Why Drive to Tofino indeed?

As much as I love where we live, there are times that you just need a change of space and location.  For some reason on the Island that place has always been Tofino.  Maybe it’s the waves and all the dynamic motion but we go there at least once a year and always in the off season.  This year we lucked out and I got a super good deal to 2 nights at Cox Bay Beach Resort through #TravelZoo.  We always stay on Cox Bay.  I guess it’s because it’s wide open to the wild blue yonder.   Thus some pictures of our mini trip (2 nights and really 2 days).  It was SUNNY when we got there and there wasn’t enough wind to fly a kite.  Cooked our own dinner one night and had #Tacofino burritos the other night and had lunch at #WolfInTheFog.  Also drank WAAAAAYYYY too much #TofinoBrewery beer.  Yay for the Kelp Stout!

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The longest March 24th of our lives.

We had a fairly normal morning except that Tak and I took the kids to the playground while Jill did a final sweep and pack. There was a high school event at the park this morning, and I have never seen so many short skirts in one place at the same time! The kicker was when three of them got on the swings. I talked to Tak about it later, and apparently one of them was saying, “When I swing like this, my underwear show!”

We left the house at around 11:15 and walked to Yasaka Eki. We boarded a train, changed at Hagiyama, Takadananobaba and Nippori before finally getting to the airport at 1:48. That was the express route. If we had taken the cheaper way that Mitzi always advocates for, it would have taken another 45 minutes.

We had a last meal of Tonkatsu and did a little gift shopping before we collected the bags and boxes we had shipped out yesterday. We got lucky when we checked in, and didn’t have to pay extra even though one of our bags was a little overweight (23.5kg vs 23kg max) Mitzi was very concerned that we would have to pay extra for some reason. She even ran up as we were just finishing checking and told us (loudly) that we were going to have to pay extra.

That’s about when Tomoko-obachan showed up and we headed off for another cafe where I had the biggest cream puff I’ve ever seen. The reason that Tomoko-obachan showed up is that she thinks she will probably die before we come to Japan again, and she thinks it is too much work to come and visit us. Kind of a morbid send off, but nice in a way too.

Then it was good byes at security and the usual rigamarole getting to the gate.

Since we left Japan at 6pm on March 24th, it seems odd that we arrived in Vancouver at 10am, March 24th, but that’s what the international date line does. Ru-Chan was asleep before the seatbelt sign turned off. We seem to be seated in the “travelling with children” section, so here’s hoping the crying is kept to a minimum. Also, seated next to us is what I initially thought was an older business man taking his teenage daughter on a trip, but when they started french kissing just before take-off I realized it was something else entirely. The whole thing was extra creepified because she has a little Mickey Mouse doll she kept playing with, and I kind of think he is taking her to Disney Land. Jill was extremely disturbed about the whole thing.

Miwa fell asleep about an hour into the flight, and both girls slept until about an hour before we landed. Of course, this required constant vigilance from Jill and I so we did not sleep.

We made good speed on our way out of the airport, so we were pleased to see that the clock in the car said 11:30 and it looked like we could make the 12:30 ferry from Horseshoe bay to Nanaimo. Traffic was good, and it was 12:15 when we pulled in to the ticket booth. The Ticket Agent gave us our ticket and said, “You’ll be on the 3pm sailing.” I said, “But it is only 12:15, is the 12:30 an overload? She looked at me strangely and said, “It is 1:15, did you forget about the time change?” Ooops. The time change happened while we were in Japan and Japan does not do daylight savings time, so of course we had forgotten, and neither of us had checked our phones when we got in the car, even though Jill looked up the ferry schedule on hers. I am blaming the jet lag.

We had a late lunch on the ferry and got irritated by the rude behavior of the people in the cafeteria. The single ones who sit at a table for four and use their laptops while not even eating. We had to sit outside the cafeteria for a while and wait for a seat to open up. Japan kind of sets the bar high for considerate public behavior.

Of course it is not possible to make the 6:15 Quadra ferry from the 3pm Nanaimo ferry, we got into Campbell river at about 6:30. So we did a bit of grocery shopping the sat in the ferry line-up trying to stay awake.

We finally got home at 8pm and then had to un-pack. All of the furniture we shipped survived unscathed!

