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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

When we were planning this trip people would often ask where I wanted to go most in the world. I would just tell them, “I want to go everywhere.” Incidentally, this response was not what some were looking for because more than once the asker got mad at me and demanded more details. It was almost as if I insulted them with my open agenda. But that’s the truth. I never really had one place in mind when we set out on this trip. There’s no bucket list. I just wanted to get out and see the place.

But it turns out, I do have specifics. I just forgot. It seems that over the years I’ve been mentally filing away places I want to visit based on your standard stimulants – movies, pictures, articles. Over time all this inspiration got buried. But it’s still there. I found one piece when I went looking for the movie Lost in Translation. It’s based in Tokyo and we get the biggest kick out of seeing moves shot in places we’ve been. We were in Kyoto when I watched the trailer and ultimately downloaded the movie through iTunes.

There’s a scene where Scarlett Johansson‘s character visits some of the temples in Kyoto and one in particular where she walks across a path of circular rocks through a pond. You can see it in the trailer at 1:37 below.

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These stones live at Heian Temple in the gardens behind the main shrine. Only when I rewatched the trailer did I remember that when I first saw that scene years ago I thought to myself, “I want to go there,” even though we had just gone to the temple and walked across the stepping stones the day before. Yes, we did go specifically to Heian to find the stones because of my obsession with all things water and I did shoot video of it to share with you. But still, why hadn’t I put the two together?

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I think that I should start a bucket list so 1) I can actually remember the places I want to go and 2) I can have things to cross off once and awhile to make me feel more productive.

~ Molly

Editor’s Note: After I published this blog we discovered that not only is someone working on the perfect bucket list but they used two of Nellu’s photos from flickr in building that list. Check out the perfect bucket list by clicking the picture below.

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