Archive for the ‘Japan’ Tag

2022 November Japan Trip   4 comments

Posted December 13, 2022 by lariyasui in Asia

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First trip to Japan since Covid   14 comments

Our first Japan trip together

Japan finally opened to tourists on Oct 11, so Cliff & I left that very day to fly to Narita via SFO. (United still does not fly to Japan from Hawaii). We arrived in Narita on Thursday, Oct 13th. We exchanged our money at the airport and got very good rates for our yen. We stayed at Ikebukuro Toyoko Inn. We rested for a while and went out to have Kaiten Sushi dinner. Everything is on sale in Japan with the dollar so strong against a weak yen.

In Tokyo we met my friends Seiichi and Sharon Banno for lunch at a very special place, the Classic House at the Akasaka Prince. Cliff took me to Shibuya Sky building overlooking the city and the Shibuya crossing. We went to Ameyokocho to shop and then to Tsukiji. Yumi Ibaramoto took us to Tsukishima Monja street. Monja is similar to okonomiyaki except no pancake batter. Then we went to Kappabashi the kitchen street where Koji (Yumi’s husband) met us and we shopped there. Next to Ueno where we shopped at Matsuzakaya Department store followed by dinner at Ume No Hana, we had a fancy yuba dinner. Yuba is liquid tofu in a square pan that is heated and when the skin forms on the surface, we take turns lifting the skin and dipping it in a sauce to eat. They also served many small fancy dishes.

In Osaka, Cliff’s good friend John Hulaton and his son Michael took us to many wonderful izakayas to eat to our hearts content. One day, we took a train ride to Arashiyama in Kyoto to meet Cliff’s friend, Rod Aratani and his wife Satomi. We enjoyed walking through the bamboo forest and had lunch with them.

We enjoyed our short quick trip to Tokyo and Osaka mostly to eat lots of delicious Japanese food!

Posted October 25, 2022 by lariyasui in Asia

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October 2019 Trip to Koyasan & More   Leave a comment

I belong to a group of ladies who learn spiritual practices from Makiko, who comes to Hawaii from Tokyo yearly to teach us. Last year, we decided to go on a journey to Koyasan in Japan with Makiko, who offered to share some highly spiritual places in that area, which is southeast of Osaka. 6 of us from Hawaii met Makiko in Osaka and embarked on our journey to Koyasan, Tenkawa and Kumano in Nara-prefecture and Wakayama-prefecture on the Kii Peninsula of Japan. Linda Uehara, Mary Ann Kobayashi, Cynthia Chi-Coi, Laurie Ide, Gloria Uyehara & me w/Makiko took a train from Osaka to Koyasan, where we stayed at Fukuchiin, a temple ryokan. We slept on futons on the tatami floor and ate vegetarian (monk) food. We experienced going to an early morning (6 am) Buddhist monk service, and observed the sunrise in the zen garden immediately after. Koyasan is the center of Shingon Buddhism founded by Kobo Daishi aka Kukai. We participated in the annual Keshien Kanko ceremony which was very special. We walked through Okunoin, the largest cemetery in Japan with over 200,000 graves, some very ancient & covered with moss.


All aboard! ready for our train to Koyasan!




Makiko as we left our lunch restaurant in a drizzly rain. Isn’t she the cutest!


Laurie, Linda, Gloria & Mary Ann. Notice there are no tables, our monk food was way down low on those trays!



Right after our 6 am monk prayer ceremony, we turned around and saw the sunrise at the zen garden.


7 spiritual sisters enjoying the quiet morning

When we left Koyasan, Makiko hired a driver-guide, Kenji, who also studies spiritual practices and who knew of special spiritual locations which were new to Makiko. Kenji shared with us several spiritual places in the area of Koyasan, Tenkawa and Kumano. He drove us to Tenkawa & Kumano where we visited temples, shrines and more and stayed in ryokans. The reason why this is Japan’s spiritual heartland, a sacred place where the gods of Shintoism and Buddhism reside, is because the Kii Peninsula sits on a huge rock very deep (6,000 miles) beneath our earth, creating a strong magnetic field and thus a strong energy field. The mountains in the Kii peninsula are covered in dense forests with 3 pilgrimage routes from one mountain to another.


This was a special zero energy spot, where 2 families who fought for 60 years, made peace at this spot. Zero because downward and upward energy balanced.



This is a big shrine that represents the Father of Japan.


Nachi Waterfall Shrine represents the Mother of Japan. In back row see Kenji-San our tour guide/driver extraordinaire.


After our last ryokan in Kumano, the rest of the group took the train back to Osaka, but Gloria and I embarked on our own journey along the shoreline of Kii Peninsula. First, we stopped in Kushimoto, a small village at the very southern tip of the Kii Peninsula. There, I lost my iPhone but recovered it at the police station where it was turned in, with the help of the station master, Mr. Miwa. The next day, we took the train to another small seaside village, Shirahama. At our small, old-fashioned ryokan, no one could speak English. But we managed to get around the village by bus, to see all the amazing sites there.


We are ready for our bath at our Kushimoto hotel onsen in our yukata.


