A Travellerspoint blog

Touring Tokyo

Shinjuku, the Senso-Ji Shrine, and the Imperial Palace

sunny 84 °F
View Justin and Kaela's Honeymoon Adventure on JK_Adventures's travel map.

Kon'nichiwa everyone! I know I've been a bit absent with the blog and I've left most of the responsibilities up to Justin, but I'm back and ready to write! Today was another fun filled adventure touring through Tokyo. I have been left to being our guide for most of the trip thus far, and today was no different. Our morning started off a little sluggishly when Justin and I woke up around 9:00 am. Similar to yesterday, Mom, Kyra, and Kuku were just about ready to walk out the door in search of some sweet treats to start their day when I made my way upstairs (Justin's already informed everyone of my dread for the trek to get from one floor to another, so I have to especially mentally debate whether I'm ready to go upstairs to get up and brush my teeth or stay in bed a bit longer). They ended up with mini waffles today! For Kuku, they seemed more like bite-size waffles though. While they were out for their morning stroll, Uncle and Lilly started their day off shopping in Ginza and Justin and I lounged around with Tutu to relax before another big day. Justin was working on finishing the blog post from the day before this morning, since we both fell asleep in the living room late last night and Justin couldn't find the energy to finish working at 3:00 a.m.

Mom, Kyra, and Kuku brought some pastries yummy pastries back for us homebodies and, soon enough, we started our next adventure! We all thought it would be fun to go back to Shinjuku during the daytime since we got lost in the nighttime hustle last night. Navigating the subway seemed even more straightforward today after Kuku showed me a helpful Tokyo Metro app he's been hiding from me! It allows you to plug in your starting and ending location and shows you all of the different ways that you can get there, including whether it involves any transfers or not. Quite handy! Once we arrived at Shinjuku Station we were immediately swept away in the flurry of people. On our way to street level we made a detour at Paul's, which is a French bakery chain that Justin and I visited in Paris (no trip is complete without multiple pitstops for sweets and coffee). When we finally reached street level, we made our way over to Bic Camera in search of a Fitbit for Kyra. Since we are walking miles upon miles every day, we thought Kyra should join in on the action and calculate her own personal steps. Navigating the 5 story Bic Camera store was so much of a sensory overload I thought we were all going to go into shock! There were electronics everywhere, practically anything you would ever need electronic-wise. We finally stumbled upon the Fitbits and quickly realized that it was much cheaper to purchase in the US, so we decided to hold of on a purchase and puruse our next mission: finding lunch.

We stumbled through the maze of crowds and stores surrounding Shinjuku for a half hour or so before eventually finding a delightful ramen shop! This particular shop again had the machine preorder that we are now accustomed to. We all quickly decided on which ramen we wanted and ordered a few Asahi beers in icy mugs to accompany our steaming soups. This ramen definitely did not disappoint! Our chatter decreased as we all devoured our delectable noodles and frosty beverages. We all took a moment to digest and game plan the rest of our day. Since Justin, Mom, Kyra, and I are heading to Tokyo Disney tomorrow (we figured we should keep our international Disney streak running), we wanted to plan out what sites the four of us wanted to see today. Justin and I thought it would be fun for all of us to visit Senso-Ji Shrine and the Imperial Palace because both can be seen in one day without too much trouble. Also, now that we have our 72 hour metro pass, we're all feeling footloose and fancy free when it comes to the public transportation.

Justin and I knew that our first stop at Senso-Ji Shrine was going to be hectic, but I think both of us forgot how insanely chaotic it is to visit such a large and popular shrine in such a densely populated area. Immediately upon exiting our metro car we were slammed with a mass of bodies. We carefully navigated our way through the swarm, slowly making our way to the shrine. There were also tons of small souvenir and food stalls leading up to the shrine, making it even more crowded! We waddled like ducks following in a line until we reached some very small open space to breath. The shrine was beautiful and vibrant, but obviously a much different experience than Meiji. There were a few times I looked behind me and only saw Kuku's head above the crowd and thought we lost Tutu! We were all feeling the heat and sheer chaos with the shrine, so our visit was brief, but we made sure to keep our sweets tour alive with a stop for some refreshing dessert. Justin and I found a mango soft serve ice cream cone; Kyra, Kuku, and Tutu found matcha and vanilla ice cream cones; and Mom found what was literally called "snow," which was some sort of frozen treat very closely related to shaved ice.

Once we all started to cool down we decided it'd be best to head to our next destination in hopes of getting away from some of the crowds. I lead everyone back to the metro and we started our journey to the Imperial Palace. The metro ride was smooth and relaxing for us to get a chance to rest our feet. On the way to the Imperial palace, we walked by a delicious looking pastry place again. Kuku really wanted to stop for some pastries and a coffee (it had been several hours at this point since he had one). We tried to talk him out of it by saying we could stop at a place after we saw the Imperial palace so that we wouldn't have to carry the items. However, once Kuku asked if we would go to a pastry shop that looked as good as this one did, we knew it was time for a quick pit-stop. Justin and Kuku both got latte's while we each picked out a sweet treat. After the quick stop, we were back on our way once more!

Finding the Imperial Palace, or rather the East Imperial Gardens, was even easier. Justin and I must have visited a different side of the large Palace/Gardens because we were only allowed to walk around the area we saw last time. This time we found an entrance in which we could tour the actual gardens. Immediately upon entering the gardens we stumbled upon Uncle and Lilly by complete chance. We spent a few minutes sharing stories from our day and they informed us they randomly followed people and ended up seeing a Japanese baseball game! It sounded awesome! We all walked around the gardens together, but our pace definitely started to slow down at this point. The heat seemed to increase and the sun started to peek out more as the day went on. After our leisurely stroll through the immaculate gardens I once again led us back to the metro. This time we took the "Mita" line, which I found to be hilarious because one of my oldest friend's name is Mita!

