Sunday, November 1, 2015

the end of nikko...

I am so glad we made it to Nikko when we did.  Our last day was spent under waterfalls and leaves! and amidst some stinky hot pots :)

we woke up early and took the Romantic highway to see the world famous waterfalls and incredible scenery.  The romantic highway is an incredibly windy steep and scenic road with almost NO stopping points!  I wanted to get out and take pictures SO BADLY!! It was killing me.  I stole this pic from the internet to try and show the amazingness of this road.  It was wonderful. and beyond gorgeous.  miraculously nobody got carsick on these crazy curves!!

about half way up- we stopped at the Akechidaira ropeway to see the 'best views in nikko'.  
we packed our family- and at least 12 other Japanese friends into a teeny ropeway car and up the mountain we went.
mack kept all the Japanese people in line entertained and made some great new friends!  the people here LOVE him.
I have to say- the views from the platform at the top of Akechidaira are some of the best I've seen in my ENTIRE life.  This picture doesn't even begin to do the site justice.  The lighting made it hard to get the perfect picture- but the view of the falls, Lake Chuzenji, and the mountains was beyond stunning.  It's amazing to me how much more detail and magnitude and beauty that our eyes can see and process than even a pretty fancy camera :)
these are our Japanese friends! they were so kind to us! we stood in line with them for about half and hour- and rode the cable car up together.  They taught us phrases, laughed with our children, and begged to get pictures with us :)  I love meeting wonderful people like this.

After riding the ropeway- we drove over the mountains and to Lake Chuzenji and the giant kegon waterfall.   October isn't October until you've seen these colors and breathed in leafy air.  I was so happy here :)
we ran around up top and then took an elevator down through the mountain to stand at the base!  I thought the views from up top were MUCH better.  
the best thing about the bottom was this GINORMOUS stick of strawberry gum we bought at the gift shop :)  the kids were pretty stinking excited.  and surprisingly the gum was quite delicious!!
Inside the elevator hallway we found this little shrine that had a metta looking buddha engraving!
After the falls- we did some market shopping. we bought the biggest bag of perfectly crisp and sweet Fuji apples.  at a great price!!!  I still have such a hard time with produce prices in japan (I bought a head of lettuce for OVER 4 DOLLARS LAST WEEK!!!)!!!  but these nikko apples were perfect.  I am craving them now.  We made caramel apple cheesecake and homemade fresh caramel to dip them in. I want to drive back JUST to get another bag.  and then I took a picture by these weird guys.  we have NO clue what they could be,  any ideas?!
 after apples and waterfalls we visited the waterfront chuzenji shrine!!  we also found the perfect dragon statue here!

I almost forgot that our last day in Nikko was Mack's BIRTHDAY!  we didn't get him anything.  he's only 1. he doesn't care.  we did let him eat all of the jellies from the kids' meals on our trip.  he loved that.
He really is our little dragon.  half of the time he's adorable and I want to to squeeze him because he's so cute.  the other half of the time he's breathing fire at us and I want to squeeze him because he's driving me bonkers!!
 he thought we were going to drop him here.  I love his worried face!!!

 we visited two more sets of falls on our drive up the romantic highway.  One of them was so crowded we couldn't get a picture (ryuzu)! and the only way to view the falls was inside a store sitting at a restaurant.  we ran in for a peak- ate some terribly gooey and sticky rice paste- and then hung out in the great leaves :)
 Kent's favorite part of the trip were the Yutaki falls.  We have NEVER seen waterfalls like these.  and there were 10 busses full of elementary and middle school kids here.  They LOVED practicing their english on us!  Kent asked a group of about ten of them: "hello! how are you?" and in perfect unison they answered; "fine, and you??".  Maybe you had to be there- but it was so funny.
 these falls were really tall - skinny at the top- but very wide at the bottom- and ran down a steep slope- but didn't actually 'fall'.  so- maybe it should have been called a waterslide instead.   Metta jumped in these kids' picture.  they loved it.
 they were so strange,  can you see their strangeness in this picture??
 Our last adventure was to round the top of the romantic highway to visit the sulfury town of Yumoto! It was probably my favorite part of the day. The town smells so strongly of sulfur and is Onsen heaven.  and- it was beautiful.
 we ran into our school friends at the city foot onsen  It was pretty crowded for awhile there!!
 once again- mack was dying to dive in and swim.  this water was much murkier and stinkier than the other onsen- but not quite as hot in the spots away from the spiggots pumping in fresh stinky water :).
 I don't think the kids cared at all- but I'm sure every time mack's diaper touched the water- the adults were cursing the crazy americans. I tried so hard to keep it out of the water!!!  I think he's scorching his chubby little toes and kneecaps here :)
 when the kiddos finally cleared out - it got much more relaxing.
 after our foot spa- we took a walk to the fount of all yumoto onsens!  and metta found cat alley. she loved it.
 i love japan.
 we wandered the boardwalks out over bubbly green water and hissing hot pots!  It was perfect.
 we even visited the onsen shrine dedicated to public baths.

 if we can't take our kids to Yellowstone- this is a close second :)  just no buffalo or bears!!
 we have really great kids who come along with us on our adventures happily.  for the most part.
 our entire trip was lovely.  and our kids were pretty well behaved!  they now ALL have their own Nintendo DSes to keep them entertained in the car thanks to the Hard off!  it's the 2nd hand store near our house where they sell Dses for 7 dollars.  anybody want one??

