Today began with the lovely French pastries we bought yesterday. Well, to be honest, it started with a trip to the nearby Starbucks for beverages to drink with the lovely pastries :)
They were so good!! We FaceTimed with Brendan over breakfast too. He's still looking & sounding great after more than 2 weeks without us, which is wonderful!
Today's plan was to meet Momo & her family at a subway stop near the Yasukuni Jinja, eat lunch together, then look for sakura trees. Momo's directions were great & even the labyrinth that is Shinjuku Station couldn't keep us from finding our way to the right place. There was a young woman on the subway beautifully dressed in kimono & hakama. Once we got to the appointed station, there were men with bullhorns directing the many people pouring out of the same station. Most of the young women in the crowd were also wearing kimono & hakama! The men were all in suits & ties. I heard the words for "university" from the bullhorn guys, & putting the timing together (the end of March is graduation time), realized that this must be graduation day for one of the big universities. When we left the station, this was the scene:
Hundreds & hundreds of people streaming into a park where, Momo told us later, the Budokan is. She confirmed that this was the day for Nihon University's graduation, & they do it by department, hence the constant stream of people in & out of the Budokan area. It was quite a sight!
Momo & her family live outside Tokyo, so they drove up & parked at her mom's apartment in Tokyo, then took the subway to meet us. It was great to see Momo's husband Hiroshi again! He'd been at a conference for work last weekend when we were in Nikko.
We went to a nearby family restaurant for lunch. After a short wait, we got settled at our table & ordered. I had a seafood gratin over rice, Charlie had omuraise (omelet rolled around rice, beef, & veggies in a sauce), & Mai-chan had Mai-chan food :)
Momo told us that Nozomu-kun had graduated from a 1-year nursery school this morning (he starts at another one in April) but Hiroko planned to join us after lunch. What a nice surprise! After lunch we went out in search for sakura... but not before a reading break (I had bought a comic for Aoi-chan when we were in Matsuyama & she was quite pleased to read about her favorite cartoon characters :)
Hiroko & Nozomu-kun we waiting for us when we finished lunch. The Yasukuni Jinja was right up the street & according to the Japanese weather service, the sakura were blooming there. As it turns out, there's a very old tree at the shrine that determines whether or not the sakura are officially blooming yet in Tokyo. Here it is:
Just the edges have started, but some of the smaller trees were farther along.
We walked around the shrine for a bit, and while Mai-chan fell asleep, Aoi-chan & Nozomu-kun found many opportunities to play.
We walked for quite a while around the edge of the moat, & when Momo saw a manju seller, she bought some delicious red bean paste buns for us to share.
The moat ended at a busy street, & we continued around to walk to another station that would get us all back to Shinjuku. The dads took turns carrying kids as necessary :)
We even walked past the British Embassy on our way to the station. Then we all boarded a subway. Momo & family, & Charlie & I, changed to another one, & we said goodbye to Hiroko & Nozomu-kun.
While on the train, Mai woke up & Aoi started to fall asleep.
Then we had to say goodbye to them too. I was glad to be wearing a mask right then, because I was getting teary & my nose started to run. Two more years before I can see them in Japan again :( Momo & I will Skype soon, which is great, but not the same.
Charlie & I found our way back to the hotel & had a rest before going back out in search of dinner. We walked around the restaurant floors at Takashimaya, but it was Saturday night & very busy. Most restaurants had lines. So we went to the basement & got korroke for dinner (mine was shrimp korroke in a sandwich).
Momo had bought some lovely anko sweets on the walk & gave them to us when we said goodbye. We enjoyed some of them with dinner.
Tomorrow we will meet our friend Kae for lunch in Shinjuku. We haven't seen her in over a year, so it'll be so fun to connect again. Only two more nights in Japan! I always have such mixed feelings about this! I am getting ready to be home again, but there are so many people here I'll miss terribly, not to mention places & food &... you get the picture :)