Friday, September 9, 2011


we've been back from japan for about a month now, but i wanted to do another post about something called "omiyage". 

omiyage is basically... souvenir. in japan, anytime you go somewhere for a trip, or a special event, it's expected that you bring back something (or just bring something if you are going to visit someone). however, since most japanese homes are quite small, it's usually not something to be cherished forever, and it's almost always food because it can be enjoyed, and then disposed of. and if you are visiting someplace like an office, you should bring something for the whole office. this is why boxes of treats are commonly sold all over japan. and actually, the content inside doesn't even really matter so much, because it's sort of always, "it's the thought that counts". so you must always bring something

i wanted to do this when we traveled to japan because we were going to be visiting with a number of our friends. first was our friend lyle. now, in this case, i asked him if there was anything he missed because he used to live in america. i wanted to make sure i brought him something that he would want or need since he hasn't been back to the states in a really long time. and you know what he asked for out of all things? asprin! he explained how in japan, it's very expensive. they come in those "punch-out" tabs, and there are only like 10-20 in a pack for about $7!!! can you believe that?! and he said it's hard because he actually uses them quite regularly. so, no problem there! we went to sam's club and got him two 500 count jars. that should hopefully last him quite some time :) i also mentioned bringing reese's cups for fun because i know japan doesn't have them! he said yes to the reese's cups too because it would be nostalgic for him. for me, i cannot imagine what halloween would be like without at least 1 reese's cup! haha...they are my favorite :) 

it was great the reese's cups came as a 4-pack because he was also able to share them with his wife and two kids who have NEVER had one before (or, if you can believe it or not, NEVER heard of them!!!!). i asked him later how they all liked them, and he said that he of course liked them, and his family sort of liked them. he said they thought they were salty! which i guess is true! i never thought of them as being salty, but it's true, they are! i thought that was so interesting. 

next, we were going to be visiting 6 of the students i had when i helped teach english at our local college in fall 2010. i was SOOOOO excited to see them again because we became great friends while they were here in america. i wanted to do something special for them. i wanted to make them something. at the time, our gigantic mulberry tree in our backyard was ripening, so erik and i decided to make our own mulberry jam. it turned out really nice (had some ginger powder in it too), so i was really excited to give it to them. i wrote on the labels in japanese, and tied ribbons around the top to make the jars prettier (as you can see, there were 3 girls and 2 boys haha)

they really enjoyed it :) made me so happy! i was worried they might break during travel, but i put them in freezer ziplock bags, and rolled them into the middle of our clothes in our luggage, and they arrived just fine :) 

and lastly, we'd be visiting our friend micaela and her boyfriend in fukuoka. a looooong time ago she had commented on one of my paintings on facebook about how she and her boyfriend were wanting art for their walls. so, i thought, i'll make a painting for them! and i did just that:

it's an 11"x14" acrylic painting of a mario scene :) 11,856 pixels hahaha....they LOVED it. put a huge smile on my face. i'm also happy this painting made it okay with all our traveling!!! i wrapped it as best as i could, and we definitely kept this in our carry-on luggage. almost 3 weeks later is when we finally got to give it to them, and it still looked great! even with all the moving to different hotels! i was relieved to give it to her haha...and now it's happily on their wall :)

so that's what omiyage is all about! gift giving :) during long train rides you will often see people with BAGS of beautifully wrapped little treats to give to whoever it is they are going to. it's a nice way of saying, "thank you for your hospitality".

Friday, August 19, 2011


sigh.....last day in japan. one last early view out our kyoto hotel window

we woke up at 6:30am so we could leave our hotel by 7:30am, and catch our 8:30am shinkansen back to tokyo. we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time so we could get manneken waffles one last time!

YUM. this time i got almond (on the left) and a custard filled one, and erik got strawberry and citrus filled ones. great for the ride back to tokyo!

oh, we also chose this tea to drink for our "beauty feeling" hahaha

beautiful scenery flying by as we go back to tokyo...

we got to our tokyo hotel at around 11:30am, so we headed to yoshinoya for lunch!

