Sunday Soliloquy #9

Konnichiwa from Japan!  I am in the middle of my vacation to meet my newest nephew and revisit some Japan stomping grounds.  I am also going to see some college friends tonight who are also in town for vacation.  This was intentionally planned but still, it is so cool that everything has worked out!  It’s been a great vacation and, unfortunately, I think I have just reached the halfway mark.  Boo!

*Reading: The Overstory by Richard Powers.  Recommended by a book club member and next up for discussion, I started this book when it was “only” shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and now it’s won the Pulitzer.  Sagoy!  It is an excellent book so far and I’m excited to continue.  My reading is slightly fragmented since I’m also trying to trip plan on the fly but I am really loving it!

*(Not) Watching: The newest Game of Thrones.  I’m still in the middle of Season 6, so I will try to catch up by the next Sunday or two.  Brady and Ricardo are up-to-date and may watch tonight but I’m enjoying trying to get through the series.

*Loving: Japan!  I have missed it!  I have also had some fun travel adventures to include meeting a super nice American/Spanish couple at a Kyoto stand-up sake bar and going on a Kyoto hike I’ve been meaning to do for a couple of years.  Now, I’m starting a 4 day visit in Tokyo which will be a lot of fun since I didn’t see as much of Tokyo as I wanted while I was stationed here.  After this will be a two day, one night trip to Kanazawa and an overnight on the Izu Penninsula.  This vacation has been amazing and my little nephew is the coolest baby I know!

*Also loving: Packing Light.  I’m doing pretty well.  I am benefiting from the comparison to two parents who are carting around newborn supplies, hahaha.  I am also loving high-speed data plans.  This is good for keeping in touch and searching for last minute trip ideas.  Finally, I am also loving keeping up with my blogging as I travel, which I may try to do for future trips rather than take notes and blog later.  TBD.  This will likely be hit or miss, depending on the trip.

*New trip planning idea that sounds so bougie but is amazing: The Louis Vuitton City Guide.  I know!  This sounds so ridiculous and yes, I am a doctor but employed by the Navy, not a boutique private practice so hear me out.  There are a lot of good recommendations that include low(ish) to moderate price points so I would recommend!

Sisters in Japan, Day 4: Universal Studio Osaka

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Harry Potter, Har-RY Pot-TER!  Yes, it was Harry Potter World time!  Hooray!

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Crowd around the gate. View from hotel window.

I started the day with my Japan early wake-up (boo!).  I bought sunscreen and coffee for the group (yay!) and because everyone else was still sleeping, I headed into the park.  I went to Harry Potter world to check out the scene.

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I think I’ve said it before but I am so in awe of J.K. Rowling.  She is so creative to have dreamed up such a world and to see it come to life was really cool.  It almost felt magical!  I’ve never seen the movies but I’ve read the series twice.  I walked through the forest and into Hogsmeade.  The buildings were super cute, but I waited until I was with Brady and Ricardo to go into the shops.  I made a beeline for the rides, but I got confused between the Flight of the Hippogriff (baby roller coaster) and stood in that line for 5 minutes.  I left and went to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  I went into the Singles line, which moved quickly.  The line snakes through Hogwarts castle, with its many rooms filled with talking portraits that have mouths that move with English words but overdubbed in Japanese.

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The ride is awesome!  My favorite was the VR parts where I felt like I was riding on a broomstick right behind Harry (Potter, not the Prince!).  I definitely recommend it.

I had done some pre-reading about Universal Studios Osaka and one common theme was the crowds.  We went on a weekday and were charged the “low-peak” ticket price.  The park was crowded but the worst wait I saw during the day was 90 minutes.  The waits were also shorter than the estimates.  For our particular visit, I was glad we hadn’t bought the Express Pass, Since we were moving at a mellow baby pace rather than racing from ride to ride, it wouldn’t have been worth it.

One thing that I really think would make the experience better is if re-entry were allowed.  It seems crazy to me that a park with nearby hotels and catering to kids does not allow parents to take a mid-day break and come back.  Boo!  This should definitely be fixed!

