Japan Days 13-16

There was one main goal for the return to Tokyo. To get safely on the plane without any hassle…..

No, it was to get back to Disneyland!

And this time it wasn’t the school holidays, spring vacation finished. We were really hoping that it would be pretty empty.

IMG_3982And we were not disappointed. At least compared to the first visit. There were actually a lot of people, but many were lining up to get in the front for the parade. It was 10am and the parade was at 3pm. AND THEY WERE ALREADY LINING UP! But at least if they’re waiting for the parade they aren’t on the rides.

IMG_4076I had also worked out how Fastpass works in Disney. A good system I think. You swipe your ticket at a booth near the ride and it gives you a hour window during the day to return and get your ride. You can’t swipe your ticket again until this one has expired but you can do it as many times as you like, on the same or another ride.

IMG_7886The girls were again tall enough to ride on everything, alone if they had wanted. So we hit up the rides – “Big Thunder Mountain”, “Space Mountain”, “Star Tours” and over the day we hit up about 15 rides. A lot more than the 2-3 we managed at the other park visits.  Mrs Mab got her dream ride… about 3 rides on “It’s a small world”, and they were with her as the only rider!

The next day we headed to Odiba, which is a fairly newish development area, I think reclaimed from the bay. They have two tallish things. The Statue of Liberty.

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And a life-size Gundam.

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It was a bit strange as we got off the tram and ended up in a new, but mostly empty shopping centre. After wandering along the beach for a bit, we stopped someone to ask directions. He said “Oh are you looking for the Gundam?” We were like “No, but what?” And we headed that way.

It was located outside the foodcourt of another mall (basically across the road from the other mall) and this one was packed. So we discovered where all the people were!

After this it was back to the hotel.

The following day was the trip home. With all of our baggage, we ended up taking a large taxi to the airport and arrived really, really early, so we were stuck with our bags for a couple of hours. On the plus side, we were first in line for the check in!

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The return home was uneventful, arriving home on Thursday at about 10am. I hated the flight home, and was over the flight by about 3 hours in. There wasn’t anything wrong, the seat etc was fine. I was probably just exhausted, but I’ve flown a lot in my life and never felt as uncomfortable and impatient to get off the plane. I spent most of the flight wishing I was sitting in these seats (which I have also spent many hours in) which shows just how annoyed I was. I still don’t know why.

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We bought a few souvenirs and a pile of different snacks, but that was about it. I didn’t look at electronics, clothes seemed the same price (and I couldn’t find anything my size) as here, so our usual purchases didn’t happen (and the bags didn’t grow too much!).

Overall, it was a FANTASTIC trip that I would recommend heartily to anyone. Japan is a fascinating, safe, enjoyable place to visit.

 

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Japan Days 9-12

Osaka, only 15 mins bullet train away. Didn’t really realise that it was that close until we busied ourselves settling into our seats in Kyoto. Then I looked it up and told everyone that we had to start packing up in order to get off the train again. And then we were there.

We stayed in an area called Dontonburi, a busy restaurant and nightlife area. It also has a busy shopping strip, so it was lively and very handy for us. We had taken a morning train so still had plenty of time that day. Our first destination we decided, was a place called Kids Plaza. This was a giant indoor play area, that included some science activities. It was busy with locals, but there was plenty to do and we stayed until closing. (I spent several hours working on my assignments while the kids enjoyed themselves). Afterwards it was back to the hotel and then out for dinner on the streets nearby.

IMG_3761The goal the next day was Universal. Having learned our lesson about arriving late on a busy day, we aimed for a 7am wakeup and 8am we would be on our way.IMG_3817

When we eventually woke up at 8am we managed to make it to the park by 9:30am, a little behind schedule. Then I picked the slowest ticket queue in history so it was 10am before we actually entered the park. It was busy like Disney in Tokyo as it was still the Japanese spring vacation period. The fastpass worked differently here too. For double the entry fee you could get 1 ride on each of 4 (or 7 for even more money) selected rides on the day.

IMG_3796We spent a couple of hours exploring Harry Potter world before starting on the rest of the park. After almost two hours in the queue at Jurassic World we became quite concerned about how many people were putting plastic coats or ponchos ahead of us. Seriously, they’re not going to get us that wet, its a theme park not a water park.

Uh, no, we got quite wet. It may have been worse as I was seated in the front row and there was another large guy behind me, so the boat may have dug in more at the bottom of the 23m drop, than they usually do when full of much more slight Japanese? The getting wet and the drop did not impress Mrs Mab and she decided she didn’t want anymore ups and downs at theme parks. This is something she has decided before, but I guess we forgot?

