Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Chureito Pagoda

Seeing Mt. Fuji is always a treat, especially when the view is perfectly framed with the cutest little red pagoda!  The Chureito Pagoda was built in the 60s as a peace memorial for all the Japanese fallen soldiers that fought in the wars past.  

There are about 400 stairs leading up to the pagoda from the shrine, and trust me when I say that I felt every single one of them!  William, on the other hand, had endless amounts of energy and literally bounded up them!  That kid was cracking me up.  

But, if the stairs aren't enough to take your breath away, the view of Mt. Fuji surely will!

This trip was great for the kids; they were able to get their energy out and is was a fairly quick visit (although there are hiking paths that lead up to the top of the mountain if you're up for a much longer day!).  

GPS Coordinates: 35.49969, 138.80025

Monday, May 25, 2015

Shabuyou Date Night

The other night, Peter and I went out on a hot date to the adult session of stake conference.  Just kidding.  Well, not about about the stake conference, but about the hot part.  That actually came later . . . at the shabu shabu restaurant, Shabuyou, we went to!  (Get your mind out of the gutter!)  Shabu shabu is also sometimes known as "hot pot."  It's where you have a pot of boiling soup and you throw veggies and very thinly sliced pieces of meat into it to cook.  The cooking (of the meat especially) goes very quickly, in fact the name shabu shabu is said to mimic the sound of dipping your meat into the broth back and forth, and then, just like that, it's cooked!

GPS Coordinates:
35.722736, 139.373468

Monday, May 18, 2015

5th Station, Mt. Fuji

Going up Mt. Fuji was another check off of my bucket list (actually climbing to the top is on that list too, and Peter and I will hopefully make that happen this summer!).  The farthest you are able to drive up Fuji-san is to the 5th Station.  And, at the 5th Station, there is a shrine, plenty of lookout spots, and a few souvenir shops.  We had fun exploring the area and checking out the views.  With Mt. Fuji being so iconic, there's just something exhilarating about actually being on it--and so far up to boot!  

The views from the top were spectacular!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Shibazakura Festival

Last week we visited the Shibazakura Festival near Mt. Fuji.  Even though the moss phlox wasn't quite in full bloom, the views of Mt. Fuji were stunning!  We had a great time walking through the flowers, taking loads and loads of pictures, and eating a delicious lunch, complete with sakura macarons!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Two Days in Nikko

Last week, my parents came to visit us, so we decided to take a couple of days and drive to Nikko!  Nikko is a beautiful mountain town about 2 hours away.  We stayed at the Nikko Lakeside Hotel and I can't recommend it enough!  It was right on Lake Chuzenji and just down the street from several shops and the Kegon Falls.  We scored a great price on agoda.com, which was just icing on the cake.  The rooms were big and the location was absolutely perfect.

After driving to Nikko, we went straight to check out the shrines.  We didn't have a lot of time before closing, so first we went to see the Rinnoji Temple, which has the kannon with a thousand arms.  We don't have any pictures of this temple because the building is being completely renovated and no pictures are allowed of the statues inside the building, but, it was really incredible to see!  Just behind the temple are beautiful gardens, and we happened to see some of the last cherry blossoms of the season!

The next shrine on our list of must-sees was Toshogu Shrine.  I am so glad we didn't miss it!  This shrine is said to be one of the most ornately decorated shrines in Japan.  All of its buildings were absolutely beautiful!  It's also known for 3 carvings and paintings: the "see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil" monkeys, the sleeping cat, and the crying dragon.  

Upon entering the shrine's grounds, you first pass through a giant torii gate, and then immediately pass a beautiful 5 tiered pagoda.  I don't think I'll ever get sick of the torii gates or pagodas in Japan; they are definitely two of my favorite types of ancient Japanese architecture.  And, they are so iconic, so much even that every time I see one I have to pinch myself to know that what I'm seeing is actually real and that I actually get to live here!

