Thursday, February 16, 2017

National Geographic's Top 10 list

As we prepared for our trip, here was another site we studied. We covered 6 out of 10 items on National Geographic's list.

1.  Visit Kyoto’s Ancient Sites  The most iconic remnant of the city’s imperial past is the outrageously gilded Kinkakuji.

Yes, we went to Kyoto and found this temple and stood and took pictures of it for an hour. It was beautiful! And yes, this is our actual photo, not the website photo. We couldn't have taken a bad picture if we tried. The temple and the grounds and the water were stunning. 

2.  Overnight in a Temple  Nope, not on our to-to list. 

3.  Gallery Hop on "Art Island"
Picturesque Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea is a standout on Japan’s contemporary art scene.

Yes, we did this! The 3 pictures above piqued our interest on the website and were inspiring enough to get us to this island. It was (sort of) on our way to Hiroshima. Not really on our way, but in the same general geographical area of Japan. We took a bullet train, a regular train, a ferry, a city bus and a hike. Worth it! Here our own pictures to prove that we were there. And these art installations were so random that it was fascinating. This gourd is huge and it just sits out on a random pier. 

4. Ski Niseko
This small ski resort town in Hokkaido boasts the finest powder in the country.
Well, we didn't go skiing. It wasn't on our travel agenda. But we were in the area, and we did see a LOT of snow on the Island of Hokkaido and we watched some skiing demonstrations.  Close enough?

5. Experience Traditional Accommodation
The gentle scent of tatami, the understated elegance of the interiors, the meticulous service, the outdoor hot spring baths, the multi-course meal of local seasonal produce, the calming silence—all combine to make a night at a traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan, an unforgettable experience.
Yes, we stayed in a traditional Resort. Except for sleeping on the floor, it was amazing! Every detail was beautiful and the dining hall experience was unforgettable. We were even given traditional Japanese footwear to wear when we were out and about in the resort, as our outdoor shoes were unacceptable once we entered the hotel room. The food was definitely traditional. I wish I had taken pictures of the beauty of the dining options overall, but instead I found myself taking pictures of the quite different than American food options. Different, but delicious. 

6. Soak in a Natural Hot Spring
There is something quintessentially Japanese about getting naked for a soak with strangers. In fact, the Japanese have been using communal onsen, or natural hot spring waters, to relax and heal for centuries. 

There was a communal hot springs bath in the resort we stayed in. They are definitely beautiful but we opted out. While planning this trip, we read the word 'Onsen' quite often regarding the hotels. We thought it meant resort. The word is often associated with an Inn or Resort near a hot springs, so we kept using the word, thinking we were talking about our hotel. We were actually talking about the communal bathing option AT the resort. So, . . . . no. No thanks. As we walked by the entrance (segregated areas) we did realize they were used by many people and all ages, though they were all seemingly Japanese. The experience didn't seem to freak anyone else out except us (the Americans). 

7. Explore Tokyo’s Old East Side
Sensoji, a Buddhist temple in Asakusa, is about as touristy as it gets in Tokyo.
Yes, we visited. Asakusa. And yes, it was about as touristy as it gets. 

8. Hike the Northern Alps
No. Would have been cool to do, but we were traveling during the winter. 

9. Tour Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Museum
Dedicated to victims of the atomic bombing of August 6, 1945, the Peace Memorial Park and Museum are poignant and moving monuments to the horrors of nuclear weapons.
Hiroshima was much too far for us to travel on our schedule, but thanks to the bullet train that zipped us across the country so fast, we were able to pull it off. I'm so glad we did. 

10. Sample the "B-Grade Gourmet
Japan is known for fine cuisine like sushi, tempura, and kaiseki, but its low-cost culinary underbelly (“B-grade gourmet,” as the Japanese call it) is just as mouth watering. The king of the B, ramen noodles, are ubiquitous, filling, and something of a national obsession
YES!! Our favorite bowl of ramen noodles was at a non-descript cafe on a cold night, right outside the train station in Muroran. Probably our favorite meal our whole trip!! I wish I would have taken a picture. It would still make out mouths water. Obviously it is nothing like American Ramen noodles. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Top 10 lists -- Japan

I have looked back into this blog and I'm finding there are several draft posts that I started and didn't get back to. Since this is kind of our family history, I'm going to re-visit some of these even though they are terribly out of chronological order. This month I am remembering our trip to Japan 2 years ago because facebook keeps showing me some "memories from 2 years ago". So I'll start with Japan.

Some of our trip planning came from several articles like "Top things to do in Tokyo", "Must see things in Tokyo" "Off the beaten path places to visit in Japan". Our first week we were visiting some places Dave lived as a missionary 30 plus years earlier on the northern island of Hokkaido, so most things were obvious places we wanted to visit. And we went in February specifically to go to the Famous Sapporo Yuki-matsuri (Snow Festival). There were some events and places he was aware of as a missionary, but a missionary's life or budget doesn't have many options for festivals. It was fun to do some things he knew about and wanted to do when he was there years ago.

