Rachel in Tokyo

This is a blog about an American law school student studying in Tokyo for the semester.

Monday, May 29, 2006


I am so grateful to have family. Today, my Grandmother died. I found out that she had a massive stroke last Monday night, May 22nd, which left her paralyzed and unable to swallow. She had a living will in which she requested that the doctors would not keep her alive on machines when the time had come to leave this world. My Aunt Helen, her sister, who is also an MD, went to Pensacola to stay by her side through the final week, to enforce her living will. This has been a terribly sad time for me, as I was very close to Grandmother. Especially over the past 10 years. We have grown very close. I sent her letters as often as possible, and when she was unable to write me back, my Uncle Bert and Aunt Patty would relay loving messages from my Grandmother to me.

I thought about flying home for the memorial service, but upon the recommendations of several of my family members, declarations of my Grandmother's wishes for me, and diluted funds in my bank account, I decided to stay here in Tokyo. This being my decision, it was nice to have a "family" here in Tokyo, expressing their sympathies for me. When I went to tutor in Kameido on Tuesday night, Alisha was so bright and cheerful to see me, it was hard to stay sad. Sonya made it very clear how much she cared for me and my pain as she gave me a big hug when I told her the news.

Earlier that day, my friend Jeremy took me to lunch at the most incredible "Shabu Shabu restaurant in Ginza. (Shabu-shabu Japanese: しゃぶしゃぶ), also spelled syabu-syabu, is a Japanese variant of hot pot. The dish is related to sukiyaki in style, where both uses thinly sliced meat and vegetables, and usually served with dipping sauces. However, it is starkly different in taste; shabu-shabu is more savory and less sweet than sukiyaki. It is considered a winter dish but is eaten year-round.) And if taking me to one of the top restaurants in Tokyo was not enough, he met me with a beautiful white rose. The which is still alive and absolutely beautiful sitting on my table in my apartment. A reminder of the beautiful life my Grandmother is living now, outside the pain in her body and the world around her. She was 98 years old. One of the most beautiful, intelligent and caring people ever to live. I met up with another student of mine, Yuko, who bought me more flowers! Then when I arrived in Kameido, Alysha was all hugs, smiles and kisses. As if I was home with my own neice, Chloe, or my Goddaughter, Sarah, to hug and kiss me!

On Friday night, my friends, Mutsuko and Tomoko, met me in Ogikubo for a night of fun. We went to a cool restaurant called: "Jambo," where everyone sits around a table and cooks meats on a mini-grill in the middle. Later, we watched Bridgette Jone's diary and had a slumber party. When we awoke, we went to Denny's for breakfast. Denny's in Japan is very different in many ways, yet some common similarities remain a constant- even on the other side of the world.

#1: Food:
In the States, Denny's is all about potatoes and eggs and meats and pancakes for breakfast. Oh! And don't forget the cheddar cheese and bad coffee! You can get breakfast 24/7, even on Christmas day. If you're jones-ing for a greasy burger at 3AM after a night of partying, you can get it at Denny's. In Japan, you might want to consider Denny's for a traditional "Japanese" breakfast, which includes grilled fish, rice, miso soup and something "pickled". Or, you can get a pancake- but that's if you're in the mood for "dessert". If you want something of the egg-variety, then you can get them scrambled, fried or boiled. When I asked the server to add cheese to my eggs, however, she reacted like I was requesting the absolute most bizarre thing she had ever heard in her life. She had to request the Denny's chef and get special permission from the manager on duty, (who I think must have had to call his boss, who then called the regional manager for permission), because it took her forever to come back to the table...which brings me to point number 2:

#2: Service:
In the States, the service at Denny's is typically ssssssssssssslllllllllloooooooooooowwwwwwwwww......because servers work for tips in the United States. Since this is the case, typically, through the process of reason, those servers who lack fine dining skills, looks, character, or teeth, may end up working for a restaurant such as Denny's, where the tips range between $1-3 dollars a table. (By the way, for those of you who are Japanese and have not had to tip your server, as gratuity is included in most of the restaurants here in Tokyo, $1-3 per table is EXTREMELY LOW...) The service here in Tokyo is not much different, given my very first experience. Our server was incredibly slow and forgetful, keeping in conformity with my expectations of Denny's in general.

Saturday night, my friend, Yossi, met me for dinner in Ogikubo. (These pictures were taken from a previous lunch with Yossi, during my spring internship with Apple. He took me to a great little "Japanese Inn" for lunch. It had a garden as well.
He chose this fantastic Japanese restaurant. We had so much fun! After dinner, we shot pool and played darts. He finally "let" me win the very last game of darts. Very nice of him. Of course, I couldn't keep the eight-ball out of the pocket (before sinking my other balls), so he won every game of pool. I demand a rematch! :-)

On Sunday, I woke up very early to meet up with other volunteers in the center of Tokyo: the Imperial Palace, for a charity event. This event was a 10K/5K run/walk for 6 different charities around Tokyo. (We helped charities to: feed the homeless, help victims of AIDS, and domestic violence, help orphans, and underprivileged kids go to college.) It was definitely a worthwhile event and one that I am proud to have helped. Incidentally, I met some great people, too! Ugi, Mary, and many more people. After the charity event, I hopped a train from Hibya to Ueno to meet up with my "nihon-family" from Kameido.

We went to the Ueno ZOO! And we had a blast! It was such a fun day. We saw lions and tigers and gorillas and polar and panda bears. And the birds really put on a show for us!!! The Peacock and the Condors were in rare form! It was a wonderful day. We then ventured to an all-u-can-eat Chinese-Karaoke restaurant! The food and drinks were great! But best of all was the company. Hideki and Sonya sang great songs, while Asonari was the king of kids-pop. I tore up an Eminem song and they thought my rap-rendition was "cool."

Then this morning, as I was in the middle of getting ready for work, my Uncle Bert sent me an email informing me that my Grandmother had passed away at 4AM this morning. (American time.) I was very sad. I emailed my boss at Citigroup to ask if I could take the day off. I didn't want to cry at work in front of people. He said no problem. Then about half an hour later, my family called me. Dad, Boots, Eddie, Robin and little Wesley all talked to me about her. We cried but knew it was for the best. She was in so much pain. Boots told me an incredible story of being out by the pool just moments after it happened, and said that it was very hot. And all of a sudden, out of no where, this gust of wind blew a towel off of the chair, and up into the air. Then a very heavy cushion lept off of one of the lounge chairs and into the pool. She felt that was my Grandmother leaving the earth right at that moment. Coincidentally, a very similar event happened when my Uncle Ben passed away last May! Crazy!

I am not able to publish blog entries as often as I would like, because I work during the day, 5 days a week. I take classes on Monday and Wednesday nights. I tutor 8 times a week at various locations around town, and if you're reading my blog, you are probably aware of my active social life. I am thus including some pictures from my phone that I have recently taken, of which I am very fond.

Kristina and Jeremy are gone, and I am very sad about this, too. They were such good friends to me. I can't wait to see what the future holds for all of us! Here we are at the fishing restaurant where Kristina participated in an unusual "catch and release" program with her fish (against the restaurant's wishes). The moment I snapped this picture, the fish jumped back into the water. Then Jeremy caught a fish (the same one, we think...) We got 2 fish for the price of one! And finally, here is a picture of Kristina beating Jeremy at DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION in Shibuya! This was the last day we all spent together in Tokyo before she left to return to the States. However, as blogged previously, I did meet up with Jeremy one more time for fabulous Shabu Shabu in Ginza.

A bientot!


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