Osaka

We are having a blast with Carl’s mom in town–it’s so nice to have family around helping with little things.  Teagan loves getting to know her grandma, and we love showing her the island.

This weekend, we took her to one of our favorite cities–Osaka!  We got to work enjoying kuidaore (“eat until you fall down”) style food, Osaka’s speciality.  First up: okonomyaki.  Okonomyaki was invented post-WWII when food and supplies were scarce.  Some creative mama with a home full of hungry kids decided to invent a cabbage pancake filled with whatever’s in your kitchen.  Like all fried food, okonomyaki is best enjoyed with beer.DSC01047.JPGDSC01042DSC01044

We stayed in an adorable apartment that was completely Doraemon themed.  What is Doraemon, you ask?

Doraemon is a cat-like robot from the 22nd century of the future. His favorite food is dorayaki, a sweet bean paste filled bun, and his birthday is 2112-9-3 he is also know by the name “Ding-dong”. He weighs 129.3 kg, is 129.3 cm tall, can leap 129.3 cms in the air and can run 129.3 km per hour. He is afraid of mice and hates rats, his ears were eaten off by rats. He has a fourth-dimensional pocket on his abdomen from which he can take out many amazing TOOLS. Doraemon was sent back to the 20th century because Nobita’s grandson can’t bear to see his grandfather suffer. So he sent Doraemon to help out with Nobita’s troubles

EVERYTHING was Doraemon-themed.  The toaster, the toilet, the toothbrushes provided, the snacks were all on theme.  We were provided with Doraemon onesies, and when the owner found out that we had a baby with us, she brought a baby sized Doraemon outfit so we wouldn’t be left out.  I love Japan! So weird and great.

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The next day, we headed to Universal Studios Japan to explore Hogsmeade.  We dressed up the baby for the occasion: her shirt says I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.DSC01060

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We stayed all day and by evening, we were totally tired!  A restful night back in the Doraemon room, and we were back in Okinawa before we knew it.

I love Japan and this little family!

 

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Weekend Update: My Tokyo Trip

I’ve been to Tokyo before, but this trip was different.  For one thing, I was staying in one city for five whole days–unheard of!  I rarely get that much time off.  I was also serving as a pretty unofficial tourguide to my dad, who’d never been to Japan before.  Probably the biggest difference, though, was that this time I’d be traveling with a two month old baby girl.  Let me just hit some of the highlights:

Meiji Ji

I love that this lush forest is smack dab in the middle of a bustling city.  It’s always my first stop in Tokyo as one of the best ways to clear my head after busy travel days.

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Warayakiya

I’d never been here before–it was a recommendation from the hotel’s amazing travel desk.  They grilled tuna over huge blazing flames of burning wheat grass (the traditional style of Shikoku).  After what felt like five hundred years of pregnancy, this partially raw fish totally hit the spot.  Yum!

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Dominique Adams Bakery

I’ll admit, I came here purely to take a photo of my ice cream.  Worth it.

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Tsukiji Fish Market

Everything I’d read about this place made it sound like if you couldn’t make it in time for the 3:00 AM auctions, you shouldn’t even bother existing anymore.  I was glad to have a reason to go; my dad suggested it and it was AMAZING.  Streets of vendors with delicious looking fish, giant clams, soda flavored ice cream, ultra-sharp knives.  Breakfast was the best sushi I’ve ever tasted.  I say that I travel on my stomach, that is to say that I plan my trips around delicious foods and remember my travels by the the snacks I’ve tasted along the way.  Tsukiji was an experience I will never forget.

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Oh, Sweet Summertime

I’ve been lucky enough to travel home pretty frequently while living overseas.  I love being able to take Teagan to meet my family and close friends that I’ve known for years.

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More on the trip later–right now I’m busy soaking it all in.

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Weekend Update: Maureen is here!

When people make the effort to visit us here in Okinawa, I know that they must really love us.  It’s incredibly expensive, and such a huge undertaking to fly for almost 24 hours each way.

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Maureen came out to Okinawa last week, and we’re having the best time.  I am loving having another pair of hands to help me with T.  I’m getting spoiled: I can shower for longer than thirty seconds without the relaxing sounds of a hysterical baby.  I have someone to share every mundane baby noise and movement with.  Sometimes I even get to eat with two hands!

35312066772_f02ac4fb18_o-1-e1498215051826.jpgHaving visitors always brings out the best in me; I have a reason to get out and see touristy things.  We’ve seen ancient castles, gorgeous beaches and waterfalls, and of course we’ve enjoyed ramen and sushi.  It’s so nice to be with someone I’ve known long enough to just be with.  Instead of shallow conversations about people at work, we have pointless talks about Harry Potter character development.

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Today, I am thankful for good friends and good food.

Okinawa’s Hydrangea Garden (Yohena Asaji)

Last summer, we moved closer to Carl’s work and away from a lot of the “big city” areas of Okinawa.  Down south, there are cafes, malls, and so many Americans.  Where we live feels wild–nature is everywhere.  Beautiful beaches, overflowing jungles, and plenty of peace and quiet.

I’ve been looking for ways to stay local.  As fun as it is to spend long car rides with a screaming baby (she HATES the car seat), I prefer to find things to do a little closer to home.  When I heard about Okinawa’s Hydrangea Garden, I couldn’t wait.

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Yohena Asaji is so-named for its owner and founder, Mrs. Uto Yohena.  This year, she’s 100 years old!  She has been caring for the hydrangea fields for forty years, and before that they were tangerine fields.  The story goes that she started with one plant, and it did so well that she ended up with more…and more and more and more and more!  She is the ultimate plant lady!IMG_2630

There are over 10,000 hydrangea plants today.  It’s not just hydrangeas, though–she has all kinds of exotic looking and fragrant blooms.  I even spotted a few budding tangerine trees.IMG_2632Teagan enjoyed her nap in the carrier and only poked her head out for this photo.

