Thursday, March 26, 2015

Osaka and Nara, Japan...

So, after finding out the bad news about Noboru's grandma last Thursday. The positive point (not that there really is one) was for the elementary school... it just so happened to be their graduation day, so Noah's elementary school was on a half day, last Thursday. Noboru did go to the school and get Noah and spoke with his teacher. The teacher said since it is a "death in the family" it is not marked as an absence. So we told her that he'd, clearly/unfortunately also be off Friday too. We did get Branden from school also. I had already packed for the kids and myself. Noboru prefers pack himself. Which is fine. And we left. Jun (my brother in law) left Narita about an hour and a half or closer to 2 hours earlier than us. Some bad news happened to Jun though. As he and his family were on their way to Osaka, but still closer to Chiba. But on the highway at some service area. Anyway as they pulled out of said service area... some car backed his car into Jun's car. Nearly ripping Jun's back bumper off. He was worried the whole trip to Osaka if his bumper would fly off or not. he had also contemplated going back to Chiba and flying to Osaka. But flights were full. So poor Jun. : ( Meanwhile with us getting a 2 hour delay leaving Chiba, from when my bil Jun left. We tried to pick up the pace. We drove and drove and drove. We saw the sun set while on the road. And at one point, we knew us getting to Osaka Thursday night, even super super late, early Friday morning, just *wasn't* going to happen. So while we stopped for a bathroom break along the way we booked a hotel room, in Shizuoka. We also decided to get off the highway in Shizuoka and get some dinner. We went to Jolly Pasta for Thursday nights dinner. It was 9:30pm-ish. So quite late. We had been driving for hours and hours. Since 1pm. We each picked our own pasta dish and we all shared a pizza. 

Basil tomato and mozzarella cheese pasta, so delicious! 
One thing I do want to say is, Thursday from 1pm-10pm, the traffic was so insane. You'd think it was Golden Week. It truly was like a parking lot, the highway. It took us twice as long to get to Osaka. Which is why, we just smartly said at one know what, let's just get a hotel and stay the night somewhere and get a good nights rest. So anyway back to the pasta. We all filled up on pasta and pizza Thursday, by now it was pitch black outside. And we went to get back onto the highway after leaving Jolly Pasta and the entrance was CLOSED. @_@ What the...So we drove some more and tried another entrance to get on the highway and yet again. Entrance to the highway was closed. We ended up driving about 50 minutes to an hour on regular roads near the highway, before we could actually get back onto the highway. It was totally weird, why we could not get on the highway. I will tell you now. But we did not know it at the time. Turns out a major landslide in Shizuoka and not sure if that was the reason why it affected us getting back onto the highway or if it was the deep fog that prevented us getting back onto the highway. And not sure if people or cars were damaged or hurt with said landslide. But let's just say...we were very grateful we got off the highway to get supper when we did. Because if not..who knows that landslide could have hit us or our car! So good thing that we got off the highway when we did. Again, because we could not get onto the highway for so long we had more of a time delay. 

We arrived at our hotel. Noboru has been wishing to stay at this hotel chain for years!!! They based their hotel rooms and style on American hotels. You get 2 queen beds. Very clean. And the price was a flat $100. Which is uncommon in Japan. In Japan they usually charge you per person. For example, say you get a room for 6,000 yen and 4 of your family will sleep there, you will pay 6,000 for each of you for the 1 room. I know, I know, crazy expensive right. But this hotel, it's 10,000 yen regardless if 1 stays or 5 stays. 

I brought my Michael Kors bag (in the Macy's bag) in case we attended the funeral and our suits hung in the Leaf over night. Mini fridge in the hallway in the back. Just a very well thought out room. Very American. We loved this room and hotel!

Extra pillows, extra fresh towels. 

Poor kiddos, they were just so exhausted. We all were. : ( 

So clean, so nice.

Shiseido shampoo, conditioner and body wash. We all took turns showering that night. And we all went to sleep right away. 

I do like that the toilet is separate though, that way I could do my makeup in the morning. Without hogging the bathroom. : )

Above the toilet. Peter Rabbit and the spare roll of toilet paper. Again just a lovely room. And price is right if you are a family of 4. : )
Good night everyone! Such clean sheets and bedding. 

Very American style hotel. Loved it!

Washers and dryers if you need to do some laundry. We didn't, but nice to know it's there. 

This is a chain in Japan and I would totally recommend anyone to stay there. 

