Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yu Kids Play Land at Hinode Aeon Mall

I'm still trying to get caught up on what we've been up to since we've been in Japan!  Minus the fact that we still don't have any of our household belongings, we're into a pretty regular schedule now.  Peter goes to work, we run errands, Bennett has started getting into a regular napping schedule, and we have a fun playgroup that we're part of.

A couple of weeks ago, because it was raining (lately it seems like it's always raining!), we decided to go to an indoor play land at one of the local malls for our playgroup.  It's called Yu Kids and it's located at Hinode Mall.  And it's AWESOME.  I wish I had gotten better pictures so that you could really get the whole effect, but hopefully you can get a feel for it from these pictures.  Everything was white or neon, glowing, bouncy, or spinning.  They had an area that just blew balloons around in the air, and the kids went crazy in there!  Lots of bounce house type sections, slides, and then these cool twisting and turning apparatuses that the kids could climb on and try to hold onto as they spun around.  They also had these big balls that hung down from tree-looking things that the kids could swing on.  It was seriously so cool and William and Clara and all of their friends had a blast.  A 5 time punch card was only ¥2400, so not totally cheap, but not too bad and the kids played so hard, that I know we'll get our money's worth!  We will definitely be going back to play some more!







Hinode Aeon Mall GPS Coordinates: 
35.735070, 139.275263

Monday, August 18, 2014

Date Night at Sushi Kazu

For Peter's and my first date night in Japan, we went and got sushi.  Sushi is my very favorite food, and I had been dying to eat real, authentic sushi here in the Motherland.  So, upon a recommendation from one of Peter's coworkers who is from here, we ventured out to a place pretty close to base that was supposed to be fabulous.  We found the restaurant and walked in, only to find that every chair was filled.  The sushi chef apologized that there was no room and politely just waved us off.  Um, okay.  What do we do now???

We decided that another sushi restaurant had to be close by, so we started roaming the streets (poor Peter was carrying Bennett in the carseat the whole time, which is no small endeavor--that kid is heavy!) looking for a place to eat.  After about 20 minutes of walking and searching, we were about to give up as we reached the end of the street on which we were walking.  I saw a small restuarant-looking place, and peeked through the paper windows, and hooray!  I found a little sushi restaurant!  And by little, I mean very small.  Like 3 seats at the sushi counter and one table that could fit maybe 5 people.  And that's it.  It was a total mom and pop place, with pop as sushi chef, and mom as the server wearing traditional clothing with a white smock for working worn over her clothes.


After being seated, and ordering (we had the choice of two sushi combo platters--that was the entire menu!), we proceeded to eat THE BEST SUSHI OF OUR LIVES.  Seriously.  I don't really know what else to say.  The fish was perfect, and we were completely in awe as we watched the sushi chef make each roll.  That night set a pretty great precedent for our date nights in Japan!


(Please excuse the poorly-lit, poor-quality iPhone pictures--they really don't do it justice!)


Sushi Kazu
GPS Coordinates: 
35.742900, 139.329555

Tanabata Festival


We've only been in Japan for about three and a half weeks, yet we feel like we've been able to experience so much already!  It makes me excited for how much we will be able to do and see in the next three years.  Last week was the annual Tanabata Festival here in Fussa.  The festival is always centered right around the Fussa train station, and just blocks from base, giving us no other excuse than to go and participate in the festivities!



The streets were decorated with streamers and all sorts of festive paper creations.  Many people dress in traditional clothing for the festivals here, so it was fun to see so many different brightly colored kimonos up close.  AND THE FOOD!  So good.  Think of street food in New York or maybe carnival food and then bump the quality and taste up about 500 notches and you'll get street food at a Japanese festival!  Yakitori (meat on a stick), okonimiyaki (vegetable pancakes), karage (Japanese style fried chicken nuggets), pancake balls (no idea what the correct name is!), yakisoba (fried noodles), and all sorts of fish on a stick, just to name a few things.  And it's all so delicious.  



There were also a bunch of little carnival games for the kids and small toys for sale.  This was, of course, Will's favorite part of the festival.  

