Mister and Missus?

Dearest Rachel –

Yes, that’s how Daniel and I were addressed as the tour guide called out people’s names, to confirm everyone was present and accounted for.  I realize that most of the tourists are couples, and Danielle could be interpreted as a feminine name, but really?

I don’t see how we could be mistaken for anything other than father and son.  There’s no way either of us would be confused with a woman (assuming the observer knows what a woman is, and is willing to say so), nor could I pass for his sibling, unlike you.

Then again, the tour guide was merely reading off of a list of names on paper, and had no idea who any of us were, so I can understand.  Still, I couldn’t help but find myself amused, if a little poignantly.

I have determined, based on last weeks’ sales event with Celebrity, that Daniel and I would be the youngest and quite likely the second youngest, respectively, in any group that we would be traveling in over the course of this cruise.  So far, as we assess the faces of those in this crowd, I think that’s been borne out quite accurately.


Despite having seen a bus from our hotel room window, today’s tour isn’t going to involve one this morning. Rather, we’re walking to the local underground subway station, which we are to then take to where we can catch the Shinkansen.

These means that the group, all twenty or so of us, are parading through the street (or rather, a cordoned-off area for pedestrians) like a herd of elementary school children en route to the station.
Among other things that we pass along the way, this Christian church, which is not something I expected to come across in Tokyo (or really, anywhere in Japan, to speak of).
This is more the image of Tokyo that I expect to see. Not that I’m complaining about the existence of that church; far from it. Rather, I think of the Japanese as either Buddhist, Shinto or (most of all) secular and materialistic to the point of basically dispensing with religion entirely.
In any event, we make it to the station with just enough time to spare.

The guide in front keeps a rapid pace – after all, the trains wait for no one.  Unfortunately, it’s evidently too rapid for some; a red-haired lady (and I use the term loosely) dresses her down for losing the back half of the group (despite the fact that there is a second guide bringing up the rear to shepherd the stragglers along).  Honestly, I’m surprised she can afford the piece of her mind she’s giving this poor woman who’s doing her job as best we can.  I find myself hoping I’m not on too many tours with her in future – or that she leans from this moment, and does a little better to keep up.  Somehow, I doubt the latter is likely; I can only hope for the former. This is yet another example of why we Americans wind up with such an ugly reputation.

We take the red line to Tokyo Station – evidently the central hub for the city – and are herded off the train toward the Shinkansen. Daniel and I make an effort to keep up with the lead guide as we walk briskly (there’s no running in – or with – this crowd) through a host of distractions to our designated train.

Distractions like the equivalent of a small mall’s worth of small shops and restaurants here underground, including a sweet shop with the mural shown here, on its side.
Once aboard, Daniel gets a window seat, but he doesn’t seem to be entirely comfortable. As it so happens, his breakfast seems to be having an argument with his stomach, which explains his expression.

Meanwhile, I find myself next to one of the guides. We make a little idle chitchat about how the truly difficult part of the tour is already behind us. While another train to Hakone would be at the station ten minutes after this one, our reservations were for the one we’d managed to get on; had we missed this one, we might find a seat or two here or there, but getting twenty would be a herculean challenge. She mentions an episode when she had this happen to her while leading a group of middle schoolers once (the subway was delayed by a considerable amount, resulting in the class middle their reservation on the bullet train). She agreed that it’s the misadventures that make the best stories, but they’re never fun while they’re happening.

Speaking of misadventures… it seems that Daniel may be having one of his own, his stomach (or rather, the parts thereafter) having lost the argument he had been dealing with earlier. He’s in the washroom as we pull into Odawara station, and for a moment, I’m worried that he might not be out before the train has to leave. Thankfully, this proves to be an unfounded concern on my part, as he comes out and joins the rest of the group before we can disembark.

After a few quick moments to assemble everyone (and a bathroom break for those of us who didn’t use the one on the train like Daniel did), we follow our guides to a bus, where we ride a narrow, twisting path from Odawara to Hakone. Kaoru-san, the older guide talks about the feudal castle we pass en route (one of the five such national treasures in Japan), as well as a number of basic facts about the country. Her English is rather halting and labored, as if she’s reading from a script, but it’s a darn sight better than my Japanese, so there’s that.

We’re told we won’t be returning to Tokyo by public transportation; rather, the bus will take us back to the city.  This strikes me as a good thing; as we drive through Odawara, the traffic opposite us is solid for at least a couple of miles.  If we don’t have to go back through all that again, that’s a plus in my book. Ah, to be so naïve and optomistic.

What’s not such a good thing is that, when we arrive at our destination, it turns out to be primarily an art museum. To be sure, I’m only dismayed by proxy; after all, I didn’t get taken to all those art museums back in my childhood when visiting my grandparents (and I didn’t go with you and him to visit them all the time, so most of those trips I didn’t participate in), but it seems that what Daniel had to deal with soured him on such experiences. I’d tried to avoid excursions with art museums for the most part, but sometimes, they’re inevitable. At least this is a little different insofar as it’s out in the open, and we’re walking around it as if we were in a park.

He speaks of how art – and modern art, in particular (which this stuff certainly can hardly claim to be otherwise) – never spoke to him, or indeed, even made much sense to him. And indeed, things like the chia pet face and the kite people are kind of weird (although I suspect the artists meant them to be provocative). But others seem to have a certain practical, even fun aspect, if you interact with them a bit.

Still, we hurry through the exhibit, if only to meet up with the larger group at the café (which turns out to be on the opposite end of the park than we thought – we make our way all the way to the far end, only to find the café there doesn’t fit the description given by our guides. As it happens, the one we were to meet at was by the entrance.

But if Daniel had known that (or I had explained that to him), we might not have wandered all the way through the place in spite of ourselves. So I got a little more culture than he might have wanted; hope you and your parents approve.

Anyway, there’s always more to tell, but I need to put a pause on this. I’ll get back to you later, honey. Until then, keep an eye on us, and wish us luck; we’re going to need it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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