Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Just When You Think You've Seen Everything, You See Something Else

Koi at Ofuna Botanical Garden
I have never had to remove my shoes when passing through security at Tokyo's Narita Airport and, until today, had never seen anyone else remove their shoes either.

The Ancient Mariner and I were loitering near the security gate doing our best to embarrass College Boy when we saw a young female guard approach two comely young Asian girls in his line. Both were fashionably dressed in short skirts and tall boots. The guard solemnly presented a pair of slippers to each of these girls. They changed footwear and padded compliantly through the metal detector.

Ah, the civility!

United Airlines gets a thumbs up as well for not charging Matt $200 for his overweight suitcase. The counter clerk waived the fee and wished him a happy new year, thereby changing one teenager's opinion of the airline that extracted $400 from him at the Norfolk Airport when he was returning to Japan from college last summer.

When I was his age, I hadn't flown enough to have opinions about airlines. I also didn't have $400 in my pocket. More like $4 on a flush day.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Year of the Dragon, Day Two

The Year of the Dragon is off to a rather inauspicious start. The camera has not yet surfaced. What? Me worry? Not until I work my way through a backlog of pictures I've been meaning to share. Surely the camera is somewhere under all the Christmas debris that I fully intend to tackle once we get back from escorting College Boy to the airport tomorrow.  Or maybe I left it at the Indian restaurant in Hayama last week in which case it won't take a lot of arm-twisting to convince the Ancient Mariner to make a return visit.

While I can't speak for College Boy (more's the pity), I imagine he'll be feeling terribly sad when he boards that airplane and leaves Japan for what could very well be the last time.  We will have moved back to the States by the time his school year ends.  When will he see his girlfriend again?  This is definitely the downside of living overseas during high school.  "You can never go home again" takes on a whole new meaning.

Now for some pictures.  I snapped these in early December when we went to the Ikebana International Holiday Bazaar in Tokyo.  The first is one of those rare arrangements to earn an "I could do that!" response from me.  The fences bordering two sides of our Norfolk house are covered with vines that I am forever hacking into shape.  Sticking the debris in a vase would probably be a lot easier than wrestling it into a lawn and garden bag. 

We saw this sign over the restroom door in a subway station near Shiba Park. It cracked me up. Go figure.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lucky Bags: A New Year's Day Tradition

More than a hundred years ago, in the late Meiji period, a Tokyo department store came up with the brilliant idea of bagging up their excess merchandise from the previous year and selling those "mystery bags" to customers for deep discounts on New Year's Day.  The idea caught on with other merchants and these days fukubukuro (lucky bag, mystery bag) are more often filled with new products than last year's leftovers.

Fukubukuro come at a variety of different prices. Most bags we eyed today went for $20 or $30 but I also spotted some tempting $100 bags stuffed with yarn at the craft store, all the more tempting because the bags were clear.

We opted to fork over $30 to a pair of charming young clerks manning a table outside the new Tully's coffee shop on Blue Street.  Their fukubukuro was packaged in a nice zippered case rather than the usual paper or plastic bag and the case alone seemed like a pretty good investment.  The cases were available in two colors, pink and grey, and I had my hand on a pink one until the Ancient Mariner suggested a grey one would make a nice "man-purse".

When I remember where I put my camera, I'll snap off a few photos of the case and its contents:  five coupons for free coffee, a 5-pound bag of Guatemalan coffee, six instant drip coffee packets, a Year of the Dragon ceramic mug, and an airtight humidor for storing coffee.

If the Ancient Mariner hadn't been with me, I definitely would have carried home one or two of those yarn fukubukuro too.  I'm counting the hours until he goes back to work.


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