Our Travels to Kansai, Japan- Tennoji (Abeno, Mio, and Aloha A Hui Hou

Day 11 

Aloha A Hui Hou-Until We Meet Again

Before we headed to the station we stopped one last time at Tamare to buy snacks hoping to see the two Ojiji ( grandpas) that had greeted us in the mornings on our way out with “Ohaiyo” and on those evenings we came home before 9:00 they greeted us with “Okaerinasai” to say Sayonara and to get a picture with them. Unfortunately it was raining so the Ojiji were not there on their usual stools. ☹️ (taught me to not wait till the last minute to get a picture.)

Once again on the day we were to leave Japan it is raining. I commented to my husband “ Maybe my Japanese ancestors don’t want me to return home, so they are weeping in Heaven.”

Getting our snack we headed to Tennoji station to meet Chieko and spend a few hours together before we headed to the airport.

We decided to meet Chieko in front of the Miyako Hotel since the station is out side the B1 floor and there are lockers out side to the left of the entrance to the hotel. They had large lockers that could fit 2 of our bags, costing 1000 yen each.

Again we forgot to designate which entrance. Thankfully we were able to find each other quickly. Having found each other we headed to Mio-Tennoji, a multi level shopping mall. They were having an Okinawan Festival in the Plaza Building with items, and food from Okinawa. My husband heard the sound of someone playing a shamisen so we gravitated towards it. My husband started up a conversation with the person playing the shamisen, and he gave us a shot demo. This is one of the instruments he was looking for the day before in Shinsaibashi. After looking at the different instruments my husband did purchase a shamisen (he is a musician).

From here we walked over to the Main building and caught the elevator to the 10th floor to the restaurants.

While we waited to be seated our daughter asked to have her picture taken with the cute pink and white cow and pig display in front of another shop.

Before our main dish was brought they served us an interesting but delicious salad. It was  skinned tomatoe on a bed of shredded cabbage mixed with tuna and a French dressing over the top of the tomato.

Ihad the sea food bowl that came with bread. It was Oishii!

The view from the restaurant was cloudy and rainy.

Unfortunately I did not get the name of the restaurant. (Strike three! 😩)

After lunch we did some last minute shopping. (We still had some room in the carryons) with Chieko before parting at the station.

Caught the train to the Kansai airport ending our wonderful trip to Kansai.

Some Tips:

1. If you plan to travel ta multiple sights in one day, purchase the one day pass. Cost is 800yen on week days and 600 on weekends and holidays. Much easier then trying to figure out the cost of travel.

2.Carry a hand towel with you. Most bathrooms don’t have paper towels, having hand driers instead.

3. If you have lots of small coins and don’t know what to do with them. You can as offerings at one of the many shrines.

4. Have a budget for you as well as your kids. We gave our kids. 3000 yen per day for them to buy gifts for friends or things that they saw that they wanted. We paid for meals when we were together. If we (My husband and I) didn’t use all that was budgeted for one day we saved it for those times we went to the more costly places (Universal Studios Japan, Spa World, etc.)

5. Download the “Line” app. We used this app to communicate for free (call, text, and video calls) so we didn’t have to use our data. You can also make calls and texts to people in the States.

6. Check for free WiFi . Most big cities have free WiFi relieving you from having to carry a pocket WiFi or having to use the pocket WiFi (running the batteries) all the time.

7. Look for a Lawsons, Family Mart, Tamare, 7-Eleven, or Daiso near you. These stores are cheap to purchase food from, or gifts (Daiso, it’s the 100yen store and each one has different things).

8. Take pictures of everything (I learned that the hard way). This way when you are writing in your journal or telling friends about a place you ate at or went to, and you for got the name of it or the location, you’ll have a picture (write a short note too if it was really memorable).

9. Plan for more (I had packed our itinerary with lots of do with the ones that I really wanted to do at the top of the list). This way we didn’t need to think ok what do we do now. We a.so had our kids look up places they wanted to go to. This way we knew that they would be excited about going to the place they chose to go to.

10. Take a break. If you’re going to be there for a week or more don’t over do it. Take a half day break. It’s not going to be enjoyable with cranky, grumbling, tired people. Plus you can do your laundry too.

11. Respect the Culture. No matter where you travel in the worl respect the culture. We all would be much happier if we respected each other!

Have A Smiley 😃 Day!


Our Travels to Kansai, Japan- Nara, and Shinsaibashi

Day 10


With the trains and subways running again we headed to Nara to visit Kofukuji a World Heritage site and to meet some deer.

Now if you’re like me you’re thinking “Aw, deers are so cute! Like Bambi.” Wrong! There is another side to these deers! Buy a stack of deer crackers and the docile, cute, and cuddly deer become pushy, impatient biters! It was quite the eye opener! My husband also was curious as to why the deer didn’t bother the vendors who sold the deer crackers.

After feeding the deer we walked over to the Kofukuji Temple that was used by the Fujiwara clan during most of the Fujiwara and Heian periods. For a small fee (500 yen) you an go inside. (Note: no photos allowed of the inside).

To the right of Kofukuji temple stands the 5 stories pagoda, a National Treasure. (Note:no one allowed inside).

We were disappointed to learn that the Central Golden Hall was under reconstruction. It is scheduled to open again in October of 2018.

Next we followed our grandson to the Southern Octagonal Hall. We looked around and brought “omamori” (amulets from Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples that are for luck or protection). From here our grandson lead us down a flight of stone stairs to the street with a pond on the other side.

We gathered the gang together before walking down the street that was lined on both sides with shops, restaurants , and little shrines. We stopped for Ramen (I forgot to take a picture, Fire the photographer 🤪) The Service was fast and the food was Ono (delicious).

