Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chinese New Year

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Over the weekend we visited Yokohama's Chinatown to see the Chinese New Year Parade. It was a fun, colorful, crowded, and vibrant afternoon.
The dragons were of course my favourite, and made me a little homesick for the Chinese New Year celebrations in New York's Chinatown,
which were much less organised, much more chaotic, but as a result you were able to get right in the middle of all the action. There were no confetti
canons at this new year festival, and every time a firecracker went off a team off staff was there almost immediately to sweep up the mess. Police
walked along with the parade to make sure not one single spectator had their foot over the sidewalk curb. It was very Japanese, and totally different
from what we were used to in New york.



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We loved seeing all the beautiful traditional costumes worn in the parade- the men on high stilts were particularly fun. The dragon
was the coolest though- it was amazing how they made it move all over and through the crowd with so much personality. Everyone in the
crowded kept reaching up an leaning in to touch it ( I think it must be a good luck thing) and the puppeteers really gave everyone a
chance- it doubled back and spent time dancing in all different directions, and they passed it over each side of the street several times
per section. After the parade Ryan and I hurried over to make a reservation at an all you can eat, highly reviewed Dim Sum place, and killed
time waiting for our table by exploring the streets of Chinatown, which is always a fun time<3



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Happy Chinese New Year!
Love,
From Japan,
Kathryn

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow Monkeys

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So here they are! The Japanese snow monkeys! It was a magical day- we hiked on a beautiful mountain trail through the woods with big fat snowflakes falling all around us.. About three quarters of the way through, monkeys started appearing from out of the woods and other trails and joined us, running up alongside all the other people on the way to the hot springs. We thought for sure there would be tons of monkeys in the water to keep warm in the blizzard- but surprisingly, none of them were actually getting in. The water was deserted pretty much the whole time. I was a little disappointed to not get any shots of monkeys chilling in the water, but luckily enough of them hung around the waterfall and perimeter enough to get some of the sorts of images I was hoping for.



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When we checked the weather report before leaving, it was supposed to be 45F and sunny, so we weren't quite prepared for this crazy weather. I had forgotten gloves, and after a while, my hands were red and raw and aching from the cold, especially when the wind started to pick up later in the morning. Ryan's coat soaked through after being covered in so many layers of falling snow, so he was pretty miserable once his coat and sweater had gotten wet, and then the weather became more windy. So our patience and stamina for photos and video waned fairly quickly.

I sacrificed my hands a little longer to get some good videos and closeups of some babies that appeared near the waterfall toward the end of our stay, and then we figured we'd better get ourselves somewhere dry and warm, especially Ryan, since hypothermia was not exactly part of the ideal Valentines getaway. We ended up having to walk the whole way back actually, because the bus didn't show up and our hotel shuttle was only one way. I have never been more excited to jump in an onsen than when we got back to our Ryokan- every article of clothing soaked and half frozen. Adventure Mode was certainly enabled this vacation...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Scenes from Yudanaka

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Here are some simple snapshots from our stay in Yudanaka over Valentine's weekend while I wait to finish up and process my rolls of film. It
was such a charming little mountain town, and total sugarcoated eye candy after a heavy snowfall. So lovely. We stayed at a Ryokan, a traditional
style Japanese Inn/ Bed and Breakfast, and it was everything we could have hoped for and more. it really exceeded our expectations in a lot
of ways. I left really sad we couldn't stay just one more night to take in the peaceful cozy atmosphere, enjoy amazing food, and explore more of the
town. Out first greeting at Yudanaka station was an adorable giant snowman Funassyi, a creepycute Japanese character.



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I researched a ton online before booking this particular Ryokan, Yudanaka Onsen Seifuso. It had great reviews, and I loved the photos on their website,
and the fact that they provided snow boots and free rides to the monkey park entrance (since it's up in the mountains, and kind of a hike from the
town.) As soon as we arrived, everything was better than I had imagined. The hospitality, the quality of the food, the little details in decoration- the
gorgeous garden courtyard covered in snow- they even had three different onsens (hot baths) to choose from. Our room was huge and lovely, and kept plenty
warm despite the blizzard.



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I was very eager to get out and explore our surroundings in this glorious snow. Our inkeepers told us that they only get snow like this once a year-
it snowed for 2 days straight. Looking out the window the first morning of our stay felt so exciting- big fat flakes coming down thick and fast, making
everything look like a postcard. Such good stuff. Our journey to the monkey park took us through a gorgeous forest path, and our walk home took us through
some other snowclad neighborhoods and towns as well.



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The bus we had planned on taking home just never showed, so we just ended up walking back through this blizzard. It was beautiful, but by the time
we got back to the inn we were frozen stiff. My hair had frozen into actual icicles and our faces and hands were red and raw. Poor Ryan's coat had soaked
through, and most of our stuff was quite wet. Luckily I guess it was a slow day, because the inkeepers took pity on us and let us use the outdoor onsen
right away, and privately, which isn't usually the policy. They had a schedule up of women's hours and men's hours, and we had just resigned ourselves to
go separately. It was the best surprise to be able to go in together, have it all to ourselves, right after being out in the snow all day.



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So many 'pinch me' moments this day. Sitting in serene piping hot water with snow falling down around me was like being in a waking dream, or in the middle of one of my daydreams. Oh japan.

love,
from Japan,
Kathryn