Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's Do The Time Warp Again: Finally Home

Here it is! The final blog post. Jet lag sucks, but I am finally home! I just wanted to put up some pictures and relay the story of the epic plane journey....ugh.

So here's Osaka and Kyoto, Tokyo Disney Sea, Tokyo Disneyland, and Tokyo in general with my family. Yay!

So the journey home...the plane ride back, 12.5 hours because we were flying in the jetstream, wasn't that bad...a little turbulent, but not really bad. I can't sleep on planes, so I wanted 5.5 movies instead. I watched Men of Valor, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Up in the Air, The Vow, Megamind, and half of Stardust before my eyes started to feel like they were falling out of their sockets. Unfortunately, there was still about an hour and a half at that point, so I restlessly tried to be comfortable for the remainder? Blah.

What was bad though was we had some kind of luggage packing problem before we left, so we left an hour later than we were supposed so, and because we were arriving in JFK this was a problem. It was a saving grace they didn't take our checked bags to put on the Columbus plane (somehow we didn't get checked in properly in Japan because we had two different bookings, so we had to wait in line again and stuff) because even if they did check us in properly we never would have made it through the ridiculous security and all the shenanigans to get to the plane. So we moved to a later, 7:15 plane (which the desk lady made it sound like she was doing us a huge favor by doing for free, because apparently an international flight being delayed has nothing to do with Delta and technically we should be paying a fee....ugh) and got some food and sat (I napped a bit) at the gate....

Then they announced they moved the gate, but luckily it was very nearby...although we didn't board until after the time we were supposed to take off anyway, idiot airport...

And then we were double-parked by a different airplane and then we were 16th in line to fly out, so we had to wait another half hour on that tarmac....

Then, when we arrived in Columbus, we had to wait another 10 minutes for an open gate (luckily, the flight attendant was the nicest flight attendant ever)...

THEN, when we got to the hotel, and walked up to our room, there was a do not disturb sign in the door. Mom and I heard movement inside.


So an adventure, as usual, but what an end right? I'm home!

Thank you all very much for reading my blog, I hope you enjoyed it!

The end!

Or the beginning?


Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Final Countdown: Last Day in Japan

Well here we have it. Today was the last full day in Japan. Tomorrow we step into the time machine (plane) and return to the other side of the world. Here's an account of the day:

For starters, we slept in a bit, because the original plan was to spend the day in Tokyo and arrive in Osaka in the evening. Mom being mom, no longer wished to do anything in Tokyo because we were taking the shinkansen (bullet train), but since we had to check out at 2, she could not simply be in the hotel until our train ride at 7.

Me: ...

So, we had the fun experience of going to the train station and changing the train time to 3:30. No harm done, extra Japanese practice.

Because we arrived earlier (about 6), we had just enough time for a final purikura session and a nice donburi dinner. Julie and Mom had udon noodles with katsudon, which is pork, egg, and rice, and I had tedon, which is shrimp and rice, also with udon noodles. Yummm.

Then we played the great luggage game, and sorted all of the stuff into the various bags. Now, we are almost ready.

I will make one more post once we arrive in Columbus, mostly for pictures.

Here we go!


Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Train Game: Adventures in Tokyo

So technically that title is inaccurate because it should be called the Subway Game, but that doesn't rhyme, and they're basically the same thing here, so this is better. Today we spent the day sightseeing some of the things on the top of Mom and Julie's list. This basically meant we took a lot of subways to a lot of places to take pictures. Here we go!

The subways here have been a new experience for me. The last time I was here my hostel was off of a train station; naturally I got around with the trains. However, our hotel is based out of Higashi Ginza, a subway station. Ergo, we take the subways everywhere. Today, for cheapness and ease, we bought a day pass for the subway; this was no problem because the ticket machine happily had an English button. Woo!

We started the day kind of late, so we first set off for lunch. Mom really wanted to try omurice, an omelet with ketchup and rice inside that is sometimes covered with sauces. I googled around and found one nearby for lunch. It was a bit of a cafeteria style and not really a restaurant, but there was omurice to be had. Mom said it was "good" and Julie said it was "very filling" and "pretty good for cafeteria fare." Successful lunch.

Next, we hopped on the subway to the next stop, Tokyo National Stadium, which was a significant building from the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Julie, who has been to Rome, Beijing, and Seoul, likes to see venues or shrines to past Olympic events. Although the Tokyo National Stadium had no memorial, she was "glad I went to a place that was once used for the Tokyo 1964 Olympics." There was a bit of confusion, so we did not go to the building where the swimming was held, but this building hosted the opening ceremony, so it was awesome.

