Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fugaku Lava Cave

After a fun night of camping and hanging out at Lake Motosu, as we were leaving the Fuji Five Lakes area, we decided to stop and check out the Fagaku Lava Cave, also known as the lava ice cave or wind cave.  It was really cool--literally!  There were pillars of ice, even in the heat of the summer!  This cave used to be used as a natural refrigerator, and they still store silk worms inside today.  It was a short walk through the cave, and it was set in the beautiful greenery that surrounds Mt. Fuji.  There are several other caves in the area that we were hoping to explore as well (especially the bat cave!), but our kids were officially pooped after camping, hiking, and playing that we decided to save the rest of the caves for another day.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Camping at Lake Motosu

Going back almost two years now, when we first found out that there was a good chance that we'd be moving to Japan after Peter finished his residency in Texas, I began researching the areas around Yokota Air Base.  I wanted to know where it was in relation to Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, etc.  I discovered that Yokota was only about an hour from Mt. Fuji, and this got me REALLY excited.  Fast forward a few months (still in Texas, pretty sure that we'd be moving to Japan by this point) and I came across an article about stand-up paddle boarding in the Fuji 5 Lakes, which are the 5 lakes that are all very close to the base of Mt. Fuji.  It was at this point that I became determined to visit the lakes, camp, and go paddle boarding once we moved to Yokota.  Fast forward again to a year ago when we moved here.  Last summer/fall, Bennett was still very young, we were traveling quite a bit, and we hadn't yet figured out exactly where the best camping was near Fuji 5 Lakes, so we never made it out.  

But this summer I was determined to make it happen!

And we did!  We figured out that the Koan Campground at Lake Motosu was the place to go!  They have campsites lakeside, as well as a "tent village" down the road across from the lake.  And, at the Koan Motosu Inn,  (where you pay for your campsite, can eat, and even stay) you are able to rent kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, scuba equipment, etc.  

We camped at the "tent village" camp-jo (campground) down the road from the Inn, rather than lakeside (the campsite lakeside is much smaller with the tents quite close to one another).  The camp-jo we went to is nestled in the forest at the foot of the mountains across the street from the lake.  We literally had the entire camp-jo to ourselves!  The campground itself was amazing--plenty of space to run around and explore, nice flat ground for our tents, a bunch of sinks, and (clean!!!) bathrooms with showers.   

Just across the street from the camp-jo is Lake Motosu.  From Lake Motosu, as long as it's not too cloudy, Mt. Fuji is visible and the entire setting is absolutely breathtaking--I never cease to be amazed by how incredibly beautiful this country is!  

After setting up camp on Friday when we arrived, we went over to check out the lake and play around.  The side where we were doesn't have groomed beaches, but there was plenty of space to hang out, splash around, and throw rocks in the water.  All of the kids had a blast, but especially Bennett!  He did not hesitate getting into the water at all!  Plus, I swear all boys are this way, but he could literally throw rocks into the lake ALL DAY.  He would've been content to do it all weekend, in fact!  But, I'm not complaining--it's easy entertainment, and we had an incredible backdrop!

After playing at the lake, we went back to our campsite and finished getting everything out that we would need for the night.  Then we built our fire and began preparing dinner.  We roasted hot dogs and finished off with s'mores, of course.  

We ate dinner pretty early, so we had plenty of time to relax, swing in the hammock, play, and explore.  Then, once it got dark we played Marco Polo, which was Peter's ingenious idea.  It was pretty pitch black, so Peter would wander out and hide, and then the kids and I (armed with lanterns and flash lights) would yell "Marco" as Peter answered with "Polo" until we'd eventually find him.  It was so much fun and I couldn't believe how daring our kids were to go wandering around a strange forest in the darkness of night--they even played several rounds without me because I was cleaning up from dinner and getting Bennett changed.

The kids were exhausted by 7:00pm (their normal bedtime), so we put them down and all of them, even Bennett, went straight to sleep.  This gave Peter and I chance to sit and talk by the campfire for a couple of hours which was really nice--it was like we were on our own camping date!  Then, we went and joined our three little rascals in the tent for what turned out to be not such a great night's sleep . . . Will and Clara slept great in the double sleeping with Peter :)  However, Clara likes to cuddle a lot, so I don't think Peter had a whole lot of space!  But, the real challenge was Bennett.  He had his pack 'n play in the tent, and went down without a problem, but then a couple of hours after we came to bed he woke up!  And was wide awake!  And he wanted to party!  So, for about 2 hours Peter and I traded off trying desperately to get him back to sleep.  It was kind of rough. Then, a couple of hours after that, Will woke up!  At 5:00am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and ready for the day!  Needless to say, Peter and I were tired :)  But, it could have been worse.  And the older the kids get, the better it'll get, so we're not going to let a few sleepless hours stop us from doing it all again!

Since our kids are such early risers, we had our hot chocolate, oatmeal, and cereal and were ready for the day by 7:00!  We decided to take advantage of our incredible surroundings and head out on one of the trails that lead out from our campsite.  We chose one that said it was about an hour hike, according to the little sign, and just hoped that it would take us to the summit so that we could get a great view of the lake and Mt. Fuji.  The hike started out mellow enough, but got pretty steep pretty quickly!  William did great, but about a half an hour into it, he burned out.  Peter ran ahead a ways to check things out, but once he realized that the hike we chose wouldn't get us to the view we wanted, we decided to head back down.  It was all so beautiful though and a great way to start out our morning.

