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2018 October “Roots” Trip to Japan   1 comment

Presenting the latest episode of

Hawaiians in Japan

Starring: Lari, Christine, Bruce, Kazu, Ailah, Aulia, Fred, Fumiko, Maya, Elvis

October 3-14, 2018

We planned a pilgrimage to our family’s roots in Japan. My mother’s Hokada family came from Kumamoto on the southern island of Kyushu. My father’s Kimura family came from Oshima Island, Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture. So Fred, Fumiko and Maya Hokada went to Kumamoto with us. Our cousin, Elvis Kimura, who lives in Hilo, went with us to Oshima Island. Kazu flew with Ailah and Aulia to Osaka and took the shinkansen to Kumamoto. Christine, Bruce and I met in Tokyo and flew to Kumamoto from Haneda. IMG_3628

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Bruce & Chris did not like the hostel

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Before flying to Kumamoto, we had dinner with Yumi, Asako and Koji. Yuba is liquid tofu and you eat the cooled “skin”.

My second cousin, Hiroshi Hokada took us to Kumamoto Castle, where we got to see some of the damage from the 2016 earthquake. They were having a festival at the castle, so we enjoyed entertainment with a picnic lunch and the kids got to play all kinds of games.

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When we returned to their home in the late afternoon, we walked over to the Hokada grave site. When Chris, Bruce and I scattered our parents’ ashes it was an emotional experience to take Mom back to her ancestral roots. Cousin Fred’s wife, Fumiko comes from Nagoya, so she translated all of our conversations with our Japanese relatives throughout our visit. While we were at Osaka Castle, the ladies at home prepared a huge feast for dinner all spread out on a long table. All of us had a wonderful time getting to know each other and meeting all the relatives.

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What a feast!

The next day, Hiroshi took us to Mount Aso National Park and we visited 3 active volcanic craters. Then we went to Takachiho Gorge, where we walked in the gorge and enjoyed the scenery and waterfalls there.

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The next morning, we visited Suizenji Park, with miniature versions of the major sites in Japan, from Mt Fuji to Fushimi Inari Shrine. Then we drove to Nabegataki Falls, where we could walk behind the falls to the other side. 

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We stayed overnight at Ryokan Yamanoyu in Kurokawa Onsen village with Hiroshi and Takako, who left for home the next day. The next day, we did the “Onsen Hop”. We  paid 1300 yen to visit 3 out of 25 onsens in Kurokawa, walking from one to the next. Then we drove to Yufuin, another onsen town. We stayed overnight, but didn’t get to see much of this town because we had a long drive to Iwakuni-Oshima Island to visit our Kimura relatives. IMG_4592IMG_4624IMG_4608

When we arrived at Oshima Island, Hitoshi Okabatake was waiting for us with Tony, a translator, that stayed with us the entire visit so we could communicate with our relatives. We visited the Kimura grave, and scattered our parents ashes there. The Okabatake family took us to a fine dinner at a restaurant and the next morning, we picked tangerines at their orange grove.

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After they served us a delicious home-cooked lunch, we drove to Iwakuni airport and flew back to Tokyo.

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Chris & I bought new eyeglasses for $60 made in 30m minutes, including eye exam.

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Before Bruce left for home.

Lari’s Top Ten:

10 Buying new glasses for cheap in Tokyo from Zoff & JINS

9 Kumamoto Castle

8 Yufuin onsen village shops

7 Meeting and “chatting” with Japan relatives. In Kumamoto, we had Fumiko to translate, and in Oshima, we had a professional translator, Tony, with us the entire visit with Okabatake’s

6 Scattering Sue/Kongo’s ashes at Hokada/Kimura graves

5 Nabegataki Falls -walking behind it!

4 Being with cousins and family traveling together

3 Takachiho Gorge

2 Delicious home-cooked lunch at Okabatake’s and home-cooked dinner at Hokada’s

1 Kurokawa Onsen Hopping

Fred’s Top Ten:

10. Convincing Lari to study conversational Japanese?

9. Witnessing Christine scatter the ashes of Uncle Kongo and Aunty Sue at the Hokada grave in Kumamoto.

8. Hotel Breakfast buffet with the Kimura’s 3x

7. Spotting Mt. Aso from the propeller airplane on the way to Kumamoto and the scary landing at Kumamoto Airport.

6. The clouds and the mountains of Kumamoto reminded me of Hawaii.

5. Maya tricked me. She took a nice photo of Kumamoto Castle but it was actually a picture of a picture of the Castle. I didn’t even notice that it was taken before the earthquake!

4. Aulia correcting me saying “I’m not Ailah, I’m Aulia!”

3. The 800 year old tree at Takachiho Jinja.

2.  Buying some Kumamoto rice for Mochi Tsuki.

1.  Visiting the Hokada home. They were so good to us. It was just like visiting our aunties, uncles, and cousins here at home.

Fumiko’s Top Ten:

10. Okonomiyaki Place. 

9.  Local super market.

8. Souvenir shops

7. Propeller airplane to Kumamoto. 

6. Hotel breakfast buffet. 

5. Kumamoto Castle. 

4. Mt. Aso. 

3. Takachiho Gorge. 

2. Hokada ancestors’ Graveyard. 

1.Dinner @Hokada San’s House.

