Archive for June, 2008

Japan trip 2000!!!

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Hey, we just got back from Japan. It was great!!!! Maybe our best trip there so far.

The weeks leading up to the trip were kind of stressful, with lots of stuff going on at work and with the book. My last day of work, I worked until the eve of June 4th, then got myself home. When I finally got home, I was so happy, I plugged in the guitar and cranked some chords, hooted and hollered and laughed out loud. I was going to see Zen and Naoko after 14 days separation – it had felt like an eternity! I had worked, gone out once to see live music once (the UnXpected at Wala Wala in Holland Village – great fun), ate simple meals, spent a lot of time on the internet, played music loud, played guitar loud, watched some rock documentaries, hung out, hung out, tidied, stayed up late, tidied.

But that last night was great. I had a beer, packed, and got myself to the airport, had another beer at the Hard Rock Cafe with the busted Gibson Les Pauls and SGs hanging on the wall (ouch!!), bought “Life of Pi” in the bookshop on the recommendation of my colleague (their last copy – it must have been fate), then jumped onto my night flight to Kansai International. The flight was short – I drank beer part of the way, slept for the rest. Didn’t bother to watch any movies. The flight was really empty, I snagged an Economist easily. They don’t even bother to put those “for the consideration of other passengers…” stickers on the magazines any more, good – that was a waste of stickers.

June 5 – Breezed through customs, got my bags no problem, and out into the general population. Took the bus to Himeji, sleeping much of the way, then Naoko was there at the bus station to pick me up. Got home, saw Zen as he came home from school with his little uniform. That night we had a really fantastic sashimi dinner and drank lots of beer. Wonderful. I felt zingy all day, so happy to be with my family again, so happy to have two weeks of vacation ahead of me.

June 6 – Got up early, took the suitcases, got to the bullet train station, took the train in to Shin Osaka, then on the Ocean Arrow tourist train on and on and on south. The train was full until Wakayama, then all of the college kids that were on the train with us got off and we had it mostly to ourselves. Got to Shirahama, where the station attendants wear Aloha shirts (it’s a beach resort, obviously). Found the tourist bus, that took us to the coast past ugly hotels and big weird rock formations, got out at another coastal area that was full of strange rock formation. Walked to another cliff area, they had Buddhist caves that we didn’t check out. Desolate tourist area, very interesting, it should be much more fun on weekends. Nice to wander around on the sea shore, hang out, catch the warm breeze and sunshine, and forget about work for a while. Took a bus back to the train station, ate a lunch of plum udon noodle soup, which was so-so, and Wakayama ramen. Got on the train, headed to lovely Shin Osaka, transferred to Shin Yokohama, then got on the crowded rush hour train with our suitcases and on to Negishi, where Ralph and Evan and Lauren picked us up. Got home, read the kids a story, Evan and Lauren went to sleep soon after that, Zen stayed up later, then the parents stayed up late talking, and everybody went to sleep. End of Day 1.

June 7 – Woke up, had a long lazy breakfast of Nicole’s famous pancakes, the kids played, after a while we jumped up, went to the train station, and jumped on a train for Hakkone so that we could grab some views of Fuji. When we got there, we found out that there was no chance of a sight of Fuji, it was all clouded over (it’s now the rainy season in Japan), although on the north face the cloud coverage was lighter and it could pop through. Oh well. Went on to Atami, a hot spring resort that I had a strange fascination with having seen it so many times from the bullet train passing through. Going there was almost like a pilgrimage for me, so off we went. Arrived there, soaked our weary feet in the train station hot spring spot, then walked along the streets. Found a convenience store that was offering special prices for Disneyland tickets. Since it was Saitama prefecture, considered “long distance” from Disneyland, they had special passes, and Atami is just into Saitama. Lucky we spotted that,it saved us Y2,500. Walked along the lanes, down the hill, Zen was happily skipping down the slopes, then he took a major spill and scraped up his elbows and knees. Poor kid. Walked along the strange lanes of old buildings, got to the beach and walked around. Zen wanted to go into the water, so we let him wade in for a while as we chilled out on the beach. After a while, left the place and went back the way we came, spotting more strange buildings along the way. Got to the train station area again, had a really fantastic honey-flavoured ice cream. I actually wanted a Chu-hi quite badly, but after getting a taste of Zen’s, I couldn’t think of anything else. It was monstrously yummy, I almost couldn’t believe it. Weeks later I’m still thinking about it. It’s almost worth getting out in Atami just for that ice cream. Headed home after that, got there just in time for a yummy dinner. Chilled out together all evening

