S: My Japanese Adventure
BC: "I’m glad we had the times together just to laugh and sing a song, seems like we just got started and then before you know it, the times we had together were gone." - Dr. Seuss
FC: Japan October 10-18, 2009
1: In July of 2008, Ashley moved to Japan as part of the JET program. Her plans were to be there for at least a year and in 2009, she actually signed up for an additional year. Japan was never a place that I thought I would like to travel to. I tossed the idea around for the first year that she was there and actually looked at airline tickets, but never decided to go. It was my Pop who actually convinced me to go. While looking at ducks in the spring, I ran the idea by him. He told me that I would never have the opportunity again. After hearing Pop's opinion, I decided that he was right. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Ash decided on a time of the year that would work well for her and the planning began. She developed a detailed itinerary and sent me very detailed emails about what to expect at the airport and customs. I got on the airplane in Minneapolis for a nonstop, 12 hour flight to Narita, and so my adventure began...
2: Tokyo | A 'Cuda?! | Ash met me at the airport. After taking the subway and trains and walking a ways, we dropped our bags off at the hostel and headed to Shibuya. Shibuya is the place for the young and the hip, or so Ash told me. We took our picture with the Hachiko statue, a statue of a dog who used to come to the station everyday to meet his master at the same time. Even after his master died in the 1930s, he continued coming every day. So they put up a statue of him and it's a common meeting place for people when they come to Shibuya. Then we made our way across Shibuya crossing, one of the most famous pedestrian crossings in the world. Traffic stops in all directions and the intersection becomes a mass of people crossing different ways every few minutes. It's surrounded by television screens with advertisements and has one of the busiest Starbucks in the world with a window overlooking the crossing. So my first meal in Japan was at Starbucks.
3: Purikura Booth | Shibuya Crossing
4: Sensoji Temple
5: That night, along with the next morning, we spent time at Sensoji Temple. I was told that it's a place that people go to mostly to pray for their health. They rub incense onto their bodies from the big incense pot in front of the shrine and also rub one of the Buddha's feet for good health.
6: Tying Up Bad Fortune | We got our "omikuji" fortune, where you take a big jar of sticks and one comes out a small hole. It has a number on it, which corresponds to your fortune. If you have good luck, you bring it with you, but if it's bad luck, you tie it up at the shrine to "leave your bad luck" there and the divine spirits will take care of it. We both had really bad fortunes, so we tied them up at the shrine.
8: Imperial Palace
9: Tokyo Station | Our first full day in Tokyo, we tried to go to Disneyland, but it was full! They quit letting people in, so we bought a ticket for the next day and took the train back into Tokyo for some sightseeing. We started off at the Imperial Palace, home of the Emperor of Japan. Here we are in front of Nijibashi bridge. Next we checked out one of the facades of Tokyo Station, the biggest station and central hub of Tokyo. After eating lunch at a Japanese style "Italian" restaurant, we walked through a bit of the Imperial Gardens.
10: Sorry... No Cricket. | Tokyo Tower
11: Imperial Gardens | Bamboo
12: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building | Lights turning on
13: We headed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and went up to the 45th floor, a free observation deck. You can see out over the city of Tokyo. It's the second tallest building in Tokyo, next to Tokyo Tower. We watched the sun set from there and then we went on an adventure to find Rainbow Bridge at Odaiba Bay.
14: Rainbow Bridge Odaiba Bay
15: We ended up getting off at one of the train stops recommended on the internet, only to find that we couldn't get to the water or see the bridge. Ash stopped a little old lady with a bike to ask her where the water was, and she proceeded to tell us that we had to go to a different train stop. From there, she just wouldn't leave us alone. She told us we could follow her to the water to see the bridge, so we kept walking with her. She continued to talk to Ash in Japanese as I silently followed behind. Finally she took us to a train station and waited until we not only bought the tickets, but boarded the train. In the end, she was right and we got to the exact spot that Ash had wanted to go, just got a little more than what we bargained for. We then had a late night supper, my first "true" Japanese meal.
16: Tokyo Disneyland
17: The next day we spent at Disneyland. It was a first for the both of us. The day was long and by the end of it we were exhausted, but overall it was a good time.
18: Villian Parade | So excited for our first Disney ride!!!! | "Mickey!!!"
20: Veggie pizza...with corn??
21: Finally, we've found Prince Charming!!!!