Maya’s Top Ten:

10. Hotel breakfast buffet.

9. Singing in the car.

8. Free hotel smart phone.

7. Propeller airplane to Kumamoto.

6. Okonomiyaki Place.

5. Kumamoto Castle.

4. Graveyard.

3. Hokada San’s House.

2. Mt. Aso.

1. Takachiho Gorge.

Christine’s Top Ten:

10  Takachiho Gorge

9   YufuIn shopping area

8  Sleeping & playing with Ailah and Aulia

7  Freddie & Fumiko, Elvis, Kazu & Bruce’s company

6  Lunch at Otabatake’s

5  Oshima (Yashiro) Island narrow streets

4  sunrise at Sunshine Sazanseto Hotel

3  Onsen Hopping

2  IchiRan (Saimin) Ramen

1  Scattering Mom and Dad’s ashes

Bruce’s Top Ten:

10 Picking Mikan at Okabatake

9. Sunrise at Sunshine Sazanseto Hotel

8. Mount Aso

7. Suizenji Esuko Park

6. Kumanoto Castle

5. Toto and other Japanese toilets

4. Kimura Grave

3. Hokada Grave

2. Lunch at Okabatake’s

1. Dinner at Hokada’s

Elvis’s Top Ten:

10 Suizenji Jojuen Garden

9 Yufuin Street shopping

8 Eating Soba in Oguni

7 Visited Kimura Grave

6 Riding Shikansen

5 Picking Mikan at Okabatake’s

4 Museum of Emmigration

3 Dinner at Ryokan Yamanoyu -Family and food (especially the horse meat)

2 Kurokawa Onsens (3 extra ones)

1 Oshima family Dinner: cousins and food (sashimi was fantastic)

Kazu’s Top Ten:

Ailah’s Top Ten:

Aulia’s Top Ten:

 

Posted December 11, 2018 by lariyasui in Asia

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Lari’s 2018 Christmas News   22 comments

2018 Holiday Greetings from Lari

This was a year of big change for me. In April, moved from my Pearl City house to a 2-bedroom condo in Honolulu. It was a huge job downsizing from my 5-bedroom, 3-bath, 10-closet house where we lived for almost 50 years.    My new address: 1325 Wilder Ave #9 in Honolulu, HI 96822.  Email: lariyasui@gmail.com

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Willy & Sue Okimoto invited me over for a farewell dinner with my neighbors, Flora Nohara and Lisa & Wayne Shibata. Chef Willy cooked a delicious dinner for us! I miss my wonderful Pearl City neighbors. Houdini misses me and I miss him since moving to town.

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Houdini

Houdini & me

But now I save on time, gas and mileage on my car because everything is so close and convenient being in town. I leased my first luxury car, a Q5 Audi SUV. I am still learning how to use all the high-tech computer features on 2 screens.

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John Ohtani from Audi delivered my new Q5

In January, I went to Tuscany with Leanda Santos, and since it was her first time in New York, we toured a few sites in NY city before and after going to Italy, staying with Yvette and family in Battery Park City.

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Leanda & I enjoyed Cinque Terre in Italy

Then in early April, I took Yvette, Erik, Noakai and Marlowe to Osaka, Nara and Kyoto.

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Riding rickshaws in Arashiyama bamboo forest

When I returned home from Japan, Garrett Mozolic and his brothers of Mo Movers moved me into the condo. I didn’t finish settling into my condo and flew off to meet Mary Ann Kadooka in Barcelona. After Spain, with help from a few friends, I got my apartment all arranged and organized with paintings hung, and cabinets and closets filled.

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In May, (I’m a Taurus) friends and family celebrated my 75th birthday with 4 parties!

Party #2 at Sunrise

Party #2 at Sunrise

Most of the summer, I stayed home. Yvette and Marlowe came to stay with me (in my condo for the first time) in July. Noakai and Erik couldn’t make it to Hawaii this year.  In August, I flew to New York and took Noakai on a 12-day tour of Norway which included a cruise up the coast to the Arctic Circle.

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My son Ryan, Kara, Jensen, Madi and Allysen moved from Mililani to Salt Lake to live with Kara’s mom, Kathy Iwao. Jensen is finishing his senior year at Mililani HS, Madi started 9th grade at Moanalua HS and Ally is at Salt Lake Elementary. Ryan is especially happy to have a short drive to Pearl Harbor Shipyard. In September, we celebrated Ryan’s 50th birthday and Ally’s 9th birthday at Hilton Hawaiian Village for the weekend.

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In October my sister Christine and brother Bruce met me in Tokyo, and we flew to Kumamoto on the southern island of Kyushu to visit my mother’s Hokada relatives. My cousin Fred and family and my nephew Kazu with 2 daughters joined us there. We all had a wonderful time meeting and getting to know our Hokada cousins’ families, who entertained us royally. We scattered some of Sue and Kongo’s ashes at the Hokada gravesite. Fred’s wife Fumiko (from Nagoya) translated for us so we could communicate with our Kumamoto relatives.

