Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Day at Disney Sea

Where all dreams come true...and no matter what age you are, you're never too old to sport Mickey ears!

One of the things my sister Shae wanted to do during her visit to Japan was to go to Disney Sea.  Though it is similar to every other Disney theme park in the World, there's only ONE Disney Sea, and it's here in Japan!

Two of my girlfriends decided to join us on our day of Disney fun!  (Leslie and Rebekah, it wouldn't have been the same without you)

Disney Sea's only a little over an hour away from where I live.  There's a special train that takes you from the last real station to the park.  (With Mickey ear shaped windows and handles of course!)

Welcome to Disney!

It wouldn't be Disney in Japan without Mickey!  Though he spoke just like Mickey from the States - in his character's high-pitched mouse voice, it was in JAPANESE not English!  My sister about flipped when she first heard him speak!  (It's not what you expect when you grew up listening to Mickey Mouse speak English!)

Simply riding the rides at a theme park is for amateurs, "professionals" (as Rebekah called us) ride rides AND eat ALL 7 flavors of popcorn!  That's right, at Disney Sea, there is SEVEN flavors of popcorn!  
Everyone was sporting Mickey or Minney ears...about an hour into the day, we decided we needed them too!

Our first ride was the Aquatopia! (Surprisingly there's a lot of rides you can't ride when you are preggo...unfortunately these two pregnant sisters had to choose more kiddie rides that day!)

That globe bucket was what we put our popcorn I said, "professionals"!

It was a really windy day, but we didn't care...we had toasty popcorn to warm us up!!!

Disney Sea didn't have the boat ride, "It's a Small World" which has been my favorite since I was a kid, but it did have, "Sinbad's Storybook Voyage" boat ride which was very similar.  

Our favorite part of the park was the Mermaid's honestly all kiddie rides, but it's Ariel themed!  We stood in line for over an hour to watch an American dressed as Ariel, lip-sing in Japanese!  

Even on a Monday, during the school year, on a crappy weather day; Disney was PACKED!  We waited in long lines for everything!  We really wanted the turkey legs that one could smell clear from the opposite side of the park, but the line was several hours long.  Instead we dined at the New York Deli.  The "Mile High" lived up to it's name!  

Caramel, Strawberry, Black Pepper, Curry, Cranberry, Chocolate and lastly Milk Tea.  We succeeded in trying all 7 flavors and the verdict was that the Cranberrry was our favorite!  If ever at Disney Sea you should at least get the's "oishii"!  (But I recommend trying all of them)

Disney in Japan was just as good as Disney in America....if not better because of the popcorn ;) 
Glad I got to experience it with my sister and two of my best girl friends! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Shae's trip on the Shinkansen and Sakura Sightings

Shae came for a visit in early March for 2 weeks of exploring Japan and getting to see her favorite (albeit only) sister!

The Sakura (cherry blossoms) weren't in full bloom in our parts of Japan during that time, but we took a trip up to Kyoto and were able to find a few.
When traveling that far, the Shinkansen (Japan's bullet train) is the only way to go!  Traveling at speeds up to 186mph Shae got to experience Japan's fastet train ride!

First thing we did upon arriving in Kyoto was to grab a snack....did I mention my sister and I are BOTH pregnant and were both in our 1st trimester...aka hungry ALL the time?!  Bad combo I know, two pregnant sisters!  Nonetheless, we found a Cafe Du Monde and Shae had to take a photo in front of the sign. (Though we actually only got a donut from the connecting Mister Donut)

After dropping our bags off, the first "official" Kyoto stop was to see the 1,000+ Torri Gates at the Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Though I had been to Kyoto before I didn't get to see this particular shrine and it was at the very top of my list for the current trip.

This Shrine was the setting for a scene in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha.  Shae and I felt like "Little Chiyo" as we ran from the rain on the pebble walkways under the hundreds of torri.

So many torri!
(Each of which is donated by a Japanese business...they are all different sizes and heights)

After the Inari Shrine we trained it in the opposite direction to see the Toji Temple.

The Toji Pagoda is the tallest wooden structure in Japan. It's 54.8 m high!  (See that diva in hot pink rain boots...she's 5'11" and that pagoda makes her look tiny!)

