<![CDATA[Honeymoon in Japan - Blog]]>Fri, 01 Jan 2016 17:46:21 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Arriving in Kyoto]]>Thu, 05 Nov 2015 00:04:52 GMThttp://toppinghoneymoon.weebly.com/blog/arriving-in-kyoto Picture
​On the books for today was traveling from Mount Fuji to Kyoto (by way of Tokyo), which is exciting because we finally got to travel via Shinkansen, a Japanese bullet train! These things go FAST - the one that we used travels 175 mph! They can actually go up to much higher speeds, but passenger comfort becomes a factor (loud sounds when going through tunnels, for example), so they've kept the speed lower until they can solve that issue. And they're incredibly convenient - just show up to the station, buy your ticket, and the next train will arrive in about ten minutes. Then a few hours later, you're where you need to be. Wouldn't it be awesome to just head up to New Orleans or Atlanta for a few hours?

So after a comfortable nap aboard the shinkansen, we arrived in Kyoto, at which point we had to walk uphill (or maybe it was just a slight incline) to our ryokan, or traditional style inn. I stress the "uphill" here because... LUGGAGE IS STUPID! What kind of imbecile would bring suitcases, plural, and gigantic backpacks, plural, on a two-week trip to the other side of the world? Florida Nikki says, "It'll be fine - the suitcases have wheels and we can wear the backpacks on our backs, har dar dar." Japanese Nikki says, "Ow... Ow... Ow... only two more miles until we get to the hotel... ow.... ow..." 
Picture
I was not in the mood for taking pictures today, so this was taken from thecitylane.com
I could have just been incredibly cranky with all of the luggage, but my initial reaction of Kyoto was, "Meh, I'm glad we only plan on being here for one more day." I was a bit underwhelmed. Everything was very nice and looked very Japan-ish, but it just didn't seem to be our speed.

Our painful walk to the ryokan took us through Gion, the small neighborhood that is famous for being a geisha district in Japan. We opted to not do the experience where you have tea with a geisha or watch a geisha performance, but we knew that they were very popular with tourists. What we did NOT know was that a "geisha sighting" on the streets of Gion was incredibly rare and occur most often around dusk. Of course, we were trying to maneuver through the neighborhood at dusk. What's the big deal? Oh, there's only about 73 trazillion people hiding in all areas of the neighborhood, camera in hand, hoping that they might sneak a glimpse of a geisha. Seriously, you would have thought the Kardashians were in town. It was absolutely ridiculous. I felt awful for the geisha that have to endure this horde of scavengers night after night. 
Our accommodations at Ryokan Kinoe were awesome! As you'll see, the room setup is a big different - in that everything is on the floor - beds, tables, etc. I was super excited for something new, but Jeffrey wasn't exactly thrilled that we would be sleeping on the floor.  
After we got settled in, a member of the hotel staff sat down with us to discuss possible activities that we might enjoy in Kyoto for the night. He pointed out all of the autumn celebrations at each of the temples, explaining that some of them actually do a light show on the temples after dark. Thinking that it sounded like fun, we walked over to the nearby Kodai-ji zen temple to spend a few hours .
Beautiful. I couldn't believe how much care went into the upkeep of these grounds, which were about the size of a smaller college campus. Every frame was filled with vibrant colors, interesting angles and centuries of history (it was built in the year 1606!). I didn't have a life-changing feeling of being one with the world as we explored.  I didn't have the exciting "OMG LOOK AT THAT!" that we experienced every minute in Tokyo. But I will definitely say that I had a calm sense of happiness and contentment as we took it all in. Pure and simple serenity. 

When we located the area for the advertised light show, we grabbed a seat. There was a 5-ish minute light show on one of the buildings, which was pretty well-done (we've seen Disney World's light shows a few hundred times, so we might be a hard crowd to impress). It seemed to be telling a story that we didn't really understand. Enjoyable to watch, though!
On the rear portion of the temple grounds was a super pretty bamboo tree grove. Nothing much to say on that except it was SO COOL!! 
We walked through the Higashiyama ward as we headed back to the ryokan. I regretted my earlier indifferent thoughts about Kyoto. No, it wasn't the same level of excitement as Tokyo here, but it was a different kind of happiness that we had as we strolled through the city. 

