Hakone and Tokyo, Japan


Well folks, here it is, our final blog post from overseas.  Seems like just yesterday that we were documenting our time in London, our first destination back in September. So we will start with a big THANK YOU to all of our readers for your love and support from afar, and for helping us feel connected to something back home during this extended period of time away. We plan on posting some kind of final wrap-up on our big adventure when we get to Hawaii and have some time to decompress and form coherent sentences.  For now, the finishing touches on Japan…

HAKONE

After leaving Kyoto we traveled by train to the lovely town of Hakone which was originally a rural getaway for the Japanese aristocracy. Hakone is best known for its thermal hot spring resorts, called “onsen resorts,” in which you can enjoy traditional Japanese bathing rituals and the peace and tranquility of this thermal enclave. We stayed in a Japanese inn called a “ryokan,” which was one such resort. As with most ryokan, our room was lined with bamboo mats (but strangely no beds…) and there were communal hot baths to enjoy (separated by gender) when we weren’t exploring the town.  

A lovely stream near our ryokan in Hakone.

A lovely stream near our ryokan in Hakone.

SCHUYLER: This may not seem like a challenge, but sharing one room with your family is harder than you think, and we’ve done this for our entire stay in Japan! Our room at the ryokan was pretty small, with just a low table on the floor in the middle of it and no beds in sight. Late in the day, some people came in and moved the table and put down some sleeping mats.  Although the beds were on the ground, I actually found them to be pretty comfortable. Happy surprise!  It was like one big slumber party each night. My favorite part of the inn was being able to go into the hot baths. There is a whole process to the hot bathing. First you rinse off in front of these little mirrors, sitting on plastic stools, using a hand shower. Then you dip in the hot baths for a few minutes. Then you are supposed to get out and soap/shampoo back at the mirrors, followed by more time in the baths.  Finally you rinse off again and get out and put your robe and slippers back on.  It all was kind of random, but also was such an interesting part of Japanese culture.  I felt really healthy and rejuvenated every time I went in. It’s also a nice place to socialize, just relaxing in the hot water (as long as you don’t mind being naked with strangers, of course!). 

The girls seem unimpressed with Jeff's antics at the table

Inside our room, the girls seem unimpressed with Jeff’s antics at the table

In the evening, our room with above table became our bedroom as mats are placed on the floor for us.

In the evening, our room with above table became our bedroom as “mattresses” (loose definition) are placed on the floor for us.

These are the robes we wore around the inn, and to the hot baths

These are the robes we wore around the inn, along with some brown leather scuffs – high fashion!

This photo does not need a caption

This photo does not need a caption – we should probably just get him home

A morning snuggle bunny after a night on the floor

A morning snuggle bunny after a night on the floor

ZOE: The hot baths in Hakone were really awesome because it was a traditional activity for the Japanese that we got to experience first hand. Each morning and night we went to the baths and spent about 30 minutes there. Most of the time, I was washing my body and hair or sitting in one of the massage chairs in the changing room. But being in the hot baths was really relaxing in between those activities and I think we should have some of these in the U.S.!

OPEN AIR MUSEUM

When not romping around the ryokan, we spent our time at Hakone’s amazing Open Air Museum which is nestled high in the mountains. To get there, we rode the Hakone Tozan Train, Japan’s only mountain railway, which meanders along steep inclines and switchbacks for about 40 minutes before you arrive at the museum’s stop.

Within Hakone's cable car, a pretty map of the region

Inside Hakone’s cable car, a pretty map of the region

After a short walk from the station, we arrived at the Open Air Museum and spent an absolutely fabulous day outdoors.  With substantial Picasso and Henry Moore collections, there was plenty to look at. But equally as impressive were the children’s play structures scattered around the museum. 

Wandering in the museum, sculptures all around

Wandering in the museum, sculptures all around

Jeff in front of a favorite Henry Moore sculpture

Jeff in front of a favorite Henry Moore sculpture

Outside the Picasso gallery

Outside the Picasso gallery

This funny mirror was covered in paper butterflies

This funny mirror was covered in paper butterflies

All of these red circles were rotating heads, and there was different music playing very faintly out of each one.

All of these red circles were rotating heads, and there was different music playing very faintly out of each one.

There were streams to cross and fish to find...

