Monday, September 6, 2010

Shimoda Coast and Aquarium

Me and Daisy at a scenic lookout just before the town of Shimoda. You can see the white sandy beaches at Shimoda in the background.
It's a lovely place!

The last stop of fun in the sun this weekend, after a drive along the coast near the town of Shimoda (where there is a gorgeous white sand beach and water blue like Hawaii), was the Shimoda Floating Aquarium. Click HERE for a link. The website is in Japanese but they do have a PDF file you can take a look at in English. You can also just click around on the Japanese site to see pictures etc.

The aquarium is located at an inlet right on the ocean and makes use of the natural landscape and fresh seawater. Daisy was allowed to come in too but had to ride in her little trolley. It was way too hot for her to wait in the car!

There was a little shallow sea turtle pool as you approach the entrance. They are Japanese sea turtles but look very much like the Honu in Hawaii. It was really interesting as this pool has a low edge and you can get very very close to the turtles and get an amazing look at their faces as they come up for air.

First we saw a dolphin show. It was very minimal which I thought was nice as mostly the dolphins were not over trained to do a bunch of silly things that are not in their nature to do like many other dolphin shows you might see other places. Here, the dolphins just jumped and flapped around their tails and fins and swam close to where we could all see them as they were fed by the trainers. Daisy was totally fascinated having a look right at the edge. She really got excited when they would jump. I took a video of her watching them for a bit, it's pretty cute (IMO).

Daisy also got excited at the sea lion pool. When they would swim by close to the glass she was so shocked at first. I think it made her want to play and chase. But she stayed in her trolley like a very good girl and did not even bark. The sea lions also were not overly trained to do crazy things but one thing that was so cute was they were taught to pose at the glass for photos, either just holding still for a bit vertically and two were taught to put their noses together as if they were kissing. Adorable!

Two Sea Lions posing for a kiss! Enlarge to see their faces
(all photos on this blog can be enlarged twice).

We enjoyed sitting and watching various fishes and sea life in a large aquarium where it was air conditioned. They had some California Sea Lions, King Penguins and other smaller black Penguins as well. There is an area you can pay to feed and touch the dolphins as well as a program you can sign up to join the dolphins in the water a few times a day. That is my dream someday, to swim with dolphins!

Even though it was SO HOT that I wondered at times if we might get heat stroke, it was a fun day! It's a nice little aquarium if you get the chance to go there sometime.

Here is some video and pictures... Aloha


There was even the cutest toilet paper in the restrooms!
Ken says they were selling this paper in the gift shop too... ha ha ha!

Daisy riding in her trolley, on the way back to the car.
This trolley is also helpful for when the street is too
blazing hot for doggie feet!

And here is a video of the dolphin show and Daisy having a good time watching. The crazy music they were playing and the annoucer's voice is alittle loud, you might want to turn down your volume before starting the video.

Orange Beach at Ito-City, Izu Peninsula

A wet Daisy at Orange Beach in Ito-City, Izu Peninsula.

Here is one of our adventures on our outing this past weekend. When first arrived that afternoon (to the area we would be staying overnight, in Ito), we stopped for lunch at a famous seafood restaurant chain in the area which also boasts a brewery. They had nice outdoor seating overlooking the harbor and it is dog friendly. Along the boardwalk there is very nice bench seating running the length of a running stream of water from the Onsen/hot springs (man made channeling of the hot springs water, sort of like an irrigation ditch type thing). People can stop there and for no charge, sit on the benches and rest their feet in the onsen water and take in the view.

A couple soaking their feet in the onsen water while a tour boat pulls out of the harbor.

Ken ordered an amazingly gorgeous sashimi rice bowl and I had a crab meat pizza (on thin whole wheat crust) with a glass of their own brewed light beer. It was really nice there except it was such a hot day, even though there were umbrellas over our tables, we were pretty hot...there was just no breeze at all that day.
Ken's photogenic lunch, Maguro (Ahi Tuna), Uni (Sea Urchin) and Ikura (Salmon Eggs) on top of steamed rice.

Next, being so incredibly HOT, we headed a few minutes back down the road to a nice beach we had seen. It is called Orange Beach. We could park easily and change into our suits in the restrooms there. The water is nice here as there are some jettys blocking wave action, which makes it seem like a big swimming pool. Easy to get in and wade or float around and there weren't any rocks on the bottom so easy on the feet too! The water was really clear and clean. We didn't care for the volcanic black sand, however it wasn't dirty or coarse, just not pleasing aesthetically.

