River’s Winter Vacation

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So my winter vacation was NOT for Christmas, but for New Year, since Japan cares a million times more about New Year than they do Christmas. I had six days off (my husband had 9!) This was the FIRST winter vacation in years that we’ve had totally FREE from studying and preparing for my husband’s grad school applications. It was SO NICE. Our first night we went out for ramen and beer and stayed up late watching TV.

The second day we slept in and then went to Mito (just a few stations away from where I live now. Mito’s the capital of Ibaraki and one of the biggest cities between here and Tokyo) and walked over to Semba lake, a famous lake near a famous park in Mito. My husband wanted to ride the sawn boats, but they weren’t in operation (it was way too windy and cold) so instead we just walked around and enjoyed the day. And took a bunch of photos.

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After we finished in Mito we got on this tiny little steam train and went to Ashigaura, which was the last stop on the line (there were like, seven stations total). Last year we rode this train to go to the nearby fish market, and we were going to go again, but I wanted to keep riding the train (we had a GORGEOUS view of the ocean), so we just went to the end. There wasn’t really anything near the station, so we walked out to the ocean and found a really big (and famous) hot spring!

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We went inside the hot spring (but didn’t go into the actual baths) to eat dinner. Ibaraki is famous of ‘anko’ (angler fish), and we really wanted to try it (it’s only available in the winter). So we went into the dining area of the hot spring facility and ordered ‘anko nabe’ (boiled angler fish in soup with boiled vegetables). It was REALLY good, and we had a GORGEOUS view of the ocean.

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I love the color of the ocean at sunset. The water was SO pretty. This photo doesn’t do it justice.

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We stayed until sunset and then went back to the station and rode the train home. We had to go to sleep early because the next day we had plans to go to a Hawaiian themed spa and amusement park!

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Hawaiians (the spa and resort) is only 45 minutes away by train, so we woke up around 10 am and rode up there. When we got there husband and I both changed into our swimming suits and went around to the different pools that are offered. It was pretty crowded, but some of the outdoor pools were empty, and the hotter, more ‘hot spring’ style pools had less kids. We stayed in those for a few hours before we got hungry so we went and ate ramen and then walked around and watched some hula dancing shows. Then we went swimming again until about 4pm.

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After swimming I was STARVING, so we got these tasty pancakes and bubble tea (as it’s called in the USA, in Japan it’s call tapioca drink). I had manga juice and husband had strawberry milk.

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I highly approved of it.

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We got dressed (it was freezing walking around in just our bathing suits), and walked around taking photos and looking at the shops. We didn’t end up buying anything (I hate carrying crap around) and then we went back to the station and got dinner before heading home around 9pm.

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The next day was New Year’s Eve, so husband and I just relaxed. We went out for lunch and chilled at Starbucks but then we came home early and I worked on reading the ONLY two books that I read during vacation and I started watching… BREAKING BAD. Husband is OBSESSED with it and has been telling me to watch it for WEEKS. So I finally started (I’m on Season 3 now). We rang in the new year with some sparking wine and went to sleep early.

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On the first day of the year most people go visit the shrine or temple to pray for happiness in the coming year. So far husband and I have managed to go to the local shrine (no matter where we are) on New Years Day. This year we went in the afternoon, hoping it wouldn’t be too crowded. And it wasn’t! I mean, there were a lot of people, but the line to enter the shrine wasn’t too bad, and we were able to grab some yummy food and head out to the ocean without having to deal with too many people.

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One of my favorite things about where we live right now is the ocean. Last year we went on New Years Day, but it was at night, so we got to see the ocean under the moonlight. This year we saw it in the daytime and it was just as breathtaking.

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