Archive for the ‘Kyoto’ Tag

2018 Springtime in Japan   Leave a comment

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

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

Famous Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni

Iwakuni Castle

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

Green Bridge to Oshima Island

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

Kimura gravestone on Oshima Island

Okabatake Family

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

Grandpa supervises picking oranges.

Grandma shows Lari how to pick fresh shiitake

Home made lunch, so delicious!

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

Matsuyama Castle with Yumi and her friends

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

Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu

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

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

Osaka Castle

Picnics under the sakura at Osaka Castle

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

Among the rocks in Minoo Stream

We visited a temple along the Minoo Stream

Marlowe and Noakai by Minoo Stream

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

At one of our train or subway stations.

Before going into a temple we cleanse ourselves.

Todaiji Temple in Nara with a very large Buddha inside.

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

Old-fashioned Romantic train ride up along the Hozugawa River

Hozugawa boat ride was so much fun!

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

Rickshaw ride into the bamboo forest in Arashiyama

Samurai actors at Toei Movie Studio Park

Trick Art Museum at Toei Movie Studio Park

Trick Art Museum at Toei Movie Studio Park

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

Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Posted August 1, 2018 by lariyasui in Asia

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Japan 2015 Oct-Nov   10 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Japan”

starring: Lari and Debi

October 26 to November 15, 2015

After Roger passed away in July, Debi offered to take his place on this trip that we had planned, our first Fall trip to Japan. We got our rail passes here before we left and made good use of them going on several shinkansen trains. I arrived a day ahead of Debi, and Yumi and Koji picked me up at the airport. I spent the day with Yumi: first we had breakfast at a fancy hotel, then to Shibuya to see Hachiko the famous dog statue, then to Harajuku where we took fun photos, ate lunch and shopped at my favorite store, Daiso (100 yen) onTakeshita Dori (walking street).

After Debi arrived, we took the train to Nikko. We visited Ayako, who works at Nikko Tokanso Ryokan where Roger and I stayed in 2013. I took the memory book that I made about Roger, and shared it with all of our friends in Japan. Ayako cried when I told her that he had died and showed her his book. She gave us tickets to go to  Rinnoji Temple Garden (beautiful) and brought a platter of assorted cut fruit to our hotel.

We took a shinkansen through the mountains with many long tunnels to Niigata. We walked to Ichishima Sake Brewery, where the owner, Kenji Ichishima (Yumi’s friend) met us and showed us around his brewery, then his mother served us some fancy Japanese tea. I bought sake and some sembei, and after we shopped, Kenji drove us to the wonderful Tsukioka Onsen Murakamikan Ryokan. Debi and I enjoyed a feast for dinner and the relaxing onsen (Japanese bath, soaking in hot water pools).

The next morning after breakfast, we met Yumi and Asako at the Niigata train station, and went with them by ferry to Sado Island. Asako drove a rental car, so we were lucky to see all the sites on the island! First we rode the tarai (large bucket) boat, went to Kodo Taiko School for a one-hour taiko lesson with Sami and did some gold-panning at a tourist place. We went to Kiraku Ryokan Hotel and had a HUGE dinner and also went to onsen there. The next morning after breakfast, we went to the famous Sado Gold Mine, another tourist attraction. Sado Island has a mascot, the Toki bird (crested ibis), which is endangered. We visited the Toki bird reserve.

Debi and I left Niigata and took the shinkansen to Kanazawa. Our hotel was very convenient, right across the street from the train station. We bought an all-day bus pass and rode the bus to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, to the famous and beautiful Kenrokuen Garden and did some shopping.

We took a train to Kyoto and stayed at the Kyoto ANA Crowne Plaza hotel next to Nijo Castle. This was our favorite hotel. For 3 days, we went shopping, went to dinner with Masahiro Mori and his family, took a train to Fushimi Inari Taisha to see the thousand red torii, and went to Menbakaichidai, for Fire Ramen.. super delicious and fun!

We went to Kobe and stayed two nights, but hardly spent time in Kobe, because we took the train to Himeji Castle one day and to Arima Onsen village the next. The castle was recently opened after 5 years of renovations. Arima Onsen is a village with shops and several onsens… we did the gold onsen-very hot! and the silver onsen as well as a massage. We rode the ropeway up Mount Rokko and had lovely views of the autumn colors.

