Wednesday 14 July 2010

Sayonara Japan

I am crying while writing this sitting on the window ledge of the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, this is where our journey started in August 09 and this is now where it ends.

What can I say.... WOW!! What a year, we have met some amazing people whom we will NEVER forget, we have seen some beautiful places, eaten a lot of fantastic food (and some not so fantastic) and experienced a whole new culture. We (well Graham, Mia and Gian) have learnt a new language & I have learnt how to make sushi from the best school in Tokyo. We have also been able to share our experience with all our friends who visited us, thank you for coming over we loved seeing all of you, it was a real pleasure, THANK YOU.

Mia and Gian have made us so proud with the way they immediately adjusted to their new school, new country, new culture and new language. How they made so many lovely new friends, they have grown up in so many ways (Mia has also grown 10cm in 1 year).

We had some not so good news when I found out that I had Rheumatoid Arthritis but I am happy to say that I am currently in remission so that is GREAT!!!

We will take so much with us from this "journey" we have become closer as a family, we have become more aware of what is important in life and how to live life to the full as you never know what is round the corner.

Thank You Japan, Dõmo arigatõ!!

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Graham and his training

When we arrived in Tokyo we were looking for a personal trainer and we were introduced to a guy called Pete. We both started training with him and just loved him immediately. Pete is an ex marine who trains people at the American base "Stars and Stripes" in Roppongi. Unfortunately I had to stop training because of my RA but Graham continued and the results have been amazing!!!! As you can see in the photo his balance has improved, he has also increased his muscle (nice) :-)
We have been so fortunate to meet some really great people while we have been here in Japan and Pete is one of them, will miss you Pete!!

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Weekend in Karuizawa 5th & 6th June 2010

Last weekend was a busy (but fantastic) one. Saturday morning we had to be at the Italian Institute where Mia and her friends were in a dance show, it was really good, Mia's group did really well but there was a fantastic group on first with a lovely Japanese teacher and some little kids (I guess about 4 years old) well, one of the girls got stage fright and wouldn't do anything, just stood there, then she sat on the floor and refused to move, god Gra and I were killing ourselves and the teacher was just great, kept trying to get her involved but when she nearly started crying the teacher gave up and they all just carried on dancing around her... too funny.

Straight after it finished we headed over to Tokyo station and caught the shinkansen to Karuizawa where our lovely Japanese friends Yukiko san and Carlos san have a summer house.
One hour later and we arrived, Carlos san was there to meet us and a quick car journey and we were at their house. WOW the views were just beautiful, it really reminded us of Switzerland and we started feeling a bit homesick. They have the beautiful mountains, so many forests, lakes, just lovely.

We dropped our bags and went for a walk, Mia noticed we were only going down and down and started worrying about how we were going to get back up... kids!! it was perfect weather too so we just walked for a while and then turned round as Carlos and Yukiko's friends called to say they had arrived at the house.

When we got back they started the BBQ and we chatted to Tom and Yuko (their nice friends). The BBQ was great and then after Mia and Gian lit the fireworks Yukiko had bought for them.

It got cold very fast and when I say cold I mean COLD!! after the kids had played on the Wii (Gian wanted to beat Carlos) they both had a bath and straight into bed so to keep warm and then Gra and I did the same thing.

Next morning, Graham went to play golf with Carlos, Tom and Yuko (they had a great time) and Me and the kids went on a bike ride with Yukiko, it was great and we stopped off at a huge pond (where the kids saw a snake) and then we went further for lunch, great lunch and then back.

Just a great weekend, thank you sooooo much Yukiko san and Carlos san. We look forward to seeing you in Switzerland sometime.

Sunday 23 May 2010

8th Visitor - Andy, Switzerland, 14 - 23 May 2010

Andy arrived nice and early Friday 14th and Graham being a nice cousin went to collect him from Narita. On the Friday night we went to friends house and had a great evening and Andy got to meet some of our great friends we have met here. He did well as we go home about 1am so he must have been tired but didn't show it, went to bed as soon as we got in and slept well. Saturday night the boys went out to watch the football and then Andy stayed out until 5am, then didn't get up till 5pm on the Sunday so missed the Sumo but think he had a good night.

Monday Graham took him to Kyoto for a few days to see all the temples etc and go on the shinkansen which is something Andy really wanted to do (it is pretty impressive must admit). They got back Wednesday and then we just showed him a few of the tourist spots, ate some typical Japanese food, Pizza, French crepes etc :-) and he left first thing this morning.

Thanks for the visit Andy, hope you had a good time, see you in Switzerland when we return.

