Ayumi Shafer

Joined April 2017
  • Day12

    Last Day

    April 21, 2017 in Japan

    Since our flight was not till 5pm, we had a chance to take the morning easy. Packed EVERYTHING - somehow we ended up with 2 very full suitcases - even after all the diapers used, presents to my cousin out, and extra room for souvenirs.

    We couldn't believe the vacation was over! We saw so much and had a great time experiencing this culture.

    The flight home was long, but Maisie was really great and slept for over 8hrs of the 12hr flight!! And when she was awake, she was a great traveler. As the plane landed, we were relieved at how great Maisie did - BUT THEN in the last 2mins of us taxi-ing, she decided it was the perfect time to vomit all over herself and Steven. We couldn't believe it - I felt so bad for all those people around us that had to smell that as we waited to get off the plane. Silverlining - it was at the end of the flight and we were able to get a change of clothes for them.both before our connecting flight to MSP.

    Overall- it was an amazing trip filled with culture, delicious food, family time, and unexpected turns. We were so lucky to have the opportunity to travel to a great country with the help of family - and all our friends helping us out with taking care of BB, driving us to the airport - and our bosses that let us take a significant time off.
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  • Day11

    Ghibli Museum

    April 20, 2017 in Japan

    This was AMAZING!! If you are a fan of Miyazaki films and have seen many of the Ghibli films - this is a must go!! Unfortunately, they didn't allow any photography inside the actual museum - so I don't have anything to show, but trust me when I say, it was magical!!! They had thousands of sketches and storyboards, cool film gadgets, models and adorable play areas.

    Crazy thing that happened - our appointment to see the museum was at 4pm so we left for the trains around 3pm, which was plenty of time. Except - there was a passenger accident that shut down a large portion of the lines. We had to scramble and get on a bunch of different trains to get there- we were 20mins late but they still let us in :)Read more

  • Day11

    Day 9: Shinagawa Aqua Park

    April 20, 2017 in Japan

    Since it was the last full day in Japan for us, we took the morning easy. Had breakfast at the hotel, walked around some local grocery stores (and bought A LOT of stuff), and watched some people make "tai-yaki" and ate it!

    We checked our the Aqua Park that was in the courtyard of the hotel we're staying at - by far the COOLEST aquarium I've ever been to, and I've been to a lot of aquariums. The first section had really simple tanks with only one or two types of fish in each- and the tank surface was a touch screen!!! They each had a different cool interface and when you clicked on the side it had facts about fish that were in there!! So cool- a great way to engage this generation aquarium go-ers and getting them educated.

    Maisie and I also ride the merry-go-round :)
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  • Day10

    Day 8: Hakone (part 2)

    April 19, 2017 in Japan

    More from the Hakone Open-Air Museum.y favorite pieces.

    This first one is my absolute favorite, titled "Close"

    Also- we really loved this fried-egg installation and Maisie LOVED it too, until see she decided to walk really close to the edge of it and slipped and fell off. It was scary and sad when it happened, but kinda funny as I think about it now LOL.

  • Day10

    Day 8: Hakone

    April 19, 2017 in Japan

    Finished up the morning in Sou-on-zen. We had an awesome breakfast and Maisie and I got to go for one more dip in our private "onsen" before we left. It was nice to see the view in the daylight this time.

    Also- I french braided her hair for the first time today. It turned out better than expected.

    Then we headed to the Hakone Open-Air Museum. We really didn't know what to expect but had heard lots of great things about it from other tourists. It's pretty much a really ginormous sculpture garden - with installations and visual art from artist all over the world - and it's all set on the beautiful mountain grounds of Hakone. Probably the best art installation museum I've ever been to... And I've been to a lot. There were SO many great ones, but I've just posted the ones that I fell in love with. Great inspiration for my next projects.

    Once we left Hakone- we headed back to Tokyo/Shinagawa. Got to visit with my grandma and aunts and uncles before we leave and walked around where my mom grew up, which was nice.

    For dinner we went to a "kaiten sushi" restaurant which is where they have a revolving belt weaving through the entire restaurant with counter and booths connected to them and you just take a plate if you see something you want to eat. Of course they had every type of sushi, and more! Including dessert! It's kind of a novel experience but a great part of Japanese culture since they are everywhere! Popular with people on dates, families, and if your out drinking and need a bite to drink. At the end of the meal they come and count your plates and price everything according to the color/type of the plates. What's awesome is they it's pretty affordable - really great sushi and other foods for 3 adults was about $35.

    It was really a great day with sun, art, family, and food..... But it was all going too great. On our bullet train back to Shinagawa, we kind of rushed to get off the train - it was late, Maisie was getting fussy - we go through the gates and walk to the end of the station and I realize I DON'T HAVE MY PURSE!!! I left it on the train...... Lucky for us, the last stop was in Tokyo, just one stop over. We talk to someone, they call the office in Tokyo and they find the purse! We head over to Tokyo station and everything in my purse was still there. My wallet, brand new cell phone, the rental cell phone, mine and Steven's sunglasses, and about $450 cash. AND MY FAVORITE PURSE!! It would have been a very sad trip if I lost all that so close to the end of my vacation. But all was well and thanks to everyone who helped me get my stuff back!!
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  • Day9

    Day 7: Nou Nou Hakone (Cozy Inn)

    April 18, 2017 in Japan

    We stayed at a "ryokan" with an "onsen" or hot springs. Hakone is famous for their hot springs and traditional inns, and we got the whole big experience.