There were streams to cross and fish to find…

ZOE: I had no idea what the Open Air Museum was all about before I got there. I thought it was going to be ancient artifacts or something but I was wrong! It was really fascinating to see all the art, especially the Henry Moore sculptures which I thought were abstract and cool. I had so much fun playing in the kids’ play areas because they were unlike any other playgrounds I’ve been to. It was a great day!

The girls loved imitating the art

The girls imitated the art

So did Jeff and Blair, much to the girls' horror

So did Jeff and Blair, much to the girls’ extreme embarrassment

The museum boasted some of the most ingenious children’s play areas that we’ve encountered, either along our travels or at home. 

Nothing like playing on a fried egg

Nothing like playing on a fried egg

Giant bee hive for climbing and tunneling

Giant bee hive for climbing and tunneling

Peeking down from high up in the glass hive

Peeking down from high up in the glass hive

This called the Symphonic Structure - the girls climbed it and sang with delight at the echoes within.

This was called the Symphonic Structure – the girls climbed it and sang at the top, delighted by their echoes.

On their way up  to the top

On their way up to the top

Our favorite play space by FAR was this bird’s nest contraption.  From the outside, it looked like this and we weren’t sure what to expect: 

Mysterious play area inside

Mysterious play area is inside this nest

Once we got inside, we discovered THIS!!! 

Bright, multi-layered netting with holes and tunnels and a huge space to bounce around in!

Bright, multi-layered netting with holes and tunnels and a huge space to bounce around in!

The girls bounce along the surface on the top layer of netting

The girls bounce along the surface on the top layer of netting

Thayer starts to fall down one of the holes

Thayer starts to fall down one of the holes

THAYER: When I went to this museum there were some play spaces, and my favorite one was this colorful one with holes around it, and buoys  that hung from the bottom.  When I climbed up inside it was like a maze, and you had to find your way through it to the big flat net at the top. It was very fun and also a little bit hard to find my way. We stayed for sooooo long, right until it closed! 

Not surprisingly, Zoe prefers to dive in head first

Not surprisingly, Zoe prefers to dive in head first

Relax!

Relax!

SCHUYLER:  The Open Air Museum was just SO MUCH FUN! You could wander around all the sculptures, but then there were so many fun play areas as well. My favorite thing there was the bird’s nest building (or lincoln log building) with the colorful nest inside. There were all these holes in the bottom of the nest that you could climb up into, layer by layer, finding the holes along the way. It was like digging a tunnel, only going up. Up on top it felt like a rainbow that you could walk on. It was super bouncy so we could run around and jump and scream, and get all of our energy out. That was the best part! 

It was a great day for us all, one for the record books!

TOKYO

After two nights of sleeping on the floor in our Japanese inn, packed in like sardines, we were ready for Tokyo. Another easy train ride and we found ourselves in Japan’s capital for the last few days of our journey.

Tokyo's waterfront area

Tokyo’s waterfront area

The city skyline was unique and beautiful

The city skyline was unique and beautiful

We spent our time here doing less sightseeing and more recreation.  Truthfully, at this point we just needed to kill time before our flight to Hawaii. The ten months on the road are catching up with us and we are keenly aware that our return home is imminent; we are all shifting gears accordingly. Conversations focus on what we are looking forward to about being home (no more shared “family” hotel rooms, a supermarket in which we can actually recognize the food, family and friend reunions, a washing machine!). And when not daydreaming about being home, we are reminiscing about the adventures of this year and wistfully recalling memories and many laughs over the experiences we have shared. Everyone is feeling accomplished in his/her own way as we near the end.  There is a deep sense of awe and pride that we are all expressing during these final days abroad. It’s an interesting time…

So to keep ourselves occupied, we explored Japanese recreation options for a couple of days. Braving the subway system was one of our first tasks and Jeff led the way on this, clueless yet fearless, which proved to be a successful combination. 

This is about half of the subway map

This is about half of the subway map

Thayer and Jeff buy our tickets

Thayer is in charge of buying our tickets

We liked how the subway had these barriers in front of the tracks, which opened only when the actual train doors were open. Safe!

We liked how the subway had these barriers in front of the tracks, which opened only when the actual train doors were open. Safe!

