Richmond

Yesterday we were in Richmond for a Speed Skating Competition. Richmond is heavily influenced by the Asian community. While we were there we decided to have a bit of a “FLASHBACK” of our trip to Tokyo.

First my wife and I went to the T and T grocery store. We picked up some milk tea and some mango mochi as a treat for the kids while they were skating. We went with another skater’s parent who was rather timid in wanting to try any of the foods there. I guess not everyone is as adventurous as we are when it comes to experiencing other cultures.

After skating, my wife took the family out for dinner to an amazingly authentic Japanese BBQ at the Gyu Kaku. Where we grilled our own food and stuffed ourselves silly. From spicy tofu to beef tongue and eggplant- everything was delicious.

After dinner we wandered around Aberdeen Centre looking at the shops and taking selfies just like tourists. We had a lot of fun goofing around.

It was a good way to end our Saturday.

Painting Number 2

I had never taken an interest in painting growing up. I did the occasional project in school- but I never bought any art supplies for myself. I tinkered a bit with pencil crayons and sketching, but never really with painting.

I enjoyed decorating my children’s rooms over the years, so I at least made some attempts at art on the walls.

On canvases however, I’ve only ever done two pieces- one was a pencil sketch I made for my wife years ago for her 40th Birthday. The other was my first real attempt at acrylics A month ago– A painting of some planets and a sun. I also used some spray paint on it to liven it up. I was rather pleased with the final results. So I decided to buy another canvas and steal my daughters’ paints and brushes today.

I’m rather pleased with myself this time around and remembered to take a few photos along the way.

I started with a quick background coat of primer gray spray paint. Then I pencilled in my idea.

Then I got started on my trees and bushes. I enjoy blending colors to give it a more natural feel.

For about an hour or so I added in my flowers and lanterns. I was starting to really enjoy the piece but knew it wasn’t quite finished.

With the final details added, the painting was ready to be hung up. I put it above my wife’s computer, maybe she will notice it later on.

I based the painting on a few photos from our trip to Tokyo. This one was my biggest inspiration:

I don’t think I did too shabby considering it’s my second piece. Of course I see many flaws and realize what I could’ve done differently. In the end, I think I may have a new hobby blossoming.

Music Video!

I’m really proud of our 14 year old daughter. Over the past couple of weeks she has been working diligently on editing a music video. This has nothing to do with school, it was for her own personal creativity. (I’ve added the clip at the bottom of today’s blog, don’t miss it!) She is equally pleased with her end result.

The app she has been using is called iMovie by Apple. It is a very straightforward app with easy to use editing features. Great for mixing together the videos she has taken on her iPhone.

It contains video clips from our trip to Tokyo back in March. Prior to our trip, she had planned on using the song “Big In Japan” by Martin Solveig, Dragonette, featuring Idoling!!! Throughout our adventures in Tokyo, she shot numerous videos that lasted only a few seconds. While we were gone, I used the hashtag #biginjapan for all of my Instagram posts. That way we kept the song alive while we traveled.

Our daughter has given me permission to share her music video. She has made it public on YouTube: so Click Here To Watch The Video. As I said, I’m extremely impressed as to how she strung the clips together and it flows really well with the song. Plus it was a lot of fun watching my kids get a bit silly.

Sakura: The Beauty of Cherry Blossoms

The one time of the year I wanted to travel to Japan was in the spring. This was so that I could enjoy the Cherry Blossoms, aka Sakura. Here is a sample of them from around Tokyo during our visit:

Those first few images were from the Ueno Zoo and the walk from the train station to the zoo. The little mascot and rules were there to make sure everyone was respectful.

Everywhere in Tokyo had beautiful Sakura in bloom. We often stopped to take numerous photos. Especially our daughters, who enjoy their Photography Classes back home.

Our first day in Tokyo we went to the Tokyo Tower in the evening. It was our first glimpse of Cherry Blossoms. We took a bunch of photos while at the Zōjō-Ji temple.

We also went back to the temple on our last day as our final walk before taking our plane back home. It seems that the 12 days we spent in Tokyo had us seeing full blooms to a loss of petals. As if the end of our visit signified the end of the Cherry Blossoms.

