“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want “…

Hey Everybody,

Bill Watterson had it right, in one sense, but wrong in another, there’s never enough time to do everything you want is more apt for the two weeks I hosted my sister who decided to fly across the world for a whirlwind trip across Japan.

sea glass beach and rocks
Sea Glass Beach in Ginoza, Okinawa.

So the last time Judy and I spent time together like this was a trip to Virginia Beach, years ago. Let me sum up that trip….it rained… a lot, we were poor and we only had money for pecan sandies and Dunkin’ Donuts on the ride back home. Oh and it rained a lot…and random ducks kept flying and landing near Judy. Good times…

sand dollar and sea glass
Sand dollar, sea glass and coral at Sea Glass Beach.

We are both a little more established in our lives and it was nice to welcome her over here and show her the places I have fallen in love with in the Ryukyu Kingdom and Japan.

We started out with a gorgeous day at Sea Glass Beach. The place has significance for me because when I first went up there I was lost in a field due to some crazy directions from Google Maps. I  wanted to be there for the sun rising over the Pacific. I called Tina at the time and we laughed and talked about our lives.  I missed the sunrise because we were laughing together, but it was one of the last long conversations we ever had. It was the best missed sunrise of my life.  Every time I go there, I feel her with me.

We are all a bunch of magpies in the family and if it shines or sparkles, we pick it up. We had a great day wandering around gathering glass and sand dollars…making taunting videos to our sister in New York.

blue fish in the water-1 (dragged)
One fish, two fish…many blue fish at Cape Hedo, I have never seen them before. I still don’t know what they are.

Then I had to take her to Cape Hedo because, it needs to be seen. We got to Nago and ran into the Tour de Okinawa…oh my goodness…we spent the day with them. I never realized how many people love road racing. All the way up and almost all the way down we had company on the road. Alas, no Yanbaru Kuina sightings…

king of the world
King of the world at Cape Hedo.

Judy also wanted to see the the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters. I mistakenly thought she meant the Gyokusendo Caves beneath Okinawa World, which I have been scrupulously avoiding for three years.

When I figured out that this was not at all what she wanted, Hallelujah! We hopped into the FunCargo and set off for the correct destination. I took a back way (again, thank you Google Maps for making my life interesting) and we came upon a bunch of guys that in America would be hanging out at the local Stewarts shop. However, they were playing gate ball…I have been trying to catch one of these games since I got here. I don’t know if it’s an Okinawa thing or is also on Mainland. The game seems to be a combination of golf and croquette.  Whoever gets the ball closest to the pin wins the hole and every one comes over and hands over some yen. It’s awesome!

gateball winner
Gate ball! He won the hole, and everyone gave him tribute, in the form of yen!
gateball putting
Gate Ball from above.
The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquaters. Japanese commanders killed themselves when they realized the war was lost.
commander's office
The Commander’s office

I was glad we went, it was hard to imagine this small space accommodating 4000 soldiers. There were small rooms hand-hewn by Japanese Navy Engineering Corps for the command to endure the typhoon of steel, launched by US Forces. The website is: http://kaigungou.ocvb.or.jp/english/ and explains things much better than I can. It is a haunted place and as Judy was walking behind me, I stepped aside to make room for the person behind her. However, there was no one there when I turned back. My little ghost story. It creeped her out quite a bit. The tunnels also have little plaques and explain each room. There was one room where there were so many men in small quarters, they would sleep standing up. All the misery and angst was imprinted on the place and I was glad I went, but sad when I was in there. It didn’t feel good.

underground water and caves
Gyokusendo Cave beneath Okinawa World in Nanjo, Okinawa.

So, after the first week of seeing Okinawa from stem to stern, it was time to check out Mainland.  Since Judy has been indoctrinated in the ways of Toyota, it was time for a trip to Toyota City (yes it really is called that) near Nagoya.

