Saturday, August 1, 2009

A day of tourism with a GREAT ending!

I didn't quite keep my promise as we were both VERY tired last night, and I thought I'd be able to post a better entry if I got a good night's sleep. I think I was right so here goes about yesterday, Saturday, August 1st.

It was great to wake up yesterday with no pressing meeting to get to so Andy and I had a leisurely breakfast here in the hotel before heading out to see more of Tokyo. Our only "commitment" was the alumnae and current family event in the evening. We decided to make our way to the Imperial Palace via subway and were proud of our ability to navigate the system without much harangue. When we emerged from underground, we found large government buildings and embassies hugging a beautiful park leading to the Imperial Palace and its surrounding moat. A beautiful sight!

In the photo on the right, you can barely make out the side of the palace on the hillside, its roof peeking out from the trees. I'm assuming the entry gate is the picture above, and guests would arrive through that gate and wend around to the next bridge seen in the photos to the right in order to get to the palace. Both bridges go over the moat that surrounds it all. Visitors are not allowed inside the palace so we could only marvel at the setting and walk away. We found a small concession stand at the end of a parking lot for tour buses so we bought ourselves some water to quench the thirst we'd built up. The vendor gave us our water as well as two lovely little paper birds; you can't make them out too well, but here's a photo anyway, just because I liked them so much.

We left that peaceful scene and wandered into a beautiful shopping neighborhood that included a cobbled street blocked off from traffic where we found lots of boutiques and high-end shops. We did a little souvenir shopping in a paper store there. We also saw this playful sculpture that we liked a lot:

Of course, we had no idea where we were. At one point a government official helped us look at a street map, and he was worse off than I was! (As a quick aside, we had the same experience in the subway when a young man asked if he could help. We were trying to be sure we were on the right side of the platform for the subway car. He told us we were not where we thought we were, but as he tried to help, he realized we were in the right place; he was in the wrong place! I TOLD you Tokyo is totally confused about directions!) We eventually stopped in front of an outdoor cafe and the waiter helped us identify approximately where we were on the map (remember, there are few street names on any map we've had). He suggested that we turn the corner into Ginza, a place whose name was vaguely familiar to us so we took his lead. There we found another busy, bustling neighborhood of shopping -- even a branch of Paris' department store Printemps was there.

By this time we were sated and headed into the first subway station we could find. A fast trip back to the hotel where Andy caught up with email and I took a quick nap. It was about 3pm and our gathering would start at 6:30. When it was time we went to the 47th floor, the site of our event, and it wasn't long before the first guests arrived. True to SBS graduates, the squealing of excitement at seeing each other was abound; it was a true reunion! We had thirteen alumnae and 2 current families, plus the one consultant/school head I mentioned earlier. It turned out that he had taught 2 of the women who came when they were at Japanese International School for elementary and middle school. Small world; it had been he who had encouraged them to attend SBS. I'm sure many of our guests will be posting on Facebook today (if they haven't already) so there will surely be more pictures there. Most of the alumnae present were from the mid-to-late 80's and early 90's. Many of them have stayed in touch, but they were SOOOO happy to have SBS come to them. Andy and I were thanked profusely for coming to Japan.

Have I mentioned yet that Andy Patt is a rock star?!?!? At least, you would have thought so last night, and it was wonderful. Being an alum myself, I could only imagine how excited everyone was to see someone so important to their development as young women.

In this photo are (l to r, back row):
Fumie Shibuya who came from work. She works in her father's hotel and wears a kimono every day (though she's not the one in a kimono here).
Emi Yamazaki who is a singer and English teacher to young children. She brought her new CD and so impressed our 8th grader, Kyra, that she sold her one. Kyra and Emi found lots in common and have agreed to stay in touch. I loved that!
Arisa Morita is now a designer of accessories and sells to upscale stores in Asia. She had with her a great purse she'd designed and was wearing one of her hair accessories.
Memi Kang is a real estate agent for foreigners in Tokyo, and next to her is Michie Sasano who is married and is busy raising her two children these days.
Omoi Toyonaga majored in interior design in college and then studied architecture in Japan. She is now an architect in her father's firm. She has one 2-year-old.
Mariko Obi is eluding us right now; neither one of us can remember what she said she's been doing (sorry, Mariko, we'll catch up!).
Amika Ohara, who seems to have been one of the movers and shakers of this event, is in her 3rd year of her own consulting business after working in IT for some years. She brought her very nice and patient boyfriend, Uta.
In the front row, left, is Akiko Kobayashi. She is a "voice actor" and is the Japanese voice for Trudy in Madmen, the pregnant Clare in Lost, and the Italian spy in 24. Fun!
Next to her is Mrs. Patt, of course, and then Mikie Sasano, Michie's sister. Mikie is a fashion model!

Here's another group, our current Japanese families:

From l to r: Mrs. Kojaku, Mr. Emi, Kyra, Mr. Kojaku, Kikko, and her mother, Mrs. Emi. It was so wonderful for us to see the girls with their parents and hear about their summers. Kyra and her mom are taking us today to Hakone, a town outside of Tokyo where if it's nice out we will be able to see Mt. Fuji. We are so appreciative of their hospitality! I think they all had fun listening to the alums and witnessing their clear friendship with one another.

Finally, another table:

l to r: Kyo Yamada has been working as an administrative assistant for several large companies.
Yuko Oishi is an interpreter for CNN Sport and other sorts networks. She translates in-the-moment from English into Japanese for live games.
Mr. Steven Parr is the Head of the New International School here in Tokyo.
Hui-Lin Lee, whose Japanese name is Megumi, manages a job match feature on a website called DIP (DreamIdeaPassion).

It was a great evening with a beautiful view overlooking Tokyo. For Andy and me, it was hard to say good-bye, especially after being given beautiful flowers and assorted gifts. A picture is worth a thousand words; here's Andy at the end of the evening, back in our room:

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