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Category Archives: Japan

Sayonara Japan – Narita, Japan

Author: Kendal

The cute town of Narita, Japan

Our last couple days in Japan we decided to stay closer to the airport; we found a really cute city to stay in called Narita. The hotel we stayed in was about a 20 minute walk to the main temple, the Naritasan Shinshoji Buddhist Temple, so we decided to check it out. On the walk there we passed little cute shops and restaurants that were fun to go and browse around. Once we reached the temple we realized that it was GINORMOUS!!!! The artwork on everything was beautiful, they even had a cute fountain where there were at least 30 turtles lounging around.  As we walked further into the temple grounds we saw that they were having a service in the temple, so dad being dad took his shoes off and went in to check it out.  Behind the temple there was a huge garden/park and those cherry blossoms we had been searching for, well we finally found a few in bloom.  I guess even though this is the season we were still a couple weeks early because the weather was still cool. When we headed back we got another look at the cute shops and restaurants and saw that one of the restaurants had some men who were filleting a ton of eels right in the front of the restaurant. Then they would grill them up on skewers.

My parents kept telling me to try the grilled eel when we had sushi so I finally did on our last night and I loved it – the sauce is amazing!

In the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple the monks walking out.

There were huge fish in this pond, located in the Naritasan Park behind the temple, that would swim by you hoping you would feed them

On our last night in Japan we went to a local sushi restaurant, ate at the bar and had tons of sushi. The people working at that bar were super friendly and it was fun to watch them make the sushi.  Instead of the usual sushi I eat that is wrapped in rice called maki, I got nigiri, which is a little thing of rice on the bottom and a huge piece of fish on top.  The amount of fish they give you is easily twice the amount that you get in the USA. It was a great way to end our visit in Japan.  If you didn’t know, the next place we will be going is to the land “down under”…aka AUSTRALIA!!!!!

Our last night in Japan was awesome with great sushi but also very sad because we all loved Japan!

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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Japan

 

Mount Fuji – Fujiyoshida, Japan

Author: Steve

Arriving at the Gekkouji train station in Fujiyoshida-Shi – traveling light and heading to our hostel after our train ride from Tokyo.

The hotel we were staying at in Tokyo was kind enough to allow us to leave our backpacks behind their desk while we took an overnight trip to Mount Fuji.  We were going to return to the same hotel in Tokyo so it really helped us to lighten our load.  Our backpacks are becoming a tiring part of our travels so being light going through the subway system is something we see as a gift.  We hopped on a train using our Japan Rail Pass and headed to Fujiyoshida-Shi to visit the beautiful Mount Fuji.  Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, it’s an active stratovolcano that last erupted in 1707.

Beautiful Mount Fuji from our hostel window

We booked our accommodations at a traditional Japanese style hostel, it was walking distance from the train station and from the window you could see the awesome symmetrical cone shape of the mesmerizing Mount Fuji.

We never, ever would have imagined meeting a Green Bay Packer fan on the other side of the world, but we did.  Even though Mike is a New Yorker he believes in the nostalgia and legacy of Green Bay Packers. He’s a great guy who not only owned the hostel but also owned the pub below the hostel. That night at Mike’s Pub we talked about everything under the sun – Mike married a Japanese woman after his military career and has been in Japan for 16 years. We discussed the fact that even though Mount Fuji is so far south of where the earthquake (that spawned a ferocious tsunami and radiation leak) took place in 2011 that Fujiyoshida-Shi is still hurting from a tourist perspective.  They literally lost ten’s of thousands of tourists overnight . . . people just simply cancelled flights and accommodations throughout Japan.  It will take a while to rebound but he sees glimpses of that rebound every month. He also talked to us about how the Japanese people have banded together to help one another through this time . . . taking only what they needed for assistance and making sure others had enough. The ethical and moral compass in the Japanese people is strong and well.

Mike – our Green Bay Packer Fan in Japan!

