As I have mentioned before, we are kind of slaves to our school here.
I grew up with the mantra from my parents: “Don’t ever let schooling interfere with your education,” (adopted from Mark Twain) and I adore it. There is so much to learn and grow and do in this life, and every once in a while school gets in the way. That’s not to say I don’t think school is important because man alive, is it ever! But Dave and I have never had any problems with taking our kids out of school for this or that extra thing we deemed important enough.
When I was in Utah for my sister’s wedding I had the brilliant idea to investigate whether my brother who served his mission in Japan and his family may take the bait to join us there for Thanksgiving.
When they called to tell us they were in it was like it was Christmas morning around here. All the kids were SO excited, most especially to get to snuggle up their little cousin Zara.
We ran out of time to present our “country reports” (which I have the kids do every time we visit some place new), so we did them at the airport. Max talked about Japanese emperors and the history of Japanese government:
Elle talked about Shintoism and Zen Buddhism. Here she is getting everyone into the “Zen” pose:
Grace forgot her paper sitting on the kitchen table so we’re still waiting on her history report of Kyoto and Tokyo. Claire reported on Geishas and Lu reported on what a Japanese temple is and what the weather would be in Japan, but they did theirs before we left (Claire was very excited and even had a power-point).
We had been anticipating this trip for a while so we were all pretty excited going to the airport.
We flew in late on Wednesday night and stayed right by the airport.
It was so strange to land in this country where there were Christmas decorations everywhere. Made us feel so joyful.
Then the real adventure began the next morning. We took a train to meet Eli and Julie in Osaka where they were staying.
Then we were on to the great traditions of plastic food displays in windows:
And a boatload of taxis getting us from place to place.
We also explored the metro system.
Which I love too. The kids didn’t agree about how fun that part was, but they were such great sports walking all over creation.
We spent the first two days in Kyoto where we saw the most gorgeous temples, then spent two in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.
Our Thanksgiving amidst the Fall leaves is back HERE.
The next day we started out at the Kiyomizu-dera Temple:
(Those last two pics. were from Eli. Love his eye for photography.)
While walking to the next stop we lost these three for a minute. When I went back to check on them this is how I found them:
Ran into some Geishas en route to the next stop:
…and got totally ripped off by a dried-fruit seller.
We took the metro to the Nishiki Market where there were endless rows of interesting food for sale. Most of the things for sale were so similar for what we see here in China, but so incredibly organized and clean and beautifully lined out. Fascinating to see.
We somehow ended up in the funniest ever place for lunch after we started to starve to death and were ready to take anything to eat.
I don’t think there were many people under 75 in this place.
My favorite shrine was the Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine.
Well, most of them at least 🙂
I can’t even imagine how long it took to build this thing and carve out all these characters.
…for as far as your eye could see.
Zara wanted to climb most of it herself too.
(at least the “top” we got to)
Love to watch these two with the camera.
After that it was dusk and we rushed to catch the bullet train to Tokyo.
And settled into our tiny little Japanese house we rented from Trip Advisor that was perfect for us. Here the kids are with Tex, the guy who rented the house to us. Such a great guy who helped us out so much.
I think Tokyo was my kids’ favorite part of the trip.
It was Dave’s birthday. I haven’t done a post about that little fact because we have celebrated it in many ways over the last few weeks…I’ll have to write up something so we can remember soon, but the actual big day was in Japan. Eli and I went out and found pancake mix and syrup so we could whip up a little birthday feast.
…and have a few birthday gifts.
It was a little rainy off and on, but it was a pretty cool place.
…with lots of interesting little shops.
Let me take you there for a minute:
Then we walked down the Omotesada area where the high-end shops are.
See us in that cracked mirror this up there?
We walked down some tiny alley-ways to find a great little lunch place Eli found.
…where we listened to Christmas music and made our own “pancakes” with meat and veggies and yakisoba noodles on these little grills.
…while it poured rain outside.
We went to watch Shibuya Crossing (the busiest intersection in the world) while drinking hot chocolate at Starbucks.
And walked from all that hustle bustle to this most quiet, beautiful Meiji Shrine through such a beautiful fog-laden park.
There was a beautiful wedding going on amidst the tourists.
We watched the sun set from the Government Building where you can go up for free to see the view.
For dinner we went to this cool place our friends had told us about called Tonki that serves tonkatsu. They have been serving the same meal for 73 years.
And I think this guy has been slicing up the pork the whole entire time:
Poor Elle had a hole in the bottom of her shoe so by the end of the day her shoes looked like this:
See how one is way darker than the other? That’s because it was soggy as all get-out.
After we tucked everyone in bed back at home a few of us decided to run out to catch a little bit of night-life at Shinjuku.
We walked through the coolest little alleyway to get back to the subway that Eli had scoped out before we arrived.
It was so cool to walk through that packed little place with all these noodle shops tucked in there along the way.
Gotta love Japanese cartoons all over the place:
And interesting that they have “women only” cars on the metro.
This metro system kind of blows your mind. There is an above-ground system AND a below-ground system and honestly I don’t know what we would have done without my brother to get us where we needed to go.
The next day we went to church:
Visited the LDS Tokyo temple:
Ate at this awesome noodle place called Ippudo.
We spent the whole afternoon getting to the airport. We flew on this total budget airline which meant that the airport was a huge hike to get to.
LOVE that they are so into those books…Claire was so mad at Harry at one point on one bus somewhere in the outskirts of Tokyo because of some intense part where she wished he would do something different.
Grace took this picture as we arrived home. She loves this thing and has stars in her eyes about filling up every page some day.