Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Japan with Jensen 2014   3 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Japan”

starring: Lari and Jensen

March 17 to 31, 2014

Yumi had been asking for Jensen to come to Japan for several years, so we finally agreed to let Jensen visit with her son Kenzo. Jensen had to get his passport, so he could travel overseas for the first time. I booked Hawaiian Airlines to Osaka Kansai and we stayed in the Osaka area for two weeks. We stayed at Ibaramoto grandma’s home in Itami right next to the Itami train station, which was very convenient.

We took a day trip by train to Nara with Yumi and Audrey who came to Osaka from Tokyo by shinkansen. It was a rainy day, and our first stop by bus was to the Todaiji Temple with the deer and the large wooden Buddha in the temple. When I bought sembei to feed the deer for Jensen, the deer surrounded me immediately and started to attack me… they bit me and I yelled and tried to give the sembei to Jensen, but he refused take it, so I finally threw it on the ground and the deer stopped biting me. Then we went to the temple to see the largest wooden Buddha and walked to the back, where one of the poles has a hole the size of the Buddha’s nostril. The legend is that if you can crawl through the hole, you will have good health and wisdom. So I crawled through and nearly got stuck, and had to be pulled out. I guess I gained weight since the last time I went through it easily years ago. Jensen, Yumi and Audrey all went through it too.

The next day the four of us took an overnight bus tour to Kanazawa, stopping along the way at Shirakawa village, where it was snowing, and stayed at Wakuma Ryokan Onsen. Jensen enjoyed his first snow experience. After breakfast, we drove north to Wajima morning market, where we shopped. We had  lunch at Togi where they have Ganmon rock, with an arch by the sea. Then we went to the lovely Kenrokuen garden in Kanazawa. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we saw some flowering ume, but it was too early for the sakura.

Before Yumi and Audrey went back to Tokyo, Mrs. Ibaramoto dressed Jensen, Audrey and me in beautiful kimono. When Yumi and Audrey left, Jensen and I took the shinkansen to Hiroshima. We stayed at the Hokke Club hotel near the Peace Memorial park. The first day, we took the streetcar and ferry to Miyajima Island. We got some beautiful photos of the famous red torii in the water at low tide. Then we walked around the island to the aquarium and had lunch. The next day we visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial park and museum, which Jensen was very interested in. Then we caught the shinkansen back to Osaka and Kenzo came from Tokyo to Grandma Ibaramoto’s home to stay with us. He took us around the neighborhood and we went to the Osaka Aquarium, the Transportation Museum, and to the nearby onsen.

The two boys and I took the train to Kyoto and met Koji, Yumi’s hubby/Kenzo’s dad there. The four of us went to Kinkakujin (gold) pavilion, Toei Movie Studio, and Hozu River boat ride. Riding through the rapids was great fun! After the river ride, we rode a rickshaw around Arashiyama and had lunch there. Koji took us to Kyoto Fire Ramen, which was a fun experience for all of us. Then we toured Nijo Castle at night, which was beautifully lit up. We saw Kiyomizu Temple, Sanjūsangen-dō Temple with 1000 buddhas and the Steam Locomotive Museum.

We had so much delicious food! -ramen, soba, curry, okonomiyaki, Kushi Katsu, tonkatsu, manjyu, mochi, robata sushi, miso soup, tempura, oyaku dombori, omerice, and the musubis at convenience stores and train stations are so good! In Osaka, we did some shopping near Osaka station and at Shimsaibashi shopping arcade which is 1/3 mile long between Umeda Station and Namba Station.

We would like to thank Yumi, Koji and Kenzo Ibaramoto for helping us to plan our trip and joining us for fun tours in the area. Also thank you to Yumi’s parents, Sosuke and Toshiko Kojima and Koji’s mom, Mrs. Ibaramoto for their warm hospitality.

