Saturday, February 9, 2013

Japan trip, Part 2

Dear Maya,

Holy moly, have we done a lot this week! And mommy has endless pictures to show for it. Breaking it down by day seemed the easiest last time, so here it goes again: what we've been doing since the last post...

February 3rd
We went to the park for a little bit in the morning until you got cranky and screamed all the way home. After a nap, you ate part of an eho-maki sushi roll that is just one of the many traditions of Setsubun, the Japanese festival denoting the beginning of spring. The other fun tradition you took part in was throwing beans (though we used peanuts) at the ogre (daddy in a mask) to ward off bad luck. You threw most of the peanuts towards his feet and then kept picking them up and throwing them again. It was really cute.

February 4th
We had a relatively quiet day. Daddy went to the dentist, you went to the park again with mommy and grandma, and we went around to visit some neighbors and bring them gifts from the U.S.

February 5th
You led grandma for a walk down the street and when you came to a small shop, you went in, grabbed a basket, and started to fill it with everything you could reach! Grandma stopped you but you did manage to get some bubbles, balloons and a snack out of the deal. You little stinker! The rest of the day was rainy and dreary so we went out to a conveyor belt sushi place for lunch, then did a bunch of shopping. We got clothes for daddy, Japanese character magnets for you, and a bunch of souvenirs for friends and family back home.

February 6th
We visited some relatives a couple towns over, then went to Shimabara Castle. The plum blossoms were in bloom and it was such a beautiful sight to see--at least I imagine it would be if we weren't busy chasing you and trying to keep you safe. Thanks to some kind of tourism campaign, staff members dressed in Japanese armor, kimono and ninja outfits were milling around the castle grounds. We spent a while chatting with the pink ninja because it turned out she was one of mommy's old students!

Running up stone steps speckled with fallen plum blossom petals

She wouldn't take off her mask to show us her face, but mommy's pretty sure she remembers the student from her eyes and her cute laugh. She held out a big bunch of origami throwing stars for you to pick one, but of course you tried to take them all. She tracked us down later in another area of the castle grounds and gave us a whole pack of them, though. How sweet! She also was the one to tell us that there were ninja costumes in all sizes available to try on for pictures if we were interested. Cue cutest ninja ever in 3...2...1...

You were strangely calm and didn't seem to mind the headband at all
You got to make your choice from a collection of weapons
Not sure what the lip is all about, but you make a pretty fierce ninja!

Don't mess with this little girl!

Before leaving the castle we bought some snacks and sat by the plum blossoms to enjoy them. You spent most of the time running around, of course. Mommy took the opportunity to shoot some photos of the flowers and the castle, as well as the light shining out from behind the clouds and the volcano that makes up the center of the Shimabara Peninsula. It was overcast at times throughout the day, but more often it was clear and so much warmer than it is back home.

We made one more stop this day--at the nearby Bukeyashiki, an area with some samurai residences that have been restored for visitors to explore. Your favorite part was the carp pond, where you made friends with a yellow carp that followed you around and let you pet him. We're just glad you didn't fall in!

February 7th
Our first stop on this day's outing was a veterinary clinic owned by a friend of daddy's. We got to play with a tiny little kitten while they caught up. Next we drove up, up, up towards the top of the volcano. There is a cable car we could have taken to go up even closer, but the weather was freezing cold, very windy and foggy so we passed. Instead we stopped at the hot spring resort town on the way back down. There we walked through hell (the name for the area immersed in steam from the hot springs), bought some souvenirs from the old-fashioned toy store, and had some hot drinks and hard-boiled eggs. It was so cold up there!

The volcano in the distance and a bridge over the 'water-less river' caused by lava flowing from the 1991 eruption

February 8th
A friend came to visit us and we also visited with some other neighbors and friends on a walk around town. Otherwise, it was a pretty low-key day.

February 9th
Today we went on a day trip with your grandparents. We took a ferry over to Amakusa Island where we went out for curry and then to Tomioka Castle. You again had us chasing after you as you ran up and down the stone steps and dangerously wielded the bamboo walking stick grandma had been using. Afterwards we drove the long way around the island to find some land that has been passed down in daddy's family. Your great-great grandfather was from this island, and there are still some relatives living there.

And, to finish off this very photo-heavy post, mommy would like to add just a couple more pictures of you with your grandparents. You've really enjoyed your time with them so far and they are smitten with you. You've practiced some Japanese with them and they've picked up some English from you. You often pull their hands and take them to another room to play and you give them hugs and kisses before naps and bedtime. It is so heartwarming to see you behave like you've been around them all along!

Well, mommy really needs some sleep now. More memories to come! Love you!

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