Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mom and Dad in Japan

So first of all, I'm sorry it has taken me so long to update this thing... April was a wild month and here we are at the end my May and I'm just now feeling like I can take a minute to breathe! So April 1st not only brought in the amazing Cherry Blossom season, it brought my wonderful parents! So as my parents arrived in Tokyo on Friday, I had to finish off my week at work. On Saturday night, I took the Shinkansen after work and met my parents at the amazing Tokyo Hilton! It was beautiful with a beautiful view of the city! The next day we were off to Hakone, where we would be enjoying a fun little "Pirate Ship" cruise on Lake Ashi and rope-way ride, and then to Atami where we would enjoy an amazing classic onsen Ryokan (Japanese style hotel) with an amazing ocean view of Atami.

While the Pirate Ship cruise was exhilarating, my favorite part had to be the amazing onsen at our hotel and the exquisite kaiseki dinner (celebratory dinner). The whole tour group got dressed in our Yukata's (casual cotton kimonos) and dinned in a traditional tatami mat room. The dinner was not only amazing, but the presentation was beautiful! There was soo much food and it was all fabulous!

After our amazing meal, they had a Karaoke machine set up for a little post dinner entertainment... however, my dad and I were the only performers... oh well at least us Urhausen's know how to rock the Karaoke!

So after our great stay in Atami, we were off to Osaka and Kobe! In Osaka we stayed at the Imperial Osaka and visited the castle! I had been to the castle before, but the cherry blossoms were absolutely amazing! Apparently the Osaka castle is one of the most popular places to have o-hanami parties (Cherry Blossom viewing parties)The surrounding park was full of people enjoying picnics under the cherry blossoms! It was really beautiful!

In Kobe we went to a sake brewery and walked around the China town
then went to a nice Kobe beef dinner and enjoyed the beautiful picturesque view of the Kobe harbor with a delicious desert of green tea ice cream! yummy!

After our night in Osaka, I had to head back to the daily grind of Kakegawa... Mom and Dad continued their tour and went to Kyoto and Nara before joining me in Kakegawa. That next weekend we took a little journey to Ooigawa for a relaxing end to their visit. We took a steam train on the Ooigawa railway before making it to our destination.

We stayed at a beautiful onsen Roykan. It really was a beautiful place. A great way to end an amazing visit!

Overall it was an amazing visit! It was a busy two weeks but was so much fun! I was really able to see a different side of Japan and experience some amazing places!
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Monday, March 22, 2010