Jensen’s top twenty:

  1. Pokémon Center
  2. Toei Movie Studio
  3. Toto toilets are warm and have all kinds of amenities
  4. Sakura
  5. Insect Museum and Transportation Museum
  6. Temples/Shrines
  7. Aquarium (Osaka)
  8. Hozu River Boat Ride
  9. Rickshaw Ride in Arashiyama
  10. Nara Todaiji Temple with the Giant Wood Buddha and the pole with the hole
  11. Public Transportation-trains, subways, buses, etc.
  12. Convenience Stores: Family Mart, 7-11, Asnas, etc.
  13. Onsens/Public Baths
  14. Tamago Meshi/Sushi
  15. Book Off -got some used games
  16. Bandai Store
  17. Hiroshima Peace Memorial
  18. Shirakawa, my first time to see snow
  19. Curry -ate it over 10 times.
  20. Nara Deer, that attacked Grandma Lari

Kenzo’s top five:

  1. Hozu River ride
  2. Machiya traditional townhouse in Kyoto
  3. Golden temple and Nijyo-jyo in Kyoto
  4. Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum
  5. Rickshaw ride in Arashiyama

Lari’s top seven:

  1. Transportation Museum
  2. Steam Locomotive Museum
  3. Toei Movie Studio
  4. Miyajima Island, my first time there
  5. Onsens
  6. Hozu River Ride (last year it did not have as many rapids as this time)
  7. Fire Ramen

 

Pokemon Store

Pokemon Store

Kushi Katsu

Kushi Katsu with Yumi, Asako & Mr. Kojima in Osaka

Grandma Ibaramoto made delicious breakfasts every morning

Grandma Ibaramoto made delicious breakfasts every morning

Hungry deer at Nara, Todaiji temple

At Nara, Todaiji temple many deer attacked Grandma Lari, who had sembei.

Jensen going into the pole in Todaiji Temple

Jensen going into the pole in Todaiji Temple

Pulling Jensen out from pole in Todaiji Temple

Pulling Jensen out from pole in Todaiji Temple

Our bus & driver for 2-day tour to Noto Peninsula & back to Itami City

Our bus & tour director for 2-day tour to Noto Peninsula & back to Itami City

Snow at Shirakawago

Snow at Shirakawago

Jensen's feet are too big for ryokan slippers

Jensen’s feet are too big for ryokan slippers

Dinner at Wakuma Ryokan Onsen

Dinner at Wakuma Ryokan Onsen

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

Grandma Ibaramoto dressed us in kimono

Grandma Ibaramoto dressed us in kimono

Shinkansen

Shinkansen

5-story pagoda at Miyajima

5-story pagoda at Miyajima

Rice paddle invented @ Miyajima

Rice paddle invented @ Miyajima

Miyajima Island at low tide

Miyajima Island at low tide

Two Japanese boys

Two Japanese boys

Toei Movie Studio

Toei Movie Studio, Kyoto

Fire Ramen! Very hot, very delicious!

Fire Ramen! Very hot, very delicious!

Romantic Train to Hozu Riverboat ride

Romantic Train to Hozu Riverboat ride

Hozu Riverboat ride

Hozu Riverboat ride

Rickshaw ride, bamboo forest, Arashiyama

Rickshaw ride, bamboo forest, Arashiyama

Posted August 31, 2014 by lariyasui in Asia

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

Japan in April 2013   1 comment

Presenting the latest episode of
“Hawaiians in Japan”
starring: Roger and Lari
April 9 to 26, 2013

