We did it! We completed the 2019 Tokyo Yamathon and walked all 29 Yamathon-sen stops in ~9.5 hours. Continue reading to find out how you can explore Tokyo too! Don’t forget to set your reminder to join us at next year’s Yamathon!
While not impossible, getting the Long-Term Resident Visa (定住者 – Teijyuusha) isn’t easy. To qualify for this visa with ancestry, you need to be (at most) third-generation Japanese. You also need to fly to Japan to apply for your Certificate of Eligibility and be ready for some hard work and anxiety!
The biggest win of 2018? We moved to Japan! Next year’s main focus in a word: consistency. I also (of course) have a super lofty, long and ridiculous list for 2019, and I’m totally determined to accomplish most of it!
So, how am I learning Japanese? SLOWLY. Haha. 2x/week Skype classes via iTalki, at least 1x/week language exchange meetup and apps (Anki, HelloTalk, VoiceTra and Google Translate). Practice makes…super far from perfect, but kind of slowly getting there!
The Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri is a summer festival that celebrates the uniting of two (literal) star-crossed lovers with wish-writing, colorful decorations and star-shaped everything. Mostly for kids, tbh.
The Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri is a summer festival that celebrates the uniting of two (literal) star-crossed lovers with wish-writing, colorful decorations and star-shaped everything. Mostly for kids, tbh.
TL;DR The Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri is a summer festival that celebrates the uniting of two (literal) star-crossed lovers with wish-writing, colorful decorations and star-shaped everything. Mostly for kids, tbh.
The Tanabata Matsuri, or Star Festival, is celebrated in Tokyo on July 7th every year (a few other places celebrate on August 8th since it was initially based on the Lunar calendar #themoreyouknow).
It’s a cute, but pretty depressing story of a Princess that falls in love with a Shepherd – all is flowers and candy until they start neglecting their respective jobs and the Princess’ dad decides that they work >>>>> love. Savage parenting, but life’s all about balance, I suppose.
The actual festival takes place in several locations all around Japan, so wherever you’re living/visiting be sure to give it a quick google. The festival we checked out, Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri, spanned July 5th – July 9th and included live performances, a parade, food, drinks and activities (mostly kid-focused).
It was blazing hot when we got there around 2pm on Sunday – but there was a ton to see! We walked from the Tawaramachi Station to Ueno Station, along the main street of the festival (Kappabashi Hondori).
There were decorations and tanzoku (slips of paper to write your wishes on) for you to tie to the bamboo branches strung up around the street.
We naturally wished to be fluent in Japanese by the end of the year. 😉
Most of the activities were for kids and my Japanese teacher actually mentioned that this festival was one of the less crowded ones of the summer. There were little pools to catch fish and crayfish, fresh puffed/popped rice, water balloon yo-yo’s and a bunch of tables selling beer / canned drinks / yakitori / yakisoba / mochi.
If I’m being 100% honest, unless I have a small child in tow (spoiler alert: not even on the radar yet hahaha) then this is probably one of the matsuri’s we’ll be skipping in the future – unless we take a trip out to Saitama, where I hear it’s epic.
I went hunting for Forrest Fenn’s treasure in Yellowstone National Park and you should do it too! It was an absolutely amazing and breathtaking experience – my only regret is it took me 40 years to get here!
TL;DRI went hunting for Forrest Fenn’s treasure in Yellowstone Park and you should too – it was an absolutely amazing and breathtaking experience. My only regret is that it took me almost 40 years to get out there – oh – and don’t worry, we didn’t find any treasure… yet. If you do one thing in this blog post, make sure to read our lessons learned – especially if you’re planning on searching for Fenn’s treasure.
Even though I’d like to think of myself as fairly calculating, I think most people would consider me impulsive. When I first heard about Fenn’s poem back in 2012, I jotted it down on my “someday” to-do list, and vowed that one day, I’d have to make a go of it. After all, who wouldn’t want to participate in a real-life Goonies adventure!
Welp, as fate would have it, that someday was about a month ago.
What exactly is Forrest Fenn’s Treasure?
In 2010, an eccentric, millionaire art dealer named Forrest Fenn buried a treasure worth millions in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe. He included clues to the treasure’s location in a poem contained within his 2010 memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase” (which we purchased). Over the years, Forrest has given hints about the treasure through various media outlets. It’s been estimated that over a hundred thousand “Fennatics” have gone searching. In addition, the chase has been attributed to at least four deaths since its beginning.