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Hokada relatives in Kumamoto made a fabulous dinner for us in their beautiful home.

Then Fred left and cousin Elvis Kimura came to meet us and Kazu drove 7 of us in a van to Kurokawa onsen  village and Yufuin onsen town along the way and finally to Oshima Island in Yamaguchi Prefecture. We visited Okabatake family (our Kimura relatives) and visited the Kimura grave, where we scattered more of Sue and Kongo’s ashes. They hired a translator to help us communicate. Okabatakes have a large orange grove and let us pick tangerines, which we took with us for the remainder of our trip back to Tokyo.

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It was Bruce’s first time to Japan, and Christine’s second time. We did some site seeing in Tokyo before returning home. 

At Halloween, I visited different friends, house-hopping in the Bay Area. For Thanksgiving, I stayed at Aronesty’s home in Manhattan Beach, LA with Yvette, Erik, Noakai and Marlowe who flew in from New York.

My “townie” life in Honolulu is very busy with all kinds of activities! Theater, luncheons, dinners, festivals, movies, Apple Store classes, Red-Light therapy, facials, massages, pedicures, karaoke bars, farmer’s markets, and more.

I am on the Wilder Tower condo Board and attend meetings concerning our condo. I am an “Okinawan at Heart” member of the Itoman Club and help plan their activities. I still work part time for Chinen&Arinaga Financial Group.

In October, I attended the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival for 5 days at various venues around town. It was exciting to meet many celebrity chefs at their booths. I am a member of Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) and in November, I was at Dole Regal theaters for 10 days and saw 36 movies using my festival pass. On Veterans’ Day, I loved the fantastic Bruno Mars concert at Aloha Stadium with 30,000 of my closest friends.

To all my friends and families, may you have a wonderful and blessed holiday season! For more details about my trips, please read my travel blog by scrolling down on this page or clicking the archives on the left side.

Love and aloha, Lari

Posted December 9, 2018 by lariyasui in Christmas news, family

2018 August Norway with Noakai   Leave a comment

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Norway”

Starring: Lari & Noakai

August 20 to 31, 2018

Each of my 5 grandchildren will get a special trip with Grandma Lari. I took Jensen to Japan 5 years ago, and this trip was for Noakai to Norway on a Gate1 tour. Madi and I have to find a date for our special trip together sometime next year-she is so busy!

Every time I go to Europe, I have an opportunity to stop and visit Yvette, Erik, Noakai and Marlowe before and after hopping over the Atlantic. I had fun with the family before and after Norway. I took Noey to sushi dinner and the play, “Getting the Band Together”-it was very funny! The Sunday before coming home, the family was busy, so I went to see Waitress, hoping to see Katherine McPhee, but she was no longer playing the lead… but it was a fun show. We enjoyed the Color Factory, an interactive colorful art experience fun for adults and kids!

Noey and I flew to Oslo via LHR on British Airlines. We had a welcome dinner and met our tour guide, Stephanie and the other 14 members of our tour group.

We had a city tour of Oslo on the first day. All of the people in our tour group were very nice, friendly and fun. We had lovely cool and sunny weather the entire trip except for one day in rainy Bergen.

 

The hotels we had before and after the cruise had gorgeous views!

We had a two-day bus tour from Oslo, overnight in Flam and to Bergen where we  boarded our Hurtigruten cruise ship.

Before the cruise, visited a very old Stave Church and went through the longest (25Km) tunnel in the world that has amazing technologies for physical and mental/emotional well-being for all drivers. The tunnel is divided into 4 sections with 3 blue zones between each section to give relief and mental awareness for drivers. The air is filtered and oxygen is pumped into the tunnel.

We visited a farm where we could enjoy the horses and sheep and a homemade lunch.

Stephanie Johannssen, our tour guide, taught us many things about Norway. Norway gets the warm gulfstream from Mexico so their waters never freeze in the winter. This enables Norwegians to farm more crops that would not survive in Sweden and Finland where the waters freeze. Norway, Denmark and Sweden are Scandinavian countries, and Finland and Iceland are Nordic countries with a totally different language. Denmark has a small landmass with 5 million people, and Norway is huge with 5.3 million people. Thus, Norway is uncrowded, quiet, with no traffic jams. Norway is a very wealthy country, with black gold-oil and fish from the sea. Yet, they are an honest and frugal people. They have high taxes on tobacco, alcohol and gas so they are very costly. The government gives incentives for people to purchase electric vehicles, so you see many Teslas and other EVs. Norwegians are also very close to nature to keep healthy.  People like to camp and spend time in the forests because all the forests including those on private property are open to public use. Trolls live in the forests and they guard the forest. Mountain trolls are giants that live in caves. Trolls would disappear in sunlight, so they only come out at night.

Stephanie told us the story of a little town called Fla in bear country where we had a pit stop. Fla was dying with decreasing population, until a billionaire named Olav Thon, #198 on Forbes list, took an interest in it. Thon decided to build a Bear Park to attract visitors. But there was no place to eat or sleep, so he tried to get McDonalds to open there, but they refused, so he built a McDonalds building. Then he built a Thon hotel and shopping center there. Now Fla is thriving with jobs and tourists.

