After a full year of planning, saving money and practicing her Japanese, it's hard to fathom that Loopy has been back from Japan for almost three weeks now. Don't worry if you don't like looking at other people's vacation photos, these are very atypical. It seems as though Facebook and Instagram have changed the way everyone - especially teenagers - document their travels. And while we're at it, let's just have a cheer for social media (and FaceTime) which allowed Saucy and Loopy to be in fairly constant contact.
To be honest, Saucy mostly switched over to Japanese time while Loopy was there. It just kind of made sense. For the sake of texting and such.
Imagine it - the moment her plane landed Saucy received a text from our dear friend Yoko... she and her sister Fumi were at the airport to greet Loopy's group. Even better, they came armed with enough gadgetry to wire Loopy up for the duration of her stay with copious wi-fi. This, Dear Reader, was the entire reason that Saucy could be in contact. Loopy sent text messages as if she was just around the corner at the local mall. And, she sent about a zillion of them. Girlfriend did not hold back.
She posted what she ate and drank on Instagram. While fascinating, it also made Saucy a little crazy, when she realized Loopy was on an all-sweets tour of Asia.
The group made their way for the first half of the trip to Kyoto, where they had home stays and saw the famous cherry blossoms (sakura). Loopy especially adored her host family at Takaoka, and they her. The father was a dentist and the extended family ran a traditional Japanese Inn, where they hosted Loopy. It was there that Loopy developed a taste for Japanese noodles and green tea. Her host father spent time doing crafts with her and declared that "she will make a fine dentist one day."
Some things just thrilled her. She's kind of a geek inside and went a little crazy when she saw Power Rangers cruising the streets.
The group saw their share of shrines and temples. More than their share. Loopy didn't fill her Instagram feed with a ton of photos of them, she was too busy documenting Japan as she saw it:
*sigh* Well, she is her mother's daughter. Wouldn't you partake of Hello Kitty doughnuts if given the opportunity? She snuck home a few in her suitcase and they traveled surprisingly well. This variety had a green apple filling in it and it was delicious:
This is the view from the SkyTree in Tokyo. Think of it as a CN Tower kind of attraction, a Seattle Space Needle of sorts.
After touring Kyoto and area and spending some time at school doing cultural activities, it was time to head towards Tokyo. Here's the thing: there wasn't much time scheduled in Tokyo. About a day-and-a-half, including a day at Tokyo Disney:
Not cool. There's nothing wrong with Disney per se, we all very much enjoy a good Disney experience, but c'mon. You do not even want to know what wasn't on the agenda in Tokyo. The group was moving along to spend the last half of the trip at Hitachi - the small city where electronics (you guessed it) are mass produced. Actually, used to be mass produced, as layoffs and less expensive labour in India has led to factory closures and outsourcing of jobs (yes, even in Japan!). In fact, before departure on the trip, the exchange students were told that accommodations in Hitachi were... iffy. As in, there weren't any. You can imagine this did not sit with with Veto.
Nor The Fan.
Nor The Secret Weapon.
After looking at the itinerary, Saucy and Veto called in some awesome reinforcements. Yoko and Fumi came to the rescue and they offered kindly to pick Loopy up and let her spend the balance of the trip with them. Since they live in Tokyo, they were extremely obliging to take Loopy around and show her the sights. And the goodies!
They took Loopy for a "Hello Kitty" nail experience. Saucy worked away in her kitchen one night baking cupcakes, getting photo updates of the manicure in progress. That was pretty cool. Check it out, the ring fingers have 3D bling!
And as though Saucy was right there with her, Loopy went shopping. And she shopped... and she shopped some more. She brought back lovely treats for her friends and she also found a handbag for prom and a very sweet outfit for graduation day.
In a dreams-do-come-true moment, she went to the Pokemon Centre. She brought back all sorts of useless *cough, cough* uhm, crap!
Near the end of her stay, Yoko took Loopy to Yokohama to Build-a-Bear Workshop. This was especially sweet, as Saucy and Loopy helped Yoko stuff a brown moose on her 2008 visit to Canada. They re-created some of the stuffing pictures from when Loopy was twelve and then posed their two stuffed friends together:
On the left, "Toonie" the Canadian moose, on the right, "Kokuban" the Japanese bear.
And if you want the meat of the story, the juicy details, Saucy will give it to you. She and Veto sort of gave permission to Loopy and a friend to sneak out of the hotel in Tokyo on that one night they had there as a group. There. She said it. She had to get it off her chest. The kids really, really wanted to see the lights and giant TV screens lit up at night and it wasn't on the agenda. Sure, Loopy would see it during her stay with Yoko, but her friend wouldn't. It's like going to New York and not laying your peepers upon Times Square.
Now, here's the thing... they texted and asked if Saucy thought they might be able to get permission from the teacher to go out on their own. Without a doubt, she thought, no. Hell no! There's no way a teacher taking a bunch of kids to Japan would give permission for two of them to head out after dark and explore downtown Tokyo. Not likely. But of course, Saucy said there was no harm in asking, after all. She just didn't expect what came next.
It was a yes. Seriously. The teacher said they could go as long as they snuck out and nobody else from the group caught wind or saw them leave the hotel. Saucy was, in a word, dumbfounded. She doesn't even let the Cheerios leave their hotel room floor after ten o'clock at night when they stay in Edmonton. Suddenly, Loopy and a pal had carte blanche to break away from the group on a Saturday night and head for the famous Shibuya District (see Lost in Translation, and Fast & Furious Tokyo Drift).
Well this certainly left Saucy scratching her highlighted noggin. She'd walked right into it, saying that she thought they'd be fine on their own. And, she did feel that way but she was pretty certain the chaperone would have none of it. But having presented a fairly sound case to the teacher with a little agenda of their own, they were off. They hopped in a taxi at the hotel several districts over and made their way to the famous light district.
There, they walked about the crowded crossing and took in the sights. It must have been exciting - and a little thrilling for them - out on their own like that. It was a real adventure. They stuck out like sore thumbs, two Canadian kids in the middle of a busy area at night... people stopped to ask where they were from and sometimes people photographed them.
They visited a huge Starbucks and drank Mango Passion Tea Frappucinos. It was a pretty innocent venture and a relatively crime-free area. They felt safe. And besides, they're eighteen now. Time to think about backpacking across Europe and such things... an evening in a big city on one's own at this age isn't much of a big deal, is it?
When they left the hotel, they'd taken with them a business card from the concierge. When it was time to go back, they gave the card to the taxi driver and made their way. Leaving the hotel in the first place involved a little cloak-and-daggar subterfuge, but it was worth it. Way worth it. They slipped back into their hotel rooms late in the night, their respective roommates never even questioned them about their disappearance.
A little mischief is good for the soul.