After our hike, we cleaned up and packed up camp, ate an early lunch and went over to the Koan Motosu Inn to rent some canoes and get in the lake!  Ideally, we would have rented stand-up paddle boards, but Peter and I decided that we didn't want to have to wait and take turns going out and watching the kids on the shore, and that they'd have more fun anyway if we went canoeing instead.  So that's what we did!  We got two canoes and paddled around and had little races in the lake (I'm not going to tell you who won every single race, but I will tell you that Peter may have bragged about having gotten his canoeing merit badge as a boy scout . . . ).  It was a lot of fun!  William loved having his own paddle and Clara was happy as long as she didn't get splashed and had her own seat :)  And Bennett is crazy.  As long as he is outside and with his family he is a happy guy.

Camping at Lake Motosu was so so so much fun!  We can't wait to go back, next time hopefully with friends!  Plus, it's close to a whole bunch of fun places to check out--like all of the caves!  After canoeing we went to a lava ice cave--blog post coming soon!

GPS Coordinates for Koan Motosu Inn (where the campsites are reserved/paid for, and where you can rent recreational equipment): 35.473811, 138.573248

GPS Coordinates for the "tent village" camp-jo at which we stayed (paid for at the Koan Motosu Inn): 35.451829, 138.571253

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


So, I've recently embarked on a new adventure!  And I'm really excited about it!!!  I am a Brand Partner for Nerium, an anti-aging skin care line that is absolutely incredible!  Seriously--I've seen amazing results in just the month that I've been using it, and I really don't want to ever stop!  Nerium works to fight the signs of aging by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, discoloration, shrinks pore size, smooths, and brightens skin!

The real results are amazing!  (Images via

I'll follow-up soon with photos of my own results as well, but I wanted to get this posted asap because it's proven to be such an effective product for me in terms of brightening my skin, evening out my skin tone, and reducing the appearance of my wrinkles that I just had to share!

And, being a part of the business is almost even more exciting!  Nerium is growing exponentially and now is a great time to be apart of it.  In addition to being in the US and Canada, it has also recently opened in Mexico and Korea and the growth has been record breaking.  We will be opening here in Japan very soon, and I am excited to be one of the very first people to introduce Nerium to the Japanese people!  If any of you are interested in getting in on this amazing opportunity, check out my website, or feel free to send me an email!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hiking Mt. Fuji

A few weeks ago, Peter and I hiked Mt. Fuji with our friends and IT WAS AWESOME!  Words really can't describe the beauty and sheer magnitude of the hike, so instead of trying to articulate our adventure, this post will pretty much just be a whole bunch of pictures of us hiking up and from the top!

Here we are with our friends, Leisy and Kent Miller, at the 5th Station, which is where we started hiking from (it is possible to start hiking from the bottom, but not nearly as common, plus, it adds an extra 2+ hours).

The views all along the way were breathtaking.  We had absolutely perfect, clear weather almost the whole way up, and then the clouds rolled in, which was still beautiful and exhilarating to realize that we were climbing high above them.  

These pictures don't quite do the mountain justice, but it was very, very steep.  Definitely the most taxing hike I've ever done!  Mt. Fuji is 3776 meters, or 12,388 feet.  From the 5th Station at 2300 meters (7545 ft), it took us just over 5 hours to reach the top.  That's an ascent of 1476 meters (4842 ft)!

As we neared the top, we got somewhat held up by a large tour group!  Between the 9th and 10th stations (the 10th is the summit), the climb is extremely steep and rugged, and the trail is only wide enough to go single file.  Since we were stuck behind a large group, we were only able to take a step at a time and then wait.  This stretch took us about a half hour longer than it would have if we didn't have to wait.  Although, I'm not complaining too much since after each step I was able to catch my breath while I waited :)

Climbing the last few feet up through the torii gate that signified the end felt like such a huge accomplishment.  It was almost unreal to realize that we had just climbed to the top of the iconic Mt. Fuji! 

Once at the top, we couldn't stop taking pictures!  The views were amazing and the feeling was incredible!  We were on top of the world!  Quite literally :)

Here's a view of the crater from the top--it was so crazy to be standing on top of a volcano!!!!  Standing here looking over the edge really freaked me out actually.

After taking a bunch of photos, we got our wooden hiking stick stamped for the last time (we received a branded "stamp" at every station along the way) and then I was starving and needed food!  So, we sat down and had some hot chocolate and I ate a bowl of hot curry rice!  It tasted sooo good!

We spent a little more time checking out the top and making friends with some fellow climbers before we began our 3 hour hike back down the mountain (which was by far the worst part--our hiking poles really saved our knees on the descent!).

Hiking Mt. Fuji will definitely be one of our most memorable experiences from living in Japan!  A once in a lifetime opportunity that I feel incredibly grateful to have had!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Meiji Shrine

We've been to the beautiful Meiji Shrine 2 or 3 times since living here, but I just realized that I've never posted about it!  Meiji Shrine is truly a sanctuary in the heart of Shibuya.  Entering the grounds, it's hard to believe that you've just walked off a busy Tokyo street!  

The entrance is marked by a giant torii gate and once you pass through, you continue along a long, wide path through a beautiful forest.  

It's amazing how peaceful and serene the grounds are, since literally just outside the entrance is the Harajuku train station, which is always bustling and noisy!  Halfway along the path on the way towards the shrine is another giant torii gate.  This is one of my all-time favorites.  It stands so tall and majestically, and I love the natural wood.

Upon approaching the shrine, there's a fountain of holy water to cleanse your hands, and then there are three or four other buildings in addition to the main shrine.

And, if you visit Meiji Shrine on a Sunday afternoon (especially in nice weather), you're likely to see a wedding procession!  We've been lucky enough to see weddings two times that we've visited!  Seeing the brides in their traditional bridal clothing is fascinating!  And so beautiful!  

To get to Meiji Shrine, go to the Harajuku train station, and the entrance to the shrine grounds are just across the bridge when you get out of the station!  (Cross the bridge and go right; Yoyogi Park is to your left!)  GPS Coordinates:  35.676633, 139.699347