Taiko No Tatsujin

We picked up the Nintendo Switch this past Christmas for the family. Originally we weren’t planning on buying it. There was just a handful of games that we thought to be worthwhile. That is until we heard in the fall that a favorite game was coming available.

Taiko no Tatsujin

Drum ‘n’ Fun!

This game is so fast and has some great songs. Mind you most of the songs are from anime or video games. But ones that we recognize at the same time. We love the game because it reminds us of our trip to Japan.

One of our Days in Japan was spent wandering around the various arcades. This is where we discovered the “Table Flip” game, the “Drum ‘N’ Fun” game and many crane games. The joy our children experienced playing these games made us desperately want to recreate it. We even tried to pick up a Nintendo 3DS version of the game while in Tokyo, but it wouldn’t work on our North American systems.

Now that we have it in our home, we love to play it. My arms are getting a great workout as I try and keep up with the beats to the drum. On the easy level.

I was online the other day and stumbled across this video of one of the songs being played on a real drum kit. Just look at the joy about halfway through.

Check out the video: Drum!

I almost want to get the “Drum” controller for our system to add to the realism. Hey honey! My birthday is coming up soon…

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.

Japan Has So Much To Offer

After our trip, here are the things I’d like to bring back with me from Japan:

Manners.

Holy smokes, people in Japan are really courteous. There are so many things I wish North Americans could adopt. Manners would be number 1. Without so much as knowing more than two words in Japanese- Kon’nichiwa and Arigato- I survived with kindness.

Bidet.

This is AMAZING. Even in public washrooms- there are bidets. And sound effects to hide your indiscretions. And seat warming. And butt spraying! And more!!! Best invention ever. My bum hole has never been happier. Seriously. These things are awesome. It may be time to buy one for my home. A cold toilet seat isn’t nice first thing in the morning.

I just avoid the old style toilets in public.

Plastic bag holders.

Why aren’t these available more frequently in North America? These are amazingly handy. I think I could carry 4 bags of 2L colas in one hand using these. Don’t tell anyone, but I may have brought a half-dozen of these home.

Toy Capsules.

We must’ve spent a small fortune on these evil items. At 200¥ – 500¥ each: my family (wife included!) kept buying them. It all started one day at the train station at Akihabara. So many Capsule Machines!!! And the payout is much better than the claw games (or even the junky toys at our local malls). No wonder we couldn’t help ourselves.

Food.

Such tasty food. Rice and noodles and meat and eggs and sweets! Even the pre-packaged food from 7-11 is better than the Twinkies and hot dogs sold here. But wait- there’s more:

Cute Food.

Still talking about food- but oh so cute! It’s almost shameful to eat it. Small quantities of edible goodies that aren’t really mass produced need to be brought here. They’re so much fun and great for those Instagram photos!

Trains.

Ok, I work for a railroad, but the public transportation system in Tokyo is amazing.(Even the trains in Disneyland and DisneySea were awesome.) The train system in Japan was easy to follow along with and use. Only once did we get on the wrong train, but after a couple of stops, just got off and went the right way at no extra cost. Cheap and efficient public transportation. A must have for our province. It runs like clockwork- absolute perfection.

Note: When we returned home, my 20 minute trip from the airport cost me $7.85 to get into Vancouver. While most of our trips were under 310¥ (approx. $3.70). There ran on exact times- not an approximate time. And the trains go everywhere! (I don’t even get bus service near my home.)

Japan has lots to offer. Perhaps some things I can work on bringing home. Perhaps other things will come to fruition over time.

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!

Monday Funday In Tokyo DisneySea (Day 2)

We nailed this entire vacation and had a ton of fun doing it. We also did more than expected with a couple impromptu events- Hello Kitty Cafe and a Rickshaw Ride to name a couple. So we earned an extra day to either wind down or do something else. The family voted for a second day at DisneySea!

