Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

2019 Summer Trip to Hokkaido   Leave a comment

I usually go to Japan in the spring and the fall. But this year, domestic trips took up the entire spring season, so I decided to go to Japan in July. The only place to travel to in July is Hokkaido, because the rest of Japan is muggy, humid, and hot. My friend, Kendra had gone to Hakodate, and I had not been there on my trip to Hokkaido 2 summers ago. So this time, I wanted to include Hakodate in my trip. I invited Valerie to be my roommate and Marcus and Linda from Kansas City to join us for their first trip to Japan. So I planned this 10-day trip for the four of us, starting in Chitose near the airport to Lake Toya, to Hakodate and finally to Sapporo. We ordered our rail passes and our pocket wifi from the JR website. I made all the hotel reservations near train stations.
We all arrived at Chitose airport in the evening, so we stayed overnight near the train station. The next morning, we traded our rail pass vouchers for our rail passes and made seat reservations to Lake Toya. The hotel provided a shuttle to pick us up at the station and the driver took us through the mountains on a scenic route. We got to our hotel, checked in, and since our afternoon was free before dinner, we took a lovely, leisurely walk along the lake front. There were sculptures and lake tour boats to enjoy along the way, with flowers and trees and benches. We went back to prepare for dinner in our kimonos. After dinner we went out to the lake to watch the nightly fireworks show. Then back to our hotel for our refreshing onsen baths.

Dinner at our Lake Toya ryokan. Many small dishes!

After breakfast the next morning, I did another quickie onsen bath before we checked out and took the shuttle back to the train station for our 2-hour ride to Hakodate.

Selfie on the train.

Our Sheraton Hotel was right next to the station. We stayed there for 3 nights and every morning we went across the street to the Hakodate Morning Market for fresh seafood breakfast! They had many choices of delicious seafood. On our first afternoon, we decided to look for some famous Hokkaido soft serve ice cream. The next day we toured around the city: we went to a star-shaped fort called Goryokaku, ate hamburgers for lunch at Lucky Perriot, and went to Motomachi-the European district where we had tea at the British Consulate and saw the Russian Orthodox church.

 

Goryokaku Fort

That evening, we took the ropeway up to Mount Hakodate for the view of the city at sunset and at night. It was very cold up there.

Hakodate city at night from Mount Hakodate

On our second day, we took a bus out to a small tropical botanical garden in a glass building. Then Val and I went to Yunokawa Onsen, while Marcus and Linda went to the Red Brick shopping area. It was only $10 for us to enjoy the lovely onsen and then beautiful 100-year-old garden near the lobby. Hakodate has several locations of Snaffles, where we got their heavenly, light & delicious mini cheesecakes. It was our favorite treat of the entire trip!

Lovely 100-year-old garden


We took a 4-hour train ride to Sapporo and checked in to the Nest Hotel, located between the train station and Odori Park. Great location!

The first thing we did after checking in was to look for Zoff eyeglass shop. We found the closest one back at the train station underground mall.

New glasses for these 3, ready in 45 minutes!

For 3 nights, we had dinner at the Bic building where on the 10th floor are many restaurants, including a ramen hall with several ramen shops. I was so excited to find Tonkatsu Tamafuji, that we had to eat there. I had never eaten at the one in Kapahulu, because of the hours-long wait.

We took a day trip to see the Tomita lavender farm, the blue pond and the Shikisai Hills flower farm. Although I had done these things 2 years ago, I didn’t want my friends to miss these. We were lucky because Yumi from Tokyo booked a private car w/English speaking driver who drove us around all day!

Tomita Lavender Farm

Shikisai Hills flower farm

The next day we took the train to Otaru, where we walked, shopped and ate our way around town. Val and I took a cab to Kim Glass Design where we tried our hand at blowing glass, making our own drinking glasses. It rained in the afternoon, the only rainy day of our entire trip!

Kim Glass Design

Our last full day in Sapporo, we walked to Odori Park, where we were lucky to come across a jazz festival there! Then we went to Nijo Fish market and went shopping at Daiso, Don Quixote and in the shopping malls on street level and below street level where there are mazes of shopping.

Notice the road repair gates with Hello Kitty.

The fabulous food! Of course, everywhere we went there was soft serve ice cream; Melon flavor, chocolate, lavender and more! Also, every city seems to have their own version of light and fluffy cheesecake. The seafood in Hokkaido can’t be beat for freshness and flavor. I’ve never had crab leg tempura until Hakodate. Peaches, melons, grapes, ramen, soup curry, tonkatsu, and ikura were all amazing!

Tonkatsu Tamafuji

Miso ramen, so yummy!

Juicy, sweet peach!

Crab tempura.

Melon soft serve

Lari’s Top Seven: (because I had done some things 2 years ago)
7: Fresh, sweet peach -with juice dripping down your chin
6: Tonkatsu Tamafuji (although Honolulu has one, I never went there)
5: Snaffles cheesecakes in Hakodate
4: Yunokawa Onsen and garden
3: Lake Toya
2: Hakodate Morning Market
1: King Crab and scallop cooked on the fire at Sapporo Nijo Market

Valerie’s Top Ten:
10: Hakodate Fish Market: Kani Tempura breakfast every morning with fresh fruit (preferably $40 grapes! 😂) Cantaloupe and Apples
9: 7-11: Morning coffee, Seaweed Musubi, Onzen (?), and snacks galore – wanted to buy them all!
8: Lake Toya: Enjoyed walking along the Lake’s pathway on that beautiful sunny day taking photographs of the activity, the scenery, the boats, and one another. One regret was not taking the boat to the four islands in the center of the lake.
7: The Blue Pond: Although man-made, the color is beautiful and mystifying. It was hard to leave.
6: Furano: Tomita Farms – The Lavender fields were beautiful; however, the lavender ice cream was remarkable!
5: Shikisai flower Farm – Amazed by the colors and designs created by the method in which the farmers planted their flower beds. Breathtaking!
4: Rooftop Yunokawa Onsen and 100 year old garden: In the garden, all the plantings were perfectly placed around the koi pond. What a wonderful place to find yourself or to become centered.
3: Sculptures: They were all so beautiful and they were everywhere! In public streets, in the park, the fish market… wish I could read Japanese! I’m sure each one had a story.
2: Glass Blowing with Kim: What a hoot, so much fun! The staff were so helpful, no stress! End product was gorgeous… to mine eyes!
1: And last, but not least, I loved the Ropeway Tower and Gorytaku Park with the temple in the center. I LOVE temples! The surrounding trees were phenomenal… The Historical buildings in Otaru, the Russian Orthodox Church, temples in the surrounding area – all AMAZING!
FOOD AND DESSERT: Given a choice, I would definitely eat dessert before dinner! SNAFFLES, all flavors, is my favorite!