After a subway ride away, we arrived in Shibuya to see the largest crosswalk in the world. Julie said she "thought it would be bigger," but she "realized how big it actually was when we started crossing." Mom said "it's a crosswalk, it was busy." This is true. We also saw the statue for Hachiko, the dog who waited for his master who never returned from work. Sad.

The last time I went to Shibuya we walked there, so I have no knowledge about the actual station. Therefore, we ended up walking in a nice underground circle to the next subway. Woops! Finally, we made it to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for some skyviews. (Also on the way, we saw some advertisements for Tokyo as a 2020 Olympic candidate, awesome!)

Unfortunately, it was very foggy, so we could not see Fuji. Again. Sigh. Mom and Julie were sad, but Julie said "it was cool to see the skyline." She also thought the toy shop gift store on the top was interesting as well.

Another subway ride away was our dinner location, the Hard Rock Cafe, yummmmm. Not only did I get an awesome burger again, but we got potato skins. Victory. We also went to the shop too (the waitress gave me a card for some free pins, cute) and I got a jacket. Julie was sad but not surprised that at the store "they only had smalls, which are even smaller than normal smalls." When I have bought clothes in this country, I usually cut out the middle man and end up buying mens' sizes. (I really only bought One Piece shirts, but hey, I've seen 2 guys wearing my jacket, haha)

Finally, we come home. We were on the subway a lot today; therefore, Julie and Mom got a taste of the gaijin treatment. Sometimes on a train, Japanese people will get up and sit somewhere else; I have had some even change entire train cars simply because I am on the train. It is not meant to be offensive; it is a cultural attitude from lack of awareness. Julie has had this experience already in China. She said that "I don't think it's their fault. I'm not blaming them; it's not meant to be a slight." Mom, who had never had such an experience before, was a little "put off, but it was a culture issue so I understand."

Overall, there were many successful adventures had today! Tomorrow we return to Osaka!


The Dissonant Gaijin: The Battle of the Shrimp Chips

Almost caught up on the days! Yesterday everyone was quite exhausted from running around Disney, so we decided to take it easy and have a nice, relaxed day. We started out the day by taking Mom to Asakusa to see the temple with the giant lantern and shops (on the way, Mom used an Eastern toilet for the first time! Yay!).

Mom said that it was "interesting to see how people in this culture actively participate in their faith life." Julie was still preening about her 'best fortune' from a few days before; however, she read at the temple that you are not supposed to boast about your fortune. If you do, you lessen it. Fail.

Mom also had the privilege of seeing the Golden Poo for the first time. She said it was an "interesting conversation piece" and "gave new meaning to the word piece of sh*t." Heehee.

Next, we went to Mister Donut.

You read that right; the family has gone to Mister Donut. You know, I didn't realize I wrote about Mister Donut so much on here until Mom and Julie pointed it out. I really don't go there that often, I swear. However, because this was the final time at Mister Donut, I needed to use all of my points; unfortunately, all of the Mister Donuts I have checked are out of the mugs you can get. Boo. So, I got a bunch of little dishes with my points. Julie also wanted a little Pon de Lion washcloth, so I got one of those too.

Farewell Mister Donut. I will think of you fondly everytime I drive by Dunkin. :(

Next, we decided to hit up some karaoke because why not. This time, it was day time and I had a coupon, so it was going to be cheaper; therefore, more fun! Yay! This particular karaoke place had themed floors. One was "New York Prison Hip Hop" (I don't know); we were on the Russian Ballet floor. I took pictures of all of the floor names.

This particular karaoke session was awesome because we found the show tunes section on the karaoke machine and practically sang every one. It was really fun, except Mom get flipping out, saying the key was wrong, and changing it mid-song. Entertaining. It was also hilarious because us musically inclined people kept trying to harmonize with each other. However, no one knew which harmony everyone else was going to do, so we would end up sounding quite dissonant at times. I pity the people walking by the door; although on the other hand, some doors we passed were playing some pretty loud music.

Next, we took mom to the izakaya (Japanese bar) we went to with Julie's friend Mami earlier. We ordered a lot of good food, which Mom liked, but she was afraid to eat a lot of it because she forgot to bring her allergy meds, which is understandable. A few interesting things happened at the bar. First, there was an earthquake! It was only a 3 or so, but because it was my second earthquake (there've been so many more I'm sure, but I've only felt two) I was on the alert. The whole bar quieted when it began; I told my family to stuff it so I could listen if it was actually anything to worry about. But of course it wasn't, and the raucous salarymen in the smoking section kicked up their revelry and all was well.

