The Birthday Weekend in Ibaraki

I started last month with a weekend with my sisters in Ibaraki.
When you have a sister living in Chiba, another in Ibaraki, and you in Tokyo…it’s going to take at least a weekend to spend quality time together. Especially when it involves a special birthday!
My baby sister turned twenty in June. TWENTY!!!
Hard to believe that she’s officially an adult now (twenty is the official age of adulthood in Japan). I’m still trying to get my mind around how in the world she grew up so fast. At the same time, I’m so incredibly proud of the strong and caring person that she has become. 
She’s busy with exams and classes in her second year of nursing school, but we dragged her away for a sleepover weekend and, most importantly, a birthday cake with candles!
You may know our family is big on candles. We believe that a cake is just a regular cake unless it has candles. Then and only then is it a birthday cake. We also tend to lean towards as many candles as your age (should be interesting what happens as we get older…).
We had no plans but to be lazy , which is sometimes the best kind of weekend when you’re together. Most of the photos are my view from the car, to and from the bus station and Y’s apartment, but you get the idea.
Yay for sister weekends and birthdays! x

How was your weekend? Have you ever been to Ibaraki?

The Birthday Fun at Disneyland

Have you ever been to Disney in the rain?
My baby sister turned nineteen in June and she wanted to go to an amusement park to celebrate so we (my sisters and bff) decided on Disneyland! Unfortunately, the forecast for that weekend predicted rain and wouldn’t you know it, the forecast was accurate. Not that that could stop us. We donned our rain coats and boots and headed out for a day of fun and celebration!
My sister got a birthday sticker with her name on it at the entrance so every time a cast member (i.e. an employee of Disney) noticed her sticker, they would give her a “Otanjo-bi omedeto-gozaimasu! (Happy birthday!)” greeting. It was apparently a little embarrassing for her, which made it all the more hilarious for the rest of us.
Even though we opted for the Starlight Passport (entrance from 3pm on weekends), probably due to the rain, the lines at Disneyland weren’t as long as usual and we actually got to go on quite a few rides. Here is our list:
I’ve said this before but the most important thing you need to remember when going to Disneyland is to go with people you know you like and can talk to for hours. Because that is what you will be doing most of the time, standing in line and waiting to get on the rides. I once came here on a first date and…oh the horror! Needless to say, there was no second date.
So for us four (we go to Disney together often), it’s really great because we always have tons to talk about and catch up on that it’s almost like sitting in a cafe and having a gabfest, except we get to go on rides every hour. How great is that?
Anyways, we got to celebrate my baby sister’s birthday with candles I brought from home. I cannot believe she’s nineteen already. Until last year, she was still in high school and since she was in boarding school, it’s been a while since we got to celebrate together in person. So this year, it felt extra special to get to celebrate her special day together!
Here are some photos of birthday fun in Disneyland:
Starlight Passports are perfect for weekend fun in Disneyland!

My sister’s birthday sticker (anyone can get one at the entrance!).
Smiles while waiting in line for Pirates of Carribean.
We got our raincoats at the 100 yen shop (much cheaper than buying one inside Disneyland!).
Yes, it was June. Apparently Easter in Japan lasts much longer than elsewhere.
Waiting in line is always a great time for photos!
In line for the new Monsters Inc ride…yay for rainy dais and shorter lines!
This scene reminded me that I really need to watch this movie (never seen it before!).
These two know their games and  are quite serious about how well they do on the ride.
Waiting to watch Mickey’s PhilharMagic with our awesome 3D glasses!
Group picture! These rain coats made everything easier, no need for umbrellas.
There were plenty of people who were using umbrellas, too. Very pretty from above!
We rode one of my favorites, Bit Thunder Mountain. Great ride to scream your head off.
Everything looks even prettier when the sun goes down.
Someone looks like E.T.
Celebrating my sister’s birthday by sticking candles in her dessert 😀
We couldn’t find a number one candle so we used a regular one to compensate…can you tell? Haha.
Just turned nineteen and already a strong, beautiful, logical girl. So proud of her.
This Toy Story ride is a favorite of both of my sisters…because you play for points.
I never get a good score because my aim sucks and also because I’m taking photos like this!
Thank you Disneyland for letting us celebrate a special day here! We’ll be back! xx