Visiting Tokyo at Spring-break and over Easter was probably the best time to go. There was no need for a guided tour as Google Maps would point out the Cherry Blossom locations as well.

It made me miss the Cherry Blossom tree we had at our old house. Now that we are home- we are trying to figure out a spot to put a few on our acre that will get the best results.

A big cheers to all things Sakura that we enjoyed in Tokyo. Thank you Japan for sharing the beauty!

Saturday is Another Beautiful Day for Wandering Japan

Somehow we have been amazingly lucky with our trip to Tokyo. The weather has been overly warm and sunny with only one night of rain last Friday. We came at the perfect time of year to see beautiful Cherry Blossoms everywhere we looked. As well, the people we have encountered have been very kind and helpful with communicating with us and our lack of Japanese skills.

With just over a week behind us and three days left, we needed to tone down our walking. My average steps in a day are around 2500 at home. I’ve done 7 times that at least once so far.

We return daily to the hotel exhausted and sore, just to pass out with bellies full of great Japanese food we had moments before.

Today we traveled to the Sensõ-Ji Temple and went all touristy there. Lots of artsy pictures on numerous cameras. We walked past the shops doing our best to avoid spending money. The temple was our main goal today.

We stopped and got our fortunes. My oldest daughter got a bad fortune, so the idea was to tie it up. While good fortunes you needed to take care of. Inside the temple, we each tossed a coin in and made a small prayer of thanks for letting us enjoy the temple. And we bought souvenir luck charms to take home with us.

Of course we couldn’t pass up the chance to go on a rickshaw while in Japan. Our “driver” took us on a quick tour. Where he showed us the “Asahi Golden Flame” or as people call it- the “Flame Poo”. We got a good laugh. We passed more Cherry Blossoms and stopped for some pictures.

Next we hopped back onto the train and headed towards Ginza to find a KitKat Chocolatory. We picked up some signature flavors including the newest “Sublime Ruby” which is said to be from the 4th kind of chocolate. They sell 300/day/store so we were happy to be able to pick up 5 of them to try out. I also picked up a special “Birthstone” box for myself since my birthday is in March.

Afterwards we hit the Don Quijote store and grabbed some more flavors to bring back home for our friends to try.

Yes, we even picked up some wasabi and sake flavors as well. Maybe we will lose some friends after that….

Odaiba

We are doing our best to explore as much of Tokyo as possible on this trip. With tons of walking and lots of train rides, I think we are doing pretty good. Sure, we won’t see everything, but we are definitely trying. Our next adventure took us to Odaiba.

Hold up.

Our first adventure was waking up at 8:19am to a 5.0 Magnitude earthquake. Laying in bed, in a hotel, in a foreign country as the room trembled back and forth was an uneasy feeling. I was happy that it was a minor one. It took a few minutes after the rumblings but we calmed down and we just went on with our day.

On our way to the train station, we saw an incredible clock. Just like a tourist- we took a bunch of photos. When we arrived in Odaiba- we immediately began taking tons of more photos. There is a Statue of Liberty and the iconic Fuji TV building as soon as you step out of the train station. We then walked towards the outer edge of Odaiba in hopes of walking the parks, but it was all under construction with signs of the 2020 Olympics. So we wandered back towards finding the Full Size Unicorn Gundam!

Hold up!

But we weren’t going to make it there right away. We got distracted by a lost puppy. She was cowering in between the sidewalk and the fence over a major roadway. Clearly terrified. So I carefully got her out and my wife and I discussed what we should do. We began to head towards the Hilton hotel when we noticed some police just up the road.

Turns out they were looking for the dog for about twenty minutes. I was amazed that something like this is handled by the police, and the fact that they were actively looking for the dog. We waited about five minutes with the officer while another one walked his bike and the dogs owner to us. This is not something we see the police do in Canada. The owner was relieved and thanked us profusely before we went on our way.

Now we made it to the large Gundam. That thing is impressive! Even my wife thought it was pretty cool so she gave me the okay to buy a few limited edition Gundam models from the gift shop. We headed into Diver City and did some more souvenir shopping.