Jeffrey took a moment to touch a Buddhist statue in hopes of having prosperity and good luck. Let's hope it works! 
For dinner, I'm almost ashamed to talk about it. We stopped in at a small Chinese restaurant because they were one of the only places that were still open. Jeffrey got sweet and sour pork, and I got cashew chicken. It tasted the same as it does from our local take-out Chinese food restaurant. Except this time, everyone in the restaurant seemed to gape at me while I struggled to use chopsticks. Seriously, it was bad. The waitress even approached me to let me know, "We have forks if chopsticks are too difficult for you." Sigh. 

So that was the day. I still longed to go back to Tokyo, of course, but Kyoto was definitely growing on me. Excited to see what the next day will have in store! 
]]>
<![CDATA[Rain and a Horror Labyrinth at Mount Fuji]]>Tue, 03 Nov 2015 08:17:10 GMThttp://toppinghoneymoon.weebly.com/blog/rain-and-a-horror-labyrinth-at-mount-fujiAfter nearly a week of big city living, we left Tokyo to visit the majestic Mount Fuji. While feeling eager to see someplace new, I was a little bit sad that we were leaving the most exciting place that I had ever been in my life. I was a lot sad that we had to drag all of our luggage with us as we left. I began to wonder if I really needed 25 different tops, five dresses, ten skirts, six pairs of pants and four pairs of shoes for our two week trip. Apparently I thought I might put on a concert one night that needed 30 different outfit changes. (Shout out to Jessica, who was in my head chastising me the whole time that I huffed and puffed to the bus station with my three bags, "Nooooo, what did I tell you?! You're going to regret it!")
We finally dragged our luggage army onto the multiple subways and trains that got us to Mount Fuji. As we got outside of the big city, Jeffrey commented, "Oh, look. We're in Pennsylvania." It was hard to argue with him. 
Picture
Just show me to the Sheetz and we'll have a grand ol' time
After a few hours of traveling, we finally made it to the famous mountain. We strapped on our climbing gear and prepared for our ascent. 
I'm kidding! We checked into our luxury resort hotel and headed to Fuji-Q Highland, the coolest amusement park ever in life. 
Picture
I was too excited to take pictures when we arrived. I snagged this one from World of Travel.
The pricing structure here was a little bit strange. We could either pay roughly $40 each for an all-day pass, or pay between $10 and $20 for each attraction. Obviously we chose the $40 option because we are roller coaster junkies. We bought the tickets and rushed over to the first roller coaster, the world record-breaking king of coasters, Fujiyama (it's the big one with the inverted drop in the picture up there). Except the line was like three hours long. We quietly backed away and headed to see what the rest of the park had to offer. 
Picture
The lucky golden kitties that guard a tubing style water ride
Picture
An obstacle course style maze, where you play the role of a secret agent trying to complete a set of missions - pretty cool!
And then it started raining. And one by one, all of the attractions began to shut down. Our $40 ticket was pretty useless at this point. We headed towards the cafeteria to find something to eat, and Jeffrey reminded everyone that we were from AMURICA by getting the most ridiculous hamburger on the menu.
With our stomachs full, we headed over to see one of the main reasons that we traveled to the other side of the world, the most terrifying haunted house attraction that I had ever seen. What makes it so scary, you ask? The fact that it is one of the largest haunted houses in the world? Or maybe that your group gets isolated from the others in this hour-long, mile-length, multi-story labyrinth set inside a maniacal hospital? More than likely, it's probably just the fact that it's weird Japanese horror.
As with many of our experiences, we couldn't take any pictures once we were inside. But let me try to put it into words for you. We got our tickets from a small machine outside the attraction (there was also the option to pay $5 for a protective amulet that you could use as a ward against evil in the house. No clue what that was, but Jeffrey said we didn't need it). We were led with four other groups into a large, creepy room full of seats surrounding a movie screen. A bloody nurse walked in and started explaining the rules to us, including "For safety reasons, you may not be alone for this attraction." After her speech, the lights dimmed and a short movie played on the screen, showing a young woman wandering through a hospital and meeting its ghastly doctors and nurses, who apparently enjoy hacking their patients into pieces and ripping out their organs. At the end, she finds herself strapped to one of their tables, surrounded by the gruesome staff, as her intestines are being ripped out of her stomach. Nice way to set the tone. I was excited to start exploring this place with the large group of people that I was seated with