The kids, who had a good sleep on the plane and several naps along the way, were full of energy and wouldn’t go to bed anyway, so Jill and I stayed up and unpacked. Jill separated all the omiyage into gift bags and labeled them. I wandered around like a zombie moving one sock at a time from the luggage to the laundry.

All in it was 25 hours door to door, and as I finish this blog, I am approaching 32 hours of being awake. No wonder I feel like the living dead.

Too much effort to attach pictures right now. Hopefully will be able to update the posts with photos soon.

Last day….

Our last full day in Japan. I can hardly believe it is time to go already, but we will be heading for the airport tomorrow around lunch time.

Today was a day of packing and the farewell party. Many of the relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins) came by for a potluck lunch to bid us farewell. We ate lunch and had some of the finest sake in Japan. At least according to Jill’s cousin. It was quite good by Jill and I as well.

The kids played, and were in and out of the house all afternoon. It seemed perfectly normal to us, but apparently that is not always common in Japan, probably more for Tokyo. They seemed to be enjoying themselves.
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Then everyone left. We walked everyone out to the road to see them off. Many pictures were taken to commemorate the trip. It was sad to see Nancy leave as we won’t see her for at least half a year.  The girls gave her big hugs and kisses.
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We were all pretty worn out after that. We had leftovers for dinner, and there was nothing deep fried for once. It didn’t seem right somehow.  However, there was more Mont Blanc.  There are 2 cake shops within a 10 minute walk of the house…..  Yay!  Miwa was asleep by 7. Ru-chan made it to 8.

Day of fun!

Immediately following breakfast Jill and I gathered our things and headed off for Tokyo.  We just missed the 8:50 bus, so we walked to Kumegawa.  This is our first trip into the city without children, but we are trying to get a lot accomplished in short order, and that is just not possible with children.  They will spend the day with Tak, Mitzi and Nancy, but I will get to their day later.  Fuji-san was visible again today.
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The first stop on the whirlwind tour was Shibuya, a very lively section of Tokyo.  We grabbed some lattes at the Starbucks at Shibuya crossing and headed for Tokyu Hands for gifts and things one can only get in Japan.  Tokyu Hands is a famous department store chain and this particular store is built into three different buildings, so it has the weirdest floor layout I’ve ever seen.
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They also have a helpful guide letting you know how many calories you have burned by climbing the stairs.
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I went into sensory overload by the time we hit the sticker section on the second floor.  Fortunately I recovered by the time we hit the kitchen gadgetry section.

There were definitely some interesting things to be had in the store!
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After we got out of there, we took a 25 minute walk to what is reportedly the best coffee shop in Tokyo.  It was a little one man show in an old house, and the coffee was definitely the best I’ve had in Japan.  Coffee just isn’t a big thing here, and the only people there were foreigners.
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The next stop was Ginza for tea at LaDuree.  We had been there earlier in the trip, but high tea with our Girls just is not a realistic goal.  Jill was very pleased that we were able to make it for tea, which was excellent.  We were both so stuffed we couldn’t face buying anything to take away when we left.

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From there we walked to Uni Qlo where Jill bought her usual 2 year supply of socks and underwear.  We also got some fun T-shirts for gifts.  I didn’t get anything.  I find it a tad depressing that I can barely squeeze into an XXL.

Back on to the subway to Asakusa again, this time we didn’t sight see, we just hit the gift shops and got what we wanted, though it took quite some time to find the Koi Noburi we wanted, and we never did find any good fu-rin.
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Our last stop for the day was Akihabara.  Usually known for its electronic stores, Akihabara is now also developing into a centre for Cosplay and Anime related shops.  We picked up some highly inappropriate items from vending machines for a certain individual back home, and walked through a street marked with the most bizarre collection of memorabilia I’ve ever seen.  There was a mouse pad (see photo below) with very comfortable looking wrist support.

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Oh yes, and the ubiquitous Maid Cafes.

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Akihabara is on the far side of Tokyo, so it took almost 2 hours to get back, including a brief top to pick up some food for dinner.  Sashimi and croquette again.  mmmm.

