Back to Misawa

Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

We got back to Rachel and Mike's place in Misawa today after riding on 5 different trains:

1) We took a train from Kinugawa where our hotel was to Imiachi. Then we walked from one train station in Imiachi to a different train station. It was about a 10-minute walk.

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2) We took the Nikko train from Imiachi to Utsunomiya. This was the JR Nikko Express, which had lots of pictures of the waterfall and the shrine that we visited yesterday. Utsunomiya is a train hub with many different trains coming and going.

3) We took a shinkansen from Utsunomiya to Sendai. At Sendai, all we had to do was to get off of the train we were riding on and get on the next train that came into the station. That train was really two shinkansen trains hooked together.

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4) We took the Hayabusa shinkansen from Sendai to Hachinohe. The Hayabusa is the fastest of all of the shinkansen trains.

5) We took an express train from Hachinohe to Misawa. It wasn't as fast as the shinkansen, but it only had one stop and went pretty fast.

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When we got to Misawa, we got in Rachel's car and dropped of Mike so he could pick up Zeus from the kennel. Rachel then took us to their house and went back to pick up Zeus and Mike. And now we are all resting at their house. It has been an exciting and fun day, mostly riding on trains, but we got to ride on a lot of different kinds of trains.

Tomorrow is Sunday here, so we won't be taking any trips, but we will be having fun with Rachel and Mike.

Another day in Nikko

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Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

We are staying in a traditional hotel up in the mountains not far from Nikko. It is very interesting. There are bamboo mats on the floor and we take off our shoes and wear sandals when we are in our room. Our room also comes with robes that we wear sometimes in the evening. It also has a table with the legs so short that you sit on the floor when you sit at the table. Another thing that being here means is that the Internet connection isn't fast enough to upload the blog, so you won't get to read about our days here until we get back to Rachel and Mike's house tomorrow evening. Of course when it is evening here, it is the middle of the night there, so you can read it sometime when your folks have time to look at it with you.

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Today we went to the famous Toshougu Shrine. It is a national treasure of Japan with many temples, shrines, a five-story pagoda, a famous gate and much more. One thing about this shrine is that it has a very famous building with panels that tell stories of the life of a monkey. One panel has three monkeys. One has its ears covered. Another has its mouth covered. And the third has its eyes covered. Its story says that to be good, little monkeys must learn to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. I took a picture of some of our friends making faces in front of the building where the monkey pictures are. We saw wild monkeys alongside the road as we were driving in the mountains.

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We also went to a Japanese National Park where there is a very famous waterfall. Kegon Falls is very high and very famous. It is another thing about Nikko that people in Japan like. One thing that was interesting about this waterfall is that they have an elevator that goes from a place near the top of the falls down 100 meters to a place near the bottom of the falls. The elevator is carved into the stone of the canyon. At the bottom, you have to walk out from inside of the rock. It is very cold and damp inside of the mountain, but soon you come out into the bright sunshine. Then we got to ride the elevator back up to the top after we were done looking at the bottom of the falls.

In the late afternoon we got to ride on another type of train. In Japan we have traveled on super-modern and super-fast trains, but today we traveled on a train pulled by a steam locomotive. The route was through a very beautiful part of the mountains from Imiachi to Kinugawa, where our motel is. We were sad to have to say good bye to Masami and her family. They were wonderful hosts. Now it is time for us to move on to the next adventure.

Nikko

Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

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Today was so much fun that it is hard to know where to start when telling you about it. In the morning, we met up with Masami. Masami lived in our home when she was in high school for a whole year. She is one year younger than your father and one year older than Aunt Rachel. We have not seen here since she went back home to Japan in January of 1999. Rachel saw her a few years later when she was able to visit Masami's family.

With Masami and here husband, we visited Tokyo Skytree, which is a tower that is even higher than Tokyo Tower about which I wrote a couple of days ago. Then we visited a busy section of Tokyo and a famous temple. It was very hot and we did a lot of walking, but everything was so interesting.

Then in the middle of the afternoon, we took a train to Nikko, which is where Masami's family lives. Her mother met us at the train and, after visiting a very interesting place where a man does carving and has a huge parade float, we went to their home were we had a special dinner.

