Friday, April 21, 2017

Yokosuka Cherry Blossoms 2017

First blossom spotted March 31

The last of the beautiful blossoms have fallen to the ground in our part of Japan.  Since this is our last season for this tour I tried to make the most of the viewing season.  The tricky part...finding new places to go since we've viewed so many of the most beautiful places around here.

Mikasa Park ~ April 4 

I think we've visited this park for sakura for the last three years.  The first year we were right in the middle of the best of the season.  Last year we were a little past peak bloom.  This year...too early.  Oh well.  It's always a guessing game when choosing a viewing spot around here.  

Would you like to know what happens when we've spent a good chunk of the winter hiding in our house?  When spring comes and I start telling the kids we are heading out for walks or hikes or exploring, the kids fall to pieces!  Which is why Mackenzie's hair is a disaster and her clothes don't match, and Garytt has toothpaste on his face and is wearing mud-stained pants (MOOOOMMMMMM, I don't want to wear fancy pants!!!!)....because I just didn't have the strength to tell them to look presentable.  So, Yokosuka...enjoy!

The trees here were only at about 50% bloomed.  It wasn't very pretty, unless you zoomed in on the flowers that had bloomed.  Instead of a million pictures under the trees, the kids ran to the park to play for a while and then we made our way to the pond to watch the water show.

The Boy is obsessed with my camera.  He ran around taking pictures for me. :)  It was a beautiful day.  This is the time of year where we either get completely gray, cloudy skies or crystal clear blue overhead.  This day we had an amazing blue sky.  And, at the end of the day we all had pink cheeks because I forgot that we have been hermits for the last couple months, so the sun was a bit much for us.

Kosano Park ~ April 10

At this point, ten days after I spotted the first blossom by our house, the trees on base were at full bloom!  Well, for the most part.  This year seemed to be a bit weird in the timing of each tree.  It seemed like God said, "You can bloom, you can bloom, you can bloom, skip you and you, you can bloom, you can bloom..."  For instance, in our parking lot, which is lined with sakura trees on every side...along the road there was one tree that had bloomed, dropped its petals and was already about 25% covered with green leaves while most of the other trees were about 75% bloomed and two or three were about 25%.  It was strange.

April 12th....this was just a random shot I took as we were walking to ballet.

This is at Kosano Park on the 12th as we were walking home from ballet.  
Kenzie and her bestie, Emily.

I got a lot of walking in on the 12th :)  These were taken in Yokohama as Kris and I were on our way to meet friends for drinks.

NAVFAC Parking lot ~ April 15th
(Hey, we take blossoms wherever we can see them! :)

Just like many other sakura seasons it has rained quite a bit.  And, the wind likes to pick up this time of year too.  So, when a front came through on a weekend I was hoping to get out and hike, I decided to just have the kids run across the street between bands of rain instead.  

Holding a camera, camera bag, purse, and an umbrella all at the same time took some talent!  But, the wet rain made the trees and ground shiny and pretty.

The Boy just wouldn't hold still while we were out there, so just about every picture of his is blurry.  

Unfortunately, there was a car parked in this lot all weekend so I couldn't get a shot of the full line of eight or so trees. 

See...couldn't just stand still for a picture...

Sakura in the ame.  (cherry blossoms in the rain)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Girls' Day Out at the Barbie Cafe

Yes....that said Barbie Cafe!!  Can you believe it?  A cafe....dedicated to Barbie!!!  This is the perfect Girls' Day Out place!!!  So, on President's Day, Mackenzie and her bestie, Emily, and the Moms, Jaimie and I, made our way to Yokohama to enjoy a very girl-y day!

The entrance is not obvious.  We used Google maps to find the place, it's actually called Pink Holiday Cafe, and the directions were on point.  Yokosuka Chuo Station to Hinodecho Station and then just a ten minute walk.  

Once we were upstairs we definitely entered a world dedicated to pink pink EVERYWHERE!!!!  We collectively exclaimed, "WOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!"

The girls with the Barbies they brought and then we found one doll on the table.

The menu seemed to be geared very much for an adult crowd.  In fact, out of the ten people in there, the only kids were our two.  There weren't many tables, maybe 6 and then there were a couple couches with a coffee table between them.  The food on offer was seafood pastas, pink spaghetti (we couldn't convince the girls it would be fun to try that), coffees, flavored drinks, teas, and a few desserts.  The girls went with bread and cheese and a side of fries with a fruit drink.  The meal prices were about 1000-1500 yen per dish.  Each dish is Japanese-sized, obvs ;), so no take away or leftovers.  The coffee was good, also not American-sized (I could have had three, but not at that price!) and Jaimie's hot chocolate looked amazing!

Of course it's served in a heart-shaped bowl...on a pink Barbie placemat while sitting at a pink table, in a pink chair with pink fabric coverings, surrounded by pink curtains and shelves and carpet!  
So so so pink!

For dessert we had the absolute cutest cupcakes with a dusting of a Barbie in coco.  Kenzie's doll had to have a little taste, too.