We checked out some of Tokyo’s popular amusements, like giant arcades, electronics stores, and an enormous ferris wheel which gave us a great view of the city.

Thayer and Zoe, matching drumming expressions, compete for percussion prowess in an arcade

Jeff and Zoe, matching drumming expressions, compete for percussion prowess in an arcade

We saw these everywhere - seemed to be photo booths where you can get your images lightened and touched up until you look completely plastic. We passed.

We saw these everywhere – seemed to be photo booths where you can get your face lightened and airbrushed until you look completely plastic. We passed.

Jeff practices his sumo skills

Jeff practices his sumo skills

Blair and Thayer have a dance off

Blair and Thayer have a dance off

What is this thing? You could ride it around the arcade...

What is this thing? You could ride it around the arcade…

We rode in this monorail to get to the ferris wheel

We rode in this monorail to get to the ferris wheel – the city planning and access to sights were top notch

Rainbow ferris wheel from below

Rainbow ferris wheel from below

And inside, on top!

And inside, on top!

We had to at least peek into an electronics store in Japan - they are a dime a dozen, and look something like this

We had to at least peek into an electronics store in Japan – they are a dime a dozen, and look something like this but go on an on and on!

Of course, we have eaten our fill of sushi…we’ve never seen so much fish in our entire lives.  Fish, seaweed, and tofu constitute the bulk of food options here, along with some very strange snacks (see below). The girls are not exactly seafood lovers, or even seafood try-era, so they are very excited about the food options when we leave here.

Sushi in the window - more plastic food displays

Sushi in the window – more plastic food displays

At the sushi counter

At the sushi counter

Yum!

Yum!

IMG_2115

Snack time? Where are the cliff bars?

IMG_2116

These “small fish” adorn many vegetable dishes and salads

IMG_2117

Not one of us was able to nibble on these, despite their tasty appearance

Schuyler models in front of the evening's city lights

Schuyler models in front of the evening’s city lights

Definitely a favorite photo of the year, Thayer gets a lift from a professional Sumo wrestler during an evening stroll in the city

Definitely a favorite photo of the year, Thayer gets a lift from a professional Sumo wrestler!

TSUKIJI FISH MARKET

Our last stop in Tokyo was a visit to the biggest wholesale seafood and fish market in the world, the Tsukiji Fish Market. Literally billions of dollars worth of seafood are processed through this market each year, from the smallest sardines to 300kg tuna and controversial whale species. Fish start arriving at 3:00am and the official auctioning begins at 5:00am. By breakfast time, the bulk of the action is over, and the market continues to operate for another few hours. 

Fish for sale!

Fish for sale!

We arrived at the market casually late (ok really late) at around 11:00am. As soon as we got off the subway at the nearby station we caught the aroma of fish wafting through the air, and the whining and moaning from the kids officially began. Although Jeff and Blair thought this would be a fabulous field trip to end on, we were the only two who had such high hopes. We walked past the massive piles of empty styrofoam fish containers, dodged cranes and trolleys and refrigerated trucks, and found our way into the center of the market. It was clearly shutting down, with vendors hosing down their stalls and murky fish water streaming along the ground. The smell wasn’t as intense as expected, perhaps because everything there is so fresh each day, but it was intense enough for Schuyler that she began to gag almost immediately (doesn’t take much for her). 

Thayer leads the way through the market's narrow alleys

Thayer leads the way through the market’s narrow alleys

Strange species of fish all around us

Strange species of fish all around us

This raw stuff gets a thumbs down from Thayer

This raw stuff gets a thumbs down from Thayer

THAYER:  When we went to the fish market, we saw some gross bloody fish. And a fish had an eye as big as a plate! It’s fins were like a dophin’s fin because they were so big. And the market was full of water – I’m not happy that I wore my flip flops. Yuck. 

Tasty little shrimp!

Tasty little shrimp!

Can you make heads or tails of this one?

Can you make heads or tails of this one?

Before too long, Schuyler was really suffering and the others weren’t far behind.  When she informed us, while crying, that she was going to throw up, we made a beeline for the exit. 