We love going to our local festival, but next time we go to a festival, you can count on Clara being dressed up!  Kawaii!!!




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Asakusa

One of the first excursions our family went on since being in Japan was to Asakusa in Tokyo.  It was our first time taking the hour and a half-ish train ride from Yokota Air Base (actually from Fussa station, which is the closest train station to the base) into Tokyo.  

Asakusa is well-known for its Buddhist temple, the Senso-ji, and the small market of souvenir shops leading up to it.  The Senso-ji is the oldest temple in Tokyo.  It's also the perfect place to pick up gifts for friends and family while visiting beautiful temple grounds.  

Here we are at the entrance of the temple grounds at Asakusa.  I'm pretty sure the lady to the right of us is taking a picture of Clara or Bennett, or maybe all of us :)  Those kids, with their blue eyes, get a lot of attention out on the streets here in Japan!


Below are pictures of the long row of shops leading up to the shrine:



We had fun shopping and admiring all of the souvenirs.  They had everything from kokeshi dolls, to samurai swords, to keychains with your name in kanji, to kimonos, ninja costumes, and toys.  We picked up a couple of t-shirts, a yukata (a cotton kimono) for Clara, and a ninja costume for Will.  We could have spent a lot more money than we did!

Once you make it through the shops, you'll come to a giant tori (gate) with kongorikishi (guardians of the Buddha) guarding the temple.  I think my boys did a pretty good imitation of the kogorikishi :)  Also, it was a pretty hot, humid, and sweaty day, can you tell???


And here are a few shots of the shrine and pagoda, which sits next to it.





Visiting Asakusa was a great intro to traveling around Japan!  And with that, I'll leave you with a couple pictures of the new costumes these two little cuties scored in Asakusa . . . 




Directions to Asakusa:

From west of Tokyo:
Take the JR Ome line towards Tachikawa and get off at Tachikawa and switch to the Chuo line towards Tokyo and get off at Kanda.  At Kanda, get on the Ginza subway line and take it towards Asakusa, which is the last stop and where you will get off.  

GPS coordinates: 35.732554, 139.800017  

Touring Japan with Kids

Okay!  I'm ready to start a little travel journal for my family here on my blog.  I will be documenting our travels and activities here in Japan . . . and so just like my Kickin' it in San Antonio, I thought I'd label them "Touring Japan with Kids" for anyone in the future who finds themselves somewhere in the greater Tokyo area and wants to know what's fun and what's doable with kids!  So stay tuned, first post coming up soon :)


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Making it in Japan

Konnichiwa!!!!  After a couple months, I'm back!  On the other side of the world!  And it's awesome!  And I'm wondering how many more short-exclamation-marked sentences I can make!

But really.  We're here and we're loving it.  After a super fun-filled two and a half weeks of visiting family in Utah and California, we began our trek to Japan.  And let me just say, moving to another country is CRAZY.  We sold both of our cars and a bunch of our stuff/older furniture, sent about 1/4 of our belongings to storage in the states, and then put all the rest of our belongings on a boat set for Japan (which still hasn't arrived btw, and it's been about 6 weeks).  Then we gathered our things that we'd actually be taking with us on the plane.  This consisted of 8 checked suitcases, 6 carry-on bags, 3 car seats, 1 pack 'n play, 1 rock n' play crib, and 1 stroller.  With this load, we left from LA and 10 hours later, landed in Tokyo, which was actually the next day!  The flight went waaaaay better than we had anticipated with the kids though.  However, none of us slept as much as we would have liked, so by the time we got here, especially with the time change, we were exhausted to say the least.


Once we arrived in Tokyo, we gathered our aforementioned belongings and hopped onto a big shuttle bus that drove us the 2 hours to Yokota Air Base and our new home away from home.  At that point, we checked into our temporary housing and immediately went to bed (it was around 9pm), only to all be wide awake and ready for the new day at 3:00am!  After about a week though, we all finally adjusted to the time change.  Kind of anyway.  Our kids are all still waking up between 5:30-6:00 each morning, but at least it's better than 3:00!

