I am back from my short trip to Japan and I had a great time. After arriving at Narita on Friday the 27th, I took the Kanto Maronie bus to Utsunomiya in Tochigi. This was the first time I took the bus by myself from the airport and it was very easy and convenient. I will definitely do it again.
The weather was not as cold as it usually is this time of year, some days were actually quite nice. On Saturday and Sunday in Utsunomiya, I was actually comfortable without a jacket. Plus, a lot of places in Japan blast the heater unbearably. The Mister Donut and Bell Mall in Utsunomiya were extremely warm inside. I would have been comfortable with a short-sleeve shirt and shorts in those places. Here is the Wikipedia article on Bell Mall (which I created). On Sunday I took the JR Train from Nasu/Otawara to Utsunomiya and then went to Nikko to see relatives. The Koyo is still very impressive around Nikko. Before heading to Nikko we had some delicious gyoza at this place in front of the JR Utsunomiya station. There is the hot Mister Donut to the left.
I am still amazed at how nice the trains are in Japan compared to Los Angeles. And how much more polite the people are.
On Tuesday I went on a mini Izakaya run in Otawara and enjoyed some delicious food and an excellent drink called a "Samurai Rock." Anybody ever had this drink? It is sake and lime juice on ice and it is goooood! I also did karaoke for the first time and not very well. Micheal Jackson was probably turning in his grave. :-)
Much of the rest of the short trip was just spent visiting friends and family so there is not much to report. One of the interesting things I was able to do was spend some time at a pre-school in Otawara. I spent about a half an hour with a class of 4 and 5 year-olds which was a lot of fun. I loved playing and interacting with the kids. It was funny so many would start talking to me at the same time in Japanese and asking questions but I did not not know what they were saying. One interesting thing about Japanese school kids of this age that I have read on some English teacher blogs is how some of the children have a strange habit of smacking you in the butt or in your private area. And amazingly I too experienced this as well. At one point I was standing surrounded by several children who were smacking my ass and private area from the front and behind me, even reaching between my legs from behind to smack me in the area. Very odd. But they were great kids and I had a lot fun with them.
The flight back was better than expected with two small children. My boys slept most of the flight which is a blessing and we had a serious tail-wind which got us back to LA in less than 9 hours, about 30 minutes less than normal. But the United flight attendants are kinda rude however. I probably will not fly United again.