We rode the Flam Railway up the mountain to Myrdal and back down to Flam, stopping twice at the Waterfall Kjosfossen where the Huldra, a singing forest temptress would lure men away.

In Bergen we boarded our Hurtigruten cruise ship, Nordlys, which means northern lights for our 6-day cruise up the coast of Norway to the Arctic Circle.

We sailed through so many awesome fjords with waterfalls, villages, and tiny farms clinging to the cliffs of the fjords. Our cabin was tiny and so was our bathroom, especially the shower! So I told Noey, whenever we have free time, we won’t stay in our cabin, but hang out in the lounges on different decks. Noey loved to sit and read in the Orion Lounge, which was on the top deck 7, with glass windows facing the front and sides to enjoy the views of the fjords. Most times friends from our tour group were there to hang out with.

 

 

You may wonder, why would anyone live high up in the cliffs above the fjords in the middle of nowhere? Well, they could be running away from the law or from diseases or taxes. Also, because the weather is temperate, from the Gulf Stream, they could farm crops.

Stephanie told us a marvelous story about one such family that lived on a tiny farm way up high on the cliff of a fjord. Stephanie was so intrigued by the story that she went up to the house of Lady Bloomberg herself. She said it took 48 switchbacks to walk up the cliff to the Bloomberg farmhouse, where she met descendants of Lady Bloomberg who were not hospitable. Lady Bloomberg’s husband died and she raised 10 children by herself, farming the little farm high up the cliff. It was a hard life, but she lived a long time. Such stories give you a flavor of the people of Norway.

Cruising the fjords, we made many stops at small villages and some small cities. When we stopped for the day, the cruise ship offered many tours. The first tour I did with Noakai was to go on a forest hike in Trondheim.

Noey went on 2 more hiking tours with Sharon and Wenshing Lee, while I stayed back to walk around the different towns.

 

 

We crossed the Arctic Circle at 7:18:12 am. We went to the ceremony for crossing the arctic circle, where they christen you by putting ice cubes down your back. Noey ran away when they asked us to participate, so one night at dinner, one of the crew snuck up behind him and put ice down his back.

We took a tour to the North Cape, and got to visit a Sami native with his reindeer. The Sami people are nomads that follow the reindeer herds across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The term Laplanders is considered derogatory. The North Cape (Nordkapp) is where the road from Europe ends.

For our last dinner on the ship, they had a buffet with lots of fresh seafood, like crab claws, shrimp, king crab legs, and reindeer stew. They even had salmon sashimi, which Noey devoured! He was so happy to have sushi! The next morning we disembarked in Kirkenes and boarded a plane for Oslo. We stayed in a lovely old hotel up near the ski jump with gorgeous views of the Oslo fjord. We enjoyed a farewell dinner and sang a Peanut Butter song and cheered for Stephanie, before hugging our goodbyes to our tour group members. We had all bonded on this trip, so it was sad to say goodbye to everyone. Early the next morning, we transferred to the airport for our flight home to JFK via Helsinki, Finland.

Noakai’s Top 10:

10) The Bloomberg farm. Learning about the Bloomberg farm is so interesting, that I think I’ll remember it for probably my life. I love that Stephanie was able too share this with us.

9) The tunnels. Especially the longest road tunnel in the world with the cool Leigh caves, but also the tons of other tunnels. I also really liked the tunnel with the roundabout intersection inside of it.

8) The reindeer. I have never seen a reindeer before Norway, and they are very beautiful and very small, I thought they were really cool.

7) The completely real trolls. I liked the way Stephanie explained them to us, and, even though Yvette doesn’t like them, I do, and think it’s funny that they are so deeply embedded in Norwegian culture.

6) The ski museum. Although the stair hike was tedious, the museum itself was probably my favorite museum of all. I liked the simulator, and the museum itself was both interesting and fun.

5) The one that you’ve been waiting for: the food! The food in Norway was amazing and I loved it especially because there isn’t a lot of Norwegian food in America. It was second only to Japanese food. (Sorry, you can’t beat Japanese food, at least for me)

4) The fjords. The beautiful fjords, which also prevented the boat from rocking and making me seasick, made the trip both longer and more enjoyable.

3) The hiking. I loved the hiking in Norway because, for not as much work as you do in America, you get a better view. Also, I liked the exercise and fresh air.

2) The Orion lounge, for obvious reasons

1) The people. Everyone in our group, including Stephanie was awesome and funny, and also the Norwegians themselves, little though they were, were nice, welcoming, funny and very trusting.

Lari’s Top 10:

(On previous trips, I had already done/seen Vigeland Park, Flam Railway ride, Bergen and Sognefjord. So these are not on this list although they are wonderful.)