Linda’s Top Ten:

10. Goryo kaku Tower and park, Hakodate

9. Blue pond, beautiful and weird.

8. Nikko in the rain.

7. Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE in Aomori.

6. Toilets!!  They were clean, abundant, and free.  What more could a visitor want??

5. The trains and other forms of public transportation were fantastic, and on time.  Like our experience with the Swiss trains when the clock “clicked” the minute the train moved, clean and comfortable, and unlike the TGV you could see the view out the window.  They could be that fast but were not, and this was good.

4. Lavender and lupine, et al. fields were beautiful and lavender ice cream much to my surprise was yummy!

3. Rice fields trimmed in marigolds.

2. I  loved the social rules (being considerate of your neighbors, not talking on phone in train car, cueing for everything).  The “rules” were frequently explained or printed in English, Chinese, Korean, occasionally in Spanish and German and obeyed.  Soooo, civilized!

1. The Hokkaido “tour” arranged by  Lari and meeting Valerie.  It was great seeing you again, meeting Val, and thank you so much for doing the planning, Lari.  Hokkaido had been on my 2-do list for decades.

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.

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Bruce and Chris did not like this 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_4624

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:

10 Going on long train rides while playing games (w/ daddy & Aulia)

9 Eating & drinking sweets (a lot)

8 Playing w/Maya(in the car) 

7 Seeing and feeding the koi fish 

6 Seeing waterfalls -fav.-nabegataki 

5 Going to many Onsens -fav.-okunoyu 

4 Staying @neat hotels -fav.-Yamanoyu 

3 Going shopping -fav-Daiso 

2 Sagamihara-favorite -seeing Mia 

1 Kumamoto -favorite-seeing my family

 

Aulia’s Top Ten:

10 eating sushi (it tastes good)

9 going to Kumamoto zoo (seeing the giraffe)

8 seeing coyfish(taking pictures of them)

7 going to see Nabegataki water fall

6 going to the Takachiho gorge (seeing the nice green water)

5 going to the Okunoyu onsen (going in a lot of pools)

4 staying in Sunshine Suzan Seto (resting)

3 seeing our cousins (playing with them)

2 going in the trains (sitting and looking out)

1 playing balloon popping game

Posted December 11, 2018 by lariyasui in Asia

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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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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!

Rickshaw ride into the bamboo forest in Arashiyama

Samurai actors 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

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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2017 Summer in Hokkaido   2 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Hokkaido”

Starring: Lari and Anna Sumida

July 12-26, 2017

      This trip was unexpected because I got an email from Odetta Fujimori who asked if I was interested in taking her son, Keala Fujimori’s Holoholo Hokkaido tour, because there was a cancellation. So I asked Anna, who is teaching, and she said yes, since this tour was during her summer break. So we both signed up and Keala met us for dinner to give us details about the tour. Keala is our tour guide and driver and there are only 6 of us on this Lavender Tour: Ed and Odetta Fujimori, Joyce and Harold Asato and Anna and I. This custom tour costs $4000 not including air, but all meals and drinks are included. So Anna and I decided to fly to Tokyo for 3 days then we flew to Chitose to meet the tour group and came home from Chitose after the tour.

I found an AirBnB apartment in Shinagawa, and it was close to the train station and very compact-just right for 2 of us and much cheaper –about 1/3 the cost of a hotel! We adventured on our own. On the first day, we went to Tokyo Edo Museum in Ryogoku. Next door is a small Sumo Museum. We had chankonabe for lunch nearby-it was nice because we got to try a lunch special with small-sized serving instead of the huge bowl that the sumotori eat. Then we took the metro to Asakusa and Kaminarimon Thunder Gate and Sensoji Temple and then by train to Yotsuya, to meet my college friend, Sharon Banno, who has a very successful Amway business in Japan. She took us to her brand new luxury apartment and we met her husband for dinner at a local izakaya.

The second day in Tokyo, we met Yumi Ibaramoto at Yanaka and strolled through Yanaka Ginza then we went to Ueno and strolled through Ameyoko shopping street. We took a train to Ginza and Anna shopped at Tokyu Hands before meeting Yumi’s family at Umenohana, for fancy Yuba kaiseki dinner. Yuba is liquid tofu and you skim the “skin” off the top, dip it in sauce and eat it.

The next day, we decided to take a train to Tokyo Tower and returned to our apartment for our luggage before checking out and riding the train non-stop to Haneda for our flight to Chitose. When we arrived in Chitose airport, we were amazed at all the shops, food samples and everything in that airport. We had fun before we met Keala and our tour group.

Keala, our tour guide and driver extraordinaire, gave us such a wonderful experience, like no other tour-because it was personalized for the 6 of us. He took us to all the best places to eat, to wonderful and amazing experiences, to meet his friends and his wife, and so much more than any other tour could offer. We went to a kombu farm, where we could buy kombu directly from the farmer, to an udon factory, to glass blowing where we could make our own glass bowl or cup, to a dairy farm, to an asparagus farm, a melon farm, sunflower farm, lavender farm, blue pond, and so much more.