Here’s an Instagram photo that contains the poem from his memoir:
Well, the very first thing I did was convince other people to go with me because Sara wasn’t letting me go into bear country alone. Luckily, two of my childhood friends volunteered to accompany me on this hunt (and they didn’t even need any coaxing!).
Since this was going to be primarily an exploration expedition, and I was a bit preoccupied moving to Tokyo, we didn’t plan as much as I would have liked. We had a few two in-person planning sessions which consisted of meeting at Zippys for a few hours to brainstorm where the treasure could be. We also created an online chat so that we could collaborate when we weren’t meeting in person. The chat was used fairly regularly to post links from the Interwebs, potential solves, questions, and what not. Not to mention, it preserves history! (Protip: If you do just one thing from this blog, I’d highly recommend doing this.)
Not to mention, the Internet is littered with resources that we used to help us along:
I want to say that I tried not to look at other people’s solves because I didn’t want to have too much confirmation bias, but the temptation is too great, and it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll get trapped in a k-hole reading where other people have been. In any case, we all agreed that the treasure should probably be somewhere near Yellowstone National Park – so that’s where we headed!
We arrived in Bozemon, Montana from Seattle, Washington at around 1 in the afternoon. The three things on our actual agenda for the day were the following:
Picking up our rental car so we could drive down to our Island Park AirBnb
Stop by the Costco outside of Bozemon so we could pick up food for the week
Stop by somewhere to get bear spray, a whistle, and a map of Yellowstone
After picking up our rental car and (rental) bear spray cans (don’t buy new ones if you’re only temporarily visiting!), we headed down to Costco to pick up luncheon meat, snacks, water, and other goodies for our week near Yellowstone. Since the nearest grocery store would be 20-30 minutes away, we wanted to make sure our AirBnb was decently stocked. The drive from Bozemon took a few hours – we arrived at the AirBnb around 6 pm and proceeded to just relax and unpack – after all, we had a long week ahead of us.
Protip: If you can afford it and are staying west of Yellowstone, I’d highly suggest eating dinners in the town of West Yellowstone. For one, if you’re really seeking out treasure, it’s going to be a long day – you’re not going to want to cook dinner after a long day of hiking, hunting, and driving. Second, there are a lot of different restaurants that have exotic meats – bison, elk, etc. and it’s nice to support a town built on tourism.
Rental bear spray
Prior to arriving at Yellowstone, we wanted to make sure that we at least saw all the big tourist attractions since we didn’t know when we’d be back. We drove the southern portion of the Great Loop and saw:
Protip: The geyser is called Old Faithful because it’s one of a few geysers that park rangers can predict. Intervals between eruptions range from 60-110 minutes and they normally last between 1.5-5 minutes long. Sit on the boardwalk for an up-close view or walk up the side of the mountain for a far-away view with a lot less people – I did both – or if you’re uber lazy, just take a peek at their livestream. XD
You’ll see a lot of this.
Fountain Paint Pots
Old Faithful up-close
Old Faithful from afar
Lower Falls of Yellowstone Grand Canyon
Blinking bison sign!
Today was the first day (and ironically, our only day) attempting a potential solve. We ended up going to a place called Boulder Spring off of the Ojo Caliente. It was absolutely beautiful and while there wasn’t a single person in sight, there was a lot of roaming bison. We searched for a few hours, but alas, Fenn’s treasure was nowhere to be seen. If you’d like to see why we thought Boulder Spring was a potential solve, feel free to leave a remark in the comments!
After taking a small break, we decided to check out one more place before calling it a day.
Protip: If you’re hunting for Fenn’s treasure, prior to searching – set appropriate time limits of how long you want to search within an area as well as how you plan to fan out the search. Since we didn’t plan this, we sort of meandered around the solve for a few hours until we were all tired. Based on what Forrest has said, we believed that we should be able to see the “blaze” and the treasure immediately – but this may not be the case, so you’ll want to plan accordingly. Also, Grand Prismatic Spring is a must see!
Planning our solve
Lots of Bison!
Nobody around and no treasure!
Grand Prismatic Spring
More Grand Prismatic
And Grand Prismatic again.
It’s beautiful out here!
