Heading to Japan!

I have had a Japanese pen pal, Mariko, since we both were 16 years old.  I was an exchange student in Denmark when we first began our written relationship.  She had a friend who was writing to a Danish student that I knew.  They had been corresponding in English and she asked if I'd be interested in having a pen pal too.  I'd never had one, but at that time, it seemed like a good idea.  Back then we wrote to each other about once a month.  The letters kept coming as the years went on.  Sometimes postcards from our vacation spots.  Sometimes a very thin letter written on air mail stationary.  As years went on, it turned into e-mail.  We saw each other through life events and world events.  We discussed movies, weather, presidential elections, royal family.  She visited me twice, but I never went to Japan.  It is the one remaining item on my bucket list that I made more than 20 years ago.

A photo frame Mariko brought during a previous visit.  That's her in traditional kimono on the left.  The royal couple
are on the commemorative stamp on the right.  The bag in front is a gift bag used in Japan that held the frame.
Last year, we tried to see the cherry blossoms bloom in Washington, DC, but somehow the timing was off and we missed the amazing blooms.  I said to my husband that one day I'd really like to see the blooms in Japan, the place where the trees in DC came from.  I also told Mariko that I'd like to visit her and see the blooms.  I really hadn't counted on it happening so quickly, but my husband never forgets anything and he said we could go using some airline miles!  The timing seemed to be perfect because it turned out Omar has spring break during blossom time in Kyoto!

After numerous e-mails back and forth, we finally have a travel plan.  Mariko lives in the south of Japan in Fukuoka prefecture, but the big tourist spots are further north at Tokyo and Kyoto.  She works full time, so finds it difficult to get time off at this time of year.  Somehow she managed to be able to take 2 days off.  We discussed us coming to her part of Japan, but she said she'd meet us in Kyoto, since it's a city she's never visited.  She's planning to take the bullet train from her home the 2 1/2 hours to Kyoto after work on April 2, and she will stay with us for 2 nights!  I'm very excited to be seeing her in her home country and talking about things face to face.  She says all women need is good food and chatting to make them happy.  How true!  I remember once she visited me when I lived in Florida and she wanted to try every type of ice cream Hagen Daz made, so we bought out the pints and indulged!  She also loves Disney movies and spent all night,nearly every night, watching the kids' movies, then she would fall asleep in the car during the day when we were doing sightseeing.  We had a great time together!

We leave for Tokyo on Friday and we'll be gone for one week.  My husband and 2 sons will be going with us.  We'll visit Tokyo, Kyoto, and Izu.  Most of the nights we'll be staying in hotels, but one night we are staying at a Japanese inn that is known for its spas, Japanese hospitality, and relaxation.  They dress you in kimono, feed you in your room on the floor at lap tables, let you bathe in mineral laden hot springs.  Sounds like heaven to me!  Looking forward to a great adventure!

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