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2017 Summer in Hokkaido   Leave a comment

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.

Tokyo Edo Museum has wonderful miniature displays of old Edo.

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.

In Kushiro City at Washo Ichiba Fish Market, we could eat any and as much seafood as we wanted! This is where I found that uni could be so good!

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 ryokan. Luxurious room, delicious food for dinner and breakfast, and fancy onsen pools, indoor and outdoors.

This is the yukata room where the ladies can choose any yukata for use in the ryokan.

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.

 

These asparagus can be eaten from top to bottom-no need break off the bottom stem, because it is tender all the way down the stem.

Sunflower farm, so bright and cheerful!

 

Sunflowers!

Anna drove our golf cart around Shikisai Hills flower farm.

Lavender farm.

Lavender farm

Keala and his wife, Tomoko.

Yummy dessert! Cream puffs, peaches, melon, & cherries after shabu shabu dinner.

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.

Futon bed on tatami floor is very comfy!

Odori Park in Sapporo

Keala, Anna and I shared this large beer

Okurayama ski jump in Sapporo

Happy birthday, Harold!

At Chitose airport unloading from the van.

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

 

Posted August 20, 2017 by lariyasui in Asia

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Spring 2017 in Tokyo   9 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Japan”

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

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

March 16 to 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking to Ohi Racecourse Flea Market

Shinagawa Aquarium

Jason Hagiwara joined us for the day.

The Daibutsu or great Buddha in Kamakura

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

Our fancy dinner at Kinokuniya Ryokan in Enoshima

Kimono cousins going to onsen bath

The Kinokuniya Ryokan in Enoshima provides yukata for everyone.

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

Kara and Ryan at the Iwaya Cave on Enoshima Island

Anpan Man Children’s Museum and Mall in Yokohama.

Disney Sea

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

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

Mt Takao has a monkey exhibit

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

You can hardly walk on Takeshita Dori on a weekend.

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

We made our own Cup Noodle.

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

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

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

Top Ten Lists:

Madisen(age 13):

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

Ally (age 7):

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

Kara:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.  Odaiba:  The beautiful boat ride to Odaiba.

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

Azlyn (age 13):

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

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

8. Aquarium -I had fun watching the dolphin show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gordon’s top 10

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

9. Asakusa: Shops, Enormous shrine

8. Trick art museum

7. Mt. Takao: Chair lift, Steep tram

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

5. Nakano Broadway: Unique shops and restaurants

4. Tokyo Sumida River Cruise

3. Disney Sea

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

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

 

Tyler’s top 10 list (age 9)

10. vending machines

9. onsen, ramen/food

7. disney

6. bunnys

5. monkeys

4. mizuno

3. flea market

2. trick art

1. sony

 

Chloe’s Top Ten List (age 12)

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

9. Aquarium – Dolphins, penguins, different animals

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

7. Trick Art Museum – Cool , Fun

6. Sony Museum – Interesting and fun exhibits

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

4. Disney Sea – Rides

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

2. Food – Yummy and sometimes different

1. Cousins – Fun to spend time together

 

Claudine’s top 10:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ryan’s Top Ten:

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

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

8.  Enoshima Island tour

7.  Disney Sea

6.  Cup Noodle Museum

5.  Takao Trick Museum

4.  Shinagawa Aquarium

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

2.  Daiso and Seria 100 yen stores

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

Ryan’s Honorable Mention (Also Enjoyed):

Mizuno Store

Takeshita Street – Harajuku

Landmark Tower – Yokohama

Daibutsu

Staying at Ryokan

Public Transportation

 

Jensen’s Top Ten (age 16)

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

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

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

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

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

5   Going to onsets

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

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

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

1   Spending time with family

Okinawa Taikai October 2016   9 comments

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Okinawa”

starring: Lari & Shari

October 19 to November 4, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lari’s Top Twelve:

12 Matsue Horikawa Meguri-boat ride around Matsue castle

11 Delicious food and onsens at Yubara Hakkei Ryokan in Maniwa

10 Learning the history of the WWII Battle of Okinawa

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

8 Marching in the Taikai parade

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

6 Shikwaasa -a small lemon-like fruit

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

4 Eating all the delicious food, especially the vegan breakfasts

3 Meeting all of Shari’s Okinawan friends

2 Enjoying the Ceremonies at Cellular Stadium

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

 

Shari LOVES Totoro at Ghibli Museum

Cat bus at Ghibli Museum

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This is the Gagaku stage after the performance.

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With Shari and Tomoko at the giant gate/entrance to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.

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One of many wonderful Japanese shops along the way to the Sensoji Temple.

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

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

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

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Lovely fall colors on our drive up to Lake Chuzenji with Kazu and Ibaramoto family

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

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

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Hiroki Sakamoto’s drone flying over Lake Chuzenji

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Beautiful Lake Chuzenji with Shari

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Here is our travel group at Kegon Falls entrance.

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Kazu and I at Kegon Falls.

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Yumi, Koji and Kenzo under a lovely Momiji-Japanese maple tree.

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3 monkeys at Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

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We arrived at Naha airport in Okinawa.

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Shari’s friend, Chizu, met us at Naha airport with this sign and a Shari mask.

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

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Shari and I took a Bingata class where we painted our own items and took it home with us. These ladies are painting a large wall hanging.

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Pigs feet on display at the Heiwa Dori market.

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Shaved ice snack while shopping in Heiwa Dori market.

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We marched in the World Uchinanchu Festival parade!

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

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Also met Jan Uesato in the parade!

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Our hotel was in the Tsuboya pottery district, so we got to visit some lovely pottery shops, and watched a demonstration of items made on the pottery wheel.

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

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Opening ceremony at Cellular Stadium had great entertainment!

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

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We rode the efficient monorail around Naha.

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

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Birthday princess!

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

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Fishing expedition with Alton Chung, and Arisa, who drove us to Kitanakagusuku.

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Capt. Yasunobu Tanaka on his boat Daiyasumaru took us fishing

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Here are all the fish we caught!

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

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Okinawa Prefecture Peace Museum

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

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Shuri Castle in Naha

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The Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival closing ceremony had great entertainment and fireworks at the Cellular Stadium.

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

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

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

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Our ryokan had 3 onsen, and this outdoor onsen on the roof was our favorite one!

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Across the river from our ryokan was an open, public onsen bath.

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Shari’s friend, Masao drove us to Matsue Horikawa Meguri-boat ride around Matsue castle

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

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

Posted February 28, 2017 by lariyasui in Asia

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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 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.