Monday, August 24, 2015

A Picture a Week | 23/52

A few pictures from last week.
At the doctor....this was before three shots.
At Gymboree, we learned a couple of Hawaiian songs.

On the plane to Xi'an, China.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Japan: Miyajima Island

Our second day in Hiroshima we headed out to Miyajima Island. Well, it is actually called, Itsukushima, but it is also known as Miyajima which means the Shrine Island. Miyajima is about forty-five minutes outside of Hiroshima. There are a few options on getting to the Island (train, tram or boat) we went with the tram. Then we had a short ferry ride to the island.
Miyajima is most famous for the huge torii gate that appears to float on the water at high tide. I wish that we had timed our visit to see the full affect of this. The torii gate is part of the Itsukushima shrine, which is also built over the water.
This is the main shrine building at low tide.
After we walked through the Itsukushima shrine we walked around the island a little bit. We saw a few deer that live and roam free on the island. We also stopped at the Municipal Museum of History and Folklore of Miyajima. I couldn't take any pictures inside so I got a picture of the building. It was an interesting museum, though it would have been more interesting if I could read Japanese as there wasn't a lot of English.
History and Folklore Museum
There were a lot of deer, they didn't seem to be afraid of people and they were apparently hungry.
We had lunch and then headed back to the ferry. On our way back the tide was all the way out and we were able to walk out to and under the torii. It was neat to see if from that angle.
These are the biggest koi I have ever seen!!
We had a great time exploring Miyajima Island. We didn't take the gondola up to the top of Mount Misen which I wish we had done. But it started raining so it was probably a good time for us to head back to the hotel.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Japan: Hiroshima

After our busy weekend in Kyoto and Himeji, J, Baby O and I were headed to Hiroshima for a couple of nights. I truly enjoyed our time in Hiroshima. Our first day in Hiroshima was a very good day, but also very emotional for me. I felt uncomfortable taking a lot of pictures so I only have a couple from our day.
This month marks the 70 anniversary of the Atomic Bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. The above picture is of the 'Hiroshima prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall'. The A-bomb exploded approximately 600 meters above and 160 meters southeast of this building. It is now known as the A-bomb dome.

After seeing the dome we walked though Peace Memorial Park. The park is a memorial to the memories of the bomb's victims. There are monuments, museums and lecture halls that draw over a million visitors each year. As we were walking though the park a group of school children walked past and they were so excited to see us and say 'hello' and wave to Baby O. It was so sweet, but hard at the same time knowing the history of our location.
As we were walking up to the museum we came across the above group singing and holding paper cranes. Even though I couldn't understand what they were singing it was a beautiful moment to witness.

The last part of the memorial that we visited was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The English pamphlet gave this introduction to the museum: "The Peace Memorial Museum collects and displays belongings left by the victims, photos, and other materials that convey the horror of that event, supplemented by exhibits that describe Hiroshima before and after the bombing and others that present the current status of the nuclear age. Each of the items displayed embodies the grief, anger, or pain of real people. Having now recovered from the A-bomb calamity, Hiroshima's deepest wish is the elimination of all nuclear weapons and the realization of the genuinely peaceful international community" (found here). This was an intense and somber part of our visit. Many of items we saw were from children as there was a school near the center. I cried then and when I told friends about it and now. It was a humbling experience to say the least.

One last thing from our day in Hiroshima, our lunch, yum! We got okonomiyaki, which is a savory Japanese pancake. The Hiroshima style okonomiyaki has layers of batter, cabbage, pork belly, noodles and a little sauce on top. You can also get additional items, I added corn to mine. I really liked it, but Baby O and J weren't as excited. J said it had too much cabbage.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Japan: Steak & Himeji Castle

J's favorite part of my of our vacations is centered around the food. So while we were in Japan he had a couple of requests of food he wanted to eat while we were there. We both really enjoyed everything that we tried on this vacation. One thing he really wanted to get was a Kobe steak. When I told my brother this he immediately said we would be taking a trip to Steakland and I am glad that we did!