June 8 – Got up, hung out, I barely remember what we did this day, but in the afternoon Ralph and Naoko and Zen and Evan and I jumped on the bicycles (Zen on the back of my bike, Evan on his own), and headed off to the Yokohama fishing pier. We passed along the park, with the wide jogging paths and the big old steam engine on display and all of the other funky stuff. Looks like the greatest park in the world, even though it is next to a highway bypass. Ralph pointed out that if the wind blows from another direction and the emissions from the refineries blow over the place it isn’t as nice any more. Got off to the fishing pier 30 minutes later. Ralph got a flat just outside of the place – uh oh… Paid the admission to get in, hung out with the anglers on the metal dock and also on the concrete waterfront. Great, old ladies talking to us about the sardines that they caught and wanted to fry up for dinner (I was talking to one of them in Japanese, her friends were shocked because they thought that their friend knew English… when they saw us communicating they probably didn’t think that the gaijin was capable of Japanese). Ralph took one of the good bikes back home to get the car, we stayed back and played in the park. When Ralph came around later on, we put two of our bikes in the back, I took the last one home manually. Got a bit lost on the way back, had to ask a policeman how I should go. Nice. Had a great barbecue dinner after that, and we all got to sleep early.

June 9 – Headed off to Tokyo early-ish. Got to Shinjuku, walked to the Tokyo government building to take a look at the city. Unfortunately, it was an overcast day, so not much to see. Unfortunately, there were plenty of Chinese tourist buses at the site, with plenty of dudes from rural Guizhou in a hurry to get to the 45th floors. Yuck. But the experience was pleasant enough, even if the view wasn’t. Took some video of Zen dancing in front of Godzilla’s Eye.

Next stop – Shibuya. Got there, checked out the loyal tribute to the loyal doggie Hachiko, watched the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing on a rainy afternoon with a sparse crowd, moved along the street, had a nice ramen lunch in a shop that has been around for 40 years (and it had the pics to prove it). Naoko and Zen went to McDonalds for coffee and ice cream, I went to Japan’s biggest Tower Records shop and bugged the sickly looking counter girl for Boris, Coa, Nagisa Nite, and Boredoms stuff. Found a few hard-to-find Boris CDs and a Boris DVD, then off to see Naoko and Zen again. Zen was so happy to be eating soft ice cream, we went back to the train station, back to Shinjuku, to the train to Mitaka where they have the Ghibli no Mori museum. The bus was full, so we walked along a canal in a fine misting rain, what a nice-looking little township only 14 minutes away from Shinjuku. Found Ghibli no Mori, it was super crowded with Studio Ghibli fans. We got in, saw the animation museum, the furry Neko-bus object, the rooftop robot surrounded by great vegetation, then down to see the robot shops, the book stores, and then the “sequel to Totoro” movie. Turns out that the “neko-bus” was only the tip of the iceberg. I’d rather not say more, but suffice to say that the 15-minute film is at once silly and also mind-blowing. The highlight of the visit for us was the recreation of Miyazaki Hayao’s actual studio (stylized, perhaps), as it perhaps would be in a Miyazaki Hayao film, but with cans full of cigarette butts and walls plastered with sketches of famous Ghibli Studio characters in development, sketchbooks full of story development thingys, as well as wacky artist reference materials. Fascinating developmental materials that seem to be from the actual production of the films, but then again – who knows. Great artists resource materials lined the shelves, including weird ’70s art books with posing people to help artists understand (caricatured) human form and emotion. Got out of there, walked through a sunny park full of happy people going for strolls in the early June afternoon, enjoying the day and happy to be alive. We went along past the open field to a children’s playground, then along the leafy trails and back to the canal route we had been walking along that misty afternoon. Seems that is the river that Dazai Osamu (author of “No Longer Human,” Japan’s existential answer to Dostoevskii and “Notes From The Underground”) used to drown himself in. Mitaka revealed itself even more to be a gorgeous town, and we passed a really funky outdoor sculpture museum that was attached to the zoo. Got to the train station, tried to figure out what would be the best way to go home, then just went back to Shinjuku and then to Yokohama and Negishi. Got back for a decent dinner time, ate dinner with the family, had a fun time, went asleep not too late.

