I know, I know… one week I’m in snowy Portland and the next week I’m back in Japan. What can I say? My blog posts are a little like my mind at the moment – scattered and random.
There are two things I like to experience during every visit to Japan – some temple viewing and a trip to an Onsen. Thanks to some great planning by my husband and mother-in-law, an overnight trip to Nikko covered both experiences.
We loaded up a rented mini van with the entire family – including my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, his wife and our two nephews. That meant one large mini van by Japan standards. It took some very careful driving by my brother-in-law to navigate through the tight Yokohama streets.
It took us about four hours to reach the the Kinugawa Onsen Hotel, which greeted us with some fleeting autumn color. I imagine that this part of the country is stunningly beautiful in October – and also stunningly crowded.
The hotel was a traditional Ryokan which means that all the rooms have tatami floors, and someone will come to lay out futons while you’re off eating a traditional Japanese 5 course (rougly) meal.
This hotel also happened to have an onsen which I visited on three separate occasions during our overnight stay. Of course I couldn’t take photographs inside the onsen so the following poster will have to do. There were two separate onsen rooms and they had designated men and women times for each so I was able to visit both during our stay. Each room had a washing station (where you wash before getting in the onsen), a large indoor heated bath and several outdoor bathing areas. One room also had massaging bathtubs and a sauna. There was also a dressing area with hairdryers, lotions and anything else you might need to make yourself presentable again after your onsen experience.
The outdoor bathing areas were my happy place. I want an onsen in my backyard, although we’d also have to build a 20 foot fence for privacy so it might be a logistical challenge.
Possibly the best thing about visiting a Ryokan (besides the onsen) is that they provide you with a Yukata (robe) to wear during your stay. You can walk around the hotel in your robe, eat wearing your robe and even sleep in your robe. They even provide robes for children – who of course immediately assume they’re provided for ninja practice.
And toe socks! Who could forget the toe socks?
Dinner was served in a HUGE banquet room in the hotel. I think they gave us that room because they knew we were accompanied by four crazy boys with ants in their pants.
Dinner included a vast array of small plates of food – some I recognized and others were more…interesting. Of course I tried everything.
After dinner I visited the onsen one more time before we called it a night. In the morning, I took another trip to the onsen (making the most of it) and then walked around the hotel with my camera before we headed out to a day of temple viewing. I’ll share pictures of the temples in another post because, well, there are a LOT.
Thomas took this one.
And Kei took this one…
A hotel employee took a group shot…
…and then insisted on another under the hotel sign because free publicity (I guess?).
Back soon with 1001 temple photos.
Gosh, it feels like a lifetime ago that we had snow here in Portland. In the two weeks since the snow let up enough for the kids to go back to school, I’ve had a near-miss teacher’s strike (glad I didn’t have to manage the logistics for that one), guests for a long, rainy weekend and then, this past weekend, photos at our school auction and a great Karaoke night. In the midst of it all the whole family attended a Zentangle class at the local library and made some wonderful artwork.
Sound random? How about a trip to San Francisco tomorrow to mix it up just a little bit more. Yes, life is flying by at an alarming rate.
So let’s step back to a day when we had no choice but to let it all go and focus on the moment – mostly because everything else was closed due to the snowstorm. I have to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with the snow. On the one hand it’s messy and annoying and, in Portland, a little treacherous, but on the other hand it forced us to let everything go for a few days. It was wonderful to see the entire neighborhood out enjoying the weather without the pressure of work or sports or even a trip to the grocery store. Sure, I was ready (REALLY ready) for the kids to go back to school on Tuesday, but a weekend of being snowed in may have been just what the doctor ordered.
This is not my child – just a friend who joined us in a very freaky hat.
Samuel is somewhere under that snow. The kid had a ball.
I know it’s blurry, but I love it.
And, finally, putting all vanity aside and to prove that I was really there, some video evidence. That word I’m saying at the end is “Pole!”
Thankfully we’re no longer digging out of the snow, but I’m trying to get things back in order after a couple of very busy weeks that have keep me from posting. Last week was the snowstorm (sledding pictures still to come) and then my brother, sister-in-law and nephew came to visit for a weekend filled with restaurants, movies, indoor play structures and rain (SO much rain!). They left on Tuesday and I’m grateful that we avoided a Portland Teacher’s strike which has allowed me to get back to my day job, but it looks as though the craziness will continue for at least a few more days with a school fundraising auction, karaoke with the girls and a business trip early next week. The fun never stops!