Hold up again!

We found Café de Miki with Hello Kitty and clearly had to stop for a lunch. My wife and daughter love Hello Kitty, so this was a no-brainer. We got to keep a souvenir mug and marmalade as well. After lunch, we went downstairs to the Hello Kitty store and bought some more stuff.

We left Diver City and made our way to Pallete Town and Mega Web. We stopped in at the Toyota showcase and saw some amazing concept cars that run on hydrogen and the kids tried out a VR sports car. This was on our way to the 115 meter tall Daikanransha Ferris Wheel. On the Ferris wheel we saw some amazing views of the city and bay. Then my wife remembered we had experienced an earthquake earlier in the day and was looking forward to the ride being over.

After the ride, we wandered through another mall called Venus Fort with some unique indoor decor. We made a quick stop at an arcade to play some more of the Drum Game, four player Pac-Man and air hockey. Of course we had to stop at a Studio Ghibli store and spend another small fortune on goodies.

Finally we escaped the malls and crammed onto a train to head back to our hotel and unload our goodies. This was our day of shopping which was originally planned for Monday. So now we have a free day opened up on our itinerary.

Hmmm… looks like family has voted for another day to be spent at DisneySea.

Tokyo DisneySea

The day before we went to Tokyo Disneyland and it was great. Like a mini version of California’s original Disneyland (Minus The Matterhorn). Today we went to DisneySea.

We didn’t expect much after the day in Disneyland. Maybe just a few different rides or variations on the classics. But nope. That’s not what we encountered. We walked into DisneySea-

It blew my freakin’ mind, man!

As you can tell by these few panoramas- the place was HUGE! Every time you entered a new “land” you couldn’t even tell that you had left the previous one. Like switching a channel on TV. It was amazing to say the very least.

Our first ride was Journey to the Center of the Earth followed by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on Mysterious Island. Afterwards we wandered through Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast. If we spent a second day in DisneySea- we would’ve seen the shows in the theaters and still not hit every ride.

After that, we made our way to Lost River Delta and got a FastPass for the Raging Spirits Ride. Well, Ok- everyone else got a FastPass but me. I was too damn tall. But the family had fun when we returned.

We hopped onto a Steamship and headed back to Mediterranean Harbor where we grabbed lunch and another ride on the water. This time on the Venetian Gondolas. It was a lot of fun- like the Jungle Cruise.

After the Gondolas- we wandered back to the other side to use our FastPasses on Raging Spirits and Journey to the Center of the Earth (for a second ride). Once the rides were over, we decided to walk around the Fortress Exploration where we ended up watching an Easter Show on the water.

As the evening started to settle in, we headed through Port Discovery and rode the Aquatopia ride. After that, we wandered through a mock-up of a Cape Cod town as we made our way towards American Waterfront.

It was starting to get late, so we ended up going for dinner in an old steamship in a place called The Teddy Roosevelt Lounge. It was decked out with T.R. memorabilia. It was set up like an old smoking lounge with booth tables and large leather chairs. We were placed in the center of the lounge at the large fireplace and treated like American Royalty. It was a great experience.

We ended our day with a walk towards Toy Story Mania and bought some “Little Green Dumplings” as dessert. Wandering through the shops on our way to the exit was absolute chaos. It seems that “Duffy” the bear is HUGE in Japan and everyone wants some of the merchandise that the employees were having a tough time keeping the shelves full.

All-in-all it was one of the greatest Disney Resort trips we have ever experienced. I already want to return- so does my family!

Sunday Was Made for Walking

Today I wrote on our itinerary: “Walking Tour”. Which meant we were going to walk around and explore wherever the family wanted to go. We hit up a small grocery store nearby and grabbed some sushi and fruit for a picnic lunch.

The first place we wandered towards was back to the spot near the Tokyo Tower. I really wanted to see the Zōjō-ji Temple in the daytime. It was gorgeous. The building is fantastically preserved. We walked around before heading to the park next to it for lunch.

We found a shaded bench and enjoyed our lunch. Having a beer in public in Japan is completely acceptable. Who am I to not want to blend in? We bought cans of Asahi with lovely Cherry Blossoms on it since we are here to enjoy the Cherry Blossoms! During lunch we discussed what to do today. We had no big plans, so I suggested going to an arcade to play some video games.

