Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2016 Japan Vacation, Day 4: Cute Monsters, Hedgehogs, and Ninjas

I don’t know that anything would top owls, but we had plans to visit more unusual places in Tokyo on Monday.

We headed off in the morning to take the subway to Shibuya, home of Shibuya Crossing, one of the world’s busiest intersections.

It was still rush hour and the train was a bit crowded. We were on for several stops before we noticed that were on a Woman Only car. See the pink sign in the photo below? I looked around and saw that Kai and I were the only males on the car. Oops! Very embarrassing!

Just outside Shibuya Station is a statue of Hachiko, a dog revered in Japan for his loyalty. Hachiko is remembered for waiting for his owner at the train station ever day, and continued to do so for even nine years after his owner died.

Or course we had to see the famous Crossing, though on a Monday morning there were not many people.

There were a lot of Pokémon, though.. As we walked around Shibuya, popping into stores, Kai happily walked along, catching Pokémon as we went.

Then we headed over to lunch in Harajuku. Harajuku is a very colourful and crazy part of Tokyo that is known as a center of Japanese street fashion and theatrical styles. The Kawaii Monster Cafe fits right in.

Kawaii means cute in Japanese. And the Kawaii Monster Cafe features cute "monster girls" and colourful everything. I think pictures describe this better than my words ever could.

The drinks were colourful.

The food was even more colourful. Here's Kai and Mom with Kai's multicolored pasta dish.

And here are my wife and I with our hot dog and hamburger. Yes, that blue face is a hamburger.

While we were eating, the Monster Girls came out and put on a little show.

Then it was time for dessert. More colourful food.

After we ate, my wife and Kai do their own version of the Monster Girls.

After lunch, we walked down Takeshita Street, the hub of fashion in Harajuku. Kai didn't care about the fashion so much as the Pokémon he found there.

And then we headed over to Tokyo Tower.

Tokyo Tower was the tallest structure in Japan until the Tokyo Sky Tree was built. There are two observation decks and we went to the higher one, where we had pretty good views of the entire city.

From there we rushed over for our 4 o'clock appointment at Harry's. A few weeks ago, I was talking about our trip to a coworker who had moved to the US from Japan a little over a year ago. I mentioned that we would be going to an owl cafe and she said that there is something even newer in Tokyo - a hedgehog cafe called Harry's. Well, we had to add that to our list of weird things to see in Japan.

Hedgehogs are very cute, but their "hair" are actually pointy spines that hurt if you try to grab it. The trick to picking up a hedgehog is to slide both of your hands underneath and pick them up by their soft underbelly. Kai got stuck when he first tried to pick one up, and the staff lent him a pair of gloves. He found a hedgehog that he took a liking to.

My wife also struggled to pick up a hedgehog and she did not pick up any, saying she was scared and would just take pictures. That's okay, because Kai and I enjoyed the experience and wanted a lot of pictures to be taken. Here's just one more to show you.

Our last activity of the day was dinner at a ninja restaurant.

The ninja experience begins as soon as you step inside. A ninja pops out from a secret doorway to escort you to your table. You wind your way through dark passageways before finding your seat.

We ordered a shrimp and grapefruit appetizer. When it arrived, Kai had to pull a sword out from the container.

That then caused "smoke" to come out from the pot.

While we waited for the entrees to be served, a "ninja" magician came to our table and entertained us with some very good card tricks.

For our main meal, Kai had lobster, my wife had sweet and sour pork, while I had thin slices of beef brought to the table with a very hot stone. I had to cook the meat on the stone, and it was so hot that it took only seconds to cook.

The food was tasty though the portions were small while the price was large. You definitely paid for the experience. But we were on vacation, and wanted to do some different, fun things, so this was a good way to cap a day of different, fun things.

Apologies for the delay in this post. Technical difficulties kept me from blogging for longer than I hoped. Please come back and I'll try to catch you up on our latest activities.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

2016 Japan Vacation, Day 3: Pokémon, Owls, and Good Times

Our first full day in Japan started early. About 4:30 in the morning, I heard Kai's voice coming from the next room. I went to check things out and he was showing his grandfather the Pokémon he had caught in the Pokémon Go game. I told him it was too early to being using electronics and told him to go back to bed. He did, but I don't think he fell back asleep and we were all up about an hour later.

We relaxed at home for a few hours.

My wife was dressed up as she would be seeing her high school friends that day.

Then we went out for the day. Unlike our last trip to Japan, the weather so far has been pleasant. We have yet to experience the extreme heat and humidity that is the norm here during the summers, and that I understand is happening back home. On this morning, as we walked around, it was perfect for walking around (though it did warm up some by afternoon).

