Monday, January 19, 2015

October Trip to Tokyo

      I took a long break from blogging recently.  I was feeling down on China, and not wanting to write.  But things have been getting better and the Lamb family is now in the best part of our journey here.  The first year here was rough, always feeling out of sorts.  Always feeling unsure and exhausted.  The second year was better,  more relaxed.  And now, into the third year here, I feel like I can manage Shanghai.  I know where to buy things, I know enough Mandarin to ask questions.  The daily life we live now is completely different than the first 6 months.  But I really am speaking just of myself.
     I have to say that Emily and Katie have always adapted better than I have, and are both thriving.  They make friends and live in the moment.  They both take advantage of opportunities at school that they would not have available back home.  Emily loves her mod tech class, and Katie made great pottery gifts for us all at Christmas.
     Chris has been so busy at work, constantly putting out fires, adjusting to developments in real time.  The Shanghai Disneyland project has been more challenging than anyone initially thought.  Everyone here is working harder than they imagined, and all are working longer hours than they would back in Glendale.  I think he is doing his best & hardest job right now.  

     I have said this before, but this is why it is so important for us to take vacations when we can.  It's nice to be out of the noise and pollution of Shanghai even for a short time, and to realize the greatest benefit of being in Asia is the opportunity to travel.   We have taken a few trips recently - in October to Tokyo and December to Florida and California.  While in Tokyo we visited sites in the city the first few days.  We went to Asakusa Shrine and Tokyo Sky Tree.  And of course because we were in Japan, we ate really, really good food.
     The first morning we went to Slappy Cakes where you can make your own pancakes.  Really fun and tasty - we all loved it.

 Asakusa Temple was really beautiful and there was a marketplace full of food stalls and small gift shops behind.  There was a man roasting rice crackers,  and a shop making Imagawa Yaki shaped like fish, filled with sweet beans.

Meiji Shrine
Asakusa Temple
Katie incense offering
Toasting rice crackers

Tokyo Sky Tree is the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest building after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  There is a point where you call look down through the glass floor and it's really dizzying.  The day was clear and we could see Disneyland from way up high.  The people who worked there were so organized.  An exact number of people were lined up each time for the elevators, and escorted to the observation area.  Like clockwork.  

Don't look down!
Standing at the highest point of the Tower
  My parents were even able to join us for a few days, they were in Japan visiting friends and relatives.  They even took the girls out for a day, and spent way too much money on arcade games.  But it was nice to see them and special for them to be with us in Japan.

     One day we went to Akihabara which is the area of Tokyo known for electronics, everything anime and cosplay.  We went into McDonalds for lunch and it was so strange.  The dining area was full of single men, looking at phones, sleeping or staring into space,..and it was completely silent.  No one talking, no kids, no piped in music, nothing.  I've been in libraries that were louder.  I've been told that sometimes in Japan people lose their jobs, and cannot face their families.  So they pretend to go to work everyday and sit in places like this for hours.  We were uncomfortable talking to each other, we just quietly ate and got the heck outta there.
     We walked in-and-out of lots of shops in Akihabara.  Some cater people that liked to dress in costume, also video & model making stores.  Things that I could imagine seeing at ComicCon.  Chris and Katie wanted to check-out a "maid cafe".  Emily and I thought it sounded strange, so we went to Tokyo Hands.  Tokyo Hands is the largest office supply and craft store chain in Japan, and we went to the flagship store in Shunjuku.  It's six floors and really fantastic.  So Japanese - everything lined up perfectly and organized, all the specific types of pens, markets, model kits, etc.  We wanted to check-out the Halloween section and were not disappointed.  China does not celebrate Halloween so much, but Japan is really into it.  We were able to find everything we needed for Emily's costume in one place.  I think Emily and I made the better choice coming to Tokyo Hands.  Chris and Katie said the maid cafe was a little weird and awkward.  Girls dressed as maids serve you, but they are like "Anime" maids, lots of make-up, chunky shoes, hair attachments, short petticoat skirts.  I know in Japan it's a thing, but still cringe-y.

Outside a maid cafe
Super large fries!! 
Halloween specials
black buns & sauce made with squid ink?
Musubi hat at Tokyo Hands
So much to see in Tokyo, but the next day we were off to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.  Here are photos of few things I saw that I had to include.

Sha- kee-zu
still must have fake food display!

Umbrellas with Samurai sword handles
Chris on the Ginza

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