    Our room has a private "onsen" that is set outside, and water was Hot Hot Hot!! But my skin feels fresh and my body rejuvenated. A first time experience for Maisie and Steven but they wore the "yukata" well. The meal, brought to us in our room, was a traditional 10-course meal with sashimi, shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, baked rice, lots of fish, and of course dessert! It was delicious and felt so pampered.Read more

  • Day9

    Day 7: Travel to Hakone

    April 18, 2017 in Japan

    We left the hotel in Hiroshima pretty early and started heading out to Hakone. It was a long journey but totally worth it - 1.5 hr bullet to Osaka, 2 hr bullet to Odawara, little train to Hakone, a switch-back train to Gora, and a cable car up the mountain even more to Sou-un-zan.

    During this time, we got to eat a bunch of "ekiben" which is "station lunch" which is just a lot of yummy food you can buy at the train stations and eat on the trains. We got Uncle Rikuro's jiggly cheesecake, Horai 551's steamed pork buns, maple manju, and really pretty bento boxes (I will post ALL of these pics with our whole trip meals on a separate album).

    The switch-back rains were really awesome, going through some rural areas with pretty trees and rustic tunnels. The last cable car we went on was just a straight path, but had a pretty steep incline up the mountain.
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  • Day8

    Day 6: Miyajima/Itsukushima Shrine

    April 17, 2017 in Japan

    Oh boy, what a day!!

    So started out with a cloudy day and just a tiny bit of rain - sprinkling here and there. After walking around the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we had planned to get on a boat to get to Miyajima - about 20min ferry ride off the port on Hiroshima. Again, it was raining a bit, but we were totally happy with our umbrellas and dry feet.

    We go on the boat and get to the island- it starts pouring!!! We're​ able to get ourselves to the village and decide to have some lunch, and maybe the rain would settle down a bit. We finish lunch and it starts raining HARDER!!! At this point, our shoes were soaked and it started raining sideways. We just felt like we needed to get to the Itsukushima Shrine to see what we came to the island to see and then get the hell outta there!!!

    We see the shrine and LOTS of wild deer - and even with the rain, the shrine grounds were pretty amazing and I'm glad we went to see it!

    As we start heading back to the port to catch the ferry, there is a island-wide announce made - that the winds were too rough, and they had stopped all services back to the main land. We were stranded. The lobby in the port terminal was at a standstill, hundreds of people just standing around and trying to stay dry.

    After about 1.5 hours they finally get the OK to send the ferries off!! As soon as the gates opened to get in the ferries, it was complete chaos! People yelling, running, and pushing (and of course, Maisie had fallen asleep on my back right before they started letting people through, so I'm just trying to stay together with my mom and Steven and preventing Maisie from getting squished by other people). We managed to get on the 2nd ferry. It was like the apocalypse was happening and we were all trying to escape the zombies/aliens/tsunami/lava by ferry.

    After a windy and wet ferry ride back on the mainland, we got on a crowded train and finally made it back to the hotel - we're exhausted but just had an amazing "okonomiyaki" meal, showered, and ready for bed. Goodnight!

    PS- once we escaped "death by rain" and made it back safely - it was a fun day and definitely a good story for the books :)
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  • Day8

    Day: 6 Hiroshima

    April 17, 2017 in Japan

    We went back on the shinkansen(bullet train) and traveled to Hiroshima. Unfortunately it was a rainy and cloudy morning but we made it work. We went to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park - they have a beautiful park full of prayer statues and memorial figures to remember the day the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. We didn't go to the museum part of it - felt too heavy for us - I started tearing up a bit just seeing so many people at the park and in the lobby, wanting to visit and remember the people and city lost in the tragedy.

    Staying at the Hotel Granvia next to the Hiroshima Station. Very classy.
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  • Day7

    Day 5: Umi No Nakamichi

    April 16, 2017 in Japan

    "Inside Pathway of the Sea"
    It was a beautiful day and we visited an awesome park on a peninsula in Fukuoka with my brother. It had an animal park, aquarium, flower garden, and bike routes all along the park. Maisie got to hang out with Uncle T!! I think he might be in love - they had a lot of fun together.

    There was a beautiful lake with a ton of flowers- mostly tulips and lavender, since they are in season - and the animal park had a really fun monkey habitat. As always, Maisie loved the animals and just wanted to walk around on her own.

    We had some "amaou" soft serve (it's strawberry/vanilla swirl, but like way better) and just tried to stay cool in the heat.
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  • Day6

    Day 4: Osaka

    April 15, 2017 in Japan

    We traveled down to Osaka for the day. Got to meet up with an old friend from high school (CA)- really great to see her and her family. Had some amazing food and played catch up.

    Then we traveled down farther to Hakata in Kyushu. Really big and pretty rail station with cools shops and a shopping centre connected to it. We stayed at the Blossoms JR hotel.

    That night we had Hakata Ramen - delicious - a bit different than other soy sauce based ramen, the soup is made from pork belly and bones that stay simmering for over 24hours. SO GOOD!!Read more

  • Day5

    Day 3: Kyoto

    April 14, 2017 in Japan

    The rest of the afternoon we explored a bit of Kyoto and went to our "yado" which was a little house we were staying in. It's a hotel but like a little townhouse.

    We can across this cool bamboo trail in the middle of town and also a pretty bridge over a river.

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