Three days in Tokyo just isn't enough. What an incredible city it turned out to be! The first evening we arrived, we wandered around to check out the territory, like we always do, and we immediately fell in love. After our short time there, there was no question that Tokyo goes in the "we could totally live here" category. It's hard to say exactly WHAT we liked about Tokyo. It was just the whole feel of the city. The people were friendly and helpful and the city was CLEAN, eco-friendly, and just overall extremely efficient. The transportation, which always interests me, was amazing. There were more people riding bikes than I've ever seen. The buses all seemed brand new, the sidewalks were well-marked and maintained, and the train system, as intimidating as it was, was very impressive. Here's the train map. It was by far the most complex in any city we've encountered PLUS there was very little that was in English! Tell me this isn't intimidating!
Here's a shot of the crowded train station.
We spent our first full day at Disney Sea, a Disney park near Disneyland, but based on an entirely different idea. Instead of the "lands", there were seven Ports of Call. It went from being able to ride a gondola in the Mediterranean Harbor to enjoying a Broadway show on the American Waterfront, which turned out to be a highlight for all of us. We honestly didn't take a lot of pictures. It was FREEZING the entire day and turned into being SUPER-FREEZING by the end. This is us waiting in line for the gates to open. In my family, we get there bright and early!
It quickly started to rain. Then, it started to rain harder. So, we gave in and bought rain ponchos that the kids thought were the best!
Our pictures were limited because we basically dashed from one ride to another, with every available show in between. I love that my kids enjoy the shows just as much as the rides. I think I might even be converting Jeff! If not, he sure is a good sport! We were waiting for the Little Mermaid show in King Triton's land, which was full of rides and playgrounds just perfect for our kids' ages. I LOVE the stages my kids are in right now.
Jane loved this "Sinbad's adventure" ride. It was very "It's a Small World"-ish, but a lot less annoying. Sorry for all of you who love that one. I just hate that I can't stop singing the song for at least a couple of days. You're all singing it now, aren't you?
This park was So amazing. Every detail was thought out. I took a lot of pictures of scenery and such, but none of them even came close to showing all the character of this place. It was so unique and as fun for Jeff and me as it was for the kids. This ride Jack wasn't tall enough to go on and, hello, I'm pregnant, so it was one of the few we didn't try. Jack thought the fire on the waterfall was awesome.
Did it rain? Yes! Was it freezing? Yes! Did we have a GREAT day? You bet! Nothing was going to ruin it for us. We loved every inch (centimeter?) of Disney Sea! We even found a Mexican place for lunch (yum!) and immediately a REAL Mexican band came out to perform. It felt like home to hear Spanish! It was totally our day! Not too many pictures, but definitely a lot of fun memories.
We were lucky on our only other full day in Tokyo to have our very own guide. Jack's friend, Kazuya, moved to Japan in August and when we had to say goodbye we were SO hoping we'd have a chance to come and visit, but definitely didn't know it would actually work for us to stop over like this! Taka pulled Kazuya out of school for the day and we spent the day together visiting and seeing some sights. Jack was SO excited to see Kazuya. It was like they never had to say goodbye! Friends like that are priceless.
In our hotel lobby where we met up. The kids were going nuts, so we headed outside as fast as we could!
How cool is it for these two to actually see each other again? They were as comfortable as ever roaming the streets of Tokyo together.
We went up to the top of a government building to see the view of the city. Lucky for us, it was a clear day and we could even see Mt. Fuji off in the distance (the faint white peak). It was a gorgeous view!
We went to the Meiji shrine which was the highlight for Jeff and me. In the middle of the city, there was a large path in a forested area. We walked through to the temple, with the kids collecting countless sticks, and spent some time admiring the Japanese architecture. This is Jack and Kazuya washing before entering, a purifying ritual of sorts.
Jane enjoyed paying respect and throwing the money in as she made a wish. Do three-year-olds make wishes? Who knows, but she was enjoying doing what Taka showed her and Jack, so why not?
