Thursday, July 2, 2015

Take Me Out to the Seibu Lions Baseball Game!

Not more than 10 minutes from our house is the Seibu Dome, home of the professional baseball team, the Seibu Lions.  Since we moved here a year ago, we've talked about going to a game down there, and we finally made it happen last weekend!  We went with two other families and had a blast.

The Seibu Dome is a really cool stadium; it's actualky open/outdoor, but has a giant umbrella-like covering over the top.  This keeps it nice and cool with the breeze flowing through and it keeps the rain and harsh sunshine out.  Plus, somehow, it seems really small; every seat is a good seat!

Going to a professional baseball game in Japan felt so different than going to a game in the states.  I don't know exactly what it was, maybe the fact that they sell katsu curry at the snack bar instead of footlongs???  Or maybe it's the fact that the girls walking up and down the aisles selling beer look more like Harajuku girls in beer-branded cheerleading outfits.  Or maybe it's the fact that normally Japanese people are so quiet and reserved, but at baseball games they go CRAZY!!!!  They had noise makers, everyone was wearing team gear, and they would sing full songs and chants the entire time!  It was actually pretty awesome; it took a while for Clara to get used to it.  She was really upset by the noise when we first got there!

But, as you can see, Clara warmed up quickly and was back to her normal, goofy self in no time!

You can get the Lions' game schedule here, and the GPS Coordinates for the Seibu Dome are:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kamakura Shrines Part 2: Great Buddha and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

After Odaiba, driving down to Kamakura and seeing the Houkokuji shrine, we then went over to the Great Buddha, which we'd visited before, but wanted to show Andrew.  Even though it's only a couple of miles from Houkokuji, the traffic was absolutely horrendous and since we were literally stopped on the road just under a mile away, Andrew and I finally decided to just jump out and run the rest of the way to see it while Peter and the kids slowly made their way over in the car to pick us up afterwards.

Unlike the last time we went, this time the place was packed!  There were tons of people, so it was impossible to get a clear shot, but regardless, seeing it up close is amazing and its size and construction are just so impressive.  

After walking around the grounds for a few minutes and checking out a souvenir shop, we ran back down to meet Peter and the kids and we drove back over to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, a huge shrine in the heart of Kamakura.  The grounds were huge, there was tons of variety in the landscaping and buildings; we really had a fun time walking around and exploring it all.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kamakura Shrines Part 1: Houkokuji

I've found another favorite spot in Japan!  The beautiful temple, Houkokuji, with its accompanying bamboo forest!  After leaving the hustle and bustle, crowds, photo booths, and high-rises of Tokyo the other day, we hopped back into our car and drove down the coastline to Kamakura to see some of the more ancient parts of Japan.  They really have it all here I tell ya!  Fast-paced city life, quiet mountain towns, farms and farms and farms, beautiful beaches, and the most serene shrines and gardens in the world.  I seriously couldn't love Japan any more.  

Anyway, Houkokuji.  It's awesome.  Leading up to the shrine is a small, but beautiful, zen garden.  The shrine itself is pretty and unassuming, but with large windows that look upon luscious vegetation set alongside some small cliffs/natural rock.  In fact, there's even a small cemetery tucked inside a cave in the side of the cliff wall. 

Just in from the rock walls surrounding the area are more gardens, beautifully manicured, leading to a small, but unbelievably peaceful bamboo forest.  It's not huge like the one in Kyoto, or some that we saw growing wild by the roadside in Shimoda, but this bamboo forest was incredibly maintained and was so calming I think we could have stayed for hours.  

The bamboo didn't quite have the same calming effect on our children as it did us, but they had a great time nonetheless, and I think they really nailed their bamboo poses.  And Will's accessories really got him a great response from the other garden visitors ;)

So, if you're visiting Kamakura anytime soon, be sure to stop by Houkokuji!!!!  I want to go back again and again and again.

GPS Coordinates:35.320274, 139.569312

Monday, June 29, 2015

Experiencing Tokyo: Odaiba, Toyota Megaweb, and Zepp

On Andrew's last day in Japan, we really tried to pack it in!  We started out by going to Odaiba in Tokyo to check out Megaweb, Toyota's huge showroom.  We got there a little early though, so we walked through Diver City's Zepp's game/stimulation overload room and took some really soft and sweet photobooth pictures, then we played a big game of Mario Kart!  It was super fun!

Toyota Megaweb was pretty cool, but the whole experience is much better if you can speak Japanese; there are cars you can drive and race, but only fluent Japanese speakers are allowed to participate.  Boo.  Oh well, we took advantage of everything else!  We checked out all their cars, the regular ones, plus a bunch of race cars they had on display.  There were also several simulated driving games that we could play.  Will was loving it.

After spending a couple of hours at Toyota, we ate lunch at the mall next door and scored some awesome trick sunglasses and some pictures with Love Live cosplay girls!  Kawaiiiiiiiiii!!!!

From Odaiba, we cruised down to Kamakura!  Stay tuned for more pictures of our adventures in my next post :)

GPS Coordinates for Toyota Megaweb (Zepp is just next door!):  35.627090, 139.782530

Kawaguchi Asama Shrine near Mt. Fuji

Still trying to catch up with my posts from when Andrew was in town!  And, as I was going through these pictures, I realized that I failed to get a picture of the actual shrine!  Oh well, if you're really curious, just google it ;)

The day we went to the Kawaguchi Asama Shrine was a little crazy.  It had been raining a lot on and off for the two previous days, but we were getting anxious to get out and explore, so even with rain on the forecast again, we decided to chance it and head to Mt. Fuji.  Our original plan was to first go to the Chureito Pagoda, then on to either the Shiraito Falls, or to the Bat Caves, but as luck would have it, we didn't do any of that and only went to the Kawaguchi Asama Shrine!  Ha!  This is how the day unfolded . . . 

