Japan Day 8

Good Morning! …or at least it’s morning here in Japan as I write this. 🐱

Yesterday was another fabulous adventure day for us. We left the hotel a little past 9:30am to avoid the rush hour. Instead of traveling far, we opted to hang out in Ikebukuro and just walk around. On the maps there shows a little park on the east side just south of Sunshine City. We like parks, so off we went- headed for the park.

We found the area no problem, but it was walled up on the side that we came up to so we headed down the block. Once we got close to the corner, the wall opened up to show not a park, but a cemetery! In respect I did not take any pictures but it was very awesome! No monolithic sculptures of weeping angels but instead there was row after row of slender marker signs. Incense sticks were loving placed by the signs the smoke snaking and curling it’s way to the heavens.

There were some buildings surrounding the serene resting places of those departed, and I snapped a few pictures of those. The architecture is simply breathe taking!

We kept walking around the block and found the main entrance to the cemetery. Not knowing if it was alright for us to go in, we went in. I did take some pictures of the main building….GORGEOUS…and the surrounding ‘gardens’. The feeling inside was so peaceful and quiet…a complete opposite to the outside world. I could have spent the entire day just sitting and soaking in the feeling of love, peace, and quiet.

Eventually we had to go, so we continued on with our adventure. Sunshine City Dori is really close so that’s where we headed. We had viewed a larger Hello Kitty store on the way to Sunshine City the day before but were all so tired that we didn’t go in. Once we figured out which street we were on and which way we needed to head, we were on our way! Hello Kitty here we come!!!

Well, we got to the store a little early – the store didn’t open until 11am. So we were undecided about what to do…go back to the hotel to rest, go eat something, bicker back and forth…really quietly acting like we weren’t bickering. We took so long deciding what to do (all of 10 minutes maybe) that when I noticed a clock we only had 5 minutes to wait! So, we hung out on the corner and waited.

The clock finally struck 11 and the metal door front slide, not so quietly, up. We respectfully waited a few moments before heading in. The big purchase was 2 pairs of marshmellow pants – one for Monkey, one for me. Honestly, I bought the pants because I thought they were weird….but the are soooooo comfy!!! They are stretchy but not restrictive and hold in some areas that may need a bit held in. LOL

Pants bought and we were back on the street. Monkey was really hungry so we went back towards our hotel. We had want to try Mo’s Burgers, since it’s right across the street from the hotel. Mom and Monkey each wanted a fish sandwich and I wanted a burger and we all wanted fries and soda. Well, we were shorted one fish sandwich -but it turned out all right. Even with the small order of fries and two sandwiches, we were more than full. The sandwiches were normal sized too. My burger had what I thought was melted cheese…it turned out to be mayo, with fried onions, and some sort of steak sauce…maybe. The fish sandwich had a cheese of some sort with tarter sauce. Regardless of the mystery sauce, the burger was great and the fish sandwich was tasty!! Monkey and I got Melon soda…and now I want more!! I hope I can find it at Mitsuwa!

After we ate and rested a bit in the room, we decided to go back out. The 8th floor of Tobu has a little rest area with some kiddy rides and had intrigued Monkey the first day we spied it. The weather had been pretty rainy that first day and we didn’t have umbrellas so we didn’t go out there. Today, the weather was decent…a bit over-cast…but not rainy….so we went out! Monkey and I took a ride on the Pikkachu ride…which was definitely not big enough for both of us, so she sat on my lap LOL

After the ride, we took a stroll through some more of Tobu looking at the clothes and goods before going back to the basement for food for the night. Monkey and I have had sushi every night while we’ve been here and she didn’t want it tonight. I bought a small container of shrimp and veggy stir fry type of dish, 3 spring rolls, 3 chicken and veggy tempura balls. We also needed juice and water but that is cheaper at Lawsons…so then we headed there!

I picked up a beer as well as the juice, water, green tea, fruit (bananas and an apple), and a beer…which was wickedly good!

Back to the hotel to eat and then….pass out!

I can’t say enough how awesome of a time we’ve had so far.

Japan Day 7

I’m still a day late…but better late than never!

