Japan Adventures (the finale)

So by now you can probably tell that I am in love with Japan!  It is one of those places you visit and you can't wait until you have another opportunity to go back.  I love to travel but sometimes I visit places and I'll be glad I'm there, but have no desire to return.   That was not the case with Japan.  I love, love, loved every minute we were there.  That is saying a lot considering we were there at probably the worst time of the year because of the heat and humidity!   I can only imagine going back during a cooler time of year and that would just make me LOVE Japan even MORE!

Today I want to share just a little more about our final days traveling through Japan.

One of the things I loved about this trip is that we had the opportunity to experience a Japanese hotel, a traditional Japanese Inn and a Japanese apartment.  

Our apartment was super cute and JUST the right size for all 10 of us.  We each had our own air conditioned room, our own bathroom and each room even had its own washing machine!  What a treat especially because we had packed so lightly!

The kitchen was so cute.  Just look below, can you guess how many cooks can fit in this kitchen?

Our Japanese Kitchen

Our Japanese Kitchen

The answer is.... just ONE!  It was super cute and although small, we managed just fine.   In fact, it was really fun to have an apartment all together.  Even though there are ten of us we all get along really well and genuinely enjoy spending time together, especially these two who have a budding #brumance, but that is another story!

Bruce and Derek outside our apartment

Bruce and Derek outside our apartment

The next day we walked from our apartment to the Ueno Zoo.

Ueno Zoo

Ueno Zoo

This created a perfect opportunity to take a photo of us wearing the cute masks Meg had sent me.  These masks worked great for me on the airplane and also on the crowded trains.  Other than that I was fine without one but very happy to share them with these two for this fun photo op.

Ueno Zoo with Meg and Lynsay

Ueno Zoo with Meg and Lynsay

We saw many beautiful animals at the zoo.  Here are a few pics of my favorite ones.

Tiger at the Ueno Zoo

Tiger at the Ueno Zoo

Gorilla at the Ueno Zoo

Gorilla at the Ueno Zoo

Lion at the Ueno Zoo

Lion at the Ueno Zoo

Polar Bear at the Ueno Zoo

Polar Bear at the Ueno Zoo

It was fun to spend some time at the zoo and even though it was hot, we found the perfect way to cool off, with shave ice and green tea ice cream.

Shave ice at the Ueno Zoo

Shave ice at the Ueno Zoo

We may not know how to speak Japanese but by this time of our trip we all did learn the symbol for shave ice and would look for it often.

After the zoo we went to a delicious sushi restaurant.

#brumance

#brumance

We visited a very interesting museum.

Shitmachi Museum

Shitmachi Museum

We saw a beautiful display of Lotus Blossoms.

Lotus Blossoms

Lotus Blossoms

We took a stroll through some interesting markets.

Seafood at the market

Seafood at the market

We sipped on a refreshing Milk Tea.

Milk Tea in Tokyo

Milk Tea in Tokyo

We visited a temple where we tasted the most delicious Kibi Dango.  My mouth is watering just thinking about how good it was!

Kibi Dango is delicious

Kibi Dango is delicious

One thing that was extra special is that we were in Japan on July 7th which just happens to be when the Tanabata festival happens.  This festival celebrates the legend of Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Bega and Altair).  The legend says that the Milky Way separates these lovers and they are allowed to meet only once a year on July 7th.  It was wonderful to be in Japan during this lovely festival.  There were decorations everywhere as well as a celebratory spirit in the air!

Tanabata Festival Decorations

Tanabata Festival Decorations

We walked for miles on our final day with our Tour Guide Miko.  In the evening before dinner she took us to a tourist center in Asakusa where we enjoyed a beautiful view of the city.

Asakusa

Asakusa

That evening we had a nice dinner together.  We were exhausted from the long day which made for lots of tired laughter at the dinner table.  We also blessed Miko with a hand stamped card that Lynsay had made as well as gifts that we had brought from home.

Our Tour Guide Miko

Our Tour Guide Miko

The next day we were on our own but we had big plans!  We were heading for Disney Sea!  This is my favorite picture of Tucker because he perfectly demonstrates how excited we all were.

