Japan Day 20 4 10 2014

Well, it’s our last day in Japan (for this vacation). We organized our bags and suitcases and had a light breakfast this morning before we venture out on the town. Our first stop was Starbucks for some caffeine and conversation. We decided that we will be coming back in the winter of 2015 – 2016! I’m excited that we’ll be coming back before Monkey graduates High School. I’m hoping that Monkey will be able to take some entrance exams while we’re here. If not, then we’ll just have to come back again LOL 

We decided that we just wanted to walk around and take it easy today. So, we walked, and walked, and walked, and walked for over three hours straight! When we had enough of the walking we headed back to the hotel. As we were approaching our room, I noticed that the room was being made up…so, back to the outside we headed. Since we were hungry we stopped at Family Mart to pick out some lunch. With fingers crossed we headed back to the hotel, hoping that our room was finished. Thankfully, it was and we sat down to eat and relax.

Three hours later, we decided to go for another walk. This time we headed west and adventured into the residential areas. It was really cool to walk around non-busy streets and to see the houses…not just high-rise apartment complexes. We passed a hidden barber shop, flower shop, and some really cool houses. On our way back to the hotel we went past the fire department. The firemen were in the back of the building holding drills, so of course I took a picture of them. 

We stopped at Lawson’s on the way back and got a light dinner and now we are relaxing watching some anime. The sky has grown dark and the lights of the buildings are shimmering and blinking. Monkey and Mom are both in their beds waiting for me to finish typing so that they can get some sleep.

This trip has given me more inspiration than I’ve ever had before. I know when I get back things aren’t going to be a cake walk, but I know with hard work and determination I will make a successful business. I will be back in Japan for a vacation AND for business…just not on the same trip 🙂

So, with that said I bid you all a good night. I will see some of you tomorrow and others in the days to come!

Japan Day 19 4 09 2014

Well, we slept for 12 hours and woke up feeling great! My ear is still all sorts of wonky (the gluten/yeast allergy) but that was it. After we all took our times to get ready we finally headed out to Harajuku and Meiji Shrine. While we were at the train station I decided to buy a light sweater since it was still a little chilly out and I was wearing a tank top…besides I wanted to cover up the tattoos while at the Shrine.

We decided to go to the Shrine first as it was still a little early and most stores don’t open until around 11am. The gardens are so beautiful. There are pockets of cultivated areas nestled in what looks like dense forest. The pond was as enchanting as it was the last time we were there. The fish were bigger and more friendly. Monkey wanted to try petting one. However, they weren’t too keen on that and kept splashing around…but then coming back for more….silly fish. Mom wasn’t having as hard a time with her walker as she had the last time we were there so she wasn’t crabby LOL

We took our times strolling down the paths and took a little rest by one of the covered structures. A couple came walking by and Monkey spied the guy’s back-pack….it was an Attack on Titan bag…he also had on some wicked combat boots LOL We exchanged hellos and continued on our path. I kept stopping to take pictures when I noticed what looked like a bird, about the size of a sparrow, roughly 50 feet away from me. Of course I had to go get a better look. The little ‘bird’ had perched on some leaves on a tree a little higher than eye level. I didn’t want to startle it, so I took my time walking up to the tree. I was about 10 feet away when I noticed that it wasn’t a bird……IT WAS A (insert every explanative known…and unknown…to the human race…you can also include Klingon to this) JAPANESE WASP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sweet Jesus I froze…..the thing was HUGE…and when I say HUGE I mean….I turned a shade or two paler. It’s head was the size of a marble. It was way longer than any of my fingers. I wasn’t scared….I was terrified! And what did I do….I went closer to get a better picture. Lucky for me, it had it’s head tucked into the leaves…I was wearing all black and those buggers HATE black. So….I can check that off my bucket list of things I NEVER wanted to experience…..

I warned the nice couple that we had met earlier to watch out as they were just coming up to the tree that the monster was in. They were eternally grateful and once they saw it, got the hell out just like we did. 