It began to rain so we headed back to the station and headed for Umeda to look for the “ Chacott” store where they sell dance shoes, costumes, and work out clothes. Unfortunately they didn’t have ballet shoes in our daughters size, but the clerk called the main store to check if they had the size we needed. She Indus that they did, and asked if we would like to go there. We asked where the story was and she said it was in Nishi Shinsaibashi. Awesome! We were heading there next!


Shinsaibashi reminded me of Harajuku (Takeshita street) and Ochanomizu Gakkitengai (Music street) rolled into one (both are in Tokyo).There were many music stores, the street lamps were art sculptured people, the clothing shops blasted rap, rock, reggae, and other types of music. With all the music stores my husband and son were like kids in a toy store!

Finally we found “Chacott” which is located in a five story building. The store is on the second floor. When we entered the attendant came straight up to us and said, “we have your shoes waiting for you.” Wow! Talk about service! Our daughter was in dancer heaven as she looked around the store. ( it was larger than the one in Umeda). They have dance classes on the upper floors and an art school. Since they had other shoes available, we also got he Jazz, and Tap shoes. (We don’t have stores like this on Hawaii Island), and it’s difficult to buy the correct size online. It was a win win situation! Happy girl!

On the way to the station we spotted the Statue of Library!

Final stop dinner back in Shinsekai.

Then we headed home to pack. I wasn’t looking forward to that 😩

Vacation almost over 🙁 I wasn’t ready to leave yet.


Our Travels to Kansai,Japan-Earthquake!

Day 9


While I was laying around checking the itinerary for the day the house befan to sway. The house is near the tracks so it swayed when a train passes by. However this time the swaying got more rocky and it began to bounce up and down. At this point we knew it was an earthquake and seconds later alerts went off on our phones throughout the house informing us that an earthquake was in progress. We didn’t panic due to being used to earthquakes having just left Volcano where we were having hundreds of little (M3+) quakes everyday since the lava began leaving the lava lake in Halema’um’u crater and bursting up in Leilani Estates at the end of May. We checked to make sure everyone one was alright (one of the kids were walking down the stairs when it happened). Minutes later we were receiving texts from Chieko, the owner of the rental and our kids checking to see if were okay and if we needed help. This put my mind at ease knowing we’d have help in case of an emergency. We reassured them that we were all okay. Later we learned that it was a M5.8 quake, 3 people were killed, others injured, fires broke out, and the rail systems were shut down.

No Rail Service 

The rail system were shut down when the quake hit and would not be running again until they had assessed the damage (if any) and repaired it. Since there were no trains or subways running we would be staying close to home. As we walked to the restaurant about a block away to eat breakfast (our son had eaten there days prior) we saw people walking along the tracks making their wavy to the station. Others were patiently waiting outside the entrances to the stations waiting for them to open. I heard one person ask the station attendant if they knew how long the trains would out of service. The station worker said he didn’t know, and another attendant put up a sign informing people of the closure. Some people left to catch a taxi or walk to the bus stop. Chieko was late for work, because she had to catch the bus. We were impressed with everyone’s patience. No one fussed, or grumbled (at least the people we passed), they just looked at their electronic devices, read a book, or talked with friends.

Ono (delicious) breakfast! And cheap!


To walk off breakfast we headed to a street over from the Radium Sento, near the base of Tsutenkaku Tower, to Tower Knives Osaka Hamono Kobo to purchase a sashimi knife for my husband’s friend. The owner speaks English well, and shows you how to sharp the knife is by having yslice a tomato, cautions you to be very carefully because the knife is really sharp, and shows you how to care for the knife. (Note: When we returned home my husband realized that he had gotten the wrong knife, he was supposed to get a left handed one. He contacted the owner via email and informed him of the mistake. The owner said he would gladly make the exchange. My husband sent the knife back, received an email a few days later saying the got the knife and had mailed out the correct one. The knife came and my husband gave it to his friend who was very happy, and said he was going to get a slab of Ahi and make some sashimi! My husband also got hair clippers ( for me), now I  an cut hair with ease!

She wasn’t impressed 😂

While waiting for my husband and son to make their purchases I took a cool picture of the sky. It’s it everyday you see a rain circle around the sun with a jet streaming through.

From here our group split in two groups. My husband and son went on an adventure to find a music store that was supposed to be nearby, and I took the kids to Don Quixote to buy gifts to take home. So much to choose, it made it hard to decide! My husband and son never did find the music store, but the found other interesting places, eating most of the time trying new things, some they liked and some they didn’t.

Lunch we went back to the sushi 🍣 restaurant and the guy remembered us from our previous visit, saying “Hawaii, you return, irrashai!” We didn’t get his name but we did get a picture with him in front of the restaurant! 😁 Before we left he said, “see you tomorrow Hawaii.”

Return to Spa World

Since the kids had expressed that they had wanted to go back to Spa World 🌎 and the trains and subway was not running we decided it was a good time to go back. This time we stayed longer in the water park area despite not being able to go on the big slides because they were close due to the earthquake ( someone was coming to inspect the slides for damage). We were able to leisurely enjoy the onsen having a short nap in the warm rest area. Sooo relaxing, it was hard to get up. Everyone (except me) finished with a fish pedicure. (I tried it at Oedo o se and couldn’t handle the tickling sensation of the fish nibbling on my feet).

This was followed by Ono Grindz (delicious food) at the restaurants in Spa World.

Fresh and clean with full stomachs, we headed home for a good nights rest.



Our Travels to Kansai, Japan-Happy Father’s Day in Umeda

Day 8

Happy Father’s Day to My husband and Son!