Today we decided to explore the east side of Ikebukuro. Monkey had want to go to Animate, a mega-complex dedicated to everything anime and I wanted to see what it was like ‘over there.’

We left the hotel after rush hour so as not to be caught in the sea of people rushing to work. Instead of taking the long way around the station, we went through. It was so much easier….and FASTER! It took maybe all of five minutes to walk from our hotel to the east side of Seibu! Once we were out on Meiji Dori, it didn’t take long at all to figure out which way to go. We found Sunshine City with no problem but didn’t know where to go to get to Namja Town…our first stop.

After asking directions and getting re-acquainted with the map we finally found Namja Town, had our tickets and were putting our coats into a locker!

Namja Town is the Asian version of Wizard’s Quest in the Wisconsin Dells. We didn’t get the passport so I think we missed out of a lot…but then again, everything is in Japanese so we wouldn’t have been able to understand it anyways LOL

The first stop inside Namja Town was the ice cream area. Monkey had a the Love Bear ice cream cone and I had the Diabolic Lovers ice cream cone. OMG….it was heaven! Monkey’s had green tea and chocolate ice cream with a cute little bear face made with whipped cream, formed chocolate pieces and a chocolate cookie. Mine had chocolate and sesame seed ice cream and raspberry sorbet with whipped cream and formed chocolate pieces….heaven!

Next we walked around for a bit, actually we sort of got lost as it’s really a maze in there. The maps don’t help at all but it was fun looking at all the crazy stuff and then stumbling into Dessert Town. Ah, Dessert Town! The cutest little cakes were found at a little stand…so Monkey and I shared one. (this was definitely not a diet day!)

As Monkey was eating the cake, I ventured into the restroom. There were three big mirrors in a row over the sinks. The middle mirror had a hidden movie screen built into it…which was definitely mesmerizing. Of course, I had not idea what it was saying, but it was definitely awesome.

Once the cake was fully consumed we were back on our way. Soon we stumbled onto the haunted area. It was extremely tame…but then again it was meant for kids. There was one area where you opened a door and watched this guy just sitting there ‘talking’. At one point his head flies off his body toward the viewers….that made me jump! It was awesome though. Monkey really wanted to go through the haunted house, so away we went. Nothing was overly scary and nothing made me jump but it was really cute for the kids. Monkey was a little freaked out but went through it like a trooper!

Eventually we found our way back to the main level but were too tired and full to go through the gyoza area LOL The gift shop wasn’t all that interesting. Oh…and large part of the dessert/ice cream area was devoted to One Piece (an anime/manga – with a full length movie that just came out.)

We finally had our fill of Namja Town and were on our way to the Aquarium on the 10th floor of Sunshine City. The aquarium was all that an aquarium should be. There were fish, otters, a shark, a HUGE sting ray, penguins, a lemur, two armadillos, peli….armadillos? Yes…armadillos…and they were adorable!!!. And there were pelicans too.

Finally done with Sunshine City, we ventured back out of the building and onto the street…not where we came in. Yes…we got lost. However, in the process we did find K Books and a few other book stores. Finally we found our way to Animate!

Monkey was in awe and Mom was exhausted. After buying a few little items on the first floor we decided to go to the 7th floor and work our way down. But Mom was tired and could walk around anymore so this really awesome employee led her to the staff only floor. He hung out with her while Monkey and I shopped. Mom had a blast talking to him – his English was impeccable and had traveled around the world. She learned a lot about him and I’m sure he learned a lot about us lol. While Mom was jabbering away with her new friend, Monkey and I were adventuring through Animate. We found some more presents before retrieving Mom.

Having enough of the east side, we headed back to our side of town. Dinner was bought from Tobu and Lawsons – our two new favorite food areas. Once dinner was done…we passed out again!

Japan Day 6

A little late again on posting….sumimasen! I’ve been so tired by the time we get back to the hotel that I eat then pass out!

So…day 6 was a BIG walking day…but it was well worth it! We left around 9:30am for Mitaka and Studio Ghibli!! Monkey and Mom had to use the restroom before we got on the train headed for Shinjuku so that was the first stop. Mom was luckily ushered to the ‘handicap’ bathroom….it has a really cool sliding door and the room is big! Monkey had to use the regular bathrooms and wait in line…LOL  Mom and I waited for her to finish. Finally, she came out of the restroom, walked up to us, and muttered….”It was horrifying, but I did it.” Yup, I may have been the first to encounter the squat toliet, but Monkey was the first to use it!

