Monday, November 28, 2011


I always think of Thanksgiving as a coming together of the Native Americans and Pilgrims to break bread. Alton Brown, anthropological food genius, taught me that they didn't actually eat what we consider "traditional" Thanksgiving fare. In fact, it was more oysters and clams and that roughage known as maize.

I think I'll stick with turkey and stuffing. And cranberry sauce. And green bean casserole. And rolls. With clouds of mashed potatoes. And pumpkin cheesecake. Yes, mustn't forget the pumpkin cheesecake.

In Japan they celebrate a Thanksgiving of sorts that has nothing to do with Pilgrims, Native Americans, or turkeys. This holiday is a "labor thanksgiving" known as kinro kansha. I asked about this holiday to some Japanese locals and they explained that it was a day to give thanks. That's it. No elaborate meal. No must-see football. No tryptophan-induced afternoon naps. Just a day to say thanks.

This year we did Thanksgiving American-style.

Dustin couldn't wait on the cheesecake...

The Alton Brown Roast Turkey
And boy, did eating an American feast taste good. But to observe our host country's holiday, we are still very thankful.

I am thankful for health both for myself and my family. I am thankful for telephones so I can hear your voices from so far away.

Dustin is thankful that his family hasn't disowned him after a long hiatus of communication. And for pumpkin cheesecake. Mustn't forget the pumpkin cheesecake.

Love you all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Disney Sea

So if Disneyland isn't enough there is another park geared to older ages. DisneySea has more thrill rides and tons of shopping.

When we first entered the gate we were treated to a brass band playing Christmas songs and Disney themes. I love a strong brass section so I was in tears by the end of their performance.

After we stowed our backpacks in a locker we walked into the first area of the park.... and saw a huge volcano! Disney never disappoints and is pretty good about getting everything down to the last detail. Are we having an earthquake? Nope, the volcano is just rumbling.

Miss Cape Cod? There was a whole section devoted to Cape Cod and had themed stores and restaurants.

Indiana Jones! This ride was different than the one in California. It was based off the most recent movie and was pretty good. We bought the picture that was taken at the end and I am working on loading it onto the blog for all to see.

Abu came out to take pictures while we were walking through Agrabah. He got down on a knee and kissed my hand before posing for a picture with us. The picture wasn't very good, but we snapped this one of him playing with another person.

Another cool thing about Disney Sea is.. well, the sea! Instead of parades throughout the park they do shows on the water. There was lots of shooting water, pyrotechnics, and fireworks. They move so quickly through the water that we thought for sure they would bump each other!

The best part of the show were the kites that were pulled behind jetskis. They whipped back and forth through the sky.

I have never ridden the famous Tower of Terror ride. I'm not a fan of straight drops, but agreed to ride with Dustin. The storyline was lost on us because all the rooms leading up the ride are all in Japanese and there was no translation. The ride was fun though!

We had a great time and were in the park until it closed. We took pictures while we were in every line as our theme for the day. There were so many people in the park! Definitely worth the trip!

We miss you!

Tokyo Disneyland

Yay for Disney!! We love theme parks and especially love Disney parks. They just seem to get it right and every detail is perfect. And I feel like they are cleaner. Anyway, it was a very gross day which probably kept the crowds away. When I say rain, I don't mean a light drizzle. Hard, cold rain with a nasty wind. We still had a GREAT time!

Cinderella's Castle

A Swiss Family Christmas tree

Raincoats over the costumes!

Lunch through a door handle
 Our biggest surprise was when we ventured over to a familiar ride and found that they had converted it for Christmas! Now we have been to Disney at Christmas time before and other than some decoration changes nothing really is different. The WHOLE RIDE had changed!

Pumpkin tree
The storyline was different, the rooms had been completely changed. Instead of the Haunted Mansion we were treated to a Nightmare Before Christmas tale! It was awesome!!

I've always loved teacups and this time was no exception! This was later in the evening. We ran around in the last 45 minutes and rode many of the rides with no wait. It was still raining and had gotten very cold so many people had left.