Come visit us and we'll take you to Nikko and buy you a DS! :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

creepy disappearing ghost statues!!

This may have been my very favorite place in Nikko.  The kanmangafuchi abyss trail.  It runs along a river and is full of these awesome statues.  They are said to be 'ghost statues'.  You are supposed to count them as you hike up the abyss- and then again as you hike back. The number will not be the same because the ghost statues move and disappear!  

We hiked early in the morning and had the trail to ourselves with the exception of one local photographer.  She was so kind to us and chatted to us in her best English about the area!  I was so excited to take pictures here. It's a spot I've been dying to see.
some of the statues are just piles of rocks and rubble!  but the people here still adorn them with aprons and hats.
 the place is so calm and eerie and peaceful.  I loved it.

 Ike and Zeb both counted the statues and got a different count on the return trip.  Pretty spooky, huh? :)
Ike is certain this statue had it's head when we walked past it on the way up- but not on the way down!! he is such a funny kid. He was SO excited to count all of these statues.  He's all about numbers, math, and money.

Metta and I got way too distracted to bother with counting things!!

 After the abyss we took a ride up a cable car to monkey mountain.  Thankfully mack LOVED the monkeys.  I was very disappointed.  there are so many wild monkeys around and after seeing the snow monkeys in Nagano- these caged monkeys were a let down.  But mack's giggles and sheer excitement made up for the lameness!!

we took a pretty boring hike up the mountain,too.  It was a bit long- and halfway through- an English speaking father and son passed us on their way back and told us the end was boring. No good views or anything exciting!  we turned around promptly and went back to the cable car!! at least we got some exercise!
 luckily- we always love a good cable car ride in Japan.  They have them everywhere!! I guess it's the best way to get up their steep mountains!!
 mack was such a little godzilla on the hike.  Have I mentioned this phase of child is rough?!
 After our trek to see the monkeys- we ventured off to the kinugawa foot onsen overlooking the gorgeous kinugawa river.
I think metta was stressing these ladies out a bit!  luckily they still loved her.
 Mack wanted so desperately to get in and swim.  ugh.  he was so difficult.

 we let him splash around in the hand wash- but he quickly got maniacal and started splashing all of the Japanese people and had to be removed!!!
 the color of the water all over the Tochigi region is pretty cool.  Greens and blues and white rapids.
I somehow got a smudge on my lens at the footbath and now it is pestering me in every picture the rest of this day!!! so annoying.
After our relaxing foot bath- we drove to Tobu World Square.  We'd heard lots of great reviews from friends and it sounded pretty fun to us.  All of the world's most famous landmarks/building shrunken down to 1/25th the size!!  AND I found a great coupon online :)
On the drive to nikko- I realized I had forgotten to print the coupon out and was pretty ticked.  It was going to save us 20 bucks. and if the website says 'print out'- the japanese will not accept just a picture of the coupon from our phones.  I figured there HAD to be some way to get a copy of one and through a google search found out I could create an account with the japanese 7-11, upload the pic to my account online- and then go to any 7-11 and print it out.  It worked.  I figured it ALL out in Japanese.  even setting up account.  I am sharing this story because I am very proud of myself :)

Tobu world square was so cool.  especially all of the Japanese landmarks that we've seen in real life!  I  should have gotten more pictures of those- but the real spots were better anyway :)

 New York city with the twin towers.
 A japanese bay- and the gates letting ships into the American part of the park.
 The white house even had the Obamas!!  I had to zoom in on these little characters.  Tobu has over 100.000 small figurines and they all have facial expressions!  plus- no two characters in the entire prk are the same!!
 the section on egypt. if you look closely- you can see men on camels along the upper ridge!
 Europe was pretty impressive.  and definitely made us want to see all of these places in real life!!
 Red Square!!!  the details on these buildings are CRAZY.
 just check out the Vatican!!!  it was so cool.
 Princess Kate and Prince William even!!!
 the forbidden city and the great wall.
 and-of course- they had a fabulous kid playroom.
 the little Tobu mascots were super, too.  just look at those happy faces!!
 Mack was enamoured.  and they loved him, too.  I bet he played with them for ten minutes!!  the poor japanese kids who wanted a turn!!
After Tobu- we wandered Nikko for a but again- and then ate at the only restaurant open past five! cafe gusto.  Luckily- the place had PIZZA!  and our kids will ALWAYS eat pizza.   We also spent a great night at our cabin!