Our next stop was Osaka, where we had lunch with my friend Miho Ueo and her family, who just moved to Osaka from Sapporo. Yumi’s parents, Sosuke and Toshiko Kojima took us to Kushi Katsu dinner in the mall right next to our hotel. On to Nagoya the next day to visit with the Kurata family. The day we arrived, Naoto and Yuko with Tomoe picked us up at the train station and took us shopping, to lunch and to a Temple. That night, Naoto prepared takoyaki dinner for us. The next day, Katsumasa and Kazuyo took us around then dropped us off at the train station. They took us to Komeda Coffee for breakfast, then to a Temple and to Noritake China for a tour of their factory. The displays of the historical Noritake china patterns was wonderful.

We returned to Tokyo after Nagoya and Yumi and Koji met us at the train station, then we had soba dinner and they took Debi to the subway station to go to the airport and I took a train to Kazu’s house in Camp Zama, Sagamihara. I stayed with Kazu, Audrey and their 3 girls for a few days and we got to watch Azlyn play volleyball, went on a road trip to Takao to the Trick Art Museum, drove to Mt Fuji and saw Shiraito Falls and the lakes. One day, I walked to school with Azlyn and her friends, and I read a book to her class in her Japanese school.  We had lots of delicious food and went to some onsens, which I love very much! The hotter the better!

Lari’s Top 12:

12 Himeji Castle

11 Autumn colors everywhere

10 Ichishima Brewery with owner Kenji Ichishima

9 Wonderful ryokans with delicious breakfasts and dinners

8 Shiraito Falls

7 Takao Trick Museum

6 Fushimi Inari Taisha

5 Tarai boat and taiko on Sado Island

4 Taiko lesson at Kodo Taiko studio on Sado Island

3 Fire Ramen at Menbakaichidai

2 Food! Soba, Kobe Beef, Kushikatsu, tonlkatsu, sushi, pastries, fresh fruit in season: persimmon, pear, apple, tangerine

1 Onsens and massages, especially Arima Onsen village

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Yumi took me to breakfast to meet Kae Jibiki.

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I visited famous Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station.

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Daiso the 100-yen store is my favorite place to shop!

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In Harajuku, Yumi and I went into the photo booth that puts make-up on to make us look young.

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Debi and I took a train to Nikko, where we enjoyed the fall colors.

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In Niigata, Kenji Ichishima showed us around his sake brewery and drove us to our ryokan.

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We enjoyed the onsen (hot soaking bath) at the ryokan.

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The Ryokan futon bed on the tatami mat floor is very warm and comfy.

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We met Asako and Yumi and went with them to Sado Island, where we rode the tarai (bucket) boat.

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Kodo taiko school on Sado Island: Debi, Asako and Yumi playing taiko.

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Sami was our taiko instructor at Kodo Taiko school.

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I love the onsen -hot bath soak at the Sado ryokan.

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Ryokan dinner was fabulous! Too much food, we could not eat it all.

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We were so lucky that Asako drove us around Sado and Yumi navigated.

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This is Kanazawa station, and our hotel was right across the street!

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Beautiful and famous Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa.

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Masamichi owns Menbakaichidai Fire Ramen in Kyoto, and his ramen is super ono!

This video is taken at Menbakaichidai Fire Ramen shop in Kyoto!

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Fushimi Inari Taisha has 1000 red torii in Kyoto.

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We visited the famous Himeji Castle all new-looking after 5 years of renovation.

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I had to taste the famous Kobe steak in Kobe!

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We went to Arima Onsen village where they have gold onsen, silver onsen and more. We got a massage and had lunch there.

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We rode up to Mount Rokko on the Ropeway with glorious views of the fall colors.

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In Osaka, we had kushikatsu dinner with Yumi and Asako’s parents, Sosuke and Toshiko Kojima.

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In Nagoya, Naoto, Yuko and Tomoe Kurata took us around town to shop and have lunch.

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Naoto cooked takoyaki dinner for us at his home.

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Katsumasa and Kazuyo Kurata took us to Noritake Museum and lunch before taking us to the train station to go back to Tokyo.

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Debi went home to Hawaii and I went to stay with Kazu, Audrey and 3 girls at their home in Camp Zama.

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Kazu drove me, Allah and Aulia to Shiraito Falls near Mt. Fuji.

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Allah and Aulia acting like little old ladies with canes, but they were massage sticks.

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I walked to school with Azlyn and her friends from Camp Zama. I read a book to her class.

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After watching Azlyn play volleyball, we all drove to Takao Trick Art Museum.

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We all had fun at Takao Trick Art Museum… they have so many rooms with different optical illusions!

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After the trick museum, we went to onsen and dinner. Audrey is photo bombing me and Kazu!

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Before I left to catch my flight, the Hernandez and Ibaramoto families bade me farewell!

 

Posted April 18, 2016 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

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

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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.