On the train to Disney Sea

On the train to Disney Sea

In case you don't believe how excited we were, Meg tried to capture the moment as best as she could in this photo grid.

Disney Sea Day

Disney Sea Day

Once inside the park we headed straight for our favorite ride, The Tower of Terror.

Tower of Terror at Disney Sea, Tokyo

Tower of Terror at Disney Sea, Tokyo

It was interesting to me to see how people came dressed to the park.  Many people dressed in traditional Japanese Yukata's.  

Wearing Yukata's at Disney Sea

Wearing Yukata's at Disney Sea

Tokyo Disney

Tokyo Disney

I would say about 90 percent of the people there were dressed similar to the people they were with.  We certainly missed the memo on this one.  

I thought these two girls looked so cute.  They were in line in front of me for one of the rides and offered to pose for a picture.  See what I mean about "matchy-matchy".

In line at Disney Sea

In line at Disney Sea

We had a really enjoyable day at the park.

Disney Sea

Disney Sea

Some of our group even got some cute sovenier hats.

Hat's off to Disney Sea!

Hat's off to Disney Sea!

The next day was our last full day in Japan.  We began our day at the Tsukiji Fish market which is the worlds largest.

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market

Tsukiji Fish Market

There were lots of interesting things to see here.

We visited another market where we ate Mochi.  My favorite was the Green Tea Mochi.

Mochi

Mochi

I wish I could have packaged up box loads of this and brought it home to share with family and friends.

It was time for lunch so we jumped on a train and headed for Harajuku.  Don't Lynsay and Emily look like locals?  They learned that riding on the train was not time to talk but to do work, take a nap, play games on your phone or check your email.

Riding the train in Japan

Riding the train in Japan

Did I mention that today was Emily's birthday?  So we wanted to take her somewhere special.

Harajuku Monster Cafe - Tokyo

Harajuku Monster Cafe - Tokyo

We ended up at the Harajuku Monster Cafe.  It was the perfect place to celebrate with Emily.

Harajuku Monster Cafe

Harajuku Monster Cafe

The rooms were all uniquely decorated.  It was a very colorful atmosphere.  Even the food was colorful.   There were Harajuku girls everywhere.  They not only waited on tables but they also did a little show where we all learned a special dance that we will probably always do in remembrance of our lunch festivities that day.

Harajuku Monster Cafe

Harajuku Monster Cafe

After we left there we passed by a Hedgehog Cafe.  We decided to go and check it out.  

Happy Harry Hedge Hog Cafe

Happy Harry Hedge Hog Cafe

It was extremely organized.  We sat in a section and had a set time we could enjoy a drink and play with hedgehogs.  The Hedgehogs came in various sizes... however this one was really big.

Big Hedgehog

Big Hedgehog

I wonder if He was HARRY the Hedgehog?  It was a really interesting place.  There were even hedgehogs that you could purchase.  One cost over a thousand dollars!!!  One of the rules written on the wall was that you were not allowed to EAT the hedgehogs!

Don't eat the Hedgehogs

Don't eat the Hedgehogs

Looks like the birthday girl was a little tempted to do that!  But thankfully, she didn't.

Last dinner in Tokyo

Last dinner in Tokyo

Our evening came to an end with a delicious Japanese barbecue dinner where we grilled the most delicious waygu beef at our table.

Tokyo

Tokyo

After dinner we took a final stroll through the city on the way back to our apartment.

Japan is fun with friends

Japan is fun with friends

Once back at our apartment, we took a final group photo to commemorate the end of our adventures in Japan!

Tired after our adventures

Tired after our adventures

I think we did a pretty good job fitting in a TON of stuff in a week but I know we barely scratched the surface of the adventures we could share in this amazing country that I hope to visit again one day.

On our way to the airport

On our way to the airport

The next day we left our apartment and headed for the train to the Narita airport.  Our adventures in Japan had come to an end and now we were off to the official start of our Stampin' Up! Grand Vacation in Thailand.   