LOVE this place. we have frozen versions of the meat/onion mix back home (yoshinoya brand sold at our asian market) and it tastes JUST like this! 

afterwards we did some more last minute shopping, and saw this cool bug at harajuku station! so colorful!

and erik got this interesting pepsi flavored pop. pepsi is another company in japan that changes it's flavors multiple times a year. really fun to try them! this one sort of tasted like cream soda

for dinner, we chose menya musashi! it's a ramen place!

man was it good!!! and let me tell you, CHOOSE THE "REGULAR" SIZE. not the "large"! regular is HUGE, and we ate SO much, my stomach literally sloshed with liquid as we walked back to the hotel afterwards hahahaha....but it was DELICIOUS.

the pork was SO TENDER. it fell apart in your mouth!

the egg was great too!

we had such a great last day in tokyo. can't believe the 3 weeks in japan flew by so quickly! we had so much fun each day though :) great memories!

the next morning we woke up at 5:30am to finish last minute packing, and got to shinjuku by 6:45 to catch our NEX train back to the narita airport. we of course had another wonderful flight with ANA! here are the meals! so great!

yum! we were ready to get home though to see our kitties! missed them very much!
 also, here is all our luggage that we took home. STUFFED with souvenirs...

see? this is our family room with our bags unpacked haha...these aren't only for us though! some are for other people too ;) but i was impressed with my packing abilities to fit all this into our luggage along with other random things like bathroom stuff and clothes! everything is in great condition too! nothing broke! yay!!! not even our new plates/bowls, or the wine :) happy! 

well guys...that was our trip! it was amazing!!! :D i hope you enjoyed reading, and "coming along" with us on our trip!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


today we didn't really do too much (besides at night). we went back to the nishiki market area and did some shopping. then we had lunch:

and we also made some mashed potatoes in a special way! my friend sara made a blog post about this and we HAD to try it because we love these things! jagariko are potato sticks. sort of like...potato chips, but in french fry form. SUPER good. they come in many flavors, but this one is "salad" and really yummy. anyway, in her blog, she told of how to turn them from sticks to mashed potatoes!

first, you peel back the lid half-way and fill up the cup (with the sticks inside still) with water until they reach 3/4 of the way on the sticks. then you close it up (it helps to place a plate on top so the lid stays shut) for 3 minutes.

take the plate and lid off, and you will see that the sticks have absorbed a lot of the water. this is when you start mashing!!! at first it seemed too watery, but it was actually the perfect amount of water.

MASH MASH MASH! i just used chopsticks.

and look! perfect mashed potatoes!

and let me tell you....they were WAY better than i thought they would be! i thought they would turn out decent, but they were seriously amazing! couldn't believe it! thank you sara for telling us about it! for sara's blog post about it, click here:

but tonight we were so excited for daimonji!!!!!!
"obon" is when the spirits of deceased family members come to this world. it has been going on in japan for about the past week, so a lot of festivals have been happening all over the country. daimonji is what we saw tonight, which is the closing of obon, and 5 large bonfires are lit in the mountains surrounding kyoto. when this happens, the spirits return back to the spirit world. it was AMAZING to witness!!! i purposely chose the hotel we're staying at right now because they allowed guests onto the roof to see the fires :) 
here they are!!!

daimonji (大文字), the character meaning "large" or "great":on daimonji-yama/higashi-yama, nyoigatake at 8:00PM

myō/hō (妙・, could only see 法. the other was blocked by a building), the characters meaning "wondrous dharma" (referring to buddhist teachings)
on matsugasaki, nishi-yama/higashi-yama at 8:10PM

hidari daimonji (左大文字), again, the character meaning "large":on daihoku-san, hidaridaimonji-san at 8:15PM

funagata (舟形), the shape of a boat:
on nishigamo, funa-yama at 8:15PM

and lastly, toriigata (鳥居形), the shape of a torii, or shrine gate:
on toriimoto, mandara-san at 8:20PM

some are bigger, some are smaller because of their actual size, and also because some were closer to us than others. to help show what actually goes on, i took this video for you to see!!!

