Japan Trip Days 11 and 12

Moving day!

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!
0403151109Japanweb
0403151135Bjapanweb
The weather called for strong winds and they weren’t kidding! Capturing it in a photo isn’t so easy. ha!
0403151221Japanweb
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.
0403151641Ajapanweb
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.
0403151959Japanweb
The kids table. The blanket under the table topper is thick and heated. The kids are cozy tucking in for breakfast in the morning.
0403151948Ajapanweb

0403152110Ajapanweb
He brings his own 4 liter bottle of whiskey! They are a fun, generous family to welcome us like this.
0403152132Ajapanweb
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.
0403152121Japanweb
Hikaru was so excited to show everyone his room and ask if they wanted to have a slumber party with him.
0403152138Cjapanweb
0403152137Japanweb
Breakfast and a little Wii gaming the next morning…
Dscn5192Japanweb
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!
Dscn5198Japanweb
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…

202Japanesecarrotsweb
Mari showed the kids a Japanese card game and they played a couple rounds…
Dscn5201Japanweb
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…
Dscn5205Japanweb
Mari and Toshiyuki’s house…
Dscn5206Japanweb
Looking out the window, the drive was gorgeous! Snow sprinkled mountains and many tunnels that cut right through them.
Dscn5215Japanweb
We stopped for lunch along the way and the kids tried a ramen burger and ramen pizza.
Dscn5221Japanweb
Dscn5222Japanweb
This post is getting too long! I’ll work on the castle visit in the next post. :)

Japan Trip Days 8-10

The next few days were all about walking around Shibuya and the food!

Isaac really wanted to find a sushi place. On day 8, I took Isaac and Xander with me to do just that, while Jason hung out with the little guys. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure where to go and we ended up back at the first restaurant we ate at on day 1.

We had ramen and potstickers. I discovered the ramen tantan or ramtan, which has a red chili oil and a bit of a kick. Delicious!
0331151218Djapanweb

The next day we found the sushi place, Uobei, tucked down a narrow side street. It has a digital ordering system (Genki) and the food comes zooming up on a delivery train. The kids (and Jason and I) absolutely loved it! It was so much fun. We went three times!
0401151123Japanweb
Dscn5171Japanweb

Dscn5172Japanweb
The kids each sat at their own station and ordered what and as much as they wanted. The prices were super low at only a dollar per plate. I know they loved the autonomy and the food was good too.
Dscn5177Japanweb

0401151419Japanweb
0401151948Japanweb

0401151425Japanweb
0401151426Ajapanweb
They even had junk food choices: cheesy fries, cheeseburger sushi and ice cream sundaes.
0401151940Ajapanweb
Dscn5174Japanweb

Our last meal before leaving our apartment was at the ramen place again. For some reason they didn’t bring silverware for the kids like they had been and Lotus and Simon worked on their chopstick skills.

Japan Trip Days 5-7

Day 5 was a down day. I woke up with a headache so we hung at home, took naps and relaxed.

Day 6 was another trip to the Sunshine City mall and the Aquarium.

Dscn5035Japanweb-1

0329151259Ajapanweb-1
We had lunch at Agio and this is how we wait for our table: a line of chairs outside the restaurant.
Dscn5063Japanweb-1
Most restaurants have a display of their menu selections like this…
Dscn5065Japanweb-1

Dscn5077Japanweb-1
Looking up “best places for ice cream around the world,” someone’s list included a place at this very mall. We all got these fancy crepe cones with character shaped ice cream.

There were several ice cream and food shops inside the section of the mall called NamJaTown. Inside, kids were racing around doing a magic quest game, much like we’ve played at Great Wolf Lodge. Too bad we don’t know Japanese, or we could have played! Instead we just got ice cream.

249Japanweb
252Japanweb

0329151552Japanweb-1
Day 7, we woke up bright and early for a bike tour.

The original plan was for Isaac and Xander to ride their own bikes, Simon ride a trailer bike behind Jason and Lotus would ride in a trailer behind me. As we got started, there were immediate issues. Both Xander and Simon were unhappy with their bike situations. The bike tour company was fabulously patient with us while we worked out two trials before settling on both Simon and Lotus together in the trailer (heavy!) and Xander behind Jason on the trailer bike (also heavy!).

