Each morning in Ikebukuro began with breakfast at the Sakura Cafe - all the toast you can eat for 320 yen. (About $3.20) Fortunately, the meal also included all the coffee you can drink. Coffee is a big expense for our family in Japan. Copious quantities in the morning are a necessity, not an option. A small cup of very strong coffee costs over 500 yen in most restaurants. The Sakura Cafe coffee was the strength we like best, and we drank lots and lots.

We generally avoid talking to fellow travelers when we are in Japan, but we couldn't ignore the guy sitting right next to the coffee pot. We discovered that he lives on the Big Island. After that, we saw him almost every morning. He said he was in Japan to make connections so he could get jobs doing athletic sorts of things like working at ski resorts. One day he told us he was going skiing at an indoor slope in a shopping mall.

We decided to spend our first day wandering around near the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology where Walt worked in 2005. Our first stop was Mitaka Park where our friend Kosuke claims that he once saw a carp 3 feet long. We saw a lot of large fish, but nothing approaching that size. The park was full of old people playing a game that looked something like croquet, mothers toting young children on their bicycles, and people just generally enjoying the pleasant weather. Paddle boats prowled one section of the lake. The picture in the third row on the right is the entrance to Ghibli Museum.

We picked up some lunch at Lisa's favorite donburi stand near the University and ate at a small park nearby. The leaves were mostly still green, but we managed to find one small patch of red.

After lunch, we headed for the Tower Records in Kichijoji to pick up some new JPop. Much to our disappointment, the site now houses a Banana Republic store so we sadly returned to our room.

Later that evening, we set out to explore Ikebukuro. Many of the streets are closed to traffic after dark, and we wondered why there were so many men in suits just standing around at intersections. When we asked a Japanese friend, she said that their job is to entice men to enter the many clubs in the area and to talk attractive young women into working at the clubs. She described the Ikebukuro area as "old" and "dirty", but it seemed much like Shinjuku to me.

We did some shopping at Tokyu Hands, my favorite Japanese department store, and briefly explored the massive shopping complex called Sunshine City before heading back to our futons.