Here’s your sign.

Here are some of the photo worthy signs I’ve seen around Tokyo thus far. I imagine in the next two months, there will be a few more gems along the way.

On the Metro

Getting around Tokyo has been one of the easiest obstacles to overcome during my rotation thus far. The stations have also provided a multitude of entertainment thanks to advertisements posted throughout. The metro system has a campaign out about riding the subway including safety, courtesy, etc. They aren’t in English but thanks to the graphics, it’s pretty easy to tell what exactly it’s talking about. Here are just a few of my favorites:

“You’ve got to leave the cake behind.” If the doors are closing, evaluate the risks. Is it worth the injury to save an easily replaceable item you may have left? This one was made with people like me in mind because that looks like an awfully good piece of cake to just leave on the platform.

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We all know the sound of roosters is annoying, frustrating, and frankly rude. “Please mind your noise level while riding the metro.” The bunnies and the rest of us would appreciate it.

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At the Zoo

Did you know that the crows here are BEASTS? I’m talking, at least two times the size of the crows in the US. It’s creepy and I don’t like it one bit. Their caw is also much deeper and often sounds like a person making a weird noise. It’s creepy and I don’t like it one bit. That’s probably what necessitated these warning signs at the zoo.

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An exhibit was under construction and that poor little bear felt sorry about it. I’ll ‘excuse your mess during construction’ any day with a sad yet cute looking bear like that.

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Just Around

Smoking is extremely popular in Japan. There is even a ‘smoking room’ in my office! Naturally, the smoke cloud is a happy smiling girl with a thumbs up. It’s so cute, I almost want to start smoking but not while walking, of course…. just kidding.

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And the last one… it’s not really a sign. It’s an English translation except I don’t even know what it means or what it’s trying to mean. The Japanese language doesn’t have pronouns, or plurals, or articles so translation can be a little rough sometimes but also provides comic relief every once in a while.

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Have Monday very good!

xoxo

One Month Wrap-Up!

I can’t believe that I’ve been here 4 weeks already, it’s crazy! Time is going by so fast.

Last night, we had a going away party a co-worker who is going back to the UK. The night ended with epic karaoke. The first song I sang was with a Japanese co-worker, “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. Such a classic.

BUT can I just tell you… there really isn’t ANYTHING better than watching 2 Japanese guys belt out “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction. They were so into it. Jumping up and down at the chorus, etc.. One of the best moments of my trip so far.

That was followed up by another lesser known 1D song that was selected by someone on accident. I may or may not have known all the words… by heart.


Today I went to the Ueno Zoo for 2 reasons: 1) Giant Pandas and 2) Giant Pandas. Actually, I do really enjoy going to the zoo. Just so happens it’s another beautiful day here so it was a great way to be out in the sunshine. While the Ueno Zoo is pretty much right smack dab in the middle of Tokyo (read: open land is limited), it felt quite spacious. Although, there were a few habitats that I thought could have used more space.

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Of course, the pandas are extremely popular at the zoo. It’s quite rare to have pandas anywhere. I guess that’s an obvious statement since they are a threatened species. Zoos around the world are working to conserve the giant panda. Who wouldn’t, they were just stinkin’ adorable!

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This image is the visual portrayal of contentedness. I feel like this also embodies what I feel like when I get home and get to change out of my professional clothes. Ahhhhhhhh. _DSC0770

There were a few other animals that I hadn’t really seen before including a stork and some other interesting birds.

Sadly, one of my favorite animals, the tapir, wasn’t out. I’ve grown to love the tapir from my visits to the Denver Zoo (shout out to Becky and Brent!) and the fact that they have the cutest.babies.ever. But even though there was no tapir today, there were appropriate warnings of both llama and tapir ‘abilities.’ I’m going to have a post one of these days of all the signage here, it’s pure genius.

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Whelp, with that…. hope you have a fantastic weekend!

xoxo

Mt. Takao

Saturday, I got up early and spent a few minutes chatting with my Dad and sister before heading to catch the train for Mt. Takao. I hadn’t heard about Takao until the managing partner at the office recommended I check it out after I had mentioned I love hiking and was planning to hike Fuji in July.

Takao is about an hour outside of Tokyo and just a quick train ride away. There are quite a few trails to get to the top of Mt. Takao, which reaches 599 meters, and then a number of trails continue on and around Takao. I opted to extend the hike to go to Mt. Shiroyama which goes a little higher, up to 670 meters (about 2200 ft). There were a few times up the hill that were a little slow going but the Japanese are generally polite to move out of your way to let you pass and after I got past the main Mt. Takao peak, the crowds tapered off, but neither trail ever felt overwhelmingly crowded.