View slideshow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When my nephew, Kazu moved to Japan in March of 2012, we planned a trip for this April hoping to see cherry blossoms in full bloom and to visit Kazu and all of our friends in various cities. Now that Hawaiian Airlines goes to four Japanese cities, we used HAL and got a good fare to Haneda. This was not a tour, so we had to plan everything on our own. We got lots of planning help from Yumi Ibaramoto and Kazu/Audrey. We ordered our rail pass online, picked it up at JTB in Ala Moana and made reservations at hotels and ryokans. We used the trains extensively to get to Nikko, Nagoya, Takayama, Kyoto, Hakone, and back to Tokyo.
In Nikko, we stayed at a ryokan Nikko Tokanso and fell in love with Ayako, who is the front desk greeter, bell person, room service, concierge, and shop salesperson, all rolled into one. She works so hard doing so many different jobs and is the only one who can speak English. We woke up to snow outside our window the first morning. It was so magical, like a fairyland. That afternoon it all melted away, but then it hailed just as we were leaving for our tour of Nikko National Park, which included Kegon Falls, Ryuzu Falls and Lake Chuzenji.
In Takayama, we were there for their spring festival. Each year, they have a festival in April and another in October We were so lucky to be able to experience the Takayama Matsuri with parades, floats, and food. The 12 floats are called Yatai and are over 300 years old, each one with intricate carvings and decorations. We also visited Hida Folk Village near Takayama. It’s like Sturbridge Village or Polynesian Culture center where you see how they lived back in the olden days.
We also stayed at Katsumasa and Kazuyo Kurata’s home in Nagoya. He has a car, so we were driven all around Nagoya to gardens, temples, parties, restaurants, dinners, and to the Toyota Auto Museum. We also met their neighbors the Shimoyamas and had dinner at their son, Naoto’s home with wife Yuuko and son Taisei.
In Kyoto, we had dinner with old friends, Koichi and Chiyako Mori and their son Masahiro and wife Tomoko. Masa used to come to Hawaii and visit us in Pearl City and my parents in Hilo when he was young. Now Masa is a doctor who does brain research in Nara University. It was a very nice reunion.
Yumi and her mom, Toshiko, who lives in Osaka, met us in Kyoto and stayed with us at two different temple ryokans. Ninnaji Temple in Kyoto and Hieizan Enryakuji Temple on top of Mt, Hiei, just outside of Kyoto, overlooking Lake Biwa. Yumi arranged for us to tour the Kyoto Imperial Palace as well as the Tokyo Imperial Palace. We also rode on the Romantic Train up the Hozugawa River and rode down river on small boats that could go through the small rapids.

In Hakone, we met with friends Mikio and Masae Tada, whom we had met in Madrid years ago. We visited their home in Manazuru and had a lovely visit with them.

Kazu has a minivan and he drove us from a ryokan with onsen in Hakone to his army base home, in Sagamihara and to Enoshima island and Kamakura as well as different restaurants and onsen around his neighborhood. We missed Audrey and Aulia, who were at our house in Hawaii for a conference. I went to visit and read a book at Azlyn’s 3rd grade class at the Japanese school that she attends outside the army base housing. Then I walked to Ailah’s pre-school to visit her and met her teacher and principal.
In Tokyo, we stayed at the Shinjuku Prince hotel and met with Yumi’s husband, Koji, for dinner one evening, because he works at the Shinjuku Police station nearby. Yumi and her sister Asako took us to Akasaka Ninja Restaurant, which was an adventure in dining. We were able to shop at Pepe next to our hotel, which has 8 floors of shopping, including Uniqlo and a 100 yen shop.
The weather was chilly and cool. Too bad we missed the peak of sakura blooming, (this year the peak was in March) but we enjoyed the cherry blossoms that were still in bloom, and the beginning of azalea season. And of course, we really loved the food! There is nothing like the taste and presentation of food prepared in Japan.