The park was starting to empty out by this stage as the day started to end. We managed to ride Spiderman 4D which was well done, though lost a little for us as all the characters spoke Japanese (well duh, obviously). It was also another thrill ride, so Mrs Mab didn’t see much with her eyes closed.

After two days of kids activities, it was back to temples and castles (groaned the kids…). It was a little rainy, and this was the worst weather we would get for the whole trip. But it wasn’t rainy enough that we couldn’t move about town, so off we went to Osaka Castle.

While the site is hundreds of years old, the Castle is basically a museum, built as a replica in the 1930s. Still, as a replica, the original must have been extremely impressive when surrounded by low wooden and bamboo buildings. And again, with the moat! Wow.

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The kids did enjoy the playground we found nearby. Even as much that we came back the next day to let them play on it for the afternoon.

That day was really cold. The rain and cloud cleared, but the day didn’t really warm up. We explored the city centre a little, without anything special. In the evening we headed over to Senso-Ji Temple. Unfortunately we did leave it pretty late in the day, so most of the shops were closing up, so we missed out on trying any food :(. Another impressive temple.

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Then it was back on the train to Tokyo.

Japan Days 5 – 8

After Tokyo, our next destination was Kyoto. We were excited to spend a few hours riding the Shinkansen (Bullet Train). There aren’t any trains this fast in Australia, and since riding on one, I think they would be an AWESOME way to travel around Australia (if only each city also had great public transport…..).

IMG_3678So with all our bags, we set off to Tokyo Station and bought up big on our Bento boxes. The train was like a really spacious airliner, lots of leg room and none of that confined, super air-conditioned recycled pressurised air feeling that drains you when you fly. And things to see out the windows. In all we were quite disappointed to be arriving after only about 2.5 hours in Kyoto.

Again we dragged our bags across the city to our hotel. After check in we took a train over to the Gion district, an old area famous for Geisha and Maiko. I did see a Maiko, but I can’t imagine a full Geisha wandering through the area all dressed up. Eventually we ended up at the Yasaka Shrine to discover the entrance area was full of food stalls. We wandered about munching on the delicious food we found. This turned out to be a common set up near shrines and our taste buds loved it…

IMG_3479The next day we discovered more Cherry blossoms and wandered about the grounds of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. I managed to set off an alarm wandering too close to a wall. We also visited Nijo-jo Castle, which impressed me with its moat. I can’t imagine invading one was easy with these in the way. IMG_3276They also have a Nightengale Floor, which is designed so that no one can sneak up on the Lords. I had read about it and it works well, and is a surprisingly pleasantly creaky floor!

IMG_3316Another organised tour the following day took us to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. This was another amazing historical place and I drank the waters that are supposed to support good fortune and good luck in your studies.

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IMG_3607Next stop was the Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine, with a famous set of orange gates leading up a set of stairs. Again amazing to see things that were so old. IMG_3639After that was the Bamboo Forrest and Arashiyama. Another set lunch here filled our bellies. The last stop on this tour was the Rokuon-Ji Temple, also known as the Golden Temple. Though typical of Japanese historical sites it has burned down at least one, it was a peaceful and impressive site.

IMG_3693The next day we headed back to Arashiyama and Mrs Mab was taken on a small rickshaw ride, having a great chat with the runner. Afterwards it was back to Gion to watch a cultural show, which was interesting, but disappointing in its lack of Geisha/Maiko.

IMG_3729And that was Kyoto. Next up – Osaka.

Japan Days 0-4

A long planned holiday has finished up about a week ago. We headed to Japan for almost three weeks. Japan is a place that many people have always wanted to go, and I am no different. Mrs Mab initially wasn’t too interested, but was encouraged by her workmates that it was a great place to visit.

IMG_2928.jpgWe planned 4 days in Tokyo, 4 in Kyoto, 4 in Osaka and 3 more in Tokyo for our return. Big items on the family’s list was Disney and Universal (of course), Mt Fuji, Cherry Blossoms and seeing some cultural stuff. Our timing was dictated by Mrs Mab’s leave from work so we left in the last three weeks of Term 1 here, covering Easter as well. It also was the Japanese school Spring Vacation.

And it was Cherry Blossom time in Tokyo. We struck it very lucky as it was cold for the time before we arrived. About 5 days or so before we arrived it suddenly warmed, starting the blossoms, which meant that as we arrived they were starting to peak. That was a total lucky chance.

IMG_0015We did most of our own planning, simply drawing up a list of things we wanted to see and decided to wing it. Apart from booking a day tour that included Mt Fuji (and included lunch and a visit to an onsen, the Japanese bath house).

