Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Trip to Oita - Japan March 23rd and 24th

Japan has one of the worlds most extensive and efficient railway networks, with clean and comfortable trains (including the super-fast bullet trains). We sure enjoyed gliding across the country of Japan.
Avaliable only to foreign travellers visiting Japan.You must have "temporary visitor" visa under the status of Japanese immigration law. Rail passes are not avaliable for people travelling on working holiday or student visas. The JR pass (All) must be purchased before you arrive in Japan. It is not sold in Japan.
Each of the five different passes cover different areas of Japan. Sonic express trains take approximately two hours to and from Hakata Station.

We were able to see the family's display of antique dolls for girls day... so, so cute!!!!
The Hina Matsuri or doll festival takes place on March 3rd every year. Its origins go back to China which had the custom of making a doll for the transferral of bad luck and impurities from the person, and then putting the doll in a river and forever ridding oneself of them. March 3rd celebrates Girls' Day in Japan, and from mid to late February families with daughters put out the dolls with the hopes their daughters will grow up healthy and happy. One superstition associated with this is that if they are late in putting away the dolls when the festival is over, their daughters will become old maids. Most displays consist of just a prince, (Odairi-sama) and a princess (Ohina-sama), but more elaborate displays include the dolls being part of a 5 or 7 tier diplay (hinadan), along with courtiers, candy, rice boiled with red beans (osekihan), white sake (shirozake), peach blossoms, diamond shaped rice cake (hishimochi), toys, and tiny furniture. Traditionally many parents or grandparents will begin their first display for their daughter, called hatsu zekku, when she is just a year old, but some families have passed their dolls down from generation to generation with the bride carrying her dolls with her to her new home. Aside from the displays, Japanese used to go view the peach blossoms coming out, drink sake with a blossom in it, and bathe in water with the blossoms. The blossoms represent desirable feminine qualities, including serenity, gentility, and equanimity.
The festival evolved into the form we can see today during the Edo Period (1603-1867), and it is still possible for people to buy Hina Matsuri dolls created during that time as well as the late 19th and early 20th centuries in antique shops during the season. Two areas that come alive with such displays and events like those above is Yoshimura and Yanagawa, both in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Natsumi’s aunt and family welcomed us with an amazing dinner!!!!

After a long day of Traveling it was time to go to bed, soooooo…….. After folding the tables and moving the pillows the dining room became our bedroom.

Once again we were treated to an amazing banquet for breakfast with pastries and local fruits……hummmmmmmmm so good!!!!

We enjoyed visiting with everyone and playing many board games seating buy the beloved kotatsu (a low table with a heater built into the bottom, covered with a large blanket to trap in the heat). Very cozy and fun!!!!

Amazing Cakes!!!!!!!

Guess what!!!!!!!! Time to eat again……AMAZING LUNCH!!!!!!!!!!!

We even got to see my friend’s cousin's Kimono, she just had her birthday and is officially an "adult", we got to see all of her pictures and it sure was an amazing celebration!!!! It is a beautiful kimono.
Seijin No Hi is the first holiday of the year after New Year's is all over. It is for all the women who have just become legal adults (age 20), and most families buy a kimono for their daughter. The typical kimono is 300-400 thousand yen, but much more extravagant kimono can be even as high as a million yen each. On the day the young lady will typically go to a nearby Shinto Shrine and pray for health, success, money, etc. It's one of the few times you will see anyone wear a kimono -- except for the grannies running around going to study or teach tea ceremony. The other occasions are graduation from a college, and once in a while at a wedding.

New Friends!!!

And more friends!!!!!!!!!!

The view of the cherry blossoms in the hills surrounding the village…So beautiful!!!

View from the pier to the cove next to the house.

Well as if we hadn’t had been pampered enough……..Here is an SPETACULAR SUSHI DINNER…….Oh My Goodness!!!!!!! This Family went above and beyond to receive us into their homes…….We were speechless…….

We will never forget this amazing Family. Our Hearts are full, there are no words to describe our gratitude…….

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On the train we go!!!!!!! March 22nd.

Tokyo and Osaka are connected with each other by the JR Tokaido Shinkansen. Nozomi trains require about 155 minutes to reach Shin-Osaka Station from Tokyo. Hikari trains are roughly 20 minutes slower than the nozomi, while kodama trains take about four hours.