Then we went south to Tokyo and that was where we relied on some research. According to the Huffington Post, we were able to do 8 of their 10  "Top things to do in Japan".
(We passed on #3 and #8)

1. Sleep on the floor.  We didn't mean to, or plan to sleep on the floor. We made reservations at a resort. It did actually have the option of a western style room or a traditional room. Unfortunately the photos on the website showed a western style bed in both options so we opted for a Japanese style room. Joke was on us. Where is the bed, you might ask? It was folded up in the closet. You can see it in the background of the photo. Yes, we actually slept on mats on the floor. 

2. Eat fish for breakfast.  This photo is also from the same resort. It was one of the most visually stunning displays of food offered in the dining hall. However, the options were quite unlike what we normally would expect for breakfast. We tried to be adventurous eaters for dinner, but it didn't quite settle well with me first thing in the morning. The 2nd picture shown here is where we often stopped in for some orange juice and a biscuit in the mornings.

3. Take a communal bath.  Again, at the same resort we stayed in the first couple days of our trip, the website described hot pools (we had to 'Google translate' to read the websites, not always a reliable translation) (Dave speaks Japanese well, but doesn't read Japanese kanji) and I envisioned this type of a pool shown in the photo below, under the stars with snow drifting down into natural hot springs. Nope! It was just a community bath and shower area. Beautiful pools and saunas, yes, but we just weren't ready to bathe with the community. We opted out. (btw-- they were all segregated)

4. Sit on a warm toilet. Oh my heck, the toilets were a treat! We were traveling in winter, and all the toilet seats were warmed, and had all kinds of bells and whistles and buttons with instructions provided.

However, I did walk into a couple of bathroom stalls to this. A country of contrasts, I tell you!

5. Ride a bullet train.  Apparently it doesn't take much to entertain me, because I was fascinated to just watch these come and go into the train station. They'd zoom in, open the doors for exactly 60 seconds, and zoom off again. We zipped across the country from Tokyo to Hiroshima at 200 miles an hour! It was very smooth inside, a wonderful ride!

6. People watch in the shopping district. People watching was fascinating!

7. Shop for toys. There are stores that are 6 and 7 stories tall with different categories of toys on every floor. We had a mission to find some Pokemon cards for a young friend at home, so we enjoyed searching through the toys. 

8. Love hotel. ummm, no. We skipped this item on the list.

9. Gaze upon Tokyo. Although we didn't go to the Park Hyatt Hotel on the suggested list, we did go up into the Metropolitan Government Building, and on another day, we went up to the top of the Tokyo Tower and watched the sunset. We also went up to a viewing area in Sapporo, and in Hakodate. We enjoyed seeing all the cities from high above.

10. Zen out, visit temples. We definitely visited temples. This gold one was beautiful. You couldn't take a bad picture. All our photos were post card perfect.
 We took a picture of ourselves in front of it. In actuality, that was the challenge of visiting this temple. You can see in the next photo how crazy thick the crowds were.

And here is another temple. It was HUGE! If you look closely at this picture, you can see Dave standing in front of the doors in a red jacket -- a teeny tiny speck of red in the photo. (I was so glad for that red jacket. I could spot him anywhere!)

It's fun to visit places you've seen advertised and described when you were sitting at your computer on the other side of the earth. It's also fun to see things on TV or in movies afterwards and recognize them and say "I know where that is!" Season 26 of my favorite show "The Amazing Race" featured Tokyo and the Shinkansen Bullet Train just days after we returned from Tokyo!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


We took a trip to Idaho earlier this month. Dave's father passed away on January 2nd. He was the wonderful age of 94!  He has led a great life. He lived in the same area of Idaho his entire life, and lived in the house he built with Betty as a young married couple until he was 90. The last years of his life he lived with Dave's older brother Brent and sister in law Vee as he began to need assistance and progressively needed more over the next four years. What a loving service they did for Delos when they took him into their home. He was a widower for the last 12 years of his life and often talked of longing to be with Betty and wondered why he was left behind for so long. I imagine it was a glorious reunion.  

So off we went to Idaho. The weather in the northwest states was not within normal range of weather patterns. It was CRAZY cold!  The weather reports were kind of scary with warnings of lots of snow and that many roads around Idaho have been and might be closed. We checked our antifreeze, checked the treads on our tires, we made Melanie go out and buy snow chains for her tires for her drive up from Utah. We watched the news and the reports made me nervous. As it ended up, there was definitely a lot of snow, and it was plenty cold but the roads were completely clear the whole way up. Yay. Rachel, Kyle and Roxanne flew up from Phoenix to Salt Lake City and Melanie (who lives in Utah now) picked them up and they came up together. Dave and I drove up earlier in the week. 

