Monday, July 30, 2012

Scrappin Asia

As you can see, I have been busy scrapping all of our pictures from Thailand and Japan.  This first layout is inspired by pinterest and has a nice design and white space too.

I think I was able to fit far more pictures on this next page than I ever have before.  We just had so many beautiful pictures from the gardens that we visited in Tokyo that I couldn't help myself.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Japan: final days of fun!

Our last full day in Tokyo can be summed up on one word: gardens!  First, we headed to the Shinjuku National Gyoen Garden, which was just a short walk from our hotel.  We actually tried to go there the day before but got rained out.  It was supposed to thunderstorm all the next day as well (hence the umbrellas you see Jesse carrying) but thankfully we were rain-free!  

It is just so impressive how manicured and beautiful these gardens are!

Soooo romantic!  (Poor Rachel)

We stopped for a ramen lunch at a little restaurant in the alley near our hotel and planned our next move.  We were originally planning to go to Kyoto, primarily to see the bamboo forest there, but we ultimately decided that the (crazy expensive) cost of taking a bullet train all the way there for a day trip to see the bamboo forest was not worth it.  But bamboo was a must, so we found a garden in Tokyo that had a bamboo grove: the Tonogaya Park.

We love bamboo (cue a lot of bamboo pictures):

This garden was truly tiny, but it was full of the coolest trees:

had a picturesque lake,

 a nice waterfall, 

 a cool bamboo tunnel,

and pretty flowers.  This was my favorite garden by far.

For our last dinner in Tokyo, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice sit-down restaurant.  We had Japanese curry and this great stew.

We also splurged on dessert at this ah-mazing dessert shop.  We had one parfait that had juicy tart mango and another one that had decadent chocolate.  Words cannot describe it! 

We ended our evening at the top of the Metropolitan Government Building, in the heart of the business/government district, which was fun to walk through.  They have the top floor open all day and (almost) all night so that you can see and take pictures of the city.  

Our last day in Tokyo was short because we had to leave to catch our early evening flights.  We started the morning with a cute pastry (everything you eat there is cute!) and then headed over to the even cuter Ghibli museum.

This was Rachel's #1 must-see in Tokyo.  We got to see how they made Hayao Miyazaki's films -- the animation is quite amazing.  The museum was really cute, but you couldn't take pictures inside so I don't have a ton to show you.  

The best part was Totoro!  I have to admit that I did not fall in love with Totoro until we watched a short film that only plays at the Ghibli museum where the tiny girl (about the size of Totoro's eyes) is so excited to see him that she runs up and jumps and hugs his chest (grabbing on to his fur).  Totoro just stands there a minute, and then gives a little grunt and smile.  All three of us essentially agreed that Jesse was Totoro and I was the little girl, so now I love Totoro.

We had such a blast in Thailand and Japan and were so blessed to have been able to take this trip!

Monday, July 16, 2012


I am having a ton of fun re-living our vacation memories by scrapping all of our pictures with the very appropriately Asian Bo Bunny Serenity line.  This layout shows pictures that we took from three bustling modern areas of Tokyo: Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Akihabara.  You can see more details about this layout here.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Japan Days 1-3 (& a layout)

Let me tell you that the fun from our trip to Thailand and Japan did not stop when we left.  When we got back, we received and poured over pictures from our trip, and I quickly got our pictures printed and scrapped!  Bo Bunny's Serenity line is just perfect for them!  You can see more details about this layout here.  

As you can see, we visited the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa and the Tokyo National Museum, but I am getting ahead of myself.  First, we braved a 6 1/2 hour flight from Bangkok to Tokyo, which actually wasn't too bad because we were in a nice plane.  We told an "Airport Limo" [bus] from the airport to Shinjuku Station, which was just a couple minute walk to our hotel.  We stayed at the Shinjuku Prince Hotel, which is a cute, clean, centrally located hotel that we would recommend.  As an illustration of the differences between Japan and Thailand, however, the price for our great room at a beach-front Hilton hotel in Hua Hin was the same as the cost of our tiny Tokyo hotel room, which was literally twice the size of our double bed:

The room also had the smallest full bathroom known to man (basically an airplane bathroom with a shower added) but the toilets were high-tech and outfitted with a seat warmer and bidet:

We also had a totally-Tokyo view:

The coolest part, though, was when you ducked into one of the alleys, you walked into a whole different world: quiet & charming (and, of course, safe -- we felt like you could really go anywhere in Tokyo at any time).  