We were all ecstatic to arrive back at our apartment to have a relaxing siesta. Most people napped, but I stayed up this time to read my book that I'm now obsessed with (it's called Me Before You in case anyone is wondering), and Justin started to look up Tokyo Disney. Tonight was a yoyo (you're on your own) night for dinner, which meant that everyone planned something different for food. Uncle and Lilly found a ramen place since they didn't get their noodle fix earlier in the day, while everyone else ate snacks around the house. Justin and I went for a late night walk to find some chicken katsu, rice, gyoza, and sushi. The two of us strolled around the city for about an hour before we thought it was time to head back and enjoy our feast together. He was an adventurous eater tonight with his sushi. Justin ate what looked like a mini octopus and some sort of squid. His sushi tray went from "adventurous" to "standard," finishing with some tuna and salmon. We've both just finished our meals and I think we're both feeling sticky and tired from the muggy day. It's time for me to finish my book and for Justin to plan out our Disney trip tomorrow (Mom and Kyra haven't experienced Disney with Justin, so it should be quite the adventure!). We need to rest up for the long day tomorrow!

Total Steps: 17,292
Total Distance Walked: 8.42 miles

Many more stories and pictures to come!! Oyasumi (Goodnight)!!

Kaela and Justin

The Senso-Ji Shrine!

Walking around the Senso-Ji Shrine.

Walking around Tokyo!

A cool shopping center we passed by.

Where we got our delicious coffee and pastries! Kuku couldn't pass this place without trying it.

The Imperial Palace.

Our ramen lunch!

Kuku's tiny waffles!

Posted by JK_Adventures 08:26 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Trains, Trains, and Ukai Toriyama...Happy Birthday Heath!

semi-overcast 83 °F
View Justin and Kaela's Honeymoon Adventure on JK_Adventures's travel map.

Today we all did something special to celebrate Heather's birthday, which is on June 25. Tutu had a surprise for Heather that was so secret, I didn't even know about it! Anytime that this event was passively brought up in conversation the last day or so, and I asked what they were talking about, I was quickly shushed and Kaela always said she would tell me about it later (she never did).

Anyways, Kaela and I started our day off around 9:00 a.m. today, considerably later than yesterday (I guess everyone wasn't as anxious to get going today). Right after I woke up, and Kaela went to the living room, Heather said that she, Kuku, and Kyra were heading out to get coffee. Since Kaela wasn't going (and she is my WIFE after all), I decided that I would stay home. However, Kyra asked if I could open the door for them when they get back. Naturally, since I am such a nice (and handsome?) person, of course I said that I would be there to let them back in. A few minutes after they left the house, I realized that, since we are staying in a 5 story house (and the living room is on the 3rd floor), that there would be no way that I could hear them knocking if I was not right next to the door. So, since I made a commitment to Kyra that I would be there to open the door for them, I sat in the hallway next to the front door and spent the next 90 minutes reading (I just downloaded all 5 Game of Thrones books to my iPhone) and listening to music (Drake's Views album is FIRE).

After it got to the point where I thought they would never return, I went up to the living room to log on to the wifi, since that is the only place in the house that receives a good signal, to see what was going on in the world. After a few minutes a bell rang throughout the house. Confused as I was, I thought that it must be the doorbell. I didn't know that this house was equipped with such a device! Ryan, in his excitement, ran down to the living room because he wanted to see if the front door could be unlocked from the kitchen. Sure enough, Kuku, Heather, and Kyra were in the living room within the minute. After they arrived, I explained to them how I waited by the door since that was the only way that I thought I could let them in. I guess you learn something every day! There's even a camera in the kitchen so that one could see who is ringing the doorbell prior to letting them in. How convenient, especially considering that the place were are staying in is 5 stories, plus a rooftop balcony. We are all getting quite the workout in staying her. I can already sense that all of the floors of this apartment is beginning to weigh on us. As soon as the first night Kaela was begging for me to go get items for her that she left in our room (which is tatami mats and located on the first floor) when we are sitting in the living room on the third floor.

Kuku, Kyra, and Heather ended up going to Honolulu Coffee, which we saw the other day a few blocks away. They initially went with the intention of picking up solely coffee, but once Kuku laid his eyes on what the cooks could provide at this establishment, the game plan changed. If you remember from our post yesterday, Kuku was begging for us to have pancakes for dinner under the Tokyo Tower since they looked so good topped with fruit and whipped cream. Sure enough, his wish came true and Honolulu Coffee served something extremely similar. They all returned and we learned that Kuku had some of the best pancakes he's ever had. Needless to say, I could see that not having pancakes for dinner the day before weighed on Kuku throughout the night, and he couldn't wait another meal to indulge in the sweet, fruity taste of fresh pancakes.

After everyone was reunited back at home in the Minatu district of Tokyo, we all hung out together in the living room, knowing that we had a long trek ahead of us for Heather's special surprise. Around 11:30 a.m. we all started to get ready to go. Somehow, one of us in the group heard that we should dress up nicely to go to the place that we were headed (at this point I still did not know where we were going), and the men debated over if that meant we should wear pants or if we could get away with wearing shorts. After a short deliberation, we all agreed that we would most likely be fine if we all wore shorts, as long as we wore collared shirts, which we did. Soon afterwards, we all headed out hoping that our attire was appropriate for wherever it was that we were heading. It seems that only Tutu, Kuku, and Kaela truly knew where it was!

