Monday, January 07, 2013

Road trip! Visiting family in Osaka for the New Year holidays

January 2nd at 3am, I woke up. Noboru said he wanted us to leave between 4-5am.  Good thing, I had prepped the obento stuff the night before. I woke up, made our obento. Packed it all up. Threw the frozen drinks in the cooler. Placed all that stuff in the genkan and went upstairs, washed my face, brushed my teeth, brushed my hair and threw on a long sleeve top, yoga pants (think  sort of like sweatpants but boot cut type of style), and a fleece zip up. Zero makeup. My carry-on suitcase was packed with flat iron, make up bag, pjs and a spare outfit, spare undies. Went into Branden's room and then to Noah's room, woke them up. They brushed their teeth, went to the restroom and put on sweatpants, long sleeve top and sweatshirt. I had Branden run the black fleece blanket with white flowers from Sanki and blue with pink polka dot , also from Sanki and 1 extra blanket and 3 pillows into the last/3rd row of seats. The boys went and put their backpacks into the MPV. Packed, with pjs, extra clothes, undies and winter coat, etc. And before you knew it, we were on the road. We left our home around 4:45am. The boys and I were in the car at 4:30am, but Noboru was walking around making sure the doors and patio doors were closed, just extra making sure stuff. The security motion sensor camera, we have for the front yard was taping and up and running. And all those last minute type things. And we left. In was pure and pitch black outside, not a dot or smidgen or idea morning was coming anytime soon at all. How were the roads getting to the Osaka/Kyoto area from here in Chiba? Honestly? As you can see from this picture, after the sun had risen somewhat, honestly not bad at all. Roads weren't so crowded at all. I think us leaving when we did was a good idea.
We made only 3 stops along the way, so the boys could go to the restroom. Of course during one of those pit stops for the bathroom break, I also stopped at Starbucks.
Brownie mocha. The weather outside was superly cold. And did I mention, though everyone else went to bed at a reasonable time the night before. How smart they are/were! I however stayed up way too late for my own good. I stayed up until 11pm. So I only got sleep form 11pm-3am. Which is not so much sleep.
With seat belts on and snuggly blankets and pillows and movies to watch, the boys enjoyed the trip a lot. I enjoyed it too. Noboru and I listened to music in the front seats. Seeing and enjoying Japan along the way. When we drove through Shizuoka, Noboru told me they are famous for tea. Etc, you know that type of thing. Good drive, good drive.
Our hotel we booked was for a free night stay. Remember those 4 nights free per year we get from Delta. Anyway we used stay #2 of those.  We'll get 4 more in April. Anyway as we got off on the Kyoto exit huge traffic jam. Noboru was like, "In Japan many people pay their first visits to the shrine at the start of the year" Which I know of course. But Kyoto has many famous popular places like that and so we're talking traffic not moving really at all. From the time we got off the Kyoto exit to the time we got to our hotel it was like an hour had elapsed. When we got off the highway it was 2pm-ish by the time we got to the hotel it was now 3:20pm-ish. Considering we were meeting for dinner at 5pm. We were in a bit of a time crunch.
Look at the congestion just tyring to park and pull into the hotel!