Except that's not how this place worked. As noted in The Terror of Yurei, Japanese horror houses are a bit different, more immersive experiences. In the haunted houses that I have been to before, you get in a line that snakes through the attraction, with people popping out and making faces at you every few steps, until you reach the exit. The "monsters" are not trying to scare you to the point that you freeze, jump backwards, or physically lash out. They try to scare you forward until you find your way out. 

The nurse began to call each group into a room, shutting a large metal door behind them. You heard a loud bang, a scream or two, and then a moment later, the nurse opened the door to invite Jeffrey and me to enter the room by ourselves. We were led to large and dilapidated x-ray machine, which took our x-rays with a loud bang (did I just get radiation poisoning?), and then we were handed a small flashlight and shuffled out of the room. They were separating us so that we weren't with the rest of the group. Next began our long trip to escape the hospital and its maze of terror. 

The level of detail in the place was astounding. Especially for how large the hospital was. I thought that it was going to waste a little bit, since we could only see what our three-inch circle of light could illuminate at one time. I braced myself for the ghouls that were going to jump out at us, but it didn't happy. Right away at least. We began hearing screams elsewhere near us, which let us know that it was going to happen, though.

We entered a room that looked like an operation ward, with beds scattered across the floor, with makeshift curtains throughout. As we explored the room with our tiny flashlight, trying to appreciate all of the details, we found a pale nurse gnashing at us near the exit. When our light found him, he charged at us, causing me to trip backwards. He was between us at the room's exit doors, and wasn't going away (as I had grown to expect in haunted houses - jump and scare, then go back into the shadows)! We had to actually make our way past the ghost nurse to get out of the room. 

As we exited, we saw a young couple near one of the multiple "give up" exits, with the terrified girl catching her breath and pleading with her boyfriend to leave with her. I invited them to stick together with us, but she was not having it. They dropped their flashlight into the box (which contained dozens of them from the others who had given up at this point), and dashed out the door. 

We made it through the entire labyrinth, climbing up four stories of the hospital, all the way down to its creepy basement, facing a multitude of fiendish creatures throughout our journey. It was really freaking scary. And it had an atmosphere that was different than anything I had experienced. There was no blaring music or cheap sound effects, just a haunting silence that was only broken by the piercing screams of others as they tried to navigate the maze. 

In the most horrifying portion of the hospital, we found ourselves at the top of a corridor filled with a dozen doors on either side of the hallway. Obviously, our goal was to make it to the other side to continue on. As we walked through, the groaning zombie-like creatures would come out the doors, and chase us (yes, literally run after us) down the hallway. I ran like a scream queen down the hallway, falling onto the ground and curling up into a ball, wailing for Jeffrey to hurry up because they were going to kill him. And they still kept coming at me. Oh. My. God. In that moment, I would have coughed up $100 for that damn amulet. 

After that... unique... experience, the rain still had not let up, and we strolled around the park before heading back to our hotel for the night. 
Picture
Jeffrey's spirit animal. Honey badger don't care.
The next morning, we watched the local news and enjoyed our room's fantastic view of Fuji before heading off to our next locale. 
Picture
Godzilla was attacking. Obviously that's our cue to leave the area.
Picture
Bye, Fuji-san! We enjoyed your amusement park. Or we wished we could have enjoyed it without the rain.
]]>
<![CDATA[Autumn Festival and, MEOW, a Cat Cafe!]]>Mon, 02 Nov 2015 15:20:24 GMThttp://toppinghoneymoon.weebly.com/blog/autumn-festival-and-meow-a-cat-cafeOn the day's itinerary: Harajuku and a cat cafe, hooray! 
Picture
They will think I'm one of them!
For our visit to Harajuku, we did extensive research to find out the perfect days and times to see the famous Harajuku girls hanging out on cosplay bridge, and we found out that the best time is Sunday afternoon around 2-3 pm. Perfect. We would sleep in, have a lovely brunch and then head over to see the hordes of cosplayers walking across the bridge! 
Picture
So there were far more people tourists around the cosplayers than there were actual cosplayers. Oh, well. If anybody asks, my story is "Of COURSE I saw the Harajuku girls!" and I'm sticking to it.