Little Taishi was so, so tired....

Eastern toilet anyone????

Ok we are ready to ride!!!!

Maybe not, Sleep time so much needed....

Here is our apartment in Osaka; Leon could not stand up strait!!! The ceiling was so low…..Maybe Leon is too tall ….hahahahah.
We were only 2 blocks from the subway station, Tanimachi 4-chrome Station along the Tanimachi Subway Line and Chuo Subway Line. And about 4 blocks from Osaka Castle ( a kind of “Osaka Central Park”. So, so beautiful…

In Japan the main purpose of taking a bath, besides cleaning your body, is relaxation at the end of the day.
The typical Japanese bathroom consists of two rooms, an entrance room where you undress and which is equipped with a sink, and the actual bathroom which is equipped with a shower and a deep bath tub. The toilett is almost always located in an entirely separate room.

When bathing Japanese style, you are supposed to first rinse your body outside the bath tub with a washbowl. Afterwards, you enter the tub, which is used for soaking only. The bath water tends to be relatively hot for Western bathing standards.
After soaking, leave the tub and clean your body with soap. Make sure that no soap gets into the bathing water. Once you finished cleaning and have rinsed all the soap off your body, enter the bath tub once more for a final soaking.
After leaving the tub, the water is usually left for the next member of the house. It is to keep the bath water clean for all members of the house that washing and rinsing is done outside of the actual bathtub.

Japanese futon you can fold it and put it in the closet. They usually have to be dryed under the sun to avoid the cotton inside to get wet and hard.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Srping Break 2010 Japan adventure March 20th and 21st

After a year of planning the time finally arrived for us to go to Japan. We had such an amazing time traveling with our Friends Brent and Natsumi Nielsen and their two boys Aki and Taishi. We loved the sites, the country, the culture, the food but most of all we loved the people of Japan and new friends we made. What a clean and organized society. So much history and traditions……Amazing!!!!!

Exploring Shiba Park

This park is one of the oldest parks in Japan, opened to the public in 1873 together with another 4 parks, Ueno, Asakusa, Fukagawa and Asukayama. The parkland used to be very wide including grounds of Zoujyoji Temple, but those grounds were separated and occupied by the Temple after the war, which made the shape of the remaining park to a ring-shape. In the park, they have an artificial gorge called Momijidani, where you can enjoy nice view of the water fall of 10M high together with various types of rocks and tall trees. You will feel as if you are staying somewhere in deep mountain areas.

Zojoji Temple was built in the year 1393, and was moved to its present location in 1598. It is the main temple of the Buddhist Jodo sect in the Kanto area. Tokyo Tower now stands just next to the temple.
After Tokugawa Ieyasu had moved to Edo (former name of Tokyo) in 1590, the Zojoji Temple became the Tokugawa family temple. A mausoleum of the Tokugawa family can be found on the temple grounds, and the crest of the Tokugawa family still decorates the temple buildings.
Zojoji's main gate is the Sangedatsumon. It was constructed in 1605 in a contemporary Chinese Tang Dynasty style.

With 333 meters, Tokyo Tower is 13 meters taller than its model, the Eiffel Tower of Paris, and the world's tallest self-supporting steel tower. It was completed in the year 1958 as a symbol for Japan's rebirth as a major economic power, and serves as a television and radio broadcast antenna and tourist attraction.
Visitors can ascend to the main observatory at 150 meters and the special observatory at 250 meters to get a bird's eye view of Tokyo. Under good weather conditions, Mount Fuji can be seen in the distance.

Sensoji (also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple) is a Buddhist temple located in Asakusa, the center of the shitamachi (lit. "low town").
The legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built there for the goddess of Kannon. The temple was completed in 645, making it Tokyo's oldest temple

Hum....... let's see...... cow tong, baby octopus, clams, squid or chicken???

When approaching the temple, visitors first enter through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), the outer gate of the Sensoji and symbol of Asakusa. A shopping street of over 200 meters, called Nakamise, leads from the outer gate to the temple's second gate, the Hozomon. Besides typical Japanese souvenirs such as yukata and folding fans, various traditional local snacks from the Asakusa area are sold along the Nakamise. The shopping street has a history of several centuries.

The boys enjoyed a dessert of chocolate covered bananas, very tasty!!!