We started our trip flying directly from Portland to Tokyo (seriously nice not having to layover somewhere). Our first few nights there we redeemed my husband's hotel points he accumulated during his business trips and got a nice suite with views of the Tokyo Bay.
Our first full day was spent at Tokyo Disneyland! :) Since my husband is Japanese and we visit often to see his Mom, this was my fourth visit to the park, but my first time during the Spring! I was surprised to see how much they had embraced the Easter holiday in their decorations (since Japanese don't actually celebrate the holiday in their homes). They had an Easter egg hunt throughout the park where they had painted eggs to look like different popular characters. It was super fun and I took a ton of photos (which hopefully won't take me years to finally get around to scrapbook and share).
I couldn't resist taking pictures of the girls trying on silly hats. If you think Americans love to shop at the parks, Japanese take it to a whole other level. We were some of the only people not wearing hats and toting different expensive popcorn buckets. They have different flavored popcorn stations (each sporting their own particular style of bucket) scattered throughout the parks selling everything from curry to milk tea flavored popcorn (huh?). What you can't see in this picture is the horse hat has a very tiny body attached in back. So funny!
The following day we went to their second theme park called "Disney Sea". If you haven't heard of it, it is very cool (and very gigantic so my feet died this day). It is divided into 7 lands all with a water theme. The photo below was taken during a water parade of sorts that they do every afternoon on their Mediterranean Harbor. In the evening we rode a gondola in this same harbor ducking under the bridges and canals that closely match the feel of Venice.
When at Tokyo Disneyland we are always excited to see the characters! They seem to be better about pulling out unusual characters for photos that we don't usually get to see at the US parks. This day we got our picture with Thumper and Miss Bunny from Bambi (among a handful of other fun ones).
And right before we left for the evening, we were thrilled to catch a ride on the newly opened Toy Story Mania! We consider ourselves seriously lucky because it wasn't slated to officially open until we were long gone. My husband just happened to notice they were distributing fast passes when we walked by at lunch time and they were almost out of them! In the end we only had to wait 5 minutes on get on which is almost unheard of.
Our next day was spent riding a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and then another train to Nara to see his Mom.
After a day of "rest" we decided we better hurry and finish with our last theme park visit before the busier weekend hours hit so we got up early and headed for Osaka to visit Universal Studios. My husband had taken the girls to Japan last summer and knew we would be returning so he purchased them season passes last summer that they wanted to take advantage of one last time on this trip.
Unfortunately our favorite part of this visit didn't get captured in a photo of my own, but we bribed (literally with money) our 8 year old to try their giant roller coaster that darts through a good part of their park called "Hollywood Dream-The Ride". It boasts a giant drop and an almost upside down loop and it looks terrifying! The poor thing was shaking with fear as we waited in line (luckily it was the first thing we ran to when the park opened so she could be put out of her misery quickly). Before you report me to child services, I have say I knew she would love this ride if she'd only try it and I was right. We ended up riding it four times! It was the most priceless family moment. I wish I could capture the big smile on our faces on it each time--There's something so special about reaching that age where we can enjoy every attraction TOGETHER! :) If you love roller coasters I found some fun you-tube videos of it here and here. And for the particularly daring they had a separate line to ride it backwards, but the wait was WAY longer and I wasn't sure if I was that brave.
One of the perks of a season pass is getting to go in and out several times a day which they don't allow for 1-day pass holders so my daughter and I sat at the entrance and hung with the characters while my hubby ran to get a cheaper McDonald's meal for us down the street. They had so many characters coming in and out at quick intervals that we got to see almost the entire cast of Sesame Street...
I'm guessing they were totally copying Disney, but Universal had an Easter egg hunt of their own with eggs painted like Snoopy, Woodstock, Hello Kitty and the Sesame Street characters.
On Friday we decided we better head back to Kyoto to see the cherry blossoms before they were completely gone. The sad reality is they had nearly all dropped to the ground. I'm guessing if we had had time to see them at the beginning of our trip they would have been perfect. I still managed to get some pretty shots. I think I'd like to make a jigsaw puzzle out of this one for my hubby.
A picture of my oldest daughter posing for me... My youngest was not having a good day so I ended up taking a ton of photos of my oldest instead which suited me just fine. My youngest is usually begging me to take her photo so I always end up with more scrapbook layouts about her anyway.
As we made our way out of the area, we found a single tree that was a different variety that was still in bloom. :)
As you can imagine, it was a very popular tree and you had to almost wait in line to get pictures with it. While I was waiting I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this Japanese girl in her kimono taking a picture with her iPhone.
I took some nice photos of Grandma...
And a semi candid photo of us taking a snack break on the curb...
...And then we were off in search of a bus stop for the long ride (all while standing body to body) back to the train station. Did I mention my feet hurt?
Our last big outing was a day spent shopping in downtown Osaka. We all had resisted buying a single thing up to this point so I had some allotted spending money burning a hole in my pocket. This was my hubby's "hood" growing up so while every street looks the same to me, he had us winding in and out of narrow alleys and streets like this one, always knowing exactly where he was. My favorite find of the day was a Japanese do-it-yourself store he took me to (called Tokyu Hands) where I was able to stock up on Copic Marker refills for only $2.60! In fact they were a bit cheaper than the actual markers. I only wish my kids and hubby weren't as eager as they were to get out of there because I probably could have spent another hour figuring out which new colors I wanted to buy. I was able to spend almost a $100 though so I guess I had done enough damage. ;)
Well, there you have it. If you managed to read through all that, I thank you for sticking with me. Our joke on this trip was "It's only about a 15 minute walk". Every time I asked my husband how long it would take to walk from one store on our list to the next or from the train station to our destination, his answer was always "about 15 minutes". All in all we ended up getting about 4+ hours of walking in each day and as fun as it was, I can't tell you how happy I am to be home with my sweet car! :)