We were headed to Kiyomasa’s well so that I could take pictures. I  do have to say that the entire time I was expecting another wasp to come pay a visit…so that sort of took some of the magic of the well away. As soon as we were  done at the well, we headed for lunch at the restaurant. I had beef curry with rice, Mom and Monkey both had tempura udon. The food was every bit as delicious as it was last time. After we ate we headed to Harajuku and Takeshita Dori. However, while we were strolling out of the park, I noticed a group of guys taking some pictures on the stone bridge. We weren’t walking really fast so I had time to look at them and try to figure out why they looked so familiar….besides being non-Japanese. Then it hit me….one of them strongly resembled Jared Leto. I took two pictures of them as they were walking away because it took me that long to figure out who they may have been LOL

The streets of Harajuku were strangely quiet today. There were still a whole lot of people milling about, sight-seeing and buying goods…but not as many as usual. A few of the stores weren’t opened as well…I will have to figure out why. I was going to buy a watch at Putamayo but they were closed. So I bought a necklace at h.Naoto. Monkey and I bought some costume jewelry at Paris Kids and she got a new skirt at Body Line and then it was back to the hotel.

Monkey really wanted a PS Vita and they are cheaper here than at home….even with the new tax. We were uncertain if the Vitas bought here would be able to be charged in the States so we headed to Labi1 to get all our questions answered. We were told that yes we would be able to use the same charger at home but no they didn’t have the game Monkey really wanted. So, she got her Vita but no game. We headed to Animate to check out the games there. No dice on her game but she got the game Amnesia instead….of course it’s in Japanese so she doesn’t know what she’s all doing. However, she has cleared a few levels….

So now, we sit here in the room watching some tv and waiting for the water in the tea kettle to boil….I want oatmeal LOL

Tomorrow is our last day here and it’s a total whatever day. We may venture out to look for the Moomin Cafe or we may just walk around our beloved Ikebukuro. 

All I know is that this has been another fabulous vacation. I can’t wait to come back and to eventually move here.

Japan Day 18 4 08 2014

Wow…only three days left! Two days to adventure actually. It’s surreal to think that we’ve been in Japan for almost three weeks already. It seems like yesterday we were setting off for our first day. I’m a little sad that I’m leaving as well as happy to be home….and planning for our next trip! LOL

So…today’s adventure was heading back to Ueno but not for the Zoo…as much as I LOVE the zoo here! Instead, we wanted to see the Nature and Science Museum. Monkey loves dinosaurs and I love History so why not. Boy we were totally not disappointed! Mom LOVED the place!! The Museum is amazing! It houses one of the biggest rock collections that I’ve seen (Katie you would have thought you died and gone to a glittery shiny heaven!) I tried to take pictures of every specimen there but I there were too many. LOL

We strolled through the three floors of the first building (there are two buildings housing the collections on display) looking and learning all about Japanese history and how the islands formed. One of the highlights, for me at least, was the mummy lady. She was found at a site roughly 4o minutes away from the Museum. She died in her 40’s from what they believe was natural causes. Her body was found perfectly preserved in a clay pot buried in a boggy area. How I would have loved to be on that dig!

After we had explored the first building, we headed to where the dinosaurs were. Monkey couldn’t get there fast enough. Again, no disappointment. The displays were amazing and I took even more pictures. There were skeletons from T-Rex’s to Pterodactyls. The dinosaurs were housed in two very large rooms and we took a nice little break after the second room. We were starting to get hungry and tired. We decided to go through the last room – human evolution – and then head on out for lunch.

I have to say, that it was refreshing going through a public Museum that isn’t hung up on the human body. I’ve never been to a Museum in Europe, but the Japanese sure do like to let it all hang out LOL Monkey was a little embarrassed so I didn’t tease her all too much LOL I took a picture of Mom next to a skeleton from what I believe was Lucy – the ‘first’ known humanoid. I then took a picture of Monkey next to a skeleton from what I think was a Japanese ‘Neanderthal’…even though I don’t believe the Neanderthals reached Asian. She wasn’t too thrilled to be standing that close to a statue of a naked man LOL 

As soon as we finished with this room, we headed back to Ikebukuro for lunch. We had told Mom all about the bread buffet and she really wanted to try it out. It was amazingly awesome and totally set my allergies off. The sweet suffering of a gluten/yeast allergy. Monkey had another tonkatsu dish with some sort of mustard/mayo sauce, Mom had the tonkatsu that Monkey had the first time there, and I had a huge meat burger (sans bun) with a cheesey cheesey sauce of goodness!

