We got a bajillion pictures from all parts of our wedding day. Feel free to relive with us (password is C+MWED).
Our first stop after our wonderful wedding was Hawaii.
Our exhausted selves made it in time to catch a beautiful sunset
The next day, we visited the memorials and museums of Pearl Harbor. In this series, the first photos are from our tour of the USS Missouri, and the last photos are from the USS Arizona memorial
After our sightseeing, we drove to the north shore of Oahu for the rest of our Hawaii stay
One of Cait's goals for Hawaii was seeing a luau. We got a recommendation from someone at our first night's hotel to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center. What a strange experience! The LDS Church owns and operates the PCC. Some of the hosts were blonde, almost-too-nice, white women. Many of the hosts were Polynesians that were attending BYU-Hawaii (located next door) and working part time at the PCC, which sounds like a good gig. There were different areas, villages, representing the different cultures of the Polynesians. We got there late in the day and didn't get to see much of these villages.
The dinner buffet was a real show. We felt like we were on a cruise. Lots of people eating lots of food. We had a host that was singing, and dancing, and inviting various groups to the stage (e.g. those with birthdays) to tryout more dancing.
The imu-cooked pork was really good, though. The leis felt amazing, too.
After dinner, we saw the Ha-Breath of Life show with songs and dances from Polynesia and enjoyed it very much!
After breakfast, we had a full day of train riding ahead of us. We got it started off right by running through Ueno station attempting to make our Shinkansen bullet train reservation. We made it with seconds to spare!
The trains are awesome, and I so wish we had better coverage and trains available in the states
Turns out they're pretty similar to Brooklyn farmers markets.
Somehow, though, there are even more coffee vendors
Cait had found a multi-course restaurant for us to go for my birthday. We made our way there and couldn't find it. After a while, we were pretty confident we'd found the building but the restaurant was closed :( One place nearby looked like a good crowd, but the outdoor menu translated with Google just talked about monkey pancakes a lot. There were some other restaurants nearby, but none looked very good. After some back and forth, we built up the courage to go into the monkey pancake place. We tried 2 types, a soba noodle and a veggie and squidies. I thought it was great!
Around Rippongi, we saw the Snoopy Museam and another a museum featuring Yayoi Kusama. We had dinner with friends of friends near Shinjuku trying all kinds of foods, including our first taste of horse! On the train ride home, we caught our only glimpse of sumo wrestling, and some silly ads.
Lots of photos from Fushimi Inari Taisha
Our ryokan arranged for a geiko (geisha outside Kyoto) to sit with the guests. We talked lots about what it's like to be a geiko, but also talked about travel and retirement and played games
We had a delicious 9 (or 11?) course kaiseki meal prepared by a chef that has prepared food at temple ceremonies! We were the only two dining that night, and enjoyed the company of our hosts, plowing right through our different languages!
The grounds and garden of the temple were one of my favorite parts of the trip. There was a light rain, filling the air with a fresh fragrance. The greenery surrounding us put me at peace.
Throughout the time in Japan, I was amazed and appreciative of the people that participate and create everything that is the internet. This would have been a totally different trip for us just ten years ago if not for them. We researched our trip, purchased tickets for things like hotels without needing to know the language, and learned methods of communicating, all with the internet.
Among others, Trip Advisor, Japan Guide, and wikitravel had lots of information, much of which contributed from random people around the world.
As self-interested as it will be, I must say that Google products were awesome. Google Maps didn't steer us wrong once. It had accurate information for all of our train, bus, plane, car, and walking directions. The street view was frequently useful for finding where we were when the address system was totally different. Google Translate was invaluable while researching places (i.e. translating Japanese websites into English), as well as for communicating with other who we didn't share an understanding with otherwise. (I do still have some Japan travel ads following me around though...)
All of this enabled us to experience another culture on our own, in our own way. We were welcomed by all the Japanese we met with smiles and helpfulness.