Our accommodations were superb, from regular hotels to little hideaway ryokans, to large fancy ryokans, and to a ski resort chalet. But the food! Unmatchable! He took us to the best ramen shop, the best tonkatsu, the best sushi, the best buta-don (pork on rice), the best izakaya, the best seafood in a fish market, the best seafood at a “secret” ryokan, -nothing but the best! I thought I didn’t like uni (sea uchin) until I tasted the sweet, fresh uni at the fish market. We shopped to our hearts content, because all we had to do was leave all our shopping in the van until the end, when we had to pack up all our omiyage into boxes. Hokkaido has the best ice cream-so creamy and good. They also have the best, sweetest melons, sweet cherries, mushrooms, oysters, hairy crab, and delicious asparagus. Depending on when you go to Hokkaido, you will encounter the best of each season in fruits, vegetables, seafood, and more. We went to 2 sake breweries and to Nikka Whiskey. I drank a lot of Sapporo Classic beer which is not exported, so only available in Japan. Sapporo was having a Beer Festival in Odori Park, with each block having a different brand of beer in tents all through the park. After shopping all day, it was great to sit and have a cold beer at the festival.

Of course, I really enjoyed all the different onsens at hotels and ryokans. The biggest and best was at Yoroushi Daiichi Onsen, where we had a beautiful suite and us ladies got to choose our own yukata. The onsen there had so many pools and a hot stone detox room-even a outdoor co-ed pool, which I ventured out to-no shame-just go for it. Another hotel had a rooftop onsen with a huge TV to watch while soaking. Anna and I enjoyed every minute of this trip! We are so grateful to Keala for providing us with nothing but the best and to Odetta for inviting us.

Anna’s Top Ten:

-10. People watching at Summer Beer Festival in Sapporo, Odori Park w/ Lari, Shorty, & Keala

-9. Keala cooked us delicious shabu shabu dinner in Niseko at Orchards Chalet w/ Niseko cream puffs, Niseko cherries, Furano melons, & Yamanashi peaches for dessert

-8. Sharon Banno’s million dollar condo in Yotsuya

-7. Umenohana restaurant yuba dinner (tofu based kaiseki dishes) in Ginza w/ Yumi’s family

-6. Kushiro Marsh: reminded me of my Father’s favorite Japanese crane calendar pictures he loved

-5. Seeing Olympic skier jump from top then from bottom – AMAZING!

-4. Biei to see Aoi Ike Blue pond

-3. Hokuryu Sunflower Park (and I bought seeds to plant!!!) and all the other farms: lavender, kombu, dairy, asparagus, melon,

-2.Shopping and Glass blowing in Otaru

-1. Owl Onsen Yoroushi

 

Lari’s Top Ten:

-10. All the beer and sake we could drink included with our meals

-9. The wonderful yuba dinner with Ibaramoto family at Umenohana in Ginza

-8. Meeting Sharon in Yotsuya

-7. Making my own bowl by glass blowing in Okura

-6. Watching the ski jumper at Okurayama Ski Jump

-5. The onsen ryokan in Yoroushi

-4. The kombu farm

-3. Aoi Ike blue pond

-2. The Onsens: I love soaking in the hot pools.

-1. The FOOD! Everything was super amazing & delicious!

 

We arrived at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

We visited with Sharon Banno in Yotsuya, where she lives and works within walking distance.

Yumi went with us to walk through Yanaka Ginza and Ameyoko Ueno.

Asako (Yumi’s sister), Koji (Yumi’s hubby), Anna, Kenzo (Yumi’s son), Lari and Yumi having kaiseki yuba dinner at Umenohana-very fancy place!

On our last morning, we took a quick trip by train to Tokyo Tower.

I love chiso with my sashimi… yummm!

Every day, Keala prepares our day’s itinerary on a white board back of the front passenger seat.

We visited the Kikuchi family kombu farm in Cape Nemuro, far eastern part of Hokkaido.

This was my favorite: Yoroushi Ryokan. Luxurious room, delicious food for dinner and breakfast, and fancy onsen pools, indoor and outdoors.

Notice that the men have the standard yukata, but us ladies have different ones.

 

Yamauchi-san is Keala’s good friend. He owns an asparagus farm and a PV farm that he sells electricity to the grid.

Sunflower farm, so bright and cheerful!

Lavender farm.

Keala and his wife, Tomoko.

 

Melons are super sweet!

Nikka Whiskey is very, very good!

Nagashi somen-grab it as it comes down the bamboo chute!

Glass blowing at Kim Glass Design in Otaru.

Odetta blowing her glass at Kim Glass Design in Otaru.

Keala, Anna and I shared this large beer

 

Okurayama ski jump in Sapporo

Happy birthday, Harold!

At Chitose airport unloading from the van.

Sue sent me this photo of Houdini so sad, missing me while I travel.

 

Posted August 20, 2017 by lariyasui in Asia

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Spring 2017 in Tokyo   9 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Japan”

Starring: Lari, Ryan, Kara, Jensen, Madisen, Allysen

Co-starring: Gordon, Claudine, Chloe, Tyler, Audrey, Azlyn

March 16 to 28, 2017

I decided to treat Ryan’s family to their first trip to Japan, and invited Claudine and her family to join us. Audrey and Azlyn also tagged along. We stayed the first two nights in a businessman’s hotel near Shinagawa Station, one night at a ryokan in Enoshima (Kamakura), then one week in two rental apartments. The apartment was in a quiet residential area in Nakano, close to the train station, mall and supermarket only one trainstop away from Shinjuku Station. We walked to and from the train station and used our Pasmo cards to enter the station turnstiles. Pasmo is a handy card that you pre-load with yen and it makes it so fast and easy to enter the train station, without having to purchase train tickets each time. And you may use your pasmo card to buy things in a convenience store as well as at some vending machines.