Roger’s Top Ten:
10. Hida Folk Village in Takayama, where I got to ride an electric car around so I didn’t have to walk. It was da best!
9. Akasaka Ninja Restaurant where Ninjas lead you through a dark maze with steps, narrow halls dead ends and a drawbridge to get to your table. Ninjas serve with fire, sparks, and fun ways for the strange but delicious food. Thanks to Yumi and Asako for taking us there.
8. At Nikko Tokanso we woke up one morning and looked out our window to see everything covered in white snow! It was really cool-cold, in fact! We reserved a bus tour to take us to Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls, but instead, we got a private tour via taxi. Hail was drumming down on us as we left the ryokan, and the drive up to the mountain lake was snowing. Nikko is where the 3 monkeys come from: see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
7. Kazu took us to a ryokan in Hakone that was awesome. They had so many onsens: a public bath for men and women, a family bath, and a private bath just outside our room. Young couples would go bonkers, but Lari and I went oh la la too.
6. Yumi and her mom, Toshiko took us to a mountain top temple and ryokan. First we took a funicular, then a cable car-gondola to the top, and finally a bus that took us to the temple ryokan. It was a modern ryokan with a view of Lake Biwa.
5. In Takayama I had hidagyu steak that was very expensive. My 5 ounces of steak cost $64. You don’t need teeth to enjoy this steak, it’s so soft and melts in your mouth. It’s the best steak I ever ate.
4. We visited friends in Japan, which made our trip so fun. I was overwhelmed by everyone’s warm and generous hospitality.
3. Kazu took us to an onsen where we stuck our feet into a fish tank and fed the fish our toe jams. The fish nibble on our feet and it was a tingling feeling, another new and neat experience.
2. The Kyoto Imperial Palace tour was a one-hour walking tour with a beautiful English-speaking guide. It was okay but I enjoyed the Tokyo Imperial Palace tour better because we were chauffeured around for an hour, thanks to Yumi’s friend. They had a super duper bonsai collection. The bonsai are rotated into and out of the palace for the Emperor to enjoy. The royal carriages and horses used by the Emperor and dignitaries was also impressive.
1. For the most part, the weather was cold. We saw quite a lot of sakura, despite missing the full bloom. So we did get to see some up in the mountain areas of Nikko and Takayama. I did not know that Japan had so much azaleas. Probably more than those we saw in Wilmington, NC when we went to their Azalea Festival.
*My favorite thing I brought back from Japan was a phone charm for my cell phone. I got a “saru bobo” with a bell, which is the mascot of Takayama and means monkey baby.

Lari’s Top Ten:
10. Shopping at the 100 yen shops and Second Hand shops.
9. Toyota Auto Museum near Nagoya was very interesting.
8. Both the Kyoto and Tokyo Imperial Palace tours were wonderful.
7. Visiting our friends and relatives was very special and fun!
6. In Kyoto, the Hozugawa Romantic train ride and riverboat ride was so much fun!
5. Ryokans: we sat on the tatami floor at low tables to have tea and manju and slept on futons on the floor and took our bath at the onsen.
4. Takayama Matsuri was wonderful. After the Snow Festival in Sapporo, this was my second Festival, and it was fabulous. The parades, the floats (yatai) and the sakura in bloom made it very special.
3. Ayako at Nikko Tokanso stole my heart. She was simply amazing! She does everything at the ryokan with such a cheerful and friendly manner.
2. ONSEN: I love, love, love to soak in the hot and steamy pools after scrubbing myself clean and rinsing off in the wash area. I guess it’s because I grew up with furo at my house.
1. FOOD: I love all the food we ate in Japan. Everything is delicious. I think I travel to eat. Everywhere I go, I love to eat.

Roger & Lari’s Trip to Vietnam   Leave a comment

ROG AND LARI’S 2010 WINTER VACATION

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Bangkok”

With Hal & Betty Omori, Bev Marques, BJ Ah Mau

Jan. 25 to Feb. 19, 2010

I had wanted to go to Vietnam for a couple of years, and finally planned this trip when I found cheap fares on JAL. We invited Hal (Roger’s HS classmate) & Betty to go with us, because Roger wanted a golf buddy. Two other classmates Bev and BJ joined us, so the 6 of us adventured to S.E. Asia (Indo China).

We enjoyed the food in all the countries… we had all breakfasts provided by our hotels, and most lunches provided by the tours. We enjoyed trying different restaurants around our hotels. Most dinners cost $2 or $3 per person.