Our first stop was a Sega game center where Kai tried out several claw machines in an attempt to win a plush.

Alas, it was futile.

But no worries, our next stop was a Pokémon Center where there would be plushies galore.

My wife had left to see her friends, so Kai's grandfather and I had Kai for the rest of the day.

Kai enjoyed seeing the wide selection of Pokémon plushies.

His grandparents had given him gift cards to use while in Japan, and Kai filled a basket of Pokémon.

Then it was time for lunch... pizza!

We had a little time to kill before a 2PM appointment, so we went to small aquarium in the same shopping mall as the Pokémon Center.

They had some unusual creatures, like this white octopus.

Kai enjoyed this miniature desert island.

And then it was time to go for our appointment at an owl cafe. Yes, that's right, an owl cafe. Apparently cat cafes are very popular in Japan, and now a cafe is attempting to out-do those with cats.

The "cafe" is a room filled with about two dozen owls of all sizes and colors. By appointment, you can visit this place along with about a ten other people.

Kai enjoyed going around the room and petting all of the owls.

You can even have an owl perch on your arm.

Or your head.

The owls were somewhat docile, though some pecked at you.

This was one of my favorite owls.

We had done so many of the popular tourist things the last time we were here; we wanted to try something very different this time... something that you would only find in Japan. And what is more unique than an owl cafe?

After that, we went to the Tokyo Dome and looked around. There is an amusement park outside the Dome. Kai wanted to ride on this water ride, but the line was 40 minutes long so we only took a picture of it.

And then spent time catching more Pokémon.

It was another fun day. We'll have one more day in Tokyo before we head out for our next destination.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

2016 Japan Vacation - Arrived in Japan!

We are now in Japan!

Our flight over here was smooth, though I was surprised how much my butt hurt from sitting for 13 hours straight. :) Kai enjoyed the flight, though, as he stayed awake the whole time so that he could watch movies on his iPad. My wife and I tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to take a couple of quick naps.

We were happy when we finally arrived, and very happy to see my wife's father who came to pick us up at Narita Airport.

Jiji drove us to his apartment in the Tokyo area, where Baba was waiting for us.

After settling in for a little bit, it was time to go for a walk. After all, Pokémon Go was just introduced in Japan and Kai had Pokémon to catch.

Kai was thrilled that there were many Poké Stops, and a lot of Pokémon to catch. He caught several that he had not seen back home.

While he was mostly just engrossed with Pokémon, he did enjoy some of the other sights. Here he is amused by a new flavor of soda at McDonald's.

While Mom and Baba went shopping, Jiji, Kai and I went to a game center when Kai tried his hand at the claw machines.

He was unsuccessful, but I think he wants to play many more times on this trip. I will be keeping a limit on this... does anyone ever win at these things?

We made a quick stop at the neighborhood shrine.

And then it was time for dinner. We went to a local shabu shabu restaurant.

Shabu shabu is a style of Japanese cooking that involves cooking thinly sliced meats and vegetables in pots of boiling water. It was an all-you-can-eat feast that we enjoyed very much.

By the time we went to bed, we were all exhausted. Even Kai looked a little tired.

But it had been a good start to our vacation. We are looking forward to the rest of our adventure.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Japan 2016… And We’re Off

We’ve had this trip planned for months. It seemed like it was far off into the future, but in the past week or so it has sunk in that we would be leaving soon. And now the big day is here.

We are returning to Japan!

There are a lot of places around the world and here in the United States that we have not yet visited, but after enjoying our last visit to Japan two years ago, and with my wife's parents living in the Tokyo area, it was an easy decision to make a return visit.

We will be traveling to some different parts of the country that we have not been to before. And going to places in Tokyo that we did not see last time.

My wife did most of the research and planning for this trip, and she’s found some interesting places to go.

My job has been to put together the PowerPoint deck that presents our itinerary day by day. Kai is still a boy who likes to know the plan, and doesn’t deal well with surprises.

We have tried to set some expectations for Kai.

And to make him aware of what each day will be like.

We used to get pretty stressed about our vacations but as time has gone on and Kai has shown that he can handle these trips fairly well, we are, not exactly relaxed, but more comfortable. We are looking forward to seeing the sights, and Kai's grandparents. Oh, and we heard that Pokémon Go was just released in Japan which Kai was excited about. Hopefully that will help motivate him to go see more sights.

So we're at the airport, and soon will be boarding our flight.

Wish us well! :)

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