I have been to countries where I didn't speak the language before, but this is the first time we couldn't read street signs or make out any words on menus. Pictures came in handy in restaurants, and our record for receiving what we thought we ordered was a respectable 60-40. A very tasty place to visit, overall. Chris did a good job of memorizing some essentials from the phrase book, but I would just smile and nod furiously, saying "arigato" as often as possible. This strategy, coupled with a lot of pointing and gesturing, worked surprisingly well. Furthermore, if we stood in one place for a while looking stupid, someone would eventually approach and ask in broken English if we needed help. (Note to self: Be extra nice to non-English speaking tourists.) That said, I'd like to take a basic Japanese course before we go back and see the rest of Japan.
Visitors breathing "holy smoke" outside a Shinto temple in Asakusa. A Japanese man sweetly told us that if we inhaled the smoke it would make us "beautiful and healthy." No discernable improvements, so far.
There is an extremely busy Krispy Kreme in Shibuya. You'll be glad to know that the original glazed and the coffee are exactly the same as in the States, but they also have a few unusual doughnut choices:
Waiting in the long line for doughnuts, it occurred to me that everyone speaks the international language of deliciousness.
We talked to this guy for a long time when we were eating lunch in a soba noodle house. By "talked" I mean he gestured a lot and we gestured back as he only spoke a few words of English.
Me blending in with the locals. Tokyo has the most sparkly clean subways I've ever seen, though they were crazy during rush hour.
Shibuya at night.
Grounds outside the Imperial Palace
Chris grabbing a beer from the vending machine near our hotel. There are vending machines on every corner in Tokyo, selling soft drinks, water, alcohol, cigarettes -- you name it. (Incidentally, I think Chris was embarrassed that I made him pose for this picture on a very busy street. I argue that if there is any place in the world to feel completely comfortable as a camera-wielding tourist, it is Japan.)
Now we are back in NZ, completely exhausted but really happy and grateful for such a smooth and amazing around-the-world adventure. It has been wonderful to kiss the dogs and sleep in our own bed and eat food from our own kitchen. (Chris is making spaghetti tonight! Woo hoo!) I'd be lying if I said returning to Dunedin feels like coming "home," but I'm ready and excited to start working and regain a routine and a sense of normalcy that I really haven't had since we moved here. Let's see where we go from here ...