Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Illuminations 2013

Winter in Japan means LIGHTS!! We went out this week to check them out. The first trek was to Kurihama. Flower world was turned into a lighted wonderland. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that there were 120,000 LEDs at the entrance.  It wasn't quite what I expected, but we had a lot of fun getting there, looking at the lights and then wandering back through the city.

Right out of the station we found the shopping street to the left all lit up.  We don't usually walk that way to Flower World, but decided to take that path tonight to see the lights.

The walkway towards Flower World's entrance

Below is the main event.  It was neat to see, but I thought it would be bigger.  There were fireworks that would light up behind the building.

Panorama of the whole scene

My little star
Garytt picked this one out as his favorite light in the park.

Once we left the park we decided to take a different route back to the station just to see what was around town.  Turns out, there isn't much to see in Kurihama.  It's a pretty quiet city.  There weren't too many places that looked like the kids would accept.  So, we decided to head back to Yokosuka to eat dinner.

We found a snowman on the way back to the station

After Flower World we headed back to Yokosuka and had dinner at Stone Burg in More's City Shopping Plaza.
Our view from the table

The kids got to chose toys from a basket.  Mackenzie got a jump rope and Garytt got a packet of cars.  One of which
he broke as soon as we got home.

My soup and salad set.
Soup was YUMMY,
especially since we were freezing.
The kids had the same plate:
hot dog, chicken nuggets,
fries, corn, tomato rice,
and orange juice.

My plate:  Cheese covered Burg,
corn, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower

Kris' plate:  Ginger soy glazed Burg,
Chicken, potatoes, veggies, roast
The kids really liked this place.  Mackenzie actually tried the non-white rice!!!  She only took two bites, but she at least gave it a shot.  Garytt ate all of his plate, then snuck one of Mackenzie's nuggets when she was turned to look at the train.  And, he ate her rice.  He must be growing!  Kris' ginger burger was AMAZING!!!!!  And, the cheese on my burger was fantastic!
The kids discovered they could watch the train come and go right below the window.
So, this was our view for at least half of dinner.

Christmas decorations in More's City
This is our second Christmas here, but since we were still in our new-to-Japan daze this time last year we didn't see a whole lot.  I was surprised at how much the city actually decorates for the holiday.  There are trees all over the place that are decorated and lit up.  Little Santa Clauses sit on top of boxes and racks in almost every store.  And, my favorite part....hearing the beautiful Christmas tunes in Japanese!
Kris tried on hats.

Mackenzie made a friend
We stopped at a shop on the bottom floor to get dessert.  Once we got home and tasted them....Mackenzie loved hers (of course, CHOCOLATE!).  Garytt took a good bite of his icing and spit it out.  Apparently, he's not a fan of the applesauce flavored icing.  So, we peeled it off and he ate the cake and whipped cream underneath.

Garytt's dessert:
A white cake with a
weird applesauce
flavored icing on top
of a pile of whipped cream

Mackenzie's dessert:
Some kind of chocolate cake
with Chocolate cream and
whipped cream on top

Blue Street
The trees on Blue Street are lit up from one end to the other.  They flash up and down the limbs.  It's pretty to see, and the kids squealed with delight to see it happen.

We spent a few hours walking around Kurihama and Yokosuka and had a wonderful night.  Seeing the city lit up is a sight to see.

So much so, that I decided to look for more lights...
Mackenzie has discovered
how to keep her brother calm:
tickle his palm.  Worked
like a charm!
So, two nights later I took the kids to Tokyo in search of more holiday magic.  We hopped on the train around 3:30 and got to Roppongi around 4:40.  I was just a bit nervous about finding the lights.  I marked the spots on my phone map by finding a map on the internet, then dropping a pin on my iPad where I thought the area might be, and finally eye-balling from the iPad to my phone and dropping another pin.  I know....goofy....but, my map on my phone was partly in Japanese and I had major issues finding the right stations and buildings.  I probably can share the pins between devices, but I'm just now thinking about that, so...

The train into Tokyo wasn't as busy as I thought it would be.  We had seats almost the whole way into the city.

We got off the train at Roppongi (and I made it all the way to this station for the first time without getting on the wrong train!! Woop Woop!)

We got out of the station (don't ask me how I figured that one out!) and just started walking down the street.  This tree was only a block or two from the station exit.

Bloggers Note:  I realized I forgot my camera as soon as we got to the base gate.  So, all pictures were done on my phone.  Not the best quality.

The next tree down the street.  This is Roppongi Hills.  Notice the giant black thing just behind and to the right of the tree.  Well, as we walked around the beautiful Christmas tree, Mackenzie stopped dead in her tracks and squeaked, "What is that thing?"  Keep in mind, Mackenzie has had nightmares, and even night terrors (like the real deal, screaming, shaking, uncontrollable hysterics, and scary gibberish talking night terrors) about spiders since she was about three.
I tried to pretend I didn't know what it was...she's too smart.  She said, "I think that thing looks like a spider."  To which, I replied, "let's keep walking this way and pay no attention to the giant black sculpture."  This is Louise Bourgeois's Maman sculpture at the Mori Art Museum.  I just noticed this, but you can see Tokyo Tower in the background on the right.  It is lit up in celebration of the 2020 Olympics.

Tokyo Tower.  It has '2020' on the lower third of the building.  I REALLY wish I had my camera to get a good shot of that!  Oh well, I guess I just HAVE to go back!  :)  So, we got to this lookout point and I saw the street of lights below.  That's where I wanted to be.  Now, to figure out how to get there.