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It was a crystal clear, 70 and sunny day but 100%, undoubtedly, the highlight of my hike was that because of the gorgeous weather, Mt. Fuji was clearly visible. As I crested the last little hill, I audibly awed over the sight of it. So breathtaking and majestic. Oh, my heart was happy.

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And then I thought, hmmmm, that is ALOT of snow to melt in 2 months when official climbing season kicks off on July 1st. However, I know we’ve got some warm weather ahead and it’ll be good to go by the time Cale and I head there to climb on July 5-6.

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From the top of each point, you could also see a view of the massive expanse that is the Tokyo metropolitan area. It just continues on and on and on.

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I’ve also come to the realization that I’m developing a minor obsession with all these tree roots, I’m my mother’s daughter. She’d take a picture of every rock, flower, flora, fauna given the chance.

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On the way back, I stopped at a shop near the train and picked up a few fresh steamed buns. One was filled with vegetables and SO delicious. The perfect post hike snack.

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If you ever make it Tokyo and have an extra day to spend and the weather is clear, I’d highly highly recommend taking some time for Mt. Takao. Great hike and great sights!

P.S. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MOM! I can’t wait for our adventures in just a few weeks! I love you more than words can express. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Meiji-Jingu, Exploring Tokyo during Golden Week

I should note, this should really be before the Kamakura post, chronologically speaking. I should have thought about that more, especially for purposes of this being a supplementary travel journal. 

Just a quick post and a few pictures from last Monday at Meiji-Jingu. There was a light fog-like mist that really created a very ethereal feeling. Once you enter the park from Harajuku, which is bustling with people, it becomes very peaceful. You’d never expect the droves of people a hundred or so yards away.

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I was much more impressed with the gardens and grounds than the structure of Meiji Jingu itself, although it is beautiful nonetheless. Meiji Jingu was built for the spirits of Emporer Meiji and Empress Shoken and April 2014 marked 100 years since the Empress died. The Empress was and still is greatly loved by the people of Japan and all over the world. She did a great deal of work with the Red Cross, among other philanthropic activities.

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I found out, thanks to informative signs at the shrine, that the tablets to write your prayers and gratitude are called Ema. I found this gem of an Ema at Meiji-jingu.

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If only Jimmy knew that he’d need a heck of a lot more than a prayer and 500 yen to have 12 dogs. And that he probably wouldn’t want to hear his 12 dogs talking because it’d just be about how stupid and easily manipulated humans are…. I digress…

After Meiji-jingu, I took some time to explore the shopping district of Ginza. I bought a pair of sweatpants (like a pair I had seen on pinterest and loved) and pajama pants. If you know me, you know that sounds about right. They weren’t selling cozy/hospital socks or else, undoubtedly, I would have nagged a pair of those too.

All in all, I’d say it was a successful extended weekend.

Kamakura

Kamakura was my Tuesday adventure and has been my favorite spot so far. I spent a long day there (14 miles long) and it had all of my favorite things. Cute little shops, hiking, good food, and some sights.

The way the city and sights are laid out, you can go on two different hiking trails and see the best sights while taking a pit stop between hikes to head down the main drag to see the shops, eat, etc. I should back up, the city is laid out that way, but that’s not necessarily how I explored it. I had some navigational issues and had to cut out one of the trails due to my poor map reading skills. The kind people of Japan saved the day again and directed me on the correct course.

The first trail, Diabutsu, leads to the Big Buddha of Kamakura, the main attraction in the city. The trail was really well marked and it’s so interesting to experience a different terrain. Along the trail, I found the exposed tree roots, oftentimes used as steps, to be pretty fascinating.

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The Big Buddha was equally impressive. They burn incense at most of the shrines/temples and the Diabutsu had the best smelling incense in my journey so far. It just smelled so cozy and welcoming… that must be the 15 years of the Pacific Northwest in me.  _DSC0684

Towards the end of the day, I went to Kencho-ji temple and entered just a few minutes before closing, due to said navigation issues. The woman at the gate was kind enough to let me in (along with a few other people coming in after me) and said (in English) I could let myself out the side gate. It couldn’t have worked out better. It was me and about 20 other people in the large expanse of the grounds. It was the definition of peaceful. I could have just roamed around and sat there all day if my feet hadn’t been beckoning me home.