After we ate we NEEDED to walk around a bit. Monkey had wanted to go into the Sega game place. Besides, Sonic the Hedgehog was hanging around outside! I took some pictures, but  Monkey refused to stand next to him. After I took his picture we went inside. She had never played the claw game and wanted to try it. So she did…and so she lost both times LOL We then went across the street to another game type of place and she spied an Attack on Titan gotcha machine. She got three gotchas and then we headed back to the hotel.

Suffice it to say, we ate so much that as soon as we got back to the hotel we put on jammies. We had all the intentions of watching some tv to relax and let our food…err…bread…settle. Instead, we all passed out…at 6pm!!! 

Japan Day 17 4 07 2014

I was up and showered before my alarm was set to go off this morning. I would have had the tea pot going as well, but I had forgotten to fill it before my shower. Mom and Monkey were still snoozing away so I had a relatively quiet morning (it would have been more quiet had either of them not been snoring lol)

Eventually the two of them woke up and we all slowly finished getting ready for the day. We had planned on going to the Nature and Science Museum but it isn’t open on Mondays. Instead Mom wanted to hang out at the hotel and rest up for tomorrow so Monkey and I headed out to explore east Ikebukuro some more. We weren’t out for very long before we decided to head back to the hotel. I was a little tired and my legs were a bit sore. I think we have successfully walked ourselves out! 

Monkey and I met Mom coming out of the room on her way to hang out in the lobby. We decided to stay in the room for a little while and rest up. We re-arranged our suitcases to make sure that we’d have enough room. We actually didn’t buy much but rather just took in the sights and enjoyed ourselves. 

Finally Mom was getting a little stir crazy so we went out on a short-ish walk. We stopped at Family Mart to get some food supplies for the next couple of days and then came back to the hotel. 

Now I’m sitting here typing this and yawning so hard my eyes are watering….and it’s only 6:13pm!!

I think I’ll be heading to bed very soon. 

Japan Day 16 4 6 2014

Fantastic Day!!! The weather was a little chilly and at times a little drizzley, but otherwise perfect. 

We started the day by having brunch buffet at the hotel. It’s the one real “treat” that we have here. It’s nice to just sit and eat and eat and eat at a very leisurely pace. I had more bacon and coffee than I’ve had in a very long time! After we finished eating we needed to walk. We started off by exploring north of the hotel. There’s a fountain square (that’s actually more round) about two blocks away. A small outdoor market was being set up and we checked it out. Then we ventured further north..and found the seedy area LOL. By seedy, I don’t mean south side of Chicago seedy but rather where all the drinking clubs and possible pedestrian/auto mishaps occur. We promptly turned left and got out of the area. We weren’t worried that anything would happen, I just didn’t want to come across anything that I wouldn’t be able to erase from my memory LOL

We found a few cute stores before we headed back to the hotel – most of the stores weren’t open yet. While we were waiting for Mom to get back down from the room – she had stopped up to change here shirt – I asked the concierge about the Yoyogi open are flea market. She verified that it happens on Sunday’s and it’s in one of the parks. We headed to the train station and set out for Yoyogi. Little did I know that there were three large parks in Yoyogi…so suffice it to say, we did not find the market. Instead we wandered around the city and stumbled upon the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The entry fee was only 2 yen ($2) each we went in! The park is gorgeous! I am so happy that we found the park. The Green House had a HUGE selection of orchids, some of which I had never seen before. 

