Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Journey, Part 1

It finally happened. We went. It was pretty much a last-minute decision, and motivated largely by a desire to not see a mountain of money get flushed down the toilet.

Which is to say, we went to Japan. We got back two weeks ago, so my blogging today is actually quite timely on my part. On April 30, we got up sometime in the 3:00 am hour, packed our kids and Maki into the SW, and headed to the airport to catch a 6:40 am flight. INSANE! There, we met up with our fearless travel companion, Jake's aunt Lorraine. She has traveled to Japan with us before.

3-hour flight to Los Angeles, then a few hours layover, which turned into several hours layover, then a complete ditch of the first airplane in favor of the "spare" airplane. Jake and I reminisced about our first trip to Japan together. It involved an emergency landing on an Air Force Base. But that is a different story.

Here is Big Bro getting excited about his big trip in L.A.

Here's Little Buddy being the complete punk that he is. He loved watching the big airplanes, though.

This is the airplane bassinet. Luella didn't really like it, but I sure did.

After the flight from hell, we landed in Tokyo (Narita). The airplane or airline is not to blame on this one. You should try traveling with three kids, ages 5 years, 2 years, and 11 months, on a 12 hour flight. Also, with an adult to keep track of. I will stop complaining here--if I don't, this posting will be all about how we should never ever ever travel with children. Ever. Ever.

We handed off my brother to my dear aunt, and we headed to our hotel. (My aunt took care of Maki for the first week.)

We had planned to spend our first week in Osaka, so after one night in the fine city of Narita, we hopped on a bullet train for Western Japan.

Here's half our crew in the shinkansen. Judd thought it was awesome.


I have been to Osaka once. It was eleven years ago, and I went there for the sole purpose of going to Universal Studios. It was very hot, and we left quite early because of that. This would be my first real trip there.

Osaka has an aquarium that is supposed to be one of the world's best. We went there. I should also mention at this point, that our first week in Japan was what is called "Golden Week" because it is a week that has a handful of national holidays. Most people will just take the entire week off to travel. Thus, tourist attractions are insanely crowded during this week.

That is what the aquarium was like. Insanely crowded. (Sorry, no photos from inside the aquarium--way too many people. You don't know crowded until you've seen a crowd in Japan!) We managed to work through the crowd, though, and we did see some pretty cool things there.

This is at a fountain in front of the aquarium. In case you haven't noticed, Judd doesn't pose for photos. I guess Luella doesn't either.

This is at the mall next to the aquarium. This is an old fashioned truck--I think probably a food-delivery truck.

To be quite honest we used Osaka as more as a base for our excursions through Western Japan. For example, we took a day trip to Nara, one of the ancient capitals of Japan. This is another place I had never been. The big attraction for us here was Nara park, which is home to various gardens, temples, 200 or so tame deer, and a giant Buddha. Oh, and the largest wooden structure in the world.

This is a real, live, breathing deer. They were everywhere.

Five-storey pagoda.

Beautiful cherry blossom tree.

Beautiful garden.

Largest wooden structure in the world (Todai-ji). It is only 2/3 of its original size. This thing was enormous. You don't get a sense of its size unless you see it in person. It houses the giant Buddha.

I love giant Buddhas. I don't know why. I think they are really cool. I've seen the one in Kamakura several times, but I understand that this one is bigger.

This is the interior of the building. On the opposite side, almost across from this scary looking statue, is one of these huge wooden support posts. It has a hole cut out of the bottom of it, just big enough for a child or a small adult to crawl through. The legend is that if you can crawl through the hole, you are guaranteed enlightenment. (Incidently, the hole is the same size as one of the giant Buddha's nostrils.)

So, of course, my kids had to do it. Even if we had to wait in line for 45 minutes.

On Jake's birthday, which also happens to be Children's Day in Japan, we went to Kobe. So, of course, we had to have...Kobe Beef!

Isn't this beautiful!? We definitely splurged on this one!

It was a Happy Birthday treat for sure!

We spent one day at the Osaka-jo Koen (Osaka Castle Park). It's a huge park surrounding Osaka Castle. No, we did not visit the castle. After visiting the previous sites, we realized that such a historical wonder would be utterly wasted on the kids. So we did this instead. It turned out to be a good thing.

That wraps up our time in Western Japan. More to come later. For videos, please see my Facebook page. (I haven't figured out how to upload videos to Blogger via iPad yet.)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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