With that adventure over, we were on our way to Shinjuku. The train ride was pretty normal and in no time at all we were at Shinjuku Station and changing trains. It took us a little bit to find out where we had to go but eventually found the Chuo line headed for Mitaka. Thankfully the signs over the door read in Hiragana/Katakana as well as English as this train did not have English announcements! This part of the journey was again really short but we were treated to our first views of Mount Fuji!!!! O.M.G.!! Spectacular…I was speechless and if there weren’t so many people on the train….too many in the way, I would have snapped some pictures.

Soon we were at Mitaka Station and completely clueless as to which way to go! After turning the map around a few times I finally found the right way. The walk was LONG! A lot longer than I originally thought it was going to be. If the scenery hadn’t been so beautiful the walk would have totally sucked because it was cold and windy! Eventually we made it to Mitaka Inokashira Park. The park wasn’t any different than parks back home but if just felt different. Studio Ghibli Museum isn’t too far into the park and soon we were inside and getting warm!

Unfortunately I couldn’t take photos inside the Museum, but outside I could snap away…which is exactly what I did!

The Museum was awesome. We explored every inch of the place and had a very tasty lunch there. Monkey had a huge pork cutlet sandwich and hot cocoa. I had Minestrone soup with bread and cherry coffee tea. Mom had a Cream soup with bread and Earl Grey tea.

We bought a few things at the gift shop and then were back out into the park headed to the train station.

The walk didn’t seem as far this time, and I took just as many pictures ^_^ The train ride was similar to the one on the way to Mitaka except no Mount Fuji sightings.

On the train back, we made friends with a Japanese woman, her mother, and her friend. It was weird because they didn’t speak English and my Japanese is not anywhere near conversation level…but we seemed to be able to understand each other. We traveled all the way to Ikebukuro station and then parted ways.

We made our evening stop at Lawsons for Food – an assortment of green tea, water, milk, convenience store sushi, chips and….nato! Yes, I tried nato. Monkey hated it….more than her history lessons…more than underwear commercials…it was priceless! I didn’t mind it. I don’t think I’d go out of my way and buy it again, but it wasn’t as bad as uni.

After dinner, we played another game of Scrabble and then passed out…by 7pm!

 

Merry Christmas Eve from Japan

I’m a day late in writing this, but better late than never!

Yesterday was Christmas Eve and we wanted to do something special. After asking for some train station help at the front desk of the hotel, we were on our way to the Ikebukuro Train Station! I do have to admit that it was a bit frustrating at first, but we managed to figure out how to buy tickets and get into the station proper. Once inside, we needed to find an elevator to get us up to the platform. A very nice lady showed us where the elevator was…since we were standing there looking very confused.

Finally we were on the train – a much easier task than I anticipated. The ride from Ikubukuro to Harajuku was a mere 15 minutes. It was awesome that the announcements were in English as well as Japanese which really put me at ease. Finally we were in Harajuku and on our way to the day’s adventure.

We decided to do a bit of walking and stumbled across Takeshita Dori…which at first we didn’t realize. We were standing outside of NOA Cafe looking at the menu when the waitress came out and invited us in. What were we supposed to do…we went in! Monkey was a bit cranky so I suggested that she tried the chocolate latte (cuz really, who doesn’t cheer up after eating chocolate?) while I had the carmel latte. For foods, Monkey got the Chocolate Honey Toast, I had the Apple Honey Cinnamon Waffles, and mom had toast with a hard boiled egg. OMG!!!!! The drinks and food were AMAZING! I’ve never seen pieces of toast that thick! The waffles were crispy on the outside and nice and fluffy on the inside!