SO COOL!!!!!!!!!!!! :D really happy we got to see this!


today was our day-trip to fukuoka to meet with our friend micaela! here is where fukuoka is:
far from kyoto, right? 

and by the way, she has an awesome youtube channel you should check out too if you like videos about japan!

it takes 3-4 hours to get from kyoto to fukuoka, so we woke up at 6:30am to get our day started :) while waiting for our shinkansen to arrive at kyoto station, we stopped at the WONDERFUL manneken waffle.

these waffles are amazing!!! we got them last trip at shin-osaka station. 

we got "plain" flavor (even though they have many other flavors like chocolate, almond, etc) because it was recommended to us by my friend sara. SO glad she told us about this because i would have never chosen "plain" on my own! IT WAS SO GOOD! i don't know what they do to it, but we loved it! 

we also got this strawberry milk to go with it

by the way, since a ton of stores in japan sell the same items, when you buy something like a drink, they put a little piece of tape on it, like this:

it shows you already bought this somewhere else. very nice when going into a bunch of stores!!!

anyway, after our first shinkansen ride, we had an hour layover at okayama, so we took a coffee break. or rather, a matcha latte break! YUM! i should have taken a pic of it as soon as i got it, but i forgot! SO YUMMY THOUGH!

we walked around just killing time, and saw adorable cakes

and a really cool aquarium! pretty fish

we bought our ekiben, and hopped onto our next shinkansen to hakata (the station in fukuoka)

we met up with micaela and her boyfriend ryuhei, and they gave us these amazing chopsticks!!!

so pretty and fancy! we love them so much!!! they have fabric on them! :)

ryu drove us to this place called "round 1" which is FILLED with arcade games, sports, karaoke, and a bunch of other things! you pay a base price, and you have 3 hours of free play on anything!

we LOVE all the awesome games they have in japan that we dont have back home!!! you throw balls at the screen for this one

one of the floors was FILLED with shelves and shelves of manga to read and couches like these! it was a relaxation floor hahaha...they also had massage chairs!!!! it was so cool!

on the roof they had batting cages, basketball, soccer, etc

we played soccer for a bit before we all got sweaty within 10 minutes from the heat/humidity haha

back to the relaxation floor for some darts!

this arcade game is literally "FLIP THE TABLE" hahaha!

and of course we did purikura!!!

while micaela and i were editing our photos, we noticed the boys had gone off on their own. we thought they were just waiting outside of the booth for us, but then we saw them editing in their own booth. 

we took a peek in and saw this...


hilarious! here is a closeup of the ones we all took together (click for big version)

purikura is so much fun! afterwards we played more games. this one was pretty cool too! you put blocks on top of each other and the little characters climb the blocks and get fruit!

and here is a ginormous tetris machine!

um, best name for a video game ever...."ELEVATOR ACTION DEATH PARADE" hahahahahaa

the boys playing more games

we were getting hungry, so off we went! during our walk, this store had an ice block out to touch because it was hot out!

soon we arrived at dinner! "sweets paradise"! A BUFFET OF CAKES!!!!!!!

okay, okay, so, they have a bit of normal food too, but everyone only gets a little bit of normal food so you can have a ton of room left for CAKE :)

look at all this!

round 1:

round 2:

everything was SO GOOD!!! i want a sweets paradise in the states!!!! ryu absolutely loves this place:

we had such an amazing time in fukuoka with you guys!!! thanks for showing us so many cool things! it was so fun, and we will never forget it!

taking the first train ride home from fukuoka...

i wish we could have gotten this one!!! cute!