Last night I got naked and soaked in a natural hot spring with a bunch of Japanese women.  How’s that for an opening line in a blog post?  Now that I have shocked half of you, intrigued a few and caused at least 3 of my relatives to pass out… let me catch you up on a few other things before I explain my onsen experience (which was really awesome by the way).

Let’s go back to New Year’s Day.  Apryl, Chris and I travelled to the Emperor’s Palace to hear the New Year’s greeting from the Emperor.

At the train station. The drink machines have a variety of teas, coffees and Coke or Coke Zero. Soda isn't that big here which is good since I shouldn't drink it anyways. But I am getting addicted to the little coffees. The blue buttons mean the drinks is cold and the red means it is a hot drink.
My little hot coffee. You have to drink it quickly because you aren't supposed to drink or eat on the trains. And I don't want an open coffee in my purse. It would be a disaster.
On the train. Headed to the Emperor's Palace!
People standing in line going into the palace.
Decorated soldier at the entrance.
A lot of people dressed in full kimono in honor of the New Year. There were also several people handing out paper Japanese flags to wave for the Emperor.
Chris and I with our flags.
Walking into the palace grounds.
The crowd gathering outside waiting for the Emperor.
The Emperor has come out with his family!
Crown Prince's wife, Crown Prince, Emperor, Empress (Michiko Akihito), Prince his wife the princes, and their daughter.
On our way out of the palace grounds.
What a cool experience to listen the Emperor's greeting (short and sweet... well, I am not sure if it was sweet... it was in Japanese. But I waved my flag just as excited as the Japanese people around me).

Most people are off the entire week of New Year’s.  It is a HUGE holiday and everyone celebrates.  Another cool thing about New Year’s is that all the store have “grab bags”.  You pay whatever price it lists and they are closed so you can’t see what is in them.  We all went shopping and spent 1,000 yen on a grab bag.  Then we exchanged them as sort of a late Christmas/Happy New Year’s!

What's in those grab bags???
So excited!
Tea! This was from a really nice tea store. Chris picked these bags out for Apryl and I.
Edgar's turn!
Oh yeaaa... a Power Ranger's set. Haha! I'm thinking baby boy is going to like that someday.
Apryl and her tea!
Uh oh... What could be in Chris's grab bag?
A TOMIGOTCHI! Chris had never heard of them before. I had several when I was younger. And guess who ended up taking care of this one? ME! It would beep all night long wanting to bed fed and Chris made me take the batteries out. I was pretty sad.

Shibuya is the “happenin'” part of Toyko.  We hopped the train and headed to Shibuya for a night of eating (we do that a lot), drinking and taking in Toyko.  If you have ever seen a movie that shows a really busy intersection in Tokyo, that is in Shibuya.  People are everywhere… apologizing as the knock into you headed wherever they are going.

Walking down Apryl and Edgar's street to head to the train station. It is about a 15 minute walk. Not too bad 🙂
Taking the Keikyu line to Shibuya.
We use small cards (much like a credit card) that scan when we enter and exit the train lines. You prepay the cards so when they start to get low we just add more money at these little kiosks.
Shibuya! Loving the hustle and bustle and bright lights.
Advertisements everywhere. One of my favorites.
Temple. There are many temples and shrines randomly throughout the cities and towns.
A night out in Shibuya is always interesting. One of my favorite parts of Tokyo. Although... I haven't found a place I don't love yet.

One Saturday we went to a party for the people of Fukushima.  The devastation from the tsunami is worse than I ever imagined.  Chris and I watched live coverage of the tsunami from Hawaii but being here we have learned much more about how truly, truly tragic it was.  Entire trains full of people trying to escape were tossed off the tracks with no survivors.  I can’t imagine that type of terror.  We went to a party to eat, talk with some of the survivors that had to relocate and do crafts with the children.  A school in Washington state sent letters, crafts and other things to the children of Fukushima.  I got pretty choked up reading the letters from the children.  Their letters were so pure and innocent.  They honestly cared for the people that were effected by the tsunami.  If only we as adults kept that pureness and love with us as we age.  A child’s spirit is sometimes the only thing that can bring a smile in such trying times.