Schuyler has trouble stomaching the fishy sights and smells

Schuyler has trouble stomaching the fishy sights and smells

SCHUYLER: Even though we went to the largest wholesale fish market in the world, it didn’t feel like such a great honor to me. This was my least favorite thing we’ve done in Japan, because I really dislike fish and the smell of fish. The market was a combination of both of those things, plus some fish guts and chopped up dead fish everywhere. Walking around and looking at dead fish made me feel really sick. I am ready to go home to some non-fishy experiences!

Back in the subway station on our way home, we captured their true impressions of this final field trip

Back in the subway station on our way home, we captured some honest impressions of this final field trip

And so it goes, traveling the world with children… you have to roll with the punches. Thanks to the gift of hindsight, some of the girls’ most exciting stories to recount will be the ones that describe the sheer misery of an experience.  This final field trip will likely be another one of those tales. But they definitely will have some stories to tell for years and years to come! 

We thought this might be a fitting photo to end on…. Tokyo has a Statue of Liberty!  Who knew?

Let’s hope that the many the wonders of the world never cease to amaze us.

Peace to the world!!!

Peace to the world!!!

See you in Hawaii, with love and our deepest gratitude,

The Demers Family xo

Categories: ASIA, Hakone and Tokyo, Japan

12 comments

  1. I know everyone is probably saying the same thing, but I am so amazed at how fast this year has gone! I can’t wait to see you Blair and wish you safe journey in the last leg to Hawaii (a very fitting spot for re-entry in my opinion!). When Alan and I used to camp all over Hawaii, we would stay in a hotel for a few nights at the very end of a trip, and it felt like the ultimate luxury and gave us a great chance to really rest and regroup before returning home. xo

  2. Don’t stop! What’s another year, anyway?

  3. What an amazing trip. We’ve loved reading the blog and seeing your amazing photos. Sad for the adventure to end, but we are SO excited to welcome you home. Love to you all. The Sudduth family

  4. Thank you for sharing your adventures this year. I cannot tell you the excitement generated at our house when it is announced, “there’s a new Demers post!” Everyone races for the nearest computer/ipad. Enjoy your time in Hawaii and have a safe trip HOME! The Lyras Family

  5. Oh no…this cannot be true. Is this really the end of DemersGoneGlobal ? This feels like ‘cold turkey’ and you cannot do this to your fans & followers. Keep going, keep writing, keep sharing. And if that’s not possible: have a happy stay in Hawaï and see you in Portmouth ? Thank you all, dear friernds, for this wonderful year of getting to know you (better).
    Love&peace, as always, Klaas

  6. Your travels and experiences will continue to pique our interests. We will be anxiously awaiting to hear more.
    And although the wonders of the world never cease to amaze us, we continue to marvel at the five of you who bravely and unselfishly
    shared your adventures. We THANK YOU! Looking forward to seeing you soon. Love Mem and Pep xoxo

  7. Wow!! Japan is awesome! What’s with all the cool play spaces …. the USA needs to catch up on that. LOL at the Jeff photo caption. I can’t believe you guys are coming back! I’m jealous about Hawaii–what a great way to end the whole adventure…some R&R! Have fun! Can’t wait to see you guys again! XO

  8. What am I going to do now to keep in touch with the world at large? I will miss this! However, I can only imagine your excitement at turning your sights homeward. Hawaii sounds like a perfect reentry point… a little bit of paradise on your way back to New Hampshire. Enjoy every moment. Thank you for the delicious, stinky, fun, beautiful, cramped, expansive, up, down, colorful, compassionate, sweet, educational experience over the last 10 months… safe home…

  9. I WILL MISS YOU!!!
    Enjoy Hawaii and returning home!!!

    xo Linde

  10. Poor Schuyler, made to suffer in a fishy nightmare on your last day in Japan!

    So proud of all of you for making the most out of the opportunity you’ve had this past year to experience so many incredible corners of the world. And can’t wait to hear about how it changed your perspectives once you land back home. A good time to share a favorite quote by Marcel Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Ponder that one!

    Lots of love to you 5 and have an awesome time in Hawaii! Xoxo

  11. Schuyler, guess what we are having for Matt & Julies rehearsal dinner? Yup… you guessed it…FISH. xox Love you guys, thanks for the stories

  12. Hi all, room 15 here , we really enjoyed following your travels in Japan. Looks like lots of fun. We really miss you.
    This term we made sushi with Yongwon’s parents and we have a new girl called Kaitlyn.
    We hope you come back soon!!

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