Figaro on teacups
Come visit us so we have an excuse to go again!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tokyo Museum of Sciences

In the Ueno area of Tokyo you will find museums, art galleries, and the zoo. A stop we had to make was to the Museum of Sciences. Similar to the Natural History museum in D.C., this museum boasts displays of local animals and plant life. It also had sections on technology.

Outside is a HUGE train engine. Fred, this is for you. We spent a good 15 minutes walking around this thing in all it's glory.

Once inside we walked though many exhibits including animals, insects, plants, rice varieties, and evolution of Japanese people. Here are some interesting pictures with a 100 yen piece to show scale. A 100 yen piece is about the same size as a nickel.

Val, we do have beetles. Lots of them...

Dustin's favorite floor had all the dinosaurs on it.

We spent the whole day wandering through this building. There were so many things to see and interactive displays! All the plaques were in Japanese, but each area had a computer display that would translate.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Daiichi in Ryogoku

We stayed in a miltary hotel for the first part of our vacation because it is just much cheaper ($39 a night!). Unfortunately they were all booked for the holiday weekend. A woman I work with really helped us out and booked a hotel with a great view near Tokyo Disney. We were able to take a shuttle bus to Disney (for free) and had complimentary buffet breakfast.

This is our first time staying in a Japanese hotel! We weren't sure what to expect...

Small door!
Inside it was pretty standard. We did have reservations for a bed instead of a futon though.

One cool feature was this small box by the door. As soon as you enter the room you insert your key paper and it turns on the lights and air. The room was comfortable without the key, but with it we could make it cooler or warmer. If you remove the key all the lights and air kick off in ten seconds. It was a pretty nifty device and I'm sure saves lots of energy.

The best part of the room was the view. These pictures are really bad.

Tokyo Tower
Our reservations also included a breakfast buffet. The Japanese breakfast is a wee bit strange.... there were lots of soups and fresh mackeral sitting out. We opted for a more traditional breakfacst and had scrambled eggs and toast. The food looks the same, but the taste is just a little bit different. Not bad... just different.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tokyo Tower

One of the main tourist attractions in Tokyo is their tower. It's pretty impressive and is lit with orange and yellow lights every night. The bottom four floors have a variety of shops and restaurants. There is a small carnival on the roof of the fourth floor and a really weird wax museum.

But first the tower.

View from observatory

New Tokyo Sky Tree


City just keeps going...and going...

Long way down...
Inside the buildings underneath is a very strange wax museum. It starts out with an assortment of well known characters then became the museum for death metal/rock bands that no one has heard of. Each section had wax figures of each member of the band, but we hadn't heard of any of the bands and when we Googled them they were tiny bands with unrecognizable songs. The memorabilia around the wax figures was impressive, but we didn't know any of the people!

Friday, November 18, 2011


Do you get hungry when I post pictures of food? I do. Going back and looking makes me want to eat it again! People look at me weird because we take pictures of all our food.

This was "Chinese soup" that we got at a restaurant in Harijuku. It came with two dumpings that were filled with something tasty. Sometimes it is better to not know...  

Mt. Fuji

One morning we were treated to clear skies and were able to see Mt Fuji!

Dustin didn't take a picture without the zoom so you really can't see the scale. Mt. Fuji is about 60 miles away from Tokyo.

Hiking is only recommended for mid-July through September because of the snow. We plan on doing it next summer! 


We couldn't visit this huge city without seeing the financial district. I'm a banker to my core. We went to Otemachi to see the Bank of Tokyo.

Then we walked down to the Imperial Gardens only to discover they were CLOSED! We were very disappointed that we missed walking through the gardens, but we had fun walking around the Imperial Palace and taking pictures of the moat and outbuildings.

Our next stop was to see the Tokyo Tower. We had to get back on the metro and go to another section of town, but it was worth the trip. At the bottom of the tower is an old shrine. There were many visitors there today so we kept walking.