Autumn Grand Festival at Meiji Shrine

Past the "cosplay" bridge was the very pretty and very large Yoyogi Park with the Meiji Shrine at its center. I had read that the shrine was celebrating Emperor Meiji's birthday with its annual Autumn Grand Festival, so we decided to go and check it out. 
As we walked towards the shrine, we found ourselves a bit in awe at such a scenic and green paradise was implanted right in the middle of the loudest and most crowded city I've ever visited. I want to use the words "peaceful" and "tranquil" to describe it, but they wouldn't be the right words. There were still eight hundred thousand billion people walking with us. 
As we got a bit closer to the shrine, we began to see the massive amounts of offerings from all over Japan in commemoration of the emperor. Gifts included barrels of wine and sake, gigantic chrysanthemums, intricate bonsai gardens, beautiful floral arrangements, boxes of tea, bottles of water, cookie platters - pretty much any product that you can think of was represented. 
Visitors at the shrine were invited to write their prayers or wishes onto wooden tablets and hang them on the wishing wall surrounding the sacred Camphor tree. Shinto priests will then pray for all of the prayers/wishes that are placed on the wall. It was beautiful to see all of the prayers from around the world in different languages on the tablets. 

Cheating on Abby and Mr. O'Malley at Neko JaLaLa Cat Cafe

No, you don't eat cats at the cat cafe. You sit down in a room filled with cats and enjoy drinks while trying (often unsuccessfully) to make one of the felines pay attention to you by offering them affection and cat treats. When that doesn't work, you just pull out your phone and start taking pictures of them in hopes of making your Instagram look like you're connecting with cats in Japan. Awesome, you say? I know, right?!
We paid for 30 minutes of time with our new furry friends. I paid a few dollars for a small container of tuna fish to feed to the cats. I'm assuming that they sell approximately one container of tuna every 2.4 seconds because the cats were tuna-fished out. 
Picture
"You're going to have to do better than that if you want to earn my love, human."
Eventually I had to start sneaking up on sleeping cats and taking selfies with them to prove I was there. 
Picture
Look, I'm at a cat cafe in Tokyo! Can't you tell how much fun I'm having?!
Maybe my expectations were too high. I imagined that I would just lay on the ground and have a hundred fluffy cats run and swarm me with head nuzzles. Either way, I'm glad that I went and got it out of my system. We (okay, just me) had initially planned to visit multiple cat cafes during our trip, but just this one was good enough for me. Jeffrey was probably disappointed, though; he was having the time of his life. 
Picture
The cats were drawn to his electric energy
Picture
"Are you ready yet?"

