May 18, 2017

Final Thoughts On Japan

What an amazing trip!  We would absolutely love to go back!  Alex and Kana will be in Japan for another 16 months before Alex is stationed back in the US.  So we likely won't be visiting them in Japan again.

Our time there was always different.  I doubt we repeated a meal or an experience twice.

KYOTO:
I told you about Kyoto a few posts ago.  I left out a few places we visited while in the area.

we had a corner room on the 5th floor

the Kyoto rail station is across the street
The room that Kana reserved for us while in Kyoto was perfect.  It was across the street from the train/bus station.  It made it super convenient for us to plan our days travel.  Plus breakfast was included.  So that made it easier to start our day.

Our day trip included a river, cherry blossoms, a bamboo forest and souvenir shopping.

boat rentals are popular at the base of Katsura River

another type of boat rental
Katsura River is a popular destination for many reasons.  For us it was simply so we could do some sight seeing.  The river itself was full of boats.  There were two styles that we saw.  One was row boats.  The other was a skiff of sorts.  Passengers get to sit back and relax while the captain walks along the front section of the boat while propelling it forward with the use of a long pole.  He starts in the center of the boat, plants the pole on the bottom of the river and then walks to the front tip of the boat.  The repeated action must get tiring.






The cherry trees were in near full bloom.  We passed by this particular one and although it doesn't show too well in the photos, the color was quite vivid.

We continued to walk through the park and came upon  Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.  The area is crowded but we get a few good pictures.  The trees are the attraction for us.  There are temples which we don't visit.  I think we've all had our fill of temples.  The grounds of one of the temples has cherry blossom trees.  Kana asks and finds out that the flowers aren't showing much.  There is an entrance fee so we forego the stop and instead visit the nearby shops and eateries.



We bought a pair of handcrafted chopsticks for each of us.  They offer free engraving.  How could we pass that up.  While waiting for the engraving, we venture across the street and pick up some plum jelly.

we'll need to practice our newly acquired skill
To finish out our day we planned to visit the Geisha district.  On the bus ride there is when Ron realizes he isn't feeling so well.  We still walk around for a bit but we're too late for the show.

GEOCACHING:
Geocaching is a world wide activity.  There are several caches hidden near Alex's apartment.  I map them out and the one day when both Alex and Kana had to work, Ron and I ventured out by ourselves in search of a few finds.



The first on our list was magnetic and hidden on the ledge of a large bulletin board.  It was small and only contained a log sheet and a couple tiny trinkets.  We added our signature to the log and a trinket of our own.  Our first foreign cache! :-)





  


The second cache was also magnetic.  This one was called Three-Horned Dinosaur.  It took us on a walk in the nearby neighborhood.  The log and it's contents were hidden on the underside of this soda machine.  Ron was the brave one who stuck his hand under there to retrieve the find.

We continued on our cache hunting trip.  We looked high and low but couldn't find our third attempt.  Oh well, it was fun to get out and go exploring the streets of Okinawa by ourselves.  



ROCKY:
I left the best for last!!  Rocky loves his home in Okinawa.  He is always a fun subject for my camera lens.




he's pooped from all his playtime :-)

May 13, 2017

Fun In Japan, Part 2

An overnight trip up the western coast of Okinawa was another adventure while we were in Japan.  Unfortunately, Ron had picked up some sort of virus and he decided to stay home.  Being sick while on vacation is never fun.  He was a trooper though!

Our first stop is a hidden waterfall.  It's a favorite spot of Alex and Kana's to cool off during the hot and humid summer months.  Alex suggested that I don't bring my phone or camera because we had to walk quite a ways through a creek and scramble on and over rocks boulders just to get to the falls.  But being a smart guy, Alex brought his waterproof GoPro along for the adventure.  The bad thing is that there isn't a view screen so you never know what photos you get until they've been uploaded.  These are some of the better shots he took on our back country adventure.




    

Once we got to the falls we ventured up and over a very steep hillside.  I'm glad for all of my recent gym visits!  Our hopes were to see the top of the falls.  Unfortunately it isn't a highly traveled area and there were just too many spiders hanging out in the nearby branches for our comfort level.  I wish I had my FitBit so I knew just how far we walked.  If I had to guess, I'd say 5 or so miles round trip and maybe 10 flights of steps.  Quite the workout! 

After the falls, we got back in the car and headed north.  The drive along the coast was gorgeous.  So many lovely beaches.  So many rocks jutting out of the water.  So much to see.  Lucky for me Kana decided to nap in the back so I had the front passenger seat which meant that the ocean was on my side of the car.  The steering wheel is on the right side of the car in Japan.




At the very northern tip of the island is Cape Hedo.  This is where the South China Sea on the west merges with the Pacific Ocean on the east.  Kana was still sleeping (she worked the previous 17 hour night shift without a nap) so Alex and I ventured out to view the rocky cliffs.



can you see the two oceans??



It would have been nice to be able to explore more of the area but we had reservations at the air force Okuma Resort and the check-in desk closes early.  The resort itself was quite nice.  There is a small golf course, nature trails, miles of beaches, a race car track, a restaurant and many more areas we didn't get to see.