Thursday 6 May 2010

Hawaii 26th April - 7th May 2010

Wow what a treat!!! Hawaii is just paradise... we are sooooo lucky to be here.

We have been surfing, snorkeling, on a boat at night to see the sunset, we have done lots of swimming, lots of eating and lots of relaxing by the pool.

Our hotel The Royal Hawaiian is just perfect, great service, food, setting (right on the beach) surf teachers on tap, beautiful gardens etc.

Graham left for LA for an invester conference and had a great time, Gian, Mia and I stayed here and chilled out.

There are sooo many Japanese it is really strange, feel like we are still in Tokyo, lucky I like the Japanese :-)

One more day, one more night and then back to Tokyo, we have had the holiday of a lifetime!!!!

Monday 26 April 2010

Hawaii.... Baby!!!

I am in the United lounge writing this as I am bored.. Gra is reading the paper on his laptop and the kids are watching "Friends" on Mia's laptop so I thought, hey why not use my laptop... (OMG what is this world coming to) :-) Anyway just a quick one as I am looking out the window at a beautiful red sky with the sun setting over Narita airport and I feel as if we are leaving for good and actually have tears in my eyes... not sure we are ready to leave yet... but I am DEFINITELY ready for Hawaii... Baby :-)

Tuesday 20 April 2010

7th Visitors - Pen & Joel - Cancelled :-(

We are all very sad that Pen & Joel were not able to leave Switzerland (because of the volcano in Iceland) and visit. We had meals planned, bike rides, Karaoke, museums, galleries and a night out at Abbey Road for Pen's 40th.... We are hoping she will re-book and visit us in June.

Miss you and hope to see you soon xxx

Friday 16 April 2010

6th Visitors Alan and Pat 8th - 16th April 2010

Our 6th visitors were Alan and Pat from the UK. They arrived on the Thursday afternoon (Iva and Philippe had left for Kyoto on the Wednesday). Arriving from a short break in Hong Kong they didn't really have the same jet lag as previous visitors but they had had a long day they were pretty tired. Quick crepe at the local French place near us and then early night.

We had a great time with them, visited the normal "tourist" places and also just sent them off on their own a lot with our phone number just in case they got lost. They did pretty well and hopefully enjoyed tokyo they seemed to find some nice places for a relaxing glass of wine or 2 :-). We also took them to Odiba for the day (one of the dry days), which is always nice as it is a little way out of the center and has a beach so feels nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo life.

Monday was another horrible day weather wise so we thought we could go to some local museums for the day, lovely.... NOT!! All closed on a Monday... bugger! Oh well we went and did some shopping instead and nice lunch. :-) They were also with us to see Robert Cray which was great. Tuesday they headed off to Kyoto for 2 days, came back on Mia's birthday and came with us to the Teppan Yaki restaurant for a fab meal... hummm seems all we did was eat!! :-) They loved Kyoto and stayed in a great hotel, enjoyed the temples etc and the weather was nice, result!

They were due to leave Friday morning but Thursday night we heard about the volcano in Iceland, after looking into it a bit more realised pretty quickly that their flight had been cancelled. :-( They decided the best thing would be to go the airport anyway and see what could be done. Not alot!! They left yesterday (19th April) for Singapore as Pat's sister lives there but have been told that 1st flight they can get on back to the UK is the 1st May... for the moment!!

Hope you can get home soon, thanks for the visit, great to see you both, next time Vegas!!

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Robert Cray 12th April 2010

Graham organised for 8 of us (Gra and I, Cecila and Kevin, Iva and Philippe and Alan and Pat) to go to see Robert Cray at the Blue Note Club - Tokyo.

We arrived at 8pm to pick the tickets up, it is a really modern place, I liked it!!! We had a drink outside first and then about 8:50pm we went into the club and found our seats. We had two booths so we had a Boys one and a Girls one. :-) I am sure we had the best seats in the house, directly in front of the stage and raised a bit so we were looking over every ones heads. Excellent!

I think there were about 100 people there so a really small venue which made it even better, felt he was singing directly to you.

We also had a meal there which was the first time I had every eaten a full meal at a concert but hey there is a 1st for everything and the food was really delicious so no complaints there.

I guess he was on stage for 1.5 hours, played some really impressive guitar, talked to the audience, had fun, the other band members too. Must admit the drummer and keyboard player looked quite old and a little out of place as Robert Cray and the Bass player were cool dudes BUT the drummer and keyboard player were excellent musicians and they all worked really well together so that is just me....