I enjoyed massages almost every other day… either a foot massage or body massage, sometimes both! Most massages were $5 to $10 per hour.

The weather there is very hot and humid, especially in Saigon and Cambodia. Roger loves cold weather, so he suffered the most.

We started our tour in Hanoi. Our hotel was in the old quarter of Hanoi, and the street scenes fascinated us… people wearing the coolie hat, women selling goods by carrying them on a bamboo pole on their shoulder, many noisy motor bikes, horns tooting, crazy traffic, street food on the sidewalks and so much more to fill all your senses. In Hanoi we visited Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, where he lies in state fully preserved. We visited his home, and the Presidential Palace, the Temple of Literature, the Museum of Ethnology, enjoyed a Water Puppet Show and took a cyclo (modern day rickshaw) tour of Old Hanoi.

From Hanoi we took an overnight train to Sapa, where we saw the terraced rice paddies and met the Hmong people. After trekking through the Black Hmong and Flower Hmong villages, and attending market day, we returned to Hanoi on the overnight train. We were driven to Halong City to board a “junk” for an overnight cruise on beautiful Halong Bay. The scenery and expeditions to some islands were outstanding, and the seafood on the junk was fabulous. We all got a foot massage in Halong City after the cruise.

After Halong Bay we flew to Hue where we visited Danang, China Beach, My Son and Hoi An. We had a wonderful guide nicknamed “Flower”, who told great stories about her country. We all got custom-made clothing at one of the many tailor shops in Hoi An, a lovely town small enough to walk around.

We flew to Saigon, now named Ho Chi Minh City, a huge metropolis crowded with millions of motorbikes and cars. It takes guts to cross the street through the crazy traffic. From our hotel, we could walk to the night market, to massage shops, to beauty salons that offer more than beauty treatments by the sexy girls sitting out front. We had a day trip to the Mekong Delta and a trip to Cu Chi tunnels, where they educated us on the warfare methods used by the Vietcong. We also visited the War Remnant Museum, which shows the atrocities of the American War.

In Siem Reap, Cambodia, we had a beautiful hotel with a swimming pool, and our favorite guide, Mr. Long, who lost an eye and a finger during the Khmer Rouge blood bath of Pol Pot. He told wonderful stories about his culture and history, that helped us appreciate Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Here we toured in the early morning and late afternoon, because of the intense heat. It was nice to have lunch, enjoy a cool swim and relax in our aircon rooms before touring again in the afternoon.

Luang Prabang, Laos was a very serene place compared to the madness of the metropolis of Saigon. We woke up early to see many monks in saffron robes walking barefooted through the streets accepting offerings of food from the people. We took a boat ride on the Mekong up to Pak Ou caves filled with thousands of gold Buddhas.

We ended our tour in Bangkok where we enjoyed shopping, getting massages, and eating the delicious food. Our favorite restaurant is Cabbages & Condoms, that donates their profits to help the needy. Roger and Hal were supposed to golf but cancelled because Hal was ill, so instead, Roger and I toured the magnificent Grand Palace.

We all flew to Narita, where the 4 of them continued on home, and Roger and I stayed in Tokyo for a few days. Yumi & Koji Ibaramoto and their son Kenzo and daughter Ami along with Yumi’s sister, Asako entertained us royally! Read Roger’s Top Ten for more details about Tokyo.

Roger’s Top Ten: (The worst thing was, all the trekking in the humidity, that I had to do, to see all the good stuff. And I’ve had it with Buddha statues.)

10. Shopping for a belt is a problem for me, cuz all the belts in the shops are too short. In a market, this guy says he can make me a belt cuz the ones on display seemed child sized. I told him I wanted my belt to wrap around at least 8 inches past the buckle so Hallelujah! I got 2 belts that fit without sucking in my belly.

