Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hello From Tasmania!

Sometime last week, we decided to take a last-minute long weekend trip to Tasmania and arrived yesterday. We are staying in Hobart, and have so far spent time exploring the city and surrounding areas. We are absolutely loving Tasmania and wish we had much more time here! Tomorrow we head up to Freycinet National Park, where the famed Wineglass Bay is located. Tomorrow is also Peter's 28th birthday, so hopefully he will get to do some celebrating despite all the driving! 

Here are just a few pictures from my iPhone (sorry for the janky quality- I'll post pictures from our camera when we get home). 

We stopped for lunch on our way in from the airport, and this place was amazing. I had a super-fresh Tasmanian salmon sandwich and Peter raved about his meat pie. 
Peter in front of our bed and breakfast, ready for a day of sightseeing. 
Our B and B...the cutest place ever. 
We drove up into the mountains and saw this group of kids frolicking in a rogue patch of snow. Exciting stuff for the Aussies! Not so much for us ;). 
Pirate's Bay lookout. 
A random beach we passed on our drive. 
A quick brewery stop before dinner tonight. 
We will be up bright and early tomorrow for another day of exploring before heading for home on Monday morning. 

Follow along on Instagram if you don't already! laura_christian89 and peterchristian21 
Thursday, July 21, 2016

Exploring Western Tokyo: Shinjuku Gyoen

As I mentioned in my first post about our Japan trip, we divided Tokyo into three general sections (central, western, and northern) and spent one day in each. On the day devoted to western Tokyo, we started off by visiting Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the city's largest parks. It's located just a few blocks from Shinjuku Station, the world's busiest transport hub, used by an average of 3.6 million people per day. Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise to explore this serene park just around the corner from the hustle and bustle of the station. Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the best places to view cherry blossoms, which, as I mentioned, we missed by just a few weeks. Even so, we thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenery. 
 The rare photo of both of us!
Japanese women, and some men, seemed to be very sun-conscious and dutifully carried umbrellas rain or shine.
 The Taiwan Pavilion, located near the center of the park.
 The NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building.
This might be my favorite picture from our entire trip. Just an older man, painting in the park...pretty much the definition of #goals. In all seriousness, this guy was super talented and I bet he has a really interesting life story. This was one of those moments I wish I knew the language because I would have loved to have a conversation with him!
This park was absolutely PACKED with children. There seemed to be a playgroup meeting at every corner, and kids were running around everywhere.
 I had to include this photo. These kids were the CUTEST. Also, extremely stylish.

Check out previous posts from our trip to Japan below!

Arriving in Tokyo/First Impressions

Exploring Central Tokyo:

Akihabara Electronics District
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Exploring Central Tokyo: Akihabara Electronics District

Our last stop in the central Tokyo area was the Akihabara district, also known as the electronics capital of Japan. It. Was. Crazy. I cannot overemphasize the sheer number of electronics stores lining these streets. I have absolutely no idea how they all stay open and manage to make money, but there was an endless supply of TVs, computers, cell phones, video games, washing machines, batteries, etc. Peter and I weren't shopping, but this would have been a convenient trip on which to forget a phone/camera/computer charger. Alas, for once, we remembered everything. Go figure.

 The Akihabara area is also a hub of the gaming culture, something we aren't familiar with, but were nonetheless fasciated by. There were entire stores dedicated to anime, manga, and various collectibles that I couldn't identify but assume have a huge and dedicated following in certain parts of the world.  We had no idea what 99% of the stuff was, but it was really interesting to walk through some of these stores and witness die-hard fans in their element. 

We were there in the evening, but it was still plenty crowded. Apparently on Sundays, the entire main street is closed to traffic, so if you want to witness Akihabara in all its glory, I'd imagine that's the day to do it! Below is one of the side streets, which generally featured the smaller retailers. 
We then turned onto the main road and wandered up and down the street a few times, popping into a couple of the larger stores.
Below is a Sega store (one of the few things I recognized!) and a Sofmap store, which I learned is one of the largest, most famous, electronics chains in Japan.
One of the quirkier features of the Akihabara district is the prevalence of maid cafes, where young female waitresses dress up as maids or other anime characters and serve/interact with diners in character. I think. Honestly, I was trying to figure out if there was some....other....aspect to this attraction, but from what I could tell, they were pretty family-friendly. The maid cafe concept was totally foreign to us, and we didn't actually visit one (see: above fears), so this analysis is just based on my own observations. Several of these girls roamed the streets, and I tried to get a few photos, which I quickly learned they don't appreciate.

