The Omoshiro Tube at Hitachi Seaside Park

Did you think all there is at the Hitachi Seaside Park were rolling hills of Nemophilia flowers?

Nope, nope, nope.

This nationally operated park is fairly large and has everything from barbecue corners to cycling courses. There is also a playground of sorts in an area called Pleasure Garden. (*insert innuendo of choice here*). It’s actually a pretty popular spot, though random, with anime themed attractions, semi-roller coasters and even a bmx course.

But we were only interested in one thing…the Omoshiro Tube!!!

This orange tube of fun (which is literally what the name means) is over 400 meters long and it twists and turns around this corner of the park. It is part obstacle course, part observation deck and we had tons of fun on it, as the name indicated!

So if you’re ever at Hitachi Seaside Park to see the flowers, do so. But take some time to see other areas as well. Like the ferris wheel or the beach area by the ocean that we didn’t have time for. It’s definitely worth visiting.

On our way back to Tokyo, we stopped by a parking area on the highway that had a giant Hello Kitty vending machine. Naturally we had to take a photo of it…but just as we were snapping pictures, a man with five dogs walks by.

I’ve seen two, maybe even three, dogs but this man had FIVE.

Hello Kitty vending machine took to the back burner and we were all over the dogs, which according to the nice owner were a mom and her kids. They were so well behaved and sweet as can be, my friends and I were smitten.

You just never know who you’ll meet on the highway! x

Here are some photos:

40″

The Flight to Dusseldorf via Dubai

I’ve mentioned this before but I’ve always been team window seat.

This is mostly due to the fact that I like to sleep on airplanes, and the window seat makes it easier to snuggle. But there are times I’m forced to keep awake so I can smoothly transition to local time when I land. There’s nothing worse than jet lag the entire week, so I usually adjust my sleep schedule accordingly by watching movies, listening to podcasts or just simply stare out the window.

It may depend on weather or geography but technically the view from an airplane window is always pretty amazing. So of course I have to take photos. Sometimes I end up with just as many photos from inside the plane as during my travels!

This time around, I flew from Haneda to Dusseldorf, with a short layover in Dubai. x

Here are some photos:

 

The Long Weekend in Germany

Hallo Deutschland!!!

I had so much fun with my girls in Germany!

Oh, and did I mention this is my first time in Europe? I know, I don’t know why I waited so long. But I love that Germany ended up being my first European country, even if it was just a small corner of the country.

This weekend all came about when my friend R realized that there was a Pentatonix concert in Cologne AND our friend H lived near Dusseldorf. We’d been wanting to visit her but you know it’s hard to schedule something last minute, especially when it includes 15+ hour transit. But all three of us checked our schedules…and it somehow all worked out!

June was the perfect time to visit, in my opinion. The weather was perfect, with everyone eating outside. Apparently Germans eat outside as much as possible, especially when the weather is nice. I would think that a restaurant was full because all the outdoor seats were be taken, but then when we stepped inside the restaurant there are a whole bunch of seats that were open. I quickly learned that the outdoor seats were the most popular.

We were also there during white asparagus season, and let me tell you, Germans love their spargel. Every restaurant had a special spargel menu to celebrate this joyous season, and we definitely took advantage of it. We had so many types of spargel and they were all delicious.

We also spent a day in Cologne, exploring the city before the concert. The cathedral was massive and there was so much to see. We also walked along the Rhine river and crossed the Hohenzollern Bridge before heading to the concert venue.

As for the concert, Pentatonix blew me away. They were amazing. Also, on the way back to the station after the concert, we were trying to figure out which street to take and a random German girl spoke to us in Japanese! She had studied a year in Tokyo and understood we were trying to get the same station as her so showed us the way. What a night, we had the best time!

We spent a lazy Sunday at a lake near where my friend lives, just relaxing and playing games. The water was super cold but a lot of the locals were jumping in and swimming. I guess when summer is short, you take full advantage of warm weather.

My last day in Dusseldorf, H and I took the Rhine river cruise because I wanted to see the Gehry buildings at Dusseldorf Harbor. We also did a little shopping (souvenirs and these sandals!) and ate here and there before heading to the airport.

All in all, the long weekend in Germany was totally worth the long flight. I love it when a sudden plan comes together so well like this. Germany is such a friendly country. I can’t wait to come back to explore other cities some day!

Here are some photos:

 

The Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki

Something about fields of blue that make even rainy days seem bright!