We left the house and started walking to the metro station. Once we got to the metro, we all purchased tickets to the stop that Kaela told us to get off on (we all follow her lead; if she wasn't here, I'm not sure if any of us would ever leave the house). Once arriving at the station that Kaela told us to get off on, we proceeded to a local mall in the Shinjuku Station in search of a Bic Camera store. The reason for this pit-stop was to purchase a 72-hour metro/subway pass for Tokyo. For some reason, these passes can only be purchased at these stores and other tourist establishments. The passes allow unlimited metro and subway travel during the time period provided (we were debating getting a 48 hour vs. a 72 hour for a short while). In order to get these passes, you must prove that you are not a resident of Japan, and this was one of the reasons that we all had to carry our passports on us today. Always gotta be extra careful with the passport! Kaela and I always have a travel lock on the zipper of the main pocket of our backpack (which I always carry) so that we can feel more confident that our valuable items are more secure.

Once we all got our 72-hour pass, we all headed towards the JR line in order to obtain our JR passes for later travel. Finalizing these previously reserved passes was another challenge and also required passports because the pass is considerably cheaper than single tickets in certain situations and is again only offered to tourists. After all of our errands were finished we finally got on a private subway line at the end of the line, stop 1, and we were going to ride it until the far opposite end of the line, stop 53. Lucky for us, we were able to board a semi-express train that only stopped 15 times or so and not at each individual station. After we got to the end of the line, which took around 40 minutes or so, we exited the station and waited for a shuttle to take us to our final location, Ukai Toriyama. Although this location is still firmly within the city limits of Tokyo, this location could not seem anymore different. It seemed as though we had been transported into the middle of a forest, as everything around us was some shade of green.

After a few minutes, the bus arrived and, although we couldn't communicate with the driver, we trusted him that he would take us where we wanted to go. After 10 minutes or so, and driving through a one-lane road which, weirdly enough, was actually a two-lane road (we had to dodge some cars a few times), we made it to the end of the line and our final location. The plan, which I found out moments before our arrival, was to have a magnificent feast in the hills on the edge of Tokyo. We walked through the sprawling wilderness to reach the entrance area. We were immediately guided through the precisely manicured forest and Japanese garden until we eventually arrived at our private room and table for our meal together.

After struggling to look at the menu (there was a little English) and trying to communicate with the server, Tutu ordered everyone the chicken and beef meal. This included seven heavenly courses that tested our limits in regards to what we were willing to eat. Each of the seven courses, listed in order, are as follows: seared goma tofu with sesame seed and broiled bracken; eggplant with meat sauce; lotus root chicken meatball and vegetable soup; grilled fish with salt; charbroiled beef, chicken, chicken wing, and vegetable; chicken soboro rice, and kudzu starch manju. It was all pretty delicious! What was even more unique was the experience of dining at this location. The scenery was exquisite and the food was incredibly unique. Kaela and I aren't sure if we'll ever have the opportunity to have a meal like that again. Words don't do the meal justice, and the pictures located below will have to suffice. All in all, we went through a culinary journey with our taste buds that took us to locations we never previously knew existed. In addition to our food, Kaela ordered us the most unique sake; it came served in a bamboo container! Also, we had fantastic tea with our meals.

After we finished eating, we spent 30 minutes or so walking around the grounds of the restaurant, checking out the scenery and landscape of the area. Once we all caught up together from our exploration, we walked back to the front to wait for the bus to pick us to take us back down the hill to the JR line station. After 5 minutes or so, the bus arrived and we started our trek back home! Little did we know how long and challenging it would be...

When we got back to the JR line, we immediately proceeded to the station since we bought our return tickets earlier when we were waiting for the shuttle to take us up the mountain. We started our journey home at the end of the line, stop 53, and we needed to go to the other end, stop 1. At stop 29, everyone got off of the train and the Japanese conductor came on board and began speaking to us in Japanese. Since we could't understand what he was saying, we took the hint and followed everyone else off the train. Once we were off, Ryan said that he thought that he heard the Japanese conductor say that there was an accident somewhere up the line and that the specific train, and line, that we were on is now closed. We could still get home, since we could take the local train, but it would just take significantly longer since this one would stop at every stop along the way. Only 28 stops for us to go! Kaela and I spent the time reading our books. However, we had a slight scare when we nearly transferred over to the wrong train! Ryan had a good idea that, since we were significantly past where we got off the train, perhaps the other line had opened up again for traffic. We all scurried over to the train across the tracks, hoping to be on an express train. Unfortunately, we all soon realized that his train was headed to a completely different location than the one we wanted, and we scurried back over to the train that we were originally on.

It ended up taking us around two and a half hours to get home, when it took us just under an hour to get there. Once we got back to the main station, we headed to the subway to use our new 72-hour passes to head home. On the way to the subway, we passed an informational booth and Kuku/Tutu thought it would be a good idea to reserve our train seats for all future JR rides in Japan (we picked up a rail pass earlier in the day on the way to our oishi restaurant). Kaela, Heather, and Tutu went up to speak with the attendant about this while Kyra and I waited outside. We did just about everything we could do to entertain ourselves during this time. After we had our fill of people-watching, Kyra and I counted how many people walked by us in one minute (it turned out to be 128) and used this as an estimate as to how many people would walk by in an hour or more. Kyra and I both agreed that we thought our number of 7,680 people per hour seemed low, especially with how many people walked by and around us. I feel that we need a larger sample size, maybe sometime in the near future if we have another hour to kill!

After 45 minutes, and after the anti-theft walls lowered down over the front entrance (we literally couldn't see them, the informational desk closes at 10:00 p.m.), we were relieved to find out that all of the time spent there was not wasted; Tutu, Heather, and Kaela reserved train tickets for all future travel days in Japan. After exiting this station, we stopped to search for a dessert. After some tribulation, we settled on a waffle and chocolate ice cream plate (from Mr. Waffle outside of the Shinjuku JR station) that really seemed quite delicious! Kaela and I weren't feeling like dessert at the time, so we passed. We tried a sample of the sweet treat from others and thought it tasted just as good as it smelled (you could smell these waffles from quite some distance away). At this point, we still weren't in our home neighborhood, so we walked over to the metro station and used our newly acquired 72-hour metro pass (quite a deal) and flawlessly executed a transfer to end up back at Azuba-Juban. All in all, we ended up getting back to the apartment around 10:30 p.m.! Kaela and I settled down in the living room and she read for the rest of the night while I worked on our post. I must have been pretty tired, since I fell asleep working somewhere around 1:30 a.m.!