We woke up at 05:00am and made our way to the train at 5:45. All of us excited, and a bit loopy from an early start. We made it to DisneySea early enough to get a better spot in line and buy the tickets.

As soon as we entered, I rushed over to Toy Story Mania to grab a FastPass. At 08:30 our FastPass was for 18:15. And moments later, they were all gone. We then lined up for Tower of Terror for almost 2 hours. The line was moving slowly, so I ducked out and grabbed a FastPass for the Indiana Jones Ride (which again ran out quickly). When I returned- my family had already made it on the ride. Dang. I missed out. But at least they had a great time on it.

Our day was just filled with silliness. We skipped around the park, smiling and laughing all day long. Occasionally getting on the Steamliner and Electric Trolley and wandering back and forth across the park. I think we ended up in the Lost River Delta and the Mysterious Island a few more times than we should have.

We ended our day with a viewing of Fantasmic. After it ended, we ran to Mysterious Island once more to get in line for one last ride on Journey to the Center of the Earth. My son wanted to shut the park down. In line, I made a fan club of young men who kept wanting to get a picture of me with them. It was a lot of fun.

The train ride back to the hotel- my son was sleeping. At midnight we finally hit our beds. It was the longest day we have had in Tokyo, but so much fun. We are going to miss this place.

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.

Experiencing Japanese Cafes

Today we slept in after two hard days at both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. We needed a calm down and decided to take in some other unique experiences Tokyo has to offer. So we took our adventure to Akihabara.

We couldn’t even leave the train station without spending a tiny fortune on tiny capsules filled with tiny toys. We hunted them out afterwards and spent a bit more. But the first real stop was only steps away from the train station. We hit up the Gundam Cafe for a quick lunch (and lots of food photos for Instagram).

After lunch, we wandered the streets walking in and out of shops filled with those capsule machines and anime statues. I also found the “Table Flip” arcade game I was so desperate to play. We gave it a go for fun. My son made the top ten on the scoreboard. Then it was time for us to head out for the reason for our trip to Akihabara.

Then the highlight of our day was spending an hour in the Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe. Almost hidden down a side street with no real markings except a few small signs on the windows. You need to book in advance, and they give you directions on how to find it.

Once we were there, it was like walking into a zen filled oasis. Classical music, whispered voices, and owls. Lots of varieties of owls. All of which were perfectly happy to visit with us as we marveled at them.

We were each given an opportunity to hold two different owls. So of course we took it! And we took hundreds of photos! This was one of the most unusual and gratifying experiences we have had. I even got to “hold” a Burrow Owl. This is my favorite Owl ever since I saw a Cartoon of it. I want one now more than ever!

That pretty much ended our day on an extreme high. We left Akihabara feeling fulfilled and could not stop talking to each other about the experience in the Owl Cafe.

If you make it to Tokyo- check out Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe it’s worth it.

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!

Tokyo Disneyland

Tuesday was spent exploring a crowded Tokyo Disneyland.

We awoke early to catch a couple of trains in order to arrive 30 mins prior to the park opening. As we shuffled through the gates, a sea of people were everywhere. I was amazed at the initial entry and how amazing the structure was.

Our first ride was Star Tours- with an already 20 minute wait. Just before it- I had zipped out to get a Fastpass for the Monsters: Ride and Go Seek (which was surprisingly a good ride!) Even though it was shortly after we entered the park- the second ride we tried to get on already had a 3hr stand-by line.

But that ride was Space Mountain. A ride we have been on in California numerous times. As we were about to get in line, a lady took my daughter and I aside to see if we would even fit in the ride. (We did!-but 3hrs is too long to wait.) So we wandered over to Tom Sawyers Island for a little walk around.

Of course we tried different rides and shows that aren’t in California. Lee-Anne made us go on the Beaver Brother Canoes. So I made her go see Stitch in the Tiki Room. They gave us translation devices to enjoy the lyrics in English.We also enjoyed the PhilharMagic this time in Japanese.

