Golden Week, Part 2

Where were we?

Oh right, ALL OVER Kyushu!!!

One of the most amazing things happened. We stumbled on a mountain side hoarder who sold us these lanterns for less than $100 total!!!!!

(Please ignore all my crap airing out behind them. Our movers come tomorrow so all the bath toys and my shoes have to get dried!)

So we then drove all over Japan with those in the hatch of tiny 2002 Nissan Cube. It was quite hilarious!

Our next stop was Kumamoto Castle which was devastated by the 2016 Earthquake. You cannot enter the castle at this point because it is structurally unsound but they are currently cataloging rocks and rebuilding the castle. It was a lovely walk around the outside of the castle and we donated money to help with the rebuilding.

That afternoon we drove the rest of the way to Nagasaki which involved another ferry. We’re getting pretty travel savvy 😉 (although there is no way in hell I would be the one who drove over this bridge onto this ferry!)

(This video is stupid long, sorry!)

The next morning we went to Hashima, or Battleship Island off the coast of Nagasaki. It was an active mine from 1887 until 1974 when the coal ran out and island was abandoned. Now you can take a tour in a group and see the undisturbed structures. It’s really fricken awesome. It was rainy and the sea was really choppy but thanks for my Hawaiian friend Angie we were prepared with Bonine which is WAY better than Dramamine. Everyone survived, and though we were FREEZING and wet, it was really great. It also was something that Nathaniel planned really just for Rosie, which was very awesome!

The next day was Torey Day!!! We *FINALLY* went to the Nagasaki Bio Park. It’s a giant Zoo where the animals aren’t in cages. You enter the enclosures and hang out with the animals. You can touch and feed a lot of the animals. It was SO FUN. I cannot stress enough how happy and healthy the animals looked and how much fun it was. I would seriously go again. Like, I might come back to Japan just for this experience. I’ll let the pictures explain it to you, because I’m still so in awe of the experience that my words don’t work.

Flamingos make REALLY interesting noises! It was fun to watch them eat and yap at each other. Rosie even got a PINK feather!

Me to my children: Smile nicely!

My children:

Our last stop on our tour was Osaka on the way home, where we visited the Osaka Aquarium. You may recall that this the place where we lost Isaac for a distinct and terrifying amount of time when the Coles were here. This time, we stayed together and had a complete blast!

We didn’t any pictures because it’s dark and it was really crowded for Golden Week and Children’s day, but it was a great ending to a long trip!!! I cannot believe that this was our last trip in Japan.

Our movers come tomorrow (Probably today by the time most of you read this) so I’m a hot mess. I’ll keep you posted!

Golden Week

I cannot believe I’m so behind on getting all of this to y’all but a few weeks ago (before Bun-Voyage and the Passport Debacle of 18) , we celebrated Golden Week by driving to Kyushu which is a southern island here in Japan.

Our first day we drove to Shikoku to take the ferry the following morning over to Kyushu. On our way we stopped at the Naruto whirlpools which is one of the world’s largest natural whirlpool area. To see them you walk WAY far out under a road/rail bridge out over the ocean to see them. We didn’t see them fully whirling because of timing but it was still a really beautiful experience!

We also stopped at a super beautiful rest area. Seriously. SO PRETTY.

That night we went to one of the oldest Onsens in the world. It was not my favorite to be honest because it’s so famous and was really crowded. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of standing in line for 20 minutes BUTT NAKED with other BUTT NAKED people.

The next morning we took the ferry, WITH SIX Lotus!

Once we hit Kyushu we stopped at a beautiful beach, but none of us got photos there because we left all of our electronics in the car and just enjoyed having fun!

Our last stop before our AirBnb that night was the Blood Pond Hell hot spring. This is a natural hot spring that is so hot, just touching the surface would blister your skin immediately! It’s made red by the clay in the soil and is believed to have special powers!

They even have a (not so hot) hot spring for your feet with the special water for you! Isaac thought it was a bit too warm for his taste.

That night we stayed at a beautiful mountain side chalet in Kurokawa Onsen, a ton which hosts many hot springs and ryokans. Most of the people in the town are just wandering around in their yukatta (a lighter weight, casual kimono) going from Onsen to Onsen. You can buy a pass to get into different Onsens at a discount or just go to each as you please!

It was so beautiful. That night we went to one Onsen where we could hear the frogs making lots of noises and just relaxed outside with the amazing hot water around us.

The next day was a whir wind tour day!

Our first stop was a beautiful gorge!

Check out these GIANT fish!

Then we saw the nearby Shrine.

We stopped at a funky rest area with a giant Sake Aging Tunnel!

Onward we went to an abandoned hotel!! Rosie has been OBSESSED with abandoned places thanks to YouTube so Nathaniel found this online and decided to give it a go. It was one of the first Western Style hotels to be built in the area and was considered very posh for a time!

