Monday, October 27, 2014

Osaka, Japan

Brian's conferences were in Osaka so after two nights in Tokyo we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka. These high-speed trains are actually really cool--such a smooth ride and so fast!
While Brian was working I was brave and adventurous. Map in hand I took off to find Osaka-Jo or the Osaka Castle which was an hour walk from our hotel.
(Inui Turret)
The view of Osaka from the top of the castle was impressive. Notice the gold fish. Fish were placed on the roofs of wooden structures because they symbolize living water. It was believed that the fish would work as a good luck charm to stave off fire.
After my tour of the castle and museum I bought a steamed pork bun and ate it in the shade.
While I was savoring my pork bun, Brian had bought a Bento Box during his conference lunch break. Ooh, these are fun--all kinds of interesting Japanese delicacies to try.
Eating at restaurants was tricky. Most establishments we went to did not have English menus. The best way to choose our meal was to point to the plastic replicas of each menu item inside the restaurant's display case. This "fake food" was everywhere. I couldn't resist taking a photo of this case of desserts outside a bakery. It's all plastic!
The food in Japan was delicious--lots of seafood of course. Brian was more daring that I was, but I did branch out a little. I wish I had photos of all our meals. The tempura was fantastic and I always love rice and noodles. By the end of our trip I even had chopsticks figured out.
I grabbed a bag of rice crackers as a snack one day. All of them were fish-flavored, but that was OK. However, I couldn't handle the whole dried fish I found at the bottom of the bag. Brian enjoyed it though!
The presentation of this fish dish at the conference banquet made quite an impact.
Osaka was home base for a few more nights as we took day trips to Nara and Kyoto. Those posts are up next.
(Osaka Sunrise)

Friday, October 24, 2014


Last month Brian had back to back conferences in Japan and we decided that I would tag along this time to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.
Salt Lake City to Seattle then a 9 1/2 hour flight to Tokyo's Narita airport followed by an hour-long bus ride to our destination left me utterly exhausted. Our hotel felt like heaven when we arrived.
(view of Tokyo from our hotel room)
We only had one day to explore Tokyo so we decided to book a "panoramic" bus tour of the city. Our guide was full of interesting factoids.

  • 127 million people live in Japan--half the population of the United States. Yet, they live in an area the size of California.
  • 26% of the population is 65 or older and there are 5300 centenarians in Japan.
  • The two oldest people in the world live in Japan--a woman who is 117 and a man who is 112.
  • "4" is an unlucky number. It symbolizes death. There is no fourth floor in hospitals in Japan.
  • The Tokyo tower is similar in design to the Eiffel Tower but proudly stands 9 m taller.
The first stop of our tour was the Meiji Shinto Shrine. A simplistic explanation of the difference between Shintoism and Buddhism offered by our tour guide is that Shintoists worship nature while Buddhists worship idols. 
(barrels of sake wrapped in straw)
A Torii gate stands at the entrance to Shinto shrines. This "pi"-shaped structure symbolizes purification or passing from the secular world into a spiritual world.
Another important ritual before entering the shrine involves cleansing the hands and mouth. Grab the ladle (below) with your right hand and pour it over your left hand. Next, grab the ladle with your left hand and pour it over your right hand. Lastly, ladle water into a cupped hand and rinse our your mouth being sure to spit the water out.
Our second stop of the tour was the Imperial Palace East Garden.
I liked seeing an actual moat and the more than 400 year-old rock wall that surrounds the Imperial Palace.
The final stop of the morning was Senso-Ji--one of the most popular Buddhist Temples in Japan. We were surrounded by people and incense and red and gold.
On our way to lunch we passed Tokyo's famous Kabuki Theater.
We lunched at a restaurant overlooking Tokyo Bay then took a harbor cruise under the iconic Rainbow Bridge.
We ended our day at Tokyo's Statue of Liberty. That was certainly a surprise.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Boca Sur

Travis has been in Chile for more than three weeks now. He is serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Boca Sur which is basically a suburb of Concepción. From what we can discern, it is on the coast near the southern mouth of the Bio Bio River, hence the name Boca Sur or "south mouth". His companion is Elder L. from Texas.
Evidently, Boca Sur is the most dangerous city in his mission. Drugs, trash, and flea-ridden dogs abound. However, he says the church members are very kind and feed them lunch almost every day.
They live in the top floor of the blue apartment building.
They share their apartment with another set of missionaries.
I'll let the rest of the photos speak for themselves.
Elder L. with unrecognizable produce
A Restaurant Meal
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Boca Sur