Sunday, June 26, 2016

Japan 4.0 - Encore

When I had left Japan last time (2 weeks prior), there was uncertainty as to whether I'd ever get the opportunity to go back.  Well, I did, so I had one more week to take in as much as I could, and I did.  I feel like on this trip, I got more of an understanding of the culture than in any of my previous trips.

On the first evening, I hit some shops in Ginza.

The next day, I participated in a traditional tea ceremony:

We ground up matcha from tea leaves, then whisked it with water.  We learned the proper way to take tea as a guest, too.  Lots of tradition, and every action is steeped in meaning and is thought through. 

If I were to try to distill my impression of Japanese culture into a single word, it would be "considerate".  People are very considerate towards others, and it seems like a lot of thought and care go into everything.

After that, I went to a shopping street popular with teens - Harajuku.  Lots of clothes, cute things, crepes with tons of whipped cream (no thanks for me).

In stark contrast, right next to it is a large forest in the middle of Tokyo, which contains the Meiji shrine, which may be the most solemn and grand of the ones that I've visited.

(Sake casks)

After that, I went to an Owl Cafe, which offered owl beer, so I drank with owl friends.  I keep tasting notes on the beers that I try, and on the rare occasion when I have food to go with a somewhat special beer, I take beer and food pairing notes.  I give emoticon beer icons (1-5) to rate beers, and I give fork and knife icons to rate pairings.  This time, I gave a "company" rating... the owls were the best company, so they earned 5 smileys or hearts.... I don't remember which one I used.  

There was actually a waiting list to get into this small cafe.  While I was waiting and watching the owls through the windows, a big flurry bursted to my right.  It was an owl from a cafe patron who was visiting.  BYOO - bring your own owl - there were a couple of guests who brought their pet owls to hang out at this place.  Very unique.


Friday, Jun 3:
On Friday morning, I got in a run at 4:20am at the Imperial Palace (which was now feeling like "old stomping grounds"), finishing 11.2 mi in 1:34:18, 8:25 average... finished by 6am.  I pushed the pace, to see what would happen.  Fortunately, my legs were ready from the start, and felt like going tempo pace.  I wonder if it's because they got used to speedwork in Taiwan.  Fortuantely, I kept it up pretty well.

Ran from the hotel to the park in 9:11, then had ~5K loop splits of 26:00, 25:52, and 24:41, then ran back in 8:32.  Yes.

I had dinner that night with Japanese co-workers.  Beautiful food, with special people.  We tried many uniquely Japanese dishes - very tasty.

It was a nice way to say goodbye to a place I grow to love and appreciate even more, each time I visit.  This is really the last trip for now, but one day, I hope to return again.

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