April 28, 2014

The great Japanese truck stop- yes, GREAT!

 With one look at these nicely uniformed ladies, where do you think you are? A restaurant? A fancy hotel? The airport? NO, you are at a Japanese truck stop, of course! Being a military family, 10 to 12 hour road trips were the norm in the States, in order to visit family. I have been in hundreds of truck stops and have never once seen anything to rival the Japanese truck stop! 

First of all, the bathrooms are pristine and there are LOTS of stalls! 

Yes, you all know my thoughts on the heated seat. Ahhh....

Lots of sinks too.

A lovely outdoor seating area for a picnic lunch. The building with the green sign was a farmer's market, of sorts, with lots of fresh produce to buy.

Also, fresh flowers.

Inside the truck stop, there is almost always a bakery.

Mt. Fuji bread.

There are LOTS of fancy packaged gourmet gifts to buy.

Do you see any theme with the merchandise here?

Everything always has a wonderful presentation too.

There is always a specialty gourmet food section.

Freshly made sushi and packaged foods.

This particular truck stop had food stands outside, as well as inside.

And inside.... a truly international language!

You will always find a complimentary water and green tea station. No fountain drinks though!

Ordering food from a computer is pretty common, then you go to the window to pick up your food when your number is called. (So thankful for pictures!)

But today I opted for the "abocado" burger. Haha!

It was a great burger with avocado and some sort of wasabi mayonnaise on a warm, buttery bun. Better than the hot dog and taquito rolling machines in the States!

There are, of course, lots of trinkets you can buy as well.

 Anyone for a Mt. Fuji stuffed toy, or keychain?

Outside there was a smoking room,

and a dog run.

Not to mention a couple of "kawaii" dogs in hoodies!

But the best part was the view!

So, on your next visit to Japan, head to your nearest truck stop and enjoy!

April 26, 2014

Chureito Pagoda, photo op extrodinaire (if you're lucky!)

Today's adventure was a trip to Chureito Pagoda, a very famous spot to view Mt. Fuji. The problem was, the sky was a bit hazy and Mt. Fuji was not very clear today. But the grounds were still amazing!

The beautiful, enormous torii gate.

Cherry blossoms were just now peaking here, due to the higher elevation. Beautiful!

Taking a break with Molly.

There were 400 steps to climb to reach the pagoda. This was a VERY long staircase!

Ahh, we made it to the top!

If you squint, you can barely make out the snow capped Mt. Fuji in the distance. We were so disappointed that it was so hazy today!

We almost always get stopped for pictures, especially in the smaller towns. Ella and Eva think they are famous!
There was a cute school group at the shrine entrance. They are always very curious about the American kids.

This lady was happy to share her dogs with the girls.

And, last but not least, on a poster at the truck stop on the way home, we saw how the view was supposed to look today. Haha! Well, better luck next time. We will be back! 

April 24, 2014

The Flower Festival, Showa Kinen Park

Showa Kinen Park is one of our favorite places to go and is very near our home. Every season is so beautiful, but spring is extraordinary! Somehow, we missed Komorebi Village on past visits, but finally took a look inside this house. This is a traditional Japanese home modeled after a 1950's farmhouse,

complete with a thatched roof.

This is the kitchen area with a fire pit in the center of the room.

There are always sliding doors to close off each section of the home.

And, always a tatami room. (Tatami are the bamboo mats.)

There was a small deck all the way around this house. Not really like the front porches we are used to in the States.

I believe these baskets were for silk worms. Unfortunately for us, the signs were all in Japanese!

These looked to be some sort of racks for the cocoons.

After exploring the house, we headed to the Flower Festival. We just caught the tail end of cherry blossom season and the blossoms were all falling to the ground like pink snow.

A pink wonderland!

I can see why the cherry blossom season is so popular here!

There were still people enjoying hanami, or picnicking under the cherry blossoms. Also, lots of artists!

But, the tulips were truly breathtaking!

Isn't this incredible?!

My two adventurers.

For someone who spent last the last few years in the desert, this was beyond beautiful!

A spring selfie!

We then came upon the poppy field. ("poppies, poppies"....sorry, just a Wizard of Oz reference). I think this wasn't quite at peak yet, but still pretty.

You gotta love a great photo op!

To cap off a great day we had to try the sakura (cherry blossom) ice cream. Japan is known for their innovative ice cream flavors, and they generally go along with a theme!

No complaints here!