Mr. Miwa, Kushimoto train master, helped me get my lost iPhone back at the police station! What a special man he is!




Spectacular Sandanbeki Rock Cliffs, Shirahama.

Then we took a longer train ride back to Osaka, and changed trains to Kyoto, where we stayed for 4 nights in a ryokan with hot springs right near the train station! Typhoon Hagibis was scheduled to hit Japan while we were in Kyoto, but luckily, it did not affect us there. We stayed in Kobe our last 2 nights, visiting the Earthquake Museum and Chinatown, as well as the shopping arcades… so many of them, seemingly unending!


In Kyoto



1000 torii at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.


Menbakaichidai, Fire Ramen in Kyoto!




Sorakuen Garden in Kobe.

Lari’s Top Ten:

10. Onsens daisuki!

9. Kushimoto village, where my lost phone was found at the police station

8. Zero energy grassy spot where we lay down on the grass

7. Shirahama seaside village

6. Spending quality time with 6 sisters, in hotel room, on train, etc.

5. Kenji and Makiko guiding us to special spiritual places

4. Walking the ancient path of the Okunoin cemetery

3. Nachi Waterfall Shrine

2. My strong emotional reactions to high energies which touched my heart

1. Learning about the Shingon Buddhist sect founded by Kobo Daishi aka Kukai

By the way: I went to a friend’s memorial service and noted that the Buddhist service was very different from the usual Hongwanji type of service. Then I found out that it was from a Shingon Temple here in Honolulu. I spoke to the bonsan and told him that I was recently in Koyasan, and he said he was born and raised there.

Gloria’s Top Ten:

1.We walked partially on an old trail that ascetic monks walk for over 100 miles from one mountain to another and experienced spiritual connections while we were there. They were curious about us as we were about them.

2.Sorakuen garden in Kobe was very beautiful with lovely flowers, the chysanthimums were as tall as we, trickling streams, the color of the leaves were unique to the garden.

3.Fushimi Inari shrine with 1000 red torii in Kyoto

4.Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto

5.Nachi waterfall shrine

6.the peaceful zen garden at Fukuchiin temple in Koyasan

7.Okunoin the huge cemetery with over 200,000 graves

8.Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine where the tree waved to us

9.We stopped at a rock and sweet spring water where Aukai stopped on his journey, and next to it is a small building where we walked up the narrow ladder upstairs to where the monks pray

10.Shirahama, where we saw Engetsu Island with a hole and did beach combing.

Makiko’s Top Ten:

1. Tenkawa Daibenzaiten Tensha (where we happened to be at the ceremony)

2. Kechien Kanjo (ceremony at Koyasan, Kongo-buji temple)

3. Kawayu Onsen (the night of Oct.5th, the water of the hot spring was extraordinary!! My skin became so fresh like a 20-something girl!)

4. The grassy place near Tenkawa Daibenzaiten Tensha

5. Greeting Kobodaishi at inside of the Okunoin (maosuleum)

6. Eating soft cream ice (you were eating shaved ice) near Kumano Hongu Taisha.

7. The first restaurant we went for a lunch in Koyasan

8. Waterfall in Kumano

9. The mountain top at Kumano, near the waterfall

10. That I could share a room with everybody♥️


Laurie’s Top Ten:

1. Kumano tunnel 

2. Toto toilets

3. Kukai Mausoleum – ceremony blindfolded

4. Kukai Mausoleum – when you and Gloria felt his love

5. Kukai back of Mausoleum – at shrine where you and Gloria felt his love again

6. Kumano Hongo Shrine – where the trees waved to us

7. Onsens – mainly the last one at the Midoriya Hotel, the sulfur turned all my of Tiffany bracelets black LOL

8. Awesome vegetarian monk food

9. Roykan hard floor futons – hard and painful but happy to have experienced it

10. Zero gravity grass area – lying on the grass like happy children


Cynthia’s Top Ten

1.  Makiko and Kenji-san’s earnest collaboration which resulted in an extra special journey for everyone. 

2.  Walking the same paths, visiting the same centuries-old structures/forests,  witnessing or participating in the same services as generations of pilgrims before us. 

3.  Visiting sacred Okunoin cemetery and the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi; experiencing his energetic presence.

4.  The synchronicities which led us to special experiences—notably visiting former living quarters of Kobo Daishi and purchasing rare and powerful “protection poster.”

5.  Witnessing our varied, sometimes profound,  emotional and physical reactions to places, situations, or energies—notably Lari, after she had kneeled and bowed before all of the altars in the Okunoin temple. 

6.  Participating in Scarnionne/group energy work to divert Super Typhoon Hagibis away from Japan. 

7.  Shojin ryori at Kadohama Goma Tofu Restaurant and Fujuchiin. 

8.  Enjoying the high quality of service, products, work ethic and artisanal skills of people and businesses in Japan.  

9.   Onsens. 

10.  Opportunity to experience and compare vibes of monastic Koya-san, countrysides, and Osaka.  

Posted November 29, 2019 by lariyasui in Asia

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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.


Bruce and Chris did not like this hostel


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.




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.



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.



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. 




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.



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





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



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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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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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



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

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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.