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I’m not sure what they do here in Japan, but I swear they give all their plants ‘roids or something. I have never seen so many beautiful flowers with such vibrant colors and sweet fragrances. I have started restraining myself from photographing every plant/flower I see, but it is so hard because they are so gorgeous that they don’t seem real!

Peonies, like woah. I. can’t. get. enough.

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I don’t know what this is, kind of looks like ranunculus. I do know that I want one… for the yard I don’t have.

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I also got a few things for myself while roaming around, including the cutest lucky cat. You had to know I would be buying myself one. Nanny will also be ecstatic that I found some of our “ice-cream” spoons at a steal of 150 yen a piece!

Golden Week (part I)

This is a long one but wanted to catch everyone up – there’s a lot going on here and I’ve been bad at updates!

There was an EARTHQUAKE this morning! Around 5:15 am, I was already awake and laying in bed, and things just started shaking. At first I thought it was just a big truck going by but then things continued shaking for about 30 seconds. It was all so strange and freaky. I was already feeling disoriented since I wasn’t wearing my glasses yet, so throw in some shaking and creaking and it really throws you off. It turns out it was about a 6.2 magnitude quake with the epicenter off the coast of Tokyo. It measured about a 4 on the Japanese seismic scale. In other words, it was strong but nothing detrimental and there was no tsunami warning and no damage. Everyone just went on with their day as if nothing happened. I guess that’s what it’s like to live in a country on a whole bunch of tectonic plates.

Anyways…..

This week is Golden Week and that means I have both today and Tuesday off. With the extended weekend, I decided to take a few day trips and to spend more time exploring Tokyo. I’ve been logging about 7-10+ miles a day walking (according to my Fitbit) and my feet will be ready for the work week to start back up again. #firstworldproblems

Saturday I spent the day (and I mean a very full day from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm) traveling to and around Nikko. It was my first time out of Tokyo and into the country side and man, it is beautiful! The sun was shining and it was just a gorgeous day to be out.

A few things from my Nikko experience.

1)   The first time the language barrier was REAL obvious. I had to switch trains to get to Nikko but wasn’t really informed of that until we were stopped for a few minutes longer than normal and everyone got off. A very kind woman said (or I think she was trying to indicate, it was in Japanese) that both trains went to the Nikko station but it just didn’t feel right. She even got off the train with me to ask someone where to go and described it all to me, but again… it was all in Japanese. I ended up figuring it all out by looking at the handy train map but phew! it was a little more stress than I like.

Nature Path along the Lake, did I mention what a beautiful day it was?

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2)   As I walked to the Kegon Waterfall, I passed some Japanese girls singing TLC’s Waterfalls. That kind of quality music breaks all the culture barriers. It was a little piece of home and put a smile on my face.

View of Kegon falls and Lake Chuzenji, it reminded me a little of Cinque Terre, from a distance.

_DSC0604Kegon Falls from the bottom, about 100 meters down in an elevator to this viewing platform.

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3)   You drive up to the lake and down from the lake on two different roads. On the way down, the bus system announces (in English) to hold onto your things as there will be tight turns as we descend and the “bus may sway greatly.” The path down looked like a racecourse with the tight turns, it was crazy doing it in a huge tour bus but the driver maneuvered it beautifully. Bonus: on the way down, a MONKEY crossed the road in front of us!

At the bottom, in the town of Nikko, the Shinkyo Bridge that leads into the Tosho-gu Shrine.

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4) At the end of all this, I will be a master of the “selfie”. Thank goodness that iPhone camera flips right around. How else would I know I was there if not for a picture of myself in that place? Memories, schmemories. The real trick is finding the right angle so that my most prominent facial feature (i.e.: my nose) looks juuuuust right. Mind you, a nice ray of sunshine on it generally thrwarts my attempts (exhibit A below).

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IMG_18675) In my opinion, Ryuzu Falls (Dragon’s Head Falls) was just as beautiful as the Kegon waterfall. There were three-ish sections, the photo below being the middle. Can you imagine this with the vibrant fall foliage??? Just a few months too early, darn it!

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I’m going to Kamakura tomorrow. Initially I had planned to go today but with a 60% chance of rain today and only a 20% chance tomorrow, I decided to wait. So instead I spent the day shopping and went to the last of the major Tokyo temples/shrines that I hadn’t seen yet. I’m going to try to put that all together to post tomorrow night maybe. It won’t be nearly as long, I promise.