We went to the Ohi Race Course flea market (like our swap meet) where people are selling their old antiques, clothing, toys, games and much more. Then we walked to the Shinagawa Aquarium where everyone enjoyed the different ocean creatures and walk-through aquariums. We all took a bath at the onsen in the hotel that evening after dinner. The next day we took the train to Kamakura to see the huge Buddha statue-very impressive. Along the way from the Daibutsu back to the train station, we stopped at a rabbit café, where the kids go in to pet some rabbits and also a hedgehog. We took the local train to Enoshima nearby, and it was super crowded! We got to experience rush-hour madness on the little local train. We got off in Enoshima, walked to Kinokuniya Ryokan, which was very small and traditional. I got 2 tatami rooms that could sleep 6 each. Since they were not ready for us to check in, we left our bags and walked around the area towards Enoshima Island to explore the neighborhood. Back at the ryokan, we settled in, and got ready for dinner. We had a huge spread-typical kaiseki-style dinner with many interesting and mysterious edibles. After dinner, we went back to our rooms and all our futon beds were lined up on the tatami floor. After taking their onsen bath, the kids decided to walk to Lawson’s convenience store to buy ice cream, so we told them to go by themselves. After the kids went to sleep, us adults stayed up to drink sake and talk stories until midnight.

The next day, after our walking tour of Enoshima Island, we took the train back to Tokyo and settled in at our Nakano apartment, which was our home for a week. On Tuesday we went to Yokohama-to Anpan Man and Ramen Museum and then the next day to Disney Sea-super crowded with long lines for everything. On Thursday, we took the train to Asakusa, where we walked down Nakamise Dori-shopping street to Sensoji Temple. After lunch we took a boat ride down the Sumida River to Odaiba. We really enjoyed the Sony Explora Museum in Aqua City-mostly because there were not many people in there, so we could do/play with all the fun interactive displays there. Then we walked to Palette Town, another mall, and we enjoyed Toyota MegaWeb there.

On Friday we took a 45-min. train ride to Mount Takao. There we rode a cable car up the mountain, and took a short hike. Back down on the chair lift then to lunch. We spent the afternoon at the Trick Art Museum, which was so much fun for both adults and kids! At the train station, they have an onsen, which we really relaxed us after a busy day. We took the train back to Tokyo and went to Shibuya to the Disney Store to shop and had Okonomiyaki dinner.

Saturday, we went to Tsukiji Market to see the huge seafood marketplace and all the shops adjoining. We had sashimi don for lunch. We went to Akihabara to check out the electronic city and then to Harajuku, where it was super crowded on Takeshita Dori. We ate crepes and shopped at Daiso (100-yen shop).

Sunday we went to Takashimaya Department Store in Shinjuku. We had lunch there and shopped at another Disney Store and at Tokyu Hands. The Yoshiki family left us to the airport to go home. So we went back to Harajuku but it was raining, and crowded with hundreds of umbrellas.

On our last 2 days without Yoshiki family, we returned to Yokohama to go to Cup Noodle Museum, where we could make our own cup noodle. And we returned to Toyota MegaWeb to reserve rides. The girls got to ride the cars, and the segway called Winglet. It happened to be kids day there, so they had many fun activities for the kids. We spent the whole day there before taking the train to the airport.

We were lucky to have Koji take care of our luggage in the beginning and end of our trip, so we could go and do things without having to take our large luggage. The food in Japan is so delicious. We had all different kinds of food experiences like Monja dinner where you cook your own on the teppan table, similar to Okonomiyaki. We had kushi yaki, ramen, Okinawan, and much more!

Walking to Ohi Racecourse Flea Market

Shinagawa Aquarium

Jason Hagiwara joined us for the day.

The Daibutsu or great Buddha in Kamakura

The rabbit cafe where the kids got to play with rabbits and a hedgehog.

Our fancy dinner at Kinokuniya Ryokan in Enoshima

Kimono cousins going to onsen bath

The Kinokuniya Ryokan in Enoshima provides yukata for everyone.

They gave us candles to tour the Iwaya Cave on Enoshima Island

Kara and Ryan at the Iwaya Cave on Enoshima Island

Anpan Man Children’s Museum and Mall in Yokohama.

Disney Sea

In Asakusa this entrance to Nakamise Dori and Sensoji Temple is very famous!

The Sumida River boat ride from Asakusa to Odaiba was very pleasant and not too long.

Mt Takao has a monkey exhibit

It was late, so we did not see too many fish/seafood.

You can hardly walk on Takeshita Dori on a weekend.

In Harajuku the girls went into a photo booth and fun taking these photos.

We made our own Cup Noodle.

Madi is learning how to control the Winglet segway at Toyota Megaweb.

After checking out of our apartment and spending our last day at Toyota MegaWeb, Koji met us at the airport with all our luggage he held for us on the last day.

Yumi and Koji Ibaramoto helped us so much on this trip, taking us to dinners and taking care of our luggage.

Top Ten Lists:

Madisen(age 13):

  1. Disney Sea; I enjoyed riding all the fun rides and exploring that side of the park. Then, me, Jensen, Tyler, and Dad (Ryan) got to stay late and ride Toy Story Mania until the park closed.
  2. Late Night Grocery Shopping; Every night in Nakano, me, Azyln, and Chloe went to the LIFE store near our apartment to buy breakfast for the next morning.
  3. Toyota Mega Web; I GOT TO EXPERIENCE MY DREAM OF GOING ON A HOVER BOARD (but in this case it was called the Winglet). There was also all types of drive simulators to test out.
  4. Onsens; All though it took a little while to get used to, I enjoyed being in those hot baths. I especially liked the Mt. Takao cause it have multiple types of baths.
  5. Trick Museum; I liked looking at all the art in a weird perspective and taking trippy pictures.
  6. The FOOD; The food I enjoyed is Coolish, and the yakitori at the airport.
  7. Cup Noodle Museum; My favorite part there was making my own cup of noodles. I got to customize my cup, flavors, and toppings to my liking.
  8. Harajuku:  4 story Daiso & Crepes
  9. Enoshima:  Going to Family Mart with family to get Coolish.
  10. The different types of “rail transportation”…especially the Romance Train.