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We had a noodle slide! You would have thought it was a lot of fun! Masami's father had made a slide out of a long piece of bamboo - maybe about 20 feet long. It was split in half and he rigged up a hose so water ran down the slide. Then they placed noodles in the slide and we had to catch them with our chopsticks. We had cups, made out of bamboo, with sauce in them. When we caught noodles we would dip them in our cup and eat them. There was a lot of laughing as we tried to catch the noodles as they went by. Once in a while, they would put a plum in the slide, just for a surprise. It is very hard to pick up a plum with your chopsticks.

After the noodle slide, we went inside where we told stories, ate a lot of other special dishes, including pancakes with vegetables in them. We also had presents for them and they had presents for us. It was a wonderful and very fun evening.

Tomorrow we will have more adventures with Masami and her family in Nikko.

A Park in the City

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Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

Guess what? We saw turtles in Tokyo. We visited Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, which is a very large park filled with many flowers. There is a huge greenhouse in the park and there are formal Japanese Gardens as well as English Gardens with roses and other flowers. One of the areas of the park is especially for children, with a pond and plenty of turtles in the pond. We were thinking of you, Emmala, as we were taking pictures of the turtles.

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Rachel really enjoyed all of the flowers. She was having a good time taking pictures of all of them with her camera. Grandpa has a special lens for taking close-up pictures and Rachel had a good time using the lens to take lots of pictures.

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Mike was looking at all of the different trees. There are many different shapes of trees in the park. Some of the trees are very big. The park was once the private land of a family who kept much of it in a natural state. When the nation of Japan took over management of the park, they were careful to keep track of all of the trees and make sure that they have special care. Some of the trees are thousands of years old.

It was fun to have a stroll in the park after having had a very busy day yesterday. We have been doing a lot of walking. Yesterday we walked more than eight miles. Today we have walked more than six miles. We have also climbed lots of stairs. There are bridges for people to cross the busy streets, but one place we visited had many streets coming together in a huge intersection. When the light changed for people to cross, there were thousands crossing at once! It was amazing! We went upstairs in a Starbucks to watch all the people in the street below. We have fun every day.

Tokyo Day 2

Tokyo Tower
Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

WOW! Have we ever had a busy day today, touring around Tokyo. Our train passes allow us to go wherever we want in the city once we figure out where we want to go. In the morning we decided to go to Tokyo Tower. It is a large tower that has been designed to withstand earthquakes. It was built in 1959 as a television broadcast tower and a place for people to go up in elevators to look down at the city. It was also made so that it could be easily seen and avoided by airplanes both day and night. It was a little hazy, so we couldn't see everything from the top, but it gave us a really good look at the city. We also visited a park with lots of shrines and other special buildings. If you look at the picture of Tokyo Tower, you will notice a place near the top that is wider than the rest of the tower. We went up to that observation deck, which is full of a lot of different mirrors so that you can see the city no matter which direction you are facing. It also has lots of windows for looking out at the city. Then we went down to a place in the middle of the tower where we could see more things.

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Grandma and Rachel found a store that has lots of Hello Kitty items. I took a picture of them sitting by a big Hello Kitty.

Then we went to look at the Imperial Palace. It is a huge complex with two moats and can be approached by two bridges for formal occasions. The first bridge is made of stone. The second bridge is made of iron. We couldn't go across the bridges, but we took pictures of them. The palace buildings are in the trees and all of the trees have been carefully trimmed and cut to look like fancy shapes.

In a little while we are going to go to a famous street with lots of shops that sell all kinds of interesting things. We are trying to find some things that will be fun to bring home to show to you.

Grandma and I are having a wonderful time touring Tokyo and tomorrow we will see even more interesting things.

Tokyo

Dear Elliot, Emmala, and Eliza,

You will notice that there is no picture with today's blog entry. That is because we arrived in Tokyo after dark - at about 9 at night after traveling from Misawa. This morning we were packing and getting ready for our trip to Tokyo and I didn't take any pictures. What I did do, however, was to take a video from the Shinkansan. That is the very fast train called the bullet train.

You can look at the video by clicking on this sentence.