10) The cool, sunny weather

9) The story of Fla village, saved by Olav Thon

8) The story of Lady Bloomberg living on a small farm high up on the cliff of a fjord

7) Crossing the Arctic Circle and visiting North Cape

6) The Laerdal tunnel with all its high tech amenities

5) Farm visit with horses, sheep and delicious lunch with raspberry drink

4) The friendly and fun tour group members

3) Stephanie Johannssen, our tour guide extraordinaire! Her knowledge, her efficient organization of our group, and her interesting stories, made this a rewarding and educational trip

2) The many gorgeous views of Norway’s fjords, mountains, and waterfalls

1) Spending quality time with Noakai, forming life-long happy memories with him

Posted September 7, 2018 by lariyasui in Europe

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2018 Barcelona & Bilbao Spain   1 comment

Presenting the latest episode of
“Hawaiians in Spain”
Starring: Lari & Mary Kadooka
April 23 to May 8, 2018

Mary asked me if I could go with her to Barcelona and Bilbao. Although I had been to Barcelona twice before, I always wanted to go to Bilbao, so I said yes. I booked Haw Air to NY and United from Newark to Barcelona. Mary booked our hotels and tours for our trip. It turned out that almost everything we did in Barcelona, was new to me, so it was thoroughly enjoyable. In New York, I spent time with Yvette and Marlowe and visited her preschool to tell the kids a story. Then I took the subway to Williamsburg, Brooklyn to check out my old stomping grounds from 2004 when Yvette, Erik and Noakai lived there. It has totally become upscale and pricey! First I visited Grandma Gina then walked up Bedford Ave and saw a new Apple Store and a new Whole Foods along with new restaurants.
When I arrived at Barcelona airport, I had to wait a bit for Mary’s flight to arrive. Then we both took a cab to our hotel close to the La Sagrada Familia, so we could walk there for our tour. We went up to the top of one of the towers and really enjoyed the architectural genius of Antoni Gaudi.

La Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona

Coming down from the top of the tower in Sagrada Familia

Gaudi created blue stained glass from the east and yellow orange from the west

I captured the western sunset light coming through the stained glass inside Sagrada

The next day, we toured another Gaudi marvel, the wavy condo building called Casa Mila. His architectural design was amazing and wonderful, and people still live in Cas Mila. We took a bus to Park Guell and enjoyed all the beauty there and returned to Casa Mila for our night show tour on the roof top.

Casa Mila has owners that live there in unique design by Gaudi. All spaces have natural light.

Beauty on the rooftop of Casa Mila.

Gaudi’s Park Guell

On Sunday, we took the metro to Placa Catalunya and walked the Ramblas. We had lunch and were disappointed that the Boqueria Market was closed on Sundays. Then we walked to the end of the Ramblas where we found that we could go up to the top of the Monument Colom of Christopher Columbus. We enjoyed the views of the city and the waterfront from up there. That evening, we enjoyed the Los Tarantos flamenco show and paella for dinner.

Monument Colom of Christopher Columbus at the bottom of the Ramblas

View of the Ramblas from the top of Colom of Christopher Columbus

Flamenco dancers

The next day, we took a tour to Monteserrat, a bunch of jagged mountains outside of Barcelona with a cathedral nestled in the mountain. After the short visit to the Cathedral, which housed the Black Madonna, we took a funicular up the mountain and hiked back down. After returning to the city, we decided to check out the Boqueria Market, then we had a tapas dinner.

Monteserrat

Monteserrat

View of the Cathedral at Monteserrat from funicular

Hiking down Monteserrat

Boqueria Market just off the Ramblas

We checked out of our hotel and took a cab to the airport for our flight to Bilbao. In Bilbao, our rental apartment was right across the street from the famous Guggenheim Museum. Right in front of the Guggenheim, we saw ‘Puppy’ a dog 12 metres high, made of flowers. We enjoyed the view of the Guggenheim at sunset w/some wine on the terrace of our apartment building.

Puppy, made of flowers at the Guggenheim in Bilbao

Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim at sunset from our terrace

We took a bus to the town of Bakio and had to walk 4 miles to reach the parking lot for San Juan Guztelulgatxe, [ɡas̻teluɡatʃe] comes from the Basque gaztelu = “castle”, “fort” and gaitz = “difficult”. It is an islet on the coast of Biscay and is connected to the mainland by a man-made bridge. On top of the island stands a hermitage dedicated to John the Baptist that dates from the 10th century. After walking 4 miles, we had to walk 2 more miles downhill to get to the foot of the islet. Then up 241 steps to reach the hermitage on the top. Walking back up those 2 miles to the parking lot was a killer! I almost died! At the parking lot, we caught a ride back to the bus stop so we didn’t have to walk the 4 miles back. We rewarded ourselves by having a wonderful seafood dinner right next door to our apartment at Mazarredo.

San Juan Guztelulgatxe

Mary walking up 241 steps up to the top of San Juan Guztelulgatxe

From the top, we look back at the long 2-mile walk down on the mainland side and 241 steps up on the island.

Thursday we went to the Guggenheim Museum and enjoyed seeing Frank Gehry’s architecture from the inside and all the modern art displayed there. We took the tram to Ribera Market in Old Town where we had a tapas lunch.