While I was trying to get a good shot of Tokyo Tower with my phone Mackenzie started hopping up and down, gushing about a rose.  So, I gave up on the best shot of the tower and headed toward the sound of happy, hopping feet.  Wow, now that's a rose!!  You can see little Mackenzie hugging the bottom.  It's about 25 feet tall.

Roppongi Hills is a place that would be really neat to just stroll around and check out all the art.  We found such neat seats to rest on and sculptures everywhere.

I was too focused on getting the kids to the lights that we didn't really have time to stroll around and explore.  That will be on the top of my list of things to do the next time we stay at the New Sanno.
Mackenzie found this cool little chair to rest on.

So, after the rose we walked back by the creepy spider and found a path that lead to a dead end.  So, we turned back around and headed back down the stairs to the main road in the hopes of finding the tree lined road.  We walked in a direction that I was sure was the wrong way, but ended up exactly where I wanted to be!

We found this awesome bench to sit and eat a quick snack.  Mackenzie hopped on first.  Then, Garytt settled in.  After kicking her brother in the head a few times, Mackenzie moved back behind that big lump and squeezed herself into that small space and giggled for several minutes.   

When the kids finished their snacks we turned to head up the street some more and I thought, hmm...this road seems a little darker.  Then, I realized that all the trees changed from blue and white to red and yellow.  According to the local paper, the lights change for ten minutes on the hour between 5 and 10 pm.  They go from the white and blue above to the red and amber below, representing candles.

This is Roppongi Hills' tenth anniversary Christmas illumination.  The kids and I loved it.  The trees are beautifully lit up and down the road along these two streets.

Another cool seat...I told Mackenzie it looked like an ice chair.  I asked her if it was cold and she insisted it was very cold...just like an ice cube.  Then, of course, Garytt had to lick the "ice chunk" next to the ice chair, just to see if it was an ice cube.  Gross, I know....that's just what The Boy does.

My goal when we set out was to check out three places.  Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown, and Shiodome.  When we finished touring Roppongi Hills I realized that three locations was a bit much to ask of the kids.  They were hungry and the food I thought would fill them up was gone in about ten minutes.  So, I decided to knock one of the shows off the list.  I nixed the Midtown display.  On we went to the Shiodome Carreta Illumination.

Yet again, I managed to make it to the right station with no confusion!!  :)  However, there was a bit of confusion once we left the station.  I knew there was going to be lights.  I also thought there was going to be some sort of show.  When we walked outside we found a small patch of lights.  So, we looked for a few minutes and then moved on to find the "real" show.  Somehow we ended up in a shopping mall, walked around on the second floor for a few minutes, went down an escalator, and then ended up Right Back Where We Started!

Luckily, I noticed a clock counting down that was being projected onto the wall.  So, the kids and I found a spot to sit on the ground and counted down three minutes.  You can see the clock on the wall just behind the top of the Christmas Tree.

Of course, we have no idea what the sea creatures said, but the show was cool.  It was pretty obvious that a sea turtle was helping a starfish discover Christmas under the sea.  Before the sea creatures appeared a fish came out and talked to the crowd.  To the left side of the screen two hands would appear with a percentage next to it.  The crowd would clap and the percentage would climb.  After the first clap, a lousy 18%, the fish apparently scolded the crowd, at which point we clapped louder.  This time we achieved 25%.  This happened several times during the show.  At the end we finally reached 98% and received a song with the lights pulsing to the music.  Such a fun show!  The kids said they really liked this one....their favorite on this trip.

The blue water, coral, and a Christmas tree

A couple links to parts of the show:

Caretta Illumination 2013
When this show finished it was time to head home.  We went back into the station and headed back the way we came.  Well, the train was PACKED this time around.  The kids were tired and hungry and cold (then really hot on the train) so it was a real chore to keep them entertained.  As soon as a seat opened up I grabbed it and sat one kid on each knee.  Well, from my position I couldn't see the map for where we were and I missed our stop.  (Almost made a whole trip without a missed station, darn)  So, we went 15 minutes in the wrong direction.  Then, waited for the train to go back in the other direction and get us back to the right one.  We got to Daimon Station and hopped on the correct train...also packed.  This one was so full that people didn't have to hold onto the handles because all the bodies held each other up.  I kept the kids entertained by having them search for Christmas lights in the businesses and houses passing us by (which Mackenzie notified me that was an act of spying and we shouldn't be doing it, but after Garytt found more lights than her she quickly forgave that little invasion of privacy). They would search and search for lights and as soon as they saw a tree or a balcony lit up they would squeal, "Christmas Lights!" and the people close to us on the train would giggle at them.  At about the Yokohama station area (a little more than halfway home) the train just about emptied and we were able to sit on the bench comfortably the rest of the way home.  We walked back down Blue Street and gazed at the lit trees again and then made our way home.  Neither kid complained about sore feet or too long of a walk for the whole trip!  Usually, the last walk home from the Yokosuka Chuo station is the worst and Garytt is carried part of the way.  But, they were both tough!  I gave Kris a call when we got out of the station and asked him to get us a couple meals from McDonald's on his way to pick us up at the gate.  Such a fabulous Dad/Husband!

It was a late night.  The kids didn't end up in bed until about 10:00, but they both conked out right away.  And, Garytt slept an extra hour the next morning.  Mackenzie, my little sleeper, slept until 10:00 in the morning!

Hopefully, next year we can get a room at the New Sanno for a night or two and walk around the city to see more lights.  I'm really excited about a trip we will be making next week to a place that is supposed to be one of the top places in this region to see lights.