Sunday, January 27, 2013

Japan #2- Tokyo

On our first morning in Tokyo, we set the alarm for 4:30am, got up, got dressed and marched out the door in hopes of being able to view the Tsukiji Fish market, the famous fish market in Japan where chefs go to buy their fish for the day.  The line begins forming around 5 and you get to go in to view the tuna auction (which is what everyone wants to see) at 5:45.  By the time we got to the line there were guards turning people away because they only let the first 125 people in to see it a day.  Well crap.  If you know me well, you know it took all the will power Joel had to get me out of bed that first morning and now if we wanted to see it he was going to have to do it again.  So the next morning we set our alarm for 3:45 and we were out the door just after 4.  This first pic is one Joel had to take to show just how happy I was to get out of my cozy bed to go see some dead fish.  

After waiting in line for what seemed like hours we had to put on safety vests and were ushered into the viewing area.  It was freezing (for obvious reasons) and we watched while men inspected the large tunas and then the auctions began.  We saw about 4 tuna auctioned off while we were in the viewing area.  I wouldn't say it was the most exciting thing but the reason Joel really wanted to go was for what you do after the auction... you eat the freshest tuna and other sushi you will find anywhere in the world.  Yes at 6:30 in the morning.  

Joel in his vest
Tuna, yum!
There are several restaurants within the fish market that sell the tuna and other fish that are auctioned off that morning to eat.  We picked a restaurant that was bustling to make sure we had the best.  There were a few tourists in the restaurant but also some Japanese, fresh from the bars and a night of partying.  Apparently sushi is their drunk food of choice.  I guess it beats Taco Bell!

Waiting for a table.

We ordered the small set menu, it was very expensive and I wasn't really sure how much sushi I wanted to eat at 6:30 in the morning.  It was so good though.  And definitely a once in a lifetime experience.  I tried to eat most but Joel was more than happy to finish mine for me while I enjoyed the fresh green tea.
After adamantly not wanting to get up and out of bed, I am glad that we went.

Some of our sushi.

With the watch to prove what time it was.

After our sushi breakfast and a long nap at the hotel we went back out to explore some of the neighborhoods in Tokyo.  We went to Harajuku, yes like Gwen Stephani's girl's, where the fashion is outrageous and there were millions of people.  We pushed our way through the crowd to see it and then walked over to the Meiji Jingu Shrine.

Harajuku district was crowded!!

The Meiji Jingu Shrine was in a beautiful tree lined park that was clean and a little crowded but not too bad.  There were huge walk ways up to it and we really enjoyed just wandering around the park.

At the entrance to the park

Joel at the temple.

We were able to see several brides at the temple and got to witness a traditional Japanese wedding procession through the park and temple.  The bride and groom were led under a red umbrella with the family follwing.  We really enjoyed watching it.

The bride and groom.

After the temple was also went to the Tokyo City View and walked around the district where it was located.  It wasn't very crowded which was nice but the day was a bit overcast so we could see the view but it wasn't very pretty.

Going into the building.

The view.

We ended our day with exploring more of Tokyo and getting out to see all the lights and the people.  There really is a big culture of going out and dressing up here which was great to see.

Tokyo lights.

Joel enjoying the warm evening.

One of the popular past times at night are the arcades.  There was one on every block it seemed, full of people.  Most of the arcades just had the grabber claw where you try to get the prizes out.  Joel spent about 15 minutes trying to get me a Hello Kitty doll but it didn't work out.  Thanks for trying though!

No prize for Joel. ; )

Enjoying more of Tokyo at night.

Well, I still have a ton to share with you all from our trip but that is it for now!

Japan #1- Tokyo, Kamakura

How in the world am I going to tell you all about our trip to Japan?  We did and saw so many amazing things!  We had the time of our lives, definitely the best trip that Joel and I have taken just the two of us.  We were there for 11 days, starting on our 4 year anniversary (Sept 27th).  We flew into Tokyo airport and took the train into Japan to our hotel, The Conrad Tokyo.  
Hello Tokyo!
We landed early so we had plenty of time to get settled in and clean up for our fancy anniversary dinner!  We had Champagne first at the hotel and then went to a small sushi restaurant in the Ginza district of Tokyo called Seamon.  It was delish, and we loved having our first real sushi experience!  We sat at the sushi bar and our chef spoke some english so we were able to talk to him a bit.   It was a set menu, and he asked us if there was anything we didn't eat.  We said no, hoping none of it was too weird!  It wasn't.  It was amazing.  We tried all different kinds of fish, I even had my first oyster and it wasn't too bad!  The only thing I didn't love was a bowl of rice topped with giant fish eggs.  They were salty and warm in the middle and burst in your mouth when you chewed them.  The flavor wasn't terrible but I wasn't feeling it so Joel had to eat it for me.  Can I also tell you how spoiled I am?  Not only did my husband plan our dinner but he surprised me with a ruby and pink sapphire ring that he bought on a recent business trip to India.  What an amazing husband!
Champagne at the hotel.