I hope to get back here soon but, in the meantime, I’ll placate the grandparents with a couple of photos of our special guests. We miss them already.
Portland shuts down during a snow storm – which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Thankfully, this year’s snowstorm hit over the weekend, but the boys have another snow day today which means I’ll be juggling work and children’s entertainment. If we’re lucky we may venture out to the grocery store. I’ve just about reached the bottom of the freezer and the back of the cupboards.
Don’t get me wrong though, we had a fun weekend. The boys spent a lot of time outside in the neighborhood with their friends and we went sledding on Saturday before the freezing rain set in and covered everything in a layer of ice. I’ll probably need to break this post into two parts just to share a small portion of the photos I took.
So, I declare Snowmaggedon 2014 fun for a weekend and a great source of inspiration for this photographer – but now we’re ready to move on. If you could just warm up a little more, Portland, I’d be grateful.
Most of the following photos were taken Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, before the worst of it hit.
I have no idea what Thomas is doing here.
Dry snow makes for extra slippery slides. Thankfully, snow gear provides additional padding.
“My legs hurt! I. can’t. walk. any. further.” We’re one block from our house.
Coming soon: More snow! And Sledding!
It doesn’t snow very often in Portland – we’re lucky if we get one decent snowfall a year. So, when the snow comes down like it did yesterday, the city stops. Schools and public buildings are closed, public transport is crawling and the highways are almost empty. We’ll be spending the day hunkered down at home, venturing outside every now and then to enjoy this rare event (I’m sure I’ll be taking some photos).
Samuel and I took a walk through the park yesterday. It was about 25 degrees fahrenheit (-7 celsius), with wind gusts that blew snow across the park and made me lose all feeling in my face. The weather is going to last through the weekend and then Portland will warm up again. I’m going to try and enjoy it, knowing that it will be over in a couple of days. Although, by this time tomorrow, I predict some cabin fever will set in.
Samuel kept stopping to eat the fresh snow. Thankfully he knows to stay away from the yellow stuff.
And he also stopped to write his name in the snow more than once.
Thomas joined us for about 10 minutes before he lost his sense of adventure. (or maybe he realized how crazy we were)
This was just the beginning. We accumulated about 4 inches by 8:00 last night.
One more reason not to get a dog…
mmmm – tasty.
Looking forward to more adventures today.
We said goodbye to the Abe family and spent the night at a hotel in Tokyo so we could experience just a little more of the city before heading back to Yokohama. Although Yokohama is only a 1 hour train ride/walk from Tokyo, we were up for a little adventure and decided the best way to see more of the city was to stay overnight.
Our plan was to catch the train to Tokyo station, put our luggage in a locker and walk over to see the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately things didn’t quite go as planned. It pays to check beforehand and make sure the Palace is going to be open before you make it the focus of your visit. Closed on Monday and Wednesday.
The boys were disappointed but that didn’t stop us from taking a look around. Note to self: Next time we’ll check the website.
Tokyo station: I have no idea how we found these lockers. The station has been recently renovated and is one massive underground rabbit warren.
It looks beautiful from the outside (and surprisingly more European than Japanese).
We had a lot to take in during our walk from the station to the Palace.
This coach driver was waiting for his passengers. I have never seen someone enjoy feeding pigeons quite as much as this man. It was wonderful to watch someone get so much enjoyment out of such a simple pastime.
Thank you for holding onto the Autumn leaves into late November, Tokyo. This photographer truly appreciates it.
We finally made it to the palace and took photos at the spot where, I’m sure, many a tourist has taken a photo. The best view of the palace.
I love the reflection in this one.
We shook off some of our disappointment at not being able to go inside with some twirling.
Even Samuel’s puppy dog eyes weren’t enough for them to open the gate.
That teeny little door that they walk through reminds me of the entrance to the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz.
On the walk back to the station, we stopped at a little Ramen place in the underground rabbit warren for lunch. Then Kei and I searched for a wireless signal so we could find the right train back to Yokohama.
Yes, we were disappointed but at least we experienced a little adventure. And didn’t come down with food poisoning, so there’s that…
Besides, now we have something to add to our list of must-sees for our next trip to Japan.