After we walked for about three hours, we decided to head back. Monkey had spied a bookstore that she wanted to check out so we stopped there before going straight to the train station. We didn’t realize that the bookstore was Kinokunya – the same store that’s in Mitsuwa! Sadly, this branch didn’t have the full amount of awesome as the one in Arlington Heights. Monkey did find a mega-manga magazine book for super cheap. It’s written in easy Japanese so she should be able to translate it.

Eventually we got back to the train station and headed straight for Starbucks (I owed Mom). One of the employees cleared a spot for us (again, it’s great to travel with a ‘disabled’ person….Mom and her walker) and we sat for a little bit. Mom was a little tired so she headed back to the hotel while Monkey and I looked around for shoes. No shoes were found, but I did get my Cotton Time magazine and new cd by Salyu (she has a fantastic voice.)

Back to the hotel we went to get Mom and go out for another walk. This time we headed for OICity. This store is sort of like Target meets Walgreens meets Macy’s….it’s…..weird…yet wonderful. The had a sale on fancy tights so we bought some…Monkey was over-joyed LOL

No shoes were to be found so we decided that it was time to go back to the hotel. On the way back we passed a Starbucks and went in to see if they had the coveted Vanilla Lemon Frappacino as every other bloody Starbucks in the Metro-Tokyo area was out. Low and behold, they had it!! I had promised Monkey that if they had it, she could get one….Mom wanted one too. 

Finally, we’re back in the hotel room and tired! Tomorrow is Namja Town tomorrow and more exploring of East Ikebukuro!

 

Japan Day 15 4 05 2014

Well, it’s Saturday here in Japan and we decided that it would be a great idea to just relax and walk around the Imperial Palace grounds and see the East Gardens. It’s Sakura season and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom here in Tokyo, so I was hoping to get some good pictures as well as exercise.

Apparently everyone in the entire nation of Japan also thought it was a great idea to visit the Imperial Palace today. Getting to Tokyo was a breeze (read: no booger snackers sighted) and finding the Palace grounds was just as easy….all we had to do was follow the million other people that were heading towards said destination.

We walked like sardines, being pushed and stepped on – the people in Tokyo/Japan are very passionate about seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom at the Palace and will stop at nothing to get there….first. However, as soon as we stepped foot onto the Palace grounds, we were ushered down a path…around everyone that had pushed, stepped on, and cut in front of us. It’s good to be with a ‘disabled’ walker! So, instead of standing in line for a hellish amount of time, we strolled past the masses, stopped and took a few very good pictures, and were escorted to the area bag check area….right in front of the gates! 

The grounds of the Palace are spectacular. I took so many pictures. Everyone was in a great mood as soon as we were inside. There were so many secret police around as well…the Emperor, Empress, and the entire family had returned last night. I missed the two police officers with swords…Monkey and Mom saw them, but they never told me. The other officers/secret service folks weren’t armed but there presence was EVERY WHERE…it was kind of cool!

Before we knew it we were leaving the grounds and back onto a busy downtown Tokyo street….and I had no idea which way the Tokyo station was….so, we just turned right and kept walking LOL When in doubt, follow the masses….right? Apparently, after about two to three miles, it panned out and we were two blocks from the station.

Monkey was hungry but the station was packed. We decided to head back to Ikebukuro and eat at one of the restaurants in Tobu. We picked a great tempura place. I couldn’t even finish my meal it was HUGE! I had the pork with egg over rice, Mom had fish and shrimp, and Monkey had pork with cheese ,  pork with something green and shrimp. We all had soup with tiny mussels in it…which was kind of creepy and noisy, shredded cabbage, and pickled daikon. Lunch/dinner was amazing and I’m still full.

After we ate we decided to do some more shopping in Seibu.   bought more handles, a cd for Monkey, some supplies and stuff. Mom went back to the hotel half way through our shopping excursion (which I didn’t spend as much money as I thought I would). Monkey and I stopped at Tobu for a little sakura and strawberry cake to eat with Mom in the hotel room. It was so cute and delicious.

Now we’re hanging out and relaxing in the hotel. Soon it will be bed time. Tomorrow is another whatever day as weekends are BUSY! 

