Friday, November 8, 2013

Two Kids, No Stroller and Panda Bears, OH MY!

We decided on taking a family day trip so I looked at my JBL (Japan Bucket List), see it here, and decided with the awesome fall weather it was a good time to go check out Ueno Zoo! Ueno Zoo is the oldest Zoo in Tokyo and totally worth the trip.
After reading the site and seeing the zoo has no official parking we decided we would brave the trains with the two kids. Two kids under 3 and no stroller, needless to say I was prepared for misery but was pleasantly surprised how well they both did today! With a heads up of getting there early to see the Panda's awake we left our house around 7:30am. We caught the Commuter Special Rapid train (makes WAY less stops) and got stuck standing until some nice people let Sawyer and I sit, the 60min train ride to Kanda(one stop before Tokyo Station!) was no the most fun thing but we survived- Sawyer was pretty antsy to get off and see animals. 
Not only Bristol's First train ride,
but our first train ride with all four of us!
We had to switch trains and with the packed train to Kanda I was scared our next train would be packed too, but once we got on the line headed to Ueno, there was barely any people on it! We made it to the zoo entrance about 5 min before they opened so I'd say it was perfect timing!
So many school kids on field trips!
No doubt Ueno is an AMAZING place to stroll through Cherry Blossoms in spring, the fall colors were just as gorgeous. The 600Yen (about $6) entrance fee for adults is more than reasonable in my opinion, with kids under 12 being FREE it makes the deal even sweeter. As soon as you walk in you are greeted by tons of panda statues and picture opportunities as the Giant Panda exhibit is the first thing you see to your right. The two Giant Pandas, Ri Ri and Shin Shin, were enjoying a delicious breakfast of bamboo and watching all the crazy people take their picture. Very thankful we went and saw them first because on the way out we peaked into their exhibit and they had their backs to the glass.  
Ri Ri
Shin Shin
While walking through the first part of the Zoo, you almost forget you are pretty much in downtown Tokyo. We got to watch an Elephant drink and splash around, Zack claims it was the first time he had seen an Elephant and Sawyer was in awe and kept making Elephant noises!
I have to give major props to the Lion and Tiger habitats they had created! The tiger had a nice waterfall and little stream. Since we got there at opening a lot of the animals were eating their breakfast and not giving the best picture opportunities but it was fun to watch!
Pretty Tiger Area, Tiger was down over by the feeding area see next picture!
Pacing while waiting for breakfast
You can see many monkeys and gorillas through out the park. Sawyer liked watching him eat his leaves, check out all the kids at the window across from us!
 Pandas aren't the only bears you can see while visiting Ueno! They also have a Hokkaido Brown Bear, Japanese Black Bear, Malayan Sun Bear and a POLAR BEAR! Near the polar bear exhibit was the seals and sea lions which have a water arch you can walk through and they swim above and below you (a lot like the Shark Experience at Six Flags in Vallejo but with seals). Sawyer got a huge kick out of watching the seals and sea lions swim around.  
Polar Bear being cute!
Ueno Zoo is split into two areas you have the East Area (the area that you are in when you enter the main gate) and the West Area. A list of which animals are where can be found on the Ueno Zoo link which I have included above. We opted not to take the monorail and to walk, the view coming over the bridge was awesome, it was a crazy reminder that you are at a Zoo amidst all the skyscrapers.

My favorites in the East Area were the Children's Zoo (aka lots of goats and sheep free roaming you walked around and touched), Hippo, Giraffes and the huge Galapagos Tortoise! I took over 100 pictures so I will upload more to my Facebook but have to share the few of my favorites on here.
Getting eaten by Bristol in front of the Hippo
Look how HUGE this beauty is!
Giraffes with Skyscrapers in the background
Galapagos Tortoise.
Sawyer playing with a goat. He kept getting right in their face talking to them.
The farm animal whisperer! HAHA
If you would of asked me if I thought Sawyer could walk around the whole zoo without throwing fits I would of said No Way and been proved wrong. Both kids did AMAZING! Bristol slept majority of the day and handled being in the carrier like a champ! It took us about 2.5 hours to do the major portions of the Zoo and most of the houses, with Sawyers lack of interest in smaller exhibits and how tired we were after getting up at 4am with Bristol we did miss the one corner of the Zoo which had the five-story pagoda but no animal exhibits. We ate lunch inside the Zoo at one of the small cafés by the lake. I enjoyed some yummy Yakisoba while the boys ate pizza, hot dogs and fries. The food was yummy and not over priced (like most Zoo/Park food is in the States). Before heading back to the train station Zack and I got Starbucks to give us some energy to make the journey back. Sawyer played at the park behind Starbucks while we drank our coffees and Bristol ate. My hope of wearing Sawyer out so he was well behaved on the train back was a major success! We were able to catch a Rapid train from Kanda back where we all got seats, it helped leaving before people were off work and out of school! We were back home by about 3:30pm.
Ueno Zoo is a great day trip. Which you could do and see more than we did, but with it being our first outing without a stroller and our first journey into Tokyo as a family I am more than pleased with what we accomplished today! I'm sure we will go back again before we leave, I now we will be revisiting Ueno Park to go to a few museums.  I'd love to see Ueno Park in the spring with the Cherry Blossoms. Ueno Park has a couple museums which are before/around the Zoo entrance: Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum for Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and the National Science Museum. All of which would be interesting to visit. I also wouldn't mind checking out the Michelangelo exhibit at the National Museum of Western Art (Exhibit Info), but since it is only here until November 17th, I don't see myself making it down there with Zack's crazy work schedule and appointments these next two weeks. I will be keeping an eye on happenings the museums put on from here on out, so I don't miss anything crazy awesome!
Bottom line: If you haven't been to Ueno Zoo and you live here in Japan, GO!
Successful day at the Zoo!!!
Until Next Time