Free continental breakfast. Again very American style. I am assuming the owner of this chain hotel, went to America and loved the hotels there and said, "let's bring this to Japan and do that there" There were fresh breads and a toaster oven. 

Fresh coffee, juice and teas.


Branden feeling a bit sad about his great grandma. : ( 

We toasted our breads and took them back to our room and ate and then returned our trays. We hopped in the car around 7am-ish and drove for hours upon hours. Until lunch time. 
We stopped at Mickey D's. Bran and Noboru both picked Big Mac combos. Noah had 2 cheeseburgers and this order of fries pictured here and I had the pancakes. We hopped along the highway and did not eat from 12 noon that Friday until 11:20pm that night. We drove and drove and drove and the traffic sucked and sucked and sucked. But we finally arrived to Noboru's grandma's house around 5:45pm Friday night. It was dark already. We pulled up to the front of her house. One of Noboru's cousins was outside smoking a cigarette as we parked. We didn't know if there was 1 or 2 people inside the house or like a 100. We walked into the genkan and by the amount of shoes, and voices, we could tell there were about a bazillion people inside. We 4 entered. And to my surprise his grandma's dead body was laying in the living room on a futon. She was covered in white, all you could see was her face, not even her hair.

Modern day Japan, they have it at a ceremony hall, sort of like we have ours in America. This is how we did ours, when I was growing up...keep in mind for what it's worth, I'm American and Catholic, so the way we do ours, is, we have 3 separate services, when someone dies. There is the viewing or wake, usually at the mortuary or funeral home. Then #2, we usually have a funeral at the Catholic church. And then we have the burial, where we usually all ride in limos with a police escort to the cemetery. And have the 3rd and last service there at the cemetery. So that's how I saw things done when I was growing up. What do I know about Japanese funerals? Not much, but some. Modern day ones are done at ceremony halls, like I said and then they also take you to the cremation center. And then I have also heard of the old school type is the body is at the families house. I have heard of both ways. But I have yet to see either way. So, I had no idea where great grandma's body was. I did not know if she was at her home or at some "ceremony hall" but when we walked in and saw her there, I realized right away. Also, please keep in mind, Branden and Noah have never seen a dead body or person before in real life. Dead cat along the road? Sure. But someone they loved and hugged and kissed and cared about? No. Noboru's uncles, aunts, Noboru's sister and brother were there. Wife of Jun, my sil. Kids galore. Cousins times a billion. Everyone had been paying respects and as we entered it was our turn. Noboru went first.  Noboru's not very overly emotional. Meaning he doesn't cry during sappy commercials like I sometimes can. However, when he sat and faced his grandma he cried and he cried and he cried. Don't ask me why, but it caused his brother and sister to cry. Jun's wife started crying. I started crying, his uncle started crying. Branden and Noah were just shocked. I think it was their first time ever seeing their dad cry, Like in the history of the world for them like...ever! He then went to the shrine type set-up near her head and he knelt on a white pillow, lit an incense, Clanked a golden bowl of some sort with a mini metal gong piece. And the house was silent, we were still crying. Then he turned to me and said...your turn. I felt a thousand eyeballs upon me. I felt nervous. What if I mess up something. I knelt on the white pillow and did my stuff. I don't think I hit the golden bowl loud enough. My sound was much quieter than Noboru's sound. Should I redo mine? I did think and ponder but clearly the answer is NO! So, I moved and Branden went and Noah went after. Sitting in a living room about 12 tatami mat size with a billion people in there plus 1 deceased family member. You suddenly feel really aware that there is indeed a deceased body right there. But after a while, conversations get going and I'd temporarily forget she was there and then I'd remember again. We have not seen everyone for 2 years. So, it was good to catch up. Wish it was under better circumstances. When Noboru's cousin, the one who moved from Osaka to Okinawa arrived from her flight and walked in the house. She arrived about 45 minutes after us, she knelt down in front of her grandmother and she cried so loudly....she was truly inconsolable. That was absolutely heartbreaking watching that. She knelt there and spoke and cried and grieved.  There were neighbors popping in to pay respects in between here and there. At one point, Noboru said to me in English and then he said it in Japanese. But he said. "My grandma was 86 years old! She had a long wonderful happy life! And for her being 86 years old, she had not 1 enemy! Not 1 person could say they disliked or had hatred for my grandmother, she loved absolutely everyone, she saw the good in everyone and was loved and liked by everyone" Noboru then said that in Japanese and everyone actually totally agreed. She was a truly remarkable lady. She was so caring and lovely to me personally, always making me a cup of coffee or pouring me something to drink, bringing out fruit or a senbei. Every time we'd go back to Chiba, she'd pack us some snacks and some extra blankets or whatnot. Take this!!! She'd say. She was just such a lovely lady. And yeah, Noboru was right. She had a long wonderful life and by seeing all of us who came to pay respects she was loved by many! So while sad, we did choose to celebrate the absolute awesomeness of such a kind pure hearted lady. We meanwhile, had been looking for a hotel in Osaka during our time at grandma's house. However we waited too late and there were no rooms in Osaka city for that night. We were offered to stay at Noboru's sister's place but she has a very small place and Jun and his family were staying there too. It was very kind of them to offer, but we couldn't imagine 10 people all trying to share 1 bathroom. So while we were thankful for the offer, we knew we had to find a place. The only place available for a family of 4 was in Nara. So we booked and left Noboru's grandma's house. We had told everyone that we had to get back and considering traffic. And the fact Noboru had work Sunday. And it was already Friday night, he told them we were leaving. Jun had decided he also was going to leave Saturday morning 7am-ish. So neither Noboru and his family or Jun and his family were able to attend the actual cremation service Sunday March 22nd, (my birthday) also it turns out that her birthday was March 21st and so she was an Aries, just like me. No wonder we got along so well, his grandma and I. I was sad, we had to leave Osaka so quickly. But I understood Noboru's reasoning. Given the crappy traffic to Osaka, we had to prepare in case it was that way on our way back to Chiba. So in the end, leaving Friday night was the right thing to do.
We stopped for curry at Coco Ichiban curry around 11:20pm Friday night. We were starving. However relieved that we did right by his grandma. We came and it was SO very important that we did. We drove for 1 hour from Osaka to Nara, Japan. 