I’be always loved the idea of exploring abandoned places, but it actually kind of gave me the heebiejeebies. I was partially worried about someone getting hurt and also just had an over all sense of unease. It was very neat and super cool of Nathaniel to plan for Ms. Rosie.

Our last stop before heading back to the Onsens was an active volcano that is constantly spewing noxious gas from the crater! I’ve never seen anything like it, and I thought it was super cool. Rosie was worried she was going to die and covered her face with her shirt the ENTIRE time.

We also had a couple of odd roadside adventures this day. Sometimes the Nathaniel plan allows for some impromptu stops and you just never know what you’re going to find. #becausejapan

So that’s the beginning of our Golden Week. I’ll work on a second post shortly for you!

Bun-Voyage, Back to the Land of the Rising Sun

I made it all the way back to Nagoya!

I had a great time in the states and Baxter seems happy to be out of her box of doom and living with my sister.

I had a lot of weird feelings in Michigan. It felt like home, but also so much not like home. It was surreal. Weird. Not as comfortable as I’d imagined it would be. I’m sure once we’re back to routines it’ll feel great. But also like, why is America so big? Why do we need so many sodas? Why is a venti coffee SO VENTI?

Ok. I’m home. I have a terrible cold. I thought it was just changing climates, but it turns out I’m really sick, which blows because my movers come Tuesday and the house isn’t what one would call. . . Clean. In fact, it’s a hot fucking mess. (LANGUAGE VICTORIA)

So it looks like my last few weeks (OMG, like 14 days. . . .) will be spent taking care of all the little weird things that have to be taken care of.

Bun-Voyage Day-4, Part B and BEYOND

We made it!

That is the face that I was greeted with in baggage claim at Chicago O’Hare. That O’Hare, was O’FUCKING PISSED OFF. O’Hare. . . .Hahaha. I crack myself right up.

I have a shitty cold. And my plane ride was super bumpy, like the worst flight I’ve ever been on. Which doesn’t bother me all that much, but the whole time all I could picture was my teeny tiny little bunny in Cargo getting shaken around. I was imagining being handed a Bunny Frappacino by the time we got there. But luckily she was ok!!

Getting through customs in Chicago was a joke. They didn’t look at Baxter or her paperwork at all. They stapled a piece of paper to my boarding pass that said she had been cleared through the USDA (which she hadn’t?) and then sent us away. It was hilariously easy given the previous hoopla.

And now we’re safe and sound at my sister’s house!

I saw my Sushi dog last night. I thought she’d be soo excited she would act a fool, but instead she was mostly confused.

However by the end of the night, we were snuggle friends again.

I’m actually pretty confused by America which is so weird. I’m overstimulated by the language that I understand all around me and the people who look like me. There are so many choices at the store. And I have to put my own credit card in the reader. I’m pretty overwhelmed but happy we’re safe. In just a few short days, I’ll be back in the land of the rising sun, so briefly.

Bun-Voyage Day 4, Part A

I am officially through security and ALMOST on my plane. It still wasn’t super easy. . .

Last night I visited Baxter who was CRAZY mad at me.

She shed EVERYWHERE. The lady at her fancy hotel brought me a lint roller.

Then I checked into my. . . Less than fancy hotel. But it was a hoot!

That is the most informative potty poster I’ve ever seen.

The store downstairs sold Fanny Packs too!

This morning I was up at 2, then 4 and finally just GOT UP at 5 because I couldn’t sleep. I headed to the airport at 7, got my Starbucks, my luggage and then my bunny.

Baxter’s hotel had this cool poster!

We got to the check in counter at 7:30 for our 10:50 flight. I got all checked in and then we started Baxter’s process. They started asking me for Baxter’s Vaccination/Health Form. I gave them the forms from quarantine and she kept asking for the vaccination record. UH. She doesn’t have any. At that point she informed that she NEEDED this form. The form that NO ONE told me about, isn’t listed on any website as being needed, JAL didn’t ask me for and Animal Quarantine Services didn’t need.

CUE PANIC.

I started shaking, and sweating and crying. They got me a chair and I sat there in the middle of Narita airport crying and holding my rabbit. I shit you not.

An hour and many phone calls passed and then all of sudden they realized that Baxter was a RABBIT. Not a Cat. Not a Dog. A Rabbit. Which does not receive vaccines, and therefore does not have a vaccine report.

MUCH apologizing and “sumimasen” ing ensued. I cried more. Then I hugged the woman and thanked her over and over again while she looked weirded out for me having hugged her.

Then Baxter got suited up.

Then I took a selfie with her.

Then the lovely (yet still slightly terrified of me) woman took a picture of us.

And then we sealed her all up.

And now she’s off! My flight boards in 8 minutes and frankly I’m hoping to sleep a lot of the way! Please re-think all your good thoughts for my Bunny Asshole on her maiden Bun Voyage (and dear god, let this be the last time she flies!) .