Nemophila flowers in Hitachi Seaside Park (or Hitachi Kaihin Koen in Japanese) are becoming incredibly famous and this park is a popular place to be during Golden Week. These are pictures from last year, actually, but I thought now would be the perfect time to share as any!

I went by car with some friends on a rainy day. It wasn’t suppose to rain but you know how spring likes to trick you that way. But when you’re with your friends, it really doesn’t matter. We bought ourselves an ice cream cone and took a walk around the park.

We were walking up a hill when a little girl passed us in a rush, pumping her arms in an effort to reach the top of the hills as fast as her little legs could carry her. My friends and I were chatting about how lazy we were, watching her leave us in the dust.

When we finally did reach the top of the hill, the scene before us was pretty incredible. I later learned that the hill is called Miharashi-no-Oka (translated: Hill with View) and is 58 meters above sea level. You could see past the blue fields that surrounded us to the green woods beyond, including a big ole ferris wheel. You could even see the ocean, which surprised me.

Just as I was wishing we had better weather for the view, I noticed the little girl that had rushed past us before, wandering around with a half sob on her face. I recognized this look, the brave face of a little one frantically looking for the familiar face of a parent while their heart beats a thousand miles a minute. I’m sure we’ve all had that exact same expression on our faces in the earlier years of our lives.

After a quick look around to see if someone was looking for her, I went over to crouch down and asked her if she was lost. With quivering lips, she nodded her head. So then I asked her what her name was. She mumbled something but I couldn’t quite manage to catch her name, so I asked her again, leaning in closer to hear. She must have though I was deaf because she stuck her mouth literally to my ear and shouted “MANA-CHAN!”

She had my ears ringing but bless her, I did get her name 😉

My friends and I called out for her parents and they were soon there, huffing and puffing up the hill. Apparently Mana-chan had really left them in the dust and they had just reached the top. The sudden relief on her face was apparent as she was scooped up into her dad’s arms and all was well in the universe again. Awww.

Satisfied that we had done our civic duty, we headed back down the hill. It was a good day!

Here are some photos:

 

HITACHI SEASIDE PARK (国営ひたち海浜公園)
605-4 Onuma Mawatari, Hitachinaka-shi, Ibaraki JAPAN
茨城県ひたちなか市馬渡字大沼605-4
TEL: 029 265 9001

The Quick Visit to Oyamazumi Shrine

Isn’t this tree magnificent? It stands front and center on the grounds of the Oyamazumi Shrine.

Located on the island of Omishima, Oyamazumi Shrine is said to have been built in 594. It is the head shrine to over ten thousand Yamazumi and Mishima shrines throughout Japan and many come to pray to Oyamazumi-no-kami, the God of mountains, sea and war.

The shrine itself is surrounded by many camphor trees, but there is one you can’t miss. Said to be over 2,600 years old, it stretches its branches across the sky from where it stands in the center of the shrine grounds. It even has a name, “Ochi-no-mikoto-oteue-no-kusunoki (乎知命御手植の楠),” so you know it’s pretty special.

It may have been due to the surrounding trees but the grounds of the shrine felt very quiet, even though there were many people about. We unfortunately didn’t have time to visit the Treasure museum, which looked really interesting. I’m hoping I can visit some day. Apparently in the ancient days, whenever someone won a war after praying for victory at this shrine, they would gift their armor as a tribute to the Oyamazumi God. So they have quite the collection here, many which are designated as a National Treasure. I’ve heard rumors of a body armor that may or may not have belonged to a female.

Also, if you’re in Japan, you may have heard of Hitori-zumo (一人角力), an important match where a sumo wrestler goes against the Spirit of Rice (稲の精霊). The outcome is said to have an affect on the year’s harvest. Good thing so far the Spirit of Rice has won every time 😉

Here are some photos:

OYAMAZUMI SHRINE (大山祇神社)
3227 Miyaura, Omishima-cho, Imabari JAPAN
愛媛県今治市大三島町宮浦3327番地
TEL: 0897 82 0032

OYAMAZUMI SHRINE TREASURE MUSEUM (大山祇神社 国宝館)
TEL: 0897 82 0032
HOURS: 8:30am-5:00pm
FEE: Adults 1,000 yen, Students 800 yen, Children 400 yen

The Many Airports and Flights

When I think back on the holidays, the memories of Christmas morning, New Years sunrise, and good jolly time with family is what comes to mind.

But when I look at my photo library on my cellphone, I realized that there were just as many photos of my time at various airports and on flights. In the span of two weeks, I went through five different airports and (mostly slept through) six flights.