Fabulous architecture by Frank Gehry inside the Guggenheim.

Outside the Guggenheim in front of one of many outdoor sculptures

Friday morning, we got up early to catch the metro to San Sebastian, a seaside resort. We caught the bus to the other side of Kantxa Bay and rode the funicular up Mount Igueldo for gorgeous views. We enjoyed tapas in Old Town. The tapas bars were amazing!

The view of the San Sebastian bay from the funicular

Painted walkway tunnel in San Sebastian

Fun at a tapas bar… look at all the choices we had! Delicious!

On Saturday, we took the metro to Getxo just north of Bilbao by the sea and walked along the marina and enjoyed the lovely mansions along the promenade. Then up the famous Transporter Bridge, where we took the elevator up one side, walked across the bridge and down the elevator on the other side of the river to Portugalete. Another way to cross the river is by gondola, which can carry 6 cars and dozens of people.

Bizkaia Bridge

The gondola goes back and forth across the river, suspended from the bridge

Mary and I crossing the Bizkaia Bridge

The next day we flew back to the US, me to NY and Mary to DC. Back in NY, I did some shopping and watched Noakai play ping pong at his school. We celebrated my 75th birthday at Wagamama for dinner. I flew back home the next morning.

Celebrating my birthday at Wagamama in NYC with Yvette, Noakai, Marlowe and Erik

Mary’s Top Six:

6. Monserrat – hike and view

5. San Juan de Guztelugatxe – exhausting, yet exhilirating view of stairs and scenery

4. Casa Milo and Park Guell – more amazingly creative stuff

3. La Sagrada Familia – inspiring connection to nature

2. Guggenheim Museum – architecture and even the modern art exhibits

1. Pintxo’s (tapas) at San Sebastian bus depot and all the Basque food

Lari’s Top Six:
6. Going up to the top of Colom of Christopher Columbus
5. Tapas meals, seafood and paella
4. Transporter Bridge in Getxo
3. La Sagrada Familia
2. Guggenheim Museum inside and outside
1. Casa Mila Tour by day and by night

2018 Springtime in Japan   Leave a comment

Presenting the latest episode of
“Hawaiians in Japan”
Starring: Lari, Yumi, Yvette, Erik, Noakai, & Marlowe
March 21 to April 8, 2018

It was Yvette’s family’s turn to get treated to Japan by Mom. Last year, I treated Ryan’s family. This trip, I went ahead of Yvette’s family and stayed a couple days after they left. I flew into Osaka and took the shinkansen to Iwakuni. Yumi (my friend from Tokyo) rented a car and met me at the train station. We drove to the famous Kintai bridge and took the ropeway up the mountain to the Iwakuni Castle.

Famous Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni

Iwakuni Castle

Then we drove to Oshima Island crossing over the green bridge. First, we visited the Hawaii Emigration Museum where they have records of all the families who left Oshima island to settled in Hawaii. We met my relative, Hitoshi Okabatake, who took us to see the plot of land where, our grandpa Kimura lived before emigrating to Hawaii and also to see the grave where the Kimura ancestors are buried. It is amazing how he learned where the Kimura grave is located on the island, from when Kazu visited in 2016, but that’s another story. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner with the entire Okabatake family, Grandpa and Grandma, Hitoshi and Mariko, and their son Kota and Yumiko with their 3 children.

Green Bridge to Oshima Island

Hitoshi Okabatake showed me where my grandpa and his family lived, but now it’s an empty lot.

Kimura gravestone on Oshima Island

Okabatake Family

The next morning, Yumi drove us along the coast with lovely views of sea and mountain. Yumi makes me laugh because she drives so slowly that cars piled up behind us. Every so often she pulled over to let them pass! We went back to the Okabatake home and Mariko took us to pick oranges from their orange grove and Grandma took us to pick shiitake from her shiitake posts.

Grandpa supervises picking oranges.

Grandma shows Lari how to pick fresh shiitake

Home made lunch, so delicious!

We took the ferry to Matsuyama on Shikoku Island. Yumi’s friend picked us up from the ferry station and took us to Matsuyama Castle where we enjoyed the sakura-cherry blossoms blooming. Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku and the capital of Ehime Prefecture. The next day, we took the tram to Dogo Onsen, which is 3000 years old. After Yumi left to catch her flight home to Tokyo, I went to a ryokan, Hotel Okudogo, outside of the city. This ryokan has several outdoor pools.

Matsuyama Castle with Yumi and her friends

After checking out from the ryokan, I took a 3-hour train ride to Takamatsu. It is a city on the northern coast of Shikoku island. I visited the Takamatsu Castle ruins and the lovely Ritsurin Garden. Then I went to Busshozan Onsen. The next day I took the Mariner 1-hour express train to Okayama. I walked around Okayama city before catching a train to Itami Station to stay with Ibaramoto grandma. We used google translate to communicate with each other. She made a wonderful dinner for me.

Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu

Mrs. Ibaramoto in Itami City, Osaka is Yumi’s mother in law

On Thursday, I went to Kansai Airport to meet Yvette, Erik, Noakai and Marlowe. They were so happy to see me as soon as they came out of customs. We took the train to Namba Station in Osaka and had difficulty finding our AirBnB apartment. It turned out to be very cramped and unsuitable for children so we moved to a hotel with a large family room that Yumi found for us. We took the subway to Osaka Castle and it was glorious with all the sakura in bloom.

Osaka Castle

Picnics under the sakura at Osaka Castle

On Saturday we took a train to Minoo Station and walked up to Minoo Park. It was a lovely, leisurely, nature walk along the Minoo stream. We stopped at the Insect Musuem and did not go all the way to the Minoo Falls. Instead we turned back and went to Ooedo Onsen Monogatari Minoo, which was a wonderful family facility with restaurants, game rooms, resting rooms, toddler areas, ping pong room, massage rooms and more. We stayed all afternoon into the evening enjoying all the amenities.

Among the rocks in Minoo Stream

We visited a temple along the Minoo Stream

Marlowe and Noakai by Minoo Stream

On Sunday we traveled to Nara to visit Todaiji Temple with the deer park. The kids went through the hole in the pole. The next morning, we went to Koriyama Castle Festival. On Tuesday we took the train to Kyoto.

At one of our train or subway stations.

Before going into a temple we cleanse ourselves.

Todaiji Temple in Nara with a very large Buddha inside.

Wednesday we took the old-fashioned open air Romantic Train along the Hozugawa River with sakura blooming everywhere! Then we rode down the Hozugawa river in a flat-bottomed wooden boat all the way to Arashiyama. It was fun going over some small rapids in the river. In Arashiyama, we hired two rickshaws to take us to the Bamboo Forest. After lunch, we took a small local train to Toei Kyoto Studio and enjoyed the Trick Art museum there.

Old-fashioned Romantic train ride up along the Hozugawa River

Hozugawa boat ride was so much fun!

View of the open-air romantic train from our boat on the river

Rickshaw ride into the bamboo forest in Arashiyama

Samurai actors at Toei Movie Studio Park

Trick Art Museum at Toei Movie Studio Park

Trick Art Museum at Toei Movie Studio Park

On their last day, we went to Fushimi Inari Shrine with 1000 red torii. That night, they took a bullet train to Osaka to stay at a hotel near the airport for their flight back to New York City.

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

Noakai and Marlowe walking up through the 1000 torii at Fushimi Inari Shrine

I spent the next couple days in Nagoya, staying with Naoto and Yuko and their son Taisei. We all went to an onsen up in the mountains nearby, shopping and to Shiratori Teien Garden. Then I returned to Osaka to catch my flight home.

In Nagoya, Kats, Kazuyo, Naoto and Taisei took me to lunch.

Yuko and I are enjoying a cold one at the onsen.

 

Noey’s Top Five:
More favorites: deer, trick art museum, giant Buddha
5. Hozugawa River boat ride
4 train stations are really clean and modern and huge
3: the sakura in bloom
2: the onsens
1: the food is amazing and high quality

Yvette’s Top Four:
4. My birthday brunch buffet at a fancy hotel
3. Onsens
2. Hiking in the forests-Minoo, bamboo, Fushimi Inari
1. Going around with Lari

Marlowe’s Top Five:
5. Bullet train ride
4. The toy with the bento
3. Slurpy noodles
2. Cherry blossoms
1. Hozugawa boat ride

Eric’s Top Five:
5. Japanese toilets (came home and ordered a toto)
4. Koirala Bento Lunch-sakura special only $8
3. Giant Buddha temple at Todaiji in Nara
2. Hozugawa Boat ride
1. Onsens and massage

Posted August 1, 2018 by lariyasui in Asia

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2018 Winter in Tuscany with Leanda   Leave a comment

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Italy”

Starring: Lari & Leanda Santos

January 28 to February 8, 2018

Last fall I called Leanda and asked her if she knows how to drive stick, and she said yes. So I asked if she wanted to go with me to Tuscany on a 1-week Air, Hotel, Car deal for $600 pp. And she said yes, because she had never been to Italy and that she would drive. It was an unescorted package from Gate1 Travel-what a deal! So we flew to New York and stayed with Yvette. Noakai let us sleep in his bed and he slept on the floor. We visited Marlowe’s pre school. Leanda had never been to NY, so I showed her places like the Oculus, 9-11 Memorial, riding the Staten Island Ferry to see Lady Liberty, walking the High Line to from Meatpacking to Chelsea Market. We had lunch at Serafina’s Meatpacking, where my friend, Miko works. I met him years ago in Florence.

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Lady Liberty from Staten Island Ferry

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The Bull on Wall St.

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Grandma Lari visits Yellow Room at Marlowe’s pre school

Miko served us lunch at Serafina Meatpacking. In 2007 he was Lari’s waiter in Florence and he and Lari are still friends!

We flew on a red eye on Emirates Airline to Milan. They have HUGE planes: 88 rows of 10 seats per row. There were so few passengers that everyone could lie flat in  empty rows. In Milan, we got our rental car and drove to Tuscany and found our hotel in Montecatini, a small village in Tuscany. It was cold and rainy almost every day there, but we made the best of it. We walked around the village and went to a hot spring pool to relax. We enjoyed delicious Italian dinners.