Umekita (North Nakanoshima Area)

Today we will be traveling to Umeda area to meet my pen friend of thirty years, Chieko and her family.  Chieko has come to visit my family in Hawaii twice. The first time we took her to Polynesian Cultural Center for the day. The second time we took her to dinner and up to Tantlus to see the Honolulu city lights. In 2014 we visited Tokyo and Chieko met us at the Tokyo Skytree. She was able to meet the rest of the family (they younger children weren’t born when she had come to Hawaii) and the grandson, and I got to meet her twin sister Mieko.

Lost in the Underground 

The Kita underground is a warren of criss crossing corridors lined with shops and restaurants that connect the JR Osaka (Osaka City Station), Hankyū Umeda Station, Hanshin Umeda Stations, as well as the Nishi-Umeda, Kitashinichi (JR TOzzie line), and Higashi-Umeda subway stations. So be sure you know which Umeda station you are headed to. We learned that the hard way. We were headed to the Pokémon Center that is located on the 13th floor of the Daimaru department store, in the South Gate Building of the Osaka Station City. Unfortunately we had gotten off at the wrong place. We got off at the Umeda Station and into the Huge Hankyū Department store. After looking at the map and finding no Pokémon Center we realized we were in the wrong place. I asked  store clerk for directions to the Pokémon Center. Walking above ground it was just as bustling with people as below, but it was easier to find your bearings above ground with all the tall buildings. As we headed to our destination we passed a restaurant where they were pounding rice into  mochi to be served in their dishes. Can’t get fresher than that!



Finally we made it to our destination, the Pokémon Center where Chieko waited for us.

Pokémon Center

After reintroducing my fMily to Chieko, they went to shop for their favorite Pokémon while Chieko talked about what we had done on the previous days. The Pokémon center is a big store with many (but not all) Pokémon. I was able to find a Clifairy keychain, and our grandson son found Eevee items. I was disappointed that they didn’t have Jigglypuff and our daughter was disappointed that they didn’t have Togopee. We were there for about 45 minutes before we had to leave for our lunch appointment.

Sky Dining ab 

From the Pokémon Center we made our way over to Hotel Granvia Osaka Building next to the Osaka Station to the Sky Dining ab restaurant where  Chieko’s family waited. After being shown to our table we introduced our families to each other. I was over come with happy tears as Chieko introduced her family, it was a thirty wait to do all meet them, especially her husband who loves to go fishing but doesn’t like to eat fish. I found that funny, but then my husband cooks squid luau and doesn’t eat it. Chieko’s eldest daughter and her son sat with Chieko, her husband, my husband and I (the eldest sits with the parents). We were able to spend a hour and a half (you have a 1 1/2 hour time limit) talking while we enjoyed he delicious buffet. We especially liked the steak station, and desserts 🍨.


After our deliciously filling meal we walked (about 5 minutes) to the HEP FIVE shopping mall that has 8 floors of stores (2 basement, 6 floors) and the 7th floor is where the food and restaurants are, and the Ferris Wheel terminal. Floors 8 & 8a are the amusement floors. We were headed to the Ferris wheel that is situated in the center of the building and rises above it to give you a view of the surrounding areas. Chieko’s family joined us having not been on a Ferris wheel before.

After our ride we bade farewell to Chieko’s children and grand children who were leaving for home. Next to the Ferris wheel is an area where you can have an animated portrait of you drawn by different artist in different styles. You choose which style you like and se if the artist is available. If they are with someone else they will give you a slip of paper with a time to return.

*Note: The sessions are about an hour long.

Umeda Sky Building & Floating Garden Observatory

From HEP FIVE we walked with Chieko and her husband to the Umed Sky Building. (A 20 minute walk). Looking up you are amazed by the impressive feat of engineering that keeps the structure from crumbling during an earthquake! Yeah, not something to think about before going up.

The part that made me a little nervous was going up on the glass escalator, there’s nothing below you. Yeah, something else not to think about when way up in the Sky.

At the top below the Floating Garden Observatory (I don’t know why they call it a Garden, there wasn’t any up top) there are chairs to sit and relax and wait for the sunset (if you’re inclined too) in ac. You pay a separate fee to go up top. It’s one of the safer places, they have a glass railing all around the top set at least 12 feet from the edge of the building. Nice view of the area around the building that is set apart from the other high rises.

You can see Osaka Castle (center)

HEP FIVE in th distance

Chieko’s picture of my husband and I at the top (escalator in the foreground)

Minoaka! Smile!

From the Sky Building we headed backwards to the Umeda Station where we parted company with Chieko and her husband.

Another day filled with wonderful memories shared with family and friends!

Our Travels to Kansai, Japan-Ebisu Bashi-Suji, and Dotonbori

Day 7

Check Before You Meet

Today we were going to the Osaka Castle area and we were to meet up with two more of our hanai kids who participated in the WAVOC program, Risa, and Mayu who wanted to introduce us to her mom. Risa would be traveling from Tokyo to meet us and Mayu and her mom were spending the weekend in Osaka on a sightseeing trip. We agreed to meet at the entrance to the Osaka Castle grounds. What we didn’t realize (because we all hadn’t been there before) was there were four different gate entrances to the grounds, and we arrived at three different gates. Which made for difficulty in finding each other as we sent texts (via Line) of our whereabouts.

The Grounds

We entered from the Ote Gates the walls were immense, made by stacking huge stones together even the moat surrounding the castle was built from these massive stones. It had us thinking of the ingenuity it took to build such a place (It made me think of the impressiveness of the Pyramids too).


The wooden gates were held in place by huge hinges!