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Every so often I welcome a much needed husband and kid-free trip. Today me and my friend decided to go hike Mount Takao! We enjoyed 8 glorious hours away from base surrounded by fresh air, trees, and awesome food. We arrived at the base of Mt. Takao around noon, but decided we would hike up and take the cable car or lift down, since up is a little easier on the knees. Its a 3.8km hike from the bottom to the top. As we started our climb we realized this was no walk in the park! Even though the path is paved you are walking up the side of a mountain at about a 45* angle!
We saw everything from full official hiking attire to high heels and mini-skirts. There were also people of all ages! Pretty sure there were some 70-80year olds making the climb!

The first flat spot to rest at, you feel like you have hiked a ways until you realize you have only gone about 1km!

Selfie while climbing :)
Just some awesome sites along the way!
 We were both running out of steam and knew we needed food! Getting to the cable car station which is about half way up the mountain was as good as it got before the first "restaurant" called our name! This was one of those vending machine type places which lacked English on the buttons so it was a match the picture of the Japanese to the button. While I succeeded in ordering some delicious curry my friend accidentally ordered cold soba noodles instead of hot. Turned out good but I know she would have much preferred hot noodles to warm her up! Once we were refueled we pushed on and enjoyed a nice glance at Tokyo! Although it would have been way better had it been a clear day we still got a decent view of Tokyo, really would love to head up there on a super clear day to be able to see the bay and Mt. Fuji!
We didn't make it all to far before we came upon the Monkey Park and a Sake tent! Since I have lived here over a year I had yet to try Sake, well I can officially say that I drank Sake out of a wooden square cup while on a hike up a mountain! Although it is not my drink of choice it was still good and it allowed a rest brake to stare at the gorgeous Japanese Maples that were turning red. Then we paid the 400Yen to enter the "Monkey Park". We saw 0 wild monkeys on the journey so I guess paying the yen was worth it to see the crazy little guys.
We still had a ways to go to the Temple grounds and the summit so we pressed on. Now we may have been out in the woods but we were not alone! We decided to catch all shrines and temple grounds after we reached the top. Silly us forgot to grab a map at the bottom so we were relying on signs and maps posted, we were so determined to get to the summit that the one map we looked at that said Top led us down a path less traveled. We got to see a cave with a  shrine and then climb up on a non-paved route.
Gorgeous Fall Colors!
So Close!!!
WE MADE IT!!!! Feels good to say we hiked ALL the way up to 599.03m. 
After enjoying the view, didn't get to see Mt. Fuji, and devouring some ice cream cones we started back down. This time we stayed on the paved route. We even found a peace pole along the trail. We stopped to admire the shrines and temple grounds. Pictures do it no justice. The golds and reds mixed in with the trees and changing color were truly breath-taking. There is such a calm and peaceful feeling too. Its times like this though I wish I knew Japanese and understood more about Shinto and Buddhism. There will be many more pictures (I took over 150!) uploaded onto my Facebook!  
Peace Pole hidden amongst the trees
Takaosan Yakuoin Yukiji Temple
By one of the Shrines
The hills have eyes!
Around 3:30 they started packing away things around the temple so we decided to head back down the mountain. We planned on making a pit stop for another swig of Sake then take the lift down to the base. Well during our Sake break we met some very intoxicated older men, they had obviously been sitting near the Sake tent a little TOOO long... well they gave us some crackers kept trying to talk to us, even though they didn't speak English. We quickly finished our Sake and made tracks to the lift. Well we were soon stopped by the delicious smell of dumplings and chicken on a stick, of course we had to get a snack! We snacked while making our way to the lift only to walk about 3 min down the trail to see a line FOREVER long. We looked at each other and said what the heck lets just hike back down! So with one foot in front of the other we made our way down the mountain. Crazy how much faster going down takes. We walked 7.6km and I managed to escape with only 1 blister! Once we reached the bottom we indulged in yet another ice cream cone, *hey no judging we EARNED it* and made our way back to the trains to journey on home!
See that man being held up by his two buddies?
Those 3 were our intoxicated Sake "friends", well we caught two of them peeing off the trail when I thought I heard monkeys, nope just drunk old men sipping up their pants after peeing in public!!! Totally not something you see everyday here in Japan!!!
All in All it was a great day! When I got home I hugged the kids and although it was so nice to be without them, realized I missed them so much! Sawyer even took our pictures when I got home, here is his shot of me, he didn't let the camera focus:
If you are looking for a nice hike, some yummy food, and awesome views then I suggest Mt. Takao! I will probably go back again before we leave. Just remember the lift& cable car still only get you half way and its still a steep 2km to the top so if you are taking little kids be prepared to carry them. You could use a stroller most of the way but the paved path is not smooth the whole time and near temple there are A LOT of stairs!
Until Next Time