Ally (age 7):

  1. Takao Trick Museum:  I liked the funny pictures.  I had to figure it out,
  2. Disney Sea:  I liked ALL the rides & buying all the cool stuff they don’t have in the US (sunglasses/blankets)
  3. Toyota Mega Web:  Kids Day (I got to create art work that was projected on a screen & driving the car on a ride “simulator”)
  4. Yokohama Big “Ferris Wheel”: It was fun to ride with my family high up in the sky.
  5. Harajuku:  I found a squishy I wanted.
  6. Okonomiyaki:  It was cool to see when we cooked it at the restaurant.
  7. Cup Noodle:  I got to make my own noodle cup to take home.
  8. AnPan Man-Play area for kids and “anpan” from the bakery they had there.
  9. Mount Takao: Getting to see all the “red butt” monkeys
  10. Enoshima:  Caves and Ferry Boat

Kara:

1.  Shopping:  Daiso/Seria, Disney Store, Lawsons, Family Mart, 7-11 & all the other places I spent $.

2.  Disney Sea:  As a Disney “addict”…I was super happy to have the opportunity to go to Disney Sea,  I loved everything about it.  So different from the U.S.

3.  Shochu Ume:  I think I found my new drink!

4;  Food:  Everything is so light, fresh and pretty! AMAZING food, everything I ate was SUPER yummy!

5.  Family:  Spending each day with my immediate family.  What was an added bonus was to spend time with extended family!  I loved having time to talk to Lari, Claudine/Gordon, Audj and all the kiddies… PRICELESS! ❤

6.  Ryokan-Enoshima:  I loved the experience and food!  Amazing!

7.  Nakano:  I LOVED our little apartment!  It was so convenient & well equipt!  Safe neighborhood!

8.  Grocery Store:  Claudine!!!  Love the discounted food we would shop for!

9.  Odaiba:  The beautiful boat ride to Odaiba.

10. Romance Train:  Love how the seats turn and face one another and having a reserved seat!

Azlyn (age 13):

10. APA  Buffet Breakfast -I had a fun breakfast with family

9. Animal Cafe -we got to play with lot’s of animals

8. Aquarium -I had fun watching the dolphin show

7. Tokyu Hands -I shopped with cousins and grandma bought me pens

6. Monja and crepes -we learned how to make monja and crepes

5. Going to Lawson’s (just the kids) -was fun because we don’t usually walk around alone

4. Daiso -O had fim shopping for cheap with my cousins

3. Harajuku photo booth -I had fun taking pictures with my cousins

2. Winglet Segway -I learned how to ride a segway with Madi and Grandma

1. Staying at the Nakano Apartment -It was really fun braiding and watching Youtube together

 

Gordon’s top 10

10. APA Shinagawa Hotel: Onsen, Breakfast, Tiny room

9. Asakusa: Shops, Enormous shrine

8. Trick art museum

7. Mt. Takao: Chair lift, Steep tram

6. Enoshima Island: Eno=pass, So many shrines, Sea candle, So many stairs, Shops on the cliffs, Boat ride back

5. Nakano Broadway: Unique shops and restaurants

4. Tokyo Sumida River Cruise

3. Disney Sea

2. The Great Buddha of Kamakura, Daibutsu: To think how old it is. Built in 1215 and rebuild over the years because of damage its amazing.

1. Enoshima cave: imagine the dedicatioin and hard work to make those carvings years ago

 

Tyler’s top 10 list (age 9)

10. vending machines

9. onsen, ramen/food

7. disney

6. bunnys

5. monkeys

4. mizuno

3. flea market

2. trick art

1. sony

 

Chloe’s Top Ten List (age 12)

10. Vending machines/ grocery/ convenience store – Fun to use/ shop

9. Aquarium – Dolphins, penguins, different animals

8. Onsens: APA Shinagawa, Takao Station, Different experience

7. Trick Art Museum – Cool , Fun

6. Sony Museum – Interesting and fun exhibits

5. Daiso – Everything 1 yen! Cool items for sale

4. Disney Sea – Rides

3. Bunny and Hedgehog Café: Madison and Twitch/ Thumper, Pooping hedgehog, SO CUTE

2. Food – Yummy and sometimes different

1. Cousins – Fun to spend time together

 

Claudine’s top 10:

10. Ryokan – neat to see what a traditional hotel or house was like many years ago.  It was fun for 1 night, but glad we don’t have to sleep on hard futon like that every night.  The dinner was very fancy, with some unusual dishes (black snails!), and delicious (although I didn’t try the snail)

9. Enoshima island – caves were interesting and a little spooky, hike was fun, shops were fun

8. Mochi covered fresh strawberry shortcake at Lawson’s – the best mochi!

7. Odaiba boat ride – the boat seemed like a spaceship, it was neat seeing all the different architectural styles of the bridge we passed

6. Sushi at the conveyor belt restaurant at Nakano Broadway shopping mall – so ono for “fast food” sushi, some neat and different types of sushi, wish we could’ve eaten here again

5. Mount Takao – especially the onsen and chair lift ride – the hike was refreshing, the shrines had different types of temples, the monkey habitat was fun for the kids, the chair lift ride was scary and exciting, the pasta lunch was really yummy, the small shops had lots of ono snacks, the onsen was relaxing, so much fun with all the different soaking pools

4. Sony sound and light museum.  Neat interactive exhibits, wish I wasn’t so sleepy and tired that day

3. Trick art museum.  So much fun seeing all the amazing tricks of the eye

2. Shopping at the Daiso!!!  Wish I had another suitcase to bring home more stuff!

1.  Spending time with all of the family, seeing the cousins deepen their friendships, finding out new things about our family members (Ryan is grumpy, just like Gordon, just like uncle Roger) (I think aunty might be getting a little hard of hearing, she’s always yelling!)