June 10 – Planned to sleep late and get a mid-morning start on Disneyland, but Zen was too excited and woke us up just after 6:00, so an early morning start it was. We went into Tokyo, then took the long hike for Tokyo Station to the platform that heads out to Chiba Disneyland. It must be at least 10 minutes of passageways, stairs and escalators. Got into a train, then headed out. Got to Maihama, and Zen skipped off of the train and rolled along the feeders into the park. He was so happy. Just into the place we saw Minnie Mouse. Walked along Handsome Town Path, hooked a left at Shining Path, got to the Woodland Adventure Trail and all those cool rides. The first one we took was Pirates of the Caribbean, that amazing ride that showed that you could take a theme park attraction, attach Johnny Depp to it, and it would be a box office smash. Zen loves Depp as “Captain Jack Sparrow,” which was good fun, but the ride is bizarre – “a pirate’s life for me,” i.e. being constantly wasted, always luckily dodging bullets and cannon fire, nobody dies of gunshot wounds, leprosy or scurvy. But hey, it’s not as anaesthetic as a Mickey Mouse and still good head-scratching fun (and one of two “isn’t this a bit too satanic for Walt Disney” attractions, the other being The Haunted Mansion – also, we note, recently turned into a film).

We rode on the Safari Boat, the one where the “guide” saved the tour by “shooting” the rampaging hippo (kind of like the Jaws ride at Universal Studios Japan) and off we went. Took the Western Train, then grabbed a Fast Pass for the Big Thunder Mountain ride. Then we went around on a bunch of other rides in the meantime – Peter Pan, Snow White, Alice in Wonderland Haunted Teacups. Great fun. We had just entered the Peter Pan ride when we saw Peter Pan and Captain Hook in costume outside posing with fans. I wanted to get a picture (Peter Hoflich and Peter Pan), but didn’t want to leave the 20-minute queue we’d just joined. Should have – I never ran into him again the rest of the day. After that we were ready for Big Thunder Mountain. Wow!!! Up, down, along, riding in and out of the mountain like some sort of wombat. Screaming our lungs out, and down and out of the place. Naoko waited outside, which was more relaxing for her. The Fast Pass was great – it was a popular ride, but we were in and out of there within 20 minutes (at Tokyo Disneyland you can get one Fast Pass at a time – go to the spot, put your day pass through a ticket machine, and you will get an express ticket that fasttracks you into a special queue at a designated time later on in the day, but you only get one at a time). After we took that one, we got a Fast Pass for Splash Mountain, the log flume ride. We followed that up with a strange little visit to the “It’s A Small World” ride, with alll of its bizzarre attractions and animatronic weirdness.