We were all totally overheated, Daisy got straight in the water and was starting to sit down in it. We then took her out to about waist high depth (for us). That is as deep of water she has ever been in and she immediately starting dog paddling in the air as we held her. We then made her swim around a bit. She seemed alittle worried about it all at first but then relaxed as we held her and stood in the water cooling ourselves off. Maybe next time she gets to the beach she will want to swim on her own.

Daisy also had a blast zooming back and forth along the shoreline. She started feverishly digging a hole at one point and she got it deep enough to stick most of her head in and then bark down into the hole! It was so cute...she is such the entertainer.

Here are some pics and videos to share with you!

Daisy in the sea

Drying off in the sun and sand

Totally wiped out, she moved to the shade of our beach tent and crashed :)

Here are 2 short videos of Daisy swimming (and splashing).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Resort Pension BEAGLE, Ito-City, Izu Pennisula

Cute sign in front of the hotel

This past weekend we took a drive on the east side of the Izu Peninsula. It's about a 2 hour drive from Tokyo, if the traffic is light. Once you get to the peninsula, the road travels right along the coastline, near the shores and up on some amazing cliffs! There is so much greenery, at some locations we could have sworn we were in Hawaii!

We stayed in the city of Ito at a cute little dog friendly bed & breakfast hotel called "Resort Pension BEAGLE". The owners have their own beagle, a one year old girl named Nana. She wanted to play with Daisy soooo bad, but Daisy recently thinks she is too sophisticated for puppy games. Of course, any dogs, not just Beagle's are welcome!

The accommodations are comfortable and clean. There are gorgeous wood floors throughout. The location is atop the highest peak there and has an amazing view of the surrounding hills and the ocean far below. There are lots of pathways behind the building for hiking around in the forested area. They have a lovely deck in back with a large jacuzzi. It is such a peaceful place, we slept so well!

Dinner and breakfast are included in each night's stay. They served us a '5 star' meal for dinner, truly it was fantastic. Included was a small fillet of a local fresh fish called Kinmedai with some cooked vegetables in part of the menu. Also notable was the sashimi of Kinmedai and Shima Aji (translated in English as "Striped Jack Fish", normally found swimming in schools and are abundant in the southern part of Japan).

A photo of Kinmedai (Golden Eye Snapper), for reference, not from our meal! It has a very distinctive look because of its large eyes and its bright red skin, kind of reminds me of the Garibaldi in Catalina when my Dad would reel them in from the deep water so fast their eyes would bulge out!

Breakfast was also delicious and well planned out. It included of note, homemade hot just baked and super yummie rolls, plain, raisin and 'Yomogi' (Japanese Mugwort).

The husband and wife proprietors are very warm and gracious. We really enjoyed our stay.

Here are some pictures.

View of the building and parking area from the road.
Wow who's super nice Audi is that???

Daisy found the beds to be very comfortable.

Daisy and Nana, morning greeting in the lobby.

Our farewell photo in front of the building with Nana and our gracious 'hostess' (she really is a fantastic cook!)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My New Key for the Audi

My fancy new key!

Finally......after over one month, a few hundred dollars, a coordinated phone call between Audi Japan and Audi Germany and four temporary tires and wheels mounted on our car (Audi Japan would not accept our non-standard 'hotrod' wheels and tires into their 'garage'), not to mention the 4+ hours my husband spent dealing with all this today, I finally have my own car key to our 'new-old' car!

This is surely the 'spiffiest' car key I've ever had. I still believe there is alot to be said for older cars, when things were simpler, like for example, when you needed an extra car key, you just went to the hardware store and got one cut for a buck or two.

The key part flips out (kinda like a switch-blade when you push the button, and then folds back in). I love having key-less entry!

However, our Audi is super fun. Perhaps slightly impractical, yet a realistic compromise instead of the convertible TT, which is the car that really made us fall in love with Audi. We rented a TT in Las Vegas in 2002 and never forgot how much fun it was! We really liked our Mitsubishi Diamante that we had for about 9 years but it was heading down hill fast and it was time to get something else. Being that my husband and I both love driving, we opted for a little more FUN for our money this time (sure hope I don't end up getting a ticket).

Since it is a wagon, we are hoping to be able to take some road trips together with our Daisy and enjoy driving and the outdoors alittle more.