 

Ryan’s Top Ten:

10. My favorite meal was coveyor belt Sushi (twice), but all the food was excellent

9.  Pallete Town – MEGAWEB Toyota City Showcase, Tokyo Leisure Land arcade and giant ferris wheel

8.  Enoshima Island tour

7.  Disney Sea

6.  Cup Noodle Museum

5.  Takao Trick Museum

4.  Shinagawa Aquarium

3.  Sony Explora Museum (bonus was the best toilet)

2.  Daiso and Seria 100 yen stores

1.  My favorite thing about family vacation is spending 24 hrs a day with the family!

Ryan’s Honorable Mention (Also Enjoyed):

Mizuno Store

Takeshita Street – Harajuku

Landmark Tower – Yokohama

Daibutsu

Staying at Ryokan

Public Transportation

 

Jensen’s Top Ten (age 16)

10 Mount Takao-the cold weather and riding the ski lift down

9  Tokyo flea market – I found old Nintendo stuff and antiques

8   Nakano Broadway – enjoyed walking through and finding a store that sold Kikaida stuff

7   Okonomiyaki restaurant -loved the food and the way they made it

6   Sony Explora in Odaiba -all the cool and different types of technology was very interesting

5   Going to onsets

4   Disney Sea -my favorite ride was Tower of Terror. I now have gone on three different Tower of Terror rides. Japan’s storyline is different from Disneyland and Disneyworld

3   Looking at all the vending machines and trying out the different types of coffees that each machine has

2   Going to convenience stores -Lawsons or Family Mart to buy Coolish and ume musubi

1   Spending time with family

Philippines in January 2017   Leave a comment

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Philippines”

starring: Lari & Freda

Jan. 20 to Feb. 4, 2017

 

When Freda asked if I wanted to go to Philippines with her, I checked my calendar and it was open so I said yes! I already knew 3 groups of people there, who had invited me to visit, so I was excited to go there! Freda has been there many times before and has a favorite hotel-Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati (nice area of Manila) and she has a favorite driver/bodyguard, Manolo. She also invited her birth mother, Petra from California, her dad, Nelson who lives in Kapolei, and her Aunty Nimfa, who lives next door to Freda and Pat in Mililani. So there were 4 of us ladies sharing a suite in the hotel, and Nelson, who stays near the World Resort casino, so he can gamble to his heart’s content.

One of our first adventures was to fly to the island of Palawan to stay at the beautiful Puerto Princessa Garden Hotel, so that we could take a tour of the famous Underground River near Sabang beach 2 hours drive from Puerto Princessa. Many tourists go to the Underground River, so we were fed lunch and had to wait our turn to board a double outrigger boat with motors that took us to the landing beach for the Underground River, which is really a cave with a river running through it. There are bats that live in the cave and we had to be very quiet so as not to disturb them. We wore headsets to listen to the narration for the cave and the boatman shined his light onto various sites inside the dark cave. After that tour, our driver took us to Ugong Rock where Freda and I climbed up inside a mountain to the top and ziplined down! It was so much fun!

Freda and her family are sponsors of Passion City Church in Tanza, Cavite Province, an hour’s drive south of Manila. There was a big all-day celebration at the church, where they honored Freda’s family who built the church and support it with monetary, clothing and toy donations. They had music, dance, games and food. It was a blessed and fun experience.

My friends who live in the Philippines are people I met on previous trips. The Rubin family in Manila and the Aquino family from Baguio were on my tour to Dubai in November, 2014 and they invited me to visit them. David and Robert have 2 homes in Hawaii and presently live in Manila and I met them on our Indonesian tour in the summer of 2014. So on my first day in Manila, the Rubins took me to Sunday brunch and touring around the city to Rizal square and other historical sites. We rode in a Calesa, pulled by a horse around the square. I was excited to see many famous and colorful jeepneys everywhere. They are the main public transportation for locals all over the Philippine islands.

One day, Manolo drove us 2 hours southeast to Pagsanjan Falls. This was another fun adventure! Just Freda and I went with my friend, David and our driver, Manolo. Each narrow canoe had 2 passengers and 2 boatmen who paddled us upriver and they had to literally pull us over the rapids! The river wound through a narrow gorge with high cliffs covered with vegetation and many waterfalls on both sides of us. When we reached the big waterfall, David, Freda and I went onto a raft that took us under the falls, where we were pounded by icy cold water! What fun!

Another day, I left Freda in Manila and took an overnight bus for 6 hours to Baguio City, to visit the Aquino family. I stayed there for 4 days. The first 2 days we visited many interesting sites in Baguio City, which is a hilly and mountainous town and so the inhabitants there have very strong legs from walking up and downhill and up and down many steep steps to get from one place to another. The next 2 days we drove all day to Banaue to see the famous rice terraces and drove all day back to Baguio after staying overnight in a Nipa Hut hotel in Banaue. The rice terraces are 2000 years old and are considered to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. The drive was very long with curvy mountain roads, where it was difficult to overtake the stinky diesel Jeepneys and the slow tricycles.

In Manila, I loved the shopping, and the spa treatments! I got several really good Filipino Hilot massages at various places. I also got a facial, pedicure, and other spa treatments for very reasonable prices. The Filipino peso is 50 to 1 dollar, so your money goes a long way there. All the food was very delicious! Pizza and fried chicken are very popular. But I like the traditional Filipino dishes like adobo, pancit, lumpia, lapulapu and more. I tried green mango with bagoong-Filipino fish sauce. Nelson taught me how to eat balut-a fertilized egg with a baby chick inside. I could not eat the baby bird with feathers and bones, but the Filipinos love that delicacy! Traffic in Manila is crazy, crowded and slow. All in all, this was a wonderful, memorable and fun trip.