In the meantime we went on the canoe ride around the Western Land lake, rode the haunted Tea Cups again, then off to eat a lunch in the World of Tomorrow. Space Burgers, set to a nuclear soundtrack of blips and bloops. In the meantime, there was another parade, which I saw while Zen and Naoko used the toilets. All very convenient. After that, off we went to ride the car racing thing, then the space flying thing. As I took some pictures from up there, the ride quickly finished. I wondered why the ride was so short, then an attendant came and told me not to take pics from the ride (I hadn’t seen the warnings, and I certainly didn’t catch them if they were mentioned in Japanese, sorry), then they gave us another few seconds worth of the ride. Afterwards, Zen begged me to ride on the car racing ride again. And when there was done, he wanted to go again with Naoko. Crazy. We went into Kiddyland, investigated Goofy’s crazy inflatable house, as well as the bizarre boat building. Saw the strange Goofy laundry, which was caricuredly and permanently frozen in spin as it moved along in time. Took a low-key kiddy roller coaster, then headed back to our Splash Mountain ride. Got there, navigated the strange, creepy feeder tunnel with people queued up in near-pitch black. Late in the afternoon, anyone entering the normal queue would have to wait 100 minutes (what – nearly two hours!!!). The entry to the ride was a dark, snaking queue, probably a favourite of guys who wanted to get close to their dates. I would think that 100 minutes in that queue would be intolerable otherwise. Our 20 minutes certainly weren’t any fun. Got in, then went up the splash mountain, but didn’t go down it right away. First we had some minutes of indoctrination, we coasted along in some strange dinosaur zone where we got some messages. I’m not sure what the messages were, but they were messages of a sort – these are dinosaurs, this is world peace… After we splashed along a few courses, we got out and headed for the Haunted Mansion. The place didn’t need any Fast Passes, it only had 10 minutes waiting period. I thought it might be okay for Zen – not too scary – since Eddie Murphy had been in the movie. Well, we went along and go throug the maze, then into the scary room with the elongating picture portraits. Then into the barrels, and through the strangely demonic and pointless display of scary monsters. Yes, ghosts are scary. And then…?

After that, we headed off to the haunted tea cups and the merry-go round for another ride. Then we skipped back to take the Mark Twain river boat and see the sun go down. It was good fun, riding along a river course that we had taken at water level in our canoes, but now we were coasting along from a great height. And no crowds. As we got to the end, someone spoke to me “excuse me, are you Peter?” It was someone I knew through work. Wow, what a coincidence that I would be spotted at Disneytland.

We went for yet another ride on the race cars, then off to watch the parade. I couldn’t believe that we had been at Disneyland all day and weren’t even getting worn out. It was nearly 7:30, and we’d been on 18 different rides and attractions, some more than once, and one of them more than twice! The weather had been perfect: just a little cooler and we would have been worn out trying to stay warm, just a little warmer and we would have wilted, but as it was it was perfect t-shirt weather. We sat down for the parade and saw a whack of crazy illuminated blimps pass by – the whole Pixar crew, Pete’s Dragon (?!?!), the regular Disney characters, and of course Beauty and the Beast. When that was finished we went off to find a place for the 8:30 fireworks. As we were wandering around in front of the castle, I heard it again: “Hello Peter.” It was another person from a bank in Singapore!!! Wow, it really is a small world.

The fireworks were cancelled, it seems that it was too windy for fireworks (or maybe the crowd was too sparse to give a show to), so off we went back home. The train wasn’t too crowded, and we want on and on to Tokyo. That big long walk from the end of the train back into the normal train station (it must be over a kilometer of walking underground), and then on a bullet train to Shin Yokohama. Zen was getting sleepy, but we didn’t let him sleep. Finally, in Yokohama he couldn’t hold out any longer. I had to carry him the last 20 minutes of the way. Got home, slept.