Miwa was having a nap when we got back, a sure sign they had had a fun day.  About an hour after Jill and I left, everyone else headed out for Seibu-Yuenchi, a nearby amusement park.  They stopped at the usual playground for a half hour or so along the way.

At the amusement park, much fun was had by the children, the adults argued and wore each other out.  At least that’s what I get out of their description of the day.

Miwa said some girl in the bouncy castle punched her in the face, and her favorite ride was the carousel.

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Miwa woke up an hour after dinner, and ended of staying up until 10, which is why I couldn’t get the blog out last night.

I love it when a plan comes together.

The first day of spring!  Sadly, only the earliest varieties of cherry are blooming and the Hanami forecast remains well beyond our departure date.  Next time… (it’s always next time)

Today we visited Mitzi’s eldest brother.  He likes to do things with a precise plan and this time was no different, starting with a fax coming a few days beforehand with the times and descriptions of our day.  In fact the plan look a lot like all of the other plans for visits to his house that we have done in the past.  Meet at the station, have lunch, go to his house, pay respects at the butsudan (house shrine with photos of the dearly departed), have tea, look at photos and walk back to the station.  This year was different in that we had screaming children running around (2 of ours and 2 of Jill’s cousin’s all within 4 years of each other).  Otherwise the formula was adhered to precisely, beginning at 12:20 at Musashi-Koganei Station.
Someone accidentally ordered an extra dish at lunch, so I ate it.  My reputation as a big eater continues.

On the way, we got a view of Fuji-San from Yasaka Eki.  I guess the rain yesterday really cleared the air.
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We also got a view on the way back.
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There is a hardware store that sells seeds near Yasaka Eki and we have been wanting to go for a while, so we stopped today.  Jill ended up chatting up the owner and got about as many seeds for free as she bought.  It was very nice of the Ojiisan.

Paid for seeds on right.  Seeds on left were free.  These seeds are for personal use only.  :)

Paid for seeds on right. Seeds on left were free. These seeds are for personal use only. 🙂

After dinner we resorted to movies to keep the children pacified.  For the record, watching shows is actually an activity for Miwa.

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Time for reflection

A very slow day.  We were pretty worn out from our trip and mostly just sat around, cleaned up a bit and planned for the next couple of days.  It was also raining which meant the kids were in confinement and we had to resort to Ponies and Clone Wars to save our sanity.

We found some old pictures in a tin box, one of Mitzi’s mom when she was six years old in 1921.  We picked out a few to keep, but most of them will likely end up in the garbage.  It is sad really, but what are we to do with all of these pictures and albums that don’t really have any meaning for us?  I guess that’s part of the reason I am writing these blogs on our trips.  So that in 50 years, we can have something more than scattered photos in an old cookie tin.

Jill also packed up a Tansu (traditional mobile storage cabinetry indigenous to Japan) that she has been wanting since our last trip here.  It meets the size restriction for checked baggage, so why not.  We can even put our clothes in it and use it as intended.  It is really very light.

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As an aside, it’s certainly been interesting traveling with 2 kids.  Last year Ru-chan wasn’t really as fully formed as she is now so she wasn’t as much a force in our plans.  It has been rewarding being able to see the kids take in their culture and start to talk Japanese more and more fluently.  They have taken the city in stride and the fact that people stare at them and don’t always understand them.

It’s been hell at times, because in order to pacify them we’ve had to resort to TV, junk food, lots of breast-feeding on Ru-chan’s part and buying things.  While we don’t usually eat that much junk food at home (we do resort to TV alarmingly often) it’s been an easy way to change a screaming/whining baby/kid on the train or bus into a happy one.  Mostly it’s Ru-chan because she is LOUD!  We don’t remember Miwa being overly loud but Ru-chan can stop a crowd in it’s tracks!

We’re going to have to do on a sugar detox when we get home but we’re very grateful that we are able to take the kids on trips like these and especially when we can get together with the family.  It was fun to tell Miwa that she was related to everyone in the room when we were at my Grandma’s ceremony.  It kind of blew her mind that there were that many people that she was related to.

Jill's Grandfather

Jill’s Grandfather

Mitzi and her mom.  Doesn't Nancy look a lot like Mitzi?

Mitzi and her mom. Doesn’t Nancy look a lot like Mitzi?