Tokyo Family Vacation Part 3: Ueno Zoo

img_7333Whenever our family goes on a trip, it is a requirement of the children that animals be involved. Ueno Zoo is Japan’s oldest zoo existing from 1882. It is a five-minute walk from the Park Exit of Ueno Station.  The zoo is located within Ueno Park, a large urban park that is home to museums, a small amusement park, and other attractions. The zoo is closed Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday).

First we started at the Children’s Zoo.

 

Then to see Mr. Polar Bear.

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This is the first time I have ever seen a live tsuru (crane). Beautiful.

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Pieko the gorilla was in her bedroom.

So we had to observe her through here:

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There is beautiful natural landscaping to enjoy while walking between exhibits.

Yoru no Mori – Night Forest is where you can see the nocturnal animals.

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The left is the picture of a sloth and, on the right, there are bats in the dark corner.  It’s hard to see in the picture, it was also hard to see in person.  We could see some wiggling in the dark corner.

A tiger strolling near the pool.

img_7410The elephant were very talkative.

PANDA!!

We got to see a lot of animals that we don’t have at our local Honolulu Zoo.

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!

 

 

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.

Earth Day Field Trip: The Lyon Arboretum

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Recently, on a day off, my kids asked to go on a hike. Having lived here all my life, for some reason, I have never visited the Lyon Arboretum in Manoa. It was the first time visiting for all of us. It’s a wonderful hike if you have elementary and middle school children. There is an app with an audio tour and information about the various gardens and trails. There are also signs that give valuable information on the various plants. They even mark the ones that are endangered. The kids love to follow the map, identifying the markers along the main trail up to the ‘Aihualama Falls. Here’s some information about the arboretum to help prepare you for this fun educational field trip.

Where is it?
The arboretum is hiding behind Treetops Restaurant at Paradise Park. Just drive past the Mānoa Falls parking lot and trailhead. At first it doesn’t look like there is anything beyond the Mānoa Falls parking lot as the road starts to narrow, but keep going and soon you will see the parking lot for the Lyon Arboretum visitors. You can get driving directions and transit options on their website.

History
“In 1919, HSPA(Hawai’i Sugar Plantation Association) purchased 124 acres in upper Mānoa to serve as a test site to evaluate trees that could be used for reforestation throughout the islands, and to test sugarcane seedlings.  The test site became the basis of the Manoa Arboretum.  Planting began in 1920, and was essentially completed by 1945. In the late 1940’s HSPA had achieved their reforestation research objectives and no longer needed the site.  Dr. Lyon strongly believed that Hawai‘i needed a botanical garden and saw this as an opportunity for the state of Hawai`i. In 1953 the Board of Regents of the University of Hawai‘i accepted the land from HSPA for fee of $1.00. The deed stipulated that the University ‘…use, maintain and preserve the granted premises as an arboretum and botanical garden only.’  Lyon used his own money to fund Arboretum operations. When Dr. Lyon died in 1957, he left part of his estate in trust, to help fund the Arboretum in perpetuity.  Seven days later, the University of Hawai`i Board of Regents renamed the Manoa Arboretum the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum.  A plaque located along the main trail commemorates the many contributions of Dr. Lyon.” (Lyon Arboretum website)

Before you go
First, check out their website – it has a huge wealth of information. Everything from the history, visiting hours, tour times, calendar of events, information about research, how to volunteer, safety guides, and more. They offer events such as Mindful Hike and Yoga, Botanical Jewelry Workshop, and Plant Sales.
Download the Lyon Arboretum app. The app has an audio tour that you and your kids can play while exploring the gardens. The audio tour is a great way to learn about Hawaiian history and the indigenous plants, as well as, their usefulness and importance to the environment.

What to expect
Once you get there, you will see the visitors center. A volunteer is there to greet you. There is a place to sign in and a donation box ($5 recommended). Free maps are available and you can buy snacks, water, souvenirs, seeds, plants, and handcrafted items. If it’s rainy, there are umbrellas for visitors to borrow.

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Daily guided one-hour tours are offered Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. for $10 per person. Space is limited, so it is recommended that you call 24 hours in advance to reserve a space. Walk-ins are accommodated if there are spaces available.
My boys and I wandered around some of the various gardens before heading onto the main trial toward the ‘Aihualama Falls. The trail is safe for most children. We saw children as young as about 5 years old on the trail. It took us about 45 minutes to leisurely get to the falls. Mānoa is typically damp and prone to mosquitoes, so applying some sort of repellant and sunscreen is recommended.
A little less than half way up the main trail is the Hawaiian Section – a large area consisting entirely of native Hawaiian plants. This also, served as a nice spot to rest and drink some water before continuing on to the falls.


Be sure to bring your camera, if you’re like me, you’ll want to take photos of the many plants every 2 to 3 feet!


When we got up to the falls, it was pretty dry. You’ll be able to view a photo-perfect waterfall if you go right after a recent rainfall.

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Kids’ assessment
When I asked my kids (Gavin, 11 and Cameron, 9) for feedback, here’s how it went.

Me: Gavin, how did you like the arboretum?
Gavin: It was fun.
Me: Cameron, would you go again?
Cameron: Sure

So, there you have it, simply stated.

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DRUMS OF HOPE: A BENEFIT TO ASSIST THE HAWAII UNITED OKINAWA ASSOCIATION AND THE FUKUSHIMA RELIEF EFFORT

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BOOM, BOOM, BOOM” go the drums struck by windstorm dancers with their rallying cry – “HAI YA IYASASA!”

If you have ever heard of, or, experienced the last four Eisa Festivals at Kapiolani Community College in the past years, then you know why the popularity of this dynamic annual production has grown. On Sunday, July 12th, you better hold on to your bentos, because the 5th Annual Eisa Festival, entitled “Drums of Hope” will blow you away!

