Saturday, June 11, 2016

My Mother Visits Japan!!!

We were all so lucky to have my mom visit us for two weeks in Japan!! Woot! Woot!

Our first excursion was dinner at the sushi-go-round!
So, we find our table, sit down (Mom Mom Pat sitting next to the conveyor belt) and we start pulling plates off the belt. We place several special orders through the ordering pad because it's a little early for dinner and there isn't much food rolling by us. Shrimp with onion, edamame, noodles, yum...yum...yum!!!


I guess the city of Yokosuka was excited my mom came to visit too, because they seemed to hold a festival upon her arrival!!! Street fair food galore!! The streets were insanely busy!! 
So. Many. People. 

We knew there would be a mikoshi parade ~ a small portable shrine is hefted onto the shoulders of many people who chant and carry it around the city streets for a bit while a cart behind it follows and plays music. We just couldn't find the route anywhere. Just as we were giving up on the search I got a text from Kris that it was a block away. So, Mom and I made our way toward the music and caught the tail end of the procession. 

We decided that since the weather was so beautiful on Sunday we would make our way to a beach in Uraga...also known as "Pottery Beach". This is Mackenzie's favorite place to visit and the one place on the top of her list to show visitors. She was beyond excited to share her special spot with Mom Mom Pat. :)

After collecting a bag of pottery and sea glass, building a small lake and damn in the sand, and exploring from one end of the beach to the other, we made our way back home.

A view of the cape with the tide coming in.

Our collection from the day. 

There was no time to rest, though...up and at em Monday as we made our way to Tokyo just after lunch. 

Hey, Mom....check out that traffic sign...Mom's response: Oh my gosh!

Yokohama Bridge

We arrived at O'Daiba just before dinner and made our way to Deck's. We ate at the restaurant with the red awning. Pizza and pasta and a great view!


Tokyo skyline as the sun was setting. 


Shortly after the sun went behind the buildings.

After dinner we walked over to see Gundam followed by a walk to Palette Town where the kids played in the colored mist for a bit.

Alright...time to head on over to the hotel and rest before our Tuesday adventure!  But, first a stroll on the Deck for a stunning view of the city skyline!


A selfie, with my mother!  I don't think I'd ever done that!! :)
Love her!

But, wait!  We want to see Tokyo Tower first!  It's on the way from O'daiba to New Sanno, so we meandered through the streets until we found our way to the parking lot.  I'm not quite sure why they made us park way over here by ourselves instead of with all the other cars in the parking lot.  Hmm...Oh well!  So, Mom, Mackenzie and I  made our way to the main observatory.  The view was fantastic!  Of course, I was too busy trying to coordinate with the husband so the three of us could see the two boys from the observatory to the ground.  Success!!  With flashing lights on our phones, we found them and they found us!  



I think there is a One Piece exhibit inside the tower.  It was getting late, so we decided to make our way out to the boys and head to the New Sanno.

Tuesday morning we made it out of the hotel before 10 and drove to a parking lot right outside of Sensoji.  Usually we take the train, but we discovered that driving and then parking right by the entrance was sooooo much easier!

Unfortunately, there was construction going on with the entrance.  So, we couldn't get any pictures of the beautiful torii.  We just moved around the gate and made our way down the oh-so-crowded shopping street.  

One thing we like to do with guests...well, everyone but Garytt (he got a bad fortune the first time we did this and protests every time we suggest doing it again).  We shook fortunes at the temple.  So, first we deposited 100 Yen per person into the payment box.  
Next, Kris shook out Mom's fortune stick.  She then had to match the number from the stick to the number on the correct drawer.  Finally, she read her fortune.  And, the fortune was....


...Not good!  :(  So, the next step is to fold the fortune into a strip and then tie the paper to this rack and leave the bad luck behind.  Then, you walk over to the incense pot and you wave some of the incense around your body to help purify your spirit.


After we walked through the shrine we wandered through the little buildings, ponds, and gardens next to Sensoji.



The flowers were beautiful!  There was a sea of azaleas!


It's almost hydrangea time!  The green is starting to change over to pink.

After we walked Sensoji we decided to head back home and figured that since it was on the way, we would stop at the CupNoodle Museum.  So, we drove to the museum and as we were pulling around to the back for parking said, "Wow...I've never seen it this empty before."  Well, there's a reason for that....it's closed on Tuesdays!  What?!  Darn...so, we got back on the road and went on home. 

