12 April - Visited Ginza, Shibuya, Akihabara, and Ginza again (in that order) in Tokyo. In Ginza and Shibuya, Amy visited fabric stores while I wandered around and peoplewatched. The number of people cramming the streets in Shibuya on a Sunday was pretty amazing. Saw lots of people (mostly young women) wearing shirts with English words on them that didn't make a lot of sense to us. One of the funniest said "Lost Girl - Fantastic Trip". Huh? In Akihabara, we visited the giant 7 floor electronics marketplace and I ended up getting a new pocket camera (a Canon PowerShot SD880 IS, though mine is the Japanese label IXY 920 IS). The sales guy was even kind enough to supply an English version of the manual (the camera itself already had an English language interface setting). Finally we attempted to find a good sushi place and after being stumped by incomprehensible directions or foiled by the place being closed on Sunday, we settled on a fine restaurant on the 9th floor of some place in Ginza. As would be expected, the food presentation was exquisite and so was the food.
13 April - Our flight departed at 18:15 so we had some time to kill. We packed up and left our bags at the hotel, then went to the public part of the Imperial Palace gardens for a look around. It was Monday lunchtime so many people were in the gardens quietly enjoying their lunch and the abundant cherry blossoms (we apparently hit the tail end of cherry blossom season, yay!). We admired the cleanliness, unwound in the tranquility, and took pictures. I was reminded of goulo's description of the sights in Beijing, where one would be accosted by street vendors selling souvenirs at every turn. Not a single one was to be seen in Tokyo. We caught the bus back to the airport, which was great because it was twice as fast as the metro+train, definitely more comfortable, infinitely more convenient (since the bus terminal is literally next door to the hotel), and only about twice as much (roughly US$30 each).
14 April - Home! After a 11-ish hour flight, we came over the north end of the South Island from the northwest, and had a good view of Mt. Cook on the right side of the plane. As we came in on approach, seeing the foothills of the Southern Alps and the Port Hills really reminded me that this is home. Our house needed a good airing out and the weather cleared up today to help us with that. I sat in the sunny bay window in our living room and soaked up the autumn rays.
It's been a fantastic but exhausting trip. We have somewhere around a thousand photos to sort through, and I haven't even started that part yet.