The parental visitation, part two: Playing in Tokyo traffic

It didn’t take long after the in-laws arrived for me to lose it. But I had a good reason, I promise. And it was only a temporary outburst, not the initiation of a long-term disorder or anything. My husband’s parents are both counsellors, so they typically do more psychological good to me than harm, but there are times when the scales tip the other way.

It may not have been the best idea, in hindsight, but the first place we took my husband’s visiting parents was Tokyo. After all, if you’re going to explore Japan, what better place to start than the largest urban playground in the world? And so we found ourselves in Tokyo Station on a Saturday afternoon. Hungry and travel-weary, we stumbled out of the station in the general direction of Ginza, and sought sustenance in a classy little basement-level restaurant.

My parents-in-law were very excited to see the big city, so after dinner and checking into our hotel, we headed for the biggest city scene we could think of: the Shibuya Hachiko Crossing. This is the famous intersection you have likely seen somewhere, even if you didn’t realize it: it’s in countless movies, commercials, and photographs. The intersection is flanked on all sides by towering buildings acting as the backdrop for loads of neon signs and giant TV screens. When the lights change, the pedestrians all cross at once, from all directions, and it’s quite the free-for-all.

The famous Shibuya Hachiko crossing at night – Wikimedia Commons

After wandering around Shibuya for a while, we headed back to the hotel to drop off my mother-in-law, who was pretty tired from being dragged around the city, and the three of us headed out again in search of a place to chill in the vicinity. We wandered up the street a few blocks, and didn’t see a whole lot of interest, so we eventually stopped on the corner of a rather large intersection to decide what to do. As my husband and I tried to figure out where to go, since our hotel’s neighbourhood seemed pretty uneventful, my father-in-law did his thing, which is a privilege naturally allowed to any newcomer to Tokyo: staring in absent-minded awe and taking photos of everything.

It was the absent-minded part that almost got him killed, and consequently the part that caused me to lose it. I turned around to see what he was doing, only to realize he had wandered into the street, staring up at who knows what. An instant after I noticed he was in the street, I saw the headlights of the taxi careening towards him at Tokyo speed out of the corner of my eye.

“What the hell are you doing?!” I screamed at my father-in-law. “Get the hell out of the street!” The taxi driver saw him just in time, missing him by inches, or milliseconds, whichever matters more. He stumbled back onto the sidewalk, muttering something about how he forgot traffic went the opposite way in Japan. Which is true, but in my books, absolutely no excuse for wandering into traffic in one of the biggest cities in the world. I usually don’t swear at all, but I was so mad at him for almost dying, I felt like… how a parent might feel in such a circumstance. Which is very backwards and unfair. But something that is not an uncommon feeling for me. I wonder if, after our parents impart all their wisdom to us, such as “don’t play in traffic,” they forget to keep a copy of it?

Anyways, the next morning we were all still breathing, and we set off to discover what Tokyo had to offer. Here are some snapshots of our adventures:

Tokyo Day 2, am: Tokyo Imperial Gardens

First stop: the Imperial Garden!

All that was left of this structure in the garden was its foundation; the rocks were as big as me!

A pond in the Imperial Garden

Tokyo Day 2, pm: Harajuku, Meiji Shrine, Shinjuku

The famous, crazy youth fashion district of Harajuku. My father-in-law is on the right, doing his “thing,” thankfully in a much safer location today.

An awesome cafe located on the way to Meiji Shrine from Harajuku. I mentioned this place in a previous blog post about Tokyo, and had to return because I loved it so much. Green chairs and churros for the win!

These sake barrels lined the path to Meiji Shrine on one side…

…and these French wine barrels lined the other side, as a symbol of friendship between Japan and France, born in the Meiji Era. Nothing binds people together like a solid wall or two of alcohol!

A very insane, 360 degree intersection in Shinjuku. A ring of traffic lights surround the intersection to enforce order.

A view from a different angle of the same intersection.

Rilakkuma get! My husband won this bear for me in a UFO catcher. I was so happy that I was confused about how happy I was. I’ve never had a boy win me anything before, so it was a very unfamiliar feeling.

My husband’s parents are in love too! I think my mother-in-law was extra in love today, since she was informed about her husband’s near-death experience of the previous evening.

Tokyo Day 3, am: Asakusa Shrine

The gate to the inner grounds of Asakusa Shrine.

A five-storied pagoda near the Asakusa Shrine.

A garden on the Asakusa Shrine grounds.

Tokyo Day 3, pm: Akihabara, maid cafe

This one requires a little bit of explanation, as we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. We decided to surprise our guests by taking them to a maid cafe. Akihabara, Tokyo’s “Electric Town,” is famous for its vast selection of electronics, video games, manga, and themed restaurants. Especially maid-themed restaurants, where the girls dress in maid costumes, and do all sorts of things for you depending on which type of maid cafe you go to (note: read between the lines!). We chose a reputable maid cafe that was recommended to us by a friend, in order to avoid potential… awkwardness. The cafe is called @home cafe, and they have an English website, in case you’re curious. The maids were really nice, and they cast spells of love on our drinks and food. If you pay extra they will play a game with you, or you can take your photo with one of them. We got to watch many hapless men play games with the maids, such as one game that looked like Hungry Hungry Hippos, and while the girls acted all cute, they didn’t seem to have any reservations about kicking the guys’ butts.

We were all given a membership card when we visited. If you are a frequent visitor, you can level up! I’m Level 1 “My Master.” I wonder what level 2 is?

When my meal came, it was wrapped up like a fancy bento, complete with a handwritten note from one of the maids. I felt so loved, until I noticed my mother-in-law received the exact same note.

Our last act as tour guides in Tokyo was to buy everyone “Tokyo banana,” a must-eat treat that is shaped like a small banana, with a kind of sponge cake on the outside, and a generous amount of banana-flavoured custard on the inside. They have choco-banana too. Yum!

So with our stomachs full of magical love food and Tokyo bananas, we boarded the train back home. Four people arrived in Tokyo, and four people left intact. Tokyo was a whirlwind adventure, but in relation to the duration of my parents-in-law’s stay, it was only the beginning.

What happens next? Genkiduck and her new family survived Tokyo, but what other dangers and travails will they encounter in the weeks to come? Stay tuned for the next episode of “The Parental Visitation” to find out.

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