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Our hotel in Montecatini

We drove to Pisa where we went inside the cathedral and climbed up to the top of the leaning tower. Then we drove to Lucca, a lovely walled village. We walked partially around the city wall, then into the city for lunch. Leanda loved all the beautiful doors, so we took a collection of photos with Leanda and her doors.

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The iconic Leaning Tower in Pisa

The bell tower at the top of the Leaning Tower in Pisa.

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The Cathedral at Pisa

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Love this tower with the tree on top in Lucca

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One of many Lucca doors Leanda loves

We took the train to Florence, because parking would be a problem there. We walked all over the city, first to Mercato Centrale then to Duomo and Piazza Signoria to see David, then to Ponte Vecchio. We had lunch at Gatto La Volpe where I met Miko several years ago, and back to Central market to shop for omiyage. Back to train station for gelato before boarding train back home.

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Mercato Centrale in Florence

Rainy shopping at Mercato Centrale in Florence

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David in Florence

We had lunch here in Florence, where Lari met Miko in 2007.

It’s the law: Gelato every day in Italy

On the one sunny day, we took the train to Viareggio for Carnivale. It’s mardi gras in Italy! They had a parade and people are dressed in costumes. It was so much fun!

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Carnivale in Viareggio

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Carnivale in Viareggio

On our last day, we checked out and drove to Cinque Terre. We got all-day train tickets to the 5 villages. Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” in English and is composed of five crazily constructed small fishing villages located on rocks along the cliff in a spectacular landscape. First stop Riomaggiore, next Manarola, then Vernazza, (we skipped Corniglia), finally Monterosso. Leanda drove all the way to our hotel near Milano airport.  We stayed overnight and the next day flew back to NY on Emirates.

Riomaggiore

Manarola

We had lunch here.

Our last night at Milano airport hotel

Back in NY, we stayed with Yvette’s family again. We did more touring of the city, first to Times Square, Luke’s Lobster, Rockefeller Center, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Mood, Flatiron, Eataly, Union Square and Trader Joe’s. At Mood, the fabric store on Project Runway, we met Swatch the mascot at Mood. He is super cute!

We had fun with Swatch at Mood

It was a wonderful trip with a good fun friend, Leanda! We had a blast!

 

 

 

Posted July 30, 2018 by lariyasui in Europe

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2017 August San Diego and LA   1 comment

2017 August San Diego and Los Angeles

Mary and I decided to attend the Semi Annual Taiko Conference, this year located at University of San Diego campus. On my flight over to SD, I sat next to Christine Noble and we chatted almost the entire flight and became friends! We stayed at the Country Inn & Suites in La Jolla and rented a car. Since we got there a day before registration, we drove to Alpine to visit my friend Carmen Shagham. She showed us around her estate and all the work she has done in her yard. Then we went to lunch at Montana Grill Café.

Carmen and I are in her back yard.

After a lovely visit with Carmen, we drove to the UCSD campus to register for the Taiko Conference. Elsie was waiting for us, then Lorin and Lovelle came to join us for the Welcome Reception.

Elsie, Mary, Lorin, myself and Lovelle at Taiko Welcome reception.

Taiko Kanikapila-people just jump in and play!

On Friday we had opening session and breakout workshops all day and in the evening we enjoyed a Taiko Concert. We repeated the same thing on Saturday.

North America Taiko Conference with Tomie

I was honored to meet Kristy Oshiro, awesome drummer!

Sunday morning was the closing session. After the closing, I drove down to Coronado Island to meet Mel and Karen Tanaka for lunch and to visit their lovely home on the island. Then I drove to Temecula to stay with Ali Nash. Her hubby is a firefighter in Long Beach so he was gone. We had a nice dinner downtown at Public House.

Mel grew up in Ewa Beach: his family owned Tanaka Store. He and Karin live on Coronado Island.

I stayed in Temecula with Ali Nash. Her sister Heather Bown played volleyball at UH and the US Olympic team.

The next morning, Ali had made me a bracelet with the beach glass that I gave her. Then I drove off to Anza to visit cousin Paola, her hubby Phil and daughter Beca, who was working at a campground on a lake. We hung out by the lake enjoying the sun before heading to the village for Italian dinner at Ferro.

Phil, myself, Paola and their daughter Rebecca at the lake where Beca works for the summer.

On Tuesday, I drove to Los Angeles to stay w/Tom and Margie Hernandez, Kazu’s Dad and Mom. Margie made Nopales-cactus. She cooked chicken, beef, beans, salad and Tom’s sister Rosemarie brought 2 peach pies. We had a feast! The kids all came for dinner and Tom’s brother Angel brought Grandma Hortense. Renae brought her baby, Quetzal, so it was a wonderful family reunion!

I stayed with Tom and Margie Hernandez in Los Angeles. Tom is Kazu’s dad!

Wednesday morning I had to say goodbye and drove to LAX to catch my flight home.

Posted June 25, 2018 by lariyasui in USA

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