Thank you for allowing me to share my passion of traveling with all of you.  I hope you enjoyed traveling through Japan with all of us.   Be sure to check back to learn about the next leg of this amazing trip as we journeyed to Thailand together.  More adventures to come!

Adventures in Japan (part one)

Aloha everyone, I have just returned 17 days spent traveling through Japan, Thailand and Korea.  I have so much to share about my amazing adventures there.  Over the next several days I will be sharing lots of information about my travels with a few project pictures tucked in between.  

Traveling is one of my passions and this trip had lots of highlights that I can't wait to share with you.    All three of these destinations were places I had never been before so that made this particular trip even more exciting and adventurous.   

Due to my recent surgery I wasn't sure I would be able to go, so when I got the "green light" to travel, I was truly grateful I didn't have to miss traveling and seeing so many wonderful friends from around the globe.

Japan was the one place I was most anxious to go to.  I have many friends who go there regularly and everyone I know who has been there raves about it.  I was so excited to experience Japan and see if I would love it as much as everyone else seemed to do.

One of the fun things about traveling to Japan was that I was going to get to see Ruka.  Ruka is a  friend of mine who has been living in Japan for almost 20 years.  We met in Fiji back in the late 1980's when I was on a  Summer of Missions trip with the organization Youth With A Mission.  When we arrived in Japan, Ruka was there to greet us.

Ruka and Cindy in Tokyo

Ruka and Cindy in Tokyo

It was nice to have her meet us at the airport as she was able to show us what bus to get on for the 1 hour ride to our hotel in Tokyo.  As we road on the bus we chatted quietly trying to catch up as it had been ten years since we had seen each other.  I quickly noticed that everyone else on the bus was silent.  It made me lower my voice to a whisper to talk with Ruka so that I wouldn't disturb the quiet and calm that was on the bus.

Ruka took us to a very nice Japanese Restaurant with a view.  Although we had been up for hours traveling, we forgot all about jet lag and had such an enjoyable time with such delicious food and great company.  We also saw that not many people spoke English so it was very handy to be with Ruka to help us order and communicate with the local people we encountered.

Our first dinner in Tokyo

Our first dinner in Tokyo

The next morning we were on our own because our friends the Loven's and the Mahon's weren't going to arrive till later that evening.   As we set out to explore that morning the first thing I noticed was all the people heading to work.  It was a sea of black pants and white shirts. It was so interesting.  Everything was so orderly, people were pleasant and very, very quiet.  I didn't see many people walking and talking on the phone, no people arguing or talking loudly to each other and although there were lots of taxi cabs on the road, I never heard one beep their horn once!

Japanese Workers

Japanese Workers

We took a stroll to the Meiji Shrine which was located in this big beautiful park.  We knew we were going to go back there the next day so we didn't explore everywhere, but it was a nice place to walk and cool down as it was quite humid there that day.

Derek and Cindy in Japan

Derek and Cindy in Japan

After we left there we saw a tall building and a sign for a Cat Cafe.  It wasn't on our list of places to see but we were out exploring so we decided to check it out.

I spy the Cat Cafe

I spy the Cat Cafe

We went inside and had to take off our shoes, put on slippers and wear a cat ear headband.  We were able to go to a vending machine and choose a drink to enjoy while there.  It was fun to see and play with all the cats.  Would you like to see some of them?

Cindy at the Cat Cafe

Cindy at the Cat Cafe

Love these faces

Love these faces

Serious Cat at the Cat Cafe

Serious Cat at the Cat Cafe

TLC at the Cat Cafe

TLC at the Cat Cafe

Cindy at the Cat Cafe

Cindy at the Cat Cafe

Can you tell I love Cats??

Well after our short visit to the Cat Cafe we decided it was time for lunch.  Derek had researched this famous Udon restaurant where the same family had been making noodles for over 130 years.  We took a cab to this street and looked around until we recognized the photo from Derek's research.

Yamacho Ebisu Udon Restaurant

Yamacho Ebisu Udon Restaurant

The name of this restaurant was Yamacho Ebisu.  This place did not disappoint!!!  The food was delicious.  When we left there was a huge line to get in and we understood why!