Enjoying the Local Cuisine

We ended the night by heading to a local bar and having some of the deep-dish pizza that Japan is so well-known for. 
Picture
So delicious
]]>
<![CDATA[Shopping in Shibuya and Halloween in Roppongi]]>Mon, 02 Nov 2015 00:41:00 GMThttp://toppinghoneymoon.weebly.com/blog/shopping-in-shibuya-and-halloween-in-roppongi
Picture
Our trip across the road. We apparently had a light crowd!
Shibuya is well-known for a few reasons: having a ton of people, Hachiko the dog statue, endless shopping, and having a ton of people (it's worth mentioning twice. There were a ton of people!). The famous Shibuya crossing is the world's busiest intersection, with upwards of 2,500 people crossing each time the walk light illuminates. I don't know why they don't just find another intersection!
After crossing the road, we made our way over to Shibuya 109, a shopping building with around 10 floors of women's fashion stores. 
Picture
See it way in the back there?
I couldn't take pictures inside (boo), but I'll paint the mental picture for you: imagine 8-10 of the priciest, tiniest women's boutique stores that you can, all in a circle surrounding a single set of escalators. Now multiply that by 10 floors, and that's Shibuya 109. 
Picture
Okay, so I sneaked a picture. One of the stores sold hundreds of varieties of colored contact lenses. They even had PRESCRIPTION ones! Yep, just find your eye diameter and your prescription strength and pick your favorite color. And I have to go to the eye doctor to get mine, psh!
A few blocks away from the insanity of Shibuya crossing was the peaceful Miyamasu Mitake Shrine, with its lovely wolf statues. Aside from our hotel rooms, this was the only place that Jeffrey and I went where we were completely alone. We felt a bit uncomfortable and wondered if we were even allowed to be there. 
On the way back to the train station, we passed a pet store, eeeeeeeeeeeeee!! Kitties! Again, no photographs were allowed inside the store. Guess how much a cat costs in Tokyo? Over ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS (doing some quick yen to dollar math). Wow!! 
Picture
They didn't say anything about photos outside of the store, though!
Finally, we stopped at Shibuya station, home of the Hachiko dog statue. Hachiko was a dog who ran to the station every day to greet his owner at the end of the work day, even for years after his owner died! I'm pretty sure our animals think we're dead because we've been gone so long, but don't really care because somebody's giving them food still. 
Picture
Hachiko, the loyal dog
BONUS PICTURE! The Mario Bros. and friends are heading out for a friendly go-kart race! 

Halloween Pub Crawl

"They celebrate Halloween in Japan?" Number one question we were asked when we mentioned that we were coming to Japan for Halloween. Yes, they celebrate Halloween, and they celebrate it better and harder than the rest of the world. I would liken the level of celebration to the level of Christmas spirit that shopping malls have. Seriously, just all-out crazy, party 'til you can't feel your face, scream until your lungs give out, drink until you pass out insanity. Here are just a few snaps I took of costumes as we walked around: 
And then of course Jeffrey and I put on our costumes! An evil sorcerer and his elven hunter wife. 
Decked out and ready to stay out all night, we headed to Roppongi, the party district of Tokyo. Note about Roppongi, we had heard that there a few not-so-great groups that have begun to take over bars and clubs in the city, luring tourists in with promises of a good time, then spiking their drinks and robbing them blind. I was absolutely terrified about this. So rather than go it alone for the night, we joined a traveling pub crawl hosted by a reputable company, where we would hop bar to bar with a large group of people to stick together with. 

HAH! So for an event that was expecting 250 people, almost a thousand showed up. Yes, a thousand people crammed into a small basement bar. After waiting in line for a few hours, just to get to the registration desk, we pushed and shoved our way down into the bar. I don't know how people had drinks, or where they got them from. It was a madhouse. Once we made it to the bottom of the stairs and saw what we could expect for the next four hours, we took a few pictures, then headed quickly for the subway to go back to our hotel. We simply couldn't handle being up close and personal with a thousand other people all night. 
Picture
Nope-ity nope nope!
So, yes, we're lame for calling it a night at 8:00 pm, in the midst of the wildest party we've ever witnessed. But hey, at least we got our beauty rest! 
]]>
<![CDATA[Visit with a Friend... and Evil Robots]]>Sun, 01 Nov 2015 01:20:10 GMThttp://toppinghoneymoon.weebly.com/blog/visit-with-a-friend-and-evil-robotsI've just given into the fact that I'll be going to bed every night shortly after 9:00 pm and waking up around 1:00 am. I tried to fight it, but it just makes me miserable and cranky, so I'll embrace the 8 extra hours of productivity that I get from being up all night. Maybe I'll switch to this sleep schedule when we get back home!

Lunch in Asakusa

First up on the itinerary for today was to have lunch with our friend Sara. We met her this year through Jeffrey's aunt Rieko, and she's super fantastic! 
Sara recommended that we go to Imahan Honten, a sukiyaki (Japanese hot pot) restaurant outside of the Senso-ji Buddhist temple in Asakusa.
Picture
I always forget to take pictures of the restaurant outside! This one is from Wikimedia Commons.
The restaurant was very cozy. Each group sat around their table on a pillow on the floor. In my first (known) major faux pas of the trip, I rushed across the floor in my tennis shoes. The uproarious giggling from all of the patrons and wait staff in the restaurant reminded me that I should remove my shoes before stepping on the tatami mat flooring. I was absolutely mortified (every traveler's checklist screamed that you should NEVER walk on tatami mats in your shoes), but was relieved that we could all laugh it off together. 

