Tokyo Family Vacation Part 4: Tokyo DisneySea Park

The Tokyo DisneySea Park is the most beautiful amusement park I have ever been to – a Disney nautical fantasy.  Additionally, because it was October, the park was covered in festive jack-o-lanterns, autumn colored banners and  lots of decor highlighting our favorite Disney villains, such as, Maleficent, Ursula, Hades, Jafar, Captain Hook, and the Evil Queen from Snow White.  This year, they are also celebrating the park’s 15th Anniversary.

One important tip would be to purchase tickets online before going to the park.  We went an hour early before the park opened and although we already had tickets, there was a huge line.  Therefore, I highly recommend purchasing tickets before hand.  There are also options if you plan to stay at the Tokyo Disney Resort, and additional options for multi-day and multi-park passes.

There is a shuttle from the Urayasu Train Station to the resort and theme parks.

The early morning crowd pours into the park….and it’s not even their busy time of the year.

Here we are getting ready to ride the Indiana Jones ride.  This ride was exhilarating but without loops, and one mild drop – totally my speed!  Basically, you get in a jeep and it takes you on a rough ride through caves filled with treasure, skeletons, tons of giant bugs, echoes, screams, and well… you get the idea.  Sometimes you’re rollercoaster-ing through pitch black darkness – my kids absolutely loved it!

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The Mediterranean Harbor is the centerpiece of the park.  It is beautiful from all angles.  In the evening they have the Fanstasmic Show here.

img_7300img_7299img_7298 Because it was nearing Halloween, the day time show featured a parade of villains!

Agrabah – where Aladdin often got into trouble and fell in love with Princess Jasmine.

img_7487 The Toy Story ride had a 3 hour wait – very popular, so you might consider getting a Fast Pass for this one.

I could look at this scenery all day.  October is the perfect time to go.  It’s not as crowded as during the summer and the weather is nice and cool.

img_7495 The Tower of Terror

SELFIES!

img_7297 Someone is exhausted!  Time to go home.

 

Tokyo Family Vacation Part 2: Odaiba

Now we are really getting to the fun stuff!  Odaiba has something for every member of the family.  The first place we hit was Joypolis, an indoor amusement park.  They have indoor roller coasters, arcade games, giant interactive video screens everywhere, and a lot of virtual reality games featuring race cars, jungle expeditions, and even a tour of terror using VR technology.  img_7233 The line was long but moved very quickly.img_7112 My kids loved the many giant interactive screens.  For this one, my younger son, Cameron had his face scanned and put into a walrus.  The walrus makes faces, blows bubbles, and eats food that you can release by pressing the food button.img_7109 This interactive screen switches peoples faces.

Cameron whacks some Sonic the Hedgehogs.  On the right, the boys have fun with the giant joystick that controls the chairs beneath them.  Don’t fall off Cameron!!

After going to Joypolis, we moved on to the Lego Discovery Center.  This place was AWESOME and crowded.

They enjoyed all the creative activity stations.

The Lego City features many of the famous landmarks in Tokyo.  The lighting changes to display day and night time scenery.

For the adults, we continued on to VenusFort.

Besides the many shops, one of the highlights was the History Garage.

Odaiba is near the ocean and it felt much more airy than Shinjuku.  Next stop, Ueno Zoo!

Tokyo Family Vacation Part 1: Shibuya & Akihabara

“WE’RE THE GRISWALDS!” my husband, Alex, exclaims, as we fly into Narita Airport.  Although I roll my eyes at his corny 80’s joke, I am just as excited as Alex and my two boys, Gavin (12) and Cameron (10) who have never been to Japan before.  It’s my fourth trip in my lifetime and I never tire of the culture, the shopping, and the food!  I highly recommend Tokyo as a destination for a family trip.  Here are some highlights from our fall trip to Tokyo.

Trips out of Honolulu International Airport are always kicked off with homemade spam musubis from Nana.

We arrive at our Airbnb in the Shimbashi area of Ginza and immediately hunt for food.

DAY 1 – Shibuya and Ginzaimg_7194A warped panoramic of the famous Shibuya crossing.  img_7048

Thank goodness my brother-in-law carried this giant pink shopping bag.  It was the beacon that kept us together when crossing the Shibuya main intersection.

Adores in Shibuya is an arcade full of crane games filled with our favorite Japanese character plush dolls!

We were in Heaven every day with reasonably priced, high quality sushi available everywhere.  My chirashi sushi set was about $9.

The toy section in Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara is a toy store on steroids!

Then we went on to Mandarake, more toys and manga!

For Part 2, I will share moments from Odaiba!