Tonight I am filled with gratitude and thankfulness.
I just spent the day with one of my students and her wonderful family!
This all started with a wonderfully kind invitation to be dressed in her mother's Kimono. I was honored by the offer and excitedly accepted the invitation! We set a date and planned to make a day of it!
My student picked me up around 10am at the station! She greeted me with a big smile and in company were her two anxious children smiling as well! From the moment I was greeted, I could feel the warmth and kindness this family had! As we drove, the children began to feel more comfortable with me... especially her daughter! She was quite the teacher and was helping me with my Japanese... she was my Nihongo ga sensei for the day! "apple in Japanese is ringo" "green in Japanese is midori" sooo kawaii (cute!!!) And as we drove, we approached the ocean. Now this is the first time I am seeing the ocean since I have been in Japan, and I didn't realize the effect it would have one me. [ok prepare yourselves for some extremely corny dialog right about now] When I first catch sight of the ocean it was as if the ocean; the waves, the sand, and entire atmosphere came crashing into my chest and filled my heart with happiness! [I know, I know... it's soo corny, but I can't think of any better way to describe how it felt] It was like I felt at home! Okay so we made a few stops at different beaches where we walked up to a cute lighthouse and saw an amazing view of the beach, then to a cute little park where the kids went down this big slide that looked like it came from a carnival ride:)
After our little beach adventures, we went to lunch at one of my student's friends restaurants. It was very nice! Great food! Oishi!!!! (soooo good) it was small, but classic looking. When you walk up to the main dinning area, you walk by a small Ostrich farm with a few Ostriches walking around, then up a few stairs to a high ceilinged, wood framed room. It was clean and simple, but it had great character! Apparently they have live music concerts there in the summer!
After a delicious lunch, we went to my student's mother's house for the "Kimono Party"! The house was a very traditional Japanese home with many tatami mat rooms. So for the next about hour and a half, I was dressed in two different kinds of Kimono. One was a more casual Kimono and the other was a more formal Kimono used for special occasions like weddings or something. I can understand why Kimono dressing is such a special occasion; it takes time, effort and precision to dress someone in a Kimono. I felt so special being taken care of and dressed so specially in such a beautiful Kimono! I'm having a hard time expressing how wonderful this experience was, but just know that my whole heart was filled with love, not only because of the exciting experience, but mostly because of the wonderful family I was surrounded by. I had my student, her mother, her aunt and her daughter all helping me and saying "Kire" "Kire" (beautiful, beautiful) they are just such kind people!
As if the kindness of taking the time to share this experience with me wasn't enough, they gave me one of the Kimono to keep!!!!! I was so touched by kindness! I wasn't sure how to accept such an offer, but Luckily my student was able to translate how thankful I was and how touched I was by this gift!!! (honestly I'm still in shock that I now have my own Kimono... it's beautiful and I... I don't know, it's just amazing)
After saying thank you as many times as I possibly could, we left her mother's house and went to my student's house were I played wii with her son and received more Japanese lessons from her daughter... this time with writing Hiragana!!! I told my student that her daughter would make a wonderful teacher!!! So cute! Then a few of her friends came over and we had sushi and beer, and talked and hung out! It was an absolutely wonderful day! It felt so comforting being around a happy family with great friends and laughter and games and kids... it was just wonderful!
I just thought I would share this experience with you, because it's not everyday that someone opens up there home and shows such kindness to someone they don't really know that well... My heart is filled with gratitude and thankfulness! I have already learned a lot from this experience, however this particular experience has taught me something about giving and kindness on a whole new level! I hope to take with me this feeling and remember it always!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Okay so here goes...
I feel I should prepare you for what is about to come your way. The Japanese call it "Purikura" however, I have also heard it been called things such as "Pre- Club". The Americans would know it by the name of "Photo Booth" (on crack!). So basically they are photo booths with amazing effects! For example, since the popular trend among young Japanese girls is to have light light skin and large appearing eyes, these photo booths create that illusion for you. You can even choose how light your skin will appear. You can also choose how large your eyes will look. I think the choices are "large" and "FREAKISHLY LARGE". It's pretty intense! So that's just step one...
Oh, p.s. all the instructions are in Japanese, so it's quite a task for any
foreigners...although I don't think I have seen anyone but young teenage
girls and young Junior High couples in these things. lol
so anyways, now its about the background... there are about 20 different backgrounds you can choose from. Some are themed, some are just colored...
Next is Picture Time! It goes really fast, but they do have funny Japanese girls doing different posses before each new picture in case you need help thinking of a new pose! (Brilliant!)
Okay so I know what you're thinking, "picture time is over, you go outside the booth and wait for your little strip of photos to come out!" NOT QUITE...
This is where the real fun begins! After you exit the photo booth, you head to a computer screen booth where it's time to decorate! That's right, decorate!!!
And I'm not talking about a simple heart border, or antiqued edges... We are talking, massive amounts of clip art, make-up additions, writing tools, background enhancements, you name- they've got it!
So for this portion, you have a set time limit, which makes it a little challenging, because there is just soo much to choose from! When that sad (more like high pitched Japanese girl's) voice initiates the count down it's WILD! You franticly paste and write and clutter as much stuff as possible on your photo and then, before you know it, your once magical electronic pen is now lifeless and dead.
It was a rush, from start to finish and now is the time where you enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Head out of your magical computer booth and wait (like 2 seconds) for your photo creation to appear! It's amazing, you bask in your triumph, but not for too long, because now it's time to have your master pieces sent to your phone! Yep... and not by typing your e-mail.. no, no, such things would be far too primitive. And so in keeping with our high-tech experience of the last umm, lets say 15 minutes, I take out my phone, turn on my "infrared" setting and place it on this scanner that instantly sends a selected picture to my phone data folder! Amazing!
We leave the arcade (where most of these are found) feeling exhilarated! and not only can you admire your creation with your handy little photos - which, by the way, can double as a sticker - you can share them by sending them to friends and family...!
So although it's a little wild and childish, it's a fun time all around!!!
Okay, so I hope that has prepared you for what your are about to see...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Snow boarding!!!

