DAY 4: Katsushima, Shinagawa and Itabashi, Tokyo
My aunt drove us to the Shinagawa Aquarium where Bruce got to see stingrays, his favorite! The landscaping was so pretty right outside the aquarium.
We found Nemo and penguins too!
After we walked through a couple times, we headed to Saya No Yudokoro, a Japanese hot spring bath house. I think everyone was mostly concerned with how Brandon was going to react to being surrounded by naked bodies (men and women separated, of course) but he wasn’t at all bothered, shocked, or uncomfortable. In fact, he disrobed and fit right in. :) I, on the other hand, was so embarrassed. I’d been in bath houses in Japan a couple times but that was when I was a kid when you don’t care about body image. I reluctantly took off my clothes and immediately tried to cover as much of myself up with a small towel. Bruce came with my aunt and me the first round and he was so confused and laughed, asking why there’s so many boobies! Thank goodness he spoke in English. Haha! Once I got over the initial awkwardness, I was able to relax and enjoy each bath. There were so many different types, each one with their own benefits. After an hour, we met up with Brandon and my dad and ate a little snack. Then we went back for round 2 and Bruce went over to the men’s side. My aunt and I finally got to enjoy the steam room. You rub salt all over your body and take a seat. As you’re sitting there, you start sweating which dissolves the salt. When I got out, my skin was ever so smooth like a baby’s. This was the most relaxed I’ve ever felt in years! Not a thought of worry or stress crossed my mind until the next morning. It was pure bliss!
DAY 5: Minato, Tokyo
This day was quite special for Bruce because he got to spend it with my cousin Yasuharu’s family, including 3 of their cute little ones. The trains weren’t crowded so we got to ride in the first car and check out the conductor’s view. Pretty neat!
We checked out Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden which was built over 330 years ago. Yasuharu’s wife use to work here and I learned that the Ishii house koi (carp) were donated to their pond. (I’ll post pictures of the koi from the house later.) How neat is that? :)
We then walked up to the Zojoji Temple. It was such a hot day so the kids all enjoyed some ice cream before we trekked up to the Tokyo Tower.
It was Kodomo No Hi (Children’s Day) so there was a beautiful rainbow of koinobori (carp streamers).
Brandon and Bruce stopped by my cousin’s home to check out their pet turtles! They’re so huge! :)
DAY 6: Adachi, Tokyo
I don’t have any non food photos from this day. I wasn’t feeling very well so I rested most of the time and then went shopping at the local mall, Ario.
DAY 7: Chuo, Chiyoda, Katsushika, Tokyo
My aunt and uncle took my dad, Brandon, and Bruce to the Tsukiji Fish Market. (I stayed home resting.) They got to eat so many delicious food and it happened to be Tsukiji’s semi annual sale so everything was cheaper than usual. Score!
Then they stopped by Akihabara so Brandon can see some real life otakus. Haha! He got a little glimpse of the perverted side of Japan. My aunt suggested my dad and Brandon go in one of the maid cafes while she watched Bruce but they turned down the offer. Next time!
To end the afternoon, I had some Darumado coffee with two of my lady cousins. I miss them so much, I wish I had more time with them. They’re such hard working mothers and I’ve always looked up to them ever since we were all kids. We laughed about random memories from the past and dreamt of what they’d do if they could come visit the states again. One day, I hope!
Darumado itself is such a unique cafe. There’s a huge collection of cups and saucers. My cousin said that the waiters use to take your order, maybe have a little chat, and then choose a cup that they think represents your personality. Such a interesting concept, right? :) And all the cups are pretty so no hurt feelings, I think.
And that was a week into our trip. :) The last few days in the next post.
Lots of Smiles,
DAY 2: Musashino/Mitaka, Tokyo
We rode a crowded train to Inokashira Park. Er my gah! I’d never been on a train during rush hour… or remotely close to rush hour so I was not ready to be squeeeezed in, bodies touching. You can ask Brandon how much I need my personal space so this was a major test for me. I had a minor anxiety attack at one point when I felt like I was drowning in a sea of people but I did some breathing exercises and kept reminding myself that my stop is next even though it wasn’t. My cousin laughed explaining it wasn’t too bad… I can’t imagine! I’d never survive a stuffed train commute on the daily. I don’t even know how Bruce handled it but he was being held up by Brandon so I’m sure the air and view was nicer from up top.
