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This is my - what did I get myself into - face.

The title of this piece should really be “Karaoke…Schooled,” because that’s what happened when our friends in Tokyo so graciously treated us to a private karaoke night. But I am sort of in denial about being such an awful singer.

I guess I have been my whole life. I should have gotten the hint when my older sister Tricia would scream from the basement for me to stop singing the Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World,” while washing the dishes. I would sing really, really softly. I can’t imagine how she could hear me from all the way downstairs. But sure enough, as I worked my way up to the line, “I want moooOORRREE,” I’d hear “STOP SINGING!” reverberating up through the floor boards.

And for the first 11 years that I’ve known Nellu, I had him convinced that he was the tone-deaf one. When we took long car trips, he would start singing along to the music and I’d say, “You know what would make this song better…If you stopped singing.” I know. Most of you reading this always thought I was the nice one. It’s not true.

Noriko & Kengo. Watch out for this duo in a karaoke booth.

To be fair, this time we didn’t go up against beginners: Noriko, Megumi, and even 2-year old Kengo – all pros. We knew we were whipped when Kengo controlled the mic to some of his favorite kids songs,  but we really found out what we were up against when Megumi logged in the code for Mariah Carey’s “Hero“.

Megumi showing us how it's done.

I tried to bring it in my own way with a song I used to make my roommate Brigette sing and appropriately named for our trip, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” But it was the Peter, Paul and Mary version, which was a lot slower than I was used to and really long. Don’t you love the moment when you realize that the song you’ve picked to sing never ends? Nellu tried to rescue me by joining in for a duet. On his own, he rocked with the Tom Jones he’s been practicing in the car for years and doing a superb rendition of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.”

Nellu does his part for Team Cantagallo

And of course, Noriko, the consummate hostess, chose several crowd pleasers, “New York, New York” and “Piano Man” among them.

Now when Nellu and I take long car trips, I encourage him to sing. Mostly because I also want to sing too. I look at is practice for our next karaoke showdown.

Thanks for the lesson, guys! Our trip to Tokyo would have been incomplete without it.

~ Molly

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Ok, you might be thinking to yourself that it’s too early to dole out world’s best awards. True, we’ve only been on the road for a little more than seven months and we’ve only hit three continents. But when you watch the video below I am sure you will agree this award is absolutely warranted.

Two words: heated seats.

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After months of squat toilets, especially those that allowed for direct access to train tracks, we felt very lucky to go to Japan and meet this marvel of modern engineering. These fantastic toilets varied wherever you went. There was one at our guesthouse in Kyoto that had a button to raise and lower the seat. We found others at museums and restaurants that had a switch to turn on a flushing noise just in case there were any shy loo-goers among their clientele.

But my favorite was the one in our guest room in our friends’ apartment building. It was simple but lovely. It had just the right amount of bells and whistles (and more that we couldn’t understand.) After coming home from a long day of walking around, this toilet you greeted you with its toasty seat.

The first time we met, Nellu came rushing out of the bathroom and challenged me to guess where the toilet flush was. I had a hard time finding it and was delighted when he revealed its location on the wall mounted control panel. It had a dual flush and the two of us determined which was for number one and which was for number two by observing the length of the flush and the amount of water that ran through the system.

But I should have asked for the complete toilet tutorial when I had my chance. I didn’t and when I started experimenting with the bidet settings, I couldn’t figure out how to turn them off. For minutes I sat there with my bum getting a full washing, contemplating whether I should call Nellu in to rescue me or risk standing up and getting water all over the floor. I finally resolved the issue on my own in the same way I resolve most tech-related issues – push a lot of buttons until the desired happens.

I hope we haven’t embarrassed our lovely hosts with this post. The Japanese toilets are just too good of a discovery not to share!

~ Molly

Nellu Mazilu

 Shibuya Crossing

There are a lot of opportunities to get lost on this trip each and every time we set foot outside. But most frequently we get lost when we first arrive in a new place. It seems no matter how many times we take a look at the map or prepare turn by turn directions from the airport, a city doesn’t make sense until we’ve been in it for at least a day.

This was particularly true about Tokyo. In Bangkok, I watched Nellu work for hours researching our route from Narita Airport, more than 60 km east of central Tokyo, to our friends apartment in the neighborhood Setagaya, west of central Tokyo.

(Ok, to be honest I sarcastically nagged him that he was playing Farmville while I needed him to write a blog post he had promised. If you’re wondering why it takes us so long to get up posts, sometimes it’s because when we finally get good internet after a long stretch without it we turn into fiends, playing on the web like procrastinating teenagers. But it turns out this time, Nellu was doing what we really needed to get done, while I was reading Gawker.)

But despite all his prep work, we still got lost.

Tokyo’s complicated web of trains and subways…via pagemaya

But it wasn’t even the train system that really threw us It was a far more basic misstep. We walked in the complete opposite direction for about 15 minutes after getting off the train. Nellu kept saying that we needed to pass a field or farmland that he saw when he mapped out our step by step route on Google Earth. So off we went into the cool Tokyo night looking for a farm in the middle in of the city.

I tried to maintain an upbeat attitude. Nellu did do all the leg work on this one and it had to be the most complicated airport to lodging transfer of our trip. God knows I’ve certainly gotten us lost. And I am sure he was questioning my sanity when I suggested we get into the beat-up, white van outside the Lima airport with only a few words of broken Spanish to the driver’s assistant. We obviously got where we were going, but there was a good 45 minutes when it really could have gone either way.

Tokyo was a new city for us and a new situation. When finally the straps of my bag started to dig channels into the flesh on my shoulders, I insisted he approach someone for directions. After much prodding, he did and we arrived at our destination a healthy four and half hours after we landed in Japan. (He actually tried to explain to me today that the cliched man who won’t ask for direction has to do with primitive gender roles, something about more iron in his system, and the preference to die trying rather than ask.)

When we recounted this story to friends in Tokyo, they wondered if we fought or if I got exasperated with getting lost. I chuckled explaining that I was just grateful that Nellu planned the route and we each take turns getting the other one lost so it was ok.

So you can imagine on our walk from Shinjuku to Shibuya two days later, I had the same upbeat attitude when we once again got lost. Nope. With words laced with attitude, I asked Nellu if we were looking once again for a field.

It’s a good thing that Tokyo is filled with street maps. Between the maps on almost every corner, our GPS compass Nellu uses to geotag pictures and a pdf of Lonely Planet’s Tokyo chapter stored on his phone, we finally found Shibuya and the famous Shibuya Crossing. We also walked by several really cool buildings.

We spent about a half an hour in the Starbucks across the street from Shibuya Crossing watching people go back and forth and then we crossed ourselves becoming two of the 100,000 people that traverse the intersection each hour.

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By the end of our time in Tokyo, we felt pretty confident in our ability to get around. We even ventured far out east to Shibamata where we found a great little neighborhood full of temples and spent some time getting lost on our way back to the train station. I also shot another piece of video, one that I should probably visualize the next time I get snotty about getting lost.

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I am also starting to realize that if it really is the journey and not the destination, then get lost is probably more important than getting found.

~ Molly

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