Once they were finished eating...the girls explored the room a bit.  

So. Many. Dolls. To. See.

Dolls, lunch boxes, cups, the hair styling dolls, cars, purses, and a name it, it was there!!

Birthday dolls too!  And, a Bewitched Barbie!  How did I never have that as a child?!  I guess because she was about 20 years before I was born.  But, still...I had so many Barbies as a kid, I'm really shocked she wasn't mixed in there somewhere!

Emily paid the bill :) and we made our way to the door.

First, a few shots in our very own Barbie box!  We could also check our makeup and hair before entering the box.

Perfect Girls' Day Out!!!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sakura Illuminations at Sankeien Gardens

Sankeien Garden is a park in Yokohama, about a 30 minute drive (using toll roads, so about 2,000 Yen each direction).  The drive was pretty simple.  The last few minutes were off the highway and onto one of those tiny Japanese streets where you have to dodge people walking on the sides and take turns moving off the side of the road so cars coming from the other direction can go past, because both of you won't fit at the same time.  It's an adventure...right....not a heart attack waiting to happen!

Boy decorated the car for me
Once at the park we took a ticket from the parking meter and then we were directed to a parking spot.    It didn't look like there were tons of spots available, but because the Japanese parking lot attendants can work magic, many many cars were squeeeeezed into the lot.  And, by squeeeeezed, I mean it almost required acrobatic maneuvers for me to get out of our car without banging into the car next to us; which would have been funny if I didn't have two kids that had to go through the same process.  Oy...we all made it out of the car without incident, though.  

The price to get in was 500 yen per adult and 200 yen per child.  Parking is 500 for 2 hours and then 100 yen per half hour after that.

Once we were inside the gate....hello cherry blossoms!!!

For some reason I thought this park was much bigger.  But, it didn't take us long to walk the entire grounds.  Maybe an hour, but I'm pretty sure it was less than that.  <edit:  Looking at the pamphlet they gave us last night (and which we tossed in my bag and ignored) there is a whole other garden to this park!  The Inner Garden is back past the pagoda.  I'm sure this is the part that we saw with a barrier blocking entry.  I'm assuming that since the normal park hours are 9-5, but are extended during sakura season, some of the paths are closed for safety reasons.>   The only reason it took that long was because Garytt and I were taking turns with the camera....him to have fun, me to practice with a few new settings I'm trying to learn.

The morning started nice and sunny.  It ended completely gray with clouds.  I still haven't figured out how to take pictures so the gray doesn't look like a washed out hole in the sky.

The pagoda sits on top of a hill on one side of the park.  There were a few cherry blossoms at the top, but not in full bloom yet.  I chose this park today because I was really after the nighttime illumination and I figured the trees didn't have to be in full bloom for that.  I was mostly right.  

The park has a pond at the center which has a little stream feeding into it towards the back.  There are a few bridges that go back and forth over the pond and it's waterway.   

Towards the back of the park are a few buildings with some historical significance.  A few of the buildings were brought here from other areas in Japan (Kyoto and Kamakura) because they were going to be demolished, but Sankei-san, who was crazy rich from a silk business, didn't want these buildings to be lost to history forever, so he rescued them.  

After looking at the buildings in the back we decided to start making our way over to the other side of the pond where we could find a spot to sit and wait for the lights to come on. 

Taking a break...on separate benches.

Just as we started making our way to the front of the garden we noticed a few lights were starting to highlight the trees and the pagoda.

This is how you hanami!  Pretty blue tarp with pretty blue tables, beer, snacks, and a guy who's willing to hold your spot while you meander through the park.  

There was a little pond off to the side of the larger one.  It didn't look like this area was as popular as the other spots.  I don't even think there were any lights on it when it got dark.  Kris noticed that although the sakura trees were blooming and looked phenomenal, a lot of the trees around them weren't even close to blooming...they were mostly bare.  Maybe they know their place, and so they let the sakura have all the glory for ten days before they start to burst with color.

After finding a little slice of the grass to sit on, I started setting up the camera.  Oh, and talk about cameras...When we arrived an hour and a half before sunset the camera people already had their tripods set up - no cameras on them or even people next to all of them - to hold the most precious spots around the pond.  Sigh... guess I'll have to wait in line, yes I said wait in line, to get the picture of the boat, trees, pond, more trees, and pagoda all in one shot.  Luckily, waiting in line in Japan is easy peasy.  

Waiting for the sun to go down.

I took the opportunity to practice my night shots.  My Christmas present from Dave allowed me to set up my camera on the tripod and then I could control aperture, shutter speed and ISO from my phone. No touchy touchy on the camera, for the most part.  So, I had a  pretty good lesson on how adjusting each function changed the look of the colors and the amount of light on the trees.  I'm glad I have a patient Hubby and kids who found ways to entertain themselves, because it probably wasn't all that exciting waiting for me to take six million pictures.

Here's the shot I had to wait in line to get.  Here is also where it would have been nice if the trees were fully bloomed.  The tops look a little raggedy.

Perfect family evening out! 💖