Lari’s Top Ten:

10 Visiting the Passion City Church

9 The food was great!

8 Getting spa treatments, especially Hilot Massages!

7 Seeing my friends who live in Philippines: Aquinos, Rubins, Robert/David 

6 Staying in a Nipa Hut in Banaue 

5 All the sites in Baguio that Aquinos took me to

4 Banaue Rice Terraces

3 Underground River

2 Ugong Rock w/ zip lining

1 Going under the Pagsanjan Falls

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Elvie and Alcee took me to brunch at the fancy Shangrila Hotel in Makati.

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We rode the Calela, pulled by our horse, Bullet, who took us around Rizal Park and Luneta.

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Myself, Nimfa, Freda and Petra in lobby of Dusit Thani Hotel where we all 4 shared a suite.

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At Dampa, we picked out lobster, crab, fish, calamari, and tiger prawns for dinner, cooked to order.

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Freda with her Dad, Nelson and her mom, Petra when we arrived at Puerto Princesa airport.

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We booked a tour to the famous Underground River.

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These are the many motorized double outrigger boats used to take tourists to the Underground River entrance.

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After we got off the double catamaran, we landed at this beach with beautiful cliffs.

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Here we are in our canoe ready to enter the underground river cave.

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Our canoe quietly enters the cave, where it is dark, and our boatman shined his light on different formations that are described by narrator on our headsets.

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I got to pose on the back of this carabao.

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Freda and I went on this adventure: first climb up inside the Ugong Mountain.

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Here we are at the top of Ugong mountain!

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Yippee! I am flying!

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When we reached the end of the boardwalk, we discovered that we had to walk through waist deep water to reach the sandbar!

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On our last day at Puerto Princesa in Palawan island, we visited this place where the natives let us hold a snake.

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We had a wonderful lunch here at Ka Lui in Puerto Princesa.

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We spent one day at Passion City Church in Tanza, Cavite Province. This day celebrates all the sponsors of the church and here Freda is speaking to the congregation.

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The church served the sponsors a wonderful and delicious homemade lunch! The lumpia was to die for-crispy and tasty!

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One day, Manolo drove us to the famous Pagsanjan Falls with my friend David.

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David and I were in one canoe and Manolo and Freda in the other.

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When we reached the falls, we sat on a raft that took us right under the thundering falls where we were pounded by ice cold water! What a thrill!

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Baguio is a hilly city with houses crawling up and down the hills. Lots of steps and steep streets to walk up and down on.

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Here we are, Nora, Tita, Boy, Naty and I on the Burnham Lake boat ride.

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And the entrance to the Botanical Garden.

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This is Bell Church, a Chinese church.

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Right near the entrance to La Trinidad is Stobosa, with colorful houses.

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La Trinidad is famous for strawberries grown here at the strawberry farms. Since it was a rainy day, we did not pick any-I am just posing! We bought strawberries from the vendors there.

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On our all-day drive to Banaue, we stopped for fresh coconut water and spoon meat! Yummy! That is our driver, Cristo on the far left.

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Here is a basket maker taking his goods to market on his tricycle.

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Our hotel in Banaue had 5 Nipa Huts for guests. Here is Boy at the entrance to his sleeping quarters.

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Here are Tita and Naty and I in our Nipa Hut. We had to climb up the ladder to our sleeping hut. The bathhouse was nearby with 2 toilets, 2 showers and a long sink for brushing teeth for all the guests to share.

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The famous Banaue Rice terraces are over 2000 years old and are considered the 8th Wonder of the World.

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Beautiful! Amazing!

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Back at Aquino’s house in Baguio, I got to taste green mango with bagoong.

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When Freda and Nimfa left a day before I did, I stayed with David and Robert in their lovely Makati apartment. Here we are having tapas dinner.

This is a video of Nelson teaching me how to eat balut.

Posted March 1, 2017 by lariyasui in Asia

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Okinawa Taikai October 2016   9 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Okinawa”

starring: Lari & Shari

October 19 to November 4, 2016

I had first heard about Uchinanchu Taikai 5 years ago, when some friends went to Okinawa for the 5th Worldwide Unchinanchu Festival in 2011. This time more friends were going to the 6th Worldwide Taikai and I was interested in participating, so I asked Shari Tamashiro if I could go with her. I am so thankful that she let me join her! She has been to Okinawa several times and I have never been there. After finding out how expensive the tours were, we decided to go on our own instead of on a tour and we ended up saving at least a couple of thousand dollars each. First we booked a hotel, then our air on Hawaiian Air to Tokyo and home from Osaka. Then we booked flights on ANA to Okinawa and to Osaka. I planned the activities in Tokyo and Shari planned the Okinawa part of our trip and her friend, Masao took care of us in Okayama after we arrived in Osaka.

We were in Tokyo for 4 days. We visited Ghibli Museum, Shari’s most favorite place, because she loves Totoro! The next day we were on a special tour of the Imperial Palace grounds with Yumi’s friend Jibiki. We were very honored to attend a Gagaku program. Gagaku, literally means “elegant music,” and is the oldest surviving music in Japan from 1,200 years ago and is performed at the Imperial Court. That afternoon, Yoshiaki Ando and his daughter Tomoko picked us up and took us to Umihotaru, in the middle of Tokyo Bay by tunnel from Tokyo and bridge from Chiba. They have shops and restaurants and a view of Tokyo from the bay. Then we went to Asakusa, where we enjoyed the Japanese shops on the walkway to Sensoji Temple. Then we had monja dinner nearby.

Early the next morning Kazu picked us up and drove us and the Ibaramoto family along with Asako (7 of us) to Nikko. It was serendipidous to meet Hiroki Sakamoto-Graphic Man, who flew a drone overhead and we met him again at Lake Chuzenji. You can find Hiroki’s amazing videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wn-BNbfWO2g  We enjoyed the lovely fall colors around the lake and the Kegon Waterfall.

The next day was travel day. We took a train back to Tokyo from Nikko and took the subway to Haneda to catch our flight to Naha. Shari’s friend, Chizu picked us up and took us to her house for dinner that she made. Everything was delicious! We stayed at the Tsuboya Garden House, a small hotel in the pottery district of Tsuboya, owned by Naoko and Dingo, who have a cafe that serves vegan breakfasts.