In the time that it took to make that video the train had gone about one mile. It goes more than two miles each minute! I think you can see that it is very fast!

Tomorrow and the next day we will be touring in Tokyo with Rachel and Mike. It was fun traveling with them on the train today and we are really looking forward to our adventures in the next two days. Then after a couple of days, we will be meeting up with Masami, who is an exchange student who lived with us back in 1998. She lived with us for a year when your father was in high school. We have not seen her since she returned to her home in Japan after she lived with us. We had a lot of fun adventures with her, including a trip to Whidbey Island, which is very near to where you live. Your dad can tell you a few stories about Masami if you ask him.

We will have more pictures of Tokyo tomorrow.

Nebuta Museum

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Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

Wow! Did we ever have a big day today! We went to Aomori. One of the things that we saw was a very large copper statue of a Buddha. It is called the Big Buddha and it is so big that you can go inside of it. We also saw a five story pagoda that is designed to be able to withstand an earthquake and several temples that are made out of cedar. To get to Aomori, we drove through high mountains that reminded us a little bit of the mountains near your home.

The picture with today's story is from another place that we visited called the Nebuta Museum. At the museum there are a lot of very large parade floats that are all designed to be lighted from the inside so that they can be in a night parade. There are lots of giant floats with fierce warriors and other people. The museum tells the story of a huge festival that they hold every year. In addition to the big parade floats, you would have really enjoyed the musicians. There were several drummers with huge drums that were so loud that you could have easily heard them a long way away. There were also people playing flutes. The leader and some children were dancing and dancing to the loud beat of the drums.

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It was fun to talk to you by Skype and we liked telling you a little bit about what we are doing. There are many more things that we will tell you when we get back to your home.

Hachinohe Fish Market

Japanese Fish Market
Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

We had an interesting experience today when we visited the Hachinohe Fish Market. It was in a very large building, bigger than Home Depot, and it was filled with people selling all kinds of things. Mostly the stands were selling fish - all kinds of fish. There were a few places that sold fruit, vegetables, cooked food and other items. There was a place where you could take fish that you had just bought and they would cook it for you. There were live crabs and lobsters. I've never seen so many different sizes of crabs, from some that were only the size of your fingertips to great big ones. And there were kinds of fish that I had never seen before. You could buy whole fish, heads and all, or fish without their heads, or just fish heads. They also had places with many different kinds of seaweed.

We wandered around the market, with all of the people speaking Japanese and all of the signs written in Japanese. We couldn't understand the words and we couldn't read many of the signs, but we do know how to read the prices. We bought a few things to try. Grandma and I tried samples of Squid Cake. It was like chocolate cake with a cream filling and the filling contained squid. Some of the cakes had squids on the top (not real ones, but ones that were made out of cake and frosting. Some were made so that the whole cake looked like a squid.

We are having so much fun looking at things and learning more about life in Japan. We miss you but we will have lots of stories to tell you when we get back.

Misawa

Dear Elliot, Emmala, and Eliza,

This is a picture of one of the trains we rode on today. We actually rode on two different trains, but we went the farthest on one like this. It is called Shinkansen. The one we rode on went as fast as 120 miles per hour. That is twice as fast as the cars go on the Freeway by Mount Vernon!

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There are a lot of new experiences for us in Japan! Today we visited two temples and we saw ponds with Lotus plants and lots and lots of giant carp fish. Emmala would have loved to see the turtles that we saw in the ponds as well. I didn't get a picture of the turtles. There were just so many things to look at that I forgot to take pictures of some of the things.

We walked in a park that also has a zoo, but we didn't go in to see the animals because we didn't have that much time. One of the things about the Zoo in Ueno is that they have pandas that came from China. There are lots of signs in the stores that are near the zoo that feature pictures and cartoons of pandas. We even found two bakeries that have panda buns!

There is so much to see in Japan and we will have a lot of stories to tell you when we get back to your house.

Japan, 2018

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Dear Readers,

Edward did not get to come on this adventure, but there will be a lot to report to Elliot, Emmala and Eliza in the next three weeks. Since Edward is hibernating in the camper, his blog will be a series of reports to the children about what their grandparents are doing.