Since we were home a little too late for me to take anything out for dinner, we decided to go out.  Tonight's choice:  Sukiyaki.  We went to this place a couple weeks ago with friends and loved it!  Even the kids loved it!  So...sukiyaki...you chose either to eat all beef, all pork, or a combo of beef and pork.  We chose beef.  Then, you have (I think) 90 minutes to eat as much as you can.  :)  The waitress brings you a plate of very thinly sliced meat.  You go to the veggie/noodle bar and load a plate with the vegetables (a few types of mushrooms, sweet potato, green onions, white onions, cabbage) and noodles (several types of noodles...thick, thin, rice).  Then, once the water and seasoning in the bowl on your table starts boiling you toss in the meat to cook.  Once we had the liquid in the bowl flavored really well with the meat, we started adding veggies and noodles.  At the very end the kids each had a bowl of ice cream.  Such a fun experience!  


Wednesday we decided to take a little break from traveling and stayed close to home.  While the kids played with their friends, Mom and I walked to Verny Park to check out the roses that were in bloom.
They were beautiful!  There were pink roses, yellow roses, even purple roses!  There were huge roses and small roses.  Everywhere there were roses!

Our trip on Thursday was to see Odawara Castle!  This is our first time back since they renovated.  I thought the renovations were just to improve the castle's defenses against earthquakes.  Well, turns out, the whole inside is completely different!  Gone are the aisles and aisles of boring artifacts.  They were replaced with new cabinets and at least half of the stuff they held before.  There was a movie playing as well as a floor that asked quiz questions.  
Mom and I climbed all the way to the top floor while Kris and the kids wandered the castle grounds.

View from the top.  Every now and then the blue sky would peek out at us.

Squeeze in tight everyone!

The beautifully green lotus pond beside the castle.


We were back in enough time for Mackenzie to take Mom Mom Pat to her ballet class.  One of the things she was so very excited to share with Mom Mom!

Walking back from ballet
Since the weather seemed to be okay Friday we decided to make our way to Kamakura.

First up was a little surprise for the kids....an Owl Forest!  It's basically just a little store filled with trees and then a few owls were scattered among the branches.  It was so awesome!  We were allowed to pet the owls, but only with the back of our hands and only down the back of the owl.


At the end of our visit we discovered you could actually HOLD.AN.OWL!!!  Garytt was all about that!  He happily donned the glove and stuck his arm out for the owl to hop aboard!  

Mom saying hello to this beautiful creature.

This guy was so big!  I think he was the biggest in the whole room.

Next up for the day:  Hase-dera Temple.  The hydrangeas were not in bloom.  Just a week or more until that happens.  But, the rest of the flowers were so pretty that it didn't matter!

There were a few potted hydrangeas for us to look at and take pictures.


A heart
Around the back side of the grounds is a little bamboo forest!

This is the hydrangea hill...in a few weeks it will be totally covered with pinks, purples, blues, and whites.  For now, just a newly grown, green.

I don't think we've ever walked in this part of the temple.  There is a pretty rock garden here.

Sorry...just a few more pictures of flowers.  They were just so darn pretty!

These were pretty hairy looking.  Fun to look at, hard to take a picture of them though.





At the top of the stairs we found a beautiful view!


Oh, and there was a temple up there too!  

A Mackenzie, her Mom Mom, and her favorite statue!  
I have a picture of Macki-chan with this statue from every trip we've taken here!

Ok...just a short walk down the road and we found Big Buddha, sitting peacefully among the trees, like always.  On one of the walls around the grounds we found pictures taken back through time.  There were pictures from before the area was cleared out around Buddha.  He quite literally sat right in the middle of a jungle!  It was so weird to see him just sitting in between all the trees instead of surrounded by buildings and concrete walkways.  He didn't quite look like he was front and center, he was more a part of the landscape, quietly meditating in the forest.


Selfie with Buddha!

Garytt must have been pretty proud of that leaf.  
He strategically posed it in all of my Buddha selfie shots.

After the fun-filled week we had we decided to take it easy on the weekend.  So, we spent Saturday morning at two ball games.  Mom Mom had a chance to watch Garytt score a run.  He was so excited to have her there and show his skills that he totally forgot to stay in the position he was assigned on the field.  So, he was supposed to be right field, the batter hit the ball to left field.  As the batter rounded first, G ran up screaming for his teammates to get the ball and throw it to him at first.  Then, as the kid ran to second, G ran with him...yes, right along side him screaming for them to GET THE BALL and throw it to him for the out.  Garytt's team still didn't have a handle on the ball, so Garytt ran along the runner, still, and approached third base, as the kid ran toward home plate Garytt figured out that they were not going to get this kid out.  But, even though Garytt was not the batter/runner, and even though he started in right field, he made it all the way around to third base.  :)  Hilarious!   Then, after Garytt's game we ran over to see Mackenzie's game.  She was the last batter for her team and was able to get on first with bases loaded and score the final, winning point for the team!  Unfortunately, we were too late to see the officials stop the game because a bug landed on Mackenzie's glove and so she threw it across the field.  (additional note:  she had just been stung by a bee for the first time two days before this).


