After skiing we left the picturous Hakuba on the 22nd and trained it to Jacqueline’s house. The trains in Japan are amazing; so clean and run to precision timing, there is a wonderful website that you key in where you want to go etc and it tells you what trains to catch and times all the connections perfectly, luckily Jacqueline knew about that or we may never have made it back! We had to catch 4 different trains to Shioya, a trip which took about 6 hours and took the kids on their first Shinkansen (bullet train).
unfortunately one of the rains moved a little like the tilt train and poor Lachs got travel sick, but apart from that they both had fun on the trains… there are no trains in Abu Dhabi so it really is a novelty. My parents flew in the same night for Xmas as well.
Jacqueline’s house is just lovely with a large yard for the kids to play in; mine loved being outside (even at 10 degrees) climbing trees, chasing each other and having a wonderful time. It makes me realize how much time they have to spend inside in Abu Dhabi!
With Christmas only a couple of sleeps away (the count down was on) they had fun decorating gingerbread houses with their cousins.
Christmas Day –
Clint and I left the kids (thanks J and Mum) and went to Hiroshima and Miyajima Island for the day. Hiroshima is a fascinating city they have a town beautification project that encompasses a large part of the city, within it there is no smoking and huge fines for littering (although no place in Japan we went to had any litter anywhere).
The dome is a world heritage site, the atomic bomb (having slightly missed its target) detonated almost directly above the dome and is now the main symbol of Hiroshima and the atrocity of nuclear weapons. The peace museum was also amazing with lots of artifacts damaged by the bomb, displays about nuclear weapons, the nuclear age and why Hiroshima was chosen, recounts of witnesses, terrible stories of suffering and how the city rebuilt itself etc.
Miyajima Island is officially called Itsukushima, Miyajima is just a nickname meaning shrine island. The island is considered a holy place ever since 806 AD, when a monk established the mountain as a site for the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Women were once not allowed at all and there are still no hospitals etc on the island as it is believed death would ruin the island purity. While there are lots of hotels, most of the island is still national parks with deer wandering the streets, amazing places to eat, the famous Itsukushima shrine and the O-torrii gate (probably one of the most photographed images of Japan). Clint and I had a lovely afternoon wandering the alleyways and people watching!
Fiona and Steve flew in from London a couple of days after Christmas, it was lovely to see them both again and for the whole family to be together for Mums birthday. We had a lovely couple of days, hopefully we will make it to London in April and see more of them.
Mum and Dad kindly volunteered to look after the 5 kids so we (my sisters and partners) could enjoy a day out. Our plan was to go up Mt Roko to a traditional Japanese village. The cable car up went according to plan,
then we caught the bus around Mt Roko to the rope-way (to go to the spa/ hot springs village), which is about when the blizzard started!
The operators told us we could go out on the ropeway but we couldn’t get back due to the high winds. Not wanting to be stuck on top of the mountain we declined that offer and decided to walk (not sure who’s smart idea that was!) back through Mt Roko to get a bus to go back to the cable car. We were not expecting snow that day and as a result were not really dressed for the weather!
Japan has the most crazy kit-kat flavours out! Jacqueline collected some of the weirder ones and we had a kit-kat taste off once the kids were in bed (I don’t share chocolate)!
Some of the bizarre flavours we had were blueberry, mixed fruit, green tea, milk coffee, strawberry, cherry blossom/green tea, caramel pudding and CHEESE!!!! Ok, I would happily share the cheese ones with the kids, they were disgusting!
As well as vending machines every 100m, Japanese love their cartoons. Even the road signs are cutesy!
New Years day, 2011
Remember the comment about the trains running to precision time? Well they all did… except the one to the airport! We left Jacqueline’s house just after 1pm for our 9pm train and had the connections timed perfectly to get us to the airport at 7pm. All went according to plan until the airport train from Tokyo which takes about an hour, was close to 20 mins late and then the information screens on the train showed that our plane was 20 mins early! We were a little worried (although at worse it would have meant a night in a hotel) especially when the flight leaving 5 mins before ours started to flash “go to gate” and we were still on the train. We ran from the train to the check in area (a distance of close to 1km) and of course the Ethiad desk was the furthest away… but we made it. We were the last to check in, didn’t even have to give our name they knew who we were! The 12 hour flight back was fine, even though the plane was nearly full we somehow got given 2 seats each so both the kids slept for 10 hours and Lachs nearly made it the whole way without being sick (was sick after landing in Abu Dhabi), so hopefully he maybe getting better!
Kids went back to school the following day and straight back into routine, luckily we got some cold weather in Japan as winter here seems to be non-existent again this year!