Before I forget to mention it, a side note about how quick the service is in the restaurants. In the dining experience I'm used to in the US, you wait for a host to seat you, then wait for a server to visit your table and take your drink order, then wait for the server to come back for your food order, then wait for your food (usually between 10-30 minutes, I think?), then eat your food, then wait for your check, then pay the bill and wait for your receipt/change. 

In Japan (our experiences so far at least), you are greeted as soon as you enter the restaurant, and shown to your seat. The menus are already at the table, and the host / server explains the choices, and then waits for you to choose one (very anxiety inducing for me! I'm so used to having a few minutes to browse the menu on my own!). As you order, the server is creating your bill, which gets tucked neatly under the tabletop. Then, a few minutes later, they bring your food (it takes even less time if the food doesn't need to be cooked!). For a nice meal, the entire process is only about 30 minutes. Very different, especially when we struggle to stick to a one-hour lunchtime at our local hamburger and wings joint! 


Anyways, back to the sukiyaki restaurant! Sukiyaki, or Japanese hot pot, is a style of dining where your food is delivered to your table raw, along with a bowl of soup and some rice, and you have a small pot to cook it yourself in a sugary soy sauce (so good!). Once it is cooked to your liking, you take a piece out and dip it into a raw scrambled egg before devouring it. It was incredibly delicious! 

After lunch, we walked through the Senso-ji temple area of Asakusa. The stores surrounding the temple reminded me of a giant outdoor flea market, with dozens (hundreds?) of booths filled with trinkets, food and other goods for purchase. 
The Senso-ji temple was a neat experience. There were small stations (I don't know what else to call them!) surrounding the temple: a purification fountain where you washed your hands and mouth out with a hishaku (which looked like a large ladle), a large incense burner where you waved the smoke into your face, and a collection of small drawers, each containing a fortune paper. To get a fortune, I placed a coin into a collection box, then shook a large can to get a numbered stick, which corresponded to one of the drawers containing fortunes. I got a good fortune, hooray! For those who were not so lucky and got a bad fortune, there was a nearby string fence for them to tie on their bad fortunes, in order to rid themselves of it. 
Picture
My fortune! Marriage and employment are not good? Is it telling me to give up life and become a crazy cat lady?
The temple itself was beautiful. It had menacing demons guarding it on the outside, and was filled with beautiful paintings on the inside. 

Shinjuku and Robot Restaurant!

The hectic nightlife of Shinjuku certainly contrasted with the peaceful serenity of Senso-ji temple. It was our introduction to just how many people can cram into one place. Obviously, we knew it was going to be crowded because Tokyo is known for being crowded, but apparently we don't know the meaning of the word "crowded," because this was something beyond. 
Picture
We were packed into the subway cars, with more and more people finding room to get on board at every stop!
Picture
Just a normal night out in Shinjuku, hanging with a freakin' bajillion of our closest friends
Here's a collection of images from around the city. Notice how many different establishments there are in one building, they just go up and up and up! I guess when you're running out of space on the ground, you just keep building things higher and higher. Now I know why all the addresses have "8F" etc in the title - so you know what floor they are on! 
Now it was time for the ROBOT RESTAURANT! Woohoo!!! This was the number one thing on our to-do list for Japan, and it did not disappoint! I don't even know how to describe it, other than to say ​it was ridiculous and fantastical and mesmerizing and LOUD! Just getting to the show's floor was an epic event.
Once seated, we braced ourselves for the awesomeness. And, oh, was it awesome. The pictures simply cannot do it justice, so enjoy a few videos of the performances!
]]>
<![CDATA[Owls and a Motor Show!]]>Fri, 30 Oct 2015 21:33:38 GMThttp://toppinghoneymoon.weebly.com/blog/owls-and-a-motor-showOn our first full day in Tokyo, we decided we would take it easy. I think we underestimated how difficult the time change would be on top of the 30+ hours of straight traveling that it took to get here. I had heard people complain about jet lag before, but I thought they were babies. "Oh, wah, I'm a little bit sleepy on my TRIP OF A LIFETIME! How will I ever go on?" So... yeah. I'm a little bit sleepy on my trip of a lifetime. But it's okay, the excitement is winning over and we are pushing through it.

