Christmas in Tokyo

It's nearly Spring, but life has been busy and I am only just getting to our Christmas trip down to Tokyo.  Just in time for me to head back to Tokyo for vacation again (actually it will be my second time since Christmas...I can't stay away!).  Ryan and I decided to go down for the long holiday weekend and see what Tokyo had to offer during Christmas.  Japan is not a Christian country so Christmas isn't celebrated here in the same way it is celebrated in many countries.  Everything is open.  The biggest difference we noticed was that most restaurants offered special course menus and set menus for couples.  Given our food preferences this may have been an issue, but the Japanese are so accommodating that contacting the restaurant in advance allowed us to custom create a course menu for each of us.

We started the evening with the Robot Show.  Not kidding, I definitely said Robot Show.  It isn't for everyone and I don't suggest this if you only have a short time in Tokyo and aren't a huge fan of strange things.  For us, this was perfect.  This was probably my 10th or so trip down there and we knew what to expect, so this was definitely on our list.  All I can say is "WOW".  There are no words to describe this show, so I won't even try.  Below are some of the pictures to demonstrate the colors, costumes, and robots on display throughout this show.

Definitely a memorable experience!

After the show we headed just down the street to our favorite restaurant, Yasaiya Dining.  Like I said, we preplanned the meal so we knew we would get foods that we both liked.  I eat seafood and Ryan doesn't and he eats meat/poultry and I don't.  This restaurant focuses on vegetables and those are a highlight, but they definitely serve meat so we wanted to make sure these were things we like.  The meal started off with some fruit and vegetable juice, freshly made.
Here is my custom menu.  They printed one out for every guest and then at the end of the night presented it to us with a photo of us placed inside.
Here is my starter salad.  Yum!
While waiting for the next course we had the pleasure of watching the vegetables cook on the teppanyaki grill.
This is the smoked salmon tartare.  
Ryan had French onion soup.
Since I couldn't have that they replaced it with a vegetable soup, which was very good.
Then I spotted my lobster.  One thing I love is that when I ask for a change to a menu where there is beef as the choice, they always offer to replace this with lobster.  I can't complain!  I have also had giant tiger prawns been the substitution as well.  
The veggies were finished cooking so they brought us the different salts that we could place on the grilled veggies.
Yum!  So simple and they always taste so amazing!
Next up the chef began preparing my live abalone steak.  I had never had abalone before so this was definitely an adventure.  It definitely sounded better than the milt of true cod option (which I learned was not something I wanted to eat!).
It was presented very nicely and although a little chewier than I prefer, I did eat pretty much all of it.  The flavor was very good.
Then came Ryan's steak, which he enjoyed.
Here is my lobster along with the veggies, waiting to be prepared.
The chef here is wonderful (we have eaten here before) and I love being able to sit at the grill and watch him prepare the food.  Thankfully this time nothing got up and tried to run off the grill (yeah, that happened before).
Here is the final presentation.  
Yummy!  I may have had a little bit to drink and was trying hard to get everything out of the shells, and I may have gone a little "Maryland style" (aka like it was a crab) which is by no means refined or very Japanese, but I think they were intrigued by the idea and the chef took what was left and cut it all out and regrilled some of it for me.  I was not letting any of that lobster go to waste!
Then came some miso soup.
Amazingly delicious garlic rice.  One of my favorites.
And finally the dessert...avocado, red beans and nuts tiramisu with a strawberry Santa.
What an amazing meal to end off a very fun evening!  Definitely a memorable experience.  I highly (and I can't stress that enough) recommend this restaurant.  I also recommend the Robot Show if you were looking for something fun and different in Tokyo.

Stay tuned for more posts on our mini holiday vacation to Tokyo.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever celebrated Christmas away from home?  What is your favorite Christmas dessert?  Would you go see the Robot Show?

Snowshoeing Adventure

Back in December Ryan and I had the pleasure of joining a snowshoeing tour in Tsuta Bird Sanctuary in Towada National Park.  Our guide was Simon, who is well known around the base community and an asset to all things "out the gate".  He is also an expert on outdoor activities and knows the local areas well.  I couldn't leave Japan without joining one of his tours and this was our last winter here so it was definitely now or never.

I wouldn't say snowshoeing was easier than expected, but it was definitely different from what I expected.  And it was a lot more fun!  Honestly, combining two of my least favorite things- hiking and snow (in all fairness as an adult I discovered I do like hiking, and I even did a serious hike, but for those that knew me as a kid, I tried everything I could to never have to hike and I still frequently say I hate it...but I don't!), seemed like the worst idea ever.  The good news is that, as I mentioned a moment ago, I actually enjoy hiking now, and on this particular day, the weather was amazing!  I see now that this was a sign of winter to come.  This winter has been very, very, very mild compared to what we are used to here.

Below are pictures that words can hardly describe, so I won't even try.  The scenery was not just beautiful, but it was "real".  The snow had recently fallen so the path was non-existent.  Our leader used a hiking GPS device to follow a set path and then we followed in his tracks.  We were the only ones out on the trail.  Us and nature.  That is why I felt like it was real.  It was quiet.  It was peaceful. It was perfect.

One of our first stops was at this lake.  We took a few moments to get some pictures and just enjoy the scenery.

If I remember correctly there were 7 water areas to stop at along the way.  This is another one of those.

Here I am enjoying the sun and snow as I trekked through the woods in northern Japan.
Never thought I would see myself smiling as I wandered through the woods in the snow!
And here I am on the go again.
At lunch time we stopped by another lake and sat down to eat in a little covered area nearby overlooking the water.  Of course Ryan and I took a picture before sitting down to refuel.

Here I am after lunch...still smiling!
At the last lake of the hike we spotted swans.  They are hard to see in this picture but they are out there in the middle.  Wondering what birds consider this "south" for the winter?  These are Siberian swans!
Luckily someone zoomed in enough to be able to see them up close.  Very cool!
At the very end of the trail we came across this little cabin. 
We also found the sign with the map.  It's a loop.  We just happened to start going in the opposite direction so this sign ended up at the end for us.
After the hike we all headed back to the base, but first we stopped by this stream to get some fresh spring water.
Here I am filling up my water bottle with some amazingly refreshing water.
Yum!  And still smiling.  Although maybe I was smiling because the next stop was a country bakery!
The perfect end to the perfect snowshoe hike.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever been snowshoeing?  Do you do any winter sports?  Have you ever drank water straight from a spring?