April 15, 2015

A lovely hike up Mount Takao

A few weeks ago, we spent a lovely Saturday hiking to the top of Mount Takao. There was even a chair lift to take you half way up the mountain. This was certainly no Mt. Fuji... thankfully!

The girls felt very adventurous, as there was no seat belt or protective bar on the chair lift. (My mother would NOT have liked this, however!) 

I really enjoyed this ride. 

The chair lift let us off about half way up the mountain, and there was a beautiful view of the city from there. 

Now to begin the hike. The path was very well paved and very clean. This was my kind of hike! 

It wouldn't be a true Japanese hike without lots of vending machines every few feet, 

lots of food (always to include ice cream), 

and lots of trinkets to buy. Love it!

Further on up the hike, there was a row of more than ten enormous cedars, that were marked as being sacred. Apparently, they withstood a devastating typhoon which struck the area in 1966. 

Some of these tress were over 160 feet tall. Amazing!

Not really sure of the significance of this, but I loved how it looked.

Yes, there is always a shrine. 

And more food. These are mochi balls, which are a chewy rice paste. They are very popular Japanese snack, but just not my kind of thing. 

The city views were spectacular, and it was such a clear day. 

There were many shrines, of varying sizes, all along the trail. 

This was the largest shrine, near the top. On our way back down the mountain, there was some sort of worship session going on, including monks.

Getting closer. 

Hooray, we made it! Again, nothing like Mt. Fuji, as everyone is still all smiles. When Mt. Fuji is your comparison, everything else seems simple. The girls said, "We're already at the top?!"

The backside of the mountain did provide a great view of Mt. Fuji, though. 

And to cap off a great day, we went to our favorite neighborhood ramen place. Ramen is definitely a Japanese staple. 

I always love how Japanese businesses have these small curtains at the door. 

This is a very typical looking bowl of ramen. Matt especially loves this restaurant though, because they use a pork broth rather than miso or dashi (fish stock).  There will always be a side of rice in Japan, no matter the entrĂ©e.

The fried gyoza was the perfect complement. 

A very delicious end to a lovely day!

April 7, 2015

The Moomin Village

Anyone heard of the Moomin comic strip? I hadn't either, but apparently it is a popular Finnish comic strip/book series that follows the adventures of the Moomin family (who have an hippopotamus-like appearance), in Moominvalley.

So, leave it to the Japanese, to have reconstructed their own Moominvalley, to pay homage to this series. The girls couldn't wait to explore!

Here is the map of Moominvalley. Isn't it idyllic?

The Moomin's main residence was darling, inside and out.

We entered into a large room that served as the living room, with an awesome curved staircase. 

The vaulted ceiling in the main room was incredible. I couldn't get over the woodwork of this place!

There were lots of plaques in each room, which I am assuming told about the lives of the Moomin's.

Lots of cute doorways, perfectly cut for kids. 

And great, whimsical windows, too. 

The attention to detail in this house, was amazing. Even under the stairs, were what the girls called "fairy rooms." (Look closely and you can see tiny furniture.)

The "fairy rooms" were a huge hit with all the girls. 

There were even tiny belongings to look at. 

This bed was about the size of a Barbie.

Also, very small bunk beds, and a tent? Not sure what the tent was for, but the girls had a marvelous time imagining scenarios for the fairies and what they believed their lives were like. 

We loved all of the hideouts, and secret spots, too.

Here are the adventurers; Kiki, Jaden, Kiley, Eva and Ella.
The basement was a big open room, that the girls called the "dance room", and immediately began their own choreography.

And a darling door, of course!

You could even walk outside to a tiny terrace and take in the view. I loved the curved staircase.

While "taking in the view", I saw a Japanese school group heading our way. We were so happy that we got an early start and had the house completely to ourselves the entire time. A rarity in Japan!  

See how Japanese kindergartener's organize their shoes? Amazing!

The second building was a "shrine"of sorts, to the Moomin cartoon strip, which included a large room of artifacts. Kind of odd, but apparently they really love the Moomin's!

There was a really cute library area, as well.

The books were all in Japanese, but it's still fun to look.

The grounds were just as fun as the house. The girls loved hiking to this bridge, which also had little windows perfect for spying.

The best adventures for Ella always include a tree to climb! 

There were also some random wooden structures which provided great "look out" spots.

 And the blue gazebo at the pond was a hit!

Always on the lookout for koi. And in Japan, they're usually not hard to find.

Such a fun adventure today, full of day dreaming and scenario making. The girls were dying to live here. And, so was I!

***A side note- A few days later, the girls and I were at the mall and passed a store selling very nice ladies handbags. The prominent display at the front of the store was the Moomin Collection. So, apparently Moomin fever is not limited only to children's playgrounds. So random...so Japanese!