July 2015 ~ Our family vacation to Japan ~
We left Japan in autumn of 2011, with the sad realization that we would most likely not be returning for a very long time. However, with the third birthday of our daughter approaching and the sad loss of my husband's grandmother the previous year, we decided it would be a good idea just to go and visit family. So we got out the credit card, I went through my company to get a slightly cheaper rate, and planned a whirlwind 5 day trip back to Yasushi's home, and my second home. (As a bonus, it has almost been exactly 10 years since the first time I went to Japan to start my year in Kobe!)
We were originally supposed to go during August, when Yasushi would have been able to get a longer vacation. However my job would not let me take time off in August, our busiest month of the year. So we made some adjustments, and would be flying out on July 8th and returning on July 13th, our daughter's birthday. Which, as a bonus, we would be experiencing twice because of the time difference!

July 8/9 ~Departure
We flew on JAL, which had exceptional service, and Chinami was great on the airplane. After losing a day due to the time difference, we arrived late afternoon on July 9th, and made our way straight to the hotel. We stayed in a business hotel in Akabane, which was convenient and a good value for the three of us. And because it was Japan, no fuss was made about extra cots or such, we all slept together in the family bed.....like most people!
After we checked in at the hotel, we had a quick and delicious dinner of sushi at a place right by the hotel, and bought some toiletries at the local drugstore (and some cold medicine because I wasn't feeling well from the plane ride) and went to sleep.

July 10 ~Family Time
There was almost no jet lag. I woke up my usual time, 4am. Chinami woke up an hour or so after me which sometimes happens when I am with her. Since she didn't go back to sleep, we decided to go on a walk after the sun started to rise. The only places open were convenience stores and the  24 hour supermarket, so we bought many kinds of vegetable juices, some green tea for me, and some snacks for later. We came back to the hotel room and watched TV for a while until Yasushi woke up. We decided he would leave first for Ibaraki to get some paperwork done, and we would meet him at the station later.
So I thought about what Chinami and I should do for a couple hours until we had to board the train from Ueno station, and after buying some breakfast at Mister Donuts, we headed to Ueno station and walked around the park, and I took lots of pictures of her with the lotus blooms, around the shrines, and eating our donuts on a bench together. There was even a small playground, and before heading back to the station we played together. At Ueno station, we bought some delicious healthy bento lunches and boarded the train to Mito station. After we ate lunch, Chinami took her nap and was all recharged when we met Yasushi at the station.
We got on the bus and went to Yasushi's grandfather's house, where his mother was also waiting.
Chinami loved running around the house and playing with her "Gramma" and "Jiji" We also went to visit the famiy graves to pay respects to Yasushi's father, and then to "Gramma"'s house. Chinami enjoyed some fresh, juicy homegrown tomatoes, which she loved! And played with the dog and ran around the tatami some more. After that, we went back to Tokyo on the train, eating some Lotteria burgers on the way for dinner. Chinami was tired and chilled out on my back while we walked back to the hotel, and we went to bed around 8 or 9 after a bath.

July 11th ~
Since we had gone to the gravesite and Yasushi's mother's house the previous day, he hadn't been able to see one of his friends in Ibaraki the previous day. So the next morning, Yasushi took Chinami back on the train to Ibaraki and I stayed behind and spent the morning at another one of my favorite places, Jizo Doori in Sugamo. I bought some delicious goodies at "Niku no Hanamasa" supermarket, went to the 100y shop, and even went to a honey store and sampled local honey from Japan, which I ended up buying as a gift for the folks at the honey stand at KCC Farmer's Market.
I went to Akabane Station, and met up with a friend/former coworker and met her young son and daughter. We headed a couple stations out where Yasushi's sister, brother, and their families were all having lunch. We all had lunch, and the plans were to go straight to his sister's apartment close by, but with 2 elementary schoolers, a preschooler, two toddlers, and a baby in tow, I suggested we spend a little time at the beautiful playground that was right in front of us. The kids ran around and played together and had fun, and I had fun watching them all. It was very hot, so after maybe 30 minutes or so we gathered everyone and went inside for some cold drinks and a birthday cake!! for Chinami prepared by his sister, a professional pastry chef! We took a family picture and then we had to go to the next event!
Chinami slept for an hour or so on my back as we walked to the station and rode the train heading for Shibuya. At Shibuya, we would meet a bunch of Yasushi's biker friends and the plan was to go to a bar. A few people I invited came along, and we all went to the HUB in Shibuya, which was really not a place I wanted to go with Chinami. After everyone showed up and I was able to meet them and introduce Chinami, we left and headed back to Akabane. Then, I met my former bosses, one from England, the other Japanese, and her nearly two year old son. We decided to go karaoke, and I had one more dear friend whom I met in Hawaii show up and Chinami stole the stage as usual. We were out until 10 that night, and Chinami fell asleep before she hit the pillow!