This wall was a place where people would pay 500 yen (about $5) for a wood board where they could ask for a specific blessing. Many were in Japanese, but I read some English ones that were anything from asking for health and happiness to hoping for the right man to come along.
We even got to visit Taka's home for a bit before calling it a day. I was excited to see her home, as I always find it fun to see how the locals live. Taka's home is MUCH smaller than her apartment in Bangkok (but it's Japan, and everything is tiny!), which is all she would tell me about her home. When we got there, I fell in love with their little house! So darling with a great character about it. We could NOT get the kids to stand still, they were SO excited!
When we got there, the kids were tired, so they settled in front of a Dora the Explorer DVD for a bit while we visited. It took me a while to figure out why they were sitting under that table with a blanket. Taka explained to me that it was a heated table/blanket. As soon as I put my legs in there, it was SO warm! We all sat there for a bit before heading home.
Taka was the best hostess we could have asked for! She was so helpful and definitely spoiled us more than she should have. It was awesome to have her there to answer our questions and just to get reaquainted after four months of being away. She continues to be a great friend since we first met. We only hope someday we'll have the chance to show her the same hospitality she's shown us!
The last day we had one goal. To see our temple before catching our flight. We conquered the train system one last time (thanks to Taka's help the day before) and found it right away. It is always awesome to turn around a corner and see that beautiful angel Moroni peaking through the tree tops. It is a beautiful temple and we enjoyed entering the foyer to look around and warm up a bit. It was next to impossible to get a good picture of us AND the temple, so here's us...
Look here for a good picture of this beautiful temple, on the church's temple website.
We spent a few minutes at a gorgeous park right across the street before heading back to catch our bus to the airport. This park was not what we were expecting, but it was incredible. We've never felt the need to be quiet in a park before, but we definitely felt that here. It was gorgeous and very unique, and if I had any photography skills at all, I would have gone nuts. The landscaping was amazing.
I said in my last post how small our hotel room was. Well, here are the pictures, but they still don't do it justice. Luckily, our kids are small and it worked just fine!
I thought the size of this garbage can was hilarious. What can you really fit in that? Floss?
Jane loved to jump on the bed since there really was no other place to play!
The guys tried on these awesome yukatas that Taka gave Jeff and me. Japan is so awesome.
It feels like we have spent a lot of time at the Narita airport because we always stop there whether we are on our way to Bangkok or back to the States. We generally don't have very good memories of this airport, because it just means more waiting. This time was a much better, because we got to stay in Japan to see more than just Terminal 1. The airport is very clean and organized, but as this shot of Jack shows, it can be a little confusing when you are trying figure out how to dispose of your trash.
The kids love riding on the luggage cart.
So, we arrived yesterday in San Francisco. Our hotel is a whole different kind of an adventure. I got a killer deal on priceline... maybe too good of a deal. This place is ancient, but it has character. It actually reminds me of my Aunt Vi's home, which I'm sure my family will remember. It has really narrow hallways, lights with a string to turn them on (which Jack thinks is awesome!) and you're never quite sure if the doors will shut right because there are just so many coats of paint on those things! Vi was born in her house in 1905 (I think). I loved that house. I'm sure this hotel was built right around that time too. Also, our window, which is actually quite a nice bay window overlooking the street view of the lovely "adult shop", lets us experience what Tom Hank's character in "Big" experienced during his first night at his hotel in New York City. Minus the gun shots. Do you remember that scene? It was pretty loud last night, but luckily, jet-lagged kids generally sleep pretty heavily when they do sleep.
We're adjusting to jet-lag okay and we are loving San Francisco already. We spent yesterday on the wharf. It's nice to be back in America. Jack keeps pointing out all the American flags, and he is loving that he can read so many things on the streets because it's all in English! It keeps catching me off guard to have him reading stuff all over the city. We're so happy to be on holiday at such a fun time of year, but we are also quite anxious to get home and get our arms around our family! We miss you all!