The season for climbing Mount Fuji is July and August.  If we were to try “we would surely meet sudden death” as said by Bear Grylls in “Man vs. Wild”.  So instead we headed to one of the most picturesque locations in Fujiyoshida-Shi to view Mount Fuji; the Churei-toh Pagoda.  The trek up was very nice, through some Japanese neighborhoods and we seemed to be the only people up there other than a few teenage girls.  After we got to the top the kids took off further up into the woods and Amy and I just sat and took in the view.  It seemed like forever that the kids were gone and then Amy spotted 2 decent sized monkeys about 3 feet tall. We asked the 3 teenage Japanese girls (in our best sign language/charades) if the monkeys were mean and they fearfully grabbed their snacks and looked around with their eyes popped open. I immediately grabbed a big stick and started heading up the mountain, yelling for Kendal and Keegan all the way up (you really never know how many monkeys can be up there and after the mean baboons of Africa I didn’t want to take any chances). There was no response for what seemed to be forever so I obviously began to get nervous. I found myself alone in the middle of the woods now with heavy brush, I could hear or see no one at this point, my heart was pounding . . . very eerie feeling for about 4 minutes and then luckily they both appeared. Since they were on the other side of the mountain top they never heard me yelling and once I told them we saw monkeys they both grabbed sticks and starting hauling down the mountain.

On our way to Churei-toh Pagoda we caught some locals playing a game of what looked to be bocce ball.

The walk from our hostel to the Churei-toh Pagoda was fun and it was a beautiful brisk day for that hike

There it is, the picture everyone goes up for – now just imagine the trees to the left full of cherry blossoms – it was magnificent!

When we started our trip last June Amy and I had no intention of going to Australia but as we sat there looking at Mount Fuji we decided that if we could find some fairly cheap tickets we would visit Australia after Japan. Not sure how that happened but I’ll never forget sitting there looking at that view with Amy and making that decision.  We did find cheap tickets the next day, so Australia here we come!

Amy was able to get a shot of one of the monkeys from a distance

Mount Fuji was well worth the trip!

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Japan

 

Tokyo Stock Exchange – Tokyo, Japan

Author: Steve

On our way in to our tour

We are walking distance from the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) and I thought it would be a great learning experience for all of us to go check it out.  I know you’re probably thinking (sarcastically), ‘wow sounds like loads of fun’.  Well I’m happy to report that it was a great visit.  The TSE provides a free 1.5 hour English guided tour so we signed up. It ended up being the four of us on the tour and one woman from England. The lady that gave us the tour has been with the TSE for over 40 years and will retire in September.  She was very young for her age and provided us with a great tour.  It started with a 25 minute video presentation that outlines the details of how a stock exchange works, the beginning of the TSE even before it was officially established on May 15,1878, to today where there are no longer any traders on the floor and it has been computerized since 1974.

Looking at the heart of the Tokyo Stock Exchange

We were fortunate to not only learn but to actually see how this stock exchange works. What stood out for all of us was how large the US market is in comparison to all other countries.  The NYSE has a market cap of over $14 trillion, the next largest stock exchange has a market cap of about $3-4 trillion.  When you combine the NYSE and the NASDAQ, the US (even though it’s been declining over the years) still holds over 30% of the worlds market cap.

This was a great learning experience, well worth the visit!

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2012 in Japan

 

Akihabara-Electric City – Tokyo, Japan

Author: Keegan

I'm checking out this "sweet" electric guitar in Electric City.

Hi again Tokyo, Japan is an awesome city with tons of stores filled with electronics.  On one of our outings we went to a place called The Sony Centre. In the center it had about 4 floors showcasing all of their new technology ranging from cameras to video game consoles and everything electronic in between. There was this very cool video camera that took video and also the camera is like a mini projector. Okay so what I mean is that after you record your activity or event you can watch it on the wall or on a pillow in a dark room. It was very, very cool. I am so glad that my parents planned this trip for us because if they didn’t I would never have been able to see all of the cool technology. They had some 3-D TVs and some very cool computers. But my favorite was one of the hand-held tablets it isn’t even out in the United States it was called Sony Tablet P. The Sony Tablet P was super cool it was like a Nintendo D.S that gives you internet access as well, with two screens one on top and one on the bottom except it is a touch screen on both of the screens and they create one big screen, unlike the Nintendo D.S where only the bottom screen is touch. It is also like an I Phone because there are different screens that you can slide you finger to get to them.  Another day we went to a place called Akihabara also known as Electric City and each store they sell a different type of electronic then the other. They also have something like a pager except it is like a mobile WI-FI hot spot which was good because they don’t have like any WI-FI any where without paying for it. That store had at least 8 floors of stuff and one floor was TVs and there was another that was all video games and kids toys. On the TV floor my dad and I got to play Halo on the Xbox in 3-D and it was awesome.  While in Akihabara we went to a restaurant that had waitresses dressed up as maids.  Ask me about that some time!!!  Japan is a really fun city to explore.

