The cherry blossoms bring everyone to Japan - including Jennie and Herman! They arrived in the middle of Mackenzie's trip and left during Christina and Mark's stay. We had scheduled a dinner together but fate wanted us to meet a few more times.
Our friends Mackenzie (Liz), Phil, Vickie, and Jimmy flew over together for a fun week in Japan. Given that Mack and Vickie were almost ready to open their brand new psychiatry practice(!!!), it was pretty amazing that they found time to get away!
For Tim's birthday he got a surprise getaway to Fuji San (Japanese people refer to mountains as "san", the same honorific given to people - so cute!).
He only had a weekend in Japan before he had to return to Singapore so the plan was to travel south on Saturday, spend the night, and return on Sunday with plenty of time to spare before his flight out.
Loren came to visit us during her school's February break and we were SO happy to have her! She came on a Sunday and left late on a Friday so it was quite a whirlwind, but that made us treasure every moment that much more.
Ramen is one of the most delicious and japanesey things to taste while you're in Japan. There are a plethora of ramen shops in this town and almost all are very, very good. But there are a few that get especially rave reviews and Ichiran Ramen is one of them.
We took a fun four-day trip to Sydney for Palantir's Holiday Party. Palantir has several holiday parties around the world and this location included all of the asian offices. It was an amazing opportunity to visit The Land Down Under - Tim's second trip and my first.
Japan is not a country of Christians, so it makes sense that Christmas here is really about the Santa/Christmas tree/sparkling lights side of the holiday. According to some expats we talked to, Christmas Day is really no different than any other day here. Good thing, because we'll be in Vietnam!
Here's a little taste of the holiday cheer you can find on Tokyo streets in December.
I decided to take a stroll around the Imperial Palace after seeing a Central Tokyo walking tour in my little guidebook. Before we get any further I have to warn you that this day ended up being a bit disappointing. You cannot just show up and walk into the palace grounds (because it's being occupied by the imperial family!).
We decided to take a trip out to Odaiba on a rainy Saturday.
Odaiba is a man-made island full of spas, onsens, hotels, themed restaurants, malls, and amusement parks, connected to the city by the Rainbow Bridge. It's also home to the well-known National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan), which was our first stop.
I decided to go on a walking tour of Minato, a part of town with a surprising number of gems.
The first stop was a shrine hidden within a busy business district, Atago Jinja. It was quiet and peaceful, with a gorgeous pond, and it appeared to be a convenient spot for businessmen to stop by on their breaks.
We decided to head out early on a Saturday for a quick weekend trip to Osaka. This is the second largest city in Japan, known for it's good food and loud, friendly people. By catching a 7am shinkansen we were able to get into the city by 10:30am and start our tour.