We were planning on saving another solve for our last day so that we could do a little more research (bad planning on our part) – so instead, we decided to drive the northern portion of the Great Loop and saw the following:
Protip: I think you could spend a lot longer than we spent at Mammoth Springs and even stay for a few days in the area. Although we walked the entire springs, it’s quite a sight to see – I didn’t realize it then, but the contrast in the landscape is pretty amazing. We ate dinner at a small cafe called Mountain Mama’s Cafe. I would definitely recommend it if you’d like to try a bit more exotic meats like bison, elk, pheasant, etc. You can pick up Huckleberry ice cream sandwiches at the grocery store across the street!
Bison pot pie
Bison hot dog
I thought this was only a flavor in Strawberry Shortcake.
Our last day!
We were planning to attempt another potential solve, but the weather was absolutely terrible and someone in our party felt ill so we decided to just grab lunch in town and pack for our trip back to Bozemon. Since I now live in Tokyo, anytime I’m in the states I really have a jonesin’ for Mexican food because it’s virtually impossible to get in Japan. We decided to eat at Las Palmitas – a Mexican restaurant in a bus! It was really tasty – definitely recommended. Before heading back to the AirBnb, we stopped by Lake Hebgen for a short bit. I got to walk around and explore the area by myself, but I must admit that it was really creepy with all these “Grizzly Bears frequent this area” signage.
Mexican restaurant in a bus!
Inside Las Palmitas
I won’t lie, this had me pooping my pants.
Early afternoon at Lake Hebgen
Yellowstone National Park is absolutely beautiful. Forrest once stated that the whole purpose of his endeavor is “to get people off the couch, off the video games.” Well played, Mr. Fenn. It got me to visit my first national park in 40 years of life, and I don’t even live in the country anymore!
It’s been said ad nauseam, but once you get “boots on the ground” (BOTG), everything is much bigger in real life when compared to a computer screen; I don’t care how big your monitor is. Even a small search area could potentially take hours to investigate – depending on how thorough you are – so plan accordingly!
We winged it – we’re 3 dudes born and raised on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. No matter how much research we did before we arrived at Yellowstone, there’s nothing like experiencing it for yourself. I walked around Lake Hebgen by myself early one morning, and I’ll be the first to admit, the silence coupled with all the “Beware of bears” signage had me pooping my pants. There’s nothing that will prepare you for that, so just get out there and explore!
If you can afford it, you should stay as close to Yellowstone as possible – potentially even in the park if you can get an RV camper. We stayed in Island Park at an AirBnb and even though it was awesome – it was about 30 minutes away from the entrance to West Yellowstone – so it was a 60-minute drive every day.
There will be a lot of traffic because of animals near the road and tourists that don’t follow directions. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. So don’t freak out. We spent at least 3 hours one day waiting for bison to move from the side of the road. Coupled with the tourists stopping in the middle of a one-lane road to take pictures, you’re bound to get trapped behind some insane traffic. Make sure you have a lot of podcasts saved on your phone and/or everyone has an offline mobile game. There were times we literally shut our engine off because of the traffic.
At the very least, make sure to create an online chat room (with unlimited history – sorry, no Slack!) to document your potential solves. You’ll thank me when you decide to head back the following year. Not to mention, you’ll want to use an assortment of other online tools (Google Docs, AirTable, etc) to help provide some structure to this process.
The adventure was amazing – amazing enough to do it again. I wish I could say that we found the treasure, but there’s actually a ton of satisfaction in just planning and searching. There’s quite a bit of work involved, and it isn’t something that most people can say – especially those from an island in the middle of the ocean.
In front of Yellowstone sign
So for that, thank you, Mr. Fenn.
Now that we have an idea of what the experience actually entails, follow me next year as we head back in an RV camper!
We’re finally settled in our two-bedroom apartment in Nakano-ku, Tokyo. Here’s a publicly-shared Google calendar that shows our extra bedroom’s availability. If we’ve crossed paths in life and you need a place to stay in Tokyo, please email us. If the room is available, it’s yours!
It’s been an entire month without a post, but don’t worry, we’re still here. We’ve just been extremely busy with our move to Tokyo! If you think moving is really stressful (spoiler: it is), moving to another country where you don’t speak the language is quite… well, quite the experience (spoiler: next level stressful).