Our first eating adventure in Tokyo was at a restaurant at the end of one of these alleys.  It was a very typical Japanese restaurant that served hot food that they cooked there, but the way you ordered was totally different!  Instead of ordering at the counter or with a waiter, you ordered at a machine.  It was actually really helpful, because the machine had pictures with prices and you just selected what you wanted, put money in the machine, and it spit out a ticket that you handed to the person behind the counter (goodbye language barrier!)

We started sight-seeing in earnest the next morning by taking the train (JR -- much easier to navigate than I feared) to the Tokyo district (a business district) to get to the Imperial Palace.  Since the palace is occupied, you can't go in (or really get too near it).  You can see the palace to the left in the background of this picture:

The public is allowed to explore the palace's East Gardens.  As soon as we got inside, we encountered this confusing sign (don't hang around the entrance to the garden?  don't come in at all?  don't spend the night?) and had to take a picture:

One of the coolest aspects of the various gardens that we visited in Tokyo (more to come) is that they are smack in the middle of the city, like a bunch of Central Parks.  You forget you are in Tokyo unless you happen to get a view of the office buildings over the treeline:

After we left the park, we found lunch in the basement of an office building and ate udon surrounded by Tokyo businessmen!

Next, we took the train to Akihabara ("Electric Town"), the area of Tokyo devoted to electronics and gaming.  There were countless multi-story buildings over blocks and blocks of city just packed with various electronics and appliances.

And the games.  They had wall to wall claw games and super-intense pod games with 300 degree screens in arcades that took up all 8 stories of a building:

And, of course, there were cute shops with ridiculous merchandise:

Our last outing for the day was much more refined: the Tokyo National Museum.  It is located in Ueno, the district in Tokyo that has a number of different museums (love how all of these districts show a different side of Tokyo!)  We saw beautiful paintings and manuscripts and, of course, samurai armor and swords:

We finished our first full day in Tokyo with a fantastic tempura meal!

For day three, we used the metro (we got free one-day metro passes when we purchased our airport limo tickets).

Our first stop was the Tsukiji Fish Market, which is in the area of town called Chuo.  We did not get there at 4am to see the fish auction (we value our sleep waaaay too much) but we were able to make it at 9am when the market officially opens to the public.  It is certainly a working market, with tons of seafood coming in and being moved around.  We saw tuna,



and so much more.  The best part?  Eating it!  In the "outer market" there were cute ceramic shops where Rachel picked up a few things and a number of sushi shops.  We found some delicious sushi and sashimi at this cute place where the chefs cheered both when we entered and when we left!  We had some of your more typical sushi and sashimi (the best quality ever, literally pulled out of the ocean hours earlier!) but we also tried new things (I will admit that the sea urchin -- the orange stuff next to the cucumber fourth from the right -- was not my favorite, but good to try nonetheless!)

Our next stop was Asakusa, which had cute shops, their version of the Hollywood stars, and a famous temple.

The Sensoji Temple is very beautiful and has the biggest lanterns I have ever seen!

Our last stop of the day was in Shibuya, another bustling city center.  We went there to see the Shibuya intersection, an intersection famous for its huge pedestrian crossing.  The thing about Tokyo is that most people take the train/subway so the amount of motor vehicle traffic is very small for a city of that size and population.  Since most people walk to/from the stations, the sidewalks are crowded (but very orderly) and the intersections are full of people!  Each intersection has lights for cars going one way, then cars going the other way, and then pedestrians going every which way!  This intersection in particular is where 5 different busy streets intersect and it is also right next to the station, so throngs of people constantly cross there!

Stay tuned for our final installment of our Japan adventures!