Today we are staying in a hotel in Ueno, Japan. It is a city that is near Tokyo and not too far from the big international airport. We got up early in the morning and took a bus from Burlington, Wa to SeaTac Airport. We flew from there to Narita Airport in Japan. That flight took about 10 hours. We had lots of good food on our flight, including Ben and Jerry's ice cream. When we got to Narita, we took a train to Ueno. There are two trains from Narita to Ueno: a slow one and a fast one. We took the slow one and saw lots of people and interesting places.

The picture is taken from a bridge over a wide street. The cars drive on the other side of the street in Japan. There are also lots of narrow streets a well. Our hotel is on a small street not far from this wide street.

Tomorrow we are going to go for a walk in a park where there are lots of museums. There is also a lake where you can paddle boats. There is so much to see here. Then we are going to take a very fast train called Shinkansen. That means "bullet train." We will go in that train to a city called Hachinohe and change trains for a short ride to Misawa, which is where Rachel and Mike live. We are so excited to see them!

Clear Lake, Washington

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WOW! Today was a very exciting day. Edward got up early and they drove over the Cascade Mountains to Clear Lake, which is right next to Mount Vernon. Elliot, Emmala, and Eliza live right next to Clear Lake, which will be a fun place to play with boats when the weather is warm. Today there was all kinds of excitement as the camper got set up and the children came out to find the toys in the camper. Emmala enjoyed playing with the dishes and tea set and the Construx and Lego and other toys. Elliot had fun with Construx and Lego and Micro Machines and White Wings. The White Wings plans fly really well and one went over the ditch and into the field on the other side. Elliot and his dad and grandpa looked and looked, but they didn't find it yet. There was plenty of paper to make another White Wings Plane, so Elliot and Grandpa worked on it. It will be ready to fly tomorrow.

And tonight, Emmala and Elliot are in the camper for a sleepover. And Edward is sleeping with Emmala! It is great fun to be in the bunk beds and have a sleepover with the camper parked right in the yard of their home. Maybe tomorrow there will be pancakes! Edward is sleeping with good thoughts and knows he will have good dreams.

Twisp, Washington

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Edward is in Twisp tonight. It is right along the Methow River. You can see that the river really flooded this year. There are giant tree trunks that have washed up alongside the banks of the river. These are great for climbing and hiding and Edward had fun exploring this interesting place.

Most of the day the camper was in "Almost Canada." The family has been traveling very close to the Canadian border in northern Washington and there are Canadian flags and plenty of road signs that tell of places in British Columbia that are just across the border.

The names of the places around here are pretty interesting, too. Today, Edward has been in Okanogan, Omak, Tonasket, Kettle Falls, and Chewelah. There have been some other places as well. The truck and the camper topped five different passes in today's drive. Tomorrow there will be another high pass, over the Cascades. The picture at the top of the Edward Bear Blog is of Edward at the top of that pass. That picture was taken several years ago on another trip along the same highway.

Tomorrow is the day that Edward will get to Mount Vernon, Washington, where Elliot, Emmala, and Eliza live. It will be a very exciting day!

Missoula, Montana

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Edward really wasn't all that eager to leave Big Timber, but there are great adventures ahead and he is eager to see Elliot, Emmala and Eliza. Today the ride was fairly short with a stop at Wheat Montana. Edward heard that they have bear claws in that bakery, but he didn't get to go in and check them out and no one offered him any. Edward hopes that they don't come from real bears and he is pretty sure that they do not. After lunch it was a little while longer before they got to a campground in Missoula and set up.

Before long Jamie and Zach arrived with their two daughters: Faye and Edith. Fay is 3 and Edith is not quite 1 year old. They were lots of fun! They played with the toys in the camper and gave Edward quite a ride as they carried him around and jumped up onto the big bed. Edward normally sleeps on the sofa in the camper.

It had been quite warm and sunny during the day, but in the evening it got cloudy and a few raindrops fell. That was OK. They are still able to play outside and eat at the picnic table. The girls liked the macaroni and cheese and the watermelon the best. Edward was fine with his fish and enjoyed watching the family eat.

Tomorrow will be a big day and hopefully they will be back into some mountains before too long.