We were not the only people on the tour and the two tour guides split up to accommodate us through a few less hilly detours. At one point I had the kids get out of the trailer and walk so we could get up the initial slope of a bridge crossing. It was an excellent workout and turned out to be an amazing part of our trip, despite the initial struggle.
327Japanweb
A break at the top of a bridge to enjoy the view and some ice cream puffs.
270Japanbikerideweb
A shinto shrine gate…
Dscn5088Japanweb
Simon tries out the hand washing technique, to pay respect at the shrine.
Dscn5090Japanweb
The giant Tokyo fish market…
Dscn5093Japanweb

Dscn5101Japanweb
Dscn5102Japanweb
Picnic lunch by the river. They had fresh, raw tuna from the market for us to sample. so good!
Dscn5131Japanweb
A wedding couple was posed for photos…
Dscn5137Japanweb
Next, we rolled our bikes onto the ferry for a boat ride back across the river…
0330151306Bjapanweb
We drank homemade ginger ale. Ginger ale and green melon soda is popular in Japan.
288Japanweb

We saw a few Shinto shrines and one Buddhist temple. The guide gave us a little history and explanation on the difference and how the two religions are incorporated into Japanese life today.

These baby statues each represent a loss due to miscarriage or stillbirth. The little handmade hats were particularly sweet.
0330151408Ajapanweb
The “stairs of promotion.” There is a story that gave it that name. Now people climb the stairs of promotion when they want to get into that university or get that great job.
0330151422Ajapanweb
0330151440Cjapanweb
The kids enjoyed feeding the koi…
Dscn5147Japanweb

A Buddhist Temple gate (much larger)…
292Japanweb
The Imperial Palace…
Dscn5161Japanweb
Dscn5163Japanweb

Japan Trip Day 3 and 4

We went to the giant mall In Ikebukuru: Sunshine City.

0329151053Ajapanweb
0329151100Bjapanweb
Dscn4940Japanweb

They had a concert for the J-pop girl group Country Girls. Crowds on every level were watching and by this point fans were lined up for a meet and greet.
Dscn4936Japanweb

The boys were super excited for the Pokemon Center. They each brought their DS’s and were constantly getting new “street pass” friends, as we walked through crowds of others also carrying DS’s. It kinda became an obsession. Ha! They could only get 10 new friends at a time before having to approve them and make room for 10 more. So they were constantly checking and approving.

They bought DS carrying cases at the Pokemon Center and it was perfect for also carrying their Pasmo cards for the subway. They were able to swipe their case instead of having to dig their cards out each time.

Also, little trinkets/jewelry to hang off DS’s and phones are popular here. They are sold everywhere and we each got a few.
Dscn4932Japanweb

Arcades are alive and well in Japan. This seven floor Sega Arcade was quite impressive. The lower floors are all, what I call “kiddie gambling,” with the claw machines and dozers. The upper floors are more serious gamers and fewer kids.
Dscn4937Japanweb
0326151551Ajapanweb

We had pastries for dinner from Vie De France at the subway station. The kids wanted to try everything, and I think they did by the time we moved to our next place.
Dscn4944Japanweb

0328151518Japanweb

Day 4, we figured out the laundry machine and made a trek into Shinjuku, Tokyo for the show at Robot Restaurant. We did not have use of our phones and the online reservation wasn’t working out. I emailed one of the hosts for our Airbnb apartment and he called and made reservations for us. What an awesome guy! Not only did we get the last minute tickets for the showtime we wanted, but we also got front row seats.

No dryers in Japan…
Japanlaundry

What is that peeking over the building top? Godzilla??
Dscn4956Japanweb

Why yes, it is! The kids loved it.
Dscn4953Japanweb

Robot Restaurant is hard to miss…
Dscn4957Japanweb

The waiting room for drinks…
Dscn4959Japanweb
Dscn4963Japanweb

Jason and I had two Moscow Mules and were feeling fine…
0327151520Japanweb

Soothing music…
0327151535Cjapanweb

Ready for the show!
Dscn4974Japanweb

0327151607Bjapanweb
Dscn5014Japanweb
Dscn5018Japanweb

Simon was chosen to be part of the show and fight a robot. It pretty much made his day! Lotus said later, she was worried Simon would lose but then he won and she was so happy. heh!

This is the loot he won. I love the buxom anime…
Dscn5021Japanweb

Family Trip to Japan Days 1 and 2

We are home from our trip to Japan and have many photos to sort through. It was a fantastic trip and everything went well.

At the airport, excited for our journey…
0323150755Ajapanweb
Lotus had a tiny pack of toys to keep herself entertained…
0323151009Japanweb
Singapore Airlines from Lax to Tokyo was a 12 hour flight, jam packed with food, snacks, drinks and movies. The kids were loving it! Lotus and I having tea…
0323151751Djapanweb
We made it to our apartment by 10pm the next day and went to bed right away.