Fukuro No Mise, "The Cafe of Owls"

Today was one of the things that I had been most excited for: an owl cafe! What's an owl cafe? It's a magical room filled with soft, fluffy, friendly, beautiful, wide-eyed creatures from my dreams. And you get to hold them! So amazing! 
Picture
The outside of the cafe. You would never know how much happiness would lay in store!
After reading about the exclusivity of this place (you can only make reservations same-day by arriving with money in hand at 12:00, and spots usually fill up by 12:30), we rushed to get in line to make a reservation at 11:30. We selected the 2:00 time slot and paid our entry fee (roughly $20 each person - I know, I know, super expensive. But how can you put a price on pure joy?). 

At this point, we have 2 hours to kill in a non-touristy area of Tokyo, where everyone is staring at us and we have no idea where we are. Yep, time to explore and find some food! 
We wandered around looking for a restaurant that tickled our fancy. We passed one that looked like it had hibachi grills at every table - cool! And they had English menus - even cooler! I ordered a dish of miso ramen and Jeffrey had the same thing except with hamburg meat. I'm not a fan of cabbage, and it had a lot of it. It was good, but I probably wouldn't eat it again. 
We headed back for our 2:00 appointment of awesomeness, and we were shuffled into the room filled with owls. A woman gave us a 10-minute presentation of the rules in Japanese. I didn't understand much, except that they would poop on you and you need to get over it.
So after an eternity of instructions, it was our turn to hold the owls! Word of caution, I'm going to include about a million pictures here because I simply couldn't limit myself to a favorite owl.

Okay, I'm lying. OF COURSE I had a favorite owl. I have a favorite everything. He hated me, though. But it's okay, I loved the heck out of him! ​​
If you've pet an owl before, you know how life changing it is. They were as soft as the fur on the belly of a kitten. I would have quit my life and lived in this house if it were an option. And yes, they pooped on me. Again and again. It was okay, though. I'm sure it made me immortal or something awesome like that.
Jeffrey went into the experience with one goal: Don't get pooped on. He succeeded. Apparently they didn't love him as much as they loved me. 
I don't know what could follow up the owl cafe. I thought we should just call the trip a win and fly back home, because nothing could top that. ​I guess we could go look at cars or something. That would be fun.

Tokyo Motor Show

The Motor Show was pretty cool. We went with the hopes of seeing some weird concept cars, which we did. 
This one even included plans on how to turn it into a robot when you need a robot car thing.
And then of course we saw some of the sportier cars that we could never afford. I wish I had something to say here because I realize it's just a wall of pictures at this point. There were just a lot of cars. 
Which one was my favorite? 
Picture
I guess this one.
Picture
I just wanted to go see the owls again.

Dinner Time!

After our long day running around the city (we are finally starting to get the hang of this subway / train thing!), we headed back to the hotel for some dinner. We had seen a restaurant in the basement that served soba noodles. Yum! 
Picture
Jeffrey likes his hot
Picture
I like mine cold!
And that was it! We headed over to the Family Mart (like a 7-Eleven but with more food) to grab some drinks, snacks and laundry detergent before we retired to our room, where I crashed around 8:00 pm (and then of course woke up around 1:30 am - hopefully I get over this ridiculousness soon!). I can't wait to see what is in store for us tomorrow! 
]]>
<![CDATA[We're Here!!! ]]>Thu, 29 Oct 2015 21:33:24 GMThttp://toppinghoneymoon.weebly.com/blog/were-hereAfter over a year of planning, call out the welcoming committee, because we have arrived in Tokyo, Japan! I only teared up once at the overwhelming sense of happy (or exhaustion?) when we arrived in Narita Airport. I can't gauge Jeffrey's level of excitement because he told me I have to stop asking him, "On a scale of 1 to 10, HOW EXCITED ARE YOU RIGHT NOW?!" 

