I was lucky enough to travel to Japan with Go Learn in May of this year. Our theme was Sacred Sites of Japan, led by Mimi Locher, who is the chair of the College of Architecture + Planning at the University of Utah. Mimi is energetic, witty, and lots of fun. She specializes in Japanese architecture and gardens, and her enthusiasm for these things and also Japanese culture is infectious. Her husband Kuma is a practicing architect in Japan, and helps make the trip work. Anywhere you look, there is Kuma—buying tickets, flagging down cabs, and gently ushering dawdling travelers (That’s me. Distracted by pretty goods in shops.) to catch up with the group.
We saw so much, and did so much, and absorbed so much and I’ve been a little overwhelmed in trying to sort it out enough to write about it. In the end, I decided to focus on one of the recurring themes of the trip—the crazy signs we saw posted all over the place. They wound up having meaning beyond their intention, which I hope to capture.
So let’s begin!
On our first day, Mimi met us at the airport near Tokyo. We were all pretty discombobulated after the long flight and the hop over the international dateline. I don’t remember much of the bus ride into Tokyo proper, but I do remember that the bus had little lace doilies draped over all the headrests, which my sleep deprived brain found to be exceedingly cute. We had a nice udon meal at a restaurant in the hotel, and then gratefully collapsed into bed.
In the morning (which started at 3:00 for some of us. Jetlag is not fooling around.) we jumped on the subway and began to explore Tokyo. Tokyo is the world’s largest and most populous city, and, though it was crowded and busy, it never felt frantic or overwhelming. During our two days in Tokyo we visited the Sensoji Temple, the Ueno neighborhood, Tokyo city hall with its spectacular view from the 45th floor, Byakurengedo Temple, the Roppongi Hills neighborhood, the Meiji Temple, and the Cerulean Tower hotel garden. We were busy! But, I think that’s probably what kept us all from becoming incoherent by about 2:00 in the afternoon, so it was probably a good thing.
The day we arrived was Debbie’s birthday, and we celebrated the following day when everyone was more functional. We ate dinner at Zipangu, which is a very interesting space designed by the firm Super Potato. The food was unreal. Course after course of beautifully prepared and absolutely delicious fare. The restaurant made Debbie a small, special cake with a plaque that read, “Happy Birthday, Ms. Bebbie.”
Happy birthday, indeed!