Thursday, October 31, 2013

High Centered on a Speed Bump

There are many roads I travel on a daily basis: Mommy Lane, Wife Drive, Fitness Way, Friend Road, Life Highway, etc. A lot of times its a lot like trying to navigate Japan without GPS, sometimes its smooth travels, some roads have speed bumps, and sometimes 2 roads are combined into 1.
Traveling down Getting Healthy Lane and speed bumps start appearing. Some serve their purpose of slowing you down while some you just get stuck on. When I first started I hurt my knee and I was slowed down but never gave up! Then I was ROCKIN' my walk 50 in October goal, things were doing so well until I realized I wasn't doing things for the right reason. Where I have been high centered on a speed bump for a little while now. I want to be healthy, but what constitutes being healthy? We eat fairly "skinny" most of the time and I exercise so I am Healthy, right?
A few weeks ago I realized I was stuck on just watching that number on the scale, a number shouldn't control ones life so much. I asked my husband "Does it look like I am getting skinny" The reply was an eye opener! "Well, kinda but you still have a lot of flab, why don't you tone?", now yes those words hurt a little but at the same time it was something I needed to hear! I am so thankful for an honest man, he also said "You are fine and I love you anyway you are" (so please don't think his reply was rude!) Then I got to thinking WHY? Why am I doing this? Well, I am doing all these early workouts to fit into my clothes I was in last summer, so my husband thinks I am hot and people don't think I am fat.  When I made my WHY List I realized something. No where in my list did I mention doing this for ME. I was so worried and focused on other peoples thoughts, physical appearance (so others wouldn't judge) and pleasing others that I was putting myself through a tad bit of torture doing it. So about 2 weeks ago I took a break. This break was an emotional and physical break. During my break I relooked at why I want to do "get healthy", I am learning to imperfections (the stretch marks and flab) and I realized that pushing myself too hard will result in nothing. I am ready to get back into things but not as crazy as before. I am done trying to do things to please others. I am ME. I don't plan on changing ME to please others. My body will get back to where I was, but at the same time I need to look for fashion assistance to find clothes that flatter the figure I have not trying to push myself hard into clothes I've had for years. Although I lacked on my fitness the past two weeks I haven't given up hope. I did fail my goal of Walk 50 in October by about 10miles which sucks but I WILL NOT GIVE UP! Plus it was a good reminder that you cant succeed every time.
Upcoming Events I am looking forward too:
-November 9th: Heart of America "Virtual 5k", that I will be running that the proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project.
-November 30th: Run for the Cure 5k in Tokyo. Still looking for a sitter since Zack has to work now so hopefully I can still make it!

During my Fitness break I was able to focus on the kids a bit more too! I have lately been cutting back on technology. I don't log in or stay logged into Facebook as much, I even deleted it from my phone so I no longer get notifications while I am away! Not sitting at the computer all day is quite relieving actually! I have been coloring and other fun crafts as well as playing more which has let me see how creative Sawyer is. Its so fun to see how he incorporates his imagination in what he does! Sawyer loves taking pictures so I have started a folder on the computer of his work check out these two he took while we were doing our pumpkins this last weekend:
"Say Cheese Mommy"

He said "Smile Baby Sister"

I have even been reading more! Heck I finished two books in the last week! Its amazing what you can do when you aren't running yourself ragged! So as I look to start back into things I need to remember that: "Moderation is key"!
My last weigh in was October 15th at 159.8, about 9 pounds from pre pregnancy weight. I have gotten rid of all my maternity pants! Something that took me WAY longer with Sawyer! Even though the weight loss isn't huge I feel like the emotional revelation I had these last two weeks was much more of an accomplishment than anything!