We arrived in Tokyo on a pleasant Tuesday morning and eventually we’ve arrived at Shinjuku station. This is where it all became abundantly clear that we were in a different country and that Tokyo was MUCH bigger than Sydney. It took us 15 minutes at least to find an exit to the station that was vaguely in the direction of our hotel. This would prove the only really confusing part of our stay, getting into and out of stations, often with luggage, and in the direction of where we wanted to go (rather than on completely the other side of the station and having to go back through or around it). The trains themselves, thanks to Google’s knowledge of public transport, were easy. Just the stations….

After dropping our bags we headed to the nearby Shinjuku Gyoen gardens to see the cherry blossoms. Many locals were out having picnics and quite a few in kimonos and the male equivalent. Very cool to see. The other sights that surprised us were the convenience stores and the vending machines. Everywhere you turned there was one or both, or many!

IMG_3059After the park, we visited the Meiji Shrine before heading to Shibuya Crossing, the one seen on many pictures and many movies. It wasn’t as busy as expected, though it was early afternoon on a Tuesday. Next up was Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo’s other really tall thing (not the more well known red and white Tokyo Tower).

IMG_3067Mt Fuji was our main destination on the next day. Our first organised tour for the trip, it took us by bus up Fuji, then to a nearby town with a set lunch. After the lunch was the onsen and then the Factory Outlets store. Fuji reminded me a lot of Ruapehu, which I used to live next to. Fuji is a bit larger. The girls saw snow for the very first time, though it was that crappy melted and turned to ice been cleared off the road kind, but still snow.

IMG_0051I did try the onsen, though I was the only one in my family and only about half the bus load were “brave” enough to strip down and enjoy the hot water. Was kind of cool relaxing in the hot water gazing over Fuji.

The next day was Disney Sea. It was SUPER busy, with spring vacation on. We managed 2 rides in about 7 hours at the park, partly because I misunderstood that FastPass was free there. The most unexpected thing was that everyone remained seated on the ground to watch the parade. Made it really easy for all to see. It also turned really cold in the evening. It was an expensive day, though mostly due to the price of food in the park.

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The evening parade was pretty cool, with the best scene being where the Magic Mirror (which was a light ring, perhaps 10m tall) was doing something and showed the dragon from Sleeping Beauty. AND THEN THE DRAGON CAME OUT OF THE MIRROR. It was pretty cool transition to the mechanical dragon, before Mickey defeated it and sent it back into the mirror.

And that was Tokyo, the next day was the Shinkansen (bullet train) and Kyoto.

Down Under

 Not day 1, it’s about day 3, but time to write something. I’ve brought the girls over to New Zealand to visit the grandparents. Been a few years since we visited them instead of the other way around.

Two things I am looking forward to are riding dad’s motorcycle and riding MTB in one of the best places in NZ and maybe the whole of Southern Hemisphere!

So far we have walked in some of the bush (once the first day or so of rain cleared up) and been up to the Luge. Both girls had a go on their own, though the younger lost her confidence after rounding a corner and crashing into an adandoned cart. But much fun was had and their slogan “once is never enough” is just as true today as it was when I first started riding it about 25 years ago.

Bula Fiji

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Well we farewell Fiji early tomorrow after an awesome holiday. Mrs Mab has had a fantastic birthday, the girls have had a lot of fun and had some new experiences. We all had some great food and time to relax.

The Fijian people have proved just as friendly as their reputation says. I might not remember anything much from my last visit 30 years ago, but I hope it’s not another 30 before we visit again.

As a tech aside – I brought along an Airport Express as the room has free internet on Ethernet, but no wifi. Any router would have done the same but the small size and the iOS management tool made it an easy run. So Mrs can do her Facebook and Words with Friends and happy wife, happy life 🙂

Okay, but where’s the coconut juice?

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We left yesterday to spend a week in Fiji, a family holiday that coincides with Mrs Mab’s birthday.

Enjoying the beach life so far, some things are a little expensive if you stay on the resort but there are plenty of options outside as well.

It’s warm but not as hot as Sydney, more humid though. But not uncomfortably so. We’ve turned the aircon off in our room – too hard to adjust to outside if we keep it on.

The girls are having a great time but we’re all a little more redder than I had hoped. Oh well – more suncream is the only thing to do.

Strangely we’re having trouble finding coconut juice. Really weird because I can see them hanging from the trees around us. If only I knew how to get up there….

When we get home I have only a couple of days before I must finally start my work in Canberra and we see how the family copes split apart. I’m sure wife will be fine. I hope the kids make it easy.