Okay so now after waiting for what seemed like a million years. It's finally our turn to pull into the hotel. And the man says to us. "Are you guests here?" "yes we are." Okay, he says well we have barely no room for parking but possibly we can find a spot however you won't need the car tonight will you? Noboru politely says....Yes, we need the car tonight... we have dinner with family later, Oh well....ummm, the man says. I jumped in and told Noboru, "let's just take the train and leave the car here then", ykwim, if it's going to be trouble gettting the car back in here." Great, the man said and Noboru said. So we said yeah, go ahead and keep the car then.  Also, if we knew we'd be without our car or having a car would be such a hassle.... we would have just flown to Osaka then and saved ourselves the trouble (we didn't say that of course but yeah it's what we were thinking). No worries now worries, we smile and shake it off. Okay so we now get everything we need out of the car considering we won't see the car until check out the next day. And we go inside the hotel. "Hi our name is such and such....we have a reservation" And here it is. The man says...."oh your rooms aren't ready." Okay at this point we turn to each other and give each other a look like..."are they kidding us?" Are we secretly on some hidden camera TV show? He then tells us.... Can you wait 10-15 minutes. @_@ (keep in mind dinner starts at 5pm) Time crunch would be putting it mildly. Noboru politely says, "well we really need to check in as soon as possible, (then Noboru smartly made a point of saying) I thought check in was 2pm...as he glanced at the clock" I also added, "It's nearly 4pm", I said in Japanese. Alright though we're not ones to make trouble though...we said our peace and went to sit down. So we all sit down all 4 of us with each of us carrying a backpack or mini suitcase case type thing with coat in the other hand.. 20 minutes later and yeah it's definitely past 4pm at this point. The smile we tried to have on our faces had most definitely faded away. Feeling quite frustrated by now and wondering quite frankly if we'll miss dinner completely. Granted it's not the guy at the counters fault, we know that, but by the same token.... gee it isn't our fault either. We just want our rooms, that's all. No complaint...no trouble... just please give us our rooms! He can tell at this point we're not really pleased. And you know what....we weren't! He says...here are some drink coupons for the lounge if you'd like to wait there. Noboru says politely but firmly "thank you but, we don't need the drink coupons we'd really just like our rooms please"  By the way he keeps giving keys to other check in people. Which just adds to the frustration. And we still wait. He finally comes to us and says 1 room is ready here's the key we'll bring you the key to the room next door when it's ready! Okay that's fine. And we went to the 6th floor. I was somehow hoping to get a 1 hour nap if we would have arrived at 2pm. However, considering the holiday traffic, the room not being ready... by now it's clear we need to switch clothes as fast as humanly possible and leave. The boys switched clothes from sweatpants to jeans and brushed their teeth freshened up a bit. I meanwhile put my makeup on. Switched clothes. Ran my hair through the flat iron. I took no more then 7 minutes for everything. And about this time, the door knocks the other room is ready. You know, I just have to say we're pretty flexible people. We're pretty open minded and we understand how sometimes things happen. But you know what...when you expect folks to check out of rooms at 11am and the check in is at 2pm. Yet a person is waiting and it's 4pm and the room *still* isn't ready. Yeah, there is a slight problem. I could see a 30 minute delay with the room, that would be acceptable if we waited until about 2;30pm-ish. But not after 4pm, room should have been ready to go by 4pm...should have been ready at 2pm. But 2 hours after the rooms supposed to be ready and it's not? That's a little ridiculous. So anyway, 4:25pm we left. We walked out of the hotel to catch the train and wouldn't you just know it.... it's raining buckets. We have no umbrella, because we expected to take the car.
This is our room the other one was identical.
Old but clean. And we stayed at this hotel before one time in May, 2 years ago and it was fine no waiting or anything. Perhaps it was because of the New Year's holidays or I don't know.  At this point, Noboru says, let's take the car. We're *so* late. We can always pay for parking if we can't get a parking at the hotel afterwards. But he said... "if we miss dinner then our coming here was for not." Know what I mean? I said sure. So we got our car and we left. Would you believe the traffic was even worse now. The roads were like parking lots. Meaning the cars were not moving. Luckily Noboru, checked for alternate ways to get out of Kyoto via his Nexus 7  via the maps he has on there and we found a way out of Kyoto on little side streets. Meet up time was at 5pm! We got there about 5:45pm!!!! At 4:55pm Noboru's cell rang, it's his sister, "big brother where are you?" "Are you almost here? We're all outside the restaurant waiting" she said."Go inside" Noboru said. We're still in Kyoto! @_@ Kyoto!!!, she said.  At this point, I said to Noboru, do you think the restaurant will have parking? Clearly Noboru, this Osaka native, has been living in the inaka for far too long. Of course he says what sort of restaurant has no parking. Hahaha famous last words! We get there no parking! It's on a huge busy street cars are going zooming past back and forth. And the restaurant has zero parking, not even pay parking. So we go round and round looking for some sort of parking. We must have made 5 laps around the block, I'm seriously not kidding. Noboru is meanwhile trying to phone his sister "where do we park" lol. But because the place is understably so loud she can't hear the phone. Finally on the 3rd call she answered. We did finally find parking, it was pay parking pay by the... every 20 minutes. But it was the only one that had parking available. We quickly parked and ran into the restaurant. I did by the way take an Advil along the way from Kyoto to Osaka. I think I was getting a mini headache because of my lack of sleep.
