June 1st 1998, a Monday

6:00 AM I started my day with a cramped but refreshing shower. Sensei called and we decided to have a bite for breakfast at the Asia Center's restaurant. Good ole' Western Meal D, is what I had, consisting of ham, toast, and an egg with coffee. We then waited for Sophie and Sara to get ready (I am noticing a trend by now) and went by subway to the Imperial Palace. The Palace Gardens were closed today, so we ended up at a shopping arcade (which is a mall, not a video arcade). I attempted a call home to no avail and left for Ginza, one of the biggest shopping places (and the most expensive) in Tokyo. At a Warner Brothers store we went to, a guy from the U.S. was working there. I did not buy any souvenirs yet, except for a Pepsi can. I will wait until Kyoto to buy my souvenirs because I'd hate to find something later that I liked.

From Ginza, we went back to the hotel to close up. I began to truly feel apprehension of our host family stay. Would I get lost? The group entered the station to find we could not read our tickets. Were we supposed to be in car nine seat two or car two seat nine? Hauling everything we own, we stumbled toward car two, the farther of the two. The train would leave soon, so we all broke into an all out sprint. Sweating, we arrived at car two to find that car nine was ours. Back to the other end of the train we went, our time running down. Then the conductor in car nine said that car two was our car!! By now the train doors had closed with us in the wrong car, so we struggled to stand and walk through the train to our seats. What a fiasco!

The train, a limited express line, took us from Tokyo to Matsumoto, a one hour and forty-five minute ride by and through tall mountains and small rural cities. I did get a few pictures, but my attention was mostly directed to beating our own Tetris prodigy, Sophie, on the Gameboy.

In Matsumoto, we deboarded to meet Shelby Sack, an English teacher from Omaha, who taught here in Japan. Promptly, I was met by a man, my host family father, Mr. Yuji Sugiyama. I first introduced myself in Japanese, but found Mr. Sugiyama spoke impeccable English. Later I found out he was head of the English Department at Matsumoto's best school. All of my fears were gone, as he was very friendly in his car en route to his residence.

After forty minutes by car, we arrived at his home. The house had only been lived in for two months! I got the grand tour to find that his house and family were quite westernized in the style of the house and formality of their conversation. For example, Tanaka told us to never go into the diadokuro, or kitchen. Upon my asking Mr. Sugiyama, he laughed and told me I could do everything I do at my home.

Even the toilets in his house were the ones I am used to, not a hole in the floor like traditional Japanese homes. I ate dinner, pork with white rice and many vegetables, and proceeded to take a bath.

The ofuro, or bath, consists of cleansing and then soaking. First, you stand in a 6' by 6' waterproof room in which you "hose down" and soap up. The fun part is soaking in the bathtub. At 43C (about 110F) the cycling water from a jet relaxes every muscle in one's body. I have come to look forward to the bath, and see it as being far superior to the American "shower and go" in the morning (the bath is at night).