 

 

The 30 Day Aloha Challenge

Keep-Calm-And-Live-Aloha-2About a month ago, a friend of mine had posted on Facebook that he was doing a “30 Day Aloha Challenge.”  Part of my friend’s long post explained the challenge, “I decided to create the ALOHA ACTION CHALLENGE. I am challenging myself to be more aware of how I put aloha into action each day for 30 days. If anyone else wishes to participate, please feel free to join me and share/post your experiences of Aloha or ways in which you or someone you know has put Aloha into Action! Feel free to tag me in your post, because I would love to read about the many ways that Aloha can be expressed and shared everyday! Aloha is a practice and a way of life, much like yoga, hula, meditation, tai chi, etc.”

So there it was, I didn’t think much of it at first.  I checked his posts the first few days, and soon I began to think about the Facebook challenges that I had participated in.  First, there was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and then, the 22 Push-ups for 22 days to bring awareness to those who committed suicide as a result of having PTSD.  While these challenges were great because they brought awareness to the need to find a cure, it didn’t involve any action on my part.  THEN, I thought, there really isn’t a good reason NOT to do it.  In the end, I decided to blog about this because it was easier than I thought it would be, AND the results were absolutely eye-opening.  Here are some highlights and insights that I gained from this challenge.

  • In just the first few days, I decided to focus on family.  I surprised my Grandma at the care home with a smoothie and surprised my son with an Icee.  Just to see the smiles on their faces from a small gesture felt great, it already made me want to do more.
  • Observing people who provide a service, cashiers, tellers, and waiters, made me realize that we take for granted that, most of these people, no matter what is going on in their lives, put on a smile and perform acts of Aloha everyday, all day long.
  • It makes a great difference when you smile and say, “hi” or “thank you” to someone who appears to be having a rough day.  They immediately seem lighter and a little happier.
  • When we have so many material things that clutter our home, a wonderful Action of Aloha is to share your superfluous abundance with others.   I cleaned out our bathroom with my kids and gave extra unused toiletries to the YMCA because they were collecting to make goody bags for the homeless.  Through this act, we uncluttered our space and helped another person out.
  • I started to realize that this challenge was helping me to look for the positive in the world around me and look for more ways to create positivity as well.
  • I often avoid homeless people, but one day, my husband and I ended up helping a very educated and polite homeless man while we were waiting to cross the street.  He was in a wheelchair and my husband gave him a push to the nearby library and I shared the breakfast we had just bought to take home.  He changed my views and showed me that there are as many nice and scary homeless people as there are nice and scary people who have homes to live in.
  • A very important Action of Aloha is to live joyfully.
  • In a situation where someone is annoying you or being rude, the best thing to do is to make the most generous assumption about the person and the situation.  For example, if you’re driving and someone cuts you off, you can assume they have to pee really badly.
  • Forgiveness is a valuable Action of Aloha.
  • Receiving the unconditional love of a dog is one of my favorite kinds of Aloha.
  • Taking care of a healing family member reminds us that we need Aloha from one another from time to time.
  • My kids have started to think of their own Actions of Aloha
  • When you are REALLY MAD &. FRUSTRATED, sing the intro to The Lion King at the top of your lungs!”NAANTS IGONYAMA BKTHIBABAAAAAA!!!”🦁
  • When Actions of Aloha becomes a habit, bad days don’t get you down because you know you have enjoyed so many days filled with ALOHA!

When I heard, “30 Day Aloha Action Challenge,” I thought it was going to make me tired sharing all this Aloha with everyone.  However, that’s not what it’s about.  It’s taking whatever you do everyday and making a conscious choice to just do it with a different intention in mind, an intention of Aloha.  I also learned that it’s not about trying to get attention for what you do, but thinking about what you are giving your attention to.  When you are trying to get attention for what you do, you are trying to figure out what others expect from you.  Conversely, I found it much more joyful to give my attention to Aloha from the inside out, simply sharing my own joy with others, independent of their reaction.  I found that most times, it makes them happy, at worst, you haven’t made anything worse than it already was.  I encourage you to try the challenge for any amount of days and see how it transforms your perception of yourself and the world around you.

Saturday, July 2, 2016: Open House for Tamagusuku Ryu Senjukai Hawaii Frances Nakachi Ryubu Dojo

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Each gesture is an expression. Movements put together are a story. The music is a narration. Collectively they create Okinawan dance – a connection to ancient culture and ancestry. Come experience, for a day, the rich Ryukuan culture expressed through music and dance. Since 1997, Master Instructor Frances Nakachi has nurtured her students by teaching the values and traditions of Okinawan dance while teaching discipline and self-worth in a positive environment.

On Saturday, July 2, 2016, from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. at the Mission Memorial Auditorium there will be a rare opportunity to experience an Okinawan dance lesson for FREE. Tamagusuku Ryu Senjukai Frances Nakachi Ryubu Dojo will present an Open House to all who are interested in learning to dance.

