Hey everybody!! I am so very sorry its been so long without a post or update. We had a huge issue with our internet and were not able to use it at home, and I am not so advanced to post updates from my phone. Sorry! We have internet now, and the issue should be resolved (we hope. They have still not charged us for anything). Anyways. It feels like forever and a day since I have posted anything! So much has happened, and we were pretty busy. We went to Nagano, Japan for a few days over Obon holiday and stayed with the Sawada family. For those of you that don’t know, when I was a junior in high school, my parents allowed us to host a foreign exchange student for a year. Her name was Ayako Sawada, and she was from Japan. We have kept in touch with Ayako over the years, and now, so many years later, I have finally had the pleasure of meeting her parents in person. It was such a wonderful experience for us, and I took literally hundreds of pictures a day, so it is very hard for me to choose which ones to post. But these are some of my favorites from Nagano:
This was our first view of Nagano from the Train. It is nestled into the mountains at a very high elevation. The temperature is so much cooler here than the rest of Japan, which made for a wonderful reprieve from the insane heat of Nagoya.
There were tiny tree frogs hatching while we were there. Alex loved playing with the frogs, as you can see below! There were hundreds of them jumping everywhere in Chizuko’s Garden.
The beautiful view from the Sawada’s summer home.
The dining area where we spent most of our indoor times. The home is their summer home, and Sachio (Mr. Sawada) is an architect, and he designed this beautiful place himself. In traditional Japanese style, we sit on cushions on the floor at the low table.
Chizuko (Mrs. Sawada) took us to a wetland in the mountains one afternoon. It was a beautiful place to see flowers and butterflies. We drove the car to 2,000 meters above sea level, then walked even higher.
Alex on our snack break, with beautiful Chizuko and scenery.
Alex trying to catch a butterfly or a dragonfly on our hike.
And he caught one! This little guy stayed on Alex’s hand for over half an hour! We finally had to shoo him away as we were exiting the area. Alex made a good friend that day.
We took a ride up another mountain for lunch. I don’t know how many meters we were, but it was probably close to 2,200 or 2,300 above sea level. Alex loved the ride!
At our lunch stop. I adore this picture…
The view coming back down the mountain…
If you don’t get sea sick easily, here is a 5 minute video from our drive up the mountain. I can’t easily explain the journey to you. All I can say is that the hairpin curves and constant road jogs make for an interesting ride. It was gorgeous scenery, to look at. The roads were nothing short of treacherous though i think. There is hardly room for one car to pass another, and they place mirrors on the curves so you can see what is around the bend. I don’t know how there aren’t more accidents
That was such a wonderful day. We came back to the cabin after lunch, as Chizuko had an appointment. She was interviewed on the local radio station for her love of gardening and her beautiful photography of butterflies and bumblebees in the Nagano area. She has a blog which showcases her photography, and I will see if I can get the link and permission to share it the next time I speak to her. The garden she keeps at the Nagano home is amazing. Flowers to draw insects, as well as vegetables and fruit. We ate many things fresh from her garden, and it was such an amazing treat! I should interject that we were not the only guests at their home during this time. There were three young men from Cambodia staying in the guest house while we were there as well. These young men were the teacher and two students of Rock Climbing! They are the only Cambodians to do the sport, and they came to Japan for one of the students to compete in the Junior Olympics! IT was such a pleasure to meet these young men, and I thoroughly enjoyed playing 20 questions with them. They were so kind, and it was amazing to see them try things like Edamame (soy beans) for the first time. I will include a link here (for those of you on Facebook) to their organizations Facebook page. Go ahead and give them a like!
Their content is mostly in English, where their website is not. If your interested in knowing the web address, please let me know in the comments! Anyway. In addition to our family, and the three Cambodians (which makes 6 guests), the Sawada’s also invited some of their dear friends to join us (3 friends, actually) so in total there were 11 of us The friends they invited were there to help with the cooking and cleaning so that the Sawada’s were able to spend time with us instead of being too busy all day. It was a wonderful experience!