When we got in the car it wasn't raining, cloudy, but not raining.  We started off great, but then somehow got on the tollway going the wrong direction!  Which cost us roughly 45 minutes because there aren't very many exits off the tollways here :(  That really wouldn't be too bad, except that it only takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get there anyway!  So, we pretty much doubled our time in the car, and we'd forgotten to bring any toys or electronic devices for the kids (that's what happens when Peter's not with me--I get lost and the kids don't have iPhones!), so they were pretty much losing it by the time we got there.  Also, while on the drive towards Mt. Fuji, we began to notice that it was getting cloudier and cloudier and foggier and foggier.  So, in areas on the drive where we'd normally see Mt. Fuji majestically looming in the distance before us, we couldn't see anything at all!  Just the road before us, some of the forest around us in the canyons, and a big, grey sky.  We were trying to be optimistic though, and thought that maybe once we were closer we'd be able to see it, or maybe right as we approached the top of the stairs at the Chureito Pagoda, the clouds would part and we'd be able to get a great shot of Mt. Fuji.  But, alas, we were not so fortunate.  We kept driving towards what we thought was the Chureito Pagoda, but instead of trusting the GPS coordinates that we had used the last time we went, I just put in "Chureito Pagoda" into Google Maps and let it tell me where to go.  Apparently Google was a little confused because it took us right to the Kawaguchi Asama Shrine!  It looked beautiful and worth exploring though, plus we got to drive right by the beautiful Kawaguchiko Lake, so we weren't too upset.  We figured we'd hop out, take a look around, then get back to our original plan of going to the pagoda and on to the other spots.  

We had fun exploring the grounds; this shrine is thought to be the first to have been built on the North  side of Mt. Fuji, and it definitely looks old, but still beautiful.  And just as beautiful as the shrine itself are these grand and magnificent cedar trees.  There are 7 of these trees on the shrine grounds, of which they believe to be holy, and each is wrapped with rope to ward off evil.  

And, on a side note, I think the kids are really perfecting their picture poses.  

After wandering around the grounds for a bit, we decided to get going, and just as we were walking back to our car it started raining on us!  We hurried out of the rain and again looked up the pagoda in our maps, but this time with the correct GPS coordinates.  It was only about 15 minutes away, so we were amped and ready to go for it despite the fact that it was raining and still cloudy with no visibility of Mt. Fuji whatsoever, even though we were at its very base!  I really don't know why we were being so optimistic and gung ho.  Anyway, we were off.  But, suddenly I missed a turn (I actually thought I was making the correct turn, but it was really right before the street I turned onto), and we were at the tolls about to get on the tollway going back home!  Aaaaahhhhh!!!!!  And, at those points, there are no u-turns.  I looked at Andrew, then looked at my map and saw that the first exit and chance to turn around was 30 minutes away!  We'd be halfway home!  Andrew said he didn't really care, and I knew that my kids didn't have all the additional driving in them, and even if we did try and press forward with our plan anyway we A) for sure would never even get a clear view of Mt. Fuji, and B) would probably get drenched in the rain!  So, we just made the decision to go right through that toll and head back home!  Ha!  What a joke!!!!  I mean, the shrine was really cool, and seeing the lake was a treat, but normally would we have gone all that way just to do what we did?  Not a chance.  Those two things were more like add-on activities, not end destination type activities.  Oh well.  We had fun and Andrew got to see another really cool shrine before he left.  AND, we made it back home in time for swim lessons and karate!  Then, that night, we got a babysitter, and Andrew, Peter, and I went out for yakiniku and totally stuffed ourselves.  It was a fabulous end to a crazy day!

GPS Coordinates for the shrine (not the pagoda!):35.532247, 138.774940

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Yamaguchi Kannon // Pagoda near Seibu Dome and Tamako Lake

Just about 10 minutes from our house is the Yamaguchi Kannon, or "the pagoda by Tamako Lake and the Seibu Dome," as it's more commonly known around here :)

Complete with a beautiful orange pagoda, a temple, offering houses, dragons, stone carvings of the lunar year gods, cemetery, and caged rooster and peacocks (!).  They really have everything!  We had a lot of fun exploring the grounds and marveling at the beauty of all of the buildings and stone carvings.

I think the kids have perfected their dragon faces!

Here's the stone carving of the god for the lunar year of the rooster, which is what Peter and I are.  These carvings were incredible!  They were each carved out of a large rock, which was still intact all around it.

Clara and I have loved seeing all of the hydrangeas this season, and so here we, posing with our "pretty flower faces."  That girl is such a little riot.

There's a cemetery on the hill near the pagoda, but also, in front of the temple are these steps of small statues.  I'm not sure if there are remains in each of these, but there were hundreds of these little statues and shrines, and many of them looked to be dedicated to babies and young children.

And, probably the craziest part of the whole property are the caged rooster and peacocks!  This guy was showing off his feathers for us!

We love having so many beautiful and unique cultural destinations so close to our home!

*I don't have the GPS coordinates, but if you take the road that the Aeon Mall is on, and follow it all the way past the street that the obstacle course park is on, it will be a little further up (about a mile) on the left.  You can't miss the giant pagoda!