Also, a note about the below photo: plaid is apparently all the rage in Tokyo.
Before heading back to our hotel, we stopped into what we assumed was a Sega store, for old time's sake, but turned out to be a giant gaming center. It was one of the cooler and more entertaining things I've ever seen. Each of the four or five floors seemed to have a slightly different theme, lined wall-to-wall with various video and arcade games. I saw what had to have been one of the more talented gamers on the planet playing something that looked like Dance Dance Revolution. He struck me as the most coordinated nerd ever.
Peter played a couple of games before we conceded that we were no match for these hardcore gamers and headed for home. I hope to one day be as cool as any of the people in the above photo.

If you want to experience the electronics and gaming culture of Tokyo, Akihabara is definitely a must-see. I enjoyed our experience primarily because there weren't tons of tourists when we were there, especially in the Sega center, and I like feeling as if we are seeing a culture as it really is. All in all, it was a really fun way to spend the last couple hours of the day!

Check out previous posts from our trip to Japan below!

Arriving in Tokyo/First Impressions

Exploring Central Tokyo:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Movehub Feature

Hello, readers! This might be my shortest post of all time, but I was recently featured on the website and wanted to link to the interview here, in case you're interested.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Exploring Central Tokyo: Koishikawa Korakuen Garden

One of my favorite meals in Japan we had on our first full day, right after we had been to the Imperial Palace, at a restaurant called Kanda Yabu Soba. I found the restaurant on a non-touristy list of the best restaurants in the area so we figured it had to be worth a try. The upside of discovering some lesser-known gems is generally better, more authentic, and less expensive food. The downside is that these restaurants don't cater to tourists and therefore have no need for an English menu or photos of the food unlike most restaurants near popular tourist destinations. We waited for about 45 minutes before finally getting a table, so I was afraid some of our fellow tourists may have found the place as well, but it really did seem like most of the others were locals. We ordered soba (buckwheat noodles), which was fabulous, and Peter got some sort of soup. 

We didn't take any of our own photos, so I grabbed a picture from the website. This is what I ordered:

The funniest part of the lunch was when they handed us a small device neither of us recognized, but somewhat resembled a pipe. For a second, I thought the lunch was going to take a strange turn. We had absolutely zero clue what to do with it. Seriously, I felt like a martian. Finally, after a few minutes of epically embarrassing ourselves, the kind couple at the table next to us (who were trying to hold back their laughter) showed us that it was actually a pepper shaker. So, now we know! 

We didn't take any pictures during this lunch because a) we didn't know if it was considered polite to blatantly photograph food (my cousin's girlfriend is from Japan and she later informed us that it's generally fine, but probably less common than in America, so I'm glad we refrained) and b) we were too busy frantically Google translating the menu. We did get a couple of pictures of the surrounding neighborhood, though, including this cute doorway:
And this man biking with two children. We noticed this was really common in Japan and I thought it was amazing that these parents could bike while balancing kids at the same time. I can barely stay on a bike with just myself. Quite impressive, and probably a pretty good workout. This was another one of those times when we tried to take a discreet photo of the kids, because they were so cute, but we didn't want to stick out as total creepers. Not sure if we succeeded based on the kid in the back's confused face.
After lunch, we headed over to explore Koishikawa Korakuen Garden. Right when we got off the train, we came across a kid's baseball game and stayed to watch for a few minutes. It was about the cutest thing I've ever witnessed. All of the kids sang songs and chants throughout the game, and I'm no baseball expert, but they seemed pretty talented for their age.
The funniest part to me was that the mothers of the children all stood inside the fence, right behind the dugout and were at times even more animated than the children. We saw the tail end of the game, and when it finished, quite a few of the kids just took off for home on their bikes. From what we observed, Japan is extremely safe and kid-friendly, and the fact that these young kids, probably about 5 or 7 years old, can just ride their bikes to and from their baseball game with no supervision is pretty nice.
We then made our way down the road to check out the garden. Koishikawa Korakuen is one of Japan's oldest gardens and is beautiful year-round, but is especially known for its spectacular fall colors and the famous spring cherry blossoms, which we sadly missed by just a few weeks.
 The Engetsukyo bridge, which is meant to reflect into the water to form the shape of a full moon.
 Tsutenkyo Bridge.
After strolling through the park for an hour or so, we headed back toward the city. There were plenty of beautiful flowers on the walk back to the train station, so I snapped what I think is my best photo to date, which is admittedly a low bar. Peter is definitely the more talented photographer of the family, but I did get a couple pictures that weren't deleted  ;).

Check out previous posts from our trip to Japan below!

Arriving in Tokyo/First Impressions

Exploring Central Tokyo:


Welcome! I started Laura and Peter Down Under in July 2014 when my husband and I moved from the States to Melbourne, Australia for his job. I blog about expat life, our travels, food, and whatever else comes to mind. Follow along on our adventures Down Under!



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