Once we got to the massive park, I felt free. All the greens! I loved that everywhere we went, the trees had the healthiest, bright green color. Beautiful.
We had some time to kill before lunch so our Phamily rented out a swan boat while my cousin, his wife, and my aunt rented a row boat. Leg day for Brandon and me. Haha!
After lunch, we headed to the Inokashira Park Zoo. This was perfect for children Bruce’s age. :)
It always amazes me how clean nearly every part of Japan is. It’s kind of like being in Disneyland all the time. (Have you noticed how clean Disneyland is?) I was also surprised how I rarely saw smokers or smelled cigarettes. Eleven years ago, I remember smelling it everywhere I went, especially cafes and restaurants. So happy things have changed! :)
There was a little guinea pig petting area which Bruce was not a fan of (haha!) but look at this cutie!
Bruce and Brandon learned how to make rubber band shooters out of chopsticks. Bruce was so good hitting the paper cup targets… Brandon, not so much. :)
The zoo also has a mini amusement park. That’s his “I’m having so much fun, I never want it to end” face. :D
The highlight of my trip was the Ghibli Museum. *heart eyes* Seriously, I already want to go back because I want to take my time reading every little thing and watch the featured movie next time! Everything was magical and inspirational. The details that are put into every scene, every process… LOVED getting a little peek behind the scenes! If photos were allowed inside, I would’ve had 10 posts just for Ghibli. ;)
Most of the windows had a stained glass scene or character from a Miyazaki film.
All the little details! I wish I bought so much more than I did in the gift shop. It was our first day out so I was being too conservative. My dad told me later that I should never hold back when visiting places like this because you just don’t know if it’ll be your last time! Lesson learned: Buy buy buy! ;)
My sweet aunt waited for us at this super cute cafe while we were exploring the museum. In case I ever come back, I want to stop by here too. :)
DAY 3: Yokohama, Kanagawa
My aunt and uncle drove us to the Yokohama Chukagai (Chinatown) the following day. It was Golden Week (a week of holidays in Japan) so it was crowded. My uncle took at turn into a tiny street littered with people at one point and we felt like we were the main attraction at a zoo. People hovered over our car with hateful stares and jumped out of the way annoyed, but the path wasn’t only for pedestrians! Cray. We got there safely, ate lunch, and bought a ridiculous amount of steamed buns to go. ;)
The second half of the day was dedicated to Bruce’s favorite Japanese character: Cheese or Cheezu. We went to the Anpanman Museum. I don’t think Brandon and I have ever seen Bruce so ecstatic about EVERY part of any museum. He ran from one display to another, completely in his own world, taking in everything he saw. It was amazing. Even as an adult, I was impressed with all the ways they made each display interactive for children. The whole mall area was so well thought out too. You could literally go to Uncle Jam’s bakery and buy all the types of bread which the main characters are made of.
(Sorry if I lost you here because if you aren’t familiar with Anpanman, you probably don’t understand what’s going on. It took Brandon the whole tour of the museum to realize that all the characters were food based. Then everything made sense to him and he was impressed too. Haha!)
I didn’t know Baby Bear had this many different poses.
He got to make his own mask (or headband?) at a crafting station and wore it the rest of the day.
I want to point out the biggest difference between American customer service and Japanese customer service. 99.9% of the trip, we encountered smiles and the friendliest of staff in Japan. You would never find these people NOT smiling or complaining or annoyed. The Anpanman museum was not an exception. The staff handled problematic children with the utmost care, using their sweetest calm voices and all with a smile. Brandon joked that Japanese women especially know how to “conceal, don’t feel” (yes, Frozen reference here) and that I stood out like a sore thumb when I would discipline Bruce. Haha! But seriously, there are far too many times I go out in America where I’m greeted with annoyance or given attitude because the staff is bored, wanting to go home, or just openly hate their job. It was nice to go out anywhere in Japan and be treated like they wanted you there.
After the museum, we headed back and had sushi at a restaurant in the mall. :)
More to come!