The Birthday Sleepover

This weekend was my sister’s birthday!
My sister came over to my place for the weekend and my bbf also came over so we could celebrate with nabe at home. I always say this but this is the ultimate healthy and delicious meal to have with friends and family in the wintertime. So so good.
And what is a birthday celebration without cake?
This year I went by Giotto, a pastry shop in Odakyu Shinjuku, and chose their citrus fruit cheesecake tart. I should have taken a picture before I stabbed all the candles in it because it was very pretty, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. 

It’s become something of a tradition to use the exact number of candles to celebrate my sister’s birthday. Last year’s cake almost ended up being a ball of fire so this year I got three different lengths of candles to diversify the flame. I think it was a good plan, nothing caught on fire. But the candles were a bit too skinny and some of them started doing yoga moves while we were taking pictures! 😀

Don’t you love that my sister claps her hands after blowing out her candles? (She’s a kindergarten teacher…it comes with the occupation. So cute.)
And the cake was delicious!

We spent the night just chatting away. And when I say night, I meant way into the night. We went to sleep around 4:30am…but I think that’s what a sleepover is all about. Especially when you’re celebrating a birthday!
Happy birthday, Yoko! May your year be filled with happiness and joy!!! x
PS:  Isn’t it interesting how you congratulate someone’s birthday by saying, “Hope you have a great day!” in English, but you say something like, “Hope you have a wonderful year!” in Japanese? I noticed the difference when someone mentioned it to me. I’d written “素敵な一日でありますように!(Have a wonderful day!)” on a Japanese friend’s facebook page. When I went to see what other people had written, many were wishing her a wonderful year. Now I usually wish Japanese friends a full year of happiness but still stick to a day for my state-side friends (not that I’m wishing them any less of their happiness!). Which do you use often?

The Birthday Post

Some say it’s just a number but I’ve come to realize that I am a person who likes celebrate birthdays. It’s a pretty big deal, staying alive for a whole year.

I turned 31 today. Not sure how I feel about this yet. It’s starting to become a pretty large number. I feel like I should know more and be doing more. But I do know that I’m moving forward in a direction that I feel good about. So I’m happy about that.

If I were to give advice to my next-year-self, I’d say to wear sunscreen and take a chance at things that are out of my comfort zone.

Do you have any advice? I’d love to hear! 😀

The Birthday Girl

Happy haapy birthday to my beautiful sister!!!
Yoko came out for the weekend
so we sisters could hang out together.
So glad she did so we could celebrate her birthday, too!
We like to use the exact number of candles on the cakes.
No 2 big candles and 8 small candles for us.
We stuck 28 tall candles in that cake for Yoko.
(thus the large flame…haha)

We had a good laugh over the blazing flame
that got bigger with each pictures I took.
Glad I got the longer candles or we wouldn’t have any cake left!
Happy Birthday Yoko!!!
May You Have The Best Year Ever!!!

The Birthday Party

Birthday parties are so awesome.
Even if the birthday girl is turning one
and will not remember how we stayed up past midnight
to get everything ready for the party.
And I’m guessing that’s why she has Auntie Kaori. Ha.
To remind her when she grows up
how her mom made all these amazing things
and her dad artistically decorated the whole apartment.
Just in case you didn’t notice
the theme of the party is Rainbow!
And isn’t this cake AMAZING???

It was a full house with many friends.
I thought it was hilarious how so many
single guys were there to celebrate Peanut’s birthday.
But then again, she is that cute.

I think she had a blast.
(Look at her opening her presents!)
Took a group picture after half of the people had left
but I really like this picture for some reason.
Happy first birthday Peanut!!! xx

That Weekend Sleepover with Birthday Cake

Sisters sleepover at my place!
One in Tokyo,
another in Ibaraki,
and the third in Hiroshima.
Because we’re always so far apart
sleepovers like this are special occasions.

A tiny bit late but…
we celebrated Y’s birthday, too!