Yep that's a lot of people. All Noboru's family. All the way to the very back. This is an all you can eat. Not a buffet but an all you can eat for 2 hours. Considering we were an hour late. We got only 1 hour to eat. Which was hard considering we went to each table, bowed and visited and greeted everyone. It was awesome though. Because I absolutely love Noboru's extended family. They're all super cool, and so hilarious. They're not shy! Very very friendly family. My MIL closest to this camera in the maroon sweater. And my sister in law, K on the left with long hair. She's on the left of my MIL. My MIL Mitsuko's sister is facing the camera on the end of the table with the bears on her sweaters. All the way to the back back row of genki boys. All in their 20's.  We ate quickly. Chatting and talking and visiting. The boys were doted on so much. That back row of 20 something boys. Kept calling Branden to come over. Get over here little brother, they said to Branden!!!! And he did. They talked to him so much. Picked him up! Hugged him. Noah they picked up and talked to. Joking with them. In our house Branden is oldest. So he's just always been the responsible one. But at the dinner he was young. And all those boys treated Branden like a little brother. They teased him. Joked with him. Branden loved it! Branden was beaming. Noah was getting so many cuddles from everyone all the many aunties and cousins. The one wearing the bear sweater told me. Branden looks like hafu you and hafu Noboru. But Noah, he's a copy of you. She told me that 3 times. Everyone chimed in and agreed. lol. I hear it all the time so we know. But....it was just wonderful seeing all the love showered on the boys. Because they very rarely get to spend time with their family in Osaka. And usually the only one they get to spend time with and who gets to watch them grow is my dad. Which we're lucky for that. I'm so close to my dad. So yeah....not sure if you'll understand what I'm saying but, when you live far apart like this from family.... it really warms your heart to see your kiddos get that  little extra nurturing love and hugs and cuddles and talk and chat and even the playful teasing. It did the boys a world of good.  You know, it was so worth it for us to come just getting to watch the love they got from his family. Spending time with them is something we four really look forward to. One of Noboru's aunties talked my ear off and I loved every second of it. I talked her ear off in return, hahaha! I really did. : )  The boys got a great amount of otoshidama and we gave it also in return. However, it was the family time, what was the most important thing we got from our visit. Sorry if that sounds corny, but it's true.
My mil checking in on us making sure we had enough on our grill on our side.
I wish I could have taken more or better pictures but time was so limited, I also had to eat dinner. And chat with the family. So this is it picture wise. I had the best time with his family. I didn't even feel sleepy or tired being at the restaurant and the Advil zapped my mini headache away right away. So I had an amazing night. The time went by much too quickly. Time moves by way too fast when you're having fun. Before we knew it, the wait staff said, "last call" so we all made our last orders. I ordered another miso chicken to grill and some rosu (lean beef) We were stuffed. We were all putting our shoes on, hugging everyone good bye.  And next thing you know we were driving back to Kyoto. And the traffic cleared up. Hahaha. We got back to the hotel safe and sound, we parked across the street at a pay parking spot. And went to our two rooms. It was about, 8pm-ish. everyone took showers and into pjs. No TV or anything. though they had satellite. We were all exhausted. I remember waking up the next morning. I got a great night sleep. Noboru was checking traffic reports for the highway and traffic on his Nexus and he said huge traffic congestion was already reported on the highways. So it was a worry. But we went to have breakfast first and to think some on the traffic and how we'd get home.