In addition to working on the post, I was doing some research on Tokyo Disneyland. Kaela and I are contemplating going before we leave Tokyo. We figure that we have already been to the Paris one, so we might as well continue to go to the different parks as we travel around the world throughout our lives. It would be pretty cool to visit all of the parks! Plus, I'm sure that my love for all things Disney doesn't play into this decision at all ;) Another exciting day of sightseeing should be in store for us. We'll update you later! Time to go adventuring once more :)


Justin and Kaela

Total Steps Today: 14,876
Total Distance Walked: 7.26 miles

Gazing out over the beautiful valley.

The 7-course menu for our feast together!

Sake and tea.. do we need anything else? We all marveled at the sake container made out of bamboo.

Course number 1.. seared goma tofu and broiled bracken

Course number 2.. eggplant with refreshing meat sauce

Course number 3.. lotus root chicken meatball and vegetable soup

Course number 4.. the scariest of them all, grilled fish with salt. Kuku ate the whole thing!

Course number 5.. charbroiled beef, chicken, and vegetables. They brought in hot wood coals and we cooked all of our food on these stovetops!

Course number 6.. chicken soboro rice

Course number 7.. kadzu starch manju. This resembled mochi, yet it had a bean filling of some sort. Quite delicious, but a unique taste that not everyone enjoyed.

Taking in the sights around the gardens of Ukai Toriyama.

I spy a fishy!

The view from where we ate our oishi meal.

More shots of the beautiful garden!

Walking through the streets of Tokyo.

Our train stop at the end of the line, waiting for the bus!

In Shinjuku, on the hunt for a sweet treat!

The Shinjuku JR line station, people watching at its finest.

Posted by JK_Adventures 17:22 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

Tokyo: The Meiji Shrine, Shibuya Crossing, and Tokyo Tower

overcast 79 °F
View Justin and Kaela's Honeymoon Adventure on JK_Adventures's travel map.

Kaela and I stayed up until around 2:30 a.m. last night finishing the post and planning for the day ahead before heading to bed. In the morning, I actually woke up around 6:00 a.m. and was surprised to see that it was so early! I resigned to spending some more time in bed since I thought no one would be getting up for a few more hours. However, I couldn't have been more wrong! After what seemed like a few minutes, Heather was gently rapping on our door wanting to say hi to her daughter and favorite son. Everyone must have been excited to get our first day in Japan started, we were the last ones to get up apparently (even though it was only 7:00 a.m.)! After rising, we quickly learned that everyone was looking at me and Kaela (and by that I mean mostly Kaela) regarding what we should do today and, the more important question, how we would get there. Everyone was so excited to get out of the house and see the city that me, Kaela, and Kuku were left inside trying to scramble together directions and a plan while everyone else waited out on the street. Soon enough, we met up with everyone outside and we were on our way to explore Tokyo together.

Kaela and I decided that heading over to the Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park would be a great first day for everyone to see the city and experience some of the culture. We started off by walking around our neighborhood looking for a place to withdraw some Yen and get some coffee. During our night-time walk the night before, Kaela and I knew that there was a 7-11 (they are even more prevalent in Japan that in the United States, it seems) that had an ATM machine inside. We all took turns pulling some cash out and, since 7-11 had coffee, several of us indulged, partially so that we could break our large Yen bills into smaller ones. Heather graciously ensured that everyone took a bite of a doughnut that she bought inside, and we shared a raisin pastry as well. After 7-11, we started walking to the nearest metro station to begin our trek over to Yoyogi park (the Meiji Shrine is located within the park). We happened to pass several coffee shops outside of the metro and we vowed to try a less recognizable (non-starbucks) coffee store in the near future.

When we entered the Azuba-Juban metro station to buy tickets, we met a lovely family from Australia that was attempting to navigate the Japanese subway as well. We enjoyed catching up with them and sharing small details about each other, and trading tips and advice for traveling through Japan. After 10 minutes or so, while everyone else talked with the Australian family, Kaela was able to figure out what the most efficient route would be for us and the cost of each ticket. We soon purchased 8 tickets, wished the Australian family the best of luck throughout the rest of their time in Japan, and ventured off into the tunnels of the Japan metro system. After a relatively short ride of around 10 minutes, we found ourselves a few blocks away from Yoyogi park. Kaela soon took us to the park and we were immediately greeted by a familiar grand Japanese arch. Kaela and I visited this shrine and park during our first day in Tokyo 2 years ago during our around the world trip! Throughout the day, it was great to recognize where we have been, to lead everyone else, and to recollect upon all of the memories that we had here.

Immediately upon entering Yoyogi Park, and walking under the Japanese arch, there is a long and impressive gravel walkway lined with trees. The walkway was immaculate. Any stray leaves were being rhythmically and methodically swept up; we all marveled at how hypnotic the sweeping was for a few moments. We proceeded down the half-mile or so long walkway before approaching the shrine. After we approached the shrine, Kaela instructed everyone how to properly wash their hands prior to entering. Once inside, we all meandered around taking in the sight and the exquisite architecture. Part of the complex was under renovation and they employed similar scaffoldings as those seen in Europe, where it presents a facade of what the actual building looks like while being repaired. It does make pictures of the complex seem more uniform.

