Bernie & Madonna’s Excellent Adventure

As the title of this entry suggests…this was Bernie & Madonna’s Excellent adventure…Bernie & Madonna being my parents and the adventure being a tour Japan with me for 10 days. The significant factor here being that this was the first time my parents have ever left Australia. Yes that’s right…even their honeymoon was in Tasmania (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Dad disagrees with me on this point and has been claiming that Norfolk Island is ‘overseas’ ever since we went there when I was 7. I don’t care if it is technically across water, it is considered a part of Australia…much the same way Tasmania is! Besides, in my book, an island that gives way to cows definitely does not constitute a rich overseas experience.

I am not going to bore you with the details of where we went and what we saw. I am going to let the pictures…and my parents…tell the story of this trip. Their commentary on this trip can give you more insight into the 10 days than I could ever put into words…

‘Gee, I’m good at this ‘using chopsticks’ business, aren’t I?!’ Says Dad as he stabs a vegetable on his plate and shovels it into his mouth.

‘What’s this stuff called again?’
‘It’s green tea/miso soup/cabbage/pickles Dad.’
‘Yeah, I don’t really like it.’
The following day…
‘What’s this stuff called again?’
‘It’s green tea/miso soup/cabbage/pickles Dad.’
‘Yeah, I quite like that.’

‘What’s that connoisseur do?’ Dad referring to the concierge at our hotel in Kyoto.

‘Are these like chopsticks?’ Dad picking up a pair of the wooden disposable chopsticks at a restaurant.
‘Yes Dad, they are chopsticks’.
‘I like them, they are wider than the ones you gave us, easier to use’.
‘No Dad, you split them in half’.

‘How come the kettle takes so long to boil?’
‘Because there is lower voltage in Japan than Australia.’
‘Oh, So it’s because of the low voltage then?’
‘Yes Dad.’
‘How long does it take to boil?’
‘About 10 minutes’.
‘Geez (thinking for a moment), so say if you want another cup then will it take another 10 minutes to boil?’
‘No Dad, see the red light…that’s when it’s boiling. The orange light means it’s boiled and the water is hot, so you can still use the water’.
‘So not like kettles at home?’
‘No Dad’.
(thinking again) ‘So if you have a cup of tea, half an hour later the water will still be hot?’
‘Yes Dad, it’s like a thermos’.
‘But say if you leave it overnight you would have to boil it again in the morning?’
‘Yes Dad’.

While I had a shower one morning I sent my folks to get breakfast, exchange traveller’s cheques and ask how much it would be to get their laundry done. They came back with food, money and no laundry…they had given it to hotel reception. I asked Mum how much it was going to cost…’I don’t know’. 8 hours later the clothing was returned, all beautifully washed, pressed, tagged, individually wrapped in paper and plastic with an itemised bill adding up to ¥14,600 (AUD$200). Mum later noted when she put on her freshly laundered pyjamas that ‘they didn’t even look this good when I bought them!’

‘So where did you say we are going tonight, to see the Geezers? ‘
‘No Dad, the Geisha’.

‘Gee my nails are growing long over here…I wonder why?’ as Mum admires her nails, ‘Maybe it’s the green tea love?’
‘I doubt it Mum’.
‘They are growing like a house on fire!’

As we were walking through Shinjuku’s red light district (by accident), ‘Are we in the seedy area of Tokyo?’ said Dad with a grin on his face.

‘What’s ‘hello’ in Japanese again?’
‘Konichiwa Dad’, for the 20th time.
‘Yes Dad’.
‘What’s ‘good morning’ again?’
‘Ohaiyo gozaimasu, Dad.
‘So ‘kitchener’ is hello?’

Lastly…I recorded a sample of Dad’s questions over a mere 2 days of the trip…read on if you are feeling strong…

How far is Narita from Tokyo?
Where are we now? (on the train somewhere between Narita and Tokyo)
So we take our shoes off at the door?
What is 1/10/50/100/500/1000/2000/5000/10,000 yen in dollars?
Will we see a bullet train?
Will we see Mount Fuji?
So does the Emperor live here? (while we were standing at the Imperial Palace)
So where is the Palace? (as we were walking through the Imperial Palace East Garden)
What’s the population of Tokyo/Kyoto/Omiya?
How long will it take to get to Kyoto from Tokyo?
So is this building apartments?
How many stops are we going? (on the Metro)
So are we in Tokyo now? (asked in Asakusa/Shibuya/Shinjuku/Harajuku)
So is this building taller than Tokyo Tower?
Is this light beer?
Do the buses have seat belts?
Are the different coloured taxis for different companies?
What’s for breakfast/lunch/dinner?
How do I work the shower?
What time is sunset?
Where is Portugal?
Where did you go in Barcelona?
Where is Heartbeat filmed?
Where did you live in London?
So can you read this? (pointing to Kanji)
What do you usually eat for dinner?
Where are we staying in Omiya?
Where is JJ from?
So we are north/south/east/west of Tokyo (station) now?
So I just write on the back and send it like this? (postcard)
Are we coming back to Tokyo?
What’s this? (usually pointing to food)
So you went to Hiroshima?
How long did it take to climb Mt Fuji?
Is this the centre of town?
So you can email on your phone?
How old do you reckon he is? (pointing to a random Japanese man)
Are they homeless?
What did we say the population of Kyoto is?
Where did you turn these lights on?
I guess people get off the train where they work hey?
What time does the Shinkansen leave?
So do we board about 9 o’clock do we?
There’ll be toilets on the train then?
Is this all still Tokyo?
The buildings just keep going don’t they
Do we have to pay for food on the Shinkansen
Where are the toilets
So you don’t know how fast we are going
When do we go to your place
When is the 27th
They put those rice fields everywhere don’t they?
It’s just like sugar cane isn’t it?
Kids must be going to school now huh?
How do they harvest the rice?
Where is Osaka from here?
Do we get off at the next stop?
How much is it costing to stay here?
Do the cabs have automatic doors?
That’s soy sauce isn’t it?
Who else uses chopsticks apart from the Japanese?
I guess they have to cut up the steak for you since you can’t cut it with chopsticks hey?
So will we be going out of Kyoto at all?
Can I get a map of the Tokyo Subway?
How did you find the hotel in Kyoto?
Did you look at a few different hotels?
So can you go back as many times as you like for more rice?
Do Japanese people eat out all the time?
Is that a cemetery?
Is this what Japan looked like way back when?
Do we need this ticket to get in?
What’s it like travelling in Europe in summer?
Is it a dry heat there?
How far is it to Nara?
Is that near your place?
We didn’t come up these steps did we?
This place would be pretty old wouldn’t it?
Where’s that Buddha? (we just walked past)
We must have walked a bit today did we?
So you have been here before haven’t you?
So where did you stay?
Do you reckon this hotel would be booked out?
Do you think businessmen would come to work in Kyoto for a day then go back to Tokyo?
What’s the winter like in Portugal?
How long can you hire those tuk tuk things for?
So are you moving to Melbourne?

Best quote of all came after my parents had returned to Australia and we were skyping for a catch up, ‘It’s a bit depressing being back home love…we might have to plan another trip!’

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