Because of the date-time line or whatever the hell it’s called, I get into Chicago before I’ve even left Japan, so we’ll have another whole Friday!

Bun-voyage Day 3

Houston we have a problem.

Failure to launch.

Remember how I had it all together? Well, I don’t.

I woke up early this morning packed up all my stuff and got ready to head to the airport. As I’ve been doing for the past couple mornings, I touched my passport. Then I thought, I better double check it. So I opened it. And it’s not mine.

In my haste to get ready and get out the door for the quarantine issue, I just looked at the picture quickly in the passport.

It’s Rosie’s.

Turns out that funny, messy haired girl I saw was actually NOT ME and was my daughter.

Did I mention Narita is far away from fucking everything? There was no way to get my passport to me in time to get on my flight in 4 hours.

So I raced to the airport while madly texting Nathaniel. Nathaniel is a ROCK you guys. He didn’t yell at me. He didn’t freak out. I admit that I spent a moment shaking on the floor of my really weird Airbnb.

Then I pulled up my leggings and fixed it. I got to the airport and explained my plight that I wouldn’t make my flight. I also have a rabbit. Remember her?

Cue panic.

I’ll tell you what. JAL is amazing. My ticket was not changeable but the wonderful women who helped me (all 4 of them!) managed to get them to change me AND Baxter to tomorrow’s flight. They were very apologetic that in order to change my not changeable flight they had to charge me 5400¥. Which is like. . . $50. So. Yeah. I can handle that.

They had to call quarantine and have them check that my paperwork was still good for tomorrow. They had to call cargo and make sure that there was animal space for Baxter for tomorrow. And they had to rebook me.

And they did ALL OF THAT.

Baxter couldn’t stay in quarantine anymore because of space issues so I had to get her. I have to head back towards hone to meet Nathaniel to get my passport and come all the way back to Narita today somehow. And I really really didn’t want to take Baxter all over if I didn’t have to.

I went to the pet hotel and got her a room. So she has a place for tonight. I might be sleeping on a bench but that fucking rabbit in staying in the Narita Royal Pet hotel. I shit you not.

So. To recap.

This is the text I sent my sister at 9:30 am.

Rebooked. Baxter is checked in at the pet hotel. I have repacked my luggage and restored it for another night. I put my overnight bag in the locker. And now I’m going to try to figure out the train. Of course, I haven’t Peed or had coffee yet this morning.

My sister is also a fucking rockstar. She was driving to Chicago so she could pick me up on her tomorrow and I had to text her and tell her I had no idea what was going to happen. And she was calm. And she was dealing with a small emergency on her end too. And she she was lovely and gracious and she didn’t yell at me either.

So I’m currently working my way towards Nathaniel at work so I can get my passport, give him Rosie’s passport (cause I think we all agree I shouldn’t be in charge of anything important at this point) so I can turn around and head all the way back to Narita.

I will state right now that this is 100% my fault and I hate myself so much for causing so many people so many problems. So. Go easy on me. And maybe we can laugh about this in a year. But not

Yet.

Bun-Voyage Day 2

I called this morning and checked on Baxter because I’m a crazy person. The night sitter said everything was well with her so I took a train to Yokohama.

I was up at 5 am today because I couldn’t sleep so I was on a train by 8 and arrived right about 10. It was insanely windy and horrible out. Rainy and cold and seriously umbrellas flying away from people.

(If you don’t have WTForecast you’re missing out!)

But I got my Yokohama starbucks mug. I bought Isaac a long sleeved shirt at UNIQLO so I could layer it on me because I was cold and fricken freezing Batman. And I bought a second umbrella.

I saw the port.

And then I hit up the Cup of Noodles Museum!!! It was amazing!

And I got to make my own cup of noodles!

Then I took eleventy billion different trains and traipsed all over Yokohama and Tokyo and Narita in order to get to see this asshole.

The GREAT news is that she’s decided her box of doom isn’t all that bad and she might even find comfort in it.

Which is good because tomorrow she has a long flight ahead of her. I’m not the praying kind (although Shinto ism has made a mark on me) but if you could please send up good, calming, safe travel thoughts for Baxter I would really appreciate it.

I hit the Onsen for a while and then a massage chair and now I’m hitting the hay because tomorrow promises to be long.

Bun-Voyage Day 1

So for those of you following along, it came to my attention LAST NIGHT on Monday May 7 that there is an EXPORT requirement for Baxter. A requirement that needs her to spend 2 nights at the airport. In Tokyo. And our flight leaves at 10:50 on Thursday May 10.

So as I write this I’m sitting on the floor of the Narita airport.

So far this morning we’ve been in a taxi.

On a bullet train

On a bus.

me of us even rode on a luggage cart.

