One of the main reasons we decided to brave international travel with a toddler was so that could Sloane could meet some of the Chubachi extended family, especially Colin's grandma. Shizuoka-shi is a couple hours south west of Tokyo and more of a regular town rather than a tourist destination. But it was fun to explore the beauty that the city had to offer (at the break of dawn of course)
Japan is not a country of early risers. In fact, while they are notorious for their long work weeks, it seems that the work day doesn't typically start until 9/9:30. I found this interesting since of the North American attributes of "hard work" is waking up early. Instead, many Japanese work later into the evening. Most stores were not open when we were out and about in the early hours, not even breakfast joints or coffee shops. Even in Tokyo, it was extremely rare to find a dedicated breakfast spot that was open before 9, especially on the weekend. Breakfast culture just doesn't exist like it does here, though of course what they lack in breakfast food they make up for 10 times over in late night grub.
This is the reason why convenience store egg sandwiches and vending machine coffee became our go-to every morning: they were our only option. There is a novelty to being able to order from a selection of 20 different beverages on every street corner as Tommy Lee Jones shows you what a real boss looks like. But the black coffee is not a risk you want to take, and the sweetened coffee tastes like the creamiest Tim Horton's double double with an aftertaste of tin, and the coffee snob inside us that we've been trying to ignore keeps crying louder and louder...
All that to say, I found this "matcha latte" which tasted exactly like a Starbucks green tea latte, which became my new favourite. It probably makes Japanese tea snobs feel the same way we do about the coffee, but hey, it got me through.
One of the coolest things we did was visiting the Shizuoka shrine on a special day, the celebration of Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3). Families who had kids who were 7, 5, and 3 were at the shrine receiving special blessing for them, and the children were decked to the nines in special dress. It was so cute to see! We went as Colin's cousin and his wife are expecting a child and they also went to receive a blessing. While this was a very cool to be a part of, it was unfortunately one of the times I was MOST stressed on the whole trip. Colin and I had argued that morning, we were in a shrine so I wanted to be respectful of the surroundings but Sloane had no similar inclinations, and we were surrounded by immaculately dressed and seemingly perfectly behaved Japanese children. Also I had only brought my 85mm lens so I could only get a picture of the corner of the roof of this beautiful shrine.
Despite that all, I will probably just remember the beauty of the red temple roofs set against a lush forested hill, the adorable children posing for photos with their proud parents, and the privilege it was to get to celebrate a special moment with Colin's family. Memories are often kinder than the true experience, thank goodness for that.
As usual, Colin's family treated us so well. They remembered the food and drinks we liked from our last visit and had those prepared. As soon as they discovered how much Sloane loved oranges they made sure they had a bag of them any time we were together. Sloane got Hello Kitty clips from her second cousin and got to play dress up with her great grandma. It also became quickly clear who her favourite was, as you can see in the above picture. Keiko always had the special privilege of holding bunny.