Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Only Child Club, International Style

All only children,
will we be able to share one tiny apartment?
Last Saturday some of my oldest friends arrived in Japan to spend an entire week hanging out with me and exploring this lovely country. Tori, Claire and I have known each other since elementary school and have only gotten closer as we got older.

Welcome to Japan!
The girls arrived on a very rainy Saturday night, but we got them back to Kamagaya safely, and dried them off before sending them on the next leg of their journey. The following day they were set to go to Kyoto, so we got them bullet train tickets and sent them south to explore, while I headed back to work.

            And they`re off!
They returned to Kamagya with stories of their travels, and we plotted out the rest of their trip. The next day was a big Thanksgiving dinner at my tiny apartment. We had about 20 people, Japanese and foreign, many of whom were celebrating their first Thanksgiving. It was an awesome meal!

The girls were then off to Tokyo to explore and I was set to meet them Thursday night and stay at a hostel in Tokyo. We got up early Friday to go to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. It had been on my list of things to do since I got here. We set our alarms for 3am, out the door by 3:30, hailed a cab and were in line by 3:45. The market opens at 5, along with the super fresh sushi stands, but what we really wanted to see was the tuna auction. Only the first 120 people are allowed in. The goal was to be in line by four. We were the third party in line and were very proud of ourselves. Called my parents from the line at 4am to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving as they were headed out the door to dinner. 
We were ushered into a room and given some information that basically told us to behave ourselves. We were given these bight orange vests to wear so that we wouldn't get hit by the forklifts flying by. I felt like we were in a very cold, outdoor, fishy Home Depot.

The fish market in the olden days.                                                                    Fish market today. 

Defrosted tuna
After watching the auction it was time for a sushi breakfast. We waited inline for about an hour for the famous Dai Sushi. I bought the large set, an 11-piece sushi set with the freshest fish I had ever had, at probably the earliest hour I had ever had it.

Dai Sushi
In line before the sun

We left the restaurant very tired, very full, very happy campers.

We headed back to the hostel, were in bed by 8, took a power nap and shower before we headed out again to explore the town. We hit up the popular areas of Tokyo, took pics and did all the fun things you get to do when you're a tourist. 

The Cast of Characters
During a day of shopping in Harakjuku
We made it to the usual Tokyo hot spots. The girls chose places they had read about and I was in charge of navigating the trains. But the end of two straight Tokyo days we were exhausted. We were set to go out that night, it was going to be an all nighter. Everyone was going to have to rally. As soon as we walked into my little appartment and took off our shoes, it was clear no one was going anywhere. So we opted to have a lovely dinner in. Their trip was nearing an end and I think we all realized that we had yet to actually, hang out. So we did, and it was wonderful. An evening full of wine, food, every trashy magazine that`s come out in the last month (the girls brought them when they came), along with Oreos (also by way of my American friends), good company and conversation. It was a great time. 

Dinner for 3
And just like that the week was over and it was time to head to the airport. I took the girls part of the way before sending them through the turnstiles and off on their own.

Sayonara Kamagaya
Miss you girls!

It was a great trip! The girls were much better photographers that I was and have many more pics. Tori did a great job documenting just about everything that was put in her mouth. You can see all those pics on her awesome blog, What`s the Story Tori?

Always good to see a bit of home,

[The Latest]

Must Read: This has been circulated for awhile now, but somehow it came up in conversation today. If you haven't read it, get on it...too funny
The Best Roommate Ever -just your average San Franciscan looking for an apartment on Craigslist
Google Search: Tsukiji Fish Market
Tune: Hangover By Taio Cruz
Accomplishment: watching the girls have a great trip, turning in my JET program book 1 on time
Obsessions: gingerbread latte from starbucks, Love Actually, anything that smells like Christmas

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Back in March when I received the title of Parade Queen, I was fortunate enough to receive a box-load of other goodies. One of the prizes was a free night stay at the Bayside Marina Hotel in Yokohama.
 I had been so excited to use it; I had never been to Yokohama before! But things were kind of hectic with the earthquake and trip home so I was waiting for things to die down. When they finally did, I  was always hesitant to call because of the language barrier.

On a good day I could probably make a reservation in Japanese, but if they didn't speak English there was no way I could explain that I had a voucher for a free stay because I was the Tokyo Irish Parade Queen. No. Way. But I had a free weekend coming up and was looking for a change, and I had enlisted a friend to join me, so I braved it and called. Low and behold! The lady was fluent and even remembered the reason for the voucher. I forget that in the big cities, outside of Kamagaya, people do speak English.

We had a reservation for that Saturday, packed out bags and were prepared to make the most of our one night stay in Yokohama.