The grounds are full of buildings, all having served different purposes at one point, but all of them  unique and beautiful.  We especially loved seeing the "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" monkeys carved into one of the buildings.  And, so, then we, of course, had to recreate the famous gestures ourselves!  We all thought it was pretty funny, except for Benny who was not very amused.

We continued to walk around and through the shrine, seeing the crying dragon painted on its ceiling and doing geisha poses (or "kimono poses" as Clara likes to call them), ninja, and sumo poses in front  of the different buildings.

Right behind the main area of the shrine are a bunch of stairs (like a couple hundred . . . ) that lead up to another smaller shrine at the top of the mountain.  The walk was incredibly beautiful--the path is completely surrounded by gigantic redwood trees and it was all so green and majestic.  The natural beauty of the forest was just as beautiful as the ornately designed temples we were visiting!

Seeing Toshogu Shrine was such a highlight for me.  It is fascinating to see how people used to live, how they [still] worship, and it is mind boggling to think of the construction of such incredible buildings built so long ago without any of the technological advances that we enjoy today.  

After arriving back at the hotel, although it was only around 6:00pm, we discovered that much of Nikko had closed its doors for the night!  And, by "much of," I mean all except for a tiny little supermarket and even tinier bakery, which were set to close within an hour or two!  So, we rushed to the two little shops and bought an assortment of yogurts, fresh strawberries, bread, and the very best sashimi!  It ended up being quite a delicious meal!  However, in the future, we will be prepared with knowledge at least that the town goes to sleep early, and that food plans must be made!

The next morning, we wandered outside to check out Lake Chuzenji.  We were hoping the paddle boats and swan boats docked along the shores would be up and running to rent, but the weather wasn't quite warm enough yet.  So, instead, we just walked around a bit, enjoying the sheer beauty of the lake.

Then, we continued down the main road to the Kegon Falls, which were spectacular.  We somehow timed it just right and we had the observation deck all to ourselves!  

After admiring the falls and then walking through the town and doing some souvenir shopping (Clara got a Monchichi doll and Will got a stretchy, rubber banana--so random and funny), we hopped into our trusty Stepwagon and headed out to Edo Wonderland, which was actually our main reason for going to Nikko in the first place!  However, upon driving up to its gates, we were quite disappointed to learn that it is closed on Wednesdays!  Which, of course, is the day that it was.  We felt especially bad for Will who had been looking forward for quite some time to go and visit the ninja village.  The good thing is, though, that we live here and can go back another time!  This time on a Tuesday perhaps.  Or a Friday.  Just not a Wednesday!!!  And, regardless of Edo Wonderland being closed, we really had a fantastic time in Nikko and we'll definitely be going back!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Clara's 3rd Birthday

Last week our spunky little princess turned 3!  Right now, Clara is really into Honey Lemon (from Big Hero 6) and, since Bennett got a Rody for his birthday a month ago, she has been obsessed with that too!  Since then, she has been talking nonstop about her Honey Lemon birthday party and the pink Rody that she hoped to get.  So, for her birthday, we celebrated by making sure she'd get and do all of her favorite things!

We started out the day by letting her open presents.  Needless to say, she was ecstatic about her new pink Rody!  I also made her a Honey Lemon purse (complete with chem balls inside of it), and she got a new dollhouse, some Big Hero 6 figurines, a Frozen keyboard, nightgown, and books.

Then, later that day, the festivities really began!  Clara LOVES the mall.  If you ever ask her what she wants to do, or where she wants to go eat, she will always say the mall!  So, that's where we went for her special day!  First, we got lunch at the food court, and Clara ordered her favorite: ramen.  Then, we went and let the kids play at the super fun play place, and then I took Clara down to a salon and she had her very first mani/pedi!  It was so cute watching her get her nails done!  She absolutely loved it!!!

After the mall, we came home and ate cake (which is supposed to look like Honey Lemon's purse) and ice cream.  It was such a fun day!  Happy Birthday to my girl who is full of personality!