Big Timber, Montana

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Big Timber is a place that Edward has been many times before. He always loves to come to the cabins by the river where the dog Cody lives and there are always lots of friendly people and the river roars to lull you to sleep at night. And WOW! The river is really high this June! Edward has never seen it flowing so full. There are giant cottonwood trees that have been washed away from the other side of the river and the channel is full bank to bank.

Even at high water, however, this place is so peaceful. The lambs are getting pretty big and like to be out and munching on the fresh green grass. They probably would look like a yummy treat to some bears, but with Edward they are always safe. He prefers fish for his diet. There must be a lot of fish in the river, but it would be hard to catch them at this time of the year with the water running so high and so full of dirt and mud and other things that are washing down the river from up stream.

Big Timber is where Ted grew up and he seems to always be in a good mood when they are visiting here. Tomorrow promises a drive up the river to the Church Camp where Ted and Susan met and a return to a place that is very special to them. Edward likes special places and he likes the stories that go with returning to places where important things have happened. This is being a wonderful adventure and Edward is sure that there is much more to come.

Red Lodge, Montana

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Edward was right about the snow in the high country. There was lots of it when they finally drove up into the mountains. Some places the cuts made by the snowplows were still 4 or 5 feet deep and it was obvious that the snow was melting. There will little streams and rivulets and cascades everywhere. The water was delightful enough that Edward though that he would like to get out and play in it. Then he thought about how cold that water would be. Just a few inches away was the snow that was drip, drip, dripping into the water.

After they came down from the high country, it was a short drive to Montana and then up again, this time to the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains and Red Lodge. Edward loves the name of these mountains. Bear - tooth. Edward has plenty of teeth - the better for eating his favorite foods, which are blueberries and salmon. And he likes salmonberries as well.

Then Edward remembered another thing as they set up the camper next to Rock Creek on the edge of Red Lodge: the music of the water. Rock Creek is very full as there is a lot of snow melt in the high country and it is roaring next to the campsite, which makes for music to go to sleep to. Edward is sure he'll sleep well tonight. Red Lodge is a place Edward has been many times before and he is looking forward to two nights in the same campground.

Sheridan, Wyoming

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The sun is beginning to sink beneath the high mountains in the background and Edward is climbing in a very tall juniper tree. It smells good, like the cedar wood when Ted is making canoes. Edward is climbing to get a look at the Big Horn Mountains which are now casting their shadow on the campground. They are covered in snow. Edward is pretty sure that the bears in the mountains are still hibernating. Maybe that is why Edward is still feeling tired. He might have been awakened before he was ready to be out and about. You never know with a hibernating bear. The plan tomorrow is to drive up over the top of the mountains. Edward remembers seeing a Moose up there last year and he loves the high country, just not when it has too much snow. They may visit a medicine wheel that is high in the mountains. There are so many things to do in the Big Horn Mountains.

Edward has the sense that they are starting out on a very big adventure, though he isn't sure of all of the details of the trip. Edward loves adventures and is sure that there will be a lot of stories to tell about this summer. But for now, Edward is feeling like a nap.

Rapid City, South Dakota

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WOW! There is a lot of activity in the camper today. Edward Bear has been hibernating all winter long and he doesn't like to wake up. First of all, of course, he had to check to make sure that he still has his fish. He does. That's good. All day long Ted and Susan are coming and going from the camper, bringing in things, making up beds and checking to see that everything is working.

It is clear that they are planning a big trip, and not just a weekend shake down cruise. That is a funny idea a shake down cruise. But it is true that everything does shake quite a bit when the camper is being towed down the road. That's why Edward likes to ride on a padded seat with pillows next to him.

Before the camper takes its first trip each year, there are a lot of things to do: fill the water tank, flush out all the water lines, make sure the refrigerator and stove are working, check the water heater. Clean out the bathroom. Vacuum the carpet. Check all the lights. Sort through all of the cupboards and drawers.

Sometimes Edward hears the radio in the background and sometimes Ted and Susan work quietly. Edward sees a few loads of toys coming into the camper. That is a very good sign indeed. Usually when there are toys involved, they will be heading to visit Elliot and Emmala and Eliza. Elliot loves to visit those three. After all, they all have E names and so does Edward!