June 11 – Our last full day in Yokohama. We slept relatively late, then headed out again. This time, our destination was Karuizawa, which is on the bullet train line into Nagano. Set in the mountains I was expecting some gorgeous scenery, but the trip wasn’t that spectacular. It was more interesting by providing a view of parts of Tokyo I’ve never passed by train. When we got to Karuizawa, it seemed like just another rural train station – Himeji, Aioi, even Banshu Ako. All of the attractions were quite a distance from the train station. We bought a picnic lunch (onigiri, can Chu-hi, bento set) from the local convenience store (not a chain I’d ever heard of before), found the tourist bus to Shiraito waterfall, which I had read about and was supposed to be spectacular. We got on the bus, and found out that the cost of getting there and back was really a lot – over Y4000 for the three of us. Yoiks!!! Decided to carry on, though, and glad we did – the bus ride was spectacular as we headed up the only road in Karuizawa and into the deep verdant green hills. It was a deep jade colour, a full 360 tunnel of green-ness. I’ve never seen anything like it. It must be spectacular in the fall when the colours turn. We passed some guy in his corvette who looked like he was parked in the middle of the road looking at a map, a blonde beauty at his side. Nice. Carried on, got to the place, the waterfall was 100 metres away from the bus stop. Just the walk from the road to the place was stunning, with near-perfect sub-waterfalls, and when we go there it was a slice of heaven. A broad, shallow pool, with a plateau waterfall three metres above it. The water wasn’t coming over the edge of a rock wall, however, it was coming THROUGH the mountain, somehow squeezed through porous rock. I don’t know how it can exist, but it does – above the waterfall is rock and vegetation. I seems like it shouldn’t exist, but there it is. We were there at about 1:30, had our picnic lunch and enjoyed the chirping birds, the breeze, the perfect weather, the sunlit leaves and greenness everywhere. The guy in the convertible caught up to us, and there was a hippy couple there, as well as the obligatory retirees who are always to be seen visiting places of great natural beauty.

We stayed longer than anybody else, but unfortunately even we couldn’t stay long, and we went back to the bus stop for our trip back into town. Got out at the part of Karuizawa that is nicknamed “Karuizawa Ginza,” although the only think it shares with the Tokyo Ginza is that both have shops on it. This looks like your typical small-town shopping alley, albeit with some nice shops. One photography shop was interesting – it has pictures of famous residents of Karuizawa from the past, such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and the Imperial Family, and there were nice bakeries and jam shops. Zen had to rush to the toilet, so we stopped just short of the pasture land. After the toilet, we headed back to the bus stop and on to the train for our return to civilisation. Got to Yokohama at a decent hour and had dinner with the family. I even got to go out to meet a Canadian acquaintance who works for a bank in Japan who I had been in periodic email contact with over work, but had never met face to face. Really really nice guy. And while he may work for a bank, he is an artist – his true love is photography. Had a beer in a very nice cafe downtown that played jazz, then Ralph picked me up and drove me home. Thanks, Ralph.

June 12 – Last day on the road, and it rained in the morning. Nicole took us, along with Lauren and Evan, to Evan’s school. It was his last day of classes before HIS summer vacation. The school was going to have an assembly, but with the rain that was cancelled and the kids just played in the classroom instead, which was a lot of fun for them. The teacher had pulled out a typewriter, which is an ancient piece of technology that nobody had ever seen before. I hadn’t used one for 20 years either. Amazing. Got to meet some mums and dads, many of whom I had heard of or who had heard of me. Nicole drove us to the train station, we got on a train to one place near Hakone, where we met Naoko’s friend Lin for coffee, then off to Nagoya, where we met Naoko’s former colleague Horiike-san for lunch of miso katsu, the exact same restaurant we had eaten at the year before. Went up a big office tower to get the view, then back to Himeji. I was looking forward to being back in the Fujino home and really relaxing – I hadn’t had a chance to do that at all yet.