While in the Meiji Shrine, we were lucky enough to see some individuals in religious attire walk-in, in unison, and enter the restricted area of the shrine. Once inside, they paid their respects as well and performed a chant/hymn, something we were not fortunate enough to see the last time that we were here (although we did see a traditional Japanese wedding last time!). Kuku thought it would be a good idea to have all of us sign one of the prayer votive boards. Kaela and I started by signing one of the sides with an excerpt from the vows that we wrote for each other from our wedding, along with our names, and the date of our union and visit to the shrine. Everyone else contributed by filling out the other side with prayers for love, peace, and health. Kaela beautifully hung the prayer votive with the others before we began heading out of the Meiji Shrine.

Once we left the shrine, Kaela and I had deja vu once more, when we passed some barrels filled with wine and others with sake immediately outside of one of the entrances. We left Yoyogi park after spending some time wandering around its various paths and stopping to take pictures every so often. The columns of the large (they must be 30 feet tall or more), are so incredibly smooth and seem to be made from a single piece of wood. These columns are incredible wide also, which made it all the more impressive.

The next destination that we headed to was the Shibuya crossing. This is a large intersection directly outside of one of Tokyo's busiest metro and railway station. The Shibuya crossing is famous for its pedestrian scramble; it stops traffic from all directions and allows pedestrians to cross to whatever side they please. It is pretty cool to see hundreds, if not thousands of people scurrying in every which direction every minute or so as the lights change. Just before we got to Shibuya, we stopped at a coffee shop since Kuku wanted his early afternoon latte. Kaela saw and interesting menu item, called an eggslut, and wanted to give it a try. We all shared the item, which came with bread. It consisted of mashed potatoes, pesto, some thick cut pieces of bacon, and an egg. It was really delicious! We then walked a few blocks to the Shibuya crossing to throw ourselves into the mayhem. After navigating through the crowd of people, and taking a few pictures off the pedestrian scramble, we started looking for something to eat, since it was 11:00 a.m. at this point. We had already been up and moving around for nearly 4 hours! Kaela found an underground food market that slightly resembled Oahu's Shirokiya Market, only on a much larger scale. We all took our time walking through and looking at, and occasionally sampling, the various foods. Tutu got some chicken and Ryan and Lilly split a few pieces of gyoza.

While at the coffee shop earlier, Ryan looked up a local noodle place that wasn't too far from the crossing. Ryan led the way, and we were all a little skeptical at first since he led us down a narrow stairway that promised to serve noodles. Once inside the small waiting area, we saw only what looked like vending machines. After a little bit of help and some lucky communication, we were able to discern how to order. The patron would put their money into the machine and then select which meal they would want (it resembles what a soda machine would look like in the United States). Once the meal is selected, you receive a ticket and your change. The patron is then seated at a noodle bar, which is incredibly private due to the privacy barriers placed between each seat on the counter. When the server comes, you simply present your meal ticket, describe how you would like it prepared (extra garlic and spice for me!) and then it will be brought to you within a few minutes. A water tap and cups were provided at each individual station and kleenex was fashioned to the wall behind those eating, something that proved to come in handy considering the temperature of the soup. It was so incredibly delicious! We all enjoyed our meals and Kaela and I finished every drop. We have been looking forward to these noodles for quite some time! On our way out, we noticed that there was quite the line for this restaurant. It now snaked through the small waiting area and up the stairs to the street level. I guess we all were seated just at the right time!

After refueling, we headed back to Shibuya to attempt to take the Metro home. This time, it only took me and Kaela a few minutes to figure out where we were, where we wanted to go, and how much it would cost. In a few days we should be masters of the Tokyo metro! We did have to make one transfer on the way home, but we navigated this once seemingly impossible feat with relative ease. On the way home we stopped by a supermarket to pick up some supplies for the house before heading home. Everyone, except me, then proceeded to use the next few hours to rest up before the dinner rush later that evening!

Once everyone finally woke up (it turns out only Lilly and I didn't nap this afternoon), we proceeded to hang out in the living room for an hour or so to discuss what we wanted to do in the evening. We decided to walk over to the Tokyo Tower and find something to eat over there. We saw that it was going to rain this evening, so we all put on our raincoats and grabbed umbrellas. Tutu ended up having on quite the colorful outfit, especially considering her bright fuchsia jacket, blue shirt, and orange laces. We were glad it would be so easy to spot her now. We started off walking towards the Tokyo Tower and we had a lovely walk through the city. It probably took us 30 minutes or so to leisurely walk there and we enjoyed seeing some sights, restaurants, and stopping to take pictures along the way.

Once we got to the Tokyo Tower, we wandered through the numerous stores and restaurants located within it, but didn't see anything that jumped out at us. However, Kuku tried his hardest to beg the entire group into having breakfast. He is a pancake lover and there was a restaurant that was serving up fruit pancakes with whipped cream and exotic syrups, a difficult opportunity for a pancake connoisseur to pass up! We all agreed that we would return to a restaurant that we passed on the walk over as we headed home.

When we got to our restaurant (called Yayoiken I think?), we had a little difficulty in reading the menu but soon discovered that there was an English translation of the meals in fine print. However, that didn't do to much to help us out since we were still so unsure regarding what to order! Moreover, upon entering the restaurant, we quickly discovered that this was another restaurant where the patron pays into a vending machine, selects the item, and then sits with the ticket. Having experienced this earlier this morning, we were slightly more prepared, yet we were still thrown off a little bit. We ended up splitting into two groups, since we could only sit 4 next to each other at a time in the restaurant. Kaela took charge of ordering after we peered over the menu for 5 minutes or so and we sat down and waited for our order. The food came within 5 minutes or so and it was absolutely exquisite. We really had the most amazing food today. I had some type of Mochiko Chicken with a cabbage salad, miso soup, white rice, tofu, and some type of egg paste. All for a fantastic price of around 750 Yen! It was fantastic. Kaela got some sort of pork katsu with egg over rice with a miso soup. To top it off, we each had a chilly Japanese beer. Both of these meals were absolutely spectacular. I'm excited for our meals tomorrow, it's going to be difficult to follow up our lunch and dinner from today. On the way out from dinner, we saw a group of 8 go-karts and they were dressed up like characters from Mario Kart! We all got a good laugh out of it and I was able to snap a quick picture before they drove off. During our walk, we were lucky enough for it to not rain on us either way! Although we were prepared if it happened.