We made our way to the front of the Osaka Shudokan where you could hear the loud kiai of the students training in kendo, followed by the loud whacking sounds as the kendo bokken made contact. Here is where we waited for Mayu and her mom to arrive. We were able to spend only a brief 30 minutes with Mayu and her mom due to them having time constraints (they had to meet their tour group in 90 minutes to return to Tokyo). They went on ahead of us to tour the Osaka Castle while we waited for Risa to arrive.

Risa arrived ten minutes later. It was a tearful happy reunion!

As we made our way to tour the Osaka Castle we got a text From Mayu informing us that there were a lot of stairs inside the castle.

Osaka Castle

There are indeed a lot of stairs in the castle. However there are elevators to take the elderly, those with strollers or those who aren’t able to climb stairs up to the variously levels. It was an amazing feeling being in a place where history took place! To be able to lookout over the landscape and wonder what must’ve been going through the minds of those watching the battles rage below. I also wondered if any of my ancestors were ever there in that place as history unfolded? It gave me “chicken skin” (goose bumps). The feeling was similar to walking the halls of the Iolani Palace or the group of the sacred Heiau. You can just feel “the Mana!” (Power/Presence).

As you descend from the top floor you stop on the floors below (*Note: no stopping on the way up, when you come down you can stop on the different floors) to view the many displays of the time period, and read about the history. On the bottom floor there is a theatre. They have the big main screen showing the history of the castle, and on the sides there are smaller screens with subtitles in different languages. There is also a place to take pictures wearing armor.

Back outside we took pictures with the “Jamurai” (as our kids named the elderly janitors in Samurai costume), and a ninja!

I would have liked liked to look around more but the natives were getting hungry. It was time to go, but here are a couple more pictures.

Ebisubashi-Suji & Doronbori

Risa took us to Ebisubashi-Suji to have lunch, I forgot to take a picture of the sign 😕 but the food was onolicious (delicious in Hawaiian), and cheap too!

During lunch our Yuuki contacted us (knowing we were going to be in the Osaka Castle area) and asked where we were because she was in Dotonbori at Starbucks near the Glico man. We made plans to meet up after lunch.

It was a short 8 minute walk to Dotonbori to meet Yuuki. Of Course we had to get a picture in front of the Glico man! And a cute crab character!

Next we headed to Don Quixote store to ride the Ferris Wheel. (about a 2-5 minute walk). Looking down we saw people setting up a stage for a performance.


The perfomance was a Michael Jackson fan club (the orange ribbon) with members (about 100) from all over the world that dance and sing to his music to bring about the “stopping of child abuse.” They were great! This one guy looked, danced, and sounded like Michael Jackson! Amazing!

Dotonbori is busy with people even during the daytime! We spotted a cafe with a Hawai’i name. They love ❤ Hawaii!

Taking the lead (as if he knew where we were going) our grandson took the lead holding up Risa’s umbrella (remembering Sari’s example from the day before) to keep us together as we’re headed to the station where we would be parting with Risa (who neede to head back to Tokyo) and Yuuki (who had  meeting).

Radium Bathhouse 

We returned to the house to drop off our things then my husband son and I walked to the Radium bathhouse in Shinsekai near the Tsutenkaku Tower (10-15 minute walk) When you enter there is a life size baby giraffe in the foyer. We found this place because we were looking for an onsen that allowed people with tattoos. Our son wasn’t able to experience an onsen due to his tattoo. This is not a fancy onsen, but a community bathhouse where the locals go. Everything is in Japanese. You take your shoes off and put them in a locker before going to buy a ticket from the vending machine. Thankfully an Obabasan (granny) helped us (speaking Japanese) to know what the different prices included. The most expensive was 490 yen for the men and it included a towel, a bar of soap (1/2 the size of a hotel bar), a bottle of shampoo and a disposable razor. They ladies price was 480 yen (we don’t get a razor). Ladies enter on the right and guys on the left. You bathe and enjoy the little onsen (2 different ones), a sauna, cold plunge, mineral bath, and outdoor onsen. It was a fabulous quiet moment to relax tired muscles!

A great way to end another memorable day with family and friends!



Our Travels to Kansai, Japan-Kyoto International Manga Museum, Ramen University, and Fushimi Inari

Day 6

Breakfast Guest

Our morning started off with breakfast at home. Our hanai girls Sari and Hikari were coming to join us. Sari was traveling from Tokyo, and Hikari was coming from the southern part of Osaka. They were both participants in the WAVOC program too. Hikari stayed with us and Sari and her husband came for an over night stay with us during their honeymoon a year ago. We also had dinner with Sari and Ken when they came to Hawaii in May for a vacation. Today Sari and Hikari would be joining us on our Travels to Kyoto.

Every Little Space

As we rode the train to Kyoto this time I took pictures of the rice paddies. They have them in the most unusual places (I’m not used to seeing them between apartment buildings or in the middle of a town). It amazes me how they utilize space.

A Positive Attitude 

As we were making our way to the Kyoto International Manga Museum, Sari was the target of a well aimed bomb that landed on her calf from a passing bird. We were amazed at this happening because we were all under umbrella because it was drizzling. Sari didn’t go into hysterics but just wiped it as best as she could with a wet wipe and said that it was good luck. I guess it’s the same as someone stepping in dog poop in America. I could never understand the logic behind that saying. (she cleaned off better at KIMM).