Anniversary gift!

After dinner we took a walk around the Ginza district of Tokyo and bought a few Japanese snacks to try later.  One of the things we tried was a rice pocket filled with unknown things.  We obviously don't read Japanese so we had to guess what was in it.  We tried several through out the trip.  Most were vegetable but we did try one that we think was spicy tuna.  Some were good but some were a little strange.  

This one was veggies.
Our first day in Japan we took the train to Kamakura.  It was a short subway ride from our hotel.  Kamakura is a really cute smaller town that had a beautiful temple and touristy walking street.  

Waiting for the train. 
We first walked through the main street to the temple, it was a beautiful warm day and it was so cool to see all the architecture

Joel at the entrance to the Temple.

At one of the shrines.


Flags at the shrine.

How many cross walks does one intersection need?

A funny sign while walking around.

In Kamakura we were able to see the second largest Buddha in Japan.  it was pretty large!

Joel picking his nose.
Kamakura is also known for its beaches and surfing.  It was a little chilly to swim for us but we hiked down to the water so we could see it.  It was beautiful, so different from China where everything is dirty and there is trash every where.

Joel looking at the waves.
After a long day of touring, but before we headed back to Tokyo, we stopped at a local place for lunch.  We had soup, Joel had a tempura Udon noodle soup and I had soba noodle soup (noodles made from yams).  It was so expensive!!  For two soups and a beer for Joel is was almost $45.  Not something we were prepared for.  Not everywhere we ate was so pricey but we definitely had sticker shock coming from China where you can get a huge meal for $2.  The soup was so good though and it actually became a staple for us through out the trip.  We probably ate it 5 more times we liked it so much!

Joel loves soup!

Close up.
Catching the train back

After our long day we went back to Tokyo to rest and to see the city at night.  We explored one of Tokyo's bustling neighborhoods, lots of lights and street bands.  It was fun to see all the people!

Joel enjoying Tokyo.

One of the street bands and dancers.
I think that is enough for one post, I will try not to drag out all the pics from the trip but will share more in a few days!  I hope you all enjoyed the beginning of our trip!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What we have been up to...

While everyone waits patiently for my update about our Japan trip (I realize it has been 3+ months but I am slow!)  I thought I would share a few random pics of what we have been up to here in China.

Things have been going really well at the Healing Home with the class that we do there.  We have had 3 babies go to forever homes in the past few months and some of our babies are even starting to talk!  A Healing Home first which makes us believe that our program is really working!  It feels so good to know that these little ones are going to their forever families with a good foundation of learning.  We love our babies!

My sweet husband recently took me on a date night to the Taiwanese Philharmonic Concert.  It was wonderful!  They played for 2 hours and we had a great time.

This was a fun pic I took on a day out and about in Shanghai.  I had to share it because it is a mobil fish store.  How great is that?  Is was funny to see it drive off with all the poor goldfish splashing around.  Lol.

Joel and I took a trip to Beijing.  He had to go for work so I tagged along.  We had a great dinner at Made in China, a restaurant we had been to several times before.  They are famous for their delicious Peking Duck.  This is a pic of the Chef carving our duck at the table!  

For Halloween this year I went to a ladies Mahjong day at a friends house.  We all dressed up and everyone brought Halloween treats.  I made "Swamp Goo", which was green dyed onion dip.  So good.  I dressed up as Pippy Longstockings as you can tell.   Joel made my head piece the night before out of a hanger.  I think it turned out well!  On the way to the party all the Chinese we passed wanted to take our pictures because they thought it was so funny that we were dressed up.  

Kelly and I attended the American Women's day Thanksgiving luncheon together.  This is a cute pic a friend took for us.  

We had a Shanghai family Thanksgiving dinner at Kelly and Josh's house.  Tons of food and football, it felt like home.  Kate made homemade pie and whipped cream.  So good.  

We also had to say goodbye to some our good friends who moved back to the States, Shelly and John.  We will miss them!

That about sums up our fall here in China.  I really am working on editing the pics from Japan so I will share those soon!  Hope everyone had a happy holidays!