Monday, May 25, 2015

Japan - Day with Kensuke

A few weeks ago, Ken had to go to Yokohama, Japan for work, so we decided to tag along.  It was a bit of a last minute trip...we found out on a Saturday and we left on Thursday.

The first person we told was Kiyoshi Kanamori...the father of Kensuke, Nicholas' best friend from nursery school when we first moved to Doha.  That was 3 years ago!  At the end of that school year, Kensuke and his family moved back to Japan, but we've been able to stay in touch a bit through FB and Skype.  So we made arrangements for our families to spend a day together in Japan.  Kiyoshi put a lot of time and effort organizing a fabulous day full of fun for us.  He emailed us a detailed itinerary with all the train information and details we might need ... both in English and Japanese in case we had any trouble and needed someone to help that didn't know English.  It was amazingly sweet!

Unfortunately our flight leaving Doha was something like 5 hours delayed, so instead of leaving at 1am, we were up all night at the airport and left at 6am.  With a 12 hour flight, just over a 1 hr bus to Yokohama from Tokyo, it was very late by the time we got to our hotel and a very early morning to meet Kensuke and his family.  But it was so worth it!!!  And of course the kids did great -- I think they're so used to traveling now, it's no big deal.

Waiting for the bullet train (fastest train in the world ... works on magnetic system so not only was it fast, but so smooth and quiet too!  amazing train!!!) to meet Kensuke in Shizuoka

Kensuke and his brother Tomoki waiting for us on the train platform (bullet train is behind us)
 After grabbing a wonderful lunch of udon noodles (we LOVE Japanese food!!!), we headed off to the Shizuoka Zoo and had a fabulous tour.
Kiyoshi, Yuka, me & Ken with Nicholas, Tomoki, Jaden and Kensuke at the zoo
First stop was to look at the monkeys...

Then we went to see the polar bears ... SO COOL to watch this polar bear do back flip after back flip right up close. 
Seals could swim through this tube to go back and forth from one pool to another
Next up ... big cats.  a beautiful tiger prowling around
The lion kind of freaked me out ... it was seriously trying to attack and eat Tomoki from the other side of the glass.

Feeding the coy fish ...
And here are a bunch of pictures from the petting zoo area.  Jaden liked the baby chicks, but Nicholas preferred the bunnies.  Both thought it was cool to hold a snake!

Four silly boys in 2 cut out faces!

Nicholas is always silly in pictures!  Don't let the face fool you, he was having a FABULOUS time!!!
We ended our time at the zoo, going up this hill and coming down on a giant slide!  SO FUN!!
Jaden and Nicholas on their way down

We made it!!
After a wonderful time at the zoo, we went to the Kunozan Toshogu Shrine.  You had to take a cable car from one mountain top to another to get to the shrine.  Once there, Kensuke and Tomoki taught us all about the shrines and the etiquette, from washing your hands before entering (to purify), to how to pray at the alter.  I probably have it all wrong, but I think it was: toss in money, clap two times, bow two times, pray, bow, leave.

Ice cream break before getting on the cable car
Cable car ride through the trees to get to the shrine (desert dwellers love to see all the green)
Kunozan Toshogu Shrine
Beautiful and colorful detail on the corner of the shrine

Tomoki said the paper tied up in knots and left around the temples and shrines the bad dreams you don't want to happen in your life.  So you write it on paper, tie it to the string and leave it behind.

Sake barrels as a gift to the shrine

Praying at the alter.  A very solemn moment.
Solemn moment didn't last long ... immediately followed by Samurai poses! 

Happy Kensuke!
 After a wonderful day together, we had a quick dinner of Japanese Pork Katsu (think chicken nugget, but with pork).  Our kids loved it and I couldn't get enough of the cabbage salad!  So fresh and delicious!!!  But then it was time to say good bye, or maybe just "until next time."  We've already agreed that God willing, we will visit Kyoto together on our next trip.  :-)
Kiyoshi, Yuka, Tomoki, and Kensuke back at the train station to say goodbye.

Sweet sweet hug between friends!!

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