Cari and I have been having a nice relaxing time in Tokyo. The weather has been sunny and fine, which was a relief after we nearly froze in Koya-san (story of that to come later.) We have yet to spot any sakura, but supposedly it begins blooming tomorrow, on our last day. We will go to a park and see if we can spy any.

When Bobby opened our rooms for us, he noted, with mild regret, that Cari's tatami mats were kind of dirty.

I said, "As a return customer, do I get the room with the clean mats?"

"We'll see," he said, moving to open my room. I was in luck.

Last night I dragged Cari to my favorite English used bookshop, which had moved from Ebisu to Gotanda, where I found my very own copy of Elizabeth Pope's very rare The Sherwood Ring. I had no idea what Gotanda was, other than a stop on the Yamanote line, but it turned out to be pretty hip. We found a sort of Whole Foods-ish gourmet European and American imports supermarket, complete with macrobiotic food and German chocolate, a bunch of garages that lift up your car on circular platforms, and a luxurious-looking Luxe hotel. We went into the lobby of the latter, and found no one at the counter and a bunch of photos of bedrooms on a computer screen. I thought it was a love hotel, but Cari says it's a regular international chain. Anyone know?

We went into a ramen place from which enticing odors wafted. The waitress poured us little cups of barley tea.

"May I have some water?" Cari asked.

The waitress looked totally blank.

"O-mizu o kudasai?" I asked.

She whisked off, and returned with two cups of water. A few minutes later, the ramen arrived. To my amusement and Cari's disgruntlement, the waitress presented Cari, and Cari alone, with a fork!

The ramen was not bad, but for that price, I've had better. As we were slowing down, a waiter appeared and refilled our tea glasses with tea, then picked up Cari's water glass and filled that with tea, too. Oops. I stopped him just as he was about to fill my water glass with tea. I don't know what he thought of two people at a teeny table requiring four separate cups of tea. Probably operating on auto-pilot. We stared at our three cups of barley tea, then paid the bill.

Today Cari and I wandered around Ueno, where we found a marvelous shop selling teapots, tea items, and tea. The gentleman who took my credit card asked me where I'd been in Japan, and I said Kyoto and Miyajima. He mentioned that there was a current TV drama set in Miyajima. Very excited, I asked him its name. I had seen posters in Miyajima, which featured handsome samurai, badass women, and a particularly handsome man walking on the ocean before the torii, holding a sword and a fan. I had hoped to watch it if it ever got subtitled in English, but couldn't read the name.

"Taira no Kiyomori," he said. Then he beckoned me behind the counter, and helpfully looked it up on the computer. Has anyone seen or heard of this? I would love to watch it.

I also went to Akihabara, where I happily geeked out and bought figurines and tchotchkes, like a keychain with JR train signs. I feel way out of touch with current anime - I recognized little but Madoka Magica (which I still haven't seen) and One Piece (which is the 9000-lb Godzilla that Bleach was the last time I was here. What is the anime or game with the bishounen dark-haired samurai and the bishounen pale blue-haired samurai?

In one store, which had the normal assortment of figurines and such, a cold case contained canned coffee with anime characters on the can, and whole fresh fish with anime characters on stickers over the saran wrap! It was labeled, "Love Sanma." (Sanma is a kind of fish - possibly mackerel.) Without a doubt, that was the weirdest promotional item I've ever seen. Even weirder than the maid cafe to which a girl dressed as a French maid handed me a flyer, which was the site of a Backstreet Boys video and which offered, "You can enjoy meal at the same table the backstreet boys used before."
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