Udon at Yamacho Ebisu

Udon at Yamacho Ebisu

Derek ate Udon while I enjoyed some delicious cold noodles with two different dipping sauces.

Lunch at Yamacho Ebisu

Lunch at Yamacho Ebisu

The rest of the day was spent with more exploring.  We walked from the restaurant to a street corner in Shibuya where it is said to be the world's busiest intersection.  

Shibuya, Japan

Shibuya, Japan

We walked through many neighborhoods and I saw many familiar places such as L and L barbecue, Don Quiote and Eggs and Things (pictured below).  Our tour guide later told us that many Japanese people think that pancakes come from Hawaii because of Eggs and Things.

Eggs and Things, Tokyo

Eggs and Things, Tokyo

One thing I loved about Japan is that I felt so safe everywhere I went.  With each turn down an unexplored street we'd see so many interesting places.   I also loved seeing people out walking in their Yukata or Kimonos.  Isn't this woman's outfit beautiful?

 Tokyo Fashion

 Tokyo Fashion

As we walked it was quite hot out.  We knew that July was not the best time to visit Japan because of the humidity but since we added this part on to the Stampin' Up! Thailand trip we didn't have a choice.  It was nice when we came across a shave ice stand.  We ordered one to share and it was so delicious and refreshing.  

Getting Shave Ice in Japan

Getting Shave Ice in Japan

Can you tell the texture of the ice was different?  

Delicious Shave Ice in Japan

Delicious Shave Ice in Japan

This shave ice reminded me of a combination of Snow Factory, here on Oahu where the ice is light as a feather and melts in your mouth.  The syrup reminded me of my favorite shave ice place in Kailua called the Local where all the syrups are natural.  This shave ice was made with fresh honeydew melon.  It was delicious and very refreshing on such a hot day.

Even though it was our first official day in a new country, we were already starting to really fall in love with Japan.  We began to get really excited knowing that we would soon be sharing this wonderful experience with friends.

That evening the Loven's arrived at dinner time.  We made plans to meet Miko, our tour guide who would be guiding us around Japan for the next three days.   Miko took us to this wonderful Ramen restaurant.  It was amazing to see how this small restaurant handled our large group and moved everyone to tables in such an orderly way.  This was my first time trying Vegan Ramen filled with fresh vegetables.  It was really delicious.

Vegan Ramen in Japan

Vegan Ramen in Japan

We waited out in front of the hotel that evening to greet the Mahon family when they arrived.  It was fun to feel the excitement of the 10 of us being so thankful to have all made is safely to Japan and ready for a week of adventuring together.

When all of us where together I gave Meg, Lynsay and Miko this little punch art project I made.  

Punch Art Friends Project

Punch Art Friends Project

I thought this little bus was so appropriate since we were going to be tourists that week, adventuring together!  This little bus is actually filled with small post it notes that are shaped like Hawaiian girls.  I created two punch art girls on the topper using a some of our Circle Punches and our Tree Builder Punch.  The sentiment on this project says, "Life is better with Friends" and I couldn't agree more.  

I felt to blessed to be in Japan and to have the opportunity to make new memories with friends knowing that one of the reasons why I was there was because of the amazing prayers from friends who were lifting me up all over the world.  

Well, I have a lot more to share with you....so I'll do that over the next few days as it looks like I will be off my feet for awhile?  You see, in addition to everything else I've been going through yesterday I fractured my left foot.  I'll tell you "how" it happened later but now I will have plenty of time to blog from my couch as I heal.  I also have radiation treatment scheduled to begin on Monday so I'd really appreciate your prayers as I go into this next challenge on crutches.  I hope and pray that my foot will heal and not need a cast or surgery.  But ultimately no matter what, I know my life is not my own.  Everything is in God's hands and I will continue to praise him despite my circumstances.  

Thanks for being patient as I was unable to blog while away but it feels good to be back online and I look forward to sharing "the rest of the story" of our adventures in Japan, Thailand and Korea.

With love, aloha and a grateful heart,

Cindy