Krispy Kreme donuts in Kyoto which was quite close to the hotel, though we drove because we were checking out anyway. We paid for parking somewhere on the surface and went underground to find Krispy Kreme. Noboru and I each got the morning combo.
Hi Noah, Hi Branden!
Donuts galore! You know, I wish they'd open one of these up at Narita airport that would be perfect! And easy for me to get to.
We each had a donut and the boys shared a tea.
This was so hot and fresh. Noboru said he suggested we delay our getting on the highway until 11am-ish. Hoping the traffic would clear.
At the last Ohsho before leaving the Osaka/Kyoto area and starting the trip back home. We stopped for lunch. It was now about 11am-ish. Shrimp, karaage, fried rice gyoza.
Noah had ramen and a mini fried rice and some chicken and shrimp.  After we ate and filled our tummy's. We started back to Chiba. Noboru wanted us to drive the side roads versus getting on the highway. Because the highways were so congested. Traffic blocked up for miles.
So we took the side roads. It was longer on paper to to speak, but faster because zero traffic problems. See no traffic really. See that sky by the way.
Again still avoiding the main expressway. And again look at that sky. It was so bitter cold.
Snow! Well gee, it was just a matter of time really. ; )
Cold, here's the temp as we drove by.
Now it's kicking up a bit more.
And now the flakes are even bigger. And yep that was a man riding a convertible in the snow! @_@ Poor guy must have had quite the drive ne~ ; )
We made a bathroom break and a Starbucks break all in one. Along the way.
Starbucks drive thru's. They're just getting common now days here in Japan. We have a drive thru near the closest Hanamasa from our house that I go in about once a month.
Everyone emptied their bladder/restroom break, we all washed our hands and Noboru and I got a caramel machiatto and hit the road once more.
Not sure if you can make heads or tails of this but, see the red road? That's the expressway/highway. Totally red and full of people! Congested! Traffic blocked up for miles like I said. Which is why we purposely avoided jumping on the expressway. Since this was just faster. We were the triangle on the map and going along the same route and direction but just avoiding the expressway.  Just a whole lot faster for us.  We stopped for dinner in Hamamatsu Shizuoka at Saizeriya. We had salad, pasta and pizza and a drink bar. We all went to the restroom and washed our hands and Noboru checked his Nexus for the traffic and he felt it was okay to finally get on the Expressway, so we jumped on the highway in Hamamatsu.
We started our drive back home in daylight and ended our drive back home in the dead of night. We arrived home at 12:30am!!! After midnight! Noah fell asleep after Saizeriya. Branden meanwhile stood awake and Noboru walked him to a toilet break somewhere, I forget now where. And he was asleep after that and remained asleep until we got home. I put all the blankets and pillows onto the couch, Grabbed my carry-on and the boys backpacks and put them into the genkan. And woke the boys up. They went straight to bed. They managed to put jammies on. But they were dead tired. I however, took a shower, washed my face, washed my body, brushed my teeth and went to sleep.
The next morning we had donuts.
Yep we brought back a dozen to enjoy here at the house.
Otoshidama. Branden and Noah ended up with 25,000 yen each. So they didn't do too bad at all. And the most important thing like I said, was the quality family time we all had with all the aunties and uncles and tons and tons of cousins etc. Grandma M, Great grandma and everyone. Sure there was a bump in the road here and there like the traffic in Kyoto. But then that's to be expected around the New Year, it's actually sorta okay the other times of year. The delay checking in to the hotel was a huge bummer for us. But we didn't let it ruin the trip at all. So all in all, a pretty great trip. : )

Tonight we're meeting my bil Jun, sil S and my neice Mia for dinner in Narita City.