I have been lost in the bowels of the Narita airport for at least an hour. I had a map and still needed directions 3 times. I also pulled all of this out of my backpack on the bus.

Baxter has a 1 day, 2 night engagement here.

Which is actually really nice. And she was happy to get out of her little box of doom.

And then I had to go quarantine her hay. I shit you not. No one has any of this information the million times I talked to JAL or the vet. No one knew she had to be quarantined or her hay. It’s been a hot mess of a 15 hours.

Tomorrow I’ll come visit her and Thursday we’ll get on the plane! Wish us luck

GM and Grandpa Weekend 2

Sorry it’s taking me so long to get these up. We’ve been traveling the past week and our internet has been spotty at best. Plus, I’ve been trying to soak up as much Japan as I can in our last few weeks. (We’re down to 24 days!!!)

Our second weekend with GM and Grandpa we headed off to Takayama first. Takayama is known as the birth place of traditional wooden Japanese puppets. We went first to a really neat museum that has the largest collection of “Lion” heads from puppets (lions are actually dragons in my opinion) and also offers a show with all of the different types of puppets with admission. If you’re ever in the area I would HIGHLY recommend it. The puppets are called Karakuri and date back to the Edo period.

This show gives you a peek into all the different types of Karakuri including the type that paints (typically Kanji)

Rosie got one that had the kanji for “Happy” and Isaac got one that said “Mickey Mouse!”

There is also a doll that serves tea. Because, why wouldn’t there be

We did a little exploring in Takayama as well.

For lunch we found a vegetarian friendly restaurant run by a Swede. His speciality is Muesli. And like, he LOVES Muesli. Like . . . A LOT. There was Muesli and yogurt. Ok, not weird. The “dry curry with muesli” was a bit. . . Odd. And the quiche (which Isaac pronounced ‘Kweeshe'” also had Muesli. And so did my soup. It was all quite tasty, but we had a big laugh about all the Muesli later on. We never knew it could be so versatile! (And maybe we didn’t NEED to know that)

Our next stop was Shirakawa-go which is a traditional town with pointy roofs. It’s been on my bucket list for a while now and I’m really glad we could make it!

The town uses the water coming down the mountains from the melting snow to irrigate their rice patties and gardens. It’s pretty neat to see, and I love hearing the sound of running water. (Rosie wants me to stress that people live there)

Out last stop for the day was the Japan sea which was on Nathaniel’s bucket list. It’s not particularly easy to get to, but we made a beautiful coastal detour on our way to Hakuba for the night. We got a chance to put our hands in the sea and collect some rocks from the shore. It was lovely and I’m so glad we made it!

We overnighted in a lovely chalet in Hakuba because we LOVE Hakuba, but we were disappointed to find that in the off season, there is next to nothing to eat. WAH, WAHHHHHHHHH. But we woke up to a spectacular view.

Our first stop for the day was a Wasabi farm which I have wanted to see for a long time. Wasabi is grown in rocks and water, typically mountain side. It is also REALLY delicious when serves fresh and not nearly as spicy as the wasabi you find in a cream served in America.

The irrigation system (also using mostly mountain melted snow) is pretty complex but beautiful to see.

Look Mom! They make sandals in your size here!!

And check out this puppy who was on a photo shoot!

Our last stop was a hike in Kamikochi National Park.

It was absolutely lovely, however we had a very limited time here and had to rush for the bus. We were very glad to find a free “foot Onsen” (Hot bath) for our tootsies at the end!

That night we made landfall in Matsumoto where we were treated to a wonderful Indian dinner at a tiny little family run cafe. The family, kids included, were absolutely delightful and I wish we could head back there! We also took a quick peek at the castle lit up at night.

The next day we visited the castle and did a tour again, then checked out the gardens.

Our final stop on the grand tour was the old highway that lead from Tokyo to Nara WAAAAAAY back in the day. We took a moment to visit one of the old post towns. It was small and quaint.

I feel like for people who were here for 14 days, we really showed a LOT of Japan to Grandpa and GM. They saw CRAZY time Kyoto, and rural Japan and a lot of things in between. They were our last guests to leave us on this crazy adventure which is bittersweet. We have been SO blessed to have so many loving people make the trek to see us, and we’re so grateful to have been able to show them all how much we love Japan!

UPDATE

To the cage saga:

Baxter has an appropriate restraint now for her trip.

She hates it, and thusly me too. She pooped on the iPad as I was typing this.

Also, this cage is RIDICULOUSLY too small for an animal her size for any length of time, but it’s what is required by the airline. So please don’t judge me. Or poop on the iPad.

We also have discovered that I can sprinkle Sleepytime Extra tea leaves on her food to help keep her calm.

So, she’ll have tea, I’ll have wine, we’ll be golden.

I wonder if she gets a checked bag? Can she bring her allotted amount of alcohol? Can she shop duty free?