Tag Archives: Japan

Tokyo Ice Bar

29 Nov

Unfortunately, IceBar Tokyo is no more 😦 They closed their doors on Sept. 30, 2011 {yes, 2011…yes, I am totally slow in writing blog posts…}

Anyway, back in September of last year, we jumped on the subway and headed downtown with some friends of ours to visit the Tokyo Ice Bar just one day before they shut their doors for good.  In the wake of the March 2011 earthquake, Japan engaged in a great energy conservation movement. This, of course, meant that the establishment could no longer produce the power necessary to keep it at a cool -5 degrees celsius.

Brrrrrrr!  Now, even though they provide you with a hefty coat and gloves – let me tell you, it was still freezing!

Drinks served in an ice “glass” probably didn’t help to keep me very warm either – but they certainly were tasty!  With the price of admission, you got to enter the bar, receive one free drink, and wear the cute get-up (lookin’ good guys!)

So, even though the IceBar in Tokyo shut down, if you have a chance to visit any of the others around the world, I’d highly recommend it.  It was definitely a “cool” experience.  {sorry, I just couldn’t help myself there}


Typhoon Shmyphoon

30 Oct

With all this talk about Frankenstorm back home, I figured it was prime time to post about the weather here in Japan.  Ok, actually just about the Typhoons – which is really just another name for Hurricane when a storm is located in the Western Pacific. {But if you ask me, I think typhoon sounds way cooler/scarier}

For all you facing dear Sandy back East, I would like to pass on some words of wisdom that allowed us to survive our first typhoon in Japan.

1. Be sure to stock up on all of your necessities:

2. Have plenty of food and make sure you have a means to prepare it without using electricity:

3. Take care of thy neighbor:

Unfortunately, I’m a bit rusty in my typhoon skills since we haven’t faced a serious one here in Tokyo in over a year. However, Okinawa (an island in southern Japan) did recently face one of their worst storms yet, so I’ll leave you with this video to enjoy. {Moral of the video? 1. Always have your camera ready and 2. put some heavy junk in your car before she blows away!}


Stay safe everyone!!!

In The Beginning – Part IV

1 Jun

+ Downtown Tokyo

What trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete without a trip to downtown Tokyo right? Well when I came to visit in February 2011, we spent 3 glorious days there (and barely even brushed the surface of all the Tokyo has to offer)! Seeing as how it takes about 1.5 hours by subway to get downtown from the base, we decided to book a room at the New Sanno – a military hotel that thankfully offers amazing prices, but also books weekends a year in advance.

Day 1:

The first day we decided to admire the city from above. And while most people would probably choose to do this from Tokyo Tower (the red and white Eiffel Tower looking thing) – we opted for the observation deck on the 52nd floor of Mori Tower in Roppongi so that we could actually get a view of Tokyo Tower, see?

Ok, ok so we went for the view AND the beers.

And they even let you go up to the roof for an even more breathtaking view!

Day 2:

The next day we attempted to see Ginza. {I say attempted because we somehow got off at the wrong station or left out of the wrong exit}. BUT, never fear because we accidentally ended up at the Imperial Palace! And although you can’t go inside without making reservations, we did get some pretty great views.

And we still made it to Ginza later on in the day too. {I made sure of this – hello, it’s the most expensive real estate in the WORLD!} Not only did we soak in the riches of it all, we also visited the famous Sony Building – 8 floors of glorious electronics, and 1 happy husband.

We saw some pretty outrageous crosswalks too, although I hear the real famous ones are in the Shibuya area – a place we have yet to explore.

We finished off the day with a trip to Akihabara – the overpriced famous electronics district.

Day 3:

Our last day downtown was spent in Asakusa, the “old Japan”. Even though it didn’t look very old to me, it still had touches of past times that you don’t see throughout the rest of the city (like trolleys and rickshaws).

They also have an abundance of souvenir shops where you can pick up your fill of chopsticks, samurai swords, and hello kitty products.

And in case you missed it, don’t forget to check out In The Beginning Parts I, II, and III.

In The Beginning – Part III

11 May

This post holds a special place in my heart – and what better day to post it than today…our 6 month anniversary! Seriously? I swear, sometimes life moves too fast. And I am realizing that as I look back, I can remember moments but those moments are hazy. {I think I can thank my parents for that} 😉  So I’ve decided I need to start documenting my life more – documenting so that when life gets too big, I can always remember the little things.

Enough with the sappy epiphany? You got it!

+ Mt. Fuji

My favorite part of my trip last year was Mt. Fuji – for obvious reasons, even if we didn’t see much of the mountain itself. First off, a word to the wise – don’t visit Mt. Fuji when it’s raining. Duhhhhh. In all honesty, we did contemplate going another day. In fact, I suggested Thursday (it was then Tuesday) – as it was supposed to be the sunniest day of the week  – but Collin was quick to say “no, that’s too late”. {He did have secret plans up his sleeve, after all}.

So, with two websites predicting rain and two others predicting sun, we took our chances and headed for the mountain. And THIS is what we saw when we got there:

Can you see Mt. Fuji? Yeah, neither could we. Here I am posing in front of what we thought might be a cloud covered Mt. Fuji.

We later learned that I, in fact, was not standing anywhere close to being in the right direction of Mt. Fuji.

Disappointed, but not losing hope, we decided on an impromptu stay in the area – you know, just incase Mt. Fuji decided to show itself tomorrow? And seeing as how Japan is famous for its Onsen…why not stay at one of those? We decided on Kukuna. Basically because it was the cheapest we could find – let me tell you, they do not offer discounts when your room with a view doesn’t come with a view… But regardless, the hotel was amazing and I’m glad we did it – in true Japanese fashion, no less. {Ok, that’s because the Western style rooms were either sold out or double in price – but you know what they say, when in Rome!}

Here’s a picture of our room, can you tell what’s missing?