June 13 – I don’t remember what we did, but this was the start of the “typical” stay in Himeji, where we fell into comfortable living patterns:

- wake up before 7:00 each day for breakfast, see Zen off to school
- drink coffee, read the paper, watch TV, tidy up
- go shopping: groceries, food, CDs, DVD rentals, underwear, socks…
- cycle around the city revisiting places I had been previously only to marvel how they had changed
- have a light lunch
- eat some afternoon snacks
- greet Zen as he comes home
- go out for another bike ride
- drink can Chu-hi from the convenience store
- try to read Marcel Proust
- listen to old CDs that I still have in storage there
- watch DVDs
- play with the kids
- think about dinner
- eat yummy Japanese food, wash it down with beer, have some sochu in the evenings, go to sleep before 11

June 14 – The day of Zen’s sports day. We woke up at a regular time, Zen went off to school with the school kids, about 90 minutes later we went ourselves. I got there first, was greeted by my friend Wassan, who is Naoko’s old classmate from the days when she herself went to Zen’s primary school (Zen is the third generation of Fujinos to attend that school). A great, friendly guy who seemed really happy to see me, always makes me feel like I am part of the village. I watched the opening march, when the band comes out and they play rather severe-sounding tunes and march in step. A bit spooky. Lots of kids activities – a tug of war where kids use a staff instead of a rope. Then it was time for Zen to run his race. Since he’s the tallest kid in the class, he always appears at the back, or is the last to do something. In this video he’s the last heat in his class, and when his heat finished, the first graders all head back to their seats on the sidelines.

After he ran, there were several other events, including the village relay where kids from grades one to six from each of the villages ran against each other. Zen’s cousins were among the runners from his village. They got third, which meant that they could run in the final competition. We then broke for lunch, and everybody headed off to their picnic spots. We had a nice one at the back, and the ladies broke out all of the good food, the guys broke out the beer, and we had a great family time. Lots of adults and kids and babies, moms and dads and uncles and aunts and grandparents and cousins. After lunch there was a tug of war between the red team and the white team, and a competition where the red team tries to see how many little plastic balls the kids can pitch together into a big old basket in one minute while the white team does the same. Zen was on the white team, and got lots of chances to sing his “go white team go” song. It is to the tune of the Mickey Mouse song and sounds a bit like this:

There was also a big old dance thingy, and some acrobatic forms, and then a race to see who could roll a big old ball hand by hand around half of the sports field – white team versus red team again. White won again and again – the whole day, they only lost one competition. Around 3:30 we went home. Then there was plenty of resting, recovering, someone sliced up a watermelon, the kids had snacks and refreshments, we all had cool things to drink, and then it was time for dinner. Zen had a lot of energy, and at 9:30 at night he was still so excited and didn’t seem sleepy. But eventually he did drop off and slept.

June 15 – This day was Yuuta’s sports day. We were a bit burned out on sports days, so we went to see him for part of the morning, ate lunch together with his family, then went off to do other things.

June 16 – Weren’t sure what we should do for the day, so we went to climb Mount Mega, the typical hiking mountain in the region. Cycled there, hiked up, took video, took pictures. Great weather, great day, very enjoyable, very friendly, very fun, very pleasant weather.

June 17-20 – Regular days. I watched 10 DVDs.

June 21 – After getting packed, we loaded the suitcases into Naoko’s dad’s car at noon and headed to the airport. Got there really quickly, were among the first to check in, and then went for a snack and a coffee. Did some shopping, then headed through customs. Of course Zen was very happy to see monorails and airplanes, and off we flew to Singapore. The food was okay – economy classes in Singapore Airlines are now served on bigger trays so you’re not always trying to figure out where to put your utensils – but the service not so. I didn’t bother with the stupid inflight entertainment system, preferring to read Charles Bukowsky instead – but Zen tried to watch Horton Hears A Who. While he was watching the sound cut out. His system was reset, which takes 10 minutes, but this didn’t solve the problem either. In the end he had to sit in Naoko’s seat, although he fell asleep anyway. The stewardess initially wasn’t very helpful, but the head stewardess came over and offered to give us new seats, which wasn’t much of a suggestion since they were just other economy class seats (I was hoping for an upgrade). Zen slept most of the way after that, and we landed, got our duty free, got our luggage, got our taxi, got home and found out that both of our surviving fish had lasted two weeks alone, and Zen slept. Naoko slept. And I stayed up late tidying and returning our lives to order.