The second evening we were there, they planned a BBQ Party. What a treat that was!
Here, you can see Sachio preparing the grill for the Barbecue.
Here are two of Chizuko’s dear friends helping with the food, and Sachio cleaning the grill plates. There were chicken wings in a delightful sauce, and pork ribs that fell off the bone, and you can see the two plates on the far right, those were handmade sausages. The gentleman in the apron in the picture made those from scratch that afternoon, and they were one of the most delicious things! Mike and Alex LOVED them there were salads and they also grilled eggplant and mushrooms and zucchini from Chizuko’s garden… It was a magnificent feast, i am not even joking… OH! we also had a pasta salad dish, in which the tomato sauce AND the pesto sauce were made fresh that morning from Chizuko’s garden. we ate and ate… After dark, and we were sitting around visiting, Sachio came with a large box full of soy bean plants. He proceeded to pull the beans off the stalk and leaves, and then they steamed them with a little salt. Evidentially, he had gotten them from his friendly neighbor and they had been picked that morning. You can’t get edamame fresher than that. It was delicious! Oishi! (Oh-E-She, which means delicious in Japanese).
At breakfast, Michael and Sachio were talking about the route we were taking that afternoon. Sachio doesn’t speak any english, and Michael speaks little Japanese. I love this picture because they both understood each other, and had a nice conversation without the need for Chizuko to translate. It was a really nice moment!
I cannot explain the majesty of the mountains around Nagano. It is a great and famous place for winter sports, and there is a reason. It is unlike anything in the US, and I’ve seen most of the mountains there… Our last day was spent on an adventure to find the monkey park! The Japanese Macaques, or Snow Monkeys, were high on our sight-seeing list, and they did not disappoint!!! :) We headed to the Monkey Park, where the Onsen (Japanese Hot Spring they use for pool/bathing) is famous in the winter for being able to bathe with the monkeys!! It was way too warm for that for this trip tho.
Here is Alex, at the start of our climb up the mountain to the park.
Here is the spring that produces the hot water for the Onsen. They pipe the water from the stream and hot spring into the baths/pools. I took so many pictures… So instead of posting them all, here is a 2:30 minute video montage of the monkey park I have included a few pictures below in case you don’t want to view.
Here you can see Alex watching a monkey. They came up so close to you. You can’t touch, they are not tame, and can be quite aggressive. Don’t look them in the eyes!
Here is a Mama Macaque and her baby
We stopped and visited a very famous temple in Nagano called Zenkoji Temple. Here is a link to more information if you are interested: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6001.html This temple is one of the most important and popular temples in Japan. It was founded in the 7th century and stores the first Buddhist statue ever to be brought into Japan when Buddhism was first introduced in the 6th century. We didn’t have a long time to see, as we were on our way to the train station, but we will go back and visit when we can spend more time.
These wooden statues of temple guardians are thousands of years old. They are amazing, and so very huge… And that, my friends, was our Nagano trip in a huge nutshell
Alex started school this week! It was great. he was very scared and nervous on his first day, but he came home that afternoon and flung the door open saying how awesome school is there are only 5 other boys in his class, so they will form fast friends I’m sure. There are kids from Japan, Korea, Canada, America, all over. There are over 20 countries represented in the student body. It really is an amazing experience. Alex has his first male teacher this year, Mr. Mayer, who is Canadian. He also has specials teachers from all over Europe, Scotland, etc. I have not met them yet.
Here Alex is on our school visit to meet his teacher and his principle. The school is beautiful and has great views, and the addition of a brand new arts building since we were there in May!
Here’s the gus on his first morning of school, heading off to the bus.
Well, that seems like a pretty full blog update to me! I have so much more content than this from being without internet for so long, so I will try to update later in the week. Mike has also written an update on the driving conditions here in Japan that I will post very soon
Love and hugs to you all!!