9. Bangkok, Thailand: See, another problem I have is shopping for shorts, cuz the hem goes 6 inches below my knees and they aren’t shorts anymore. So in Bangkok, I got 3 custom shorts made from the same tailor who made 2 pairs of shorts 6 years ago. I got red, blue and green shorts and never have to buy shorts for the rest of my life, unless I lose weight.

8. Hoi An, Vietnam: My third shopping problem is my widEEE, short feet with extra high arches, I cannot buy slip-on shoes unless they are size 10 (2 inches too long). So in Hoi An, I ordered 2 pairs of custom made shoes. I like them very much, because they fit so well, and the soft leather feels good.

7. Luang Prabang, Laos: As we landed in Laos, our tour guide, Noy, had a sign “Laraine & Roger Yasui”. So I went up to her and introduced myself as Roger but asked her to call me “darling” and she did for two days!

6. All of Indo-China was HOT (90+) and very HUMID. My shirt was soaked every day on all the walks which took at least 10 years off my life. Then after a 5-hour flight to Tokyo, we exit the Tokyo subway station and lo and behold, it’s snowing! After suffering in the heat and humidity, I was happy to enjoy cold weather in Tokyo!

Our friends, Yumi & Koji & Asako really went out of their way to show and treat us to authentic Tokyo. We went to a Sumo Dojo to watch them practicing. We went to Tsukiji Market to watch the fish auction. We went to a tiny little sushi bar, where one maguro nigiri costs $4. They took us to a soba shop, udon shop, monja restaurant, and more. I enjoyed Tokyo because it’s so clean and the toilets were not only heated but had some fancy gadgets that were so refreshing to my behind. They took us to a Sento (public bath) where my first concern was do I put my washcloth over my wiener or over my face. Well it was none of the above… just walked with my legs crossed and head down. Ha!  Porgot something.. Souske and Toshiko (parents of Yumi/Asako) treated us to a fabulous lunch to celebrate my Koki birthday @ 70 is like yakudoshi @ 42, and kanreki @ 60.  Hope for good things in the future, but this old fart has to believe in this Japanese tradition cuz I’ve had nothing but good things happening to me. Japan was like Heaven compared to Indo China except that I could not smoke on the streets in Tokyo.

5. The Grand Palace in Bangkok was only a couple of hundred years old so it was modern, colorful, clean and beautiful. A must-see in Bangkok.

4. Cu Chi tunnels of Saigon, Vietnam: We saw how they lived in the maze of tunnels and the many different traps that the Vietcong designed using bamboo because they didn’t have modern weaponry. We crawled through a tunnel expanded for tourists. To fight the Vietcong in the jungles with their underground network wasn’t a good idea. With all of our air power, we still did not win. Bad idea.

3. Sapa, Vietnam: terraced rice paddies built by the Hmong mountain people. The best part was getting there from Hanoi on an overnight sleeper train, which rode like a plane in turbulence and Elvis rocking and rolling. Rough, but we slept like a baby in a rocker.

2. Halong Bay in Vietnam with thousands of islands sticking up out of the bay, as we cruised on a “Junk”, which served the best food we had in Vietnam. In the fog and mist, it reminded me of the Guilin mountains in China.

1. Angkor Wat & Angkor Thom in Cambodia. Built over 800 years ago, they are just magnificent architectural works of art and definitely one of the 7 Wonders of the World, more impressive than the Egyptian pyramids.

Lari’s Top Ten:

10. Ba Ham Lake in Halong Bay

9. Cu Chi tunnels were much more than I expected

8. Hoi An village, very picturesque

7. Grand Palace in Bangkok

6. Overnight train ride to Sapa was a big adventure… good fun!

5. Foot massages & body massages

4. The delicious food in every country that was very cheap

3. Old Quarter of Hanoi city

2. Angkor Wat and Angko Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia

1. Halong Bay overnight cruise on the Junk

Posted February 10, 2010 by lariyasui in Asia

Tagged with , , , , , , ,