About Artistic Director Frances Nakachi
(http://www.senjukaihawaii.com/content/inside.php?id=4)

Nakachi Sensei was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan.  From the age of three, she began learning Ryukyu dance under the dual instruction of the acclaimed sisters, Yoshiko Tanita Sensei and Mieko Kinjo Sensei, co-directors of the Tamagusuku Ryu Senju Kai and are certified as the Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties also known as Juyo Mukei Bunkazai Hojisha.

After graduating from high school in Okinawa,  she moved to Hawaii to attend Chaminade University.  Nonetheless, she traveled back and forth to continue her studies of dance and completed all three certifications of testing administered by the Ryukyu Shimpo Newspaper Company in Okinawa called the Geino Konkuru, performing Arts Contest.  The Geino Konkuru is an annual event where students of all branches of Okinawan traditional performing arts are judged by a panel of distinguished artists from each respective art form. There are three levels of testing that each student must pass, which are Shinjin sho, Newcomers’ Award, Yushusho, Award of Excellence, and Saikosho, Highest Award.  Frances Sensei has taken all the certifications for not only for the perpetuation of the Ryukyuan Arts and but for her mother who was the biggest fan.  Frances Sensei’s mother also used to dance Okinawan dance and it was her dream to have her older sister, Kathy and her to become teachers just like her senseis, Yoshiko sensei and Mieko Sensei.

In 1997, Frances started teaching Okinawan dance due to many inquires to learn Okinawan dance from her. She was moved by their seeking spirit to learn about the culture.  She felt that teaching will help her continue with her practice and contribute to the community through her dance.

On January 9, 1999, Frances had passed her certification exam in Okinawa and earned her Kyoshi license in Dance from her instructors, Yoshiko Tanita Sensei and Mieko Kinjo Sensei.  To commemorate her accreditation and to formally introduce  the Tamagusuku Ryu Senju Kai Frances Nakachi Ryubu Dojo to the community, she held her first recital at the Hawaii Theatre together with the centennial celebration of the Okinawan immigration to Hawaii entitled, Chu Hisa Na , Fulfilling Dreams, One Step at a Time.

On June 5, 2005,  Frances had passed the highest level of teaching certification exam in Okinawa and earned a Shihan license, Master Instructor license in Dance.  She mentioned that this certification gave her a deeper sense of commitment in preserving the culture and understanding that there are so much more to learn and share .  She mentions that the dance is always evolving and we must not stop learning.

Frances Sensei had performed and held recitals in numerous places in Hawaii such at the Hawaii Theatre, also known as the “Carnegie Hall of the Pacific”, Neal Blaisedell Center, Mamiya Theatre at Chaminade University,  Orvis Auditorium at University of Hawaii  just to name a few. She has also performed at a National Theatre of Japan in Okinawa, Fukuoka and many other places in Japan for cultural exchange. In 2009, she was invited to perform at the Carnegie Hall in New York and in 2014, she is dancing with her students at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC.

Also, Frances Sensei’s goal is to have students  take their certification testing in Okinawa like how she has taken the testing in Okinawa. She wants to have her students experience what she had learned and train both body and mind.  The students have the opportunity to be trained by the Grand Masters of Senjukai and other senior instructors. The training in Okinawa helps develop character, discipline, self confidence and a develop deeper sense of appreciation towards the culture. It is an life altering experience which helps the culture to be perpetuated and continued for many generations.

Currently, she teaches both children and adult classes at the Kilauea Community Center every Monday and Wednesday nights and performs at various community functions.
It is her mission to spread peace, joy and love by sharing the beauty of Okinawa’s Dance Arts to the world.  “Together, we can make a difference, one dance at a time.”

For more information about Tamagusuku Ryu Senjukai Hawaii, check out their website: www.senjukaihawaii.com.

Orlando

Another shooting. Is this becoming some common occurrence in our country? It hurts me to think that much like our Honolulu, Orlando is a place people go to for vacation, have fun in the sun, and celebrate life. Also, about 20 years ago, I had a close friend who left Honolulu, and moved to the east coast, to avoid being shamed and judged by his family for his sexual orientation. Going to a nightclub, much like the one where the shooting occurred,was the only place where he felt free and accepted. It was a place where others could exist in solidarity and not fear judgement. The act of this shooting is a vile message of hate. One of my Facebook friends commented that, “..removing guns from the world isn’t going to keep violent F’d up people from killing. They will use knives, syringes, homemade bombs.” I agree that if people are “F’d up,” they will continue to kill and F’d up people need help, mental help.

Seriously, it angers me that we even need statistics to show whether or not gun violence is a mental health issue. Common sense would tell you that if you’re killing mass amounts of innocent people, something is wrong with your brain! Right?