Second, there were some shenanigans when it came to ordering the food. First of all, ordering food at an izakaya is always an adventure because I usually just point to something delicious. However, now it's a bit of a trick because I have to make sure I order food that everyone can eat. Luckily, they had an English menu so we successfully ordered some good food. However, it seemed that they had forgotten about our order of shrimp chips. No worries, that has happened before; I simply told the waiter about it and he replied they never put them in and it would be 3 minutes. No problem.

....A lot more than 3 minutes later, no shrimp chips. So I have to bother them again and somehow explain that I have already asked about this and it sucked. Fortunately, I got my point across and the manager apologized and we got shrimp chips. Thank goodness.

...Then, when the manager was leaving, he gestured to Julie's drinks and said something, to which she responded yes to. I wasn't listening; so I had no idea what she just agreed to; either more alcohol or water, we weren't sure. So then we had to wait and hope whatever that was came soon. Goodness. Luckily, it turned out to be water. Hoo.

All in all, an adventurous but relaxing day in Tokyo. More adventures soon!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Scrooge McDuck and Friar Tuck? Day Two at Tokyo Disneyland

Day Two in Tokyo Disneyland, yay! The family is sore! Here we go! Julie and I donned our ears and off we went! In the front of the park, we saw the following characters: Captain Hook, Friar Tuck, Mickey, the Fairy Godmother, Daisy, Donald, Pooh, and Pluto! Quite a spread! We also saw those cute Disney themed eggs all over. AND there was another band on main street playing the Festival of Fools, for the win.

We arrived a little later, so we immediately headed for the best ride ever, Pooh's Hunny Hunt for a fast pass, which was already at the 4:30 slot. Then, we set out for Mom's favorite ride, It's a Small World. That song gets really annoying, but she definitely enjoyed  it.

Next up, we went to PhillarMagic, which played the popular Disney songs in Japanese. I always enjoy that ride, Julie thought it was cute, and Mom said she didn't even have to take off her 3D glasses. There was a poor liiiiittle baby in front of us though, the dad had to take him out because he wouldn't stop crying. Poor dear.

Next, we went on Pinocchio's Daring Journey because Disney World has probably not had this ride for a very long time...for good reason. That ride was freaky. It was this speedy journey through all the freaky parts of Pinocchio, but at least it ended happy.

Then we rode the teacups! Mom wouldn't let us spin it too much, which is probably a good thing because I didn't want to spin it a lot either, haha. I got a couple good pictures there though.

Next we rode Snow White's Adventures, which should be more aptly named the Wicked Witch's Scary...Thing. There was even a sign in front that said 'Beware the Wicked Witch! Small children may be scared by scenes on this ride.' Okay, scenes, cool. And while we were in line, almost every little kid got off the ride crying. Fluke? No, this ride was frightening. Nearly all of the scenes were scary involving the Wicked Witch, including that frightening forest scene in the beginning. There was one happy scene on the whole ride; the thing even ended with the witch looking like she was pushing a rock on the dwarfs! Ridiculous. Julie said it was "horrifying" and Mom agreed.

After that adventure, we started to head towards food and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride (also ran into a 'band' of pirates...literally. They played some good music, haha) We found an (Julie quote: adorable) Mickey meat bun for lunch. Then Julie picked up some Soy Sauce and Butter popcorn (blech) while Mom and I got awesome strawberry delicious crepes. Mmmmm. Regarding food, it was a bit difficult for us to find something to eat, ironically. Julie is lactose intolerant in Asia, and Mom has allergies, so it was quite a trick. Food is also a lot more themed in Tokyo Disney; for example in the curry area, there is only curry, or in one area there is only seafood type thing. Fun.

THEN we rode Pirates. Forgot about the hill in the beginning. Woops.

Then, we headed towards Tomorrowland, yay, where to my surprise, the Star Tours ride that was open a few months ago has been closed for remodeling. Upon some research, apparently the one in Disney World has already been remodeled to a new ride for a while, and this one is catching up. Boo no ride.

Next, similar to the way you can't look away from a train wreck, we went to see Captain Eo, which was just as hilariously awful as the first time. Julie said that "it was so bad I can't even...they even showed behind the scenes to prove that 'yes, we did do this, we're not lying.'" Mom took a nap in the middle and said it was "horrible beyond words." Julie also liked the Star Wars stock footage in the beginning. She also said this movie is like "what you would do on a writer's strike," haha. Goodness.

Then it was off to Toontown for some exploring of this kiddy area. (We also saw another band on the way there) It had Mickeys and Minnie's and Donald's house (Goofy's was under construction) but it also had a few rides. Julie wanted to take a picture with Gadget's coaster (from Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers) and while we were there, we saw Daisy and Scrooge McDuck! We tried to get a picture with him, but kept getting cut off by little people, so I have a picture of him.