A letter from a student in Washington state to the children of Fukushima.
The letters and crafts were hung around the room. I praise the teacher that helped put this together and teach children that the world is so big and there are children all over the world. With different customs, different upbringings and different tragedies.
Our friend Minako and her daughter, Kaho (I think that is the spelling). Minako is Apryl's Japanese teacher. Her daughter is so, so sweet. She is a triplet!
Japanese child working on his origami to send back to the students in Washington.
My buddy and I working on some crafts.
Origami
Making a heart <3
Yeahhhh....about that.... I was completely lost. These kids could make origami so quickly. I had a hard time keeping up.
Love them!
Edgar was really good at origami!
I hope our kids are as sweet as Kaho!
After the party we stopped at a shop below. I made Chris take a picture of this stand. This would never fly in the states. Maybe I am being a little immature but everyone else laughed too 🙂

Apryl is super duper crafty so she is making a lot of cool things for the babies.  She is making new covers for her baby carriers and wanted some Japanese prints.  So went to a fabric district which was store after store of fabrics and craft stores.  JoAnn Fabrics would be ashamed if they had a shop here.

Okay... so may have a reputation for being a nation of large people. But was this necessary? And who would really eat this??
Between fabric stores we did some shopping. Chris picked something out for my sister Brittany here. I'm not telling what in this picture will soon be property of Brittany Gillespie.
While we picked out trim Chris was people watching and taking a million photos. I just think think he is so handsome. 😉
Picking out some trim
Sooo pretty! If you were a dancer or in show choir like I was... the possibilites were endless. I could have bedazzled everything I owned with all these goodies!
Need some electronics? Sensory overload. Thank goodness I can't read it all. It's a tad bit overwhelming.

Coming Of Age Day is when boys and girls that have turned 20 the past year all go to the temple dressed in full kimono for a ceremony.   We went to a very old Temple in Kamukura and it was such a cool experience.  After the temple we went to see a HUGE Buddha that was constructed 1500 years ago.  Amazing.

Driving to Kamukura.
The bay. It was way to cold to surf or wind surf. Crazies.
Gate announcing one of the entrances to the temple.
Strapping Apryl into her boots. The prego belly doesn't make small tasks very easy. Buuut if you can have other people do things like this for you, I think it is a BONUS! 🙂
Kamukura
We found some really good priced chopsticks. I was stocking up so we can offer them to our house guests when we get back to the states!
An ocarina player. He made the ocarinas... of course Chris had to have one. He has perfected Happy Birthday and even made his own sheet music for Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up. Never been more proud of my musician husband. Haha..
A believe this was a special type of mochi. There were several stores and free samples as we made our way to the temple. So don't worry... we are getting there.
Free samples! We shoved ourselves in all the sample stores of course.
Dog dressed in full kimono. He must be 20 years old too 😉
I see the temple!
Apryl was taking a picture of Chris and I when this man asked if he could take our picture too. Then he asked Chris to step out of the photo then proceeded to take several of me. It was hilarious!
We were instant friends. His english was very good and thanked me for the photos. 🙂
Fried potatoes and butter to dip them in. Are we in America?
Beautiful 20 year old in her full kimono.
Before entering the temple you must wash your hands (in freeeezing cold water) and rinse your mouth for purification.
Kayoko teaching Chris the proper way.
Where the ceremony was to take place later.

Climbing to the temple. You weren't allowed to take photos once you were up there.
Many people bought these, I believe for good luck. Chris got in trouble for taking this photo. Oops!
All the people here to celebrate.
Beautiful tree. The grounds are very pretty near the temple.
One of Chris's favorites shots.
Happy New Year!
Owls are good luck. And many of you know the Kappas love of owls. I've found some pretty good finds here.
Big Buddha!
Chris learning how to do his hands like Buddha. He claims his hands and fingers are too big.
Good try, Chris 😉
Lighting the incense.

Lighting my incense.
Michiko's turn.

Inside Buddha. The belly was really warm despite the freezing temperatures. The sun shone through the back of Buddha somehow concentrating enough on the inside of the belly to make it really warm. At least that is what I deducted.
Afterwards we did a little shopping (go figure) and this cat was just chillin by the heater. So smart...
Headed back home watching the sunset.
Beautiful.
Glowing Mount Fuji.

Well, I know I opened with promises of nakeness and my first onsen experience but we are leaving soon to celebrate our friend Aya’s birthday.  Chris has been practicing his ocarina to play for her.  After dinner we may hit up a karaoke bar!  Which I can’t wait for.  So it looks like you will just have to wait a little longer for my Mount Fuji and onsen stories.   We are loving life here and learn something new everyday.  I hope you all are beating the winter blahs and trying new things in your own backyard.  Life’s too short not to be learning, loving and playing in God’s playground.

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