Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween at Tokyo Disney Sea, 2015

 I love the Halloween theme at Tokyo Disney Sea.

The Villains took over the park, giving us an "Eerie, yet elegant Halloween."

 The monorail passes depicted the two Halloween themes between Disney Sea and Disneyland.  The theme over at Disneyland was an Autumn Harvest.

 There was even a grand entrance into the park, announcing the theme.

The banner read: "Enter a World where Villains rise and Witches fly across the sky."

 On the North side of the American Waterfront is where Duffy the bear lives, and I love the Halloween Harvest cuteness in the decorations.

 The dessert I got with a souvenir cup.  I think that chocolate bit on top is supposed to be a ghost, but I'm not really sure.

 The Villains show on the harbor.  We weren't going to see the show, but you can hear the music throughout the park, and it sounded so cool we had to see the last showing just before sundown.

 Is it just me, or does Jafar really look Japanese?

So much fun!!!

(Disney photos by Sarah and Michael Stufflebeam)

And this last pumpkin picture my sister-in-law Krista took at the Skytree.

I love how the Japanese decorate for Halloween.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Eating Steak While Standing in Shibuya Tokyo, Ikinari Steak

 Within the first 48 hours in Japan I was starting to go into protein withdrawal.  A part of that is the fact that I'm carbohydrate sensitive, and I get sick if I eat too many carbs, and so much of Japanese food involves carbs: Rice and Noodles, with a dash of protein on top.

So on Monday, October 6th, I literally said a morning prayer for guidance.  Both my sister-in-law Krista and I have carbohydrate sensitivity, and we were both struggling. So I prayed for help, hoping we could find a meal protein heavy to help stabilize our blood sugar levels.

We didn't know where to go, and after spending an hour or so in Shinjuku buying our NEX tickets, we decided to get something to eat in Shibuya.  There was bound to be something we would come across.

And sure enough, it was Google Maps acting silly that led us to Ikinari Steak.

One of our afternoon goals was to buy Tokyo Disney Sea tickets from the Disney Store, and I was following the map from the station, waiting for its slow updates as we trekked along.  The distance was quite close, but for a moment the map randomly had us cross the street, unnecessarily, and then cross back to the same sidewalk.  Even though it didn't make sense to follow the guidance, especially since I could look up and see, within a few blocks, such a move was pointless, I decided to follow the path Google Maps displayed.

Right before crossing back to the other side of the street, Disney Store in sight, a man was handing out fliers, and even though I didn't take one, it caused me to turn around.  Michael turned around, too, as we waited for the light to turn, and he saw the sign for steak, the same sign I was starring at.

And a quick discussion, we were starving after all, we decided to give it a try.

 It was a standing restaurant!

I'd read and seen programs about places like this in Tokyo.  Restaurants where you stand, encouraging you to eat fast and leave, no meandering and talking afterwards.

And they gave us giant bibs!  Everyone was wearing one.

After struggling with Google Translate to read the menu, the waitress brought us English menus, which was quite handy.

 I asked for a medium steak, and it was perfect!

So, so yummy.

Corn, steak, salad, and rice.

There was almost a miso taste to the steak, though I couldn't be sure.

 And as we waited we could watch the chef prepare our food.

This was honestly my favorite meal of the trip.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Walking About Shibuya, Tokyo Japan, Day 2

 Two of our five full days in Tokyo were half days, due to jet lag.  Sleeping in was a necessity.  Day 2, Monday, was a short day, relaxed and spontaneous, in which we did get some important things accomplished as well.  We navigated around Shinjuku Station to get our bearings, since we would be traveling through this "World's Busiest Train Station" everyday for the rest of the trip (P.S. if you avoid the mall inside Shinjuku train station, you won't become a buried alive tourist.  The station is actually not that intimidating if you know exactly where you're coming from, where you're going, and if you need to change lines (Odakyo to JR, for example).  We bought the tickets to ride N.E.X (Narita Express) on our last day to the airport, just to get that taken care of.  And we went to Shibuya to buy Tokyo Disney Sea tickets for Day 3, Tuesday.

I was excited to FINALLY get the witness the famous Shibuya Crossing, aka the Pedestrian Scramble.

 I mainly took video of it, because still pictures don't do it justice.  Seeing everyone crossing every which way across the street was really fun.

