Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Asakusa and Shinjuku Through the Eyes of My Kids

We decided to take a trip with our pals into Tokyo on Tuesday to tour Asakusa and find a surprise in Shinjuku.  Once everyone was packed and ready to go, we made our way to Yokosuka Chuo and caught the 1047 train for Asakusa (a straight shot,  no transfers, Yay!).

When we got there I thought, Terra, we have been here many, many times.  How will you photograph this place in a different way this time?  Well, Terra, how about you give these little youngins a chance to do the picture-taking?  Hey, Terra, that's a great idea!  You are SO smart!

I handed my camera (not THE camera, but a smaller, older, cheaper camera) to the 6-year-old Boy and told him to have at it.  This is what I got...

This is the underside of the lantern above.  Not sure I've ever noticed the red detail under there.

Koinobori ~ Carp streamers, used to celebrate Children's Day, which is May 5.  I like how his picture is just of the streamers.  I took pictures of the streamers too, but in a way that had some sort of other feature in the background.  This is a simple view of the exact thing he was interested in.  The Streamers.  No fillers.  Perfect!

Awww...Boy found a heart somewhere

He tried to get a shot of the smoke from incense down there, but people kept walking in front of him so he got frustrated and gave up.  I guess he didn't have as much interference from up on Sensoji's steps.

I did steal the camera for a few shots...I just couldn't help myself.  I saw a few opportunities for good pictures and took them.  

At this point it was Kenz's turn to snap a few shots.  Here's what she found interesting...

This is her shot of Sky Tree

There were lots of lanterns in the area today.  I'm not sure if they are always there or not.  I don't remember seeing them any other time we've been here.  Maybe they are just up this time because Golden Week starts on Thursday.  

Golden Week is the time surrounding a bunch of Japenese holidays at the end of April/beginning of May.  It starts with Apr 29, the Emperor's birthday/Greenery Day/Showa Day.  May 3 is Constitutional Memorial Day.  May 4 is Citizen's Holiday.  May 5 is Children's Day.  Obviously, that is a BAD time to be exploring, hence the reason why we were heading out for three outings this week...for the next week we will be home.

Oh no...she found the knick knack store...

I'll spare you ALL of the knick knack pictures...she told me at one point she was taking pictures of the things she wanted to come back and buy.  Yikes!  She took a LOT of pictures in the shopping area.  Chopsticks, dolls, dolls, more dolls, fans, tea pots, koinobori....

**EDIT**  The following three pictures added:  both from Mackenzie.  I'm not sure how I could have missed these!

Totoro - she said this was for Mrs. Nina since it's her favorite.

What an awesome building!!!!  I have no idea where she even saw this.  Good eye, 8-year-old!

I'm not sure I've ever taken a picture of that part of Sky Tree.

At this point we decided we needed to get some food in our bellies.  We did a little search for a place to eat.  We found a building with food on each floor.  We found a place we liked on the 5th floor (there was a picture gallery on the first floor for us to make a lunch choice).  All seven of us hopped on the elevator and when the doors opened on the fifth floor we found the exit blocked off.  Hmm...must be closed.  Ok, we saw something on the 7th floor, so we punched that number in next.  Also gated off.  Gee...back to the 1st floor we go.  Regroup.  We decided we would try the open restaurant that was right there on the first floor.  We were escorted to our table, and we all took off our shoes and sat down.  After looking over the menus we settled on a few choices.  Sashimi, tomatoes and mozzarella, pizza, fried crispy chicken (one for each of my kids), and a fried plate (for me and the kids), and a fried oyster set.

When the kids' chicken plates arrived (oh, quick note...the menus were in Japanese so I ended up using my phone's translate app to figure out what everything was), the kids' fried crispy chicken plates arrived and I thought, "Hm...those are very tiny pieces of chicken."  I pick up one of the pieces from Boy's plate and taste it.  Uh's fried cartilage.  I wonder how this will go over.  Garytt ended up eating half of his plate while Mackenzie ate about three pieces before saying, "This is hard to chew."  It was at this point that Garytt thought the chicken wasn't good anymore.  At least he got through half of it.  So, the kids finished off my fried plate.  Meaning...they ate everything but the four small pieces of fish, those were left for me.

From here we jumped on the train at Asakusa Station and made our way to Shinjuku Station.  For some reason Boy was pouting about something.  Kacee and all the kids sat on the opposite side of the train from me.  When Garytt sat down and started pouting the man next to me kept laughing at him and saying, "Aww".  Garytt saw the man looking at him and laughed, which totally ruined whatever pouting session he was trying to display.  So, he pulled his hat down and pouted in seclusion.  On the right, this is how Emelie likes to ride the train...upside down.  I bet it offers a pretty interesting view!

A picture of the boys waiting on the moms to figure out which way to go for the surprise in Shinjuku

Like her sister, she had to take a selfie.  Unlike her sister, there was only one, not fifty.

She said she thought this lady was pretty.

Garytt took this picture.  He wanted a person picture to add to his collection.

Back to Mackenzie.  She liked this HUGE watch.

Now...on to our surprise!  

Another Gojira!  

That makes two this week!  This guy is climbing over part of the Gracery Hotel in Shinjuku.  Apparently, there is a room you can stay in with his giant face glaring through the window!

You can read all about the Godzilla $400 a night themed rooms here:

Looks pretty cool to me!  Expensive, but a fun experience!

