Saturday, April 9, 2016

Jigokudani Monkey Park--Checking Seeing The Nagano Snow Monkeys off our Bucket List!

After visiting Matsumoto Castle, we stayed the night in tiny little Airbnb apartment in Matsumoto (decorated interestingly in a manga theme . . . ) and woke up that morning to fresh snow!  It was perfect!  We were heading to Nagano to see the snow monkeys and we were excited to be able to see the snow monkeys actually in the snow!

It ended up being a very cold and icy hike, but it was worth it!  Seeing the snow monkeys in their natural habitat, scurrying all over the place--practically running over our feet and bumping up against us--was amazing!

The workers at the park feed the monkeys three times a day just to keep the monkeys in the area, and we arrived right as they were getting their morning meal, so right as we walked up, the monkeys came scurrying down the mountain in a big herd.  It was crazy!  And then to see them run around, splash in the river, and soak in the hot springs was so awesome.  

William had his camera with him and was totally into the whole experience.  It was almost more fun to watch Will getting excited and following the monkeys around to take pictures than it was to just watch the monkeys!

Overall, it was an unreal experience!  And one for the books--we can check it off our bucket list now!

GPS Coordinates:  36.732827, 138.462134

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Matsumoto Castle

A few days after Christmas, we packed up our car and headed north to see Matsumoto Castle and the Nagano snow monkeys.  It was a quick trip; we went for two days and rented a tiny Airbnb apartment (for $50!!!) that was about a mile away from the castle to stay in for the night.

Matsumoto Castle is stunning!  As we drove up to it, I felt like we had gone back in time.  It is still in incredible condition and the grounds surrounding it are beautiful.  

We spent the afternoon touring the castle and the grounds before heading into the city center to eat dinner.  We found a delicious restaurant and then headed back to our cozy (but cold) apartment to set up our futons and get some sleep.  Then, when we woke up the next morning, we looked out our window to see fresh snow!  Since we were staying so close to the castle, we just had to drive over and take pictures of it beautifully dusted with the fresh-fallen snow.  It was picture perfect.

Next, on to the snow monkeys!!!  Stay tuned for a blog post coming soon :)

GPS Coordinates for Matsumoto Castle: 36.238908, 137.969001

Christmas Lights at Seibuen Amusement Park

On Christmas day, after opening our presents, playing with all of our new toys, and eating our Christmas dinner at the conveyer belt sushi restaurant, Hamazushi, we went to ride some rides and see the lights at Seibuen Amusement Park!  Seeing thousands of Christmas lights and making ourselves sick riding the teacups and the swings was the perfect way to end our holiday!  Our friends, the Okudas, met up with us and we really had a blast.  It was freezing, but so much fun!

GPS Coordinates for Seibuen:  35.768868, 139.442848

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Christmas 2015

Christmas . . . was almost 3 months ago!  Hahaha!  I am so behind in my blogging, but I just couldn't not post about Christmas!  We had a great Christmas season, going to ugly sweater parties, visiting Santa, and seeing Christmas lights.

On Christmas Eve, we went out for shabu shabu, and then we came back home to put on Christmas jammies, read Luke 2 together, set out cookies and milk for Santa, and the kids each got to open one present.  Our kids are at such fun and excitable ages right now--it makes Christmas so magical!

We woke up early Christmas morning and the kids anxiously waited to go downstairs to see what Santa had brought!

We spent the morning opening presents and playing with all of our new toys, and then later we went to dinner at Hamazushi and to ride the rides and see the Christmas lights at Seibuen Amusement Park!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Adventures in Vietnam: The Marble Mountains and Lady Buddha

Our last adventures in Vietnam were to visit The Marble Mountains and Lady Buddha in Da Nang.  The Marble Mountains are magnificent.  They pop right up out of flat terrain and are entirely marble! It was incredible to walk through one of the mountains, feeling the cool-to-the-touch marble walls and seeing the extraordinary statues and carved out caves.  And the temples and shrines built on the mountain were equally as impressive and beautiful!


To get up into the mountain and to see the shrines, we took a giant elevator built into its side. From there, we had beautiful views and could just start right on to the hike that took us in and out of caves and to see all of the amazing statues and things that had been carved out of the mountain.

Just down the street from the Marble Mountains is the Cao Dai Temple.  It was actually closed when we went, but there were some people who lived/worked on the property that let us in to see it and walk around!  It was truly unlike any other temple/church I've ever been in!

And, lastly, we drove along the beautiful coast, past the round fishing boats and up another mountainside to see the giant Lady Buddha that stands watch over Da Nang.  It was such a gorgeous day, and being up above city and the sea was absolutely breathtaking!

Vietnam was so so wonderful!  I hope to go back someday to explore Hanoi and all of its many other beautiful coastlines and cities!