Monday, June 29, 2009

Shibuya, horse, and walking

Yay convinced Rumi to hit late night ramen!

It was my second time I must confess. Nothing like a thousand calories around midnight!!

I hit the town with joss on Friday night. This time we went to shibuya. This WOULD be the most crazy place on earth except I already said that about Shinjuku. Oh well.
Spent a few hours in the 8 level Tower records, the most famous music store in Tokyo.
With the sad news of MJ death that day the press were all over the place, interviewing people etc. Whilst we love MJ we avoided being on the news but were likely in the backround of several shoots whilst tuning into some funky hop hop.
Anyway great night again, though nothing too shocking to report on the food front.
But joss-what a MENACE to japanese society. I won't say anymore.

Next day we visited rumis grandma. Rumis uncle and aunty also live with grandma, although uncle was out busy with summer festival organisation.
So we met her grandma and aunty at a restaurant near their house, 4 stations away.
Lunch was lovely but I did spot horse sashimi on on the menu. Raw horse??? Surely this was a translation error?
Damn, it was under the "meat" section, so maybe not "horse makarel" as I initially thought.
Sorry for the sake of a cool blog entry I just wasn't that brave.

After lunch we walked to their home.
I thought it was amazing to have 4 generations sitting together.

Rumis GM is 89 years old. But you wouldn't guess it. Spritely and full of beans. Up until
Recently still prepared meals for her son and daughter that have never left home!!
Judging by the veins in her arms she would beat me in and arm wrestle so I didn't put up the chaallemge.

Anyway that beings me to today.
Neh-oh chan decided to walk today. Up until now walking consisted of us holding her hands and tricking her by pulling her support away. She was ok with 2 or 3 steps but soon realized the deception and simply fell on her knees or bottom due to lack of confidence.. In the last few days she would stand herself up and let go for a few seconds. Testing the waters I guess.
Today she got bold, turned and used the legs! I grabbed the vidcam and she happily and consistently walked 5 or so steps between us. The excitrment, clapping and encouragement from us egg'd her on.
Now I fear a period of injuries and crying, but she is so proud of herself, she just stands and tries to walk everywhere!
Awesome, very exciting!!

Stay tuned for the forthcoming accidents and tears

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Neo news

Been a few comments on how Neh-oh chan has grown. The change is so dramatic even we see it, which is strange given the constant contact.

Thought I should list some of her personal development highlights:

Loves dogs. Calls them wah-wahns, the japanese nick name (for kids).
Spots them everywhere even when we don't see them and repeats "wah wahn" to let us know. Really sharp eyes, sometimes we back track to find them an sure enough we have just passed a teddy dog or picture of one.

Qack (duck)
Wah wahn (dog)
Ichi (1)
Touch (when touching someone)
Hai(ywhen we do roll call " moran neo San" she puts her arm up and says " hai")

Also knows what the following means and does the action
Odei(come here)
Bath(crawls to bath)
Itadakimas/gotsosama (before/after meal - clambs her hands together)
Run fast ( when helping her walk the legs start going overdrive)
Arigato ( and bows her head )

Can easily walk 2/3 steps between people
Climbs up onto coffee table and sofa
Turns and slides off sofa
Puts any phone like object (remote control, calculator etc) to her ear and pretends to be on phone
Points at anything of interest and goes "aahhhh"
In bed crawls up and rolls into one of us so she ends up lying against us.
Knows basic hand movements of some Japanese kids songs which get sung everyday
(so much so that even I find myself humming some of them)
Nods head side to side when she really likes some food (oi-Shi-neh)
Sleeping right through the night without boobs
Loves chasing cousin ryo around going "rah"
Waves to anyone in public then engages them with her intense blinking (kind of like morse code using blinking). train rides are a lot of fun, she ends up communicating to several people in one way or another and they all wave bye bye when we get off

Talks her own language. Mostly it sounds like "gug gug heeba jeeba jabba jabba lawa oh wahhh"

I'm sure there is more I have forgotten but it is all very entertaining

Here she is right now

Mushi mushi

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tokyo sea life park

We just got back from an exciting day at the sea life park, located next door to Disney land.
We met with Rumi's school friend Aiya, her husband and 2 year old son
This place is definstely worth a visit if you come to Tokyo. Only 10 bucks entry but an amazing display of marine life from across the globe

This Was one of by favourites-bluefin tuna. The only place in the world they can be seen as they need a constant flow of fresh seawater and they never stop moving, they just fly around in the current.

