July 31, 2015

A very happy birthday in Shinjuku

To celebrate my birthday this year, we headed to the trendy and fashionable area of Shinjuku, for a short overnight trip. When we arrived at the hotel, there was a clown in the lobby making balloon animals for kids. Very random, but we were off to a festive start!

Ella's new drink of choice is tonic water.... Maybe we've spent too much time in hotel lounges.

And there was a terrific view from this particular lounge! Such a gloomy time of year though. With a July birthday, I've always been used to BBQ's and picnic's, but in Japan it's still rainy season.

The rain let up a bit, so we headed out for a stroll of the area. I just loved this tree-lined trail we discovered, right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku.

I also love all of the unique manhole covers in the city. They always have a beautiful and unique design.

First stop was finding the Golden Gai area. This area of Tokyo was actually known for prostitution in the 1950's, but is now a popular bar area. Most of the buildings date back to early '50's, built right after the war. So, I really wanted to check out the unique architecture.

 The alleys are very small, vehicles cannot even pass here.

The bars are very small, too. Most of them seat less than 10 people, and many will ONLY serve regulars or friends of regulars.

The streets were pretty quiet because we visited in the afternoon, but things really heat up at night. More family friendly in the daytime, I'm sure!

Sayonara, Golden Gai. Now on to find the Godzilla hotel. Yes, you heard that right!

The streets of Shinjuku are always lively, and so much fun!

Hmmm, do you think we found what we were looking for?

Sure, enough, it was the great Godzilla!

Apparently, you can even reserve the Godzilla suite. In this room it looks as though the Godzilla is peering in your window. Hilarious! There was also an observation deck to get a closer look, but it's such a popular activity, you actually needed reservations. Maybe next time.

We also caught a glimpse of this guy on the side of an adjacent building. Spider Man to the rescue?

I had to laugh at this sign, hanging right in the heart of one of the most fashionable districts in all of Tokyo, and even the world. After living in New Mexico for two years, I'm not sure what "summer style" they are referring to, or that it should be emulated!

I always love seeing the fresh flower stands near the train stations.

And the great window displays. We're not in Kansas anymore.....

Meanwhile, back at the hotel.....the lounge had these chocolate covered almonds that were to die for! It was an almond covered in chocolate and dusted with cocoa. They were called 'tiramisu' almonds. I may, or may not have had several....a happy birthday, indeed!

Also amazing are the omelettes in Japan. They are always shaped perfectly. (Don't mind the bacon. It is basically impossible to get crisp bacon in Asia. It's usually partially cooked or not cooked at all, but hey, it is bacon, nonetheless. I've finally learned to accept it.)

And that brings a fun birthday in Shinjuku, to a close. 

The perfect destination for a rainy day.

July 11, 2015

Quirky observations from the Tokyo Disney parks

The Tokyo Disney parks are both familiar and quirky, all at the same time. Disney in Japan is serious business! On our most recent visit to both Disneyland and Disney Sea, I wanted to record some of these differences, so we could always remember them.

First off, there are a couple of great "crowd predictor" websites that pretty accurately predict the crowds to expect on any given day. One of them is in English, but I just really love the google translation of the all Japanese site. I've yet to experience "people rattle", am quite intrigued by "spicy and not familiar" crowds, and "violently congestion"? No, thanks!
Measure of congestion
~ 19999 people rattle
Are quite free people ~ 24999
Vacant people ~ 29999
~ 39999 people Well crowded (accustomed are and usually)
~ 49999 people a little crowded (spicy and not familiar)
~ 59999 people crowded (quite spicy and not familiar)
~ 69 999 people very crowded (note the admission limit)
70000 people - violently congestion (note the admission limit)

This lady needs no introduction in any language!

If you have a motif, stick to it!

As a general rule, more is more.

Stuffed animals of all sizes are routinely carried around,

by young and old. 

The princesses are imported from the States. Eva, very thoughtfully, told me that when she's older she wants to move to Japan to be Cinderella because "they need more blonde people". Way to create a niche!

Mr. Incredible gestured that he and Matt were twins.  I can see it!

Ariel lives in a very fancy castle.

And, Cinderella's isn't too shabby either.

 In order to get great seating for the parade, go ahead and save your spot early with a tarp and your shopping bags. (These plastic tarps are used frequently in Japan, and are always nice to have on hand.)

Or, your purse on a bench will suffice.

Stroller parking is serious business!

We ate dinner in the 'New York Deli", and I ordered the cold cut platter. The description listed egg salad, cold cuts, different cheeses, pickles, veggies, and fries. I'm pretty sure I have never seen anything in a New York deli that even resembles this a little bit. Sometimes, you just never know what you'll get. The fries, however, they nailed! 

Speaking of snacks, the uniquely flavored popcorn stands are all the rage. The cappuccino was my favorite, though this only shows a few flavors that we saw.

You can buy these collectible popcorn buckets for your refills around the park, because, who doesn't want more stuff to carry?.

There are many buckets to choose from, here are Mr. Potato Head and a monster.

The Disneyland is a smaller scale than the States, but has all the favorites.

The "B" team (or "D" team?) characters were the only ones freely roaming the park, everyone else had a special line area for pictures. (Yes, adults will wait over 1 hour to see Donald Duck).

Disney grounds in any country are manicured to perfection, Japan is no exception. This grass was several inches think and so lush.

And the roses? Incredible!

You still get wet on Splash Mountain, and the Fast Pass is still your best friend here. 

Still the "Happiest Place on Earth"? A resounding YES in any language!