Monday, April 13, 2015
The Class of '69 Tomodachi Spring Tour just returned from Japan about a week ago. But before going any further about it, we have to say that it was awesome! Sugoi!
The group was centered around '69 classmates and their
spouses/friends for a 12-day experience visiting different locations
in Japan while chasing the sakura blooming during this time of the
Including Bobby Chinen, our tour conductor and a McKinley '69
grad, our group was made of 20 gals and 15 guys. 24 of the 35 are
'69 grads from Roosevelt, McKinley, Kalani, and Kaimuki. That
made up 69% of the group! Howzdat for coincidence? The rest of
our traveling partners were made up of graduates from other years
from the same four schools and also from Farrington,
Kamehameha, Mid-Pac, Waipahu, and even Hatsukaichi High
School in Hiroshima.
For about one-third of us, this was their first trip to Japan. We had mentioned early on, that even for the veteran Japan travelers, this tour would be a special one and a truly memorable experience because it would be shared with friends traveling together. The Japanese term “Tomodachi” translated means “friend.” Taking the essence of the word friend, mixed with our spirit of Aloha, and the magic of the Class of '69, the result can only be something special. And it was.
Everyone enjoyed the company of their traveling companions. Many took
this opportunity have fun with their old friends, spend quality time with
their significant others, and establish a special relationship with their
new “Tomodachi” during our travels.
I could give you a blow-by-blow account of what we did as a group
each day but everything is a blur to me (must come with the age,
although this excuse could not be used with this group). I cannot
remember what came first or when we did what. The only constant
thing that was done at almost every place we visited was SHOPPING.
There were some of us who just cruised through the store looking for
some omiyage to take home, then there were those who came with a
list of what they needed to buy, and
finally there were the professionals,
commonly referred to on our trip as the “Whoppa Shoppas.” We had all
levels. Most of the guys served as excellent “mules.”
For a little excitement on our trip, we had someone realize that he forget his
bag at a pachinko parlor on the morning we were leaving for Kyoto. But after
he successfully tracked it down to a restaurant, he caught up with us in
Kyoto. On the same day a cellphone was inadvertently left at the Fushimi
Inari Shrine while SHOPPING. That was also successfully recovered the
next day. Then there was a jacket left at one of our hotels. It was discovered
by the hotel and shipped ahead for us. If there was anything else lost or
forgotten, no one brought it up.
Bobby Imoto takes you along on a tour to Japan with Class of '69 alumni from Roosevelt, Kalani, Kaimuki and McKinley High Schools.
Tomodachi Spring Tour
A true review of our adventure is really difficult to put into words or even pictures. It was definitely one of those “you had to be there” experiences. The Tomodachi Tour was a customized one that afforded us opportunities to do special things that are normally not included in packaged tour, like Shinkansen (bullet train) ride, train rides, Himiko ferry cruise down the Sumida River, and most of all, have a tour conductor who was not only part of the '69 group, but was able to make every day fun, informative, entertaining, and special … even with all the SHOPPING. He was also able to personally address all of our car sick, sore body, headaches, and other physical ailment complaints during the trip. Ask Harold, Lorenne, Myra, Lani, and others about their “treatments.”
Jya Matta Ne (Until next time)
Chris n Robert
On the bus to Tokyo, we were undecided on visiting Mount Fuji because of cloud cover but decided to give it a try. Using his Jedi powers, Bobby was able to clear the clouds so that when we arrived at Lake Kawaguchi, we had a totally unobstructed view of Fuji san.
For even some of our veteran Japan travelers, it was the first time with such an awesome view. This was another magical moment for the Tomodachi group and a good thing for us because up to that point, the closest thing we had to Fuji san was Harold.
Our stay at the Se No Umi Ryokan (a spa in Inatori) was definitely one of our highlights. They pulled all the stops to make it a special night for us. From having geishas to serve, sing, and dance, to the special mochi pounding ceremony to start things off, and the special treat of giant maguro heads just for us (The eye ball was great!), we had a fabulous feast.
At an all you can eat strawberry farm, we were like locust working their way through a field. If you think that finishing off 35 to 40 of those plump strawberries is a feat, you should talk to Jamie who took the honors with over 70 eaten by the time she got to the end.
I guess it helps if you really love strawberries. She bought a container of some giant ones at our next stop along the way. Yes, more SHOPPING there. The few empty seats in the bus were now filled.
We even celebrated Veda's 39th birthday, again, with a cake with candles and Happy Birthday sung by everyone. And yes, they also did SHOPPING here. Everyone looked fabulous in their yukatas and jackets.
Once in Tokyo, the real SHOPPING commenced. Now they traveled with special shopping bags and kept the “mules” close by.
The group did their damage at Ameya Yokocho, Tsukiji Market, Kappa-Bashi, Nakamise shopping mall in Asakusa, before turning their attention to the Diver Mall and Aqua City, near our hotel.
Although we were supposed to be chasing the sakura, in Kyoto they were not ready for us. Most of the trees during our three days there were still in only the bud stage with little or no blossoms. But on our last night there … magic. From almost nothing on one day, to full bloom the next morning. That was an awesome sight.