And then there were 4...

And then there were 4...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tokyo Disney Sea

Originally when planning our Tokyo trip we wanted to do two days in Disneyland; one day at Disneyland and one day at Disney Sea.  However, after booking flights and hotels we realized that our week in Tokyo was not only over a Japanese holiday, but was also the first week of summer vacation for all the Japanese schools...whoops!!  So plans were reevaluated and we decided to forgo Disneyland and instead just do one day at Disney Sea.  Disney Sea is an exclusive Tokyo Disney resort that is unlike any of the other Disney Resorts in the world.  There is Ariel's Grotto, Aladdin's palace, and a whole Journey to the Center of the Earth exhibit.  The overall feel of the park is pretty much the same as any other Disneyland, but I really enjoyed seeing all the different attractions. 

Going to the park we had pretty low expectations.  We didn't expect to ride too many rides, we thought all the fast passes would be sold out, and we expected to spend a ton of money on food.  We really just wanted to check everything out and see what Disney Sea was all about.  The only thing I knew that I for sure wanted to do was to try every single flavor of popcorn in the park.  On the bottom of the park map you can see what flavors are sold and where you can find them; these flavors included salt, pepper, white chocolate, milk chocolate, cappuccino, and curry.  The stands are scattered all over the park and seemed to come up just as our Mr. Potato Head bucket was emptied, providing the perfect treat/snack for us!! After trying every flavor we all decided that CURRY was our favorite.  In fact, after sampling the curry popcorn Parker looked at me while holding up a piece and exclaimed (very loudly) "Mmmmmmmm!"

Our low expectations were quickly amazed by how many rides we were actually able to go on.  The Toy Story Ride fast passes sold out within minutes of the park opening and the ride had a consistent 2 hour wait throughout the day, but I think this is what allowed us to get fast pass after fast pass and never wait more then 20 minutes to get on a ride.  In fact, we rode every ride and saw every show that we wanted to, all by 7pm.  At one point in the day the grey clouds set in and we felt a few rain drops.  We headed into Ariel's grotto and rode a few rides, watched the King Triton's show, and grabbed a few the time we headed out the rain had stopped and the sky didn't have a cloud in it; perfect timing!!

Overall, I'm SOOO glad that we decided to go to Disney Sea despite all the people telling us that the park would be too busy, too hot, and not worth it.  Yes the park was pretty hot, but we were able to see and do everything we wanted to do, and we had a blast doing it!  Definitely a must do if you go to Tokyo!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Conquering Mountains

When we first found out we were moving to Okinawa I knew for my 30th birthday I wanted to hike Mt. Fuji.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm not really the hiking type.  I like the end of the hike with the beautiful view, but getting from point A to point B is definitely not my favorite.  However, I wanted to prove to myself I could do it, and so on the bucket list it went. 

We planned for the hike (okay lets be real, TJ planed for the hike) by picking a week the Yoshida trail (easiest and most popular trail to the top) would be open.  We then picked the best day of the week for weather as hiking in the rain and/or snow would not be optimal hiking conditions.  We also knew that of our options to hike we wanted to do it during the night Grandma would be back at the hotel sleeping with the boys; this way we wouldn't waste a whole day with them.  Tuesday was working up to be a beautiful and sunny evening so we reserved our bus tickets on the 7:30 pm train (being asked to arrive 10 minutes prior departure) and were very excited to embark!  However, we did not heed the warning of arriving 10 minutes early because when we arrived only a mere 6 minutes early they had already sold one of our tickets leaving only two of us with available seats.  We opted to go the next day instead and booked seats on that bus instead.  The HUGE bummer of it all was that Wednesdays weather was gloomy at best and had the makings for a very intense adventure!

So Wednesday night we left with plenty of time to spare and secured our seats on the night bus.  We drove for about 2.5 hours to station 5 which is as far as cars can go on the mountain, and the bottom of the Yoshida Trail.  We purchased our hiking sticks and headed out with pretty decent weather.  Unfortunately for us about 1/4 mile into the hike the light sprinkling began and provided a strong foreboding of worse weather to come.  The views of the lit up cities below offered some encouragement and helped me to press forward despite my burning thighs and shortness of breath (partly out of shape, partly the high altitude).  I soon realized that at every switchback if I rested for a minute or two then I could trick my body into thinking that the experience wasn't as bad as it actually was.  The temperature continued to decrease while the rain continued to increase; things were not looking good! 

