meat was to be wrapped around the little rice ball. All the pieces of meat were extremely tender; they felt like they were melting in my mouth. We half-joked that beef would never taste the same again. I shared my aspiration to make my own beef when I got back to the States, using Safeway beef.

There was a salad break in the middle of all this and miso soup at the end (typically, the filler foods came after all the special food has been eaten). We opted to get an additional “special” dish for the addition of ¥1500 per person. What more was ¥1500 when we already ate ¥10000 worth? Anyway, this was supposed to be the most tender part of the cow, but I don’t think any of us had refined enough taste to be able to tell. Nevertheless, it kept me from being hungry.

At the very end, we had dessert. I got sesame ice cream. Michelle also got it, but then after she found out there might have been nuts in it (I think it was actually crushed coffee beans), she spit it out. Better safe than sorry.

Kaori had been sitting next to me the whole time. I would ask her questions on occasion, but we didn’t talk much. I felt kind of bad because I understood the conversation coming from the other table, but she didn’t, so I tried to explain to her what the other guys were talking about. I tried to explain what “slowroll” meant, since the others at the table were talking about poker and slowrolling. (Apparently some guy slowrolled the wrong dude and the opponent was waiting for him in the parking lot with brass knuckles… yeah, slowrolling is that rude.) I wasn’t too good at explaining what “slowroll” meant, but I think one of the others at our table explained it better.

Other topics that floated over from the other table included how one of the Twitter guys was at a club, and then was almost kicked out for dancing… and then a few hours later, everyone was allowed on the dance floor—what?? Somehow, the topic of Bitcoins also came up. Michelle said her brother gave her some bitcoins a few years ago, when it was a few dollars. She said she might have about 50 of them. That day, the price of Bitcoin hit about $150, so we were amazed. She called her brother to find out how many he had actually purchased, but we joked that her brother might take back the gift if she raised his suspicions and he goes to check on its price. But it turned out he had only gotten her one. I was disappointed.

Anyway, Kaori didn’t talk much, but we bonded through eating. Sometimes I would act a little goofy and made her laugh. I hope she had a good time, though I wish I had been a little more conversational.

As the dinner was wrapping up, it was already almost ten—too late to go to one more scenic spot Michelle had in mind—up a tall tower for a nighttime view of the city. To get there would have taken 40 minutes by subway and the last elevator was at 10:30, so we were not guaranteed to make it. She had decided to take a bus back to Nagoya that night, so I don’t think she could have stayed that late anyway. But I told her I might be back in Japan in August, so she offered to meet up with me and take me around Japan then. Jason and George were going to hang out with Kevin the next day, so I was going to be all alone at Bindewalds for half the day. Jason was bemoaning how he had nobody to hang out with on Tuesday and Wednesday except possibly Kaori, which suddenly gave me an idea…

I asked Kaori if she was free the next morning. Since Mark didn’t have the time to take us to her parents’ ramen restaurant, I decided it would be the perfect time to go. My flight was in the afternoon, I had no other plans, and making my own way back to the airport would have been quite a sad way to leave. I didn’t want to spend my last moments alone, so I asked Kaori if she wanted to grab lunch the next day at her parents’ shop. Maybe I could get to talk to her more, since I didn’t say much that night. I needed to buy mochi for stateside friends and relatives too, so we set a time to meet.

We tried to get the bill paid as fast as possible. The total for the meal for all of us ended up being ¥175,800. Yeah. That was one expensive dinner, but I was glad to have experienced it. Good thing tax was less than in California, and there’s no tip! They accepted credit cards, which was good, because I did not have enough cash to pay my share and for Kaori and Michelle (George, Jason, and I decided to treat the girls). The last train out of the nearest station was at 10:52, and by 10:30, the bill still hadn’t been paid. Michelle stepped in once again to save the day and asked them on my behalf to have my card processed first. (ありがとうございました!)

We said our goodbyes, and then Michi, Michelle, Kaori, and I left the restaurant. Because Michelle and Michi were leaving that night, and George and Jason were going with Kevin, Kaori was the only one left to accompany me back to Chiba. I had no idea where the station was, but fortunately she had gone with Michelle, so she knew the way. We ran most of the way, Kaori with her backpack and I carrying my laptop bag and camera bag over my shoulders and my luggage in my arms. We had to stop multiple times to catch our breath.

When we got to the station entrance, it was boarded up! I was worried we had to run to the next station down (did I tell you my mind thinks of the craziest things?). By this time I was sweating and tired. Silly me didn’t realize there were multiple entrances to the same station, so we didn’t have to walk as far as I thought we did. Fortunately, we got there on time. While we were waiting in line, I pointed out to Kaori we were standing in the Green Car line (a Green Car pass costs more, but I think it guarantees a spot in a “Green Car,” which was double-layered and had seats so that one didn’t have to stand, especially in a crowd). Kaori laughed, a little embarrassed, and said, “You are right!”

At Kamatori Station, Mrs. Oguro picked us up, like the first night I was in Chiba. I was very thankful that she stayed up so late to take me to the Bindewalds, and decided to get her something the next day.

When I got back to the Bindewalds, the lights were already off. I took the room that Michelle stayed in the first night I was in Japan, quietly washed up, and went to bed. I didn’t want to wake anyone up with a shower. I fell asleep pretty quickly.