It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
One thing that really caught us off-guard is how untrusting (some) Japanese people and companies were with us. Being from Hawaii, I know we’re generally a lot friendlier and trusting than peeps in big cities. However, Sara and I both have a lot going for us career / education-wise so it was a bit frustrating. Not to mention, we’re both ethnically Japanese, and (I think) I qualify as a highly skilled professional (- foreigners Japan is currently trying to attract!). We experienced so many highs/lows (and nuances) moving to Japan that we’ll have to save that rant for another day.
In any case, we finally made it!
We wanted to send a small update to say that we’ve finally settled into a small two bedroom apartment in Nakano-ku! We’re on the south side of the station – so it’s quiet and suburban-like with the madness of Nakano Broadway only a few minutes away. We’re also one stop from Shinjuku and one transfer (three stops) away from Shibuya.
Now to the important part.
If we’ve ever crossed paths in life* and you need a place to stay in Tokyo, please email us!
No guarantees, but if the room is available, we’ll try to get you in.
*Even if we’ve never met, we love to meet new friends.
Here’s a Google calendar that shows the extra room’s availability.
Bonus points to my mother-in-law who will be our first guest in a few weeks! Yay, mom!
p.s. We’d also like to give a big shout-out to Tomo, Misaki, Sheldon/Eri, and Lisa – because without y’all, none of this would have been possible. <3
Follow us, a Japanese couple from Hawaii, as we document our move to Tokyo! Hopefully, through this experience, we’ll learn about our family’s history and what being Japanese is really all about.
For once, I don’t have a TL;DR for this post. The title says it all! We’ve moved to Tokyo!
Wait, what! We’ve finally moved to Tokyo!
Since a lot of people have been asking questions, we created a post to help answer them.
Why are you moving to Tokyo?
We’re not going for family nor work nor <insert your favorite, logical reason here> – I guess one could say we’re moving for adventure. It’s been a dream of ours since we first met more than 8 years ago, and it’s been in the works since we lived in NYC / SF over 3 years ago. Hopefully, through this experience, we’ll both learn a bit about our family’s history and what being Japanese is really about.
What kind of Visa did you get?
I received a boring Spousal Visa. Lucky Me!
On the other hand, Sara received a Long Term Resident Visa via ancestry by proving she’s sansei (thanks grandma!). It was a long process that took a little over 6 months, and we had help from an immigration attorney to help submit our application. Sara’s planning to blog about what she needed to provide and do because there isn’t a ton of information online aside from a post or two in the Japan / Japan Life subreddits.
How long are you staying?
Sara says FOREVER!
(Just kidding, we’ll come back to visit.)
Seriously though, we don’t currently have any plans to return home, but life does come at you fast, so who knows?
What are you going to be doing?
Well, for one, we’re working.
Sara will be working remotely for Colliers International because it’s her first true love job – she’s been with them since she was a rebellious teenager – except for that one time she cheated on them with CBRE in New York. Hehe. For the past few years, I’ve been really interested in helping preserve the past – so to continue on with that journey, I’ll be working on a small storytelling app.
We’re also going to be exploring the city/country and learning a bit of Japanese in the process. My goal is to be able to give people tours of the city for the 2020 Olympics!
Where are you going to live?
For the next few weeks, we’re staying in an AirBnb in West Tokyo. Since neither of us have to go into Central Tokyo for work, we’re planning on finding a place near Tachikawa station to get a bit more space so people can stay with us. Tachikawa is ~30 minute ride to Shinjuku.
Can I stay with you?
Props out to you if you actually read this far, but then you’ll also know that we got a larger place so that people can stay with us. Just hit us up to see if the room is available.
That’s it for now! 🙂
If there’s anything else you’re curious about, let us know in the comments!
Apple picking is amazing. Maybe it’s because it was my first time, but I’d for sure do this again! If you have fall travel plans, make sure you schedule in some time to visit a farm 🙂
TL;DRApple picking is amazing. Maybe it’s because it was my first time, but I’d for sure do this again! If you have fall travel plans, make sure you schedule in some time to visit a farm 🙂
More Philly! Well, sort of.
I thought about doing an all-in-one post about some of the things we did on our Philly trip, but decided it’d be way too long. So breaking it up and focusing on some of the big things we checked out. This post actually takes us out of Philly to Media, PA. Since I have zero sense of direction, here’s a google map for you.