Kyoto International Manga Museum 

Upon entering you purchase your entrance ticket from a vending machine. When you give the person behind the reception desk your ticket they ask you how you heard of their establishment. I learned about it when I did a search for Anime/Manga places to visit. Our two eldest children and I enjoy reading manga and watching anime. We were enthralled by the many floors of Manga (most are in Japanese, but they have a space just pass the gift shop with manga published in other languages). The museum is a former school. We roamed the halls and rooms reading about the history of manga, the different types of anime, and the artist and authors of the manga, the chronological order of when they were published.

and looking to see if they had any of the manga that we had read among the thousands of books. I was thrilled to find “Candy Candy” from my childhood.

*Note: Photos prohibited in most of the museum. There are signs that say “photos okay in this area.”

In the magazine area I looked through the many caricature drawings of actors, singers, and sports stars from the past to the present. They had one of my new favorite actors Sasaki Ryotaro, who stars in this years “Taiga” drama “Segadon.”

Also in this area were cutouts that you could take a picture with.

I could have spent the whole day at the museum but we had another appointment to get to.

Taxi Ride 

Sari and Hikari were helpful in getting us to our next destination on time. We had planned to catch the subway thinking when we were planning that it would only be a short distance. Wrong! It was a 45 minute travel time by rail, and we would’ve missed our appointment. Sari and Hikari advised us to take a taxi (20 minutes). We wouldn’t have attempted this on our own, but with them there to help us, we boarded the 3 separate taxis and headed to our destination. It was a bit nerve racking at first because they drive on the opposite side of the street and they squeezed themselves between traffic zipping in and out. Once you reach your destination you pay the fare and receive your change, there is NO tipping in Japan, so even if you tell them to keep the change they won’t, they will politely, but firmly refuse.

Ramen Factory Kyoto

It’s a bit out of the way of the main stream tourist places but worth it for a hands on experience. My husband found this place while looking for places to eat in Kyoto. Our appointment was at 1:30, we arrived 5 minutes early, but Wei and Michiyo were ready for us and welcomed us into the restaurant.

*Note: the classes are held during the slow time of the day. The  restaurant remains open for business while the class is going on.

Wei and Michiyo were great, they both spoke fairly good English to give us instructions, and had the instructions written out in English on a flip chart too with pictures. Our course cost $30 per person and lasted about an hour, and you get to keep the head scarfs.

After washing up we mixed the ingredients.

pounded out the dough, rolled out the dough to put it through a machine to make it flatter.

Then put it through the machine again (opposite side) to cut the dough in to ramen, then put it in a wire basket to put it into the boiling water for exactly 55 seconds. While we waited we were able to chose our bowls and given our soup stock (choice of miso, shoyu, shio-salt, or vegetable for those who are vegetarians).

Once the ramen noodles are done you quickly place them in your broth, and dress it with garnish. Itadakimasu! (I will partake of this food). Ahhhh, so Ono! (delicious).

Sari and Hikari who were watching and taking pictures for us, joined us for a delicious lunch! When you are done eating you receive your certificates! Great hands on experience!

Kindness of a Stranger 

From here Sari suggested that we head to Fushimi Inari since it was near by. On the walk to the subway station it began to rain, my husband opened the umbrella for us. A kind lady seeing us sharing the umbrella stopped us and offered me her umbrella. I politely declined after thanking her for her kindness. She insisted saying that our umbrella was too small for two people to share, and put her umbrella in my hand, then told me it was okay as she pulled out another umbrella from her bag. I thanked her for her kindness with a waist bow.

Fushimi Inari

Outside of the station there is a stall that sells unagi (eel) inari zushi. Our daughter brought one to try. I love unagi, but was too full to try one. She liked it.

The street leading up to the main shrine is lined on both sides with vendor stalls selling food, and souvenirs.

As we hiked up the Torii lined path our grandson asked, “why are the torii gates different sizes and what are the writings on them.” We informed him that the size depends on the amount of your donation, the bigger your donation the bigger your torii gate. The writings on the gates are of the individual, families or business that donated the money.

As you make your way up the mountain side there are rest points with shops, to purchase drinks, snacks and souvenirs. My husband and grandson had gone on ahead of me (we were the only 3 to hike up the mountain), it began to rain so I stopped at the little shop to wait for them to come back down enjoying the quiet, and beauty of nature .

They had gone to the last rest stop area before the loop trail started and looked out over the city. There were two restaurants up there too. They decided not to go on the lop trail due to the rain. As we made our way down my husband was curious to know how they got the supplies up the mountain because most of the shop owners were elderly. I told him that there’s a road. (I saw it as I took my time walking up taking pictures as I went. I took more pictures coming down.

Back down the we walked around the many stalls and shopped as well as snacked. I tried a green colored dango 🍡. The seller said it was made with an herbal grass, the reason for its green color. The seller asked if I wanted the miso sauce on it. I wasn’t sure, so she just put it on the top one and said if I liked it I could go back and put more on. The miso sauce was okay, but I preferred it without.


From Fushimi Inari (another place I could have stayed all day at), we headed home to Osaka. Sari used her umbrella to keep us from getting lost in the busy stations, just like the tour guides with their flags.

When we stopped to change trains we noticed Sari and Hikari looking around and thought they were unsure of where to go, but then they pointed and Surprise! It was Michi (Mitsuya, another of our WAVOC students). He was in Osaka on business and was heading back to Tokyo and wanted to see us, even for just a bit. (It’s ironic that we met Michi in Osaka this time, because on our previous visit to Tokyo he was working in Osaka and came to Tokyo to see us). We spent the time on the train ride catching up.

The 2 Michi’s together again! (Michiko & Mitsuya)

We all got on the train together, and headed home. Sari, Hikari, and Michi Walled us back to our home, and waited till we were all inside (after we took a last picture) and the door closed, before leaving.

What a wonderfully memorable day, with an unexpected happy surprise!