We arrived at station 6 hut after about an hour and were relieved to see dry warmth through the sliding glass doors.  Unfortunately this was only to be enjoyed by paying customers and it's not that we didn't want to pay, but in our temporary lapse of judgment we opted to stay outside while they burned the image into our sticks and then kept walking. 

Station 7 we realized was a tender mercy and decided it was time to shell out the 500yen for ramen and the extra 200yen to eat it inside the hut.  We were only allotted 20 minutes to eat the ramen in which they enforced quite heavily.  So, 20 minutes later we headed back out into the storm.  At points in the hike the wind was so strong that I thought I would be blown off the mountain.  At other times the ran was hitting my face so hard that I thought shards of glass were being tossed at my face.  There were even some times that, believe it or not, I didn't want to keep going!  I kept asking TJ how much longer and he would give me a percentage of how much elevation we had left.  Sometimes I would ask and he would try and be nice by cushioning the percentage, however, this backfired when I would ask him shortly after and he would forget that he padded the numbers and the new number was actually more than the prior one; VERY disheartening!!

We originally planned to be at the summit for sunrise but the entire way up we could barely see our hands in front of our faces, so we knew the sunrise would be nonexistent.  We ended up summiting just after sunrise at 5:15 am making our total hiking time about 7 hours.  When we arrived at the top we were all in the early stages of hypothermia (literally...I had a Korean lady come over to me with a dry towel saying "not safe," "not safe," while dabbing my face and hands.  TJ, Dad, and I purchased some piping hot cans of hot chocolate and could barely drink them through our quivering hands.  Originally we wanted to hike the 1-1.5 hour hike around the basin at the summit, but we needed to descend and get to warmer weather before real hypothermia set in.  We were still soaked to the bone and the rain just wouldn't relent.

The hike down was SOOOO much easier.  The ground was just loose gravel and ash making for some slippery ground that you could essentially ski through.  While making it to the top took 7 hours, we made it down in a mere 2.  The whole way down I was praying for waffles.  Piping hot, slathered in butter, and covered in hot maple syrup.  Honestly, it was the only thing that kept me going.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at the bottom there was no waffles!!  Instead I purchased a Snickers, and a few rolls to tide me over during the long 2.5 hour bus ride home; back to my babies and Grandma (who probably had more fun without us there!).

Looking back on the experience I would NEVER in a million years hike Mt. Fuji again.  However, I'm glad that I did it and I'm glad that I could experience it with TJ and my dad.  This whole ordeal taught me that I am capable of hard things and that even though I'm turning 30 next month I still do have some life left in me!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Exploring Tokyo pt. 2

After multiple days of walking in the heat and humidity, I was pretty done at this point; as were the kids.  However, as the saying goes..."when in Tokyo..." wait is that it?  Well for TJ that's the saying because we definitely pushed through.  Todays agenda included the Tsukiji Nippon Fish Market, Harajuku District, and the Tokyo Times Square. 

The fish market is the largest fish market in the world and passes more fish through the market on the daily then anywhere else in the world.  You can actually go see the auction in the morning (I'm talking the butt crack of dawn) but since it's a place of business they recommend that you not bring children.  Since we have two unruly children we thought that a daytime trip was in order.  The actual fish market reminded me a lot of Pike's Place Market in Seattle, WA.  Lots of street vendors, restaurants, produce...and FISH!!  The assortment of fish was a lot more exotic then that of Pikes, and Dominik even sampled the little dried fish...eyeballs in all (I'm pretty sure he didn't know what they were before he put them into his mouth).  He uncontrollably spit them out of his mouth in front of the worker...luckily this was not perceived as rude because the guy just laughed and went and got Dominik some water.  This fish market is a must do for anyone visiting Tokyo!!  Definitely a rich cultural experience with some yummy treats!!

Next up was the Harajuku district.  This is known as the fashion forward district of Tokyo where all the latest trends can be spotted.  We went on a weekday so there was nothing too outlandish, but still fun to look in the shops and see what was available to purchase.  I also got to stop in the local H&M which was a rare treat for the Okinawan girl in me!  We also tried the mandatory crepe in the district and decided that it was pretty much as delicious as everyone claimed they would be!  Also a must do!!

On our way home we decided to hit up the Tokyo Times Square which holds the busiest intersection in the world; the Shibuya Street intersection.  An estimated 2600 people cross this intersection every few minutes.  Traffic is stopped and people cross in all directions, even diagonally.  Seeing the masses of people cross at the intersection was definitely something to behold!!  We decided to cross quickly, take it all in, and head back into the air conditioned subway station. 

Then home it was for us...time to rest up and prepare for our beloved Mt. Fuji hike that night!!