After dinner, we headed home for the night and quickly got ready for bed. Even though we were all home a little after 9, everyone seemed a little bit more excited to head to bed early after the first long day walking through Tokyo. I hear that we have some more exciting plans for tomorrow! We can't wait to see what is in store for us. Also, we are going to try to start doing something different during this trip. Each day, we are going to be checking Kaela's FitBit to see how many steps we went and the approximate distance. It will be interesting to see the total steps and distance at the end of the trip! Anyways, until next time!

Steps Walked Today: 18,656

Total Distance: 9.24 miles


Justin and Kaela

Our prayer votive at the Meiji Shrine with excerpts from our vows!

Walking around the Meiji Shrine

Walking around Tokyo! We saw quite a few living walls, including the one seen above.

Shibuya Crossing!

Waiting for Pastries at the bakery that was closed in the morning when we originally left. Luckily, it was open on the way home! Ryan and Lilly enjoyed some treats and Kuku got enough for everyone for a day or two.

Our supermarket down the street!

Walking around the Tokyo Tower.

Mother/Daughter drinks with dinner!

Our delicious ramen lunch.

Our even more delicious dinner at Yayoiken.

Tutu's colorful outfit!

Mario Kart: Tokyo Drift

Posted by JK_Adventures 05:20 Archived in Japan Comments (5)

The Wedding and Honeymoon

Travel Day: Maui --> Oahu --> Tokyo, Japan

sunny 83 °F
View Justin and Kaela's Honeymoon Adventure on JK_Adventures's travel map.

Aloha! First of all, Kaela and I would like to thank everyone for coming to, and helping at, our wedding this past Monday, June 20. We had such a great time and it was amazing to be able to see so many of our friends and family together at the same time. It has been so long since we have been able to see many of you and it was great to be able to catch up for a few minutes around the night's festivities. We hope that everyone had a fantastic time at our wedding as well! Furthermore, if anyone has any pictures from the wedding that they would like to share with us, feel free to do so =D

The day after the wedding, I spent the day with the extended Wayne family in Kihei. I had a great time hanging out by the pool and seeing all of the kids. It has been so long since I have seen the Waynes! It was great to be able to see all of them and spend time together. I even got to swim in the pool! Trae finally convinced me to jump in the water for a little while after he called my name for 10 minutes or so begging for me to get in and play with him. Who can resist that!?

Kaela and I spent the rest of the day doing some final preparations before leaving the United States for a month and venturing through Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. On Wednesday, June 22, we finally finished packing up our bags and we headed to the airport. We dropped off Kaela's dad, Paul, at the airport before spending a lovely afternoon together on Maui. Before leaving the island, we had to go to Kaela's favorite breakfast restaurant: Tasty Crust. Kaela got her usual platter of eggs, fried rice, portuguese sausage, and hash browns and I switched it up this time and got the loco moco. Both of our meals were very delicious! After feeling full, we headed to the Maui Mall to get Kaela a new hat for traveling. We also ended up getting a headphone splitter, so we can listen to the same music and some international travel outlets, just in case we'll need them (we will). After finishing with our errands, we headed back to the airport and turned in the rental car before waiting for the rest of our family to arrive.

While we are in Japan, Kaela and I will also be accompanied by Heather, Kyra, Tutu (grandma), Kuku (grandpa), Ryan (uncle), and Lilly (cousin). This is a partial reunion of the group that we had while traveling throughout Italy two summers ago. When the rest of the family was dropped off, we sent a hat and a water bottle back home that we didn't want to take with us anymore (Kaela found a better hat, and she finally found the straw lid for our HydroFlask that she has been looking for). Unfortunately, when going through security, I forgot that I had water in our HydroFlask! I got stopped and I had to exit to dump out the water and then go through security once more. Luckily, due to Tutu's fantastic christmas present, we have TSA Global Entry and Pre-Check, so it wasn't too large of a hassle to do this (although I can't say the same for the others in our party that had to wait for me!).

Once through security we walked through the airport and got a few snacks before our flight. We flew back to Oahu prior to leaving for Tokyo, so we had quite the long day ahead of us. Our flight was late leaving Maui, so we didn't end up having to wait long on Oahu for our flight to Tokyo. The flight to Tokyo was a long one; it ended up being somewhere around 8 hours! Plus, the tv's weren't working for an hour or so also. Of course, the monitors stopped working as soon as Kaela and I both started a movie as well. I watched The Fifth Wave (not the best movie) and Kaela watched Ride Along 2 (she thought it was funny; I haven't seen it yet). Towards the end of the flight Kaela and I both napped and we woke up with about an hour left in the flight, just in time for a sandwich snack!

Once we landed, we made the long walk over to customs. At the first booth, they were using thermal scans to detect if anyone has a fever and needed to be quarantined. Customs was fairly easy, and we all breezed through in about 5 minutes, since there wasn't a line. Kaela quickly found our driver and we headed out to his car. Once we hit the open road, both Ryan and Kuku agreed that it would be nearly impossible for them to be able to drive in Tokyo. The signs are difficult to discern quickly, and the language barrier is made all the more difficult due to Japanese being a language that uses characters. Moreover, our driver was flying all over the place and driving with the type of confidence that only years (decades?) of driving in and around Tokyo can provide. Somehow the driver was able to turn down the street where our residence is located, the car just barely fit! Once we headed inside we all took turns hiking up the 5 story apartment checking it out. It is quite modern and has a lot of nice amenities, yet Kaela, knowing exactly what she wants, was quick to call the only room in the house with Tatami mats. We had a great time sleeping on them when we were previously in Japan so we thought we would give them a try again!