Because we had some time before our Pooh fastpass, we went to Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin, a ride were you get in the toon cab from Roger Rabbit and can spin around on a Who Framed Roger Rabbit themed adventure. It was very cute!

Next, we headed toward the Pooh ride, where we had a heart stopping moment because it was closed for some kind of adjustment. They assured us it would be open soon, though, so we set out to do some shopping around (Mom got some stuff at the Pooh store) and walked towards the Castle. In front of the Castle, we saw Wendy and Peter Pan, Prince Charming and Snow White, and Aurora and Phillip. However, because they were all definitely Westerners, we definitely did not take pictures haha.

In the Castle was an engraving store, and Mom wanted to buy a  picture frame with the date engraved on it. Of course, in this particular store, no one spoke a lot of English. Extra challenge! Ask and understand the explanation for how engraving works, how much it is, how long it takes, and what you want on it! Fun! It's all good though, because I finally found a shot glass in this country after months of searching. And now it has my name engraved on it!

At this point, Pooh was thankfully working, so we fastpassed our way up there. Such an awesome ride, Mom also thinks we need this ride in America. I completely agree.

It was time to shop! However, en route to the front of the park, we found a little well and waterfall entitled "Snow White's Grotto." This was more what I thought of being associated with Snow White than that effed up ride. It was a pretty waterfall (with Dwarfs in the shape of eggs!) and a well, which echoed the Snow White statues singing! Julie also posed (and sang) with it.

Then we went shopping! After looking through the housewares store, I realized I needed to head back to the Pooh store to get something I wanted, so I went on a hike back to the store (and picked up the Honey popcorn I had forgotten, mmm) and met Mom and Julie at the huge Emporium at the front.

(About the popcorn that comes in crazy various buckets, Mom thought they were adorable, Julie thought they were ridiculous)

Julie and Mom were both impressed by the covered shopping area in the front. Julie said that she was glad it was covered because then there wouldn't be "100 people shoving into a Coca Cola stand when its raining to be dry, and everyone wouldn't be fighting over ponchos."

Finally, we set up camp on a curb and Julie and I went to get hot dogs (which were really kielbasa) and we waited for the light parade. Mom and Julie loved it! Julie said the genie was "sick" in the good way, haha.

A few overarching thoughts from the family: Julie thought, like me, "that there would be more foreigners in Tokyo Disney." Surprise! Also, Mom said that she was glad that she "could have fun even though [she] couldn't understand the language." Both of them even felt like they were in Florida sometimes.

Overall, the family had a wonderful time in Tokyo Disney. Yay!


An Incredible Day at DisneySea: In Which Julie Posed with Things

Hello there! Disney had tired me out so much over the past two days that I had no energy to write. But we are coming down the home stretch, and if I fall any more behind I fear I may never catch up while I'm in this country, and that would stink, so here we go! We decided to do Disney the first two full days in Tokyo because doing Disney on Friday and Saturday was sure to be crowded, so we decided to go Wednesday and Thursday.

Good plan. It was definitely not as crowded as when I went, which was a definite plus. Although on the train ride there, Julie said that "instead of being run over by a pack of 6th graders, we were run over by a pack of businessmen." Also, because we've done a lot of the stuff in Disneyland in Disney World, we decided to go to DisneySea first because it would probably be the most tiring.

When we arrived, we noticed that the celebration theme was "Spring Voyage" and "Easter Wonderland." Upon closer inspection, it seemed to have began in the beginning of April, but it was still a bit strange seeing these (adorable) Disney-shaped eggs around (that was in Disneyland, but I digress).

Anyway, because the last time I was there the fast passes sold out almost immediately, we headed over to the awesome Indiana Jones ride to acquire a fast pass. Happily, because the crowd was not as ridiculous, there were plenty of fast passes to spare. While waiting for our ride time, we went to ride 20k Under the Sea, which Mom and Julie were impressed with.

A sad point of the day: the rollercoaster I had to skip last time, Raging Spirits, was closed. ::shakes fist::

Then, it was almost time for us to be able to buy another fast pass (I was amazed that we were allowed to so quickly) so we waited near the line at Journey to the Center of the Earth so we can get a fast pass (because I wasn't waiting any time for that which I waited 2.5 hours for last time).

Fast pass acquired, we set of to ride Indiana Jones, which the family loved. Julie said that Harrison Ford speaking Japanese was awesome; "a young hot animatronic Harrison Ford like only Japan can do." Both Mom and Julie were also impressed with the awesome animatronics in all the rides.