We got up to our Idaho house, arriving after dark. I was worried we'd have to shovel our way to the door of the house, but the neighbor knew we were coming and kindly shoveled a path for us. Dave immediately got a fire going and started warming up the rooms. It didn't take long until it was toasty and comfortable. We had the fire going day and night for our entire visit. So comfy and warm. 

Although we were in Idaho for a funeral, we also are remodeling and updating the house, so we planned a few projects. We wanted to get the living room in order. The last time Dave was there, he textured and painted the walls in the living room and kitchen. All the furniture and belongings in each room were piled high in the middle and in disarray. We sorted, cleaned, vacuumed and rearranged and got the public rooms of the house back in order. We were also in the middle of upgrading the main bathroom. We hired a local craftsman to put down some flooring. We spent part of a day shopping for flooring, and making decisions about projects for the future (flooring for the rest of the house). Speaking of flooring. . . there had been carpet in that bathroom for years. CARPET. IN A BATHROOM. I can't tell you how happy I was to see that go. It never smelled quite right. That was the first and most urgent project when we bought the house. All the extended family that stopped by and happened to notice said "Hallelujah -- that carpet is gone!" I have no idea how long it was there. I suppose it was a 'thing' at one time, that indoor/outdoor carpet. But in all the years I have been visiting that home, I never once went in there barefooted. The bathtub was in great shape, the cabinetry needed fresh paint, but otherwise was in great shape, the 1960's wallpaper had to go, but overall the bathroom was ok, except for that carpet!! 

House projects done, then preparing for the funeral. Brent and Vee headed up the planning and implementing of the arrangements. They made an outline of the funeral years ago when Delos was able to help with that. They were so kind to take care of all the details. Delos and Betty had pre-purchased their funeral and burial plan, so that was taken care of. Brent and Vee had put together a video of photos and video and audio of Delos and Betty to have running in the foyer during the funeral and luncheon. What a gift, and what a labor of love scanning in all those photos. Brent has been working on scanning in photos and journals for years. What a gift to the family! We decided to add some framed photos to the display also. So I got some favorites framed and ready. I also wanted to put together a notebook of samplings of his journals. I scanned through and read hundreds of pages of Delos's journals from his mission in the 1940's. Delos was a journal writer from the time he was 16 until in his 90s when he could no longer keep up that task. He wrote daily. Literally every single day during those years. He wrote in the margin of each entry what time he woke up and what time he went to bed that night and then overviewed his day. He often talked about what he ate, especially his breakfasts and any treats or desserts he had enjoyed. There was page after page of mundane, then all of a sudden -- a gem! There would suddenly be something insightful, thoughtful, spiritual, or just plain sweet. Anyway, I printed off 30 or so pages of these 'gems' I found and we enjoyed reading snippets to the kids as we were preparing the booklet. 

We also realized that Grandpa kept reading glasses EVERYWHERE! His distance eyesight was amazingly good even as a 90 year old. But he had reading glasses. He was proud of the fact that he'd get a quote for glasses from an optometrist for $100, but he'd find them through a mail order company or at a drugstore for 3/$10 (just magnified reading glasses, not prescriptions).  We collected all we could find around the house along with the many many glass cases and displayed them in a basket in the living room.  

The funeral was a good as we could have ever expected. It was well attended and it was sweet. Eric, Dave and Gordon all spoke about different aspects of his life (family/farming, missions, scouting) and they all did such an amazing job. The grandkids and great-grandkids sang a hymn together. Rachel and Aaron took care of the congregational music. The Bishop was so good and so sweet to the whole family. The Relief Society took care of such a good meal for the family afterwards. 

After the service at the church building, we all went out to the cemetery. It was absolutely beautiful in the pictures, but man-oh-man was it cold and icy! Fingers and toes were aching, people were slipping and sliding, toddlers were crying. I'm glad it didn't last too long. The the cold and the snow sure made things look pretty, though. There were military honors, Brent received the American flag, Aaron played the bagpipe, the grandsons were the pall bearers. Delos was laid to rest next to Betty and near their 4 children who died in infancy. Before we walked to our cars, Dave and his nephew Dave led the group spontaneously in singing Delos's signature song "I'm My Own Grandpa". 

After the luncheon, a few people came over to the house to visit. So many of Dave's cousins and nephews and nieces have such fond memories of the house and yard from their childhood. Everyone needed to walk around the property and share stories. Many had to go up in the 'carpet fort' that Eric built when he was young. Everyone commented "It was a lot bigger when we were kids!" 

Overall, it was such a good day/week to remember and honor Delos and spend time with friends and family.  Delos was a good, good man. 

Pictures:  The beautiful, freezing cold yard, and Dave out in it -- without a coat -- getting firewood. I couldn't even run out to the car without bundling up. It was painfully cold just being outside for a minute or two!


Grandpa's collection of glasses.

Jason visiting Eric's "Carpet Fort"

Display of photos and journals and plaques at the funeral. 

Graveside services and military honors.