After checking out the place, we walked around our immediate neighborhood to get out for a few minutes. We picked up some ice for Tutu (she must have ice on hand at all times for her drinks) and we were happy to see that my credit card worked with no issues. Wahoo! It feels great to be traveling again already. Kaela and I enjoyed our walk around the neighborhood tonight, checking out the restaurants and stores around us. Anyways, we are back in the apartment now and we should be heading to bed soon. We have our first day of exploring Tokyo with the family tomorrow! Plenty more to come. Stay tuned!


Justin and Kaela

A few pictures from the wedding! PLENTY more to come

Hanging out with Cathy Wayne at the pool in Kihei!

Right after Kaela spilled her beer (rookie move)

Pinkies out!

Tutu clouds as far as the eye can see

Posted by JK_Adventures 09:08 Archived in Japan Comments (2)

Late Post: London to LA (and more)

sunny 71 °F
View Justin and Kaela's Adventure on JK_Adventures's travel map.

Please accept mine and Kaela’s apologies, we have been quite late in getting this posted. This post is from our final travel day from our previous trip from London to Los Angeles. Also, we give some brief updates regarding what we have been up to over the past year or so. From now on we will be begin our daily travel post once more! Stay tuned for more…

Our last morning in Europe was just like any other one. Since I stayed up so late working on the post the previous night, Kaela let me sleep in as late as possible while she scurried around the apartment and got everything ready to go. She finally made me get out of bed at 10:30, which left me with a half our to get ready to go. I scarfed down a small serving of yogurt and granola (our typical breakfast), before I finished getting my belongings ready for the long travel day. We ended up checking out of the apartment at 11:05. We decided just to head straight to the airport so we wouldn't have to deal with lugging our bags around, even though our flight was not scheduled to leave until 15:30. We walked a few minutes to the appropriate underground station and proceeded to buy tickets to London's Heathrow airport. We accidentally purchased an all day ticket instead of the typical one way journey, as was all that we required. I thought that it would be too late to do anything about it, since we had already purchased the tickets, but Kaela wanted to go up to the information counter to see if she could exchange our tickets for the correct (and significantly cheaper) ones. After a minute or so, she came back asking for her driver's license. She then returned once more, less than a minute later, asking for her passport. Apparently the person who was "helping" Kaela was incredibly unhelpful. He kept quizzing Kaela about why she purchased the wrong ticket, like she did it on purpose (even in English, some of those automated kiosks can be confusing!). He also complained about how much paperwork Kaela's request, in order to reprint new tickets and refund the difference in price, is going to be for him. Eventually, Kaela returned with two new tickets and saved us over $10 after the exchange rate. Wahoo!

After we got our tickets, we headed through the security gate and walked to the appropriate platform. We waited around 5 minutes before piling into an overcrowded train car. It was a very tight squeeze but after we got out of central London, the crowd dissipated and we were able to spread out a little. Kaela found a seat and I stood watch over our bags. After about 40 minutes we were within five stops of Heathrow, but we were delayed at the station! It turns out that the train was waiting for the replacement driver and he was late showing up! We had to wait just under 15 minutes before we started moving again. However, since we left so early from London, we weren't in as much of a rush as other people on the underground. In all, It took us just under an hour and a half to take the underground from central London to Heathrow. I guess it is a good thing that we decided to leave so early! Once we arrived at the correct terminal, we quickly checked in and dropped off our two rolling bags since we each had a free checked bag on this flight. Tutu was also kind enough to upgrade our seats and put us in the exit row so we would be as comfortable as possible during our 12 hour flight from London to Los Angeles. The security area was enormous and extremely well organized. Heathrow has a large area that explains how to separate the liquids/gels for the X-ray and it also provides bags to sort these items. It only took us around 20 minutes to get through security, possibly because it was so efficient. Luckily for us, neither Kaela nor I had to go through the virtual strip-search machine. When we got through security, I realized that, once again, my Chapstick (which I ensure is on me at all times), was not in my designated bin! After I searched around for it for a while I ended up asking one of the security guards and it seems that it had just fallen out, like it has previously, and I was able to quickly retrieve it. That Chapstick made it around the world, I wasn't about to lose it now!

After we left security we went to find a place to sit down. We also checked the flight ticket quickly, to see if we could find if La'akea's flight was nearby, but Kaela and I weren't entirely able to find the answer to that question. After sitting for a few minutes we decided to walk around the terminal since we had nothing else to do. We browsed through a couple of shops, but we were mostly looking for a snack to have before we boarded our plane. After looking over every food option available in the immediate vicinity, and ruling out getting 30 grams of caviar for 130 British Pounds, we decided to get a sandwich meal deal at a small supermarket. For 4 British Pounds we were able to get a sandwich, a drink, and chips. Not a bad deal! We also got a pack of gum, although we originally forgot it and had t go back to buy it later. We ate our lunch in one of the many waiting areas while we waited (how appropriate) for our flight's gate to be announced. After we finished our lunch, which was surprisingly tasty for eating it in an airport (it must have been because of the Vanilla Coke), we messed around on the airport's free wifi before learning what gate our airplane would be at. As soon as the gate was announce we left to head over there. We had priority boarding, due to Tutu's gracious upgrade, and we wanted to make sure that we made full use of it!