It was near 1am. And we were just beside ourselves, we were so exhausted. Our family showers EVERY night. And I am a stickler about taking my make-up off, every night, if I wear it. But Friday night, early Saturday. I just went straight to bed.  

We woke up around 7am-ish and I quickly washed my face and got ready. We all quickly got ready. And Noboru told us. Since we are here in Nara and Nara is famous for the deer roaming around, let's go check it out. We said, that sounded like a fantastic idea.So we checked out of the hotel. And went to go get some breakfast.
We walked into Choco Cro (chocolate croissants) we each got a drink and something to eat, this was a 3 minute walk from our hotel.

Noboru felt really happy that he got to say his good-byes to his grandma the day before. See her one last time. And grieve with his family. Like he said, she had lived a long amazing life. She had been to America before to visit, Hong Kong to visit and Korea to visit, she visited quite a few different places. She saw and did many things with her life. She would not want any of us to live with sadness. And so we just tried to enjoy our trip back to Chiba, the best we could. While our trip to Osaka was for a very serious reason, there was no reason to make our trip all the way back home all doom and gloom either though, if you know what I mean.  : ) 

About to enter the main area where the deer hang out. We were here March 21st, Saturday! Morning, around 8-8:30am.

Deer selfie! : ) 

As the price says on this it says 150 yen. For a pack of deer senbei.

You get this many per pack. A very good deal. However we watched others buy it first and see what they did and learned from their mistakes. Sorry. : ) The deer in the morning are starving. Noboru's coworkers wife is originally from Nara and he says that in the afternoon the deer won't even take a senbei. But in the morning they are starving! After watching some people at first, the deer are VERY smart. They will try to "rob" you if they can...take all your senbei crackers at once if they can. They do this head butting thing with their nose, where it almost feels like they bite you. But they don't. Some folks were actually running with their senbei and that just made more deer chase them. I decided to buy some, but hide the senbei in my bag/purse. That was the best and smartest move because nobody (deer) knew we had some and I could dole 1 out at a time to the boys. We ended up buying 2 packages total, so spent 300 yen about $3 US. But it was fun as long as we kept the senbei hidden away. Because if the deer see your senbei prepare to be hunted down for all your senbei and chased. Hahaha. : ) 

Noah feeding a deer, Saturday March 21st. Nara, Japan.

Branden breaking 1 in half. Smart because it lasts twice as long that way.

Branden hid the other half in his front pocket of his sweatshirt, but the deer is absolutely way too smart! As you can see by this picture, he just stuck his snout in Bran's pocket and pulled it right out! Busted Branden!