That’s right, a bed! Where was our bed? Well tucked away in the closet of course.

But not to worry, while we were out having dinner {which we quickly learned is about the only thing there is to do in this town when it’s cloudy} the hotel made our bed for us.

TA-DA! Ok, so I will admit I was excited to be staying in a “Japanese style” room while in Japan. Until I slept on the bed….those are not for the weak my friends.

But all set-back aside, this trip was TOTALLY worth it. Why? Because I got engaged!!! So maybe we couldn’t see Mt. Fuji, but we knew it was somewhere behind those clouds. And would you know? The next morning we finally got a quick glimpse of the amazing mountain.

I wouldn’t trade that rainy, cloudy trip for the world. It was perfect in my book. In fact, we can see Mt. Fuji from right here on base, and every time I look up and see that mountain, I’m taken back to that perfect day. But I can also tell you I’m excited to see Mt. Fuji for real – as in climbing it this summer. It’s at the top of my wish list for Asia – so who’s coming to visit and climbing with me??


In The Beginning – Part II

5 Apr

Luckily for us, the base runs a tickets and tours office that puts together trips for base personnel each month. It’s great if you want to let someone else do the planning/driving/translating/etc, and we certainly took full advantage. Not only did we use this service to go to Disneyland, we used it for another excursion too!

+ Jigokudani Monkey Park

Located in a remote valley in Nagano Prefecture, Jigokudani – roughly translating to “Hell Valley” – runs along a steep mountainside. Covered in heavy snow fall for 4 months a year, steam rises from frozen crevices, giving the valley an eerie feel that hell froze over. {or so says the research I’ve done…I didn’t exactly get the whole hell froze over vibe, but maybe that’s just me…}

Of course the steam comes from an abundance of natural hot springs throughout the valley. And while Japanese folks are famously known for their use of these hot springs (known as Onsen) all over Japan, the Snow Monkeys (or Japanese Macaque) have also famously turned the hot springs of Jigokudani into an Onsen for themselves.

After several hours by bus, a lecture directing us not to look into the monkeys’ eyes or to feed them, and a 1.6km hike up the mountain, we finally reached the park. While I knew we would be able to roam free with they monkeys, I don’t think I was quite prepared for how close we would actually get. It was surreal.

With their stoic faces and broad shoulders, these monkeys walked around like they ruled the place…

…not a care in the world that they were surrounded by tourists shoving cameras in their face from every direction.

I tell you, these guys, they have the life!


In The Beginning – Part I

4 Apr

Well, so much for my promise to myself to keep up with the blog…whoops! Anywho…let’s get started, shall we?

Let me take you back to the very beginning, February 2011. I came to Japan for a two-week visit, which as most of you know, was the beginning of this epic journey.  (Wow, was this really over a year ago now?) I was overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of things to do but we finally narrowed our choices down to a few key trips, and I’ve done my best to highlight them for you below.

+ Tokyo Disneyland

Have you ever been to California’s Disneyland? Well, then you’ve been to the one in Tokyo. Okay, okay, not technically…at least in California you can understand what people were saying – but that might be the only difference.  Take a look at this:

Aerial view of Disneyland, CA

Map of Tokyo Disneyland

See any resemblance? If it were not for all of the Japanese folk around, I could have sworn I was in California – well, that, and the fact that it was about 25 degrees out that day! But regardless, we had a great time.

The food is mostly the same (turkey legs!)…

the rides are generally the same (ok, except maybe this one)….

the castle is still the same…

but there were a few slight differences…

While it was eye-opening to see the similarities (and differences) of Disneyland, our next adventure will definitely be to check out Disney Sea.

Life in Japan

12 Mar

Growing up, I had no desire to ever visit Asia…never mind live in Asia. It was just…so…different. I mean, traveling in places like Europe, you can at least read a map without knowing the language. But how could you ever do that in Asia?! Take a look at Japan, they use not one, but three written “alphabets”. And let’s not even begin to discuss the cultural and culinary differences – sushi anyone?  

Luckily for me, these presumptions were simply a reflection of my naivety. Moving to Japan, I have quickly fallen in love with Asian culture, lifestyle, and food – and because it is so different, it leaves me wanting to learn and understand more.

Now, to answer that burning question you’ve all been asking – what is it like to live in Japan – I’ve found one of these extremely useful collages that have been popping up all over the internet. Have a look:

Pretty accurate, huh? Ok, ok, well I don’t really live in a capsule. Lucky for us we have an “American sized” home on base – but more to come on that later. As for the capsules though, they really do exist!

But, what I find most fascinating about the picture, is that it really does show the many sides of Japan. In a country the size of California, with a population equal to half that of the US, it is hard to believe you can escape to a place as peaceful as Mt. Fuji only to find yourself in the middle of a congested crosswalk a few hours later.

Coincidentally, take a look at the image for “where the world thinks I live”. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. And while we are not greatly affected by it living in Yokota – it is very apparent that Japan is still struggling to recover. In fact, only 6% of the 22.5 million tons of debris has been removed from the towns where the disaster struck.

So over the weekend, I got to reading a few articles on where Japan stands and what the future will bring, when I came across this one. It is a series of writings from high school students who share their thoughts on this memorable day. They discuss concerns of the government, environment, economy, discrimination and prejudice, clean energy, the media….the list could go on and on, but ultimately, it goes to show that in the end, maybe we aren’t so different after all…

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