From my column “Where they Went,” first published in the Boston Globe on Sept. 6, 2009
WHO: Kerri, 36, and Rick Walter, 51, of Derry, N.H.
WHEN: One week in March
WHY: “I taught English in Japan from 1998-2002 and wanted to go back and visit some friends and have Rick see where I lived,” said Kerri Walter. “We picked March because we wanted to try and see cherry blossoms.”
HONEYMOON VOYAGE: In what was also a belated honeymoon (they were married last summer), Walter was eager to show her husband around on his first trip out of the United States and introduce him to friends there she has stayed in touch with.
TEEN ATTRACTIONS: The first few days, they toured Tokyo, especially the teen fashion sites. “I took him to Shibuya, which is a famous, huge intersection with neon signs where Japanese teenagers shop.” On Sunday they watched the famed scene at Yoyogi Park in Harajuku. “Young people come on Sundays and wear costumes; like there’s a famous group of them that dress up like 1950s greasers.” What amazed them both was that the scene has stayed constant for years, as had most of the places she lived and worked. “It didn’t seem like I’d been gone long at all.”
FRUGAL FUELING: Staying on a tight budget, the Walters often ate at an izakaya, a bar that serves food. “We had things like fried noodles, rice balls, little fried shrimp, curry rice.” Another destination was yakiniku, where diners cook their own meat on a tableside grill. “Rick’s favorite drink was plum wine. You can get it straight up or in a drink called an ume sour.” To save on transportation, they preordered Japan Rail passes, which cover most trains and buses in the country. “It’s an incredible deal.”
FROM HIGHLIGHT TO HARD FLOOR: A bullet train took them to Hiroshima, where “my husband really wanted to see the peace park. That was the highlight of his trip.” There they stayed at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. “They have bath areas with really hot water and you sleep on a thick, thick blanket, like a futon. Rick liked the bath but not sleeping on the mat.” They stopped by nearby Miyajima to see the iconic pi-shaped orange shrine.
FUJI TIME: In Kyoto, they luxuriated at the Weston Miyako. “I got an insanely cheap rate on Expedia.” A view of Mount Fuji opened up to them on the final day. They took a well-known route by car, boat, and “ropeway” (cable car) in Hakone to bring them closer to Japan’s tallest mountain, at 12,388 feet. “I’ve been there a million times, but I really wanted Rick to see it.” The one thing Walter couldn’t show her husband were the cherry blossoms. “My friend said they were beautiful about 10 days after we left.”