Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hello Okinawa!

Winter is prime surfing season the East China Sea. The waves were small but fast.
Nago Central Park is one of our favorite parks! It is a huge park that takes up much of the side of a hill/mountain in northern Okinawa. We have spent many hours climbing that rope climbing tube thing and sliding down the rollerslide.
One of the things that I thought I would see in mainland, but have not, is fresh tofu. In Okinawa at 10:00 and 14:00 (I think) they put out fresh tofu in the grocery stores... even tiny ones. You take this tofu home, drain it and eat it right away. It is very good!

Saw this "Magazine for Elder Boys" in a bookstore today. Hmmm. It was right next to the Playboys, but it wasn't what you might think reading the cover.
It's that time of year again... Daifuku!!! I love the strawberry in the mochi! The white one on the end was not filled with the regular anko. It was milk... in an anko like form. It was very yummy!

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Product Monday!

The newest Kit Kat flavor is out... Daigakuimo.
These have both chocolate and white chocolate so you can share with your sweetheart. 
Strawberry Oreo bars.  They used to sell these in mini bars, but I haven't seen them in a couple of years.
Sweet chili pepper Pringles.
Mushroom flavor Pringles.
Onion salt flavored Pringles.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Railway Museum, part II

Ahh, the Railway Museum in Saitama.  It doesn't matter if you are 4 or 94, this place is fun!!!
Above is the area they call the History Zone.  It is jam-packed with real trains.  There are old wooden trains all the way to bullet trains (Shinkansen).  You can walk through them, over them and even under them.
This train is cut open so you can see the guts, or take those stairs down and have a look under the train.

Along the wall of the second floor, above the History Zone, is a long display area.  There are also a few rooms filled with many collections of train travel history, mostly in Japanese.  There are plenty of hands-on experiments there as well, so even you cannot read Kanji, you'll have fun.
It is very common to see people asleep in the trains commuting to and from work, but this guy asleep in one of the display trains.
There are a couple of play areas exclusively for kids under the age of 3.  This one is the Kids' Space 1.  The kids on the floor are playing with model trains that run on plastic blue tracks.  There is also a small Shinkansen in the back there that they can climb all over.
There are several trains that you can go under.There are hands-on displays all throughout the museum.  This particular one was neat because it's the wheels and you control how fast they go.  If you don't understand how to do it (the directions are in Japanese), a worker is usually nearby and will happily help out.

There are Learning Halls on the third and fourth floor of the museum.  The halls are full of various experiments.  The one above allows you to raise the contacts to touch the wires above.
This guy is working the switchers on a model.  There is another one where you can control life-size switchers.

For 200-yen you can drive one of the miniature trains around a track outside stopping, or not, at three different stations. 
This is either dusk or sunset in the diorama.  The narrated show cycles through an entire day.

The above is my attempt at editing.  I was trying to show the different times of day.  The last time I was there they had benches set up up front for kids 3 and under.  It was very cute.  No matter what language the kids spoke, they all spoke train!  It wasn't as busy yesterday and we went to the 10:20 show.

You will know when it is noon at the Railway Museum.  They do a show featuring this steam locomotive that rotates in that circle.  The show begins with a the train whistle that can be heard throughout the museum.  If you miss that show, don't worry, it happens again at 15:00.

There are lockers when you first enter the building where you can store your stuff, including several big lockers that you may be able to store a stroller in. 

 You may want to hang on to your coats if you intend to do the miniature trains, the miniature Shinkansen, or if you want to eat in the Friendly Train.  All of those things are outside.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Railway Museum, part I.

The Railway Museum is one of our favorite places in Japan!  It's for everyone young and old.  It's late tonight, so I'll do the museum justice tomorrow.  Above is the Railway Model Diorama.  The narrated show they put on runs through a 24 hour period.  As the night falls, the lights dim and all of the lights on the trains and at the stations come on.
For 200-yen, you can drive your own miniature train around and stop at three different stops.  The last time we visited it had rained and these trains were not running.  I'm glad they were running today, it was fun!

More tomorrow!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Kinubariyama and one awesome view of Fuji!

Merry Christmas!
I didn't take my good camera with me on today's hike, but I should have.  It was kind of hazy today, but if it wasn't... oh the view!  This hiking course is called Kinubariyama.
This was taken with my little point and shoot camera.
There is a place on the main trail that has a sign in Katakana directing hikers to a panoramic view point.  In my opinion, it is well worth the extra hike!
In this area there are some caves as well, but those photos didn't turn out well.

That's Zushi down there.  If we had more time, there is a natural bridge up ahead.  I've done that part, but at the time, I didn't realize it was the same trail.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hiking in Kamakura

There are several scenic and well used hiking trails in Kamakura.  The one we did today began near the Kita (North) Kamakura Station.

This is the Jochiji Temple.  Follow the road to the left of the temple.  That road will eventually turn into stairs and then into the trail.
This sign marks the hiking course.  There are several of these numbered markers along the trail.
The trail is a lot of ups and downs with many, many roots protruding .

This particular directional sign is near Kita Kamakura, but there will be more of these along the way.

There are several places you can see sweeping panoramic views.  At Genjiyama Koen (park) you may be able to see Mt. Fuji.  It wasn't visible this day.

Not all of the trail is dirt.  There are some sections of paved or gravel road.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sasuke Inari Jinja

Down the road from Zeniarai Benten is a small Shrine named Sasuke Inari.  It had far fewer visitors than Zeniarai Benten did, but it was still quite beautiful.
I think this may be where the eleven-headed matchmaking deity is, but I cannot say for sure.  There were all of these fox-like ceramic figurines all over the hillside.  They even had their own little miniature shrines.

There are a set of gates leading up to the shrine.  Many of the Torii gates are rotting and it looked like they were adding new ones while we were there.
There are trails all over the place here.  We were near a major hiking course in Kamakura.  

Zeniarai Benten, the money-washing shrine.

This is a very neat shrine!  We visited the Zenirai Benten Shrine on Monday, mid-morning and it was surprisingly crowded.   
The shrine is about a 25 minute walk from Kamakura Station, and kind of out of the way.  When you leave the station on the Enoden gate side entrance, continue walking straight.  Make a right at the first intersection after the Starbucks.  Follow that road and you should see signs for Zeniarai Benten and Sasuke Inari Shrine.  We visited that shrine as well.  I will do a separate post on that.
These people are all at the money washing area inside the cave.   
The sign outside the entrance reads, "It is believed that if you spend the money that has been washed in the spring's water, it will increase many times and come back to you.  The spring is one of Kamakura's five famous water."
This is the entrance into the money washing area.  For 100-yen, you buy an incense stick, two candles and borrow a basket to use to wash your money.  That guy in the brown coat is at the place where you can light your incense and a candle.  You take the incense stick and stick it in the sand, wafting the smoke over yourself.  The candle you light and stick on one of the thorn-like things in that black area.

After doing the the incense, you enter the cave, put your money in your basket and ladle the spring water over your money.
It's hard to tell from my picture, but this was a beautiful little area right next to the money washing cave.  There is a small waterfall on the left and koi swimming around below the  bridge.
This area you may miss unless you look for it.  It is kind of behind the building where you get your temple book signed and stamped.

There is a lot to do and see in Kamakura.
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