Yea!!! So I went snowboarding a few weeks ago with my manager and the head teacher at our school!!! One of our students drove us to Gifu prefecture, which is close to Nagoya. It was such a fun day!!!
We left at about 5am, so we were out on the road early!!
We got to the snow park at around 9am and were on the slopes:)
It was a nice day at first, then it started to rain. And there is nothing worse than rain when your snowboarding/skiing... At first it wasn't soo bad, but after awhile, we were soaked and the snow started to get slushy. She we decided to call it a day and head back.

On our way back to Kakegawa, we stopped at an Onsen (It's a traditional Japanese bath house- like a spa but more casual) It was perfect after snowboarding! We were cold, wet and dirty. The Onsen is divided for men and woman. There is a locker room where you change and get ready! Then there is a shower room where you shower and get all nice and clean before you enter the baths. It's just one big room where everyone showers, and yes, everyone is naked, and no one cares. However I was the only foreigner there so I did get a few looks that lasted longer than normal! I think it was probably the junk-in-the-trunk that took them by surprise! lol... it has the saem effect in the States so what can you do...? Anyways, then it is off to the baths. There are a few different baths that have different minerals or other aromatic specialties! This Onsen also had an outdoor bath and it was really nice to be outside, because it was still raining and we were in this great hot bath with the cool rain coming down! Very relaxing!
So after we were done with the baths we met out (male) friend and had some milk. apparently thats what you do after enjoying the baths, you drink milk! They had regular milk, strawberry, coffee, and yogurt milk?. I went with the regular, even though I'm not a big fan of milk, it felt nice, as if I was nourishing my body!
Then we were off! In search of a special Ramen restaurant:) and although it took us about 3 1/2 hours, it was well worth the journey!
Side note: Ramen is also another great comfort food in Japan. Not only is it
the Japanese equivalent of Del Taco after a night of drinking in the
States, it is also great on a cold day to warm you up!
It was the perfect end to the day! We didn't get back until like 11pm so I was pretty tired, but it was such a fun day!!! I couldn't believe how amazing the Onsen felt after being in the snow all day. I think someone needs to start that up in the U.S.!!! Such an amazing pair!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tokyo "Take One"

So first of all, I'd like to apologize for not writing in a while... I have no excuse, but laziness :(
Anyways, so there is much to update on... first lets talk about my first trip to Tokyo... hense the title; Tokyo "Take One"
I ventured north to the epicenter of Japan about three weeks ago. I went to visit a friend who is working with the same company as I am...
We met up in Ginza, the major shopping center of Tokyo. It is known for upscale shopping and more expensive restaurants!
We didn't spend much time there because we had a long night ahead of us... First stop; Shibuya!
Shibuya is one of the more popular nightlife areas in Tokyo. We went to a Izakaya (bar) and enjoyed some good food and yummy cheep beer!

This is the first "sushi roll" that has looked anything like what we have at home.
It reminded me of Sushi Studio... fun and fancy:)
side note: most sushi rolls in Japan are simple- cucumber roll, tuna roll,
tamago roll... nothing really fancy like the Sushi restaurants in CA
After that we spent the night Izakaya- hopping and didn't end up leaving for home until after the sun was coming up! (I don't think I have ever been out all night like that... it was supper fun!- man I'm wild... lol!)
The next day it was Sightseeing Day, dun-da-da-dun! Although my friend would have loved to sleep longer, I was ready to go! Sorry thats what us morning people do... :) All I needed was a little coffee and I was pumped! (mom, dad, and keira you know what I'm talkin' about!)

So that day, we hit the Imperial Palace to find the wonderful picture opportunity of the Nijubashi Bridge! (It was a picture I saw in one of my travel books and I had to find it... it was just so pretty in the picture) and so we did...

