Tess is an enigma. She’s part fierce & brave, and part Nope. I haven’t quite put my finger on when the Nope will show up, but invariably it always does. This trip we took, our big mother/daughter trip to Japan, was not just a bonding experience, and a wanderer’s dream come true, but a big step towards becoming an adult. For Tess, not me LOL, sadly I’m already an adult. For me it was a time to play & indulge my inner child.

It is no big secret, in my family at least, that I was born without a nagivation gene (Lost in the Schwarzwald). This is pretty great when you are trying to see new things in a familiar place. It’s a little less great when you are trying to get from A to B in a totally non-familiar place. Luckily Tess has her dads’ inner compass and can always find her way. It took her two seconds to figure out how to get us from Haneda Airport to our Ryokan in the Nippori neighborhood of Tokyo. After that, I just followed her like a puppy wherever we went while she boldly, confidently, led the way.

With our Suica Cards in hand we just swiped into our journeys at the turnstiles, and out at the end. Each turnstile not only clocked where we were, in order to charge us properly, but also displayed how much was left on the card. Not that I noticed that, but Tess did. She made sure we always had enough to go from A to B, topping up our cards as needed. Did I mention Tess was also in charge of our cash? While she quickly figured out how to translate ¥840 as $8.40 (at today’s rate officially $7.63), I kept stuttering on the BIG numbers on Japanese money.

But when it came to planning, figuring out where to go // what to see every day. That stopped her cold in her tracks. She had a list of things to see, buy & try (all either pet cafe’s or manga/anime related) while I wanted to see culture, shrines, temples & museums. It was my job to make sure each of us had time at something on our lists every day. This was beyond Tess, to find where, what was nearby, where to eat, etc. It’s a blessing our skill sets dove-tailed so nicely into one another.

I want to give a huge shout-out to Google Maps! This was our main tool for getting around Japan. We used it for the train schedules, complete with how much the fare would be, finding food near our destination and even new things to explore in the neighborhoods we were in. Google maps rocks.

Going in we knew to be responsible for our own trash. While there were public garbage cans in the super touristy sections (looking at you Ginza), most areas had exactly zero. I simply carried a bag with me wherever we went, and all our trash, wrappers, tissues, etc. went in there. What I didn’t know is that the Japanese are anti-sitting. I’d expected to ride trains without seats, and during rush hour that was certainly the case, I hadn’t expected to have zero benches in the train stations. Or really on most streets, in any shops, and even not at some restaurants! Twice we ate standing up, once at a Ramen bar outside of Akihabara, and once at a tiny sushi place on our way home. My feet, my poor recovering broken ankle, struggled.

Before our trip my dad emailed daily on the horrors & dangers of coronavirus. While we passed through “quarantine” on our way into Japan, we weren’t stopped. Probably because at that point there had been only 3 cases in Germany. Everyone at the airport wore masks, but as we traveled through the city fewer & fewer people wore masks. Even on the uber-crowded trains. There was hand sanitizer in almost every store, cafe & restaurant. Almost everyone who walked by a hand sanitizer squirted some in their hands. From what we saw on the news, it wasn’t as big a concern as my dads, and mother-in-laws, emails led us to believe. In any case, as of now, 14 days since our first steps into Japan, we are virus-free.

I have the majority of my pictures still to review, we’ve been home just over 12 hours. I’m going to stop babbling. Stop downloading my mental impressions. And share some of my favorite moments.