After this we saw dozens of tanks with marine life from specific locations.
Neo loved this place and would stand at the glass watching the fish and cackling to herself.

Watching the penguins

The deep sea exhibitions were really dark and we had an enourmius sunfish saunter out of the darkness straight at where neo was standing against the glass. This thing was like a cow and when it was a few inches away looking like it wanted to bite off Neo's head, it's amazing uglyness was exposed and it gave Neo quite a fright.
The 2m hammerhead sharks didn't bother her though, which brings me to my other favourite display- A massive school Of fish being circled by a dozen sharks.

I've never seen anything like it. The way the school dynamically moulded itself around the path of incoming sharks was extraordinary. I could have watched this dance for hours
Certainly the Highlight of the day for me....

--Morans at marine world
Thanks everyone for the comments, we do check back every day to read them!

Late night adventures

THe whole house goes to bed at 10pm ish. Most nights at least. Being nocturnal this causes me some unrest. Going to bed at 10:30 to play poker on my iPhone has become a little tired.

And Id been wondering... When we are out and about we find that many restaurants are closed at lunch. Instead most open at 6pm and stay open until between 1 and 5am.
Whilst we are in the suburbs, I realized the lack of pubs in japan and closure of train services at 12 would result in lots of happy people back in their neighbourhood but unwilling to return to their cramped apartment.
Thus! Retire to a beautiful restaurant where you can get quality food and drink until 5 am!
Strangely they seem to open similar hours every day of the week, so it's not just catering for your standard office worker.

So here I am. 1 am Monday morning yours restless truly went for a wander

Ok so I only wandered across theroad.
But who would have thought I'd find a shochu speciality bar/restaurant just across the road open until 2 am! And they are playing jazz through a sweet hifi setup!

I started by ordering the most expensive rare shochu they have. Apparently even the empty bottle of this shochu goes at auctions. Only registered places can even sell it!

Started on the left with the most expensive

Then moved across to the right.
I'm no shochu expert, but I wouldn't mind being one so where better to start than the best?

Grabbed some late night food to match. Not raw this time!

This city certainly caters for night owls like myself.
And I cant think of any other city in the world where it would be normal for supermodel proportioned women to cycle past every few minutes in over the knee socks, mini skirts and heels - around midnight! Very strange, but you soon get used to it.

Anyway The shochu was fantastic. I prefer the taste of those made from sweet potato, rather than the buckwheat or rice varieties.
And shochu is the most popupar drink in Japan, not Sake as commonly percieved.

-- Andrew drinking shochu

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Dangerous things to do in Japan

Due to a couple of recent experiences I thought I might compile a list Of dangerous things you can do in japan.

1. Get a cab with a baby
No need for baby seat, and I suspect seatbelts are optional too?
Strap the kid into the seat and go for it!

2. Being in Japan
Rumi's mum feels 3 or 4 earthquakes month. Being on the 13th floor things can move around a bit. I've been here during 2 earthquakes, but oblivious to them both. 1st was the last trip 2 years back. It happened in the middle of the nihht and woke everyone up, except me
There was another last week that shook the apartment violently for 1 minute. However we were busy at the shops which are at ground level and didn't even notice. With a month to go im sure I'll get to experience one.

3. Go quad biking, horse riding and several other slighly dangerous activities and make it properly dangerous with no helmet! Whilst the quad bikes were speed limited, they went fast enough to be hairy.

4. Ride a bike. Everyone rides bikes but I've only seen two kids with helmets. Whilst people don't fly around, the sidewalks can get crowded so there is still lots of chances to have a good stack and crack your skull

5. Visit Japanese only restaurant and let waitress choose your destiny. Never thought I'd eat raw chicken or raw heart in this lifetime. But then again, it wasn't that dangerous. It's normal here, but it feels dangerous!!

6. Buy fireworks from the supermarket or 7/11
Dangerous can b fun too!

7. Cross road at pedestrian crossing without looking. Cars don't slow down or stop, they are really just recommended places tocross when there are no cars coming.

