We packed up and moved from our first apartment in Tokyo to stay with some friends in Yonezawa, Yamagata for the weekend.
Check out time was at 11am and our friends weren’t going to be home from work until after 5pm so we had some time to kill. We ate a slow brunch at Denny’s. Check out the kids menu and Pikachu pancakes!
The weather called for strong winds and they weren’t kidding! Capturing it in a photo isn’t so easy. ha!
Time to head out of the city with our first experience riding the bullet train, known as Shinkansen. Tickets are very expensive but prior to our trip I bought a 5 day flex pass for the Japanese Rail for each of us. Lotus rides free. The JR pass is a discounted pass for foreigners only and worked out great! We were able to use it for our trip to Yonezawa, our return trip, our later trip to see the snow monkey park and our final trip on the airport express train to go home. If I had planned a little tighter we could have used it a 5th day to see Mt. Fuji.
Mari and her son Hikaru stayed at our house three years ago through the travel website: couchsurfing.org. We were excited to see them again in their home. After Jason and I is her husband Toshiyuki, then Mari and then Toshiyuki’s brother. His brother’s daughter also came for dinner. We had yakiniku, which is the grilling of meats and veg on the grill in the middle of the table…and getting our drink on.
The kids table. The blanket under the table topper is thick and heated. The kids are cozy tucking in for breakfast in the morning.
He brings his own 4 liter bottle of whiskey! They are a fun, generous family to welcome us like this.
We slept on traditional futon rolls on a tatami floor, especially designed for it. Apparently the flooring allows air to circulate so it doesn’t get moldy.
Hikaru was so excited to show everyone his room and ask if they wanted to have a slumber party with him.
Breakfast and a little Wii gaming the next morning…
Lotus and Hikaru are showing each other their language learning apps. Hikaru was eager to help Lotus with the Japanese quizzes then he showed us a quiz on his English app. Mari showed us her photo album from her trip to the States and we compared travel experiences. I loved seeing photos of my homemade pizza in her book. ha!
We compared jetlag and travel time. I told her the strawberries in Japan are so sweet and delicious! She agreed that strawberries from the states are not sweet and “taste like vegetable.” She told me our cucumbers are HUGE! I agreed US cucumbers are a lot bigger, but carrots in Japan are GIGANTIC. Seriously, look at these…
Mari showed the kids a Japanese card game and they played a couple rounds…
Then we rented a car they took us to Tsuruga Castle in Aizuwakamitse City. We finally got out in the daylight to see what the area looked like. They get very heavy snow and are known for their ski resort. They are also known for their fine quality beef. Anyway, the snow layer gets so heavy they use teepees of wood to protect the trees. As Simon said, “so they use trees to protect trees?” yes, I guess they do.
The neighbors house with protected trees…
Mari and Toshiyuki’s house…
Looking out the window, the drive was gorgeous! Snow sprinkled mountains and many tunnels that cut right through them.
We stopped for lunch along the way and the kids tried a ramen burger and ramen pizza.
This post is getting too long! I’ll work on the castle visit in the next post.