Our Travels to Kansai, Japan-Universal Studios Japan

Day 5

It’s day five, we’ve done so much walking my socks have holes in them. No worries though, that just means I need to shop for more, and they have so many cute socks here!


Today is a break from the cultural sites. When we travel we like to include culture, historical, and fun places to visit and have the kids look up places that they would like to go, that way we all have a chance to do, go, or see something that we are interested in.

Going to Universal Studios Japan was one of the places that we all agreed that we wanted to visit. Some wanted to go for the roller coasters, others wanted to go to Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWHP), others wanted to go to the shows only available in Japan (SailorMoon, Conon the Detective, and Final Fantasy).

We brought our tickets online from Klook and printed it out before we left for our trip. This way you don’t have to wait in the long line to purchase tickets.


Before we entered the park we were reunited with our hanai (Hawaiian for adopting someone into your family) girl Yuuki. Yuuki had participated in the WAVOC program at VSAS where our daughters attended school, and we were one of the host families. She didn’t stay with us but we became close during the multiple times she was part of the program. We were happy that she was able to spend the day with us, especially our youngest daughter who was the closest to Yuuki. We thanked her for coming so far to be with us (1 1/2 hours by train from Kyoto).

As you walk along the sidewalk in the Hollywood area look down to see the stars with names of the actors. My husband found his star 😁

And I found one of my favorites

A Bit of Magic

Our first stop was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The first thing everyone wanted to get were the wands, and butter beer 🍺. I wanted to try butter beer because I heard from multiple people that it tasted ono (Hawaiian for delicious). It didn’t disappoint, it was indeed ono, especially the chilled version. It tastes like a root beer float with a hint of caramel.

Yeah, No it doesn’t get you drunk. Hyper maybe but not drunk.

While the kids went in search of their wands my husband and I watched the “Wizard Studies” show. It was done in both Japanese and English so that more people could enjoy the performance. They also engaged the audience by asking for help in casting spells.

Once everyone had purchased their wands the others went their way while we spent 2 hours with our grandson going to the different locations to cast spells with his new wand. Some of the places were a bit hard to find due to it being away from the main thoroughfare. Just look for the helpers in costume (they all have the same costume).


Our grandson was determined to find all 8 places to cast spells, we did find them making him very happy.

*Note, in order for you to be able to cast the spells you need to buy the wands with the special tips. Also if you’re wanting to buy the wardrobe be prepared to spend at least $300.00. The robe alone is $110.00.

We left WWHP and our grandson went off with his dad to go to the Spider-Man show while my husband and I cruised the park. We mostly watched the shows, Terminator 3-D (my husband wanted to see it since he didn’t when we went to CA (in 2008) having gone to the Blues Brothers instead),  Universal Monsters Live Rock, that was a lot of fun and the performers were great singers and dancers. The last show we saw was Pretty Guardian SailorMoon 4-D. (Only at USJ for a limited time).

*Note, both Terminator and SailorMoon are in Japanese. Also the seats move, may not be good if you have lower back pain. Might be scary for young children.

Time To Eat

My husband and I had a difficult time deciding on where to eat. There are many eateries with different menus in the park. We finally decided on Studio Stars restaurant. I had seen a couple tables with items (tissue package, little stuffed toy) on them and thought some one had forgotten them so I was about to sit and wait for my husband, but each time (2 times) the owner of the items came to say that it was their things and they were saving the table. Amazing! No, one bothered their things (except me not knowing the etiquette) to reserve their table without fear of someone coming along to take their place or things! I’m glad I learned that lesson and hope it never changes! We had a delicious leisurely lunch before heading out to explore the rest of the park.


*Note, This day was not crazy busy (school in Japan wasn’t out for the summer yet), so we didn’t need a time stamp to enter WWHP, and the longest wait the kids had for a ride was 80 minutes.

Another Reunion 

We were going to stay for the night parade but found out that it would be later in the evening (8:00), and we were to meet another of our hanai kids for dinner. Shuhei came after work to meet us.

We decided to have dinner at Hard Rock Cafe on the second floor of Universal City Walk.

It just so happened that night was the birthday anniversary of the opening of the first Hard Rock Cafe in London. There was a cake 🎂 and little cakes in the shape of burgers.

They had everyone sing Happy Birthday, the Beatles version, followed by a rock mix dance party (about 15 minutes) that was a fun way to kill time while waiting  for our dinner. Ono food and catching up with good friend made for another memorable day!

Mahalo nut Yuuki and Shuhei for spending time with us!
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By Brandon Sanderson

Pages: 555

Genre: Fantasy

This is Brandon Sanderson’s first novel that was originally published in 2005, I have the 10th anniversary edition that has 10,000 words of bonus content.

In this story Princess Sarene travels to the city of Arelon to wed her husband to be only to learn upon her arrival that the Prince has died. No one will speak of the Prince’s death, including his parents. Due to a clause in the marriage contract she is now a widow to the deceased Prince. As she becomes adjusted to her new home she discovers that not all is well in the place, and she sets out to find out what really happened to the Prince with help from his close friends.

The once handsome Prince Raoden has been thrust into the once beautifully majestic city of Elantris where the people and the city glowed with an inner light that could heal, but now the city has become the home of the outcast that have been infected with a disfiguring disease. They are locked away and shunned, placed in the city of grime, pain, and sorrow. Prince Raoden is determined to return Elantris to its former beauty and give the people a reason to hope for a better life as he tries to unlock the secrets to why the city’s magic disappeared.

To further complicate things is the arrival of the warrior priest Hrathen who has been sent to Arelon to convert the people to worship Jaddeth. His plans go wrong due to the interference of his oldiv Dilaf. As the story continues you see the subtle changes that happen to Hrathen.

