Old Friends, New Friends

August 21

The cancellation of a baseball practice one of my sons was supposed to attend allowed us to piggyback onto a trip to what must be one of Japan's largest shopping malls, the AEON Mall Makuhari in Chiba. It was big, expensive, and a world unto itself. I ended up watching my kids more than anything else, allowing the other adults to visit, so it wasn't a wasted trip by any means. Still, I can't see myself hurrying back there in the future.

When it was time for the families to part, we started to make our way over to Makuhari Kaihin Park, passing numerous concert festival goers who were there to see Weezer and Radiohead among others. It was kind of funny how often Weezer popped into my consciousness this trip. I had always known about the band and liked the two big singles I was aware of, but had never really listened to their music before the trip. Back in July a friend had alerted me to a theme running through their album Pinkerton regarding the lyricist's relationship with a Japanese woman. I jokingly texted to him that I would look up a Weezer ex-girlfriend on the trip. Little did I know that they were playing two shows in the Tokyo area while I was there. I guess it would have been perfect if I had attended one, but in the end I settled for the series of coincidences that led to Weezer providing the unofficial soundtrack of the vacation.
Hiroshige Ukioye
Within Makuhari Kaihin Park, there is a pretty Japanese stroll garden called Mihama-en, which was far nicer than I expected, and a bargain at ¥100. I would recommend the ¥500 tea service, even if you have had it elsewhere because the tea room offers a beautifully framed view of the pond. The matcha is available hot or cold, even on a sultry summer day, and to my youngest's credit he drank the hot, bitter tea eagerly, and decided that he wanted to buy a fancy clay cup to drink with back home.Makuhari Kaihin Park
After the park, my mom went on ahead to my in-laws' house, while we joined two Japanese families for dinner at an izakaya. We didn't know one of the other families, but thanks to the relaxed, raucous nature of the izakaya it wasn't long before we were all talking up a storm, enjoying all you can drink booze, and generally leaving the children to their own devices—even if it meant crawling under tables, climbing on ledges, or rattling dividers between diners. I'm proud to say that I did stop socializing long enough to suggest to one child that it was not a good idea to lean out a second story window that had no safety device, let alone a screen on it. That craziness aside, the party atmosphere made relaxing at the izakaya one of the highlights of the trip.

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