First however, I had to show her around the castle and Hommaru Palace. The signs read everywhere about the April 1945 air raids that destroyed pretty much everything in Nagoya. In case you forget, I guess, they put it on every sign. I had to restrain myself from bowing and saying gomen nasai repeatedly.  These screens captivated me when I was in Nagoya the last time and wanted to share them with Judy. She was as taken with them as I was and we kept remarking that my father would have loved this place…or palace as it were.

crane panel
Crane on gold at Hommaru Palace at Nagoya Castle.
nagoya castle
Nagoya Castle
tiger carp
Shachihoko – a mythical half tiger, half whale that adorns the roof of Nagoya Castle.
shops and restaurants at nagoya
Restaurants offer miso katsu, a Nagoya specialty.

The next morning we headed out to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of  Industry and Technology. I had originally tried to get plant tour tickets, but I was too late. Who knew you have to book way ahead of time!  Oh well, I got a wonderful education about Toyota, in that I had no idea they started out as a textile plant and that they still make their own car seats.  There was also the explanation of how Toyoda (the founder’s name) became Toyota in an attempt to take the focus off the individual and to put it on the company. Also to write Toyota takes eight strokes which is considered a good number.

judy at toyota industry
At the textile machine, where Toyota began…
toyota boys
Me and some future Japanese boy band members at the Toyota Commemorative Museum of  Industry and Technology.
metal parts of toyota
Demonstrating metal technique at ToyotaCommemorative Museum of  Industry and Technology.
the first toyota
The first Toyoda…
little boy at museum with robots
The whole band is here….at Toyota Commemorative Museum of  Industry and Technology.

I was looking around for all the cars when I realized there is another museum, the Automotive Museum about forty minutes away.

Being the much kinder of the two of us, Judy said we didn’t have to go over there to the other museum as she was the one who is the Toyota acolyte. It seemed a waste to be so close and not check it out. I mean really, when is either one of us ever going to be in Nagoya again?

mercedes and others
I don’t know what kind of Mercedes….only that it was stunning.

Oh boy am I glad we went. Not only did I fall in love with a Duesenberg Model J (it seemed right at home in the Great Gatsby), there was a Tucker Torpedo and a Messerschmitt. I thought they only made planes …to attack the Allies.

That red one is a Messerschmitt KR200 and the blue one opens up like a refrigerator, check the handle on the left side of the hood.
A Tucker Torpedo 48.
glass dragonfly
Rene Lalique, Art Nouveau and Art Deco glass artist on display at the Toyota Automotive Museum.

We enjoyed a nice Japanese meal there and then back on the train to our little hotel room. In the morning we were headed for the Shinkansen, the Bullet Train, to Tokyo.  We were doing so much running around, it really was a work out every day. We averaged about 7 miles of walking and countless flights of stairs.

At the station in the morning, we were a little confused about how to get to the tracks. We were guided by one railman who put is in an elevator, rode with us and then when the doors opened, another one took us to our track. I love Japan!

Here is a little video of the Shinkansen coming into the station. I had not ridden it yet, so I had all these little things I have now crossed off my ‘to do list’. It was quite fast and very smooth. I was sitting there listening to BTS on my Airpods ….yes I love BTS and I am not ashamed to say it…well a little ashamed…I looked out the window to my left and there was Mount Fuji. It is the iconic symbol of Japan, in the same way that the big rocks are iconic for Okinawa. It was clear and amazing, it had a presence. My little iPhone camera did it no justice whatsoever, but it was incredible. What a day!

mt fuji from the train
Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen.

We arrived in Tokyo Station and found a coin locker for Judy’s giant suitcase. It was out to the Imperial Gardens where we wandered along the manicured pathways and took in the grounds. We met a Scotsman and could have spent a long time talking but we had to get back to Tokyo Station and catch a bus out to Narita.

Tokyou Station clock beauty
The winter lights line the ceilings at Tokyo Station.
me and judy at imperial palace
The Johnson women visit the Emperor…well not really…but the Imperial Gardens were great.

I highly recommend the airport bus from Tokyo Station to Narita, for 1,000 Yen (about $10) it’s a great deal.

We spent our final night out at one of my favorite hotel chains, the MyStays Premier Hotel. We had a little cheese and cracker and nut party as our last night. What a fast time it was. And how exciting to share it with her. It was a great experience, much better than the ducks and the pecan sandies of Virginia Beach! Maybe next time, Europe…I may have to leave my beloved Asia and meet her half way.

I attended the Grand Sumo Tournament in Fukuoka this past weekend, so there will be another blog this week….