Girl’s Day

We weren’t in Tokyo during the past two Girl’s Days , so we missed the chance to display Arisa’s hinaningyo dolls. When she first got them, she was just a few months old, so this is actually the first time she could appreciate them. We put them up rather late and I almost wasn’t going to do  anything anymore, but I was glad we decided to have a little party for her because she was so excited to see the dolls and have a little party. The dolls are placed in a home a few days before March 3rd to absorb the “bad energies” that might otherwise go to the daughter.  And the day celebrates the health and happiness of girls in a family, so in the end, no matter how busy it was I didn’t have the heart to not do something.  Happy Girl’s Day to all the special girls in your family!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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Happy Holidays!

IMG_5811Christmas was extra festive because the grandparents were here to celebrate with us. I am used to celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, so I really must do something on December 24 and 25 to acknowledge the holiday, no matter what day of the week it falls on and even though they are still regular workdays.  We had a fantastic dinner at home, although I doubted at first we’d all fit for a sit-down meal in our small eat in kitchen! Seeing the splendor of the fancy ornaments and lights in the ritzy shopping areas can certainly make one feel the beauty of the season, but the smell of food roasting in the oven, the laughter of the kids and their grandparents and seeing everyones smiling faces here at home all together reminded be about what truly brings the real spirit of the holidays. The warmth of being together, sharing, laughing and the small act of giving up even just a little a bit of our selfish whims for other’s during the season makes for a much more illuminating Christmas.   I wish you all a wonderful holiday season !!

Shichi Go San!

IMG_5636So, in November the kids celebrated 七五三(しちごさん)shichi – go  -san,  which literally means 7 – 5- 3.  In Japanese tradition, these are the ages boys and girls could wear a kimono for the first time and would mark a special time for them. So on a day in November boys ages 5 and girls ages 3 and 7 get dressed in kimonos and go to the temple for special prayers for their health, happiness and well-being.  Seeing them go through the process of getting dressed and all done up in kimono and hakama (for boys) was one of those moments I could shed a tear over the bittersweetness of realizing kids are getting older. When we first arrived Tokyo, Arisa was still strapped to my back all the time and Keiji still asking us to carry him .  How time flies. And to think they aren’t even in elementary school yet and already I’m starting to feel like my babies are growing so fast.  It was a memorable day.

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Odaiba Evenings

IMG_4985It’s always nice to go to Odaiba during the weekday…when it’s not overcrowded with tourists and visitors. Weekends can be a bit stressful, if you don’t like crowds. All year round it can be quite enjoyable, even if just for a couple of hours. The drive is also picturesque, especially during the evening. The kids usually enjoy running around the large open outdoor spaces and looking through the shops.  It’s easy to walk from Aqua City all the way to Venus Fort by using the convenient walkways. During the summer, it’s fun to play on the man-made mini beach. There is the space-station-like Fuji TV station, where you can ride these really long escalators and at the top, enter a small observatory deck to get a nice view of Tokyo.  There’s even a miniature Statue of Liberty to remind me of home.

The Omikoshi for Kids

Each year, during the town festival, apart from all the food and games stalls, residents can participate in carrying an omikoshi or portable shrine. It is said that the portable shrine temporarily houses the gods of that town’s main shrine. On the first day of the festival weekend, people from each town gather at the main shrine to ask the gods to enter the omikoshi. Afterwards, it is carried through the town to spread good luck and blessing around. This continues from morning until night for three days. People who carry the omikoshi are also supposed to be rewarded with blessings for the year. Some people really carry it for the full three days or the entire day, through rain or shine. On the last day, all the omikoshi return to the main shrine and the gods go back.

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There is a smaller omikoshi which elementary school kids can carry. For younger children, they can pull the drums that are played in front of the omikoshi. So from a very young age, residents can take part in this traditional Shinto practice.

The kids took part in this year’s festival with their friend from school. They walked in the blazing sun for a total of about 2 hours (with about 3 breaks in between). They’re too young to carry the shrine, so they carried and together with other kids about the same ages, pulled the long rope that was attached to the trolly carrying the drums. I was impressed that they managed to make it through the entire morning.

I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity between the omikoshi and the Christian stories about the Ark of the Covenant. …but this will be another topic.

Happy Halloween!

There are more Halloween options lately. We went to the Omotesando Halloween event. There is some sort of stamp rally where you go to shops, collect stamps on a sheet of paper then hand it in for some treats.  We were a bit late, so instead we headed straight to Omotendao Hills where there were some short performances like a clown and magician. And you could have your photos taken.  Kawasaki has their yearly parade in La Citadella, but we didn’t get a chance to go there this year. Instead, my in-laws took the kids to a small Halloween event for kids in Harumi Triton Plaza. Can you guess their costumes this year?

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Gundam

The release of the life-size Gundam in Odaiba was pretty big news over the summer. I never watched the series much, but my brother was a fan and so I knew of it. Although the idea was to show Keiji, I have to admit that I thought it was really cool too!  The details on it were amazing. Seeing it in person was much more impressive than I expected. And yeah, Keiji thought it was pretty cool too!

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Hakone

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IMG_5467Hakone is a pretty nice place to visit. From Odawara Stationa you transfer a small train (Hakone Tozan Railway) which is rather unique because the conductor must keep switching from the front and back of the train to continue up the mountain in a sort of zigzag way. We took the train to Gora Station. There are small restaurants and shops around there. Inside Gora Park is a place called Crafts House where you can take part in some classes or watch them do glass blowing or pottery. From Gora Station, you can take the Tozan Cable car that travels up a steep slope towards Lake Ashinoko.  On the way to Gora, there is a place that looks rather fun for the kids, but we didn’t have time to check out. The Hakone Open Air Museum is a family-friendly museum. From the train you can see many sculptures dotted throughout a sprawling green lawn. All the transportation transfers get pricey. It may be worth it to drive there, or even buy this Hakone Free Pass.  I found out about it a bit too late.  Perhaps next time. IMG_5473

The Fujiya Hotel

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Hakone has been a popular weekend getaway spot for Tokyoites and for that reason, Yuki and I have never been there before. I happened to see a special deal for the Fujiya Hotel in Miyanoshita, so I insisted we check out this popular place at least once in our life. The place was one of the first hotels in that area to cater to foreign dignitaries and celebrities visiting Japan, from the early 1920’s. The hallway was adorned with lots of black and white photos of  their guests, including John Lennon, Charlie Chaplin, various royalty, etc.  The facade of the hotel is lovely and the rooms and surrounding gardens are quite spacious. Being in the Western-sized room I sort of felt transported back in time and imagined how it was for people back them to travel to Hakone from Tokyo or perhaps from Yokohama where the ships docked. I’m sure the Western environment was a relief for the tired, homesick guests. Parts of the hotel could really use some renovation, though. The layers of paint on the walls reminded me of old Manhattan and Brooklyn apartments, revealing the many years the building has been standing. Each room has onsen water running in the bath. I’m not sure about other rooms – the tub in our room was clean, again sort of reminded me of an old Brooklyn apartment, so it didn’t exactly make me feel like it was onsen water. The public bath is rather small as well, so not a place to go if you are looking for an onsen experience. I was disappointed that we couldn’t wear the yuaktas outside of our rooms…which is a pretty typical feature in other onsen hotels. Perhaps I’m being overly critical. The kids had a blast though. There is an indoor heated pool next to the public onsen area i

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n the hotel. The French restaurant in the hotel seems quite popular for their curry, but unfortunately we didn’t get to sample the food there. It’s definitely an interesting place to visit and take some photos, but for an onsen experience in Hakone, there are probably better overnight options.