Sunday, April 29, 2012


The A-Bomb Dome.
After visiting Kyoto, we took another Shinkansen to Hiroshima.  The train ride was about 1 1/2 hours which gave us a little time left in the day to head to The Hiroshima Peace Park and Memorial Museum before it closed.  From our hotel, we took a streetcar which let us off around the A-Bomb Dome site.  The remains of the building from that tragic day, says it all.  After looking at the A-Bomb Dome, we walked along the river, which was amazing.  Along with the Cherry Blossoms in full-swing, the weather was warm, and comfortable.  This was a nice treat especially since the weather in Kyoto had been cool.

We saw the Children's Memorial, and various other monuments/memorials before heading inside the museum.  We had 1 hour to see the very large museum.  I could have spent a little more time, but am happy to have gone.  I thought the museum was done very well.  It told things from an historical point-of-view, and I didn't feel like it was biased towards the Japanese.  Overall, I felt very welcomed as an American in Hiroshima.

Itsukushima Shrine.
The next day, we decided to take a train and then a ferry ride over to Miyajima Island.   This island had so much to see.  There were deer, temples, an aquarium, boat rides, shopping, hiking, a cable car, ice cream, lodging, and one of the 3 most popular sites to see in Japan..the Itsukushima Shrine.

Again, I would have liked to explore Hiroshima for at least another day.  I've heard really good things about:  Hiroshima Castle and The Futabanosata Historical Walking Trail.


Saturday, April 28, 2012


Geisha in Gion.
Walking to the Kiyomizudera Temple.
Earlier this month we had my brother and another friend from the U.S. visit us in Japan.  They came from different locations in California, but both came over Spring Break.  This was an ideal time to come since I was off work for 8 days, the kids were out of school, and most of all because it was Cherry Blossom season.  Since going to Kyoto and Hiroshima were on our "To Do List" as was taking the Shinkansen (the bullet train), we booked a 4 day, 3 night trip while our visitors were here. 

We took the early departure Shinkansen from Shinagawa (Tokyo) and arrived in Kyoto by 9am.  Our hotel was directly across the street from Kyoto Station which made it convenient to check in our bags so that we could walk around before our afternoon tour.  What I learned about Kyoto is that not only is it popular, it is very spread out.  We covered a lot in the time we were there.  Here are some highlights:
Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine.  A must see!!

  • We were able to go to the Kyoto Imperial Palace.  Normally you have to be granted permission, but it was open to the public the weekend we were there.  Nice grounds and interesting buildings.
  • Kyoto Station is perhaps the coldest train station I have ever been to.  One side of the station is open, so it was creating such a wind-tunnel and was freezing.  I can only imagine how hot it will be in summer.
  • Kyoto is an ancient Japanese capital.  It has over 1,000 years worth of history.
  • There is a ton of walking.  Bring good shoes.
  • The shrines/temples in Kyoto are so vibrant in color.  
  • The Sanjusangen-do Temple was fascinating.  I wish I could have taken photos of all the statues.
  • I wish we would have stayed one more night.  There's so much to see and do! 

Personalized Japanese Cultural Day

Some of my co-workers, my brother (who was visiting from the US) and I had the opportunity to have a Personalized Japanese Cultural Day a couple weeks ago.  The only knowledge we had of this event was that it was going to be kimono dressing and that we were going to be taught Japanese dancing.

The day turned out very special.  Us ladies were taken to a home where we were dressed in hand-sewn kimonos.  The lady whose house we went to made the kimonos.  They were all very pretty and we got to choose which ones we wanted to wear.  While we were doing kimono dressing, my brother was at a different location learning some Kanji and Calligraphy. 

After kimono dressing, the ladies wanted us to put our hair up with flowers.  Everyone else was fairing well since they had longer, thicker, hair.  I was struggling with getting the bobby pin to stay in my hair.  Someone had to put a small side-ponytail in my hair so that the bobby pin with the flower could attach to something.  It was pretty funny.  The Japanese ladies commented how soft my hair was.

Next, our hostess danced a Japanese dance for us.  We were all entranced by her dance.  When she was finished the furniture was pushed away and she taught us a dance.  It was really fun, and we even made my  brother participate.

Learning a dance.

Last, we had a non-traditional tea ceremony and snacks.  Another neighbor who spoke very good English, joined us for the day and acted as a translator.  We were asked where we were from, how many children we had, how we liked Japan, etc.  We learned that one of our hostesses had to evacuate to Yokosuka (where she was from) after the earthquake because of the radiation.  She only had 2 hours to go into her home to collect belongings before evacuating with her daughter.  Her husband continues to reside in Fukushima area to work at a Nuclear Power Plant.  Her story was very heart-breaking and made all of realize how grateful we are for the things we have.  Survivors of the earthquake/tsunami continue to amaze me at their resilience. 

Arigato gozaimashita to Kyoko-san and her wonderful neighbors.  Thank you for the presents and for making such a memorable day for us Amerika-jin.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Unusual Weather

Storm front affecting Japan.
We've been having the most unusual weather here this spring compared to last year.  It's not only been colder, and wetter, but we have been having a lot of typhoon-like weather patterns.  This is not typical for this time of year since typhoons usually occur in August and September.  In the past week, we've had two storms that have brought hellacious winds and downpours.  The storm today was expected to have extremely high winds of over 65mph.   Many services on base have closed early, after school activities were canceled and people were sent home early from work.  Its better to be safe than sorry.

Here are a couple links about the storms we've been having here:

What I've been really wanting to blog about are the Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) trees.  I've been putting it off because the trees are taking longer to bloom because of the weather.  Today, I noticed more Sakura blossoming on base.  I'm just hoping the storm doesn't wreak havoc on them too much.