Sayonara.

Testing the XBOX with the XBOX girl!!

Serious gaming kids come in the store with their stack of Yu-Gi-Oh cards in a nice case. Then they sign in to a large game console like you see. They place one of their cards down on the screen and the screen reads it and then they choose how to battle the console. It was so intense!

Here's one of the maid-girls I was talking about. They all have high voices like cartoon character. We went and saw them perform and had an ice cream. I thought it was way overpriced and I it was "awkward" so I won't be doing that again.

They had this Hanami scene (picnic) set up in the Sony Centre and they asked us if we wanted to put on the costumes. Of course we did!!!

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Japan

 

Hello Japan – Kyoto, Japan

Author: Amy

Hello from Japan – yes we chose to head east on the remainder of our trip.  Initially our plans had us going back to Europe for the summer but after taking the flights to get this far East we decided to keep going.  We found some good flights and . . . hello Japan!!!

Here we are in the Ginza district - posing with the cherry blossoms we found.

Japan has been a great stop for us.  We purchased a Japan Rail Pass in Beijing — you have to buy it before you land in Japan to get the discounted price.  The pass allows you to travel throughout Japan on their fabulous trains.  We took the Shinkansen bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto and 3 or 4 different trips with the pass.  We felt like royalty riding on these trains.  They were so comfortable and CLEAN!!  Everything in Japan is so civilized and orderly.  You rarely see people eating or drinking on the streets and we never saw litter anywhere (we had read that in a travel guide book and it’s true).  If we saw smokers there were designated areas for that and people definitely obey the laws here.  There are white lined squares painted on the sidewalk where smokers could stand and smoke together and yes, people stayed in the lines. Our first taste of the intense order here was walking across an extremely very busy street; you don’t jay-walk in Japan and cars obey the laws. People cross major intersections from five different directions with no fear of ever getting hit. They say Japan is one of the safest countries in the world and we definitely felt safe . . . people were also so eager to help you if you looked lost.

Here comes the Shinkansen train.

Enjoying our down time on the Shinkansen.

After we landed in Osaka, we headed to Kyoto, which has a cute small town feel with a population of 1.5 million.  We had hoped we could catch some early Cherry blossoms but it had been a cold spring there and it also rained most of our stay.  Kyoto is known for it’s Geisha district of Gion and we had hoped to see some strolling about but since it was cold and rainy we didn’t see any.  We did see various different women wearing the traditional dress (kimono’s) with the mat/backpack on their back and the special shoes. We had a great hostel in Kyoto, which is where we were able to start posting our blog after our time offline in China.  After Kyoto we headed to Tokyo where the weather was much nicer, a bit cool but sunny and great weather to wander around in.  We visited the Ginza district, which is full of high-end shops, everything you could imagine.  Kendal wanted to pop in to the Abercrombie and Fitch store to see what’s new in teen fashion.  As we entered the store there was a small line and we noticed people were getting their picture taken.  It happened to be 2 male models showing their abs to all who entered the store and you could get your photo taken with them.  Not one to miss the opportunity Kendal stood in line and had her photo taken.

Kendal and her 2 favorite things about Japan.

A highlight was our visit to Tokyo Central Wholesale Market (Tokyo Chuo Oroshiuri Ichiba) or better known as the Tsukiji market, which is located in the Tsukiji district. We took a visit to see the market as well as to have the finest, freshest sushi.  The Tsukiji Market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world!

We learned so much in China and I would recommend to anyone to definitely visit China – but after being there for a month we were ready for someplace new and Japan hit the spot perfectly.

Keegan at Tsukiji market with a huge tuna fish that the man just brought in.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Japan