Then it was off for a little bit of a walk... (okay a long long long walk) to the Tokyo Tower...
As you know, I have been to the Nagoya T.V. Tower and the Osaka Umeda Sky Buliding... so thought it was in keeping with my pattern to go to the Tokyo Tower!
side note: apparently the Tokyo Tower is taller than the Eiffel Tower!
It was really beautiful, however right as we got to the top, fog began to cover the city, so we didn't get the best view, but it was still beautiful!
Okay so best part about the Tokyo Tower is, hand-down, the mascot!!! check it out...

No joke, this guy was everywhere!!! What's with the pink cone-head? I have no idea, but it was funny:)

To end the day, we went to this small Izakaya and had a small dinner(we were pretty tired so we made it an early night, and headed back)

The next morning my friend had to go to work, so we said sayonara, and I was off to do a little more exploring... (just couldn't get enough!)
I was dying to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market! It is known as one of the largest fish markets/ports in Japan! It is also known for amazingly fresh sushi breakfasts...!
So i went down to the docks, and unfortunately I just missed the open market (it closes at 10am) but I was right on time for an amazing sushi breakfast/lunch!
I went to this place called Daiwa Sushi (had to wait about 20 min and it was 3,500 yen= about 35$!) But it was really good and the Sushi chefs were friendly and fun:)

Oiishi!!! That means, "sooo good"!and yes... I tried everything! Even the orange one which is sea urchant! It is amazing! AHHH... I LOVE SUSHI!!!! Sushi ga suki desu!!!
So after that, I was ready to get on the Shinkansen as head home...
It was a great first trip to Tokyo and now I am even more excited to go back and experience a whole different part of the city!
Hope you enjoyed... Hopefully I will be back very soon with deets on my snowboarding trip!
Oyasuminasai! (goodnight;)

Monday, February 8, 2010


Okay... so since I have written last, I have gone to Tokyo and I still need to write about it (slash) post pictures... However... I have some random things on my mind, so here goes:
Okay first; I had one of the greatest weekends... Yesterday I went shopping with a girlfriend from work and got a bunch of fun things for life in Japan. For example a yoga mat :) then today I had to go to work, even thought it's my day off, I am being observed by our district trainer tomorrow and I wanted to prep a few things for my lesson (such a hard worker... lol!)So while at work, one of my colleagues(slash/ yoga buddy) gave me these "toe" socks... I know it sounds odd to get excited about, but in our yoga class they do these funny toes I know! But everyone else had these "toe" socks and were all getting into their toe stretches. We laughed about it after class because we didn't get the full "toes stretch" with our normal socks on... lol, I know this is soo lame and random, but I'm getting a kick out of it:)
Then I go into our office and find that my wonderful mother has sent be another package, (the first one was for some ski things- I'm going snow boarding on Thursday with some friends:)
Oh also I forgot- before I went to work, I stopped by the second-hand store by my house and found this super cute lil couch! and p.s they delivered:0 I've been dying to get something to sit on besides these horribly uncomfortable chairs...
So I get home and open up all my goodies...!!! SOOO FUN!!! Check it out...

I mean really... how great is my mom!!! Home made cookies, candy, a teddy bear, Starbucks coffee, and Martha Stewart Living... does it get any better than that...oh wait, it does, GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!!!!!

Well, after I got so excited from my fun V-Day package... I decided to cook dinner!
Well, I have to say, It was pretty good :)
you be the judge...

Well, what do you think...?
I have to say though, I think I understand why single people don't cook...
I have so much left over! Anyone hungry?

Okay hope all is well with everyone! I'll be back with Tokyo and hopefully my snow boarding trip :)
Ja ne ( talk to you later)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Japanese New Year's Wreaths

So as I browsed around different malls and shops around the end of December, I noticed a large population of these types of straw/bamboo wreaths! At first I didn't know what they were for, but thought, "Hey, they are everywhere, they must be important!", So I bought one for my family and sent it on it's way! I later asked a friend at work what they were for (lol) and she explained they were New Year's wreaths! Families place them on their doors on New Year's day and leave them up until the 10th when they are promptly removed! (apparently it is bad luck to leave them up any longer than the 11th!!!) - so take this as an extra reminder mom...! I just thought I would post some pictures of a few I noticed on local businesses on New Year's day...

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