I enjoyed reading this book. It has a strong, witty, and self-reliant Princess. The Prince despite having a tyrannical father is a good person who the people love having learned from good role models. In Hrathen we see the conflict in doing what he has been instructed to do verses what he feels is the right thing to do. At times Hrathen’s conflicts will make want to punch him in the face, while at other times you want to cheer for him. There are plot twists that keep you guessing and almost distract you from the appearance of Hoid. (If you are new to Brandon Sanderson novels, Hoid is a reoccurring character). Hopefully you will read this novel first to help you transition to the other novels.

Happy Reading! 😁


Our Travel to Kansai, Japan-Railways, Arashiyama, and Toei Kyoto Studio Park

Day 4

Happy 50+ Birthday to Me!

Rail System

Having been shown how to use the rail system during our previous trip to Tokyo and getting reacquainted with its use in Osaka we were confident that we could get ourselves to Arashiyama in Kyoto. We did make it to our destination, but discovered that we didn’t pay the correct price for the tickets. Not a problem, the station (and others) have ticket correction machines. (for those stations without this machine you go to the attendants in the booth and pay them the difference to get through). You put your ticket into the machine (one at a time), it shows you the balance due, you put in the amount and it issues you a new ticket. (If your ticket isn’t correct the flippers will swing open to prevent you from leaving). If you lose your ticket along the way (like our daughter did twice) and are with a group of people most of the attendants will wave you through, someone in the group needs to see the attendants to let them know the situation. Most attendants speak basic English and can help you with most problems (which platform to use, what line to take, directions to a different line, etc..) When you’re on the train/subway most announced the next stop in Japanese and English and one line even did the announcements in Chinese and Korean. The trains/subways are almost always on time. The longest delay we had was 6 minutes.


Togetsukyo Bridge

We arrived at Arashiyama Station and walked straight up the road about five minutes and arrived at the banks of the Katsura river over which the Togetsukyo spans. This is one of the places I wanted to visit on my birthday because I’ve seen it in many Jdrama and movies growing up till now. The rest of my family just thought it was a nice place to visit but for me it was being in a place where my childhood  with those characters from the samurai  chanbara, and ninja shows were filmed.

You can’t tell by the picture but the place was crowded with tourists and school (multiple) students on field trip. You also saw many people in lovely kimono.

Before crossing the bridge we stopped  for ice cream, it was 10:00 and already getting hot. We tried the Sakura and Sweet Potatoe swirl. It was interesting.

Walking over the bridge only to discover that the place we were looking for was back on the other side made us realize we had the map the wrong way.

Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama

Since our  youngest daughter wanted to see monkeys and it was close to the Togetsukyo, we added this to our trip. Back on the other side of the bridge ( if you come from the Arashiyama Station take the road to the left of the station and you will come to the steps up to the entrance of the monkey park).

It’s a bit of a hike. Before you enter they tell you to put any plastic bags that you are carrying into your backpack, if you don’t have one they let you use one of their cloth bags, this is because the monkeys will think you have food and try to steal it from you. The hike took me 30 minutes, but if you’re younger, in better shape or a hiker it will take you 20 minutes to reach the top. Thankfully there are benches at intervals along the trail to sit for a spell to catch your breath. Just before the scenic lookout and feeding area there is a park/rest area where the kids can play. Our grandson enjoyed playing at the park more than seeing the monkeys.

At the top the view is lovely! It’s worth the climb!

Up here The monkeys congregated around the wooden structure where the humans go in to feed the monkeys, it’s a reversal, the humans are in the cage. We even got to see mommy monkeys with their little babies.

There was a tense moment for our son and grandson who had gone down befor us. They were unable to continue down the hill for about 5 minutes because a huge male monkey had sat in the trail ahead of them eating from a stole chip bag. Once the monkey moved away they continued down with no trouble.

Leaving the Monkey Park we went back over the bride to the town to have lunch, one interesting item they have is a gold leaf vanilla ice cream (1000 yen). Our daughter’s boyfriend got one. He said it tastes like a normal vanilla ice cream with a metallic hint.

Toei Kyoto Studio Park 

From the town we walked to the Saga-Arashiyama station (about 10-15 minutes walk) to catch the train e Toei Kyoto Studio Park.

We entered from the back gate, as you walk towards the main area there are paintings of famous characters/actors (Satomi Kotaro, Toshiro Mifune, etc.) followed by cut outs of different Samurai/ ninja characters.

It was so cool seeing the characters from my childhood, Yagyu Jubei, Hattori Hanzo, and others!

I went with 3 of our kids and grandson to the ninja training hall. They give you an inflatable shirt sword and help you through the obstacle course. I did terribly, I set off the wooden alarms on the ropes, climbing through (my phone in my back pocket got snagged on the ropes), and popped my short sword as I crawled on my back stabbing through the wholes they indicated, which made me unable to protect myself from the bubble attack. At the end everyone got a card certifying that we completed the course. My kids said, they gave me one too because they felt sorry for me because I made a poor ninja. 🤪

Next my husband and I went into the ninja maze. In this one you are taught the many ways the ninja sneaks through places via hidden doors, hidden ladders, etc.. Before they let you into the maze they tell you “if you can’t figure it out wave your hands at one of the cameras and someone will come and help you. This one was a little more difficult, but fun. This one doesn’t give you a card for completing the course.

We watched various shows at the different theatres, one was on the use of oil from a frog that they used to prevent a sword from cutting, and being sliced (not chopped) by a sword when rubbed on the body. Another was how they make the different affects in the movies/dramas. Quite interesting. I loved the posters on the walls of one of the theatre of my favorites, Chiba (Sonny) Shin’nichi, and Sanada Hiroyuki.