When we were done eating we decided to walk around…and after that breakfast, we really needed it! We had gotten to Harajuku so early that there weren’t many places open. I had noticed on the map that I had, that there was a temple really close to where we were….so I led both Monkey and Mom towards the temple. Going up there was so serene…which was weird to me because of how busy the entire area is. The temple was absolutely beautiful…but I couldn’t take any pictures. We stood there and looked around and I soaked in the peace and tranquility before quiet walking toward the adjacent park. We looked around the park and watched a cute orange and white kitty ‘fish’ for a bit by the pond.

Then it was back toward the street and more walking. Mom was a bit cold so we ducked inside a small store which had loads of kawaii clothing that Monkey really wanted. We pretty much had to drag her out only to duck into a Starbucks. I got a very yummy Nutty Praline Latte in my new Tokyo Starbucks travel mug.

Soon it was back to the outsides and more walking. We just strolled down the streets and watched Harajuku wake up. I took so many pictures yesterday! A very kawaii girl was trying to get a baseball hat on a display but was have trouble reaching the top…so I scooted across the street and got the hat onto the top for her. Soon all the stores were open and we couldn’t get enough of window shopping. We found so many awesome good finds…but will be going back again before we leave. Monkey did get a very cute and extremely cheap cosplay outfit! She was in heaven when I told her she could have it.

We also stumbled across one of the most awesome and bizarre clothing stores I’ve ever seen! The entire store would have been Liberace and Lady Gaga’s dream store! I wish I could have take pictures. I can’t even begin to describe some of the outfits. Maybe I’ll sneak a pic or two when we go back…LOL

Eventually it was time for us to go…primarily because the crowds had grown exponentially! Before getting back on the train we thought we should use the bathroom. There was a little line so it wasn’t that long of a wait. I was first in line so I was the first to experience…it…the dreaded SQUAT TOLIET! I walked into to the stall and looked down….I was so taken aback that I didn’t get a picture…I know…a fail. I was also so taken aback that I didn’t know exactly what to do, so I stood there for a little bit before ‘flushing’ the toilet and leaving. I stopped Mom before she went in….she has a bad knee and would have been able to use it anyways. Monkey had no idea of what was going on until we were on the train platform…she laughed so hard.

When we had gotten back we came back to the hotel room to relax and play a game of Scrabble. After 2 rousing games, we ventured back out. Mom was a bit tired so she went back to the hotel room and let Monkey and I finish up dinner shopping. We opted to go to KFC then stop at Lawsons. The wait at KFC wasn’t bad so we got our food and were on our way to Lawsons. We picked up some more tea, water, fruit, and a kawaii little yule log!

Back at the hotel we settled down to our feast! Mom got the little table ready while Monkey and I washed our hands. I opened up the KFC box to be greeted by,what I originally thought was a chicken head and neck combo! That was not the kind of treat I really wanted! Weirdness aside, the food was goodish – a bit greasy- but tasty. We had satsuma oranges after the chicken and were all too full for cake- that’s going to be eaten on Christmas Day.)

After dinner, it was more Scrabble before reading Twas the Night Before Christmas…our Christmas Eve tradition. We were all so tired that we passed out by 9pm!

so…I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas/Holiday!!!!

Love to you all!!

 

Japan Day Two

Because I forgot to post about Day one until today, I’m following it up with today’s post…

Holy crap did we walk a lot today!

We slept in a bit but I guess we all needed it. I think we all passed out around 8pm and slept till around 7am. We took our time getting ready this morning and figured out what we wanted to do. At first we were going to walk to Sunshine City but during our walk decided against it.

We had a light breakfast before going out. We had already been to Tobu – the west side department store so we decided to check out Seibu – the east side department store. The difference between the two is like night and day. Sure it’s busy on this side…but NOTHING like it is on the other side! The walk over there was nice. We went into a building that we thought was the big department store…but we were wrong. After getting lost inside that store we finally found our way out and were back on our way.

 When we finally reached one of the main entrances to Seibu we decided to go downstairs to the food area. Sweet mother Mary of all things….the people! I think there was the entire population of Milwaukee shopping down there! Needless to say, we didn’t stay there very long. As many of you know, I’m not a fan of HUGE crowds, especially in restrictive areas.

 So…we ventured back to the west side of Ikebukuro, stopped at Lawson’s for our lunch foods, and went back to the hotel room for some goods eats, a Scrabble game or two, and rest before heading out again.

