Tokyo and the US-Japan Leadership Program

We traveled to Tokyo in late July to participate in the US-Japan Leadership Program alumni weekend but arrived a few days early so that we could do the important things in Tokyo—Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland. 🙂

(Our son came with us on the trip, but our daughter was doing her community service project and wasn’t able to make it.)

We had never been to DisneySea, and it was a really fabulous experience to visit a Disney park where everything was new. Our favorite rides there were Journey to the Center of the Earth and the Indiana Jones ride (which is based on the horrible Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull movie). There is a Stormrider ride that is somewhat similar to the Star Tours simulator ride that is also very well done.

Tokyo DisneySea

Tokyo DisneySea

We had only been to Tokyo Disneyland once before. Once again, the Winnie-the-Pooh ride was our favorite (and it’s the best version of the ride in all of the Disney parks, hands down). We also loved the Buzz Lightyear and Monsters, Inc. rides there. And we are continually fascinated by the different flavors of popcorn available in the Tokyo Disneyland park—honey, chocolate, curry, teriyaki, and regular. Curry popcorn was the Ms’ favorite flavor, but Jim was NOT a fan.

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland

It was also fun to compare the design and rides with all of the other Disney parks. Yes, I know we are hopeless Disney addicts!

We ate at a one Michelin star teppanyaki restaurant called Ukai-tei. It was an interesting combination of classically trained teppanyaki and classically trained French chefs in one restaurant (and chef). The food was fabulous, and it was a great experience.

The USJLP alumni weekend was a tremendous amount of fun. There were over 70 Fellows who attended, and many more Americans than typical. The nice thing about having a critical mass of Fellows is that you don’t feel as much like you’re intruding on the delegates’ fun and bonding. It was really lovely to see all the Fellows, catch up on their news, and meet the delegates (some of whom I already knew from DC gatherings). There was even a bonding amongst what we hope to be the future generation of USJLP-ers!

future USJLPLers

future USJLPLers

Oh, and I can’t forget that only in Japan can you find square watermelons!

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Asia-Lite Summer Vacation

What we did on our summer vacation:  we visited Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Honolulu—what I laughingly call our Asia-lite trip (anytime you go to Asia and you can drink the tap water, it’s not a true Asia trip).

The weather was hot and humid in both Hong Kong and Tokyo, but they were really fun trips.  Here’s a view from our hotel in Hotel Kong:

view from the Island Shangri-la Hotel

view from the Island Shangri-la Hotel

Hong Kong Disney was a blast, and we were fortunate the day we went because there was some cloud cover and a slight breeze.  Then, in true Hong Kong fashion, it poured during one of the parades where the characters spray you with water guns.  As the kids said, “We didn’t get wet from the water guns at all!”

Hong Kong Disney parade

Hong Kong Disney parade

We also discovered the Museum of Coastal Defence in Hong Kong.  (I know, the British spelling can be most disconcerting.)  They used one of the actual bunkers to create the museum, which is very well done.  Once again, the only quibble I have is the commentary about modern times.  (“Reunification has brought about a new solidarity and brotherhood of common defence.”  Or something along those lines.)

Tokyo was just a brief stop in order to participate in the US-Japan Leadership Program’s weekend activities.  It was lovely to see a lot of people whom we hadn’t seen in a while and catch up.  It was also nice to meet the new delegates and discover what an impressive group they are.  We had a tour of the Diet (the Japanese Parliament building), walked around the fish market, and toured the Nezo Museum, which has a small but excellent collection of Chinese antique bronzes.  (They have several other items of interest, but we love Chinese bronzes.)

Our final stop was Honolulu where we stayed at the Halekulani, our favorite hotel there.

Waikiki

Waikiki

The kids took surfing lessons every day; we visited the Bishop Museum, the Honolulu Art Museum, and the Plantation Life Museum.  For a bit of kitsch, we went to the Dole Plantation, where we went through the maze and, most importantly, ate some Dole Whip.  (I mean, yes, you can get fresh pineapple there, too, but what would be the fun in that?)  We had some fabulous dinners at Alan Wong’s, Morimoto, Town, and Sushi Sasabune.  More about the meals later.  Their magnificence deserves their own blog entries.  We also weathered Tropical Storm Flossie, which fortunately for us, only lightly touched Oahu.  I’ve included some photos showing the imminent arrival of the storm (and the view from our hotel room).

view upon arrival

view upon arrival

Tropical Storm Flossie approaching

Tropical Storm Flossie approaching

Tropical Storm Flossie

Tropical Storm Flossie

after Tropical Storm Flossie

after Tropical Storm Flossie

It was a relaxing and fun break, and we look forward to our next trip there!