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This is what kids look like without re-entry!

Anyway, back to our day.  I texted Brady and Ricardo and asked what house LR was in.  Gryffindor, naturally.  So, I played the part of proud auntie and bought LR a little wizard robe.  I was very excited for the photo ops and it should be big enough that he can wear it for Halloween.  I also rode the Hollywood Dream coaster, that was fun.

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Best family!

Next, I met up with Ricardo, Brady, and LR at the entrance and we headed back to Harry Potter World!  After several photos, we entered Hogsmeade and promptly bought a Butterbeer.  I bought mine in a souvenir cup because I am a big sucker.  Then, we went to the Three Broomsticks and sat by the Black Lake.  Brady and Ricardo ate but I wasn’t super hungry.  We did, however, graduate to adult beers.

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Maybe next time! Keep drinking milk, LR!

We went to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  LR missed the height requirement by a few centimeters.  🙁  Brady and Ricardo were set up with the “Child Switch,” which involved taking turns on the ride and waiting in a little child-friendly room in the interim.

After the ride, we walked through the shops of Hogmeade.  I had spent my allowance already on LR so it was just window-shopping for us.  I would have loved a wand but they were so expensive!  I felt like a Weasley.

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Ricardo wanted to check out a live show so we went to Waterworld which was stunt after stunt.  The pre-show entertainment was also very funny.  It felt like a Japanese game show with lots of slapstick humor. And lots of water guns and water pails, with contents aimed at an unfortunate group of Japanese students.

After WaterWorld, we went to Jurassic Park where we went on Jurassic Park: the ride and the Flying Dinosaur, which was an insane roller coaster.  The rider gets in and then the seats rotate 90 degrees so that the rider is hovering like a pteranodon!!  The hills, loops, and twists were super intense.  We all liked it but also felt like our head were partially blown off.

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We ended our night with the Hogswart Magical Celebration.  The light show was amazing although the best part was the houses being announced in Japanese.

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So.  You think our night is over?  Wrong!  Brady had gotten a recommendation for an Osaka izakaya and even though we alternated in thinking we were too tired (first her, then me), we decided to go!  KannoMiho is an izakaya with great sake and sashimi.  I also ordered “Ichiban gohan” after the guy next to us told us it was recommended by his rice connoisseur friend. [Note to self: Must get more niche-friends.]  We had a great night out and got back to the hotel after midnight.  It was a crazy, great day!

 

 

 

 

Sisters in Japan, Day 3

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Today was an exciting day because it was the first Shinkansen ride for the entire M-R clan!  We left about 9 o’clock after that lil’ diva LR took for-ever to get ready. Seriously, good thing he was the last to shower because there would have been no hot water for the rest of us.

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Haha. I am so funny. I managed to get a quick workout in while we were getting ready and then we took a multi-train trip from Sagami-otsuka (Atsugi NAF) to Yokohama, Yokohama to Shin-Yokohama, Shin-Yokohama to Shin-Osaka (Shinkansen!), and then Shin-Osaka-Osaka-Nishikujō-Universal City.

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The hotel is nice and right outside the station and amusement park. It is an awesome location! After settling in and feeding the newest little Griffindor, we headed out to the Dotonbori/Nanba area.

We walked around and took in all the neon signs, sounds, and smells of Osaka. Osaka is known as Japan’s kitchen and there is so much good food!

We wandered around until I, at least, was starting to reach mild hangriness, despite a quick takoyaki break.  We went into a small Izakaya off of a side alley and got a great set dinner!

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We headed back to the hotel after briefly discussing moving onto a bar. But we needed a rest. Our mega-Harry Potter day was the next day and we had to be at our peak!

Sisters in Japan, Day 2

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Sun’s out, guns out.

My first full day in Japan started with coffee.  Perfect!  I hung out with Ricardo and baby Rickey for a bit until Brady woke up.  It was a very mellow morning even though some-one can’t keep his eyes open for too long.  Eating is exhausting.