Lots of Smiles,
Here’s Part 1
I don’t know how to begin our recap of our recent trip to Japan. It was such a personal trip for me – reconnecting with my paternal relatives, having flashbacks of events from the past, and exploring new places. It had been 11 years since I last visited. So much change and yet so much the same.
I feel like my world has gotten bigger. Is that weird? I’ve visited many times before so I thought this trip was going to focus on firsts for Brandon and Bruce but I felt like I was experiencing it new all over again. Maybe it’s because I’m now older, I’m married, and I have a family? Maybe I was experiencing it from a different perspective? In any case, it was too short. I wish I had more time to spend with each one of my cousins, my aunts, and my grandmother. I wanted to soak in their experiences, their thoughts, and wisdom. I miss them all already… especially 11 of my cousins’ children that were all so sweet to my Baby Bear. :)
Our decision to visit Japan was pretty last minute. Brandon won a roundtrip ticket last year and May was the only timeframe that worked with his schedule before the offer expired. No one’s complaining… well, except for the inconvenient times he booked for the people that drove us. ;) Brandon flew from LAX to SFO to HND while my dad, Bruce, and I flew direct from LAX to HND. (Free tickets have restrictions.) The times we landed and left Haneda were basically the same due to delays in our flights. So everything worked out.
One thing I want to remember was how quickly Bruce made a friend while waiting at the airport. The sweetest thing ever. *Heart melt* They taught each other how to say hello in their own languages: “Ciao” and “Konnichiwa,” they played hide and seek, and Bruce shared his favorite Snoopy book. <3
A huge thank you to my sweet friend Heather who gave me so many suggestions on dealing with my fear of flying. :) I was the calmest I’ve been in a while which made flying so much easier.
We stayed at my uncle’s property in my grandomother’s house (first photo) in Adachi, Tokyo. There’s two houses on that property so I felt like I had to elaborate. Haha, details! Everyone had worked so hard to put together a ryokan-like space for us. It was a traditional Japanese sleeping arrangement that I wanted Brandon and Bruce to experience so I’m very grateful for that. :)
The next morning, my dad and I had major jet lag so we took a long walk around Nakagawa at 4AM. This was the first eye opener. So much had changed in the neighborhood –new developments, reworked roads, aged buildings, unfamiliar faces (Haha, of course!).
DAY 1: Adachi, Tokyo
Official Day 1 was exploring the neighborhood on foot with Brandon and Bruce. I showed them where I went to elementary school for a few summers, Daddy shared so many childhood stories, walked around the Adachi Ward Museum and the Sano Ikoi no Mori, and we ate freshly baked bread from Pain De Roi, my dad and my favorite local bakery. So. Freakin’. Good.
That night, we had dinner with all of my dad’s brother’s children and grandchildren. It was so fun that we forgot to take any pictures! Even with a language barrier, Bruce was able to get along and play with all 11 grandchildren. How lucky they are to have such a huge tight knit group of family members! My sisters need to get busy! ;)
I hope this doesn’t turn into a 10 post series but more to come soon! :)
Lots of Smiles,
It’s been nonstop busy around here and I feel like I’m barely keeping afloat. But it’s a really good kind of busy with tons of wonderful things happening in our lives. I can’t wait to share more updates about our Phamily and My Dear Darling. Lots of news! For now, here’s what we’ve been up to…
Bruce made a chia(?) guy at school last Friday and it just started to sprout. I love how he checks in on the guy’s “hair” daily. Such a cute idea, Mrs. G! He took the photo above to record where it’s at right now. :)
Spring has sprung! :) I’m getting the itch to plant things in my garden because everywhere I look, trees are green and flowers are blooming.
I keep forgetting to get permission from parents to post the cutest photos of Bruce and their kids. We’ve been coordinating playdates and hangouts this Spring break with a few friends and he could not be happier! “Do I have school tomorrow?” “Nope.” “Yay~!” Haha, so it starts.
What’ve you been up to this fine Spring season?
Lots of Smiles,
Here’s a tiny peek into our family room progress. :)
My four favorite guys in the world… if you can spot Katsu. ;)
And a little gem we found on one of the walls! Every bit of this process with Kim & Scott and Lowe’s has been ah-may-zing so far! We’re feeling super duper lucky and excited to meet them for the big makeover!
Hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Lots of Smiles,