The Samurai  Village area was mostly  closed due to them filming. Our son got a glimpse of the actor who plays Mito Komon, as he waited for his scene, and the director in another house with the crew watching the scene that was being shot.

Our final destination in the park was the Anime museum.


They had action figures and more. I would have liked to see everything without rushing, but the park was closing (5:00 p.m.). It was cool seeing the life size, and huge Kamen Riders!

It was a great birthday 🎂!

* Note, everything is in Japanese. Some of the staff speak minimal English, but the attractions and shows are all in Japanese.

Our Travel to Kansai, Japan-Osaka Zoo, Keitakuen, Shinsekai, and Tsutenkaku Tower

Day 3

We had breakfast at home again, and I realized that I need to study up on reading Japanese Kanji because I couldn’t read the instructions on the bag. Thankfully I had posted my delima on Facebook and one of our hanai kids translated the instructions for us (after we already made the pancakes.) The only thing we got wrong was we were supposed to use milk in place of water.

Shooting Gallery & the “Angry Chef”

We didn’t need to catch any trains or subways today, but we still did a lot of walking. From our house we walked Across the street from Dobutsuenmae to the covered mall towards Osaka Zoo (the Zoo closes on Monday). We stopped at a shooting gallery because the kids wanted to try their luck at winning some prizes. It costs 500 yen for 10 shots (using a cork gun). I said to the kids, “You can go to the store to buy these snacks for 100 yen.” Our grandson’s reply was, “yeah, but Ma’mah this is more fun then just going to the store.” So we let them spend some time having fun shooting for their prizes. It wasn’t easy, since those guns aren’t the greatest, but they managed to hit a prize 1 out of 4 times. Before we got there the place was empty, but a crowd gathered to watch the kids and after we left more people took our place. I guess we drummed up some business  for them.

Moving on we made another stop so that my husband could take a picture with the “Angry Chef” (as he calls the statue in front of the Kushikatsu stand). He’d seen a picture of the statue on websites when he was looking for places to eat in Osaka, and said if we find on he wants a picture, he got his picture. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to eat at this restaurant.

Osaka Zoo in Tennoji 

At first when we stood outside the zoo I thought it was a little one, but when we got inside we discovered that it was bigger. I found it funny that they had pheasants that run wild here in Volcano, Hawaii on display.

And another bird that looked like the Skeksis from the movie “The Dark Crystal.”

Our oldest daughter wanted to see the Red Panda, and was so happy that they were out (you know how you go to some zoos and the animals are hiding or in their cages in the back of the pens and you can’t see them).

There was no shortage of food vendors in the zoo, our daughter got a cute curry rice plate. The rice was molded into an otter placed in a sea of curry! After enjoying the cuteness of her dish she finally ate it and said it tasted good.

We spent a leisurely 2 hours walking around looking at the animals.

Keitakuen Garden

We left the zoo to join the others who had gone to the Osaka Museum of Fine Arts via a side exit that leads straight up to the museum. Unfortunately part of the museum was closed for renovations. We decided not to go, instead we decided to go to the Keitakuen garden that is to the side (entrance) and behind the museum. It costs 150 yen to enter. It’s a beautiful and tranquil place to sit and ponder and/or take pictures.

I would have liked to stay longer and photograph my family, but they were not cooperative due to hunger, so we left in search of nourishment.

Lunch Split

We walked back to the Shinsekai area for lunch. Since we all couldn’t decide on a single place to eat that provided food for everyone’s taste, we decided to split up into three different groups. My group (our grandson, two youngest and myself) wanted sushi and seafood. We found it in abundance at the restaurant we went too, and our daughters tried the crab and clam (big and little) dishes that I ordered ( bad idea, they ate a lot of it). It was totemo oishii (very delicious). The little clams (about 40) came in a sake, butter broth, yummy! The sushi 🍣 was fresh and ono (delicious)!

Tsutenkaku Tower

After our meal we met up with the others and did some shopping before heading to Tsutenkaku Tower. You go down into the basement where there is a gift shop, and a monkey show (a young lady has a trained monkey doing tricks) that you can watch. After purchasing your ticket you are taken up to the observation deck, where you can have your picture taken and they have games for the little/younger kids to play (our teens played it too). Even if you don’t win you get a consolation prize. From there you can go up to the open air platform. This time we were looking down upon SpaWorld, it was a nice view. There is also a zen garden that you can go into to sit and relax, and a small museum with displays of the history of the tower. At this Tower you can find all different flavors of Pocky, and the original  chicken ramen.

After Tsutenkaku Tower we did more shopping in the Osaka Shinsekai area. Later we had dinner at a ramen restaurant that our son said had good reviews. We used google map to get us there, and it took us 30 minutes. (Walking) There was a line, so we waited for about 20 minutes. We purchased our tickets for our ramen from the vending machine while we waited to be seated, (it was a bit difficult because everything was in Kanji and there were no pictures), then a waitress came with a laminated paper to ask what type of soup base (shio-salt, miso, or shoyu), and the firmness of the noodles. Most ramen shops are small so our group split up, 4 at a table and 2 at the counter. It was Okay.

Since we knew where we were we headed back to our place taking only 20 minutes to get back.

Man Hole Covers

Since our last visit to Japan I’ve been collecting pictures of Man Hole Covers. The ones in Japan have pretty, cute, and interesting pictures on them that is connected to the area they’re in. Here are a few I collected on this trip.

What kind of pictures do you collect on your travels?


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