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Carp flags strung across the river.

Ricardo gave me a ride to the station and I took the train to Yokosuka via Yokohama.  I was on my way to meet my friend Kazu-san for lunch.  I was very excited that it had worked out with his work schedule.  He is a friend of mine from Naval Hospital Yokosuka and even though it had been a few years, it was important for me to see him.  

We had a wonderful lunch at Hananoya (花野家), a French restaurant that is very special and delicious.  The set lunch consisted of a vegetable terrine, squid ink bread, chilled carrot soup, a main, and panne cotta.  The four options for the main were chicken, sea bream, beef cheeks, and lobster.  I had the sea bream and it was beautifully cooked with a crisp skin. 

Even better than the food was the conversation.  Kazu-san is a citizen of the world and it is so cool to hear about his life and thoughts on different subjects.  I feel very lucky to have met such a good person and be able to keep in touch, even if it is sporadic.  I am really hoping in a few years that his son stays with SMS and I during a Summer as an exchange student.  That would be so much fun and we would show him all the cool things in the Bay Area.  Kazu’s son is interested in science and math, so it would be a perfect place.  And SMS would have a new person to go with to the Computer History Museum.

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Graphic Art Latte!

After a leisurely lunch (with wine!  Kazu-san had the afternoon off), I headed to Ebina where Brady and I met for a quick coffee and shared pancake at Latte Graphic, located within Uniqlo. It was a delicious snack, followed by some shopping.  I bought the most jolie laide short-sleeve pajama set that I’m pretty sure I will also use as an outfit to a tropical party.  There is photographic evidence but I’m not willing to share.  Yet.

After our snack, it was time for baby Rickey to eat followed by watching Ricardo’s softball game.  It was a pretty good game apart from one soul-crushing inning (did you know the scoreboard can only indicate 9 runs in an inning?  It can’t handle double digits).  Softball, BTW, is an intense sport within military intramurals.  It is not a game.  It is the Thunderdome.

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Lots of spice!

After the game, we headed back to Ebina for dinner.  We tried to go to a delicious gyoza place but it was full.  So, we at a Korean restaurant instead where the spicy level was up! Ricardo was very happy since that’s an unusual find in the Japanese culinary scene.  I also placed an order for takeaway gyoza since Brady and Ricardo had hyped them up so much.  They were not wrong.  Deliciousness in a little dough-y wrapper!

Sisters in Japan, Day 1

I’m in Japan!  The flight was pretty painless. Since I’ve flown so much over the last 2.5 years, I’m now a Gold level United frequent flyer so I get automatic booking in Economy Plus. I had an aisle bulkhead seat so I got to get up a fair amount. There was a ton of legroom and it was overall a very comfortable flight.

A big key to this was my newest favorite purchase- the Trtl neck pillow. It’s so ingenious but so infuriatingly simple- why didn’t I think of it?!  Basically, it’s about 1/3 of a C-spine collar/neck brace that replicates the feeling of the best shoulder in the world to rest my head on. It secured into place with a fleece scarf that Velcros into place. It’s warm, comfy, and supports the chin so I don’t have that ridiculous looking mouth-open public sleeping posture. I love it and highly recommend!

While we’re on the subject of in-flight tips, I also recommend compression stockings and ear plugs.  Just do it!  
Brady, Ricardo, and Rickey picked me up at Haneda which was really nice of them. Pro tip: always fly in and out of Haneda if you can. It is so much more convenient to Tokyo via my favorite train line, the Keikyu!  

We hung out at the house, which is nice and spacious. It looked good on FaceTime but is even better in person. I took a 15 minute nap around 6 which was kind of a mistake but I also wouldn’t have made it through dinner otherwise.

We went to a yakitori place that was delicious. Good tsukune, chicken and spring onion, fried onigiri, and karage chicken wings.

I went to bed around 10 and although I woke up twice, I fell back asleep pretty quickly until I finally woke up at 6. Being sleep deprived before the trip helps with jet lag, although I don’t want to jinx myself.  I’ll let you know in a few days.