On our way to the train station.
Steakland is not a very big place, but it is very busy. We had to wait in line for about 45 minutes. Once it was our turn we were brought to our table which was a Teppanyaki station so we got to watch our meal being cooked. There were some sides and a couple of dipping sauces. I was so excited (and hungry) that I started eating before I took a picture, the one below is about halfway through, oops!
Delicious! Steakland is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
This guy didn't get steak
After lunch we headed to Himeji Castle. Unlike most of Japans castles Himeji was never destroyed by wars, earthquakes or fires. It has survived in its original form which makes it a national treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle was recently renovated over several years and re-opened fully to the public in March of this year. A fort was built on this site in the 14th century. Over time and with many different rulers the site gradually changed and enlarged to the complex that exists today. The castle, with wooden interior, was completed in 1609.
This is the only picture of all of us that we got and Baby O isn't even looking!

Japan: Temples & Shrines in Kyoto

At the end of June we headed to Osaka, Japan to visit my brother and his family. IT.WAS.SO.MUCH.FUN! I seriously had the best time, I loved Japan! Ok, now that I have that excitement out of the way I'll get on with telling you all about our trip. 

We spent our first full day in Kyoto. My brother, J, Baby O and I headed to Kyoto first since Cousin S had swim lessons. We visited Ryoan-ji and Kinkaku-ji before meeting up with my SIL and Cousin S for lunch.

Ryoan-ji is a Zen Temple. The Ryoan-ji garden is one of the best surviving examples of kare-sansui (dry landscape). This style of garden features larger rocks among smooth pebbles that are raked into linear patterns. Ryoan-ji is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The garden is a 248 square meter rectangle, that is thought to have been built in the late 15th century. The garden is meant to be viewed from a seated position on the veranda of monastery residence. There are fifteen stones all carefully placed so that only fourteen are visible at one time. It is said that 'only through enlightenment would one be able to view the fifteenth boulder'.
Kinkaku-ji is Zen Temple whose two top floors are covered in gold leaf. The temple was originally a retirement villa of shogun (a hereditary commander-in-chief in feudal Japan) Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Per Yoshimitsu's will his villa became a Zen temple after his death in 1408. Over the years this structure burned many times. Most recently, in 1950, a fanatic monk set it on fire. The current building as built in 1955.

Before lunch we saw the orange guy in the picture below. I think my SIL said that he is the mascot for a near by city. Baby O was very interested in him.
After lunch we went to Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirit Inari. Inari is believed to be the protector of rice and grain crops, there are approximately 40,000 Inari shrines in japan. The Fushimi-Inari Shrine in Kyoto has a 4km long corridor of gates or torii that make their way up the Inari Mountain. I loved taking pictures of the torii. I mean LOVED it! I took way too many, below are just a few so you aren't bored to tears!
The fox is Inari's messenger
The back of each torii had the name of the family or business who made a donation
And one last picture from this day of Baby O staying up late with Cousin S.

A Picture A Week | 22/52

Another picture from Gymboree. This week in music class we learned Caribbean music. I am unsure what wigs have to do with Caribbean music, but we were listening to it while we tried on brightly colored wigs. Baby O was not impressed with the wigs.
Just ignore his teacher holding his arms so he won't pull the wig off. :)
It wasn't better to have Mom in a wig too.

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Picture A Week | 21/52

Baby O recently discovered that he could push his doctors office toy (i.e. the toy below, which all doctors offices have). And  then earlier this week he figured out how to climb onto it. That was the easy part, the hard part was getting off! He spent about 10ish minutes going from standing to siting to stand again trying to figure out how to get off the toy. (This picture was taking about halfway through.) A couple of times he stood up and blabbed something at me, most likely he wanted help to get down. Since he wasn't upset I let him figure it out on his own, and he did without falling one time!