Our first breakfast in Tokyo. We managed to find a restaurant and point to the photo of our food choices.
0324151617Japanweb
We felt a bit disoriented and wanted to move past that feeling right away, so we figured out the subway and took ourselves to the Ueno Zoo. Purchasing a “Pasmo” card for the subway made life a lot easier: add a sum of money to the card and then it’s just swipe and go. The subway is clean, on time and amazingly low wait time. Another train comes every few minutes.

Shibuya crossing: a famously large intersection, with hordes of people crossing all at once.
Dscn4888Japanweb
Ueno Zoo…

I absolutely love all of the mom bikes everywhere! Child seats on the back and the front, many with electric assist. The accessories for rain and wind were attractive and fascinated me. Bike parking lots were HUGE! more on that later…
Dscn4910Japanweb

Dscn4895Japanweb
There was a long line to see this panda. Sad panda. I have sad, guilty feelings about visiting a zoo.
Dscn4904Japanweb
Dscn4909Japanweb
After the zoo, we walked down through a street market by the water. I saw this guy making some type of veggie/seafood pancake and had to try it!
Dscn4919Japanweb
Surprise mayo on top! I was not expecting that. The pancake was delicious. It’s called Okonomiyaki “make as you like” and can be made with whatever you have, mixed in with a bit of batter. Of course, I bookmarked a recipe to try at home, sans mayo.
0325151335Japanweb
Tucked in next to the pancake guy’s booth for eating. Isaac saw a dumplings vendor and declared it his choice. I love that he felt comfortable looking around and making a choice. The littles had hod dogs on a stick. We learned that Western junk food is everywhere. Though, when the kids got regular pancakes for breakfast they said it was not good and tasted too much like cake??
Dscn4913Japanweb

On the way home we stopped at our nearest grocery store, which was very small.
0325151515Japanweb
Not able to read what things are, we had to stick with what we know and guess on a few. Eggs, vegetables, fruit and milk. Jason guessed on a cold coffee.
Dscn4926Japanweb
All bread is white bread. I tried to find peanut butter and while trying to look over some mystery foods I thought might be peanut butter, it turned out I was in the baby food isle. Oops. Skippy is all I could find.
Dscn4927Japanweb
Our little apartment…

Beds one and two.
Dscn4921Japanweb
Bed three.
Dscn4925Japanweb
The kitchen, making breakfast…

I made eggs, veg and sausages every morning.
Dscn4929Japanweb

The bidet toilets are amazing! Heated seats and a warm spray to clean the tushy off. The kids were reluctant to try it at first but then they loved it. Isaac started a family joke, “Did you bidoo?” Lotus squealed with laughter and we thought it was funny to hear her starting it herself, on her own. We want one at our house now!

Simon’s Day!

Today is Simon’s 8th birthday and instead of a party we are having a family Simon’s day. Keeping it simple, yo. With several work days this week and international travel coming up, simple is what I needed and Simon was happy to oblige.

Breakfast out with Grandma, a movie at the theater and later dinner at home with a homemade cake. He’s having a great day!

0311150939 Resizedsimonday2015Web
0311151119D Resizedsimonday2015Web
0311151119 Resizedsimonday2015Web

Simon wanted a chocolate cake with oreos on it. Homemade cake, homemade frosting with some oreos thrown on and it was a success. Woot! 





Gummies, take three

That escalated quickly! I made some beef pho gummies from the broth I’ve been neglecting in the freezer. I accidently over salted that batch but thought maybe it’d be okay for a gummy. Still too salty! But it might be okay for a snack on my hike tomorrow. 

I’ll pack a baggie of all three for a super strange trailmix. 

By the way, spending all day babysitting Vietnamese beef pho, only to end up ruining it with too much salt is indeed a tragedy. So many ingedients, so many steps, so many hours. Tragedy!



Homemade Gummies, Take Two

The kids were eager to try another recipe and happy to swipe all of the mandarin oranges (and one blood orange) from the fruit rack. These gummies were made with orange juice, honey and the beef gelatin. Much better!

The floor is an exceptable food prep surface, right?





Homemade Gummies

The kids made homemade gummy candies. It was our first try and the process was fun, the little robots turned out super cute but the ingredients will need tweaking for next time.

These were made with only three ingredients: lemon juice, blueberries and grass-fed beef gelatin. Too healthy! The sugar was definitely missed and we’ll be adding it in next time.

0302151556 Resizedgummiesweb
0302151712 Resizedgummies2Web

Family Ride

It’s quite an ordeal when the whole family goes for a bike ride. Five bikes and a kid trailer loaded onto our minivan…

Dscn4864Bvtrail22215Web
Dscn4865Bvtrail22215Web
Dscn4867Bvtrail22215Web