Yokohama drain cover
After a nice, relaxing weekend we decided to make our way back to the CupNoodle Museum on Monday.  So, we had a relaxed breakfast that morning, then hopped in the care and made our way to Yokohama.  We arrived and pulled around to the parking lot for the museum...full.  Oh man.  The attendant gave us a map of local parking.  So, we drove to the next one on the road.  Full.  Uh oh.  We drove around to the next one on the list and it was open.  We found a spot and walked through the rain and the puddles to our destination...on a day that it wasn't closed, this time!  Well, gosh darn it...we start to get in line and notice that the wait times for the 'make your CupNoodles' part of the tour (aka the best part of the tour) is so long that it would be 3.5 hours until we could get in!  It probably only takes an hour to get through the whole museum.  Oh bother!  So, we decided to just pack it up and head back home with no intentions of trying to get back into this place for the rest of the trip.  Darn it.

It's Tuesday now, and the days are starting to get short. :(  So, even though it's cloudy, very cloudy, and looking like it's going to rain, we thought we'd try to go to Fuji Peace Park and hope for a view of Mount Fuji.


Oh the clouds...it's not looking good for the view.  And, it's getting worse the closer we get.  At each mountain tunnel we say, maybe it'll be clear on the other side.  No such luck.  We made it all the way to the Peace Park and as we pull up to the parking lot there are orange barriers blocking our way.  What?  I tried to pull up a website for the park to see if it's closed or if just the parking is closed.  No luck.  So, Kris decides to look at a map and figure out another place we might be able to see the mountain.  He finds a lake and we decide to give it a chance.  As we drive down this road the clouds start to clear out!  After a quick stop for lunch food, we continue on to the lake.  

At the end of the road, and the edge of the lake, we make a right turn and we see this in the rearview:


Fuji!  We see a tiny sliver of Mt Fuji!!  Quick....find somewhere to park.  
Now.  Park.  Please.  Park.  Park.  Park!
On the other side of the lake we find a few lots that are more than half empty and totally free to park at!  Can't be....Yes, it is totally free!!!  With THIS view!!!

Folks, the view of Fuji-san from the far shore of Yamanakako ~ Lake Yamanaka.


Wow!  We found our new favorite place to see this beauty!  And, the clouds were very sparse on this side, too!  Score!


We had a nice, relaxing lunch by the lake with an unbelievable view!  A view that, two hours before we were absolutely sure we would not get.

As we were walking the path we were graced with the passing of a family of swans.  


That evening Garytt took Mom Mom to his karate class.  
And, bonus...she got to see him receive his brand new brown belt!

Dinner Tuesday night was, what else....ramen!  You have to have good ramen when you come to Japan!  Red Door Ramen, it was!  So yummy!

Our last full day with Mom Mom was upon us. :(  We decided to take a short train trip from Yokosuka Chuo Station to Kanazawa Bunko Station and then walk to Shomyoji.

Waiting for the train
The sun was definitely out today!  We had beautiful weather!!!


The pond was amazing today!  Just wish they would paint that bridge.

Mackenzie and Garytt on the bridge while we sat on the other side, relaxed and finished our lunches.

Mom on the bridge.

Azaleas were everywhere this week!

Garytt had so much fun looking at all the wildlife.  Turtles, ducks and fish!  Perfect for the Boy!  We were even given a show by three quarreling ducks.  Two ducks kept chasing a third duck all over the pond.  He even flew a few feet in front of Garytt and I as we watched the action.  Garytt felt so bad for the duck they were trying to oust, that he followed it around the pond.  When it finally got on the edge of the pond, away from the two aggressors, he quacked at it to try and tell it he would be his friend.  This is why I love this kid!  He probably quacked at him for a good ten minutes.  I told him it was about time to go and he was very sad to leave his new friend.  He begged me to let him take it home...."We could keep it in the tub, Mom."  After a brief explanation that it would not be very good for the duck to be trapped inside the apartment, he agreed to let it stay there.  But, not before naming him Quackers.  Hm...sounds familiar, said Kris. (He had a duck as a kid that he named Quackers).


What an amazing two weeks!  I'm so glad my mom was able to make it out here and spend time with us.  We were able to share a lot of our favorite places to chill, favorite places to wander and explore, our favorite places to eat, and give her a good expedition where we get lost (which we tend to do a bit here:)  We made memories to last forever!!!
Love you Mom!!!!