We chose to walk the 5km with a plan on taking the train back. It seemed like a great idea at first. Using the pocket WiFi I had picked up- we all played Pokémon Go on our journey. Gotta catch ’em all! On our walk we also saw people on Mario Karts doing a tour.

After a long walk we made it to the High-tech Land Sega and enjoyed some games. Even though we can’t read Japanese- the kids figured out how to play by guessing and watching others. A good battle of Mario Kart ensued between them! We did terrible at the crane games, so we left and wandered over to the other arcade across the street.

You could smell the cigarette smoke before even walking in. It was an instant throwback to my youth. Hazy arcades filled with secondhand smoke. We didn’t last very long inside- not even long enough to play a game.

So we headed to the train to go back to the hotel. THE TRAIN WAS PACKED. But only for a couple of stops. Then it cleared out and we found some seats to relax in.

After we did a pit stop at our hotel, we headed out for our first Ramen of the trip. My wife has been kind enough to let me figure out everything on this trip. From the ticket machines at the train stations to ordering dinner at the Fukki Ramen- I’m guessing at what to do, and being pretty successful as it goes.

The Ramen was delicious and exactly what we needed to end our day. Full bellied and happy. We all had a good night sleep. Soon we will be off to find out next adventure!

Ueno Zoo

Saturday in Tokyo was a journey up to the Ueno Zoo. This was a place our son had chosen to see on our visit to Tokyo. I’m glad we did. We had a ton of fun taking selfies and joking around.

It seemed crowded at first, but it wasn’t so bad once we were inside and wandering around. The large lineup moved quickly through the main gates. It seemed most people wanted to see the newborn pandas. We were “ok” to pass on that- as cute as it may have been. Even though I do not like crowds, the Japanese groups are almost pleasant to deal with.

The Zoo itself was pretty amazing. Lots of healthy animals not being pestered by people. Fairly large habitats as well.

Seems my son has an affection for polar bears, penguins, turtles & tortoises. He was constantly taking photos and videos of them. He now wants to use my old empty fish tank and get a turtle. We shall see about that one.

Everyone was still full of smiles at the end of the day. It proved that we had a great time at the zoo.

Sore feet and all….

Big in Japan

We made it to our destination. For some reason, I kind of stand out. Probably because I’m 6’8″ or a bit over 2 meters tall. I’m big in Japan.

We are excited to be here. There is so much to see. And I guess we have become a sight as well. Oh boy. Big In Japan is going through my head over and over. I tower over the crowds already just coming off the plane.

We arrived at 6:30pm Japan time. Which to us was 3:30am. After getting our bags and clearing customs, the first leg of our journey began. The part I was worried about- figuring out how to get to our hotel.

After a few moments of staring at the ticket machine for the monorail- I figured out what I needed and where we were heading. Luckily for me- my wife stayed away with the kids instead of crowding me. She knew I need a few moments peace to get it.

The monorail wasn’t too busy and it spoke in English at each stop. Ours was the final stop where everyone had to disembark. Smiles were showing up on our faces as the shock of being in new country overcame us.

Relief was coming over me. Off the train and we had to get to our hotel. This was the next part I worried about. The printed map was not very helpful:

As we walked, my son asked how I knew where we were going. I told him I had memorized our route using Google Maps and Google Street view. Figuring out how far from landmarks (7-11 and Denny’s- the ones I’d recognize). In about five minutes we were at the hotel and checking in. Our Tokyo adventure was continuing even in the lobby.

There is a little robot in our lobby named “Pepper” who was kinda neat. It was there as a sort of assistant to help if you had questions. It would follow a person’s eyes as it got near to them. The little guy looked at me and stared up. I think it was “blinking” in astonishment- the lights around its eyes were changing color.

After getting settled in our room for a few minutes, two of the kids and I wandered out to the 7-11 and grabbed a snack. Our day/night ended at 9:30pm Tokyo time/ 5:30am Vancouver time. We all passed out.

First day done. Now to explore more of this city.