It's certainly different here (obviously). Even though I've been studying culture, customs and maps for the past year, I don't think anything could have truly prepared us for this experience.

Saint Petersburg, FL to Tokyo, JP

Picture
It takes forever to get here. Literally forever. And I made it longer by flying out of an airport four hours away from our house because I wanted to save money.

So we began our journey on Monday night at 11:30 pm, heading towards West Palm Beach Airport in our rental car for our 6:00 am flight. We were pumped up on Monster drinks, ready to start our incredible journey to the other side of the world! We about ten blocks from our house... and saw the police lights behind us. Sigh. Apparently the rental car didn't have automatic headlights. After a few minutes (and me yelling, "WE'RE GOING ON OUR HONEYMOON RIGHT NOW!!!"), we skated by with a warning and continued the four-hour trip to West Palm Beach.

We arrived at the airport and hopped on our three-hour flight to Dallas, and then after a four-hour layover, our 13-hour flight to Tokyo. The longest flight I had ever been on was about two hours, and I had no idea what to expect. My master plan was to use my time in captivity to catch up on some work and work ahead on my coursework. NOPE! No wifi or outlets were available. Double sigh. I guess I would just have to chat with Jeffrey for the next 13 hours... except he went to sleep! Grrr. I spent most of the flight sleeping for 2-3 hours at a time and watching a few movies. I was terrified at the thought of being up in the air for so long, but it was not bad at all. Nailed it! 

WHERE ARE WE?!

PictureOur airplane!
When we exited our plane in Narita Airport, I had a foolproof strategy to travel to our accommodations at Park Hotel Tokyo: "We will just have to figure it out." I knew we had to (1) clear customs, (2) exchange our currency, (3) get our rail passes, (4) get on the subway (different from the Japan Rail) and get to our hotel. Super easy. And if I didn't know where to go, I would just ask somebody. Duh. 

You guessed it, it was definitely NOT that easy. 

Customs was fine, currency exchange was fine. The transportation system is ridiculous. And not because it is poorly designed - it is just the most complicated thing I have ever witnessed. And it was in Japanese. And EVERYONE else around me (all 5932853 million people) knew exactly where they were supposed to go, and were running in crowds to get there. This is not to say that nobody helped us. I wandered over to every information counter I could find, and they answered every question I had - I guess I just didn't know what questions to ask. We spent about an hour and a half just meandering around the rail station in the airport, as if one of the limo drivers would have our names on their welcome cards for the travelers who thought ahead.
So, yeah, it took us four hours to get to our hotel. 

Totally worth it. As soon as we stepped inside Park Hotel Tokyo, it was another world. Hotel staff rushed to help us with the utmost level of friendliness, and the check-in process was seamless. And the room, OH MY GOODNESS the room! It had a bed. And I could sleep in a bed. Like really lay down and use a blanket and have a pillow and go to sleep. No uncomfortable armrest jabbing into my side, no turbulence to jolt me awake. Just pure... sleep... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Picture
Sumo artist room, hand painted by a local Tokyo artist from Jeffrey's Aunt Rieko's art gallery
Sorry, lost my train of thought. 44 hours straight without REM sleep will do that to a person, you know. The room is awesome and beautiful and comfortable and everything I had hoped it would be. And the view is not bad either! 
PictureView of Tokyo from our room
Funny story time? Jeffrey accidentally tipped the bellhop 5000 yen (about $50) in his confusion about the currency. They don't even tip here. So now we have a super attentive bellhop who bows at us every time we pass, and is ready and willing to help us with absolutely anything we want. So awesome and hilarious and an important lesson learned about understanding the currency :-) 

But Seriously, WHERE ARE WE?!

To say we're a little out of our element is putting it lightly. Share in our confusion with these photos: 
Picture
Instructions on how to use the toilet. With sounds to "muffle toilet sound".
Picture
The morning weather report
Picture
One Direction. Why are they everywhere?!
Picture
No clue what they're selling, but I would buy the $#!@ out of it! KITTIES!
]]>