July 12th ~ Sky Tree, Shopping, Ikebukuro!
I had to wake Chinami up because she was still sleeping at past 8am! We went to Matsuya for a Japanese style breakfast and then to the Sky Tree for sightseeing and more fun with family/friends. After we went to the aquarium, we headed out to lunch. After lunch, Yasushi and I went to Akihabara. He wanted to go to his favorite computer stores, and also the big electronics store to buy a new rice cooker as ours was starting to act up. There was one place I wanted to go in Akihabara, and that was the Hello! Project store. Unfortunately, it was quite a walk, and Chinami fell asleep on my back and missed being in the store. But I did get a couple notebooks with pictures of Morning Musume and Angerme, and I did the vending machines where the random stickers pop out. It was quite a gamble considering they had stickers of all the Hello! Project members, and the first one I got was Ayumin!! which I laughed out loud at because she's my friend's oshimen.....so that is a gift for him! And then I tried again, and I got...Riho! which I gave to Chinami, because Riho's the only member she seems to care about besides her beloved Sayumi, which she confirmed when I gave it to her after she woke up. She looked at it and immediately said "Riho!"
After we got back to the hotel, Yasushi went out to meet his former co-workers, and so I decided to take Chinami out to Ikebukuro Sunshine City so we could go to the Pokemon Center! I went in my Team Rocket uniform, and Chinami in her homemade Wobbuffet shirt, and we bought some goods. Then we met up with one of my favorite guys in Tokyo, TkyoSam, and he took us to kaiten sushi and ice cream! He treated Chinami like the princess she thinks she is and she absolutely loved him. And she loved sushi too because they had plates of ikura sushi with so much ikura it was spillling out onto the plate, she just ate it all with a spoon. Sam insisted he buy her some kind of gift, so we went into Don Quijote and she found this plastic hammer that squeaks when you hit things, and she had so much fun hitting us that I said "just get her that!" and so we walked back through Ikebukuro station with my daughter in a Wobbuffet shirt holding a bright pink hammer. We were out until almost 10 this time as well. As we walked back to the station, I talked with Chinami, and told her I know how tired she must feel playing so much and not napping very much, and said that after tomorrow, we're going to go on the airplane and go back to our home again, and she can rest a lot when she's on the airplane. She nodded. I had no idea how seriously she would take this.....

July 13 ~Preschool
July 13th was a Monday and one of the things I was looking forward to the most on this trip: Going back to preschool! I took Chinami to experience the preschool I had worked at for almost 3 years during the time I lived in Japan. All the children I had taught had graduated and moved on to various elementary schools, and some of their younger siblings were enrolled now. We did "music time" and yoga, and they had a birthday cake for Chinami too! We also went to the park. Chinami did great, she tried her best at everything and had a lot of fun. We went to kaiten sushi for lunch, and then it was time to head out to the airport. I assumed Chinami was tired, so I put her on my back and she fought and cried. We all agreed she would be asleep soon. It took a while but she did eventually fall asleep by the time we got to the airport.
We got to the airport, and two of Yasushi's friends came to see us off. Chinami woke up and was very mad. She insisted on getting out and walking around. I told her she could sleep some more, and she said no. We ate some light snacks at the airport, and bought some gifts, and Chinami became more and more restless. I asked her what she wanted, was it food, or something? She started saying "Airplane." She wanted to go on the airplane. I asked her if she wanted to go on the airplane and sleep, and she said yes. So until we got on the airplane, she gave her all, carrying bags, pulling the rolling bags, running full speed to the gate, and on the airplane, she sat quietly watching a movie, she ate her dinner, and when the lights dimmed, she went right to sleep until we had to wake her up to put her seatbelt back on when we were landing, which she did not like at all. She slept a little bit on the shuttle from the airport, but once we were home she didn't want to sleep at all, especially because she had lots of presents for her birthday and wanted to play with them all! She stayed awake until we ate dinner, and then as she was finishing her dinner, I saw her start to sway a little bit, and she started crying, stood up, and walked to the bed, and went to sleep.

Our trip to Japan was very short, but I got to do almost everything I wanted to do, which was introduce Chinami to her family, watch her play with her cousins and my friends' kids, and spend the day at preschool with her, so I was satisfied. I feel so much gratitude and appreciation for everyone who made the effort to come see us and gave Chinami presents and love. Our next trip probably won't be for another 4 or 5 years or so but I'm looking forward to it already.

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