Once upon a couple of months ago, we decided to go to Japan.
And we decided to take Eva. She is 10, she will remember the trip, she will do well meeting lots of people, and I remember loving my trip to Japan when I was her age.
We travel when I am pregnant. It's like the one last hurrah before I enter baby jail.
Planning is not our strong point. So when we realized that Eva's passport had expired we had to hurry. We wanted to leave in 15 days and expediting a passport takes at least 14. And this is when living on a little island makes things a little a tough. Things take a little bit or a lotta bit longer. If we couldn't get the application submitted on our island, all three of us would have to fly to Oahu to apply there. It would take a whole day, and a hunk of cash. We couldn't even reach any of the post offices by phone. So, we hopped in the car, pulled Eva out of school, and went to see what we could do. Post office number one said they couldn't meet with us for another three weeks. So, we headed to post office number two, about 45 minutes away from our house. They told us they had an appointment available in two weeks. Like, the day we wanted to leave. My heart started beating fast and I realized that if we wanted Eva to go with us, I was going to have to be brave. I had nothing to lose and if I could convince them to see us sooner, we would be able to use that hunk of cash for better things like bread and pens in Japan (or bills but that's no fun to think about). So I started started begging. Full on.
I asked if there was anyone we could possibly talk to about getting it done sooner. The nice lady went in back and came back chuckling, "He said to bring donuts and coffee."
Then the guy came out and I asked him if there was any way that we could come in sooner. I played the, "It's for my little girl" card. Put her right in front of me and told him it's for her. Karl said everyone in the post office laughed.
He told us to come in the next morning.
We did it!
Well, for the most part.
The next morning we got up bright and early, found out where the best coffee and donuts on the island were, picked up as many coffees and donuts that we knew how, and headed up to the post office. He cracked up when he saw us with our arms full of the treats. He said he was just kidding but was super happy.
We got the application filled out and sent off. Phew.
Karl told him that we would have brought him steak if he would have asked.
Then we waited. We checked out PO box often. No sign. Three days before the trip, we were starting to sweat it. We were leaving on a Monday. On Saturday morning I went down and checked our box. Nothing. I went in and talked to someone. This trip was already waaaay more talking to people than I am comfortable with. She said for this and this and this reason, they hadn't got around to filling the boxes yet.
And the rest is obvious. I went down in two hours and we got Eva's passport the very last minute possible.
Karl's mom was nice enough to take the time to come out and spoil our boys. They were so excited to have her come out, I'm not so sure they even missed us.
Oh man, I've already said so much and I have about a billion pictures.
We took off on my birthday. And with the time zone thing, my birthday kind of disappeared while we were in the air and we landed on the next day. Landing in Japan was a great present.
My dad met us at the airport. He flew out a few days before us. Lettsee what I can remember...
Tokyo Sky Tree. It was too windy to go all the way to the top but there was plenty to see, eat, and shop down towards the bottom.
I think the best part of the trip was seeing family. They were so super kind and gracious and fun. This is my cousin, Mari, and her two sons Sho and Ken.
And my other cousin Yukihiro, and his wife, Fumiko, and his daugher Satomi.
My dad and us.
Did you notice the food? The amaaazing food? I was in heaven. All of it heatlhy. All of it delicious.
My cousin had some albums of when we visited almost years ago. Eva looked like this and I was pregnant with Samuel.
Like I said, we travel when I am pregnant.
We were on kind of a ramen eating adventure. Really. It was more of Karl and my dad's adventure and Eva and I went along for the ride. It was one of the most delicious adventures ever. Real Japanese ramen is worth flying over to Japan for. The varieties... chanpon, tonkotsu, shio, shoyu, miso, tsukemen, tan tan men... I had no idea there were so many kinds. And we had them all.
We went around with this ramen expert of sorts. He travels around, eats ramen, and blogs about it. Here he wrote about one of the places he took us, you can see Eva in one of his photos. It was the best ramen I have ever ever ever had. We drove 40 minutes just to eat at this place.
We traveled up to an onsen, hot spring, for a bit of relaxing. On the way up there we passed a town called Obama. That's right Obama. Of course, the town has been named that for a long time but when Obama got elected, they put up a little statue of the president.