8. Hit the bum wash button on the dunny without checking what water pressure the last person left it set at.

-- Moran's in Japan

Farm then hokadate then back home

5pm Monday
After a fantastic day in yhe farm and a quick stay ovrr in Hakodate, We are now all back in Tokyo.

Yesterday 7am we were milking the cow.

The Japanese farm hand was 2m tall!

8am was breaky
We each had frsh milk that was really nice once you got throught the inch of cream on top!

After that we plays with dogs, they have 60 breeds of dog here

Played with horses and Rina anD ryo went for a ride

We also fed goats, got chased by angry ducks, went quad biking, did some archery and rina and I learnt how to make butter!

I'm so glad I did that. We made it with fresh cream straight from the cows in the farm, and finished by trying it on hot bread rolls straight out of the oven! So nice. I'll be
Making my own butter now.

Quick cruise with cousin Ryo before hitting the road

Off to Hakodate. We checked out some sites before heading to the hotel.
For the first time we stayed in a western style hotel. It was our last night of the trip.
We headed out for dinner but it was a little rushed with neo yelling at the top of her lungs. For some reason Neo is the loudest baby wherever we go. Or maybe everyone else with noisy babies keeps them at home?

We were staying right at the tip of Hakodate, near the old wharves. We rose early as the morning markets were across the road.

Squid is the speciality here And had it for breaky. It was still moving, no kidding. It's finely sliced but still wriggling around. It's fun having a bit of wriggling 2 minute dead squid in your mouth, just before swallowing it!

After some more siteseeeimg and shopping it was time to head to the airport and back home.

We were all tired but what an exciting 6 days!

Back in Tokyo now. It's been rainy and stormy the last day and half. A litle squashy here with 8 in the house.
Since we are just resting for a few days and have nothing interesting to write, Ive been thinking about dangerous things to do in japan!
Stay tuned....

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lake Toya to World Ranch

Well the day didn't start with onsen. Rumi started her day with onsen, good for her. I meanwhile could barely muster the energy to roll over let alone get up.
Instead my day started with breakfast- buffet. A new Buffett in a new hotel.
We drove half the day which gave me some valuable thinking time. I devised a formula that determined, based on Various input and outputs, temperature, weight, energy and comfort levels, that the optimum number of consecutive buffet meals in a row is .......
The problem with buffets is they are so exciti g. There is so much choice on offer and especially here, so many new things to try. My self discipline isn't equiped to deal with such temptation, and i already new it wasn't up for the challenge, so I didn't bother exercising it.

After breaky we hit the road.
We didn't have that far to go, maybe 180k's, but it took about 4 hours as the speed limits here are set for icy frozen conditions. The highest speed limit sigh I saw was 50kph. Most drivers were willing to travel at the 90 or so that matched the road and conditions but unfortunately some stuck to 30 and 40 as per the signs. The slow traffic was frustrating, but the illegal dangerous overtaking 10 cars in a row by large trucks was entertaining. Ok that only happened once, the rest of the time the scenery provided the entertainment

That's another volcano rising up in the distance.

I love some of the town signs and hotel instructions. I've never seen volcanic emergency instructions and evacuation routes before!
damn a pic of a sign would have been nice right about here!

We stopped off at lake Onuma just behind the volcano called mt Komagatake in the previous pic.
There is a beautiful park on the water that is a frequent destination for the royal family for many generations.
You can do go carting, hire trikes or boats.
We tried carting but the trikes were way more fun. You could join them together so it made a little train.
We flew around the pathways and across bridges onto little islands.

Our little elf

Our final destination today Is the World ranch. It's basically a big farm with cottages you can stay in. We had a Wander around
But we arrived around 5 and most of the farm stuff had ended. Tomorrow we start early and milk cows, Ride horses, see reindeer, and I hope to join the butter making.

BBQ dinner.

Volcano in the background.