When we arrived at the gate the airline was already pre-baording all of the families with small children. Since business class was next, we walked up like we owned the place and, soon after proving we had priority boarding (we don't look like it?), we headed on the plane to find our seats and, more importantly, our overhead compartment. We walked through the absolutely gorgeous First Class and Business Class cabins. They both came with seats that were not only in their own private booths but also laid flat, which is quite convenient for a 12 hour flight half-way across the world. When we came to the regular seats, where plebeians like us sit supposedly, we were happy to see that our seats were the very first two. We quickly put our carry-on bags, filled mostly with fragile souvenirs for ourselves and loved ones, into the overhead compartment with our snow coats that we hoped we wouldn't be needing on the plane. We settled into our seats and waited patiently for everyone to climb on board so we could begin the long trek back to America.

Our seats were amazing! We had "unlimited" leg room as we could slouch in the chair or stretch out as far as possible and we still couldn't come close to touching anything. The plane wasn't full and was probably operating between 60-70% full capacity, so many people were sprawled out across multiple aisles. The flight was rather uneventful, but we were delighted to see that there were so many movie choices! We both took our time going through all of them before committing. Since our flight was so long, we both ended up watching 4 different movies! Kaela successfully was able to cry for the entirety of the flight because she watched every sad movie possible. I, on the other hand, watched every scary movie possible because Kaela never wants to watch them with me! I watched The Conjuring, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the new Godzilla. I went on a mini Stanley Kubrick marathon in the middle. I also enjoyed playing the games that were available. I tried a golf game, but it wasn't too fun so it was short lived. I spent most of the time I allotted for video games playing either Pac-man (which brings back fond memories of Minden, Nevada with the Waynes) or a soccer game that seems like a version of FIFA from the early 1990's. It was fun regardless, considering it has been so long since I have played video games, particularly my favorite: FIFA. Towards the end of the flight Kaela napped for around an hour and a half while I watched Godzilla. For the entirety of the flight, our plane was chasing the sunset around the globe. We were able to see the sunset outside of our window for the first 7 hours or so of our flight before it finally dipped below the horizon.

We landed in Los Angeles on time to learn that it was a chilly 70 degrees Fahrenheit outside; quite the difference from what we have become used to! We went through an automated Customs that involved scanning our passport and taking a picture of us; the whole process, and the small interview with the Customs agent. After we went through the automated process, we had to wait in line to meet with the Customs agent. The first question that the Custom's agent asked us was, "What is your reason for coming to the United States?" We were utterly confused by this question and how to answer, other than saying that we live in this country (Doesn't our American passports give that away?). She proceeded to drill us with questions about where we were coming from and how long we were there. We were glad that she didn't try to talk about all of the different 17 countries we have been to over the past 7 months. She did take her time flipping through all of our stamps and inspecting our French visas. We finally were allowed through after we confessed that we were carrying an entire 5 pounds in cash on our persons. After we were finally let back into the country we proceeded to baggage claim where we had to wait another 20 minutes for both of our bags to finally appear. When we walked out of the secured area we were greeted by Heather holding up a large sing congratulating us on making it around the world, along with Paul attempting to record the moment as best as he can. We greeted each other and took a few pictures to remember the occasion, while Paul frantically tried to take a few pictures of his own. We took a standard Kuku selfie outside of the international terminal before heading to the car. We all piled in and we had a lovely drive back to Lake Forest as Paul tried as best as he could to navigate the LA traffic.

Once we got home we were welcomed by Tutu's home cooking and we enjoyed a tortilla casserole with the most delicious guacamole and salsa; not to even mention the fantastic Mexican rice. We had a great time eating and catching up for the majority of the night as we shared some of the stories that we have accumulated over the course of our European adventures. We had a great time hanging out with Paul, Heather, Kuku, and Tutu for the night and we ended up finally heading to bed around 1:00 in the morning, which was 9:00 in the morning based on the time zone we were used to! We are definitely excited to be back in the United States and we are looking forward to seeing many people over the next few weeks. Christian is also coming to meet me in California on December 11 and we are planning on driving to Phoenix together to meet my own parents! My parents have had the house in Phoenix now for several years and this is the first opportunity that I have had to visit. We can't wait to see what the next few weeks, and life in general, has in store for us. Unfortunately, this post means that we have come to the end of our around the world adventure.

It is now April 6, 2015 and we are in the process of moving back to Oahu. I applied for, and was offered, a position as an Academic Advisor for Student-Athletes at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I was also fortunate enough to be granted a place in faculty housing in Manoa, which is one of the most beautiful valleys in the world. We made the trek over to Oahu via Maui, since we didn’t have a place to live on Oahu. Both Kaela and I met with various people and, by the end of our stay in Maui, we were able to have our wedding (which is taking place in the summer of 2016) completely planned for.

My first day of work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa as an academic advisor was on April 1st and I am slowly getting used to my new role in the Nagatani Academic center (where I worked for three years during my Undergraduate and Masters Degrees), although I still have much to learn. It is exciting to work with athletics from this new angle and I am definitely enjoying my position thus far.

Kaela and I are currently staying with my hospitable parents in their spacious 1 bedroom apartment while we anxiously await our move-in date for faculty housing, which should be within the next two weeks or so.

Our life is still in transition but great things seem to be happening to us! We have much to look forward to over the next year or so; not to mention: me settling into my new position, Kaela and I are settling into our first residence away from our families (in America). Kaela is currently working as an English teacher at Punahou School. She absolutely loves it! She teaches ninth graders for their Novel/Short Story and Poetry/Drama units. Furthermore, my best friend is (most likely) coming out to the islands! Blake Wayne, and his family, was kind enough to give me a roof to live under so that I could attend De La Salle High School and now it is my turn to return the favor. Although Doug and Cathy won’t be moving out to Hawaii anytime soon (as far as I know), they are always welcome to visit and stay with me. This is definitely an exciting time in both Kaela’s life and mine and we are excited to find out what is in store for us.


Justin and Kaela

The first photo after us returning from Europe!

Pictures of the soccer game I played on the flight home that doesn't quite measure up to FIFA's standards

Posted by JK_Adventures 07:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 235) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 8 9 10 .. »