Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chinese New Year 2011

Chinese New Year fireworks go on every night for two weeks. Some people here start complaining about them after the first few days and quite often by the first week or so. I love them! My only complaint is when they set off really exciting sounding ones after I've already gone to bed. I can't help jumping up again and looking out the window so I tend to get less sleep for a couple weeks. It is pretty amazing seeing the magnitude of these fireworks right out on the street between buildings. I'll definitely miss these when I move home to where even sparklers are illegal!

Here are some photos and video I took last year when I lived on the second floor and the fireworks were being set off right outside my window.

This year I moved all the way across the street and up to the 30th floor. I had a buildings in the way more often this year but I could see more fireworks being set off around the city.

Here is my video from this year. (I think last year's video is better though.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Japan - Kawagoe

On my last full day in Japan, I took a train to Kawagoe. Kawagoe is known for sweet potatoes and there is even a beer made by Coedo that uses them. I bought a couple bottles to share with Danny when I returned to his place in the evening.

In Kawagoe, I walked around the shopping streets and visited the clock tower.

I also walked to the candy alley where kids were buying candy and sweet bread loaves. I didn't even have to look at my map to get to the candy alley, I just had to follow all the kids.

In the afternoon, I visited a temple which turned out to be my favorite part of my whole trip.

On the temple grounds there is a Buddha statue garden with hundreds of statues. Each Buddha is different and I took my time looking at each one.

The most famous ones are these two whispering and the one behind them who looks like he is listening in.

On my walk back to the train station, I saw some chopsticks lifting some noodles and a horse.

More photos at flickr.


Japan - Hakone

Daniel and I went to Hakone for two days during my visit to Japan. We took a train in the morning to Hakone where we got off and walked around a bit before heading a bit further to Gora where we stayed the night. Our hotel had onsen (hot baths) which Danny and I used. There were some that were available to all the hotel guests and each room had one right on the balcony!
We had tasty soba noodles for lunch.
We walked around a park. It would have been beautiful if the flowers were blooming but instead, it was pretty dead except for the flowers in the greenhouses. We saw a very creepy looking pitcher plant.
At our hotel, we dressed up in kimonos and had a fancy dinner with a great view. We had several courses including fugu hotpot!
In the morning, we rode the cable car hoping for a great view of Mount Fuji but it was cloudy and we were disappointed.
Next, we boarded a pirate ship and Danny was nearly shot.
Finally, the clouds went away for just enough time for us to take a few photos of Mount Fuji!
After we got off the pirate ship, we took a walk through cedar trees to another park and then caught the bus back to Hakone.
We had time to visit another temple before it was time to catch the train back to Tokyo.
Nice trip Danny!

More photos at flickr.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Japan - Tokyo, Ueno, Asakusa

For my Chinese New Year break this year, I visited Daniel in Japan for a week. Danny sent me directions to the train station near his house and met me there. We spent the first few days of my trip walking around Shinjuku, Harajuku, Shibuya, and other Tokyo areas.
We had lots of delicious food - Okinawan, Izakaya food, Kushiage, ramen noodles, and sushi. The weather was chilly but sunny my whole trip and it was great being in cleaner air for a week.

We took a trip to Hakone for a couple of days, but I'll write about that in my next post. After returning from Hakone, I spent a couple of days exploring on my own while Danny worked. One day, I went to Uedo and then to Asakusa.

In Uedo, I walked around in a park and visited a shrine.
Next, I took the subway to Asakusa. The first thing I saw after leaving the station was the Asahi brewery building (looks like a frothy glass!) and the golden object on the building next door.
I walked around the shopping street in Asakusa. People-watching, sake tasting, and temple visiting...
After returning from Asakusa, we went to Danny's neighborhood shrine to celebrate Setsubun. People born in the year of the rabbit went on the stage and threw soybeans out for us to catch. Can you spot the back of Danny's head? We ate a bean for each year of our age and then said, "Demons out! Good luck in!" We also ate a special Setsubun sushi roll and drank celebratory sake.

More photos at flickr.