That night for dinner we walked all over and after getting the "X" from several places, due to them being overcrowded, we finally settled on a Chinese restaurant at the bottom of the Rihga Royal Hotel.

It wasn't terrible food, but way too overpriced considering my Dim Sum was way too mushy for my liking, the noodles were slimy and the spring rolls which one would think can't be botched were the worst thing of all!  (But then again as said before Shae and I were in our 1st trimester and thus a bit picky with our in most things made me nauseous!)

Shae and I stayed at the Hotel Hokke Club Kyoto.  It was in a great central location, right across from Kyoto station and in the middle of a plethora of restaurants.  The hotel staff was very helpful and super friendly and the rooms were big and very clean!  It's not a five-star resort but it fit the bill for this trip and I'd definitely recommend it.

Day two in Kyoto - Shae and I got up early, hopped on a bus across town and got off at the Kyoto National Museum.  Unfortunately, the museum was closed for the month due to construction!  (Of course there's no way we were to have known that, but that's what happens sometimes in Japan and we just have to go with it.)

No big deal...right next door was the Sanjusangendo Temple, a National Treasure and also on our list of things to see.

There were many schoolgirls at the temple on a field trip, and their assignment was to interview tourists.  We were their target audience and thus got questioned....followed by a photo...naturally!

Then it was on to GION!  The place Shae wanted to see the most.  Why?  To catch a glimpse of Geisha, of course!?!

One of the main streets, lined with "ochaya" or Japanese tea houses, where Geisha entertain.  

We stopped to have a snack (and Geisha gaze) at none other than Starbucks!  Yes the Geisha love coffee too!  
Sakura cake with real sakura petals on top and hot tea (since we'd both given up coffee)...oishii!

Maruyama Park

The Shirakawa canal in the Gion district, running behind many of the ochaya.  On the other side, is a lovely path, lined with dozens of sakura trees.

A lady literally stopped us on the sidewalk and pointing to these two young ladies said, "they are real Maiko, Geisha in training." I guess we really looked like tourists and she thought we should know! (Naturally, we felt she was giving us permission to act like tourist and take out our cameras to capture the moment! Which we did.)
Lunchtime = soba and tempura...always a yummy choice!

I don't even remember what this temple was called, but we went inside nonetheless, just to follow four girls dressed in Geisha garb.  Whether the girls were real geisha or not, they were dressed like them and we wanted their picture.

We tried to be discreet...

That night we got to see a Kabuki performance at the Minamiza Theatre!  

Seeing a real kabuki perfomance was on my Japan bucket list.  Though it wasn't translated and was performed in Japanese, it was a drama and therefore one could (sort of) guess what was going on.  I loved it, Shae got a little bored, but in the end we were both glad we experienced it.

"No pictures during the performance please"...  Sadly we don't have any pictures of what the show looked like, but basically it was Japanese actors dressed up in heavy make--up and traditional Japanese garments - singing, dancing and acting.  Quite a show!  (Oh and no females in Kabuki, the performers are all men!)

During intermission everyone left to go get snacks, we brought in our own (yes, it's something they allowed, we didn't sneak or anything.  In fact in Japan, they recommend bringing your own sustenance, which I love!  I hate having to hide an entire bag of home-brought popcorn in my purse for Nick!)

Day 3- Our last day of exploring Kyoto! 

I'd seen the Golden Pavilion but wanted my sister to see it in all it's "gilded" beauty 

Definitely worth seeing a second time

The water in front of the Golden Pavilion is called Kyoko-chi (Mirror Pond), and for good reflects everything, making the effect that much more dramatic!

Last stop - Ryoanji Temple

The most famous part of the temple grounds is the Rock Garden.  This "Zen" garden is bare of trees, with only 15 rocks and white gravel covering the ground.  (If you look closely you can see the gravel is raked in perfect lines)

Another great trip to Kyoto, this time with my sister.  And the fun didn't end there...more to come on the rest of the adventures of Brittany and Shae in the next post... (lets just hope it doesn't take me another 2 months to finish it!)