Meet my travel buddy, Jeff, new-ish to Kamagaya, by way of Wisconsin.
The train ride to Yokohama is about two hours from little Kamagaya, but we stayed entertained...

I kinda love these awkward pics as we attempt to blow bubbles.

[The Hotel]

It was amazing. Clean and modern and right on the water. The hotel was also located right next to a set of shopping outlets. I think it`s fair to say that I was more excited about Jeff when we had that realization. 

Sending you love Dad...
Loved the Layout

Included in our lovely stay was dinner and breakfast. We had no idea what to expect. Dinner turned out to be five course meal; we were pretty much giddy with excitement when we saw the menu. I haven't seen food like this anywhere in Japan since I've been here. It was all so amazing. Every bite.                       *Sorry some of the pictures are rotated!


1-Gorgonszola & Salmon Croquette 2-Flour Tortilla Roll Mexican Salsa 3-Pumpkin Soup with Foie Gras

                     4-Jeff-Scallop Tomato Batter Gratin      4-Kate-Grilled Beef Tenderloin Garlic Butter Sauces

5-Gateau au Chocolate with Coffee

We left very happy campers.
[Cosmo World]

After dinner we were off to explore the city. After Tokyo, Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, and with that title comes tourist attractions-one of them being the massive Ferris wheel, a prominent part of the city's skyline. The wheel was once the tallest in the world, until Japan out-did itself and built a bigger one in Osaka. On the wheel sits the world's largest clock. If you were expecting a hand clock like I was, well I am sorry to disappoint you, but the clock is digital. And yes, it's big.

Cosmo Clock 21
Inside the Ferris Wheel.
Then it was off to Cosmo World to play the arcade games, ride a roller coaster and act like we were 12.

The Faces of Focus.

The next morning we woke early to meet our 10am checkout and take full advantage of the breakfast we were being provided. We were pleasantly surprised to find it had eggs, bacon, avocado and all kinds of other things I hadn't seen in combination since moving here. It was great and hearty. A great send off as we went to tour the city. 


During breakfast we decided to hit up the aquarium first. During breakfast we mapped out the train lines and then were off. The Redondo Beach side of me was quite excited. It happened to be surprisingly warm that day as well, making the combination of underwater animals and warm weather almost more than I could handle.  
Dolphin Christmas! I mean could you ask for more!?
Our aquarium ticket was actually good for three aquariums all on the island. One of which was solely for dolphins. At the entrance was this lovely display, DOLPHIN CHRISTMAS!! Jeff and I were trying to guess if the little dolphins would have Santa hats on, they did not; but I wouldn't put it past Japan. 

Ginormous Crab
Everyone's favorite...Penguins
So we saw this lovely mural and stopped to figure it out.
Its the process of evolution, apparently the dinosaurs split off and some things evolved to whales and others to humans. Hence the lovely naked, glowing picture of the lady holding a baby.

Yokohama is also famous for having one of the world's largest Chinatowns. I have never been to China, but a friend of mine studied abroad there and has also been to this Chinatown. According to him this one is spot on. `I felt like I was right back in Hong Kong!` he reported to me after his return. I walked away feeling like I earned another stamp in my passport. 

Welcome to Chinatown!


[African Festival]

In researching Yokohama, we had also read about Yamashita park: a famous, beautiful park right on the water. We figured we'd grab some food in Chinatown and head to the park to sit and eat. But when we got there, there were people everywhere and drums in the background. It was obviously some kind of festival. Then we saw the stage and massive African Fiesta sign. Questions answered.There was a booth for food representing every African country. Chinese food went out the window. 

Kebab from Ethiopia

We tore ourselves away from the food to walk along the water to look at the other booths. On our walk along the water, a few people from one of the booths ran up to us, asking if we spoke English. When that was apparent they asked if we wanted to try on the traditional garb one of the men was wearing. It cost 100¥and the money went to a charity that provided prosthetic limbs for people in Rwanda. Before Jeff fully understood what they were asking of us, I told them we were in and pointed to Jeff. They were SO excited and began dressing him immediately. I whipped out my money and stood back, taking pictures left and right. The pink shirt with leopard print collar is my favorite part, hands down.

The entire outfit cost about $75 if anyone is interested...

It was such an amazing weekend! Loved exploring a new part a Japan.

Yokohama Skyline at Sunset

[The Latest]

Google Search: Jerry Sandusky
Tune: All About Us By He is We Feat. Owl City
Accomplishment: mastering the route from school directly to the gym, which means I won't go home first and get stuck in my apartment, asiago bagels from Costco
Obsessions: planning upcoming Thanksgiving, getting excited for Tori and Claire`s visit


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