June 22 – Tidied. Took Zen to swimming lesson.

June 23 – Zen was so sweet tonight. I read a story book to him in English. After that he was supposed to go to sleep, but he asked me if he could read to me from his Japanese book. He read about four pages of the textbook that he used in school in Japan, occasionally testing me on idiomatic terms that I might not have known (and in some cases I didn’t!). Thank you, teacher Zen!

Since we’ve come back from this trip, Zen seems to be much better in social situations. He used to be shy about going to other kids houses to play, and it had been a bit like that on other trips to Japan when he was five and younger. But on this trip he seemed to be able to make lots of friends among the neighbourhood kids, and now that he’s back he’s eager to run out and go to the playground, knock on doors to find kids to play with, things like that. Great.

Zen – “Mama, I’m going to give you one hundred kisses.”
Mama – “Thank you Zen.”
Papa – “And how many kisses are you going to give me?”
Zen – “Seven.”

June 24-27 – Work.

June 28 – We all slept late, a rare thing indeed. Zen and I went for a haircut, buzz buzz buzz. I worked on the DVD stuff, and in the late afternoon we went to Clementi to buy some fish for the fish tank. We got some neon tatra, a kissing fish (not nice-looking, but Zen loves the name), and two silver dollar fish. Wanted to get some of the puffer fish – fugu – but apparently they nibble at small fish and destroy their tails, and then they’re done for. Stayed up late editing my second and third DVD.

June 29 – Zen played with friends a lot in the morning, I took care of dozens of little things I needed to do. Naoko took Zen to the Japanese International School so that Zen could try out the little league softball that they do there on Sunday afternoons. Zen had a great time and tried really hard. Then he had his swimming lesson at 5:00. He’s a strong swimmer, but he sure hates to swim freestyle. I don’t blame him – I’m the same.

Zen went with his cousins to Rokko Ranch

Ready for his first day of school.

With Jii-chan.

Teacher Kawamori introducing Zen to his new classmates.

On the road again!!!

Great view at Shirahama!

Happy on the bus.

Princess Lauren.

Naoko, does a Lebowski. Zen does a Sobcheck.

We three bowlers.

A perfect pink princess bowling ball for Lauren.

Happy to get her fifth strike in a row.

Princess Lauren.

The boys in their jet black steam train.

Zen, Evan, and Lauren group-hugging.

Naoko and Lauren waiting for their barbecue.

Barbecue is served.

In Shibuya with Hachiko.

On the roof of the Ghibli no Mori museum in the Mitaka borough of Tokyo.

Zen with budding hydrangea.

Zen and Naoko’s hydrangea kiss.

On the train to Disneyland.

Waiting for the train in African Queen in Disneyland.

It’s a Small World After All, Chiba style.

Speed Racer.

Racer Xen.

Maiden voyage.

Honeymoon in Chiba.

Tweedledum meets Tweedledee. But which is which?

Alice sits on the Cheshire Cat’s ass.

Shiraito no Taki in Karuizawa.


Zena Lisa.

The only butcher/flowershop I’ve ever seen.

Zen meets the Bee-boy.

A little bit of Singapore in Karuizawa.

TV Zombies.





Pants Ranger Evan!

Pants Ranger Zen!!

Three umbrella kids on a rainy day.

Train interior.

In Nagoya for lunch with Naoko’s former colleague/Peters former Japanese teacher Horiike-san.

Train interior.

Typical train view.


Zen with his class at the sports day.

Naoko and Yaeko.

Yuuta, Kyoko, Shiota and Haruhito.

At the peak of Mount Mega.

Daichi, Peter, Zen.

Zen having a class lunch.