Here are some photos of our new toy. It is officially, a 2004 Audi A4 Quattro 1.8 Turbo S-line wagon (whew that's a mouthful!). The color is Dolphin Grey with black and grey interior.




Interior, from the Driver's side (yes we sit on the right hand side in Japan)

Like most cars in Japan now, there is a super high tech GPS navigation system, that even let's us know the real-time road traffic conditions before we decide which street to take. Also in addition to the standard AM/FM radio and CD player, there is a DVD player and television. Now I never miss the 7PM broadcast of the Japanese news in English (yes there is a subchannel choice so I CAN hear it in English!). Now if I could only read all the prompts/settings in Japanese. With my husband's assistance tho, I have been able to learn how to muddle thru the most important functions for navigation etc.

Come on over and I will take you for a ride!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Japanese Pickles fresh from our garden!

Fresh picked cucumbers and tomatoes from my garden today. Pickling vinegars and kimchee base in the background, used for making Japanese style pickles.

Today I harvested some veggies from our little garden. We are getting lots of cucumbers, so I am attempting some REAL Japanese pickle creations. Today I tried Shiba-Zuke, translates to "Natural Red Pickles" in English.

This recipe calls for Eggplant and Cucumbers with red and white plum vinegar as well as the regular Japanese rice vinegar . The plum vinegars were a bit harder to find than I thought it would be, but I am handicapped a bit due to not being able to read Japanese. My husband's co-worked kindly helped find the red plum vinegar for me!

I used:
3 Japanese Eggplants, slightly peeled
1 huge Japanese Cucumber (from my garden, about equal amount to the eggplant)

Japanese Eggplant slightly peeled.

Both the Eggplant and the cucumber needs to be sliced up into 1/4 inch (5mm) thick diagonal slices (after cutting the whole thing in half first). The both need to be soaked in brine (2 cups water with 2 teaspoons salt), eggplant separate from the cucumbers (2 bowls) for 2 minutes. Use a small saucer to lightly press down so all pieces can completely soak for 20 minutes.

I used some sliced pickled Miyoga (a kind of ginger) and some red shiso leaves from a jar of Umeboshi (pickled plums). You could probably use some Ume and Shiso furikake if you can't find the former. 1 tablespoon of this.

Thinly sliced the Myoga and squeeze lightly, place in large bowl.

After the 20 minutes soaking is up, squeeze out the water firmly from the eggplant. Lightly squeeze the water from the cucumbers. Place them also into the same large bowl with the Myoga. Add the Shiso (or the Ume and Shiso furikake if you are using that).

Sprinkle everything with the mixed vinegars (2 tablespoons of each of the plum vinegars and 1 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar) and 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of castor sugar (fine not coarse). Mix well and place in a wide bowl (preferably glass but plastic is ok too, NEVER use aluminum for either the container or covering!). Place a lid or saucer on top and weigh it down so that everything is compressed and completely covered in the vinegar juices. I used a large jar of peanut butter with a round lid underneath it.

Compressing the pickles with a lid and a heavy jar of peanut butter.

Mix once or twice to blend the flavors and it will be ready to serve in one day. I placed mine in the refrigerator for this process.

Side view of the pickles being compressed by the peanut butter jar and resting in the refrigerator.

And here are the finished pickles one day later...they are sour, not sweet...pretty good!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Daisy becomes a Service Dog

Daisy in her seat on American Airlines from Los Angeles to Tokyo (12+ hours).

Since I got Daisy, when she was a puppy (12 weeks old), she has been trained to be a skilled Service Dog. I think such level of training is good even if your dog is not going to be a Service Dog, especially in a big city such as Tokyo, for the sake of safety, as space is tight and things can be dangerous. For example an out of control dog, or even one that is not trained to pay attention, can collide with a bicycle rider injuring not only the dog but the cycler.

Daisy and I made a trip to California early this year, and we were able to get a few pictures on our journey. Leaving Japan was her first flight, and 10 hours long but she was PERFECT. Her training has paid off well. She had no problems with anything at all, even on the long flight returning to Japan. She was able to hold off on her toileting needs for 14 hours straight (time before entering airport in Los Angeles to time of exit from airport in Tokyo (Narita).

Thanks to her I was able to make the trip without my husband and take care of family matters in USA. What a great dog she has turned out to be. Sadly, we noticed on this journey that many people who are working for airlines, either on the ground or in the air, are misinformed about Service Dogs. Daisy and I hope that we can help to familiarize people more with Service Dogs and help to make traveling for people who need them become a completely smooth and stress free experience.