Japan Day 14 4 4 2014

Before I even begin today’s blog I need to say something.

I don’t care what country you live in. I don’t care how old/young you are. I don’t care how cute/hot/adorable/handsome you are. It is not, I repeat NOT acceptable to pick your nose and eat it….REPEATEDLY It’s gross…..highly gross….universally huge gross. Any cute factor is immediately cancelled out. Just.gross.

 

Today was Monkey and my day to explore while Mom hung around the hotel room. She wanted to rest her knee and just laze around. So Monkey and I left the hotel around 9:30am and set off for Nippori…Fabric Town. While we were on the train a female, probably in her mid-20’s sat down next to Aine and proceeded to snack on her boogers….I wanted to bath myself in Purelle…I was thoroughly disgusted and if I had any food in me, I would have vomited all.over.her…… The Nippori stop could not have come fast enough (and it’s a mere 13 minutes from Ikebukuro.

Once we were off the train and out of the station I felt a little better….I’m still grossed out but yeah….

We were a bit early for most stores since most don’t open until 10am. We waited for maybe 10 minutes for one of the Tomato stores to open. There wasn’t anything in that one that caught my eye, so we went next door to …. Tomato. (Some off the stores have multiple locations, some right next door.) I bought some more bag handles and other accessory type of things while Monkey found some remnant squares that she can use for her crafting stuff.

Next we attempted to find a store that sells only Kimono fabric. We couldn’t find the store and I didn’t want to venture too far away from the main street, so we headed back. Because I had found some really good deals and fantastic fabric at Tsukiysu Hiroshi Shouten, Monkey and I decided to go there. $230 later, I have enough fabric to keep me busy for about a month! I would love to be able to buy from them all year long, but I don’t think I can afford to come here more than once a year or two LOL

Monkey and I had to go back to the hotel because the bags were getting a little heavy. At the train gates we found that we didn’t have enough on our Suica cards (they are sort of like gift cards that you can keep putting money on). I tried to figure out the manual machine but no dice so we went to the ticket office. A really nice JR employee (read hot looking JR employee) showed me how to use the machine and soon Monkey and I were on our way back.

We showed Mom what we had gotten and asked her if she wanted to get lunch with us. She declined so Monkey and I headed back out. We were going to eat at Shakey’s Pizza but the line was too long and I kept thinking about the booger snacker….gross!!!! Instead we headed further towards Sunshine City ate at Baqet. I chose a salad with proccuitto (I’m sure I spelled that wrong…deal) and smoked salmon, while Monkey ordered breaded thin pork with a cheese sauce. The waiter asked if we also wanted the bread and we both said yes (gluten be damned today!) When we said ‘yes’, I did not realize that we agreed to the bread buffet….a buffet of maybe around 20 choices of fresh baked rolls, croissants, and soft bread type sticks. Sweet Jesus I was in bread heaven….I will surely be congested tonight but GOD DAMN! those little soft, crusty, buttery lumps of wheat were divine!

After eating I needed to walk…..a lot! And we needed a new suitcase….which I knew when we left Milwaukee. Monkey and I decided to try and find the store where we bought her suitcase on our last visit here. Happily we found it and bought a GREAT suitcase….and it’s black and shiny….and big. The case will be perfect for all the fabrics and stuffs that we got. I still needed/wanted to walk around a little more so we strolled through the mall. Sunshine City mall has a stage in the middle and today we were lucky to witness some Buddhist ritual with little kids. The kids had the cutest and most elaborate outfits. I took some picture before we headed back.

Instead of going straight back to the hotel, we stopped on the bakery floor of Seibu and bought a box of 10 miniature cakes…since Mom didn’t come with us, we thought to treat her. We each chose one and shared it among ourselves. Monkey had two, but they are small cakes.

It’s early here in Japan – not quite 5pm – but i’m really tired and full of bread LOL

Tomorrow we want to head to the Imperial Palace and East Gardens. I also want to find the Moomin cafe, but that may have to wait.

We may just have to stop in Nippori again before we leave….I’m not sure I bought enough handles/zippers/etc. LOL