Sunday, August 31, 2014

Our first dog - Penny!

We decided to get our first puppy.  None of us have ever had one before.  We decided it was a great experience for our 3 boys to have.  Our friends have 2 labradoodles and they had 6 puppies.  We selected a girl that is a solid copper like color so Angela named our puppy Penny.  We need to wait another 2 more weeks before we can bring her home.  We have had her at our home a couple times for an hour at a time.  Here's the 3 boys holding her when we decided to get her.

 These couple photos were taken before she opened her eyes.

 Here's Penny and the boys when we had her at our home recently.

 Here's Lucas holding her.

This video is pretty cute of Penny.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Japanese Food

 Perhaps one of the most memorable things we experienced in Japan was the food.  There was such a wide variety and it wasn't all sushi, which made Brian happy.  At our hotel we had the option each morning of choosing either the Japanese style or Western style breakfasts.  Here's the Japanese style.  It had some fish, rice, meso soup, and other things we couldn't identify.  Angela enjoyed it but Brian preferred the Western.

 The Western breakfast wasn't exactly what we normally eat for breakfast and there was some variability each day but here's a representative one.  Vegetable soup for breakfast?

 If you were still hungry after your breakfast there was all you could eat fruits and these tasty waffles with chocolate syrup and sprinkles or blueberry syrup.

 Every night after 9 pm the hotel had free ramen noodles you could enjoy.  They were not like the ramen noodles that you get in the US, they were much better.  Brian really enjoyed this since he had this option every night for 4 weeks in Japan.  There was onions and seaweed in the soup also.  You use your chop sticks to pick up the noodles and it's polite to slurp up the noodles to show the cook that you enjoy them.  You then use a soup spoon to drink the rest of the soup.

 Many restaurants had these plastic food dishes that were made to look exactly like the foods the restaurant serves.  This was extremely helpful to those of us that didn't speak Japanese or couldn't read Kanji.

 For Angela's birthday, she chose to eat at a sushi place that had a conveyor belt to deliver the food (like the sushi train restaurant that was posted earlier on our blog).  The cooks are in the middle of the restaurant and place items on the conveyor belt and the patrons sit around the cook area up to a bar.  You then grab whatever items you want and you pay per plate that you take.  The plates are color coded and cost various amounts.  We tried various types of raw fish from white fish to shrimp to eel to squid.  Angela enjoyed the experience but it wasn't so satisfying for Brian.

 One of our favorites was yakitori, which are Japanese BBQ places.  They don't just do meat, they do all sorts of BBQed veggies.  You order 1 stick at a time and maybe order like 6 different sticks each.  This restaurant cooked them basically in front of you.

 There were various types of sticks you could get.  We enjoyed the beef, chicken, pork, potatoes, stuffed peppers, quail eggs, rice cakes wrapped in bacon, asparagus wrapped in pork, and sweet peppers.  Doesn't that sound amazing?  Sometimes it was wrapped in seaweed or had various kinds of sauces and dressings on them.

 One evening we met up with one of Brian's colleagues, Sylvain, for a dinner.  They bring a BBQ pit to your table for you to cook your own food on.  They had various types of raw beef and some veggies.  Brian had Angela try some cow tongue without her really knowing, she didn't mind the taste.

  Our favorite meal was okonomiyaki.  It was basically a fried salad.  It's cabbage based and has meat and eggs but we really didn't know exactly what was in it.  The cooks bring everything out to your table and cook it all in front of you on a hot plate in the middle of your table (see video below).  Here's our two meals being cooked.  You cut pieces of it off and eat it on your plate.

 Here's the finished products with the sauces added.  The sauce was a bit of a sweet taste.

 When Brian saw a Krispe Kreme sign at Diaba he had to visit to go eat a doughnut.

 As a final meal in Japan for Angela, she decided to try gindaco (or takoyaki), which is a breaded ball with a piece of octopus inside.  Here's the meal she bravely enjoyed.

Here's a video of the cook preparing the okonomiyaki.

Random Japan Trip Items

 Angela's birthday happened while we were in Tokyo and we arranged to do a video call with our boys back home.  Here's a video of the three angels posing for their mom (lower right corner).

 Our hotel was reasonably priced and was in quite a nice location in Tokyo. Here was the view out of our hotel window to the nearby river.  You could see Tokyo Sky Tree to the left (an observatory) and the beer factory to the right with the funny golden colored wavy thing.

 There was a foot bath for men and women on the top floor of the hotel that we enjoyed a couple times.  This was the night view from the foot bath (again similar to the one above).

 Here's Angela enjoying the bath.  The water was very warm, almost too hot, but it was sure nice to rest your feet after a day of lots of walking!

 We did a lot of train riding.  Here's a typical train car, though it can sometimes be so full that everyone is standing with no chance of having your own personal space.

 Here's Angela showing her train pass that allowed us to easily navigate the 7 different train companies that serve the Tokyo area.  It was like a gift card that you put money on and use till it runs out.  It made traveling much faster.

 We visited a very small fireworks museum that Angela's dad would have really enjoyed (he does big firework shows every year).

 We also visited a sumo museum and had this funny photo taken of Angela.