After this we started heading towards the Aladdin area; what better way to start the fun than by riding Jasmine's Flying Carpets? It was basically the Dumbo ride, but with carpets! Awesome.

One the way through Aladdin Land (Arabian Coast), we saw a few characters: Abu, Jafar, and Genie. We also took a picture with Jafar, which was pretty hilarious. I never know who is under the mask, so I was not sure which language to speak in :p

We were quite hungry, and we wanted to eat in Mermaid Lagoon, so we headed through Arabian Coast towards Triton's Kingdom, which easily stole the show.

::insert ecstatic exclamations from Mom and Julie here::

Also at this point, Julie posed a la Ariel with the rock in the front of the Kingdom. This begins the day-long adventure of "Julie Posing with Things." Mom was also (and still is) very emphatic that Disney World should have a Mermaid Lagoon as awesome as this.

Inside Triton's Kingdom, we had lunch (I had clam shaped bread ;p) and watched the Under the Sea show. Julie also went through the kids play area and posed with the statue of Prince Eric ('Eric, run away with you? This is all so sudden!'). Ursula would also show up in a mirror, and the scary shark would show up in the ship's window. In Triton's Kingdom, we also saw Donald, Goofy, and Pluto in scuba gear, which was cute.

Then we made our way back towards the volcano to ride Journey to the Center of the Earth, which has been ruined for me because I waited so long. However, it was particularly worth it because I forgot the little roller-coaster hill at the end and Mom was screaming and I was laughing and it was hilarious.

We then returned to Arabian Coast, where we rode the two-story carousel (Julie was ready to push children out of the way so she could get on a genie, which was one of the options you could ride). Outside, there was also an awesome band playing various Disney tunes. (We saw a lot of awesome bands actually, as you will see).

At this point, Julie posed with a fountain that had Jasmine on it. Yes.

Then we rode a Sinbad ride, which had a lot of singing and cool animatrons. I've never seen any Sinbad anything, so it was interesting. Then we picked up Julie some Sea Salt popcorn, and Mom and I got some Strawberry popcorn near Storm Rider, which we rode next. (Saying Storm Rider with a Japanese accent is really fun).

One thing we also noticed in Disney Sea is there was a huge amount of teddy bears. Why was this? In Tokyo Disney, there is an original character called Duffy the Disney Bear. I don't know why he was everywhere all of a sudden, my guess is because it was somehow tied to Easter? I don't know, but grown men were carrying around teddy bears everywhere.

After the ride, we were going to take the train to the American Waterfront (::giggle::) when on the way up the hill we saw a couple characters you do not see often: Mr. and Mrs. Incredible. It was awesome. We were determined to get a picture. So, we ended up taking a picture making muscle poses with Mr. Incredible. Mom enjoyed watching us pose with the characters, especially Mr. Incredible (Julie took one with Mrs. Incredible). She also enjoyed the tons of people who also took pictures of us when we posed with Mr. Incredible. We are in many random people's photo albums now, I assure you.

Once at the American Waterfront, we went to check and see what time the Big Band Beat jazz performance was. While perusing the showtimes, Cruella de Vil of all people storms up to a little girl in front of me and yells (in English) What are you staring at?? Scared the crap out of me. Jeez, the characters you see these days! I snuck a creeper picture.

Anyway, so we had an hour or so, so we were off to a boat ride tour of the park! But first I had to pick up the delicious Milk Tea popcorn I could not get before. Yummmmm. The boat ride was nice too. Then, we ate some fried chicken sandwiches in American Waterfront (which was karaage, Japanese fried chicken and not straight up chicken. Julie had chicken nuggets) before heading over to catch the Big Band Beat, which was AWESOME.

First of all, the whole thing, even the dialogue, was in English. Alriiiiight. Itwassoawesome. There was awesome dancing, and singing, and tapdancing, and a live band! It was wonderful. And there were Disney characters in it too! Mickey was fantastic; he could kick ridiculously high, dance, if he had tap shoes on I'm sure he could tap dance, and not only did he play the drums, he dueled with the drummer. It was awesome.

After this, I got an awesome Milk Tea gelato parfait. Yummmmm. Then there was shopping to be had. Julie and I bought ears to wear the next day. However, these are not the ears you are thinking of; they are little clips that you clip into your hair. Julie got Minnie ones, and I got Pooh ones. There are pictures.

We then set up camp around the lake to watch Fantasmic, still awesome and Mom particularly enjoyed. Then we sort of watched fireworks? They were behind a buildingish. Then we headed home. En route to the train, we saw schoolchildren that appeared to be leaving Disneyland, so hopefully we won't see them there? Score.

Day One: Complete!