After a week in our temporary lodging, we moved into our house!!!  However, our household goods are still on a boat somewhere, so we're using loaner furniture and kitchen supplies.  To say we're anxious for our own things is an understatement!  But we're getting by and everything has really worked out pretty well so far, so I can't complain.  Here we are, on the day we moved into our lavish new home on base.  Nothing says home sweet home like a family picture in matching t-shirts!


I'd like to start a Japan travel and kids' guide here on the blog soon, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, check out the most delicious ramen EVER that we had on one of our first nights here:

 

We happened upon this tiny little mom and pops ramen shop a few minutes from base and it was awesome.  So, so delicious.  The owners (mom and pop) were so nice--they kept giving us things to try for free!  Like these little baby sardines and shrimps, which were surprisingly tasty.  They also gave us (no charge!) some of their homemade gyoza which I could seriously eat for every meal.  It was all so good and they were so nice, in fact, before we left, the owner offered to give us an entire frozen fish!  We politely declined, telling them we had no clue how to cook it, but it was so kind and generous of him!  And, then when we were leaving the mom (woman? wife? co-owner?  I'll stick with mom) grabbed some change and walked out to the paid parking lot with us and helped us figure out the machine to pay for our parking.  Seriously, the people here are beyond nice.  They are gracious and warm and helpful and kind.  I'm so glad for the opportunity to be and to experience this culture, and more importantly to expose my children to it!  I think it's going to be a wonderful 3 years.



Monday, June 16, 2014

Kickin' it in Austin: Barton Springs, The State Capitol, and Congress Bridge Bats

The other day, after hiking Enchanted Rock, we drove out to Austin to do a few more things before we leave grand ol' Texas.  Our first stop in Austin was the famous Barton Springs Pool.  Located in Zilker Metropolitan Park, Barton Springs Pool is a huge pool--3 acres--and is fed by the Main Barton Springs.  With a slippery, mossy, bottom and water temperature of 70ยบ year round, you really feel like you're swimming in cool, natural spring water!  Honestly, the water was a little cold for our kids after a while, but they had fun splashing around until their lips turned purple!





Just outside the gates of the pool, also in  Zilker Park, is the Zilker Zephyr Train.  It's just a cute little train that takes you on a 20 minute ride through the park along the river.  The kids loved it.  They also loved the snow cones that we'd bought at the snack bar to eat while we rode the train :)


After Barton Springs and the train ride, we drove over to the State Capitol for a nursing break and to let the kids run around before we went down to see the bats.  It's such a beautiful building with plenty of well-mainucured grounds to explore, have picnics, and run around. 


Around 7:30pm we headed down towards South Congress Bridge to find a parking spot and to make our way over to find a spot to camp out and wait for the bats to emerge.  The Congress Bridge Bats are an awesome phenomenon.  The bridge is home to about 750,000 bats, and they emerge after sunset to hunt for food in the form of insects.  Watching the bats is a wildly popular activity and it's fun to just hang out and enjoy the evening with all the other spectators.  Once the bats come out, you'll want to be close to the river because that's where they are most visible in the night sky.  William thought it was awesome to see the bats flying around crazily and both our kids have been asking to go back to the "bat house" to watch the bats ever since.  But if you go to see the bats, be warned, it will be a late night!  With sunset being so much later on these summer nights, the bats didn't emerge until 9:00pm, and we didn't head out until about 9:45pm.  A few days later and we're still paying the price with our kiddies!  But it was a great experience and we had a ton of fun. 






All of those black specks in the picture above are the bats.  It was hard to get a good picture in the darkness, but if you're lucky enough to see them fly out during sunset as opposed to after sunset like they did for us, then I'm sure your pictures will completely outshine ours :)  

Overall, our day in Austin was a blast.  It was a very full day, but we left having completed everything we set out to do and our kids held up like champs, so we consider it a huge success!  If you go to Austin, be sure to check out Barton Springs and the Congress Bridge Bats!