We took tons of sleepover snapshots
which, of course, I feel obligated to should share.

We talked a lot
slept a lot.
And had pancakes for breakfast.
Yay for sleepovers! x

That Birthday Climb Up Mount Fuji

Turning 29 is pretty big.
That last year in my twenties.
So when I looked at the calendar
and saw that my birthday was on a Sunday
I decided it was now or never…
to welcoming my birthday on top of Mt. Fuji.
My sister drove out from Ibaraki in her tiny car
and she picked me up and our amazing friends, K and T.
We set the car navigation and we were off!
Our plan was to start climbing from the fifth station
(which is where most people start their climb).
It’s said that it takes about 6 to 8 hours
for an average person to climb to the top of Mt Fuji.
So we started our climb at 9pm
to make it in time to see the sunrise at 4am.

Group picture at the start of the trail 😀

Here we are resting at the sixth station…still excited and full of energy!

We stopped often to rest
throughout our climb in the dark.

But truthfully it wasn’t dark at all
because we had a full moon (or nearly).

And thank goodness it didn’t rain
because we weren’t prepared for it at all.

But I was extremely prepared for the cold
(because I HATE being cold).

Unfortunately my pals weren’t as prepared.

By the time we got to the eighth station, it was extremely cold.
So we huddled together every time we took a break.

*Do Not Underestimate How Cold Mt Fuji Gets (even in the summer)!

We took a break and slept a bit under that torii.
From the ninth station, there was a HUGE traffic jam.
Apparently this is due to people, who were staying in the lodges
in the ninth station (there are two), that start their climb
in addition the the others already climbing.
Also the path gets quite narrow.
There was a lot of waiting around in line
as the sky turns lighter and lighter.
Perfect time to take photos, am I right?
That torii marks the peak of Mr Fuji.
We made it to the top with a million other people to see the sunrise!

My birthday sunrise was gorgeous…GORGEOUS!!!
Here we are after almost eight hours of climbing the tallest mountain in Japan!

The morning sunlight in my hands!

The sunrise was amazing.
It never occurred to any of us but
apparently depending on the weather
there are times when you can’t see the sunrise.
Thank goodness this wasn’t one of those days.
There were so many of us up there.
All looking towards the sunrise.
It felt amazing.


So happy we invested in climbing shoes.

There is an Asama Shrine at the top of Mt Fuji.
We were all pretty tired
but our eyes were on the prize.
Akai Kitsune udon!
This instant noodle is usually about 100 yen
BUT… here it’s a whopping 800 yen!
Although to be fair, it includes the boiling water, too.
And no one hesitates because we’re all too cold and hungry.
It was money well spent.

We were at the top of Mt Fuji for awhile.
I even got birthday presents!

I do realize I’m super lucky to have friends
who are willing to climb this mountain with me.

Not everyone would.

We had all gotten climbing sticks at the sixth station.

You can get it stamped at every station
but we were too intent on climbing to stop.

So we all decided to get a stamp at the very top, which we did!

We couldn’t really tell in the dark.

But when the sun came out…
it was clear that Mt Fuji is a volcano.

Look at that mountain side!

The moths up here are so bright and colorful!

You wouldn’t believe it but
I got altitude sickness…on the way down!
I felt awful.
I wanted to throw up but I couldn’t.
The headache was raging something fierce.
I pretty much cried my way down the mountain.
And my dear sister and friends
were cool with it.
You know you have friends for life
when they stick with you even when you’re gagging.
It was quite the experience.

You’ll notice I didn’t stop taking photos.
Even when I was feeling my worst
I knew that I would want photos of everything later.
Also, the process of taking a photo
kind of took my mind off of feeling like shit.
It was gorgeous though.
Seriously breathtaking views.
I loved everything.
Especially since the more we descended
the more I started feeling better.

Here we are on the same bench we started out
the night before at the sixth station.

So so tired.

But also super excited
that we actually made it up there!

And also made it back down!

Despite the cold, exhaustion and all the gagging
this was DEFINITELY the best birthday ever!

Happy Twenty Ninth Birthday To Me!