Despite my over ambitious flight schedule, I only missed one flight, which I think is pretty good for holiday travel. Then again, I am one of those people who likes airport security and only needs is a good book to keep me company. And maybe a bag of chex mix wouldn’t hurt.

I suspect my love of flights probably stems from the fact that I get motion sickness on most moving vehicles. All except airplanes. Thus flights are my safe haven. Kind of ironic, seeing as they are the only ones that provide you with a barf bag. But I get great views, time to read and sleep like a baby, all without turning green, so I’m happy!

What keeps you happy at airports and on flights?

My Detroit Airport layover…
This tunnel between the terminals was amaze-balls.
Intense colors changing to the beat of a holiday melody.
Catching up on reading at my gate.
You know what, I’ve heard horror stories but Delta wasn’t bad at all.
Someday I really want to explore Detroit.
Metro stations in DC remind me of batman and his cave.
One of my favorite airports, festive for the holidays.
Watching the guy throwing our luggage in the back while our plane gets ready.
Aisle seats aren’t too bad either.
God bless America, they feed you on every flight no matter how close your destination.
My layover at Detroit was short but it began to snow while we were boarding.
A slight delay to de-ice the aircraft…
Looking out the window and doodling during the delay.
Finally in the air, somewhere over Canada.
I can never get enough of this view. The world IS round!
Cotton candy pink clouds.
I did a lot of looking out the window, if you couldn’t tell.
Somewhere over Russia…looks pretty cold down there.
Well, equally cold up here, too.
Hello Chiba! Back in the motherland…a little too late to make my connecting flight.
Next day at Haneda, heading home to Ehime via Okayama airport.
Last flight of 2015.
Okayama station, where I get on the express train to Imabari.
The said express train, heading back to Okayama. Caught the 4:35am train…can you tell?
Okayama has the cutest packaging for its omiyage.
Waiting to board the airplane while watching Hakone Ekiden news…first flight of 2016.
The airplane landed in Haneda…and I headed straight to work to start the year!

The Cycle to the Northern Tip of Imabari

Isn’t this a great view?

You may have heard that Imabari is promoting itself as a cycling town. And it seems to be catching on, I see more cyclists on the streets everytime I go back home.

Well, when my dad first retired a couple years ago, he bought a bike with 16 gears. My dad’s cousin had been participating in the Shimanami Kaido bike race that the city promotes and invited my dad to join her. I should mention that my daddy is the best but not really the fittest person on the planet. So we were all pretty excited when we learned that he would be cycling and getting in some exercise!

After the weekend of the race, I called home to see how he did in the race. He said, “yokatta yo (it was okay).” But he didn’t sound 100% satisfied. He also said that he’d be entering the next race and was determined to make better time and I thought, wow he’s really getting into cycling! My dad gave the phone over to my mom and I expressed how impressed I was that he was actually training and getting exercise through this race. But she says, “Nani itteru no (What are you talking about)?”

“Gear no ohii bike wo katta dake yo (He just bought another bike with more gears)!”

So as you can imagine, my daddy’s cycling career did not last, although he did get a better time in his next (and last) race, and now we just have two great bicycles sitting in the garage.

Well, this Silver Week, my sisters and I decided to make use of the bicycles. We didn’t do the Shimanami Kaido course (like Dru did!) but kept it local and went to my favorite corner of Imabari.

Osumi Kaigan Park is a very local spot at the northern tip of Imabari. We’ve been swimming here since we were younger, visiting our late grandmother, and I have a ton of great memories. What’s great for hardcore cyclists is that Osumi Kaigan also has camping grounds. So you can pitch a tent and even have a barbeque by the sea. There’s also an observatory with a great view of both the Seto Inland Sea and the Kurushima Kaikyo Bridge.

We had a fun afternoon cruising the streets of Imabari. Definitely got our dose of exercise that day!

Here are some photos:

Promoting the city of cyclists! (I think this should be a poster…ha)
Imabari’s bike lanes are a pretty sea blue.
I brought my penny with me from Tokyo!
The stairs up to the observatory.

Do you see the tent below?
So…the observatory is probably better in the winter?

King of the mountain!
I never tire of this view

What do you think of this spot?


OSUMI KAIGAN PARK (大角海岸公園) 
893-1 Otsu Namikata-cho, Imabari-shi Ehime JAPAN
愛媛県今治市波方町波方乙893-1
PARKING: 80 cars
ENTRANCE FEE: free