I have a funny/scandalous story about this town all the way back from my college days. And the story might have had something to do with a study abroad in college and on a free night taking a train and getting off in a random town and hanging out there because that's what college kids do and then the next morning running into your professor who was surprised to see his students in that town and then after study abroad was over hearing that professor left his family and went back to this town to be with a certain someone that he was meeting when we saw him. Boy, I never thought I would be back in that town. I should have looked up my professor :).
There, they have the world's longest bench where you can sit and soak your feet in a natural hot spring. And you can buy produce and eggs and stuff and have them steamed with the heat from the hot springs. All so nature-y and fun.
After our pit stop in that even more memory packed town, we made our way to Unzen, where we would be staying at an onsen. A place where you get treated like royalty, bath in natural hot spring water, eat meals with 15 plus dishes. Everything is taken care of, all the way down to the robes you wear at night and what you wear to dinner.
All in a beautiful place.
After Unzen we went to Hiroshima. Eva said it's on her bucket list. Lucky girl. We all obliged.
We took a ferry out to Miyajima.
The place was full of super tame deer. Hungry deer. This one wanted Eva's french fries.
We wrote wishes/prayers on a rice paddles. This one was mine.
The tide was low so we were able to walk out to it.
We also went to the World War II Memorial Museum. It is a neat place to visit and super educational. Some of it was a bit scary for Eva but she was soaked in so much. Eva wanted to see the statue of Sadako because she had done a book report on her a few months earlier. A woman at the museum gave Eva some teeny tiny paper cranes and Eva left a few at the monument.
We stopped in Gifu and saw a dear friend from my days long ago when I was a missionary. Her parents are about the cutest people we have ever met.
Eva liked the trains.
And I liked the pens, and the bento boxes, and the food.
If I had to say one store was my most favorite in the whole world, it would be Muji. They have a few shops in the US now but it's just not the same for me. And besides, they are far far away. It is one of my favorite things about Japan.
Karl liked the breads. We all liked the breads. They are worth the trip. Oh wait, did I already use that line? So many things are worth it.
We were lucky enough to get there for the cherry blossom season. It's a whole culture there. People gather, sit under the trees, picnic, and enjoy the blossoms. This is where Karl stopped to take a picture, and lost us because we were in a sea of Japanese people and blended right in. Karl is a full head taller than everyone so we could totally see him. We just cracked up as we watched him look all over as he walked towards us.
This is one my childhood friends, Natsuko, from when I spent the summer in Japan when I was six. I remember going to festivals and coloring for hours with her. Now we are all grown up and she has a teeny tiny baby. He is a couple months old in this photo but still not quite eight pounds. Inside, I kind of got freaked out that I am going to be giving birth to a baby that big. Even though this was so not supposed to be about me.
My cousin has two daughters, Natsumi and Satomi, that I adore. They told Eva that they were going to take her to Harajuku. Eva was so excited and seriously thought about what she was going to wear for days before we went.
She loved Harajuku and Harajuku loved her back.
The last day we were there was Karl's birthday. Satomi and Natsumi snuck and got him a bunch of stuff including and instant camera that I have wanted for a long time. It is seriously indescribable how sweet everyone was to us.
For our last night we went to Monjayaki, a Tokyo specialty. And though it's nothing much to look at, it is one of the tastiest, most fun things to eat. Sometimes ugly food is the most delicious.
Our last day, we did the last bit of shopping... most of it food, and a bunch of stuff from the 100 yen store. I could write a whole novel/post about the 100 yen stores in Japan.
I broke about a billion blogging rules with this, I am sure. Don't put off blogging for months (I am going to play the pregnancy card on that one), don't post too many photos (I can't help it, I already feel bad for the ones I left out), don't be too wordy (I never follow that rule, my posts are novels), don't air your professor's dirty laundry (but isn't that story such a good one?), and on and on and on.
I have already forgotten so much about the trip. But I do remember that is was amazing for all of us. Eva had a blast and speaks of it often. I went through withdrawal for a few weeks after, I missed good food, I missed family, I missed shopping... ohhh.
And now, I can finally consider our trip to Japan, recorded.