 After about two hours we were ready to face the crowds of Tobu…which I REALLY like (and this isn’t me being sarcastic). We wanted to get to the Sanrio store and also check out the basement floors – where the REAL grocery stores are located. O.M.G. I’m totally in love with stores there. The Sanrio store is small but really awesome! Monkey got one stuffy that I bought and then there was ‘game’ that one could play for 500 yen. I gave her the money and the woman at the game – who spoke perfect English – helped her win a very cute My Melody pencil holder stuffy.

 We walked around a few of the other floors and I got some really good idea of the pricing. If we don’t find what we want in Harajuku, I’m going back to the stores to buy a few things 🐱 

 Next, it was down to the basement grocery stores. OMG….the prices were all over the board…depending on what you wanted. We got a quart of orange juice, shortbread cookies, and a biggish box of sushi (see the pictures posted from today) for just over 2,000 yen. Tomorrow we’ll go back and I’ll pick up a few things for Monkey and really cute xmas cake before getting Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I think tomorrow, before we do our evening meal shopping, that we are going to take the train to Harajuku for some more adventuring! And I’m sure that most places will be closed as it’s xmas eve tomorrow.

Japan Day … the first two days

Steve picked us up early and we were off to O’Hare. Every little thing went so smooth. Checking in was a breeze and because Mom had to use her walker, we were taken to the front of the security check point’s line and had no trouble getting Mom a pat down (she has an ICD implanted and can’t do the scanner or the wand). We even made ‘friends’ with some of the TSA people. After that the three of us ventured to the Admirals Lounge for some relaxation before boarding.We met a really nice guy who was flying to Miami with his Service Dog Juliet…who was just the sweetest dog! He and his wife had just bought a second home in Miami and he was going there to check it out. Such a great guy…he looked through Aine’s portfolio and LOVED her pictures.

 

Eventually it was time for us to board the plane. Again, because of Mom’s walker and knee issues (she needs a full knee replacement) we were the first ones on the plane. Unlike most American flights, we got on the plane, got our stuff put away, sat down, waited for…maybe…10 minutes and we were moving! I was a bit nervous for Aine cuz she’s never been on an airplane before. She totally proved me wrong. She was awesome…held my hand on take off and landing but otherwise right at home.

 

As we were landing I got a bit teary eyed as we flew near a temple. I do feel at home here…except for the language barrier. Yeah…English…not spoken as much as I thought it would be. It’s all good though we’re getting along great.

 

So to finish up Day 1…after a 13.5 hour plane ride, we were treated to a 2 hour long bus ride to the hotel. I couldn’t keep my eyes open on the bus so I’m sure I missed a ton of great pics…ah well. We checked into the hotel, got to our room (on the 13th floor!) unpacked, and proceeded to pass out!.

 

Day 2….we ventured out in the morning to look for a grocery store…and found one 2 blocks away from our hotel. Actually there are about 6 small groceries within 4 (tiny) blocks from our hotel. We bought randomly as I couldn’t read the labels…but came back with some really tasty stuff…convenience store sushi was a win, as was the fruit, sweets and drinks – water, coke (I could read that label), and green tea.

 

After we ate, we went out again…in the rain. We walked around before going to Tobu a HUGE shopping mall 2 blocks from the hotel. I bought my make-up and 2 umbrellas and not much else. After walking for a few hours through the mall, we went to McDonald’s for lunch…same crappy food as at home. We ate the food at the hotel as mom couldn’t do the stairs to the restaurant area. We hadn’t checked out the hotel yet, so after our ‘lunch’ we decided to walk around. We got another umbrella and then it was back to the mall! This time we checked out the books and music. Aine got 2 Vocaloid cd’s and I got an Acid Black Cherry cd – full length for a mere $22 American.

 

The sun goes down around the same time here as it does back at home, so by the time we left the mall it was dark. We took a walk around the neighborhood…and I found the ‘naughty’ street…before coming back to eat dinner, play a game of Scrabble, freak out over how much money we spent the first day (not as much as I originally thought but still a hefty amount), and then pass out.

 

Which brings us to today…Day 3 in Tokyo….which will be written about tonight.