The next morning was cool and misty.  Our destination for the day is the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium.  More gorgeous scenery on the drive.  A stop on the way to get a burger and fries.  It's hard near impossible to find a good burger joint in Japan!  This burger place is always busy.  We were lucky to arrive before the lunch rush.  We were all stuffed after our meal and ready to hit the aquarium.

how cool is this aquarium entrance!?

This aquarium is unlike any I've been to before.  The main difference is that the grounds are open (as in no entrance fee) to the public.  There are several turtle tanks, a manatee tank and a dolphin show included in the free areas.  We take advantage of it all.

escalators down to the dolphins, turtles and manatees

this place is HUGE!

a private beach is included for these guys

there are also underwater viewing areas for these tanks

look at the funny humans over there with their cameras...

I wish he had more room :-(

this building is also free admission with plenty of displays to explore

the smaller dolphin was pushing the larger one
the little guys waving HI

I touched it, now can I have my treat?

the big guy says HI too :-)
What a treat to see the dolphins.  Alex said there is an area where you could feed the dolphins.  It was closed during our visit.  After the show it was time for the main attraction: a walk through the aquarium itself.

The first stop is a hands on tank.  You can touch the starfish and other creatures to your hearts content.  It was a popular stop for the kiddos.  The aquarium is quite busy considering it's a Monday afternoon.

The next tank is much larger and is home to a small coral farm.  I'm not one to read all of the signs and information blurbs.  I simply stroll past and if something catches my eye, I'll snap a photo.


 

The lion fish was right up close.  He's one of my favorites so I definitely catch him on film, err, digital media :-)  A cute story: I have a drawing of a lion fish held on the front of the fridge at work by a magnet.  It has been there for many years.  Alex drew it for me when he was around 10 or 11 years old. 




There are plenty of displays throughout the aquarium for hands on learning.  Near the giant shark tank is a display of shark jars behind a sheet of acrylic.  Some of the jaws have a hole so that visitors can reach inside and touch the teeth.


I wouldn't want to be it's next meal!

dinner time feeding frenzy

Here's a nerdy bit of info about Ron and me.  When we go to a museum, or in this case an aquarium, we're the ones who gravitate toward the case rather than what's inside.  I know it's because we make cases and work with plastic.  So when I saw this, I just couldn't resist the marvelous workmanship it took to make the entire aquarium. 

the words are on the opposite side of the acrylic wall panel



     

         









There are 15 layers of acrylic flawlessly laminated together to create the walls of the gigantic tank shown below.  The sign says it is 603mm thick.  That equates to 23.75". 



Not only does this tank have an enormous viewing window, it has curved and angled viewing areas as well.  You can see them near the bottom left area in the photo above.  Without becoming too nerdy, this was the highlight of the aquarium for me :-)

There was still more to see.  However, the last sections of the aquarium were focused on the deep sea creatures.  The area was too dark to get decent photos.

One more stop on the way back to the apartment to get a quick pineapple ice cream cone at Pineapple Park.  Yes, there really is such a place :-) 

April 16, 2017

Fun In Japan, Part 1

The two weeks we were in Japan were full of little moments each day.

Some days were spent just hanging around Alex and Kana's apartment.

such a gorgeous view!

have I told you I love the ocean ??!!
Their apartment overlooks the sea.  The clashing waves were music to my ears.  I would often sit outside listening to the sounds of waves, children at the park and birds chirping while reading my kindle, writing in my journal or perusing Facebook on my cell phone :-)

Other times we would walk down to the sea wall.  If the tide was low enough we would look in the tide pools for creatures.  


brain coral, this one is fairly small

don't step on a sea anemone, it's spines contain poison




When the tide was high, we would see plenty of surfers enjoying the water.

the sea wall is great for walking or riding a bike




When we went around the area sight seeing, Kana was the primary driver.  Ron got a cute photo of her in the rear view mirror.  FYI-The steering wheel is on the right hand side.  We decided not to get an international driving license so we were passengers :-) 







The streets are full of interesting shops and restaurants.  One thing I found absolutely amusing were these soda/water/coffee machines on most corners.  This one is located in the garage area of an apartment building next to the seawall.  Alex said, "You never know when you might get thirsty".  The water typically sells for 130 yen.  The yen coins come in handy when you want a water.  Yes, we put many coins in various machines during our time on the islands...  Alex was right :-))



We did get to meet Kana's parents while we were there.  The language barrier was difficult but with Kana as a translator, we had a nice evening out to dinner.  Speaking of which, Ron and I had not used chopsticks before our trip.  We are experienced enough now and we even bought a pair for ourselves.  We plan to practice our chopstick skills!  Alex and Kana will be here in the summer so we'll have to show them how good we've gotten at using them :-)



The flowers on the islands are quite beautiful.  Here are a few shots of some of the local varieties to finish up this post.  As always, you can click on any of the photos to view them larger.




 

We arrived back home late Thursday.  Ron got sick during our trip and we were worried about our flights and his stuffed up sinuses, but all went well.  I managed to get a bit of the sickies too, but thankfully it's just a mild case of a stuffy nose.