The 6th World Uchinanchu Festival was amazing. Okinawan people from all over the world gather every 5 years for this special festival. We marched in a parade and the local people showed so much gratitude to Americans, especially those of us from Hawaii. They had a huge Opening Ceremony at the Cellular Stadium, and you could see contingencies from Peru and Brazil as well as Hawaii. There was much music and dance to entertain us. Each village/city/province also hosted the guests who came from those places. Shari and her family are members of the Itoman club in Hawaii and we went to Itoman for a wonderful party hosted there for us with lots of food, entertainment and gifts. There was a closing ceremony at Cellular Stadium with fabulous entertainment with, eisa drummers, dancers, singers and fireworks.

Shari has many friends in Okinawa, since she is the producer of the Eisa Festival in Hawaii and goes there often. Her friends drove us around and we caught the monorail to get around in Naha. She celebrated her birthday 3 times with different groups of friends! We also got to go fishing on a fishing boat, and I caught 7 fish, my first time fishing with a reel. One of our parties was at an izakaya that prepared the fish we caught from our fishing expedition. We also rode on a Sabani boat, the traditional small, wooden fishing boats of Okinawa with paddles and orange sails. Many Okinawan izakayas have unlimited food and drinks for one price. So you can imagine how much fun we had! My favorite drinks were Orion beer and Shikwaasa Sake! (Shikwaasa is a small lemon). I loved all the food! Everything was so delicious and I got to try many traditional Okinawan dishes. Shari took me to some museums where I learned a lot about the Battle of Okinawa during WWII.

We flew from Naha to Osaka and stayed at the wonderful Yubara Hakkei Ryokan in Maniwa, Okayama. Shari’s friend Masao and his wife showed us around the area, and we enjoyed the onsen soaking at the ryokan… they had one downstairs from the lobby and one on the roof, which we loved-sitting in the hot spring tub in the cold autumn air, enjoying the fall colors on the trees nearby. There was a public onsen across the river, where both men and women bathed out in the open in the hot spring waters on the banks of the river. We tried that one too, but they gave us modesty cover-ups to bathe there. Masao drove us to Matsue Castle in Shimane Prefecture on the Japan seaside. We took a boat ride around the castle, had lunch and visited Lafcadio Hearn Museum. Masao also took us to a Salamander Museum.

We were very lucky that so many friends took us to amazing places to visit and experience on our entire trip in Tokyo, Okinawa and Okayama. This truly was a memorable trip, one that no tour could have done. Thank you, Shari!

Lari’s Top Twelve:

12 Matsue Horikawa Meguri-boat ride around Matsue castle

11 Delicious food and onsens at Yubara Hakkei Ryokan in Maniwa

10 Learning the history of the WWII Battle of Okinawa

9 The trip to Nikko and Lake Chuzenji w/Kazu and friends

8 Marching in the Taikai parade

7 Izakayas where we could eat and drink as much as we liked

6 Shikwaasa -a small lemon-like fruit

5 All the many parties, especially Shari’s 3 birthday parties

4 Eating all the delicious food, especially the vegan breakfasts

3 Meeting all of Shari’s Okinawan friends

2 Enjoying the Ceremonies at Cellular Stadium

1 My first time fishing on a real fishing boat and catching 7 fish

 

Shari LOVES Totoro at Ghibli Museum

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Yoshiaki cooked our monja dinner after driving us around the Tokyo area.

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Here is the monja that Yoshiaki is preparing for our dinner.

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Kazu, me, Shari, Asako, Yumi, Koji & Kenzo drove up into the mountains from Nikko to Lake Chuzenji. We stopped here for a view/rest and met Sakamoto-san with his drone

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We met Hiroki Sakamoto with his drone. Look for his YouTube videos under “Graphic Man”

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We met up with Hiroki Sakamoto again at the lake. Here he is controlling his drone over the lake.

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Hiroki Sakamoto’s drone flying over Lake Chuzenji

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Here is our travel group at Kegon Falls entrance.

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Kazu and I at Kegon Falls.

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3 monkeys at Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

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We arrived at Naha airport in Okinawa.

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Dingo, a professional wrestler, and Naoko own our hotel, Tsuboya Garden House, and they cook delicious vegan breakfasts.

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Shaved ice snack while shopping in Heiwa Dori market.

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We marched in the World Uchinanchu Festival parade!

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In the parade I met my neighbors, Wayne, Kevin and Lisa Shibata.

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I sat with Ethel Miyasato, Jimmy and Geri Oshiro and their son Chad and his family, at the Opening Ceremony at Cellular Stadium

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Shari and I met Governor David Ige and his wife, Dawn at Cellular Stadium after the opening ceremony. We are doing the Shisa (lion) pose

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Shari and her family come from Itoman town in Okinawa, so we went to a welcome party in Itoman, with entertainment and dinner.

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Birthday princess!

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Shari’s friends threw her a birthday party-this was the first of 3 parties. Shari loves to have everyone do the shisa pose for photos.

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And here we are eating the fish we caught, prepared by Izakaya where we had Shari’s 2nd birthday party.

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Folded paper cranes at the Himeyuri Noto hospital caves where teenage girls worked during WWII Battle of Okinawa.

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Shari’s 3rd birthday party was hosted by these young handsome guys who are all Eisa drummers.

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We just arrived at Yubara Hakkei Ryokan in Maniwa, Okayama with so much luggage! Mostly omiyage given to Shari by Okinawan friends.

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Okami and Chef Masahara at Yubara Hakkei Ryokan where we enjoyed exquisite cuisine by the Chef.

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Shari, Ikuyo and husband Masao had to lay flat when the roof of our boat was lowered to go under the low bridges.

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Saying goodbye to our lovely ryokan friends: Okami, Shari, Chef Masahara, Ikuyo and Masao in front.

Posted February 28, 2017 by lariyasui in Asia

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