Yokohama & Odawara | July 29

Visited with old friends from the University of Maine – Sachiko, a former student from the Business School, and Hitomi, a post-doctoral student in the sciences. Odawara is a small Pacific Ocean coastal town with fabulous fresh local fish. Shared stories and updates over a sushi lunch at tiny establishment the Food Channel would never find!

Instead of returning to Tokyo, we boarded a Shinkansen bullet train for Yokohama and a visit to the Ramen Museum. A unique place, the Ramen Museum documents the history of Ramen, explaining the complexity of its preparation and other interesting information. Highlight of the visit is sampling one (or more) of the six different regional kitchens that offer their version of the dish in an “old” Japan recreated environment. We sampled two different versions – one from Oita, a very complex salt and pork based soup; the other from Kitakata, a clear, smooth soy-based broth.

We retired well-fed and happy from our day-long travels at a hotel next to the Yokohama rail station looking forward to a good night’s sleep and our coming trip to Hiroshima.

Tokyo | July 28

A fun-filled family day.

Last night a young niece (Mai) and nephew (Yudai) insisted on staying with us at Keiko’s parent’s house. We had a great time together and I learned some Japanese. Kids are wonderful teachers. They also learned some English …. and I taught them how to play the “quiet game.”

Saturday morning we were off to the local COSTCO, shopping for that evening’s family picnic and fireworks display. Of course no visit would be complete without sampling the foot-long hotdog (180 Yen with drink) that the Japanese shoppers lineup for from the opening bell.

Keiko has spoken often of Japanese fireworks.  Her description was not an exaggeration. Quite the event eating and drinking while watching a fabulous 1:30 minute fireworks display from a Tokyo office building rooftop. Great view of fireworks and the moonlit new Tokyo SkyTree Tower as well.  The panoramic view of the home to 36 million people was spectacular.

The photos are coming.

Tokyo | July 27

After a fast 2 mile exercise walk through Chiba, we enjoyed a wonderful Japanese breakfast.

The task for the day was haircuts. Another very hot and humid day spent touring the Ginza district. After getting my haircut, I spent tiime waiting for Keiko visiting most of my favorite shops checking out the fashionistas and observing the fascinating aspects of Japanese retail culture. To escape the heat I periodically camped out at the original Tokyo Starbucks (now offering free wi-fi) with a cold drink, my music and a Kindle book. It was a long 4 hour time block until Keiko’s appointment was complete.

As a special treat we ate a late lunch in a high-end department store restaurant having a pork Katsu meal. The perfectly lightly fried filet literally melted in your mouth.

After more shopping tasks, a quick visit to Tokyo station to pickup tickets for our coming Hiroshima trip and meeting parents at their business location.

Dinner was another family affair at a typical local “family style” place — in western terms, “comfort food.”

Tokyo | July 26, 2012

Out first full day in Japan after a comfortable flight and restful evening.

We spent the day in a sizzling hot Tokyo with family, enjoying a special summer Ramen lunch (a mild spicy soup served cold), a tour of the new Sky Tree Tower complex (the tallest structure in the world – 634 meters) with a breath-taking 50 second elevator ride to the top observation deck (@ 600 meters per minute!), finishing the day with a sushi dinner – absolutely the finest seafood to be had anywhere.

Tomorrow we head off to the Ginza district for haircuts, some shopping and a luncheon place Keiko has been raving about since we planned the trip.  As close friends know, she plans many aspects of our Japan adventures around favorite dishes she wants to enjoy again or sample for the first time.

Photos will begin appearing with posts over the weekend.

While in Japan, I can be reached most directly on my Japanese mobile through