Zither wave: Mt. Tsukuba

Zither wave: Mt. Tsukuba
Zither wave: Mt. Tsukuba

Golden Week kicks off with a visit from one of my most favorite people: my sister is spending the next three weeks with me in Japan!

After tracking each other down in Tokyo last night, we collapsed gratefully into our beds at a hotel strategically situated near the airport. A buffet breakfast, featuring a build-your-own-miso-soup station, fortified us for the train ride north to Tsukuba.

“Japan’s science center,” as the travel guides deem it, attracts few tourists. Outside a commuter town with a sprawling university, Tsukuba hosts rice paddies and the only mountains within striking range of Tokyo. We trekked there to meet with a Christian friend of a friend, who has hosted us bountifully for my sister’s first full day in Japan.

Our gracious hostess treated us to lunch at her university, a green campus bedecked with trees and festooned with bicycles. In the mornings, there are traffic jams, she confided as we passed rows upon rows of neatly aligned handlebars.

We rolled through town and wound our way up the slopes, marveling at the empty road. The biggest holiday of the year officially commences tomorrow, inevitably carrying crowds in its wake, but we sailed unimpeded to catch the last cable car.

We capped off a perfect excursion with a sushi extravaganza. Grilled salmon, slices of eel, pumpkin tempura, and seafood egg custard zoomed to our table via the tablet-operated conveyor belt. For dessert, we sampled candied sweet potato and tapioca mochi, before indulging in a parfait apiece: chocolate banana for me, cherry-and-strawberry shaved ice for my sister.

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