It’s about 30 minutes out, but definitely worth the drive! There’s more than just apple picking out here, and I’m sure if we didn’t have other adventures to conquer that day, we would’ve ended up staying there for most of the day.
This was our main goal, and something I had never experienced despite living in NYC where there were apple farms upstate. A few things to note about picking your own apples:
The season starts in September and ends in November.
You pay per person (and the number of people corresponds to the amount you can pick)
Means no paying per pound (which takes out some guesswork) but also means you can’t just go in and pick say, one each.
Since there were four of us, we paired up and paid for 2x 2 pickers. This is where the fun begins. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a worker that shows you a map of the orchard. #ProTip: Take a photo of the orchard map because you will 100% forget where everything is. From there, you pick apples!
It seems pretty chill, but we had fun walking around and trying to find the largest / different types (some I’d never even heard of). Walking around the orchards we could also see some of the other fruits and veggies (not ready for picking, though). As a note – they offer hay rides, but even though it was mid-October, the sun was blazing and we opted out. Instead, we checked out apple slinging.
Apple Sling Shot
There are no words to describe how fun this is.
The simple pleasures of life. It should be noted that I didn’t do so well and Karen and Alani were the only ones that hit targets, but it was still pretty fun. We asked them if they pick up all the apples later, but nope. They just leave them. Once an apple hits the ground they’re not legally allowed to sell it for consumption, and there are a ton of apples that just fall from trees. This is how they make up for it, even if it’s just $5 for a bucket.
Other things to do
Here’s a full list of the things you can do while you’re at the orchards. Depending on the time of year, there are different festivals (They have strawberry and blueberry festivals!?) as well as animals, pony rides (we were too big for this LOL) and mazes. There’s also a market where you can buy not only their products and produce, but items from the surrounding area.
While the Impossible Burger is by far one of the best veggie burgers I’ve had – I don’t think it’s worth the steep price tag. Then again, it did fool some meat eaters, so if you’re going veggie and seriously craving a burger, this is the way to go. Personally, I’m still good with a morningstar griller. 🙂
TL;DRWhile the Impossible Burger is by far one of the best veggie burgers I’ve had – I don’t think it’s worth the steep price tag. Then again, it did fool some meat eaters, so if you’re going veggie and seriously craving a burger, this is the way to go. Personally, I’m still good with a morningstar griller. 🙂
What is the Impossible Burger?
I first heard about this burger when Ryan took a trip out to NYC in 2016. This was back when it first came out and only available at a few places in the states – in NYC, it was at Momofuku Nishi. Ryan had checked it out and said it was amazing but super pricey. I figured it was just pricey because it was at Momofuku (and in NYC), and I honestly forgot all about it when I was up there again last October. Not being veggie anymore probably also took this off the radar for me.
In any case – a little background on Impossible Foods: A Stanford biochemistry professor started the company with the goal of creating a meat alternative after he realized that industrial animal agriculture was the world’s largest environmental problem. After years of research and experimenting (they started in 2011!), they launched the Impossible Burger in July 2016. Since then, they’ve taken off and are now in a ton of restaurants across the country.
The best veggie burger, period.
So here we were, having lunch at Smith & King’s in Downtown to celebrate my little sister’s last day in the office (she’s finally moving on to a real 40-hour-a-week job!!). I flip open the menu and am caught totally off-guard when I see the “Impossible Burger” listed. Naturally, I had to order it – even though it was $18 (!) – a hefty price considering all the other burgers on their menu with actual meat were cheaper. Turns out I wasn’t the only person interested, two other people in our party (one wanted a healthier choice and the other was doing no-meat Fridays for lent) also got it!
Look at that burger! It’s kind of insane how it really does resemble meat. Having done the veggie thing for nearly 5 years, I’ve tried a ton of different types of veggie burgers. The ones out of the freezer, fridge and fancy restaurant-made types from vegan and veggie places in NYC. There’s none of that all too common fake meat aftertaste that you become accustomed to as a vegetarian.
One of the other burgers were shared with another coworker that came late and she didn’t even realize it was a veggie burger until we let her know!
Even though I’m no longer a vegetarian, I typically still avoid red meat (my genetics set me up for high cholesterol), so I’m pretty excited that this is available in Hawaii. I’ve never been a huge burger person, but I bet it’d be pretty amazing in a loco moco! Now, if only they had this in Japan.