I am so glad we got the chance to see Nara, Japan! 

Love you guys! : )

Branden hiding half of the senbei behind his butt. But look at that deers face looking at Branden! He wasn't going for it! He knew! : )

Doe a deer, a female deer! Ray a drop of golden sun! : )

Noah feeding a little cutie pie, deer! March 21st, Nara, Japan.

Dragon water facet.

About to walk back to our car and leave Nara. I think us spending an hour in Nara did us a world of good. 
You wouldn't believe all the mass amounts of attention our 100% electric car gets. Olive gets attention wherever she goes. People will actually walk right up to Noboru and ask him about 5 questions. They always seem to be the same questions hahaha. Here while we were charging her up at one of the service areas, 2 men walked right up to the charger (pictured here) while Olive was eating her meal/getting electricity. They sat there and sipped their drink and chatted about our car. @_@ Strangest/weirdest thing ever. And at 1 stop,  after midnight on Saturday/Sunday morning, there were about 7 (could have actually been more) different men standing and talking about our car. I was asleep and awoke to find them staring and pointing at our car. They were then surprised a western woman was fast asleep inside and I was equally surprised a mob of men had formed at the front of our car. Noboru just walked back from the restroom. And they had a load of questions to ask him about our car. And 1 question about me. @-@ Which country was I from? Noboru said, his wife is from the U.S.A.  Again, just really weird to get so much unwanted attention for the car. 
We didn't stop again from Nara to Nagoya. In Nagoya we stopped and stretched our legs while Olive had a meal. She hadn't had one in hours. Meanwhile there was a huge festival in Nagoya city going on. And while we walked through it, we really just wanted to stretch our legs. However, I did walk by the Nars makeup counter and picked up an eyeliner. Why not, we had 30 minutes to spare (since she was charging). And since we were there. Just perfect timing. And picking up 1 black eyeliner literally took less than 5 minutes. : ) After the purchase we walked around some more then headed back to the car. 

After a few hours after Nagoya... we stopped at Saizeriya to make sure everyone got some dinner in their tummys. Just a cheap Italian restaurant. Not even remotely as good as Jolly Pasta. But you know what...when you travel and it's sorta unexpected travel. You just have to roll with whatever comes your way. : )  And lucky for us, we're super flexible. After leaving Saizeriya, we told the boys to just get some sleep. And Noboru and I would be taking turns driving back to Chiba. It would be long. It would be exhausting. But we didn't want to pay for another nights hotel room because...we have our Guam trip coming up really soon and prefer spend our money on food or whatnot there. So we were just going to ganbatte and drive and when we were exhausted we'd switch seats and take turns. So the boys crashed. But both totally full.

We each got a super large caramel machiatto. And he took the first turn driving. I sat up drinking my coffee keeping him company. When he started getting sleepy, we pulled off at a service area. And switched seats. I drove, I had my glasses on. And we drove and drove. I had 80's music on keeping me awake. Noboru zonked out. I drove for such a long time. When I felt I needed a break, we switched and we did that back and forth until we got home. We got home so super late. Or super early. We arrived, 4am back to our house. Jun arrived in Narita at 12 midnight. Granted they didn't stop and feed deer for an hour in Nara. Walk around and stretch their legs in Nagoya. Or take 3 Starbucks coffee breaks, like we did. And a Saizeriya dinner break. : ) They just powered straight through with no stops. Good grief, they are so much tougher than us! : ) However we made it home. All in one piece. And we paid absolutely 0 in gas. Not even 5 cents or 5 yen. You'd think Olive were a celebrity the attention she gets. LOL. The car is more famous then we are! Hahaha. : )  But you know what...we left emergency style because was. But we did try to make the best out of a bad or sad situation. : ) 

We did bring back some snacks for our home. We knew we could not give omiyage to anyone, since it was for a funeral, this trip. Noboru says, people could feel it could bring bad luck to the recipient. So, we just brought these back for us. Cookies for the kids and green tea cream soft cakes for Noboru. The boys also brought back some cute deer and senbei charms. 

Nars black eyeliner. I needed one, I was going to wait until we go to America this summer. But since we were literally right in front of a big department store and I could literally see the Nars from outside. You know what, I was there, it was there. Sometimes you have your big chance. And again we weren't expecting this. But...we just happened to be literally... smack dab right in front of the store. So, why not.

Anyway, that was our unexpected trip to Osaka and Nara, Japan.