And since this entire island is volcanic active the world ranch has it's own little onsen. I just finished my day with nice soak in the piping hot water.
-- Moran's in World Ranch

Onsen and Lake Toya

Well the day started as any memorable day should.
Rumi went to the onsen bath at 5 am and when she got back I went down at around 6
Because it was morning the gents had the larger onsen downstairs. Rumi had told me about it and I was keen to say the least.
Like a seasoned pro I stripped off, went for a wash then wandered around the onsen nudie. There were about 10 different baths and I tried most of them. One was extremely hot, far hotter than the othes. The hotel says the springs providing the water range from 40 to 90 deg celcius.
Now the best part were the oitside baths!
I walked out into the cold fresh air, with steam everywhere. The hotel backs onto the side of the valley, with a raging creek hard up against the steep sides of the mountain. The outside bath is beside the creek, with large rocks seperating.
Lots of beautiful trees and moss. Such a beautiful environment, just imagine the SERENITY.
Now imagine me flying down a water slide into a steaming hot onsen butt naked!
At that time of the morning none if the other blokes were on the slide but the girls had done it the day beforeand told me about it so I just had to do it too.

Next - bear park!
Located at the top of the mountain, the bear park is only accesible by cable car.

Looking back, that's our hotel on the right.

And looking ahead! While to go yet

Bears! Lots of bears up close.

from outside we Could throw little snacks to them. Most had learnt to wave to get our attention ( and a treat).
very cute. This half tonne bear could swipe me in two and wants to eat me. But oh so cute, just want to give it a hug...

After that we saw a funny bear show featuring a much Smaller and cuter bear doing tricks.

We fed the bears some more, had a look at the rest if the park showing how the indigenous people lived, then headed back down

Saw other local sites including the source of some of the bath water.

After lunch we hit the road, heading up into the mountains towards lake toya.
We were travelling through the ski resourt area, some amazing scenery.
Lots ofthe road was covered like a long carport so they obviously get a lot of snow here.
Through a tunnel and out he other side of the mountain range the first thing we see is a volcano that looks like a mini my Fuji. And actually that's it's name in Japanese. Old Hokkaido mini fuji.

A short rme later we were driving along lake toya. What an amazing picturesque place.
We checked into a hotel on the lakeside.

Our room

Our hotel has an indoors water park!

No photos unfortunately but I took Nei in a few water slides. The end was always a shock but she loved it!

Now I thought the OTT meals are behind us but oh I was wrong

That's the first half of dinner. The plates keptncoming and coming. It was crazy.
If I'm forced to eat anymore food all I want is to eat all bran straight out of a box.

Well the day ended as all good memorable days should-with a bloody big 20 minute fireworks show over the lake!!
I don't know what tomorrow has in store for us but I know it will start in the onsen

Hokkaido - Noboribetsu day 2

Well it poured all day. We didnt make it to the bear park, instead we went to 'Edo wonderland', a kind of theme park that covers historical Japan, with a bit of humour. Between buildings it was oitdoors witj no cover so we ended up soaked but it was fun.

But first, the onsen!

I went to one of the two floors of onsen baths. One floor was designated for men ( the two areas alternate for men/women half day then swap)
It was my first public bath, I had only done private onsen baths with Rumi before)
But I wasn't too nervous, on account of few beers and little Bottle Of sake. I was most worried about etiquete. So I tried to copy the other fellas, without looking like I was looking, if u know what I mean.

Anyway scrubbed up first then wandered into the Bath area. The were several baths and I choose what I think was the acidic iron Bath. The skin feels amazing now, And whilst I didn't have any digestive problems Ive since developed some with buffet dinner and breaky two days in a row.

Anyway, more on the onsen later.

'edo wonderland is a massive recreation of a 'edo period vulliage. I guess half would be authentic and half funny stuff like a ninja house maze and a cat themes haunted house.
First we tried our luck at some traditional games.

Hit the target with a blowgun. These things were leathal. I'd like to make one for home and pop the Indian minors off my balcony. They are Pretty accurate too.

There were some theatres with shows and my favourite - the ninja show! It was full on. There were even two shuriken (ninja stars) throw across the stage to miss a ninja by cms and lodge themselves into the door frame!!

I wish i was a ninja
Lucky I filmed the whole show so I can go home and study the moves.

Back home for more onsen, buffet and sake

Later when Rumi was bathing I took neo to amusement centre

the kids playing on the futons before bed time

That's all for today. Tomorrow we hit bear park then drive on to the next place