Garytt was having some sort of melt down at this point.  He sat on a barrier column with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face.  So, these are all Kenz's pictures.

She was soo proud of these two close up shots...

 These were taken with my phone, since my 8 year old was having so much fun taking pictures.

A forced smile in the middle of yet another pouting sessions.  Perhaps three trips and 20 miles of walking in three days was a bit much for Boy.

So, another part of our excursion today was getting  pictures of Flat Stanley for a friend of Jeffrey and Kacee's back in the States.  At Asakusa we stuck him in a Sakura tree so he could be in front of Sky Tree and the pagoda at Sensoji.

When we put him in the tree in Shinjuku so he could get a picture with Gojira he turned into a huge sensation!  People were lining up to take pictures of him with Godzilla!

What a fun outing with great friends!  I'm glad we took the opportunity to head out in this beautiful weather before the craziness of Golden Week starts!  And, it was nice to spend the day looking with my eyes instead of through a camera lens.  Plus, the kids had a lot of fun trying to document the awesome day they had in The Big City!  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ashikaga Flower Park

0630 WAKEUP!!!!!  We got places to go and flowers to see!!!!  We were out the door of Hardy Barracks and on our way to Ashikaga Flower Park by 0710. 

They are sweet when they are sleeping
 The first little part of the drive, maybe the first ten miles, was a bit's hard to tell on that little itty bitty cell phone app whether I'm supposed to be on the first, second, or third level of a three level road.  But, we found our way out to the expressways and the rest of the 50 miles was easy peasy.  Traffic wasn't bad going in our direction.  We made it to the park just as it opened (0900 open time).  Parking was free, and since we were there right at opening time, we were able to park pretty close to the entrance.  Since it is now peak season for the Wisteria we paid premium prices...1700 Yen each for Kris and I, and 800 Yen each for the kids.  

This was our welcoming committee for the park....cute little pink flowers.  :)

The beautiful Fuji!

I don't think I can adequately describe the amazing smells in this park!  The sweet, delicate flowery smell of the wisteria was breathtaking!  It wasn't like walking into a flower shop and being overwhelmed with the perfumes of the flowers.  I think the light breeze helped the scents gently wander through the paths and up and down the hills.  

I didn't get a shot of it, but there is a tunnel about 80 meters long that has yellow wisteria on it.  It wasn't in bloom (probably why I didn't take a picture).  Apparently, the yellow is the last to bloom, somewhere around the second or third week of May and it signals the end of the wisteria season.

The Azaleas were amazing!!!  They lined the paths around the park and covered the hills up into the trees.  So colorful and thick with flowers!

I have a couple hundred shots of the azaleas.  They were just so vibrantly colored!  There were some bushes that had red, pink and white all in one!  This lead to some of the flowers being white with pink or red splotches.

Thank you!  To the gentleman who offered to take this shot for us, prompting with a "Cheesu", and his wife standing behind him reminding us that, hey, this is Japan and you have to put up your peace sign!  Mackenzie said her eyes hurt too bad from the sun to see what the wife was telling us to do.  :)

Shiro Fuji - White wisteria is one of the last to bloom of the five types of wisteria in this park

Many of the white wisteria weren't in bloom yet.  Maybe a handful out of a few dozen white trees were ready.

More azalea

And more...

Mackenzie said this was her favorite azalea color.

See the wisteria hanging from the trellis?  That all connects to the one trunk you can just see in the center of the purple.  There is over 1,000 meters squared of trellised wisteria in the park, all coming from four trees donated from the city of Ashikaga to the park in 2004.

I think these are tulips

Close up of the wisteria.

I think these daisies were my favorite flowers of the park.  They were pure perfection!

Calla lilies

Murasaki Fuji (purple wisteria) is the second type of wisteria tree in the park to bloom.

Purple trellis wisteria
At night the parks lights up the flowers.  The wisteria looks magical with the lights.  They had pictures of the trellis lit up in the park, we didn't stay until 8 pm to see that.

This picture of the wisteria is actually under an arched trellis.  So, it's like walking under a giant purple flower rainbow.

Pink wisteria bridge (usubeni fuji - light pink wisteria, the first of the five different types of wisteria in this park to bloom.
There are four trunks making up the pink at each corner of the bridge ends.

Yae kokuryu - double petaled black dragon wisteria

This is a rare form of wisteria...double petal.  They are very dark purple.  This wisteria tree didn't seem as thick as the others.  It looked like it was pretty much full bloom, so I'm not sure if it's just a really old tree that doesn't produce as many blooms anymore or if it just naturally produces less.

After a quick restroom break, we hopped into the shop and bought a couple wisteria flavored ice cream cones.  Garytt and I liked them a lot.  Kris and Mackenzie opted not to have cones.  

We saw a few flower arrangements in the center of the park.

Purple wisteria wall

White wisteria waterfall

One last look at the azalea hill before we head out of the park.

We were back in the car around 1100 and on our way out of town.  We made it back to the house around 1330, after a quick trip to the commissary for dinner stuff.  The drive was pretty easy.  I think we paid 5000 Yen in tolls on the way home.

I think most of the park is in full bloom.  I imagine the white wisteria will be in bloom by early next week, maybe even late this week.  But, with Golden Week making a start on Thursday I figured we'd better make the trip now before the whole park wasn't in any kind of bloom.  Glad we dropped everything and made a last minute decision to head up this way!

A clouded view of Sky Tree on our way home