Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Very Delayed Japanuary Post

We've been on the road more than we've been at home this year, and while we have loved every minute we've been with family and friends, we are really looking forward to a full summer at home in Bend. These last 4 months have been pretty hectic and rough, and though we weathered through it pretty well, we're ready for some down time.

That's not to say we haven't had the most awesome time traveling - we love, love, love Japan. This time around, we only spent a few days in Tokyo and we spent a majority of our time up in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, close to Russia. 

"I can see Russia from my hotel!"

Signs in Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean and Russian.

Hokkaido has some of the best snow (powder) in the world - or as Mike likes to refer to it, "Japow." Mike and our friends Ray, Tanya, and Josh all went snowboarding and skiing, while Bernice and I went to the Sapporo Beer Garden, sampled a couple bowls of local ramen, spent hours in a Japanese photo booth, and stuffed ourselves with Japanese pastries. Sure, they were snowboarding/skiing on waist deep, world class powder. But, I'd venture to say Bernice and I had more fun!

Mike, Tanya, Josh and Ray ready to shred! Photo by Ray Gilman.

Mike on the slopes. Shot by the professional photog - don't know his name

Bernice and I grabbing breakfast at the bakery.

The Japanese bakeries are some of the best in the world. They take inspiration from the French and the Scandinavians, perfect it and then package it up a thousand times cuter. I think I visited a bakery every single day we were in town - and sometimes twice.

yes, that's a soft boiled egg INSIDE a savory doughnut topped with takoyaki sauce.

Outside the Sapporo Beer Garden

Sampling Hokkaido style ramen with miso broth

One of the best things we found was a Japanese photo booth. There were literally dozens of them on one floor of a shopping plaza. Each booth did something different - you can dress yourself up, write on your pictures, smooth out your skin, add make up, whatever. One booth had some weird looking Barbie-doll faced girls on it. It turned out this booth enlarged your eyes. I couldn't stop laughing. Even though everything was in Japanese, we dumped 100 yen coins into that machine until we figured it out. It took us hours but it was like a trip to the gym - my sides and abs ached from laughing so hard. We looked like anime characters!

We had so much fun we had to bring the guys back the next day.

Mike is such a good sport!

We ended the last few days of the trip with a major bonding experience - getting naked together in an onsen, and then getting thrown out of said onsen. The Japanese are unrelenting when it comes to tattoos. UNRELENTING. If Japanese people can be rude, that was probably the closest we got to experiencing it.

photo courtesy of Japanistas.

We then took a once in a lifetime trip to see the snow monkeys at the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. Although it took us a whole day to travel there, it was well worth the trip. We got to experience the infamous Shinkasen (the Japanese bullet train) and pretty much every other form of public transportation on our way.

The snow monkeys keeping warm in the hot springs. Photo by Ashley DeLuca.

A mother and her baby crossing the river.

monkeys, monkeys, everywhere!

You think they're staying clean and grooming each other, but there's poop in that water.

Mike and I really love Japan, and I'm sure we'll go back sometime soon, since we still have lots of stuff on our bucket list to accomplish there, like climbing Mt Fuji! But for now, we are glad to be home and back to our pets. With spring in the air, we can't wait to fix up the yard and continue on creating our mini pseudo "homestead." Maybe this will be the year I actually grow some plants!