She has been on 8 flights so far. We would like to give a BIG THANKS to American Airlines as they were very accommodating and treated us so well! Also to Southwest Airlines, they seriously have the best customer service of any airline I have ever traveled on, with or without a Service Dog.

Here are some pictures from this past trip (March -April 2010):

Getting ready to go through the airport Security Checkpoint. Daisy is fine with me removing all her leashes, halters and backpack so that they can be placed on the X-Ray belt. It saves time for everyone if her gear doesn't set off the metal detector as she walks through.

Daisy resting in her travel bed during the flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles on American Airlines (10+ hours).

Me and Daisy in the elevator at Seattle International Airport.

Daisy and a very tired me on United Airlines from Seattle to Los Angeles.

Relaxing by the pool at our hotel in Palm Springs.

In the desert, Palm Springs, California. That mountain behind her is San Jacinto.

At the beach just before sunset, Newport Beach, California.

Friday, January 1, 2010

How highway "Rest Areas" should be, Japan verison

In Japan, rest stops (or rest areas) off the highway are not the scary, dirty, dreaded places that they are in USA (to me anyway, stopping at a rest area in USA is a last resort for me). In Japan they are spotless due to ladies that are constantly attending to things and they are never out of toilet paper! *whew*

I took some photos on our trip from Tokyo to Osaka last week of one rest area (called a Parking Area/PA or Service Area/SA in Japan).

Some rest stops are pretty big with Mc Donald's and sit down type Japanese restaurants and 7-11 type stores. Some also have Starbucks but the ones that don't certainly have all the vending machines one could ever need. This machine offers pretty great coffee! You can select many types of coffees, sizes, black, sugar, cream etc. There is English under the Japanese so that helps for us foreigners!

Here are just some of the choices...after you choose, you can view your coffee being brewed on the TV screen. When I took this photo, the lid was being placed on the cup.

The cup then appears in the little door but don't take it out until you see the red lights completely lit up in the little bar next to the door!

And the restrooms themselves can be very interesting. Narration below each of the photos.

First thing you see at this particular rest room, is an electronic sign showing you which stalls are available and which are occupied, and what you will find in each one (Japanese style toilet, Western Style, etc). My husband tells me that this is not in the Men's room.

After consulting the sign board, you can proceed to the stall you want.

All the 'Western Style' toilets have heated toilet seats and controls for 2 kinds of 'bidet' washing and a button to push for the toilet to make a loud flushing sound without actually using water to flush (so that no one has to hear 'your business'). Some also have a button for blow drying!

Some restrooms have instructions on how to use the automated toilet seats. Now we can have the "Powerful Deoderizer" function defined!!! Whew....

Just incase you were wondering how use the toilet itself....

How to flush the toilet can be different in every place you go it seems, thankfully this one has things spelled out in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. However, some translation may still be necessary for some as normally we flush the toilet with water, not 'pour' it!

Mother's of young children will appreciate the child seats in some of the stalls. Some common sense warnings are posted, don't turn your back on your child to do your make-up, don't let the child crawl around and play on the seat, watch fingers and of course, don't let your baby smoke in these seats!

The lovely hand washing area.

This sink is all automated. Hold your hands in front of each place with markings and water (center), soap and warm air (to dry your hands) to make it run.

And last but not least, here is a brand new 65 inch plasma TV on the wall showing the current (up to the minute) traffic information for the major highways one might be thinking of taking. Boy if this TV was on a wall at a rest area in USA, I doubt it would remain there for long! Sad but true....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ALBA Golf Magazine - Daisy in July 2009 Issue

Me and Ken and Daisy Ipo at Kashimanomori Country Club for ALBA magazine July 2009 issue.

I just realized I forgot to put up a post on Daisy's photo shoot for ABLA Golf Magazine here in Japan. She was featured in the July 2009 issue for a spread they had on golf courses in Japan that accept dogs on the course. We had a fun time and Daisy was her usual photogenic self!

Enjoy the pics...

ALBA magazine photographers shooting Daisy on the golf cart.

Scanned from the magazine

Scanned from the magazine

Scanned from the magazine

Kashimanomori Country Club employees playing with Daisy while Ken and I enjoy the onsen after finishing golfing. The employees put this photo on Kashimanomori's blog.