22: Cinderella's Castle
24: Electrical Parade "Dreamlights"
25: Mickey meets Ashley and Dawna
26: Green tea and sweet potato ice cream cone, anyone? | Kamakura "Great Buddha" | On Tuesday it was time to head to Ash's home. So we got on a train and headed out of Tokyo, but we made a few pit stops along the way. In Kamakura, we stopped to see the second biggest Buddha in Japan. He was constructed in 1252. He is 13.4 meters tall and weighs 121 tons. We also saw the Hasedera Temple, which is described as a "temple with a view and lots of flowers." There were several different halls with different shrines. We walked around a bit, looking at these and the gardens and then got back on the train for Fujinomiya. That night we spent time relaxing with a meal from the local grocery store, wine, and movies.
28: Wednesday we spent the day relaxing at the local onsen, which is probably best described as a spa. There are several different "baths" to soak in that are all supposed to be good for different things. There was a quiet room for napping and several places to just lounge and read. Closer to evening, Ashley's friend Kelly joined us. We went to supper at Kappazushi. Sushi comes by your booth on a conveyor belt and you take off what would like. You can also special order sushi and it comes to you on a little bullet train. I didn't care for the texture of the raw meat, but the taste was not bad. When Ash and I attempted the Purikura booth in Tokyo, we didn't do so hot. Take two was a lot better, probably due to having two people who actually knew what they were doing. The store was apparently closing, and the lady attempted to make us leave several times. Of course, I stood there looking like a idiot.
29: Purikura Booth Take Two
30: A little piece of Ashley's world. | BFS!! | Thursday was spent sightseeing in Fujinomiya. We went to the 100 yen store to look around, then headed to Shiraito Falls. Cell phone charms seem to be the big thing in Japan, so of course we needed to get some, and why not get "Kissing Mt. Fuji's"? Sad thing is I soon lost my little pink mountain. They had a good time together, although short-lived. I got to experience riding in Ash's car. The driving...scared me a little. The roads were narrow and one time told me to make sure that my arm was in the window so I wouldn't hit it on a building or wall or something!! The size of the engine was also impressive. It impressed me that my four-wheeler had a bigger engine!! Haha, it certainly got us from point A to point B.
31: Shiraito Falls | Kissing Mt. Fujis
32: Picnic at Lake Tanuki | After seeing the falls, we went to Lake Tanuki, where if the clouds weren't hiding it, would have been a good place to view Mt. Fuji. It didn't come out that day, but we had a good time eating a picnic lunch and walking around the lake.
35: Sengen Shrine | We then headed to Sengen Shrine, another local site. The shrine was built for the Goddess and God of Mt. Fuji. Years ago, people used to purify themselves in Wakutama Pond before they climbed the mountain. That night we made fried rice and Ash took me to her community English class. I got to participate in her class and make small talk with interesting Japanese people. Also I got to experience my first "take my outdoor shoes off and put indoor shoes on". I was confused. Can't I just go barefoot??
36: "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." — Dr. Seuss | Me and my BFF
37: Ash worked on Friday, so I chilled at her apartment. That night we met some of her friends in Fuji and had supper and then went to an American bar. We then did Japanese style karaoke. It was a fun night. | "What would you do?" | SoCo...on THE ROCK.
38: Fuji Safari Park | After waking up on Saturday from our fun night out, we got ready to go to Fuji Safari Park. On the way there, Ashley had to stop and ask for directions. My map reading skills are no good when the map is not in English. We made it though. It was rainy the whole time but that didn't matter. For the most part you stay in your car and drive through the different animal zones. The animals roam free in their zones. The cats and bears were not very active while we were there. We did get out and walk around to look at the kangaroos. Apparently the "white" kangaroo is a big deal and the only ones in Japan are found at this park. That night Ash took me out to an American family style restaurant and I spent the night packing and just hanging out.
39: Lions and tigers and bears... Oh my...
40: A joey in her pouch. | Wear your seat belt and watch for...giraffes??
41: So on Sunday it was time to head home. Ash helped me purchase a bus ticket and some snacks, and we said our goodbyes. The bus ride to the airport was about a 3 hour ride. We stopped once for a bathroom break, but I didn't get off. I was too afraid of missing my bus or getting back on the wrong one! I got to the airport just fine though, ate some McDonald's and waited to board the plane. The plane ride home was... painful. I was tired and wanted to be home and couldn't sleep at all. Minneapolis never looked so good. I had a wonderful time in Japan. There wasn't a moment that I didn't enjoy myself. Guess Pop was right; it was a once in a lifetime experience.