Although we may be angry, we must also be wise. We can ask, “WHY?” all we want. Ultimately, we must figure out HOW to move forward. Since there is no satisfactory answer to – “WHY?” MC Yogi gives a perspective as to HOW we can change direction together,

“When terrible thinks happen, it creates a spiral. It takes a great deal of effort and energy to lift ourselves out of that darkness, that downward pull. But, if we’re wise we can swing the momentum of our mind and move in a different, more uplifting direction….If enough of us can hold the light and push forward in the direction of LOVE, DIGNITY, and STRENGTH, we can turn the cultural tide.”

Aunty Nona’s Kalo Farm: Meaningful, Mindful, and Muddy

IMG_5612On a cool, breezy day, under the beautiful blue Hale’iwa sky, the 4th grade class of my son’s elementary school presented an ‘oli (chant) to humbly request Aunty Nona, Kumu Mokihana, Aunty Lisa, as well as, spiritual ancestors to share knowledge with them.

E hō mai ka ‘ike mai luna mai ē                                                                                                             (Grant us knowledge from above)

O nā mea huna no‘eau o nā mele ē
(The things of wisdom hidden in the chants)

E hō mai, e hō mai, e hō mai ē
(Grant it to us, grant it to us, grant it to us)

-Anake Edith Kanakaole


Winona Pihana-Chaney, 83, also known as, Aunty Nona – is the daughter of the late Mary K. Kelii Pihana who was the Hawaiian Studies kupuna at Wahiawa Elementary School. Since 1993, Aunty Nona has continued the work of her mother by bringing children to her taro farm where they learn, through hands-on activities, about kuleana – responsibility, and to mãlama ‘āina – protect the land, all while getting dirty, eating ono taro and crafting with lauhala.

The children are immediately put into three rotating groups. Our group’s first activity was to make a lauhala bracelet. As the chaperone, I helped pass out bracelets that were already started and ready to be woven while Aunty Nona instructed them on a simple checkerboard weave pattern. I too was given a bracelet to weave and Aunty Nona began to talk story, “You know, I was an accountant and I hated arts and crafts.” Having worked in accounting for 10 years myself, we immediately hit it off. She continued to tell me how she started educating student at her farm, “One day a principal came to me and said, ‘I want to bring my students to your farm,’ and I said, ‘Reeeaaaally?!’ I was surprised.” Soon, it became a place of learning and fun for many children that would come from all over the island. Aunty Nona praises Governor George Ariyoshi for prioritizing Hawaiian Studies education. She returned her attention to the children, “Oh, you have to redo yours, make the weave tighter,” and “Oh, you get an A+,” she said as she walked around guiding them on getting a perfect tight weave on their lauhala bracelets.

After their bracelets were completed and labeled with their names on strips of masking tape, we moved our group to Aunty Lisa’s outdoor kitchen. Aunty Lisa is the daughter-in-law of Aunty Nona. She taught us about taro and demonstrated the mashing of taro to make pa’i ‘ai. Aunty Lisa’s poi pounder is about 80 years old – made by her husband’s grandfather. Pounders required a lot of labor back then. They were formed by pounding two other stones to shape it, and smoothing the surface with sand. We all became hungry while she told us all the different dishes made from taro that she makes like mashed taro with butter and garlic, and fresh mango pa’i ‘ai bread! Mmmmm! It was almost lunch time too!

Keeping the taro in the middle of the board was a little challenging for my son! After mashing and bagging their taro to take with them, students got to taste some of what they made. They were responsible for cleaning up and setting up for the next group to participate.

Next, we moved down to the taro patch and Kumu Mokihana – Aunty Nona’s son and Aunty Lisa’s husband – taught us how to play ‘ulu maika (a hawaiian game where you role a disc between to sticks several feet away).

Lastly, it was time to jump get dirty and jump into the lo’i. Kumu Mokihana taught us how taro is sturdy enough to survive floods and droughts. In 2008 there was a big flood, many farms in Waialua lost their crops but the kalo (taro plant) survived. Having the children play in the lo’i is helpful in tilling the soil between harvests. It is good to move the nutrients around before planting the next crop. I had my sneakers on in the lo’i, moving slowly, pulling my shoes out of the mud with each step. Everything was squishy, squishy, squishy. The color of the mud is rich like dark chocolate and feels smooth in the hands like soft serve ice cream. As I watched my child swim and play in the mud, I thought a little about my anticipated laundry situation.

As we rode back on the bus, I thought of the precious ‘āina as our beautiful playground that provides us with everything we need to sustain life – air, food, and water. It’s important to give back and take care of our land because it takes care of us. Aunty Nona and her ohana opens their hearts and their homes to provide a truly fun and meaningful experience for all.

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