Of course no trip to Disneyland would be complete without a train ride, turkey leg, and a bunch of pictures in front of the castle. It made for a busy and fun adventure!

Next stop- DisneySea!

Tokyo and Tokyo Tower

On our first full day in Tokyo, we journeyed around near our hotel. We found some shops and restaurants. Then we ventured off towards the Tsukiji market to check out the fish.

After wandering around the market sampling foods and taking tons of photos of fish, we saw a sign pointing towards a temple. Since there was no big plan today, so we walked over there.

It was a lovely building that we entered and I performed a Buddhist prayer as respect. The chanting and the incense inside added to the spirituality of the temple.

Then we walked towards “Don K”- a store filled with cheap junk. We laughed at the merchandise- my kids thought it was funny that dad was a shit head. I was mesmerized by the over stimulation in the store. Noises, sounds, videos, and colors attacked my senses. We picked up some bento box lunches and went back to the hotel.

After lunch, we all had a quick nap- the time change was still hitting us. By dinner, we were up and out the door making our way towards Tokyo Tower. On our way there we stopped at the Zojoji Temple. But as it was getting dark, there was only some of the outside to see. Lovely white cherry blossom trees were all around. (We plan on walking back during the day sometime this trip).

Once at Tokyo Tower, we went inside and checked out the stores. Our middle daughter loved the Hello Kitty merchandise. I had pre-purchased tickets for the Tokyo Tower Top Deck Tour since it had just reopened at the start of the month -they had limited tickets available. We were each given a device and ear piece that described the history of the tower as we slowly escalated to the Top Deck through a series of elevators.

Once we were at the top deck, it all became so much more than just a visit to Tokyo. Inside the top deck were angled reflective panels that gave a look of shattered glass. It was a beautiful expression of art. The 360° views of the city were stunning. I had timed out our tickets for the 8pm slot in order to view the night lights and the Disneyland Fireworks.

This was a great way to end our first full day in Tokyo- overlooking this amazing city.

This Flight Tonight

Holy crap. The day is upon us. Time to hit the skies over the wild blue yonder. My wife’s anxiety and fears have turned to excitement and fun. Now it’s my turn for the stress…

We did online check in yesterday and had an early arrival at the airport today. Our bags were dropped off 3 hours early and our stress level was turned down. I grabbed a candid shot of my wife and son as they waited in line.

We enjoyed a late lunch and we were off to pass through security. We were first at security and my wife got a secondary screening. But it was still quick. We found our departure gate and grabbed a seat by a large chessboard.

Our kids kept themselves occupied without the use of electronic devices (even though we had those with us). Lots of smiles and smack talk as they challenged each other. People watched from the distant sidelines as the games went on.

At one point, I chose to take my shoes came off for a breather before we boarded the plane. No one wants to have smelly feet for ten hours. Only a few minutes remain now until we board. Last chance to use the restroom and wash up. I want the stress feeling to go away.

I’m not worried about the flight- which is good. I’m worried about every other aspect of our trip. Argh! It’s almost time to board! Stress sweats… ugh. No! We can do this. It’ll be fine. It will be fine.

And fun. We have companions. So a bit of silly photo fun is being had. These guys will make a few more appearances during this trip.

Off we go! See you on the other side of the world!

I Excel

I’m getting tremendously prepared for our trip to Tokyo. I’ve done a ton of research of things to do and see over the past few months. I bought advanced tickets online for some attractions as well. I even waited at my computer refreshing a website to open up ticket sales in order for me to jump on and get them. (Studio Ghibli Museum better be worth the headache!!!) Needless to say, I am a planning machine.

For the past week or so I have brought some ideas from work home with me to use for our vacation. No, I’m not taking work with me- I’m using my knowledge base of Excel spreadsheets! I’m making cue cards and an itinerary using Excel. I’m such a dork. But it’s working for me. We have so many things we want to do and see, that planning it out in advance is great. I understand that there may be travel times or waits at certain places and I’ve taken that into consideration. I have been careful to make sure that our big plans are staggered out each day and that we can enjoy some wandering time as well. I don’t want to rush the experience of a foreign country.