Well its time to get ready for the day, Got to make sure we are all rested up for Trick or Treating tonight!
Happy Halloween! Maybe tonight while "Trick or Treating" we can finally get a picture of all four of us together!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Finally Got a Touch of Downtown Tokyo!

We have now lived here for just over 13 months and have yet to see any shrines/temples and downtown Tokyo (we did dinner in Shibuya and that's about it). But October 5th the hubby and I took a trip into Tokyo through the base (ITT's Tokyo Culture Tour). A friend watched the kiddos for us so we could enjoy a much needed day together! Of course it decided to rain but I was able to cross some things off my Japan Bucket List!

Our first stop was the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emporer Meiji and his wife. We were even able to see traditional wedding being taking place with the Priests and Maidens in traditional clothing!

The Hubby in front of the HUGE Torii

Cleansing the hands before going into pray 


I didn't want to be all up in the wedding parties personal business,
so I zoomed in as best as possible and the rain didn't help.

I even bought an Omamori (or charm) for the protection of the kids! A picture can be found on my Instagram: See the pic here! I really want to go back and check things out when its not rainy and chilly!
Our next stop was the Tsukiji Fish Market, here is where they auction HUGE tuna and sell seafood, the auction happens very early in the morning but vendors are set up selling meals, raw seafood, veggies and more. It reminded me a lot of a farmers market. This was our lunch stop and we choose Sushi- by far the freshest and best seafood we have had yet! There were other small Ramen shops but we couldn't visit the bay and not eat Sushi, that's like going to the movies and not getting popcorn!

Some of these crabs were SEVERAL hundred dollars a piece!

That's some Fresh Fish!

Onigiri (Rice balls with seaweed & fililngs) 

Each awning was a little shop,
some were food places with only 1-2 chairs and some had goods

Big ole pot of seafood soup

Zack enjoying a $6 plate of Tuna (he had 3 of those!)

This delicious California Roll had Raw Tuna, Avocado, Crab, and it was rolled in Salmon Eggs.
I could have eaten like 4 of these!

My dessert was Asian Pears on a Stick
If you haven't had an Asian Pear you are missing out!!!

SOOOO many people!!!


After lunch we headed over to Hama Rikyu, a beautiful park with seawater ponds, flowers, and teahouses all tuck away between skyscrapers and the Tokyo Bay! I MUST HAVE OUR FAMILY PICTURES TAKEN HERE!!!! Tokyo Travel has a good article on it here. Even through the rain and mist it was gorgeous!

 300 year old Pine Tree!
One of the LARGEST Black Pines in Tokyo!

The Rainbow Bridge is over there


Love the ponds with Skyscrapers in the background

Rain Chain, I want one before we leave

Crazy big Aloe plant in the middle of the flowers

Former Inabu Shrine
From the Gardens we hopped on the water bus and took a river cruise through the bay up to Akasuka.
Even though it was a drizzly day it was still fun to take the cruise, although the guide did say on a clear day you can see a lot.
Back of the Tsukiji Fish Market!
Where all the seafood gets unloaded for the auctions.

Crazy little island with skyscrapers!

Pulling a barge in.
Once the cruise was over we walked over to see the main attractions of Akasuka, Tokyo! Sensō-ji Temple, a Buddhist temple which is also Tokyo's oldest Temple! There are tons of small shops with candy, food, swords, fans, and many other knick-knacks, definitely a place I will have to come back to for Christmas gifts. We weren't given a whole lot of time and so I felt a tad rushed to see it all and check stuff out, on a nicer weather day this maybe a good destination to head back too! There is also a smaller Shinto shrine on the temple grounds so it was cool to go from seeing the huge Meiji Shrine to the smaller Akasuka Shrine. We did get to try some amazingly delicious treats! One was a rice cracker they dip in warm soy sauce and wrap a piece of sea around it, and the other was a small deep fried ball of heaven! This ball of goodness I think is Deep Fried Manju, its a warm doughy ball stuffed with filling, Zack got the original which had anko (sweet bean paste- they put it in everything here) but mine was Pumpkin *just looking at the picture below and typing is making my mouth water and making me want to go back for more!!!* 
Sensō-ji Temple
 Sea of Umbrellas around the incense

The Temple
 Inside the Temple
I received a bad fortune so I tied it up to stay there.
Five Story Pagoda
A shop with swords
The Rice Cracker Vendor dunking it before the nori is wrapped
 The reason I gave up using an umbrella, cause everyone else was and I was tired of getting stabbed in the face!


Akasuka Shrine:

Overall it was a great trip! I would definitely recommend that ITT tour, and now I am more confident is where things are if people come visit us we have some cool things to show them!