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We finished off the afternoon with a shaved ice–delicious!

The past few days, I’ve gone to bed with such a full heart and a thankful spirit.  What else could a girl possibly ask for?

Currently readingBorn to Run, by Bruce Springsteen

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“No one you have been and no place you have gone ever leaves you. The new parts of you simply jump in the car and go along for the rest of the ride. The success of your journey and your destination all depend on who’s driving.”

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Fukushen Garden

Around here, weekend time together is precious.  On one of Carl’s last days off before he left, we decided to go exploring in Okinawa to a place I’d wanted to go for a long time: Fukushen Gardens in Naha.

Fukushen is a traditional Chinese style garden that was built to celebrate Okinawa’s sister city, Fuzhou.  It was smack in the middle of the city with walls on all sides.  When we bought our tickets, a greeter asked us where we were from–a tricky question in the military.   We told her Okinawa, and everyone laughed.

As soon as we were inside, the baby decided she was starving.  I parked myself on a bench overlooking a large koi pond and sculpted garden, one of the most peaceful places to feed a baby.  We were blessed with perfect weather, too: a light breeze kept us comfortable.

My favorite part of the sprawling garden grounds was the largest and according to the brochure, the most dynamic waterfall.

A dirt path took us into a rock cave behind the waterfall.  I was loving it!

All of that sleeping had T working up an appetite, so we pulled over at a nearby beach for a second lunch.  What a perfect day!

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I love continuing to explore Okinawa and finding out more about this beautiful island.

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Hong Kong pt. 2: Victoria Peak and the Star Ferry

One of my travel traditions is to obsessively plan beforehand using The Lonely Planet.  I’ve had such good luck with those guidebooks–they’re the best!

For this trip, I basically stole one of the suggested itineraries, which took me first to brunch in Soho at The Brunch Club (no pictures because I was too hungry!).  I left Soho via an area of Hong Kong known as “Ladder Street”–so named because it is so steep that ladders were used to climb it in the past.

The Peak

Victoria Peak was next on my list.  “The Peak” is famous for its panoramic views and history as a strategic stronghold.  I was glad for the historic tram that took me easily to the top.

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The Octopus card, Hong Kong’s metro card, was the best!  Instead of waiting in the long cash only line, I got to skip ahead with my Octopus card.  Oh yeah!

 

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Exploring the gardens and panoramic views

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Star Ferry

On my Lonely Planet itinerary of must-see attractions was the Star Ferry.  The whole time I was riding the cute little ferry across Victoria Harbour, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much Carl would love it!  The view was amazing, but somehow I only managed to take pictures of myself.

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I finished my second perfect day in Hong Kong with a fancy movie in a 4D theater with special seats marked “NOT FOR PREGNANT”.  Ummm, okay.

Hong Kong Disneyland

I’m posting about a month late because thing have been a little busy on this side of the world.  I LOVED Hong Kong!

Because Disney is amazing, one of the first stops I made was Hong Kong Disney.

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So many of the rides were the same, but there were absolutely NO LINES!

Even the big rides like Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain had absolutely no line, which made it all a lot more fun.img_0896

One of the coolest rides was called Mystic Manor–it’s about Lord Mystic, some fancy guy living in a mansion who invents all kinds of magical things.  It was totally creative!img_0899

Hong Kong Disneyland was a perfect start to the trip.

Universal Studios Japan

I’ve been trying to plan a weekend trip for Carl and I for what feels like forever.  Somehow, the schedules never seem to line up.  My last trip I’d planned to Taiwan was cancelled due to a typhoon, but finally we were able to work out the details and fly out to Osaka after work.

With such a short trip, we had only one thing on the agenda: Universal Studios Japan.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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Hogwarts at Universal Studios surpassed my expectations.  We’re Harry Potter superfans, so we were sipping our butterbeers by the Hogwarts Express within minutes.

It was amazing!  Hogsmeade village was perfect, with all the shops we’d read about.  We were literally two kids in a candy store at Honeydukes.  We had lunch in the famous Three Broomsticks, it was heaven.  After some coaxing, I convinced Carl that we’d come back to Harry Potter and take a look at the rest of the park.

Jurassic Park

Again, two superfans! I loved sitting next to Carl on the rides and hearing his reaction to dinosaurs.  During one of the big rides, a huge T-Rex popped out of the darkness and we barely missed its huge jaws.  As usual, I’d packed horribly and was sweating bullets through my double jacket and long pants–the water ride was a godsend.

Side note: Jurassic Park is terrifying if you think about it–it’s just too real!  Can’t you just see genetic experts getting greedy and taking it all a little too far?  And can’t you imagine one of the employees exploiting his access and putting everyone else in danger?  It is way too real for me.

Jaws

This ride had no line!  We rode it twice, and I loved hearing the Japanese guide’s explanation of what was happening.  This is another concept that was a little too real for me.

Japanese Everything!

One of the first things we noticed was that all of the other adventurers were in Halloween costumes.  A group of friends would walk by in matching jailbird costumes or cat outfits, and it was the cutest thing ever!  These weren’t all kids either.  I rode the Flying Dinosaur next to a row of girls dressed as sexy nurses…and then there was me, the regular nurse 🙂

The best costume: a minion-wizard combo.  Have you ever loved Minions and Harry Potter so much that you had to wear them both at once?

We loved our time at Universal Studios Japan.  With our bags full of pumpkin juice and chocolate frogs, we headed home to our AirBnB in Osaka.  I was thankful to finally be able to travel together and happy to be able to finally see Hogwarts.

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Cheers!

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