(P.S. when you exit Shibuya station, follow the signs to the Hachiko exit, which is next to the crossing.  Very easy.  There's a statue of the famous Hachiko dog--there was even an American movie made to honor this beloved, faithful pet--alas, I couldn't find it, but honestly I didn't look hard enough.  I was too busy being distracted by lights, sounds, commotion, and an empty stomach.)

 On the way to the Disney Store we ate at a yummy steak restaurant, but that deserves its own blog post :0)

 The Disney Store is a short walk from the station.

 If there's a cute character in a Disney film, they are idolized in shows and merchandise, even the obscure characters.

 The Shibuya Disney Store has three levels, and on the top level you can buy tickets to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea.

 Venturing out again.

 Shibuya 109.  I've seen this fashion mall highlighted on NHK World so many times, a few of which on Tokyo Eye.  (PS, you can download and stream live NHK World free to your phone.  It's fantastic, all in English spoken/subtitled.)

It's been my dream for years to visit 109 and buy cute fashion, goodness, this trip was hard in one way: Dealing with the shame of gaining so much weight.  In America I'm pretty much normal.  In Japan I'm full on overweight.  It was really, really getting to my self-esteem/self-worth.  But I was finally in Shibuya, and even though I couldn't fit in any of the clothes, I wanted to see them anyway.

109 is unique in that the girls who work in each boutique wears the clothes they're selling.  The latest in Tokyo fashion is represented in about 10 stories.  Go up one escalator, circle around, up another, circle around, up another, etc.  There's a couple eateries.  And at the top there's a Sanrio store, in which I bought my two nieces cute My Melody items.

It was, overall, interesting, facing my fears that way, facing myself, and realizing that, even though I'm at this point in my life, struggling, I'm still beautiful.  We all have our crosses to bear, and a couple of my crosses led to weight gain.  But that's okay.  I've lost ten pounds since mid-Summer.  And this time I've been really focusing on my mind, heart, and spirit in the process.  I want to be healthy inside and out, spiritually and physically.  It's a slow process.  But the slowness is necessary for permanent success.

It was a good experience.

 On the way back to the apartment we stopped in Harajuku to visit Meiji Shrine, but it was five minutes from closing.  The security guard still let us in, and we walked really fast, but we didn't make it to the shrine.  The trees were oh so pretty.

We vowed to try and visit again before our trips end.

Back in Tsurukawa we ate at a noddle place close to the station, ordering from a ticket machine.

I took this picture to prove I DID eat some Japanese food on the trip!!!  Heh, and I learned a valuable lesson that soup soaked shrimp tempura is impossible to lift with chopsticks.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

No One is Beyond the Help of the Lord

 "We do not need to achieve some minimum level or capacity or goodness before God will help - Divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience."

~ D. Todd Christofferson

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Enoshima Island, Iwaya Caves and Tide pools, Japan

 On the far side of Enoshima is the Iwaya Caves and Tide Pools.

"The caves themselves are interesting if you know the folklore and history of the island. Monks once worshipped here and the whole island of Enoshima was considered a holy site. Shogun and samurai came to pay respects. There is even a legend that the caves go all the way to Mount Fuji. The sound of the waves and air entering the caves can sound like a dragon's roar during storms. The Island was said to have been created by the goddess Benzaiten to protect villagers from a dragon. The dragon fell in love with her and stopped causing havoc. You will see dragons all over the island and in the caves as well."

 There are two connecting caves, both quite small, costing around 500 yen for both.  I got the Eno-pass at the beginning of our Enoshima adventure at the visitors center which cost 1,000 yen for everything on the island, including the caves.

 On the way to the caves.

 As you get deeper in the cave you're handed a paper lantern with tea candle to light your way.  It creates a really nice affect and feel, adding to the ominousness of the caves, adding to the lore.

 As we slowly inched our way towards the dragon, not really knowing what was at the end of this cave, there was the loud thumping of a drum echoing through the caves, like the ticking of a slow clock.

We each took our turn, banging the drum, seeing if there would be two flashes of light, indicating our dreams would come true.

 The tide pools, full of crabs and other curiosities.

On the boat, which cost 400 yen, heading back to the mainland.

Enoshima, it was fun.  We'll definitely come back.

A true highlight of our trip.