Had a GREAT evening!! Yummy food, champagne, great music and perfect company :-)

5th Visitors - CH Iva and Philippe 3rd - 13th April 2010

Iva and Philippe arrived bright and early on the 3rd (Saturday). It was so lovely to see them both again. We took the train back to Tokyo, dropped their bags off, had a cup of tea and then straight out to see the sites. We first took them to Meguro to see the beautiful Sakura (cherry blossom), we hadn't been there before either and it really was a lovely sight, lots of Sakura and lots of Japanese Sakura parties going on too. (this is where they put down blue plastic, and eat lots of yummy food and drink lots of beer and sake, looked like fun). Saturday night we met up with an old friend of ours and had a lovely meal (I will make that into another blog item). By the end of the night poor Philippe was so tired he could hardly keep his eves open, cant say I blamed him, it had been a long day.

Sunday we took them over to Harajuku, Omotesando, Shibuya. Monday, Asakusa and Ginza, and Tuesday they did a bike tour with our lovely friend Yukiko san. Unfortunately Philippe caught a cold and wasn't on top form but he did really well just a few early nights needed. Wednesday they left on a tour, Mt Fuji, Kyoto, Nara.... at this point I think poor Iva got a cold too :-(

Our new guests arrived on the Thursday so when Iva and Philippe returned on the Saturday to Tokyo they booked into a hotel (very nice I was told, but was it as good as Hotel Cunningham??) :-) I think Iva was quite sick so they took it easy and had a few days shopping in this great city. However Iva totally agreed with me on the "anyone over 5ft and bigger than a size 0 is fat over here"... very hard to find clothes and shoes when you are a typical westerner. (there is always bag shopping though) ;-)

Monday it rained, and rained and rained... and it was freezing... not good. But in the evening we met at the Blue Note Club and had a great evening with friends watching Robert Cray!! wow he was great!! Hopefully a great ending to the Tokyo experience.

See you in 3 months Iva... xx

Monday 22 March 2010

Who said John Lennon was dead???

The kids are away for a long weekend skiing and slalom racing with our lovely Japanese friends (and 40 other Japanese ski club members) so Gra and I thought we would enjoy our only free weekend in Japan with a trip to "Abbey Road". this is club in Roppongi which has a fantastic Beetles tribute band.

Well what can I say.... WOW!! springs to mind. The band is totally serious, can really play the instruments and OK they are Japanese so they don't really look like the originals but they do their best and it really doesn't matter as they are just fantastic!! (I actually think the "Japanese Ringo" is a lot better looking than the original :-) )

Due to Gra playing golf all day and the traffic being a nightmare we were late (yes us late!!) but we managed to get there for the start of the second set. "George" started singing and I actually had a tear in my eye as his voice was just so beautiful, his accent near perfect, WOW! I soon realised his voice although being amazing was nothing compared to "John" OMG it was so powerful, I was memorised the way he sang, the way he played the guitar, just the way he was, totally amazing. "Ringo and Paul" were very very good too and the more beer I drank the more "Paul" really looked like Paul McCartney :-) he had the moves all down too.

They played 5 sets in all, each one lasting about 30 minutes, I was disappointed every time one ended and we had to wait for the next one (about 30 mins) but was just enough time to get another drink or some food and have a chat before they were out again.

It was a really treat, we left buzzing and laughing. Such a great night.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

4th Visitor - Penny, UK, 26th Feb - 5th March 2010

I have known Penny for many many years... we worked together at Micro Focus in Newbury and then she was one of my bridesmaids. She normally visits us once a year in Fribourg so this year she thought she would come and visit us in Tokyo.

Pen arrived early Friday morning, it was so nice to see her again and very strange to see her all the way over here. She is the first person to travel here alone and it is a long flight so I think she did really well. Of course I was there to meet her from the airport, I love meeting people, I get so excited.

While she was here we did all the normal sites as well as watching Gra do the Marathon in the pouring rain, it was great for me and the kids to have her with us for that. On the Wednesday Me, Penny and Mia went off for a yoga course which was fun and Thursday we went to the hot baths which was great and so relaxing, good for Pen to be all clean and relaxed before her trip back.

She was only here for 1 week but we managed to do something new everyday. It was fantastic to see her, thanks for coming over Penny. xx

Saturday 6 March 2010

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Testing the health system again...

Well the first cherry blossoms are out and Tokyo is warming up, lovely! We are still having such a great time here..... apart from unfortunately a spanner has been thrown in the works... I have been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)... :-(
A lot of my close friends will know that I have unfortunately had some health troubles over the last few years. It started with my left arm about 2 years ago. I went to the doctor and had numerous tests including a MRI, blood tests etc, nothing was found apart from an iron deficiency. I was treated for that and I did feel slightly better