Incorporating places and sights that interest the kids is high up on the list. As I mentioned before, even our 11 year old is helping to plan the trip. Our 13 year old daughter also has a notebook with details about which part of Tokyo has the stuff she wants to see. Putting it all into spreadsheet form makes sense to me.

All I have left to do is fill in the last three days of our trip, format the cells and font to make it pretty. I’m really going to excel at making this trip worthwhile.

Dad joke.

Tune In Tokyo

Our trip to Tokyo hasn’t happened yet and it’s costing us a small fortune already. Some days I wish that my Bucket List travel destination was my backyard. I could afford that- except I’d want to landscape or build something. Like a shed or archery range or some other thing. Back to one of my bucket list destinations… Tokyo.

I really have no idea where my desire to see Tokyo stems from. Finally when I hit age 42- I will be there. I’m dragging my family along for the journey. As I said, it’s already more expensive than I want it to be. But if you’re going somewhere that is important to you, it makes sense to have it be memorable.

There are tours and places and food and culture that I need to see. I want to experience it all in the ten or so days that we will be there. Our planning is getting to be a lot of fun. As I mentioned before- Even our 11 year old is planning for our trip. It’s a family thing now. Getting ideas and opinions on what to see and do. It’s still very daunting.

Time to tune into what else Tokyo has to offer. Or at least browse the interwebs for anything unique or crazy that we could experience. Besides a random reference to an old movie.

Trip Planning at Age 11

Today I came home from work and our son was really excited to see me. He was standing at the front door talking rather quickly as I got out of the car. It seemed he had something really important to share with me.

As much as I was on the verge of being annoyed, I also knew he needed to speak. Our son has to get it all out before you can answer him. Interrupting him just prolongs the story… So I listened. It was about a zoo. A zoo in Tokyo.

The Ueno Zoo. I learned many facts in record time as our son spilled his guts to me. In under two minutes he shared so much information that I barely had time to walk in the house and take off my shoes. The zoo is now on our list of must see sites on our upcoming vacation.

I’m really happy that our 11 year old is finding activities in Tokyo. It seems the excitement is building amongst our family. Over dinner we spoke as a family of more things to do and sights to see. Our son was jittery and wanted to get on a computer to do more Google searches about Japan.

Maybe I should let our son plan this trip. His first pick was studied up on and well received.

X Mas Day 2017

Today my family filled their free time with video games and making a turkey for dinner. Lots of time available since we opened our gifts a couple of days ago: Early Christmas 2017

We bought a PS4 for Christmas and my wife is obsessed with Dig Dug. She has made it her goal to beat everyone- at a game from the 1980’s on a brand new Playstation. We have also been playing “Knowledge Is Power” as a family. It’s been surprisingly fun! And knowledgeable. Gaming has always been a big part of our family fun. But the video game system wasn’t our big gift for the family.

After all of the gifts were opened, we gave our kids Christmas cards from “Mom & Dad”. Inside each card was 10,000¥ and some custom made “Boarding Passes” for them to head to Tokyo this spring.

That’s right!

We are taking the family to Tokyo in 2018. After much discussion between my wife and I, we bought round trip tickets for the family back in September. We have even paid for a hotel in downtown Tokyo for our stay. Now that we finally told the kids, we can really start to plan what to do on our journey.

Tokyo has been on my “Travel Bucket List” for decades. So this trip is a bit more for me than I will admit to my family. However, they are equally as excited now that they have found out that we are going. A gazillion ideas have come forward for what we should do while in Japan. Later this week, we will sit down and do some more research for some family/teen activities or sights.

With our children growing up, travel seems like a better choice to fulfill life experiences. Video Games are fun, but memories of travel lasts a lifetime. I’m happy that they are excited about the trip. Now they all want to learn Japanese in the next two months!

Game on!