The theme of this presentation will demonstrate how culture can provide a light to cast on the darkest of times. Great tragedies often birth great love and a coming together of communities, prefectures, and even countries around the world. The survivors of the 2011 Fukushima earthquake are still in need of your kokua. Part of the proceeds from “Drums of Hope” will support the Hawaii United Okinawa Association and the Fukushima Relief Effort. Together drummers, chanters, singers, dancers, and martial artists from Hawaii, Okinawa, and Fukushima will form a powerful force of drums and hearts beating together.

Returning all the way from Okinawa will be the acclaimed artist and director Daiichi Hirata, known for his explosive choreography that is most appropriately described as “magical,” as well as, a special performance by Kazufumi Miyazawa, lead singer of The Boom! known by many for their hit song Shima Uta.

Hawaii performers include Chinagu Eisa Hawaii, Hawaii Okinawa Creative Arts, Nuuanu Shorin Ryu Karate and Tamagusuku Ryu Senju Kai Hawaii and, a special guest, Halau Hula Ka No’eau lead by Kumu Michael Pili Pang. From Okinawa, Daiichi Hirata and members of his academy and Souka Kariyushi. Finally, representing Fukushima is Team Ibuki.

Get ready for a EUPHORIC THUNDERSTORM called DRUMS OF HOPE!

Details:

What: Drums of Hope
Where: Hawaii Okinawa Center
When: Sunday, July 12, 2015 @ 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Cost: $30 General Admission
$100 Super Supporter – Premium Seating

Tickets are sold at the Hawaii Okinawa Center (676-5400) and A Little Bit of Everything (589-0044).

Mauna Kea From My Non-Hawaiian (But Kind of Okinawan) Point of View

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Recently, with the world watching the fate of Mauna Kea unfold, I also began to question the importance of its protection. Several determining life experiences have affected my thoughts of whether or not the construction of 18 story high observatory should be supported. First of all, I have been married to my husband, Alex, for almost 14 years. He is very analytical, while I am very emotionally driven when it comes to making choices. This is why we make a great pair when making family decisions, but, I digress. Secondly, I lived in Okinawa for a year, this is the land of my ancestors, and while I was there I strengthened a bond with them that, as I sit here blogging, trascends over space and time, and there is a phrase for that connection taught to me, by my Sensei Frances Nakachi, to be “tukeya hizamitin” or “transcending hearts.” Finally, my children are always watching me. Through every. thing. we are connecting them to what has been passed on for hundreds and thousands of years. Through what we feed their bodies, minds and hearts as parents, we are showing them what we value as our parents and grandparents taught us through their words and actions consciously or unconsciously.

So now that I have established a little background about a few of my life experiences, I will share with you how I wavered greatly with my feelings about the observatory construction. Being the very balanced married couple that we are, some of Alex’s analytical sense had rubbed off on me and he has learned to consider one’s feelings before sharing his very truthful observations (there is a very funny story about us going on a sushi date and he mentioned that I should be able to at least eat the same amount as him since my stomach was obviously bigger than his). Back to Mauna Kea, many of the questions I initially asked myself involved why science and spirituality can’t get along. Must they be separate? I even went as far as thinking, can this observatory be an enhancement to Mauna Kea procuring a connection to the Universe? On and on my brain went on to justify that the observatory would be good for all people of the world. This may just as well be the same reasons for many who support the construction of the observatory. Later when I read Ed Morita’s article in Frolic Hawaii, I became more convinced that my position was a well supported one. However, for me, I guess, even though I thought of so many good reasons to move forward it did not sit right somehow in my heart. As I write this blog, my discussions with Alex still vary back and forth, and, there are many good arguments that can be made to support the construction. Even with all that, my relationship to my own Motherland, is the single reason I support the protection of Mauna Kea. When this connection was brought to light, I knew with all my heart that Mauna Kea should be protected.

I began to think of a place in Okinawa called Sefa Utaki. It is the most sacred place in Okinawa and people come from around the world to feel its divine, rejuvenating power. Created by the goddess Amamikiyo, Sefa Utaki overlooks the Kudaka Islands. The lush forest, unique rock formations, and caves are her precious treasures. Holy waters drip from stalagmite formations. How saddened I would be if ANY construction would take place at such a beloved sanctuary that has been sacred since the beginning of Okinawa’s history. At this thought, I knew in my heart that Mauna Kea should be protected. No analysis needed, only tukeya hizamitin – my connection to Okinawa and my ancestors. This is a knowing that indigenous people have even when they return to the Motherland that they weren’t even born in, but where their ancestors originated. This is the connection I feel the Hawaiians want to protect, and it’s hard to justify it to those who have not experienced this feeling of connection, but, have so many analytical reasons why we should construct. Is the love for your child less real than the smart phone in your hand because you cannot see it? My friends have shared a powerful video that explains the perspective of those who love Hawaii and are protecting Mauna Kea.

My children are growing up in Honolulu, and right now it’s more important than ever to take them out to play in sun and in the ocean. Technology is so accessible and constant that it takes more effort to unplug them, throw them in the car, and connect them with the land. They need to be in nature so that they know that everything we need to live comes from nature. Sure people can create phones, computers and cars no problem. Food, air and water come from nature. My grandparents were not necessarily strong spiritual people, but they lived off the Hawaiian land, said itadakimasu (expressed gratitude) before each meal, and worked in the yard. It was easy back then to be akin to the land and constantly reminded that it was the land that took care of you. I believe that protecting Mauna Kea is not a protest against technology but protecting the ties of Aloha that transcend through time and space.

If you feel moved to protect Mauna Kea, complete the petition here:  http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/protect-mauna-kea-stop