There are various river boat tours you can do in Tokyo, w/ or w/o meals provided.  We didn't end up doing one but we got a cool photo of some of the boats.

The video below is perhaps one of the funniest videos we've ever made.  This was our funny experience of figuring out how the Japanese toilets work.  We just used toilet paper.

Daiba Island

 Daiba island is a fun place that many Japanese people visit to have fun.  There are various unique things on the island, like a statue of liberty, many American stores for shopping, a large Gundam statue, and many more things.  Here's Brian at the feet of the Gundam statue.  He comes alive every hour or so and moves his head around and smoke rises from his shoulders.  Gundam is a very popular series in Japan, like Transformers in the US.

 Angela was feeling pretty tall...

 Here is the very interesting Fuji building that encourages tourists to visit and experience the latest technologies that Fuji is developing.  There's a restaurant in that sphere.  Daiba is where we had our favorite Japanese food, Okonomiyaki (see the food blog post to be posted later).

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tsukiji Fish Market

 Tsukiji fish market, which is just south of downtown Tokyo, is the largest fish market in the world.  It's an amazing place that is a must visit.  You have to go as early as possible in the morning.  Early every morning the fishermen bring in fresh fish to the market to be auctioned and distributed throughout the city and the country I believe.  There are hundreds of individual businesses inside.  It's a very busy business place and as a tourist you feel sort of in their way but it's what tourists do.  You watch then cut up the fish and see many varieties of seafood (some still alive) you've never seen before.  Here's a huge tuna being prepared with a sword.

 Tons of crates of fresh fish for sushi.

 There's various types of carts that are used to get things around the market.  The fish smell is quite strong but the experience is so cool!

 We decided that it was imperative that we make fish faces for the occasion.

Here's some video as we walked around the place.  You can get an idea of how busy the place is.  You hear the band saws cutting up the frozen fish and there's some video of it as well.

Shibuya Crossing

 Shibuya crossing is Tokyo's equivalent to New York's Times Square.  It's an amazing intersection with tons of people flooding it.  We went in a nearby Starbucks to get a nice camera angle.  It was rainy so there were many umbrellas and perhaps not as many people as usual.  Here's the before crossing photo.

 And the crossing photo!

Here's Angela in the middle of the crossing.   This was where we found a very delicious yakitori restaurant (Japanese BBQ place, see the food blog post to come later).

Ueno Park Japan

 One place we really enjoyed was Ueno park which is north of downtown Tokyo.  We did a paddle boat out on lake in the park.  There's video at the bottom of the post of the boat.

 Here's Angela with her umbrella that Brian bought her that is a sun umbrella besides just one to protect you from the rain (Brian spent quite some time finding just the right one that she'd like).  It's strange that you don't see more sun umbrellas used in the US and elsewhere.

 Ueno park has a Buddhist temple (below) and also a couple Shinto shrines (Shinto is another popular religion in Japan).

 Also on the temple grounds was this interesting memorial to the nuclear bomb tragedies of 1945.  It was interesting to see this and read the plaque.  Such a tough story in history.

 Those colorful things hanging at the memorial are all origami cranes (birds).  Here's a more closeup photo of them.

Here's some video of our paddle boat ride we enjoyed.

Here is video of a street performance we really enjoyed watching.  These drummers were very lively and kept their performance interesting with humor and cool rhythms.

Japanese Gardens

 One of the really nice things about Japan are the gardens in the various city parks.  Here was one garden that was across the street from the LDS temple.

 It was nice to sit and quietly enjoy the views and eat a bowl of fruit we bought from a nearby market while Angela rested her sore feet.

 There are many turtles in these parks.

 And also butterflies.

 Here's Angela on one of the park's bridges (this was at a different park we visited).

Sensoji - Japanese Buddhist Temple

Our hotel in Tokyo was very close to one of the most famous Japanese Buddhist temples called Sensoji.  Many many tourists come here along with many Japanese people here to have a religious experience.  Here's Brian in front of a cool looking building (called a Pagoda) that we weren't sure what it's purpose was.

One of the things that most visitors do is to see what their fortunes will be.  You pay 100 yen (about $1 USD) and then pick out a random stick that indicates which drawer you should pull your fortune out of.  Here's Angela holding the one she got.  At the bottom of this blog post is a video of Brian trying to get his fortune.

Here's a better overview picture of the Sensoji temple grounds.  There's an incense burning area and several buildings where you can buy various fortunes for certain aspects in life (like health, employment, romance, etc.).  Quite a contrast from an LDS temple experience, but still neat to experience.

 At the main worshiping area there are very ornate golden statues to see and pray at.

 All around the temple grounds are various outdoor shopping areas.  These were quite fun to browse through.  We shopped at these kinds of places many times and found various interesting things.  This walkway happened to be a covered one.

 Here's the happy couple in front of the entrance just as it started to rain.

 On a second visit we got this photo of Angela showing off her cool Japanese fan.

Here's video of Brian getting his fortune, though he had trouble finding the drawer of fortunes that corresponded to the Kanji characters on the stick (they were partially rubbed off).  He did finally locate it.  Also included is some video of the temple grounds area.