Japan Trip Day 15 - 2013-08-10

Saturday was our last full day in Japan and since we had previously spent a good bit of time doing more traditional sightseeing in Tokyo, we decided to go to Tokyo Disney! There were two different areas Tokyo Disney World and Tokyo Disney Sea: Tokyo Disney World had similar attractions to Disney World in Orlando, so we decided to go to Disney Sea instead.

It was pretty easy to get there from our hotel in Ueno, only about 45 minutes to get to the Disney monorail. The monorail had Mickey-themed handles and windows, a nice touch!


The first ride we went to was Journey to the Center of the Earth, unfortunately by the time we got there the line was pretty long (about two hours), but the ride was a good one! It started out taking us on a fantastical jouney through an underground world, but then turned into a short roller-coaster. As with pretty much everything at Disney, the theme was outstanding: great detail throughout the ride and the ending was fun!
Next we went to Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. This ride was in a large vehicle that held 16 people, and rode around on a track jostling you one way and another. It sounds kind of dull, but it was pretty fun! Again, they did an excellent job with the design and feel of the ride.

I think those were probably our favorite two rides of the day, we did a few others and had a great time! One neat thing we found out after our first two-hour wait: some of the lines have a single-riders line that has a much shorter wait! We didn't mind being separated, so that saved us a ton of time.

After Disney, we headed for dinner at an interesting restaurant: Ninja Akasaka! When we first walked in, the hostess greeted us in what appeared to be a room with no exits (other than the way we came in), but she summoned our Ninja Guide with a clap and he emerged from a hidden panel in the wall! Our guide proceeded to escort us through another hidden door along a dark, winding path. At one point, the path was blocked by a pit, but he clapped and activated a draw bridge that let us pass. Pretty elaborate!

When we emerged from this pathway, we made our way past a few other tables that were tucked away inside black wooden structures with lattice doors, simulating an underground ninja village. Our table was up a short flight of stairs looking down on a few other tables and the main corridor.

All of the waiters and waitresses were dressed as ninjas, and even the food was ninja-themed. I got one of the tasting menus, and Kellian got a vegetarian tasting menu, so we got to see quite a few different things!


Black ninja star crackers!

Sneaky vegetarian sushi: the one on the left looks like tuna, but is tomato!


Sneaky cream puff: has tuna tartare inside.


The waitress made this soup in front of us, it was cooked by these very hot stones that were added to the mixture.
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Looked like a little ninja, you can't quite see his sword here.


Our waitress showing Kellian the secret ninja sign.
The food was great and we had a great time with the whole theme of the restaurant. Definitely worth checking out if you are in Tokyo and are looking for a good theme restaurant! Kellian declared this her favorite restaurant of all time, so I'm sure we'll be back next time we are in Tokyo!

It was a great note to end our trip to Japan on: the following morning we headed back to Boston! The flight back was great: we had recently started watching Heroes, a very addictive tv series, so we watched that on Kellian's iPad for pretty much the entire 13 hour flight.

Japan Trip Day 14 - 2013-08-09

Friday we headed from Sendai back to Tokyo! Trip was about two hours on the bullet train, what a great way to travel! We brought a few snacks and watched some videos on Kellian's iPad to pass the time.

We arrived around 1:00, but the hotel was able to let us check in early, which was nice! It is a beautiful hotel, Mitsui Garden Hotel in Ueno. The room is tiny, as is common in Tokyo, but very comfortable, clean, and new-looking. I forgot to take photos when we got here, but I'll get some once we clear our stuff out on Sunday.

It was sweltering hot, so we decided to find something to do that was mostly indoors. We decided to go check out the Tokyo Skytree, the largest tower in the world! It is over 2000 feet tall! It also has a nice shopping area below it, so we went there for lunch before heading up the tower.

There was a huge line to get to the observation deck, but we stuck with it and eventually got to the top. It was an amazing sight!






After we descended from the tower, we headed to Ginza for dinner. We found a great little place on one of the side streets that had a good selection of vegetarian dishes, including this tasty grilled rice on a stick with a sweet sauce. Good stuff!

We wandered around a bit more, but things were closing up and it was hot, so we decided to head back to our hotel. Tomorrow, we're planning on going to Tokyo Disney Sea!

Japan Trip Day 13 - 2013-08-08

On Thursday we had the whole day in Sendai and since we had already checked out the Tanabata festival yesterday, we decided to check out some of the other sights today.

First we went to the Sendai City Museum, where we learned about the history of Sendai from ancient times up through modern day. Unfortunately we found the presentation a bit unengaging and dense. It did give a bit of context for the city, which was nice!

One neat thing they had was a Museum of Play with a bunch of toys from various periods in time. They had a Samurai helmet you could try on and also had some puzzles!




We were getting a bit hungry at this point and weren't near anywhere else to get food, so we ended up eating at the museum restaurant. It was actually quite good! I got these fried pork cutlets and Kellian got some udon noodles.



Next we decided to hike over to the Sendai Castle: it looked pretty close on the map so why bother taking the bus? Bad idea! It was up a steep hill the whole way and was super hot and muggy. And to top it off, the castle itself wasn't really much of a castle: the wall remained, but within the walls there weren't really any old buildings. Instead, there were just a bunch of shops and restaurants. On the plus side, there was an excellent view from the top of the hill!



After the castle we were pretty beat, so we skipped the next few museums along the tourism bus's route and went to this neat exhibit at Sendai Mediatheque called Trick Art. It was an interactive exhibit where you were part of the art! The idea was that the art was set up in such a way so that you could take a picture where you looked like you were part of the painting, sometimes as an optical illusion. Pretty neat idea!









The last two were a particularly neat illusion! The room looks square, but it isn't! The last one needs a video to appreciate: it was really neat in person too!

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After this exhibit, we headed back to the pedestrian area where the Tanabata festival was for dinner. We ended up eating at a sort of short order place, but it was really good! I had this really tender and moist fish on rice, and Kellian had a noodle soup.


After dinner, we found an arcade that wasn't too crowded and played a game of Tekken (a fighting game). We couldn't figure out how to play against each other, but we did pretty well in single player mode!


Then we headed back to the inn: tomorrow we would make our way back to Tokyo!

Japan Trip Day 12 - 2013-07-07

On Wednesday we headed to Sendai! Before heading out, we took a few photos of our hotel in Aomori, Richmond Hotel. It was very nice and in an excellent location for watching the Nabuta festival.




When we arrived in Sendai, I ordered something that looked like it included a bowl of rice with some pink stuff in the middle, it turns out both the pink stuff and the rice were tiny fish! Sounds a bit gross, but it was actually pretty tasty!

After grabbing some food, Kellian and I headed on to our hotel. We took a cab since we heard it was a bit of a hike uphill to the hotel, and we weren't quite sure how to get there. We're glad we did since the hill was steep! The hotel was a traditional Japanese inn, a ryokan. Here's a few photos:





The view out the window was spectacular (see above): we could see and hear the river that runs through Sendai. After getting settled, we decided to check out the mausoleum near our hotel. It held the remains of the first person to consolidate power in the region, as well as his two successors. It was up a hill, so they loaned out walking sticks to get up there!



Unfortunately, it turns out they closed at 4:00, so we would have to check it out another time. They had these candles set up along the stairs to the top, and later we'd find out why!

We decided to head into Sendai to check out the Tanabata festival that was going on. It wasn't too far, so we decided to walk in. I was a bit parched so I grabbed some Power Squash on the way.


The Tanabata festival consisted of hanging a TON of these objects along the central pedestrian mall. It is a bit hard to describe, so check out the photos:






The different things they hang are for good fortune in various areas, such as weaving, craftsmanship, good handwriting, and so-forth. It was all quite beautiful, though it is hard to capture just how many of these thing there were because they block your view along the mall. That last one involved a ton of origami cranes, quite impressive and all hand-made!

As we were walking along, we saw an animal that appeared to be a small dog that was hopping unusually. In fact, it was a bunny on a leash! Very cute and quite well behaved!


For dinner, we headed back to our hotel where we had a magnificent multi-course vegetarian meal. This was quite a treat for Kellian since it is sometimes a bit tricky to find good vegetarian food in Japan, but they did a great job of it! The highlight of the meal was a roasted eggplant with a miso paste on it, very unique flavor and extremely tasty!



After dinner, we decided to have a stroll towards the mausoleum: we figured they might be lighting the candles we saw earlier for an evening event and we were right! It was gorgeous with the candle light flickering up the stairway. There was a live concert of some sort going on in the distance, so the music was echoing through the trees.


When we got to the top of the stairs, we saw that the whole area was decorated with candles. It was quite a sight!




We explored a bit, it was quite tranquil with the music playing nearby. As we were exploring, we found a panel that looked like an audio guide of the area. We pushed one of the buttons and a loud voice started explaining the site in English, much to our embarrassment, since there were a bunch of other people there quietly enjoying the scene. Each time we though it was done, it kept going! Finally, to our relief, it ended and we slinked away apologetically.

Unfortunately, by the time we were done looking at the different structures in the mausoleum, the concert was over! So we headed back to the inn to get some rest. Tomorrow we would explore some more of the sights around Sendai!