I had a lot on my agenda today ... I'm in the process of getting ready to leave Japan. Transferring me and too much stuff from Tokyo back to Philadelphia.
In order to lighten my luggage I've been sending cartons of miscellaneous things home to myself using scarves, clean socks and any clothes I won't wear again as packing materials. It's mostly souvenirs, papers, books, and things from the HakuEn Shop that I decided I have to hang on to. I suspect that I'll ask myself "Why did I decide I had to keep this?" when I get them. At this point I will arrive in Philadelphia before these last boxes do.
The staff at the local post office know me well. I'm the crazy gaijin (foreigner) lady that brings in boxes full of weird things to mail to the US. It's always a bit of a challenge translating the list of things in the box to the staff. So today we resorted to a sort of pictionary with lots of hand gestures and laughter.
After we got done the transaction I told her that this was my last visit. That next week I would be at the "TO" address and no longer at the "FROM" address. This elicited a surprised honto (really?) followed by lots of bowing, arigato gozaimasu's (thank you's), ki wo tsukete's (take care), and, of course, sayonara and a few tears on my part.
From there I was off to the bank at the station to see whether they would change Yen into Dollars. Japan, for all it's advanced technology, has really arcance banking laws. It's very hard to set up banking accounts here or do direct deposits, so ... Temple paid me in cash. I had a whole bunch of Yukichi Fukuzawa's (a Meiji era philosopher and the founder of Keio University) to turn into Ben Franklin's.
When I got to the bank, I asked about money exchange. The guard didn't just point me in the right direction. He walked me through the bank, through a hall, to a small room on the other side of the bank building where the foreign currency exchange was located. This is not uncommon in Japan. I have stopped people to ask for directions and they have walked with me to places that were 10-15 minutes away!
Anyway, the currency exchange was a very small room with three teller windows, and about 4 stools along the wall. The only other person in the room beside the tellers, was the security guard. I explained what I wanted to do, and much to my surprise, it was not a problem at all, and the exchange rate - about 4% - wasn't outrageous.
I filled out the forms, slid my stack of Yen through the window, and the teller handed me a yellow card with the number "48" on it. Then she pointed at the stools. Uh-oh ... I had a moment of deja vu. Eight years ago, my friend Carol and I were in a similar situation at a bank in Kobe. We never get our butts in the seats before they called our number. I had to leave the room I was laughing so hard. This time, however, I just smiled. I actually got to sit long enough to take a picture of my number before she called out "48".
The bank was near my favorite Starbuck's in Tokyo ... it's inside a Mitsubishi dealership so I stopped in to get an ice coffee. The temperature here is still crazy hot. After my coffee, I wandered through the showroom and found a car I'd love to have ... the Eclipse Cross in a bright ruby red. The Eclipse was the successor to my 25 year old Mitsubishi 3000GT, but I think it was the color more than anything that got my attention.
It was so nice sitting in the cool air conditioning, but my cup was empty. It was time to go out into the sweltering heat to walk back to the apartment and get on with the task of packing and cleaning up.
By the time I got to the station to take the escalator to go up and over the tracks, I was hot. Sweaty. Grumpy. And there stood one of the people you see so often at Japanese stations handing out advertising materials printed on cards, or packs of tissues.
Usually people just walk by them.
Usually I just walk by them.
But not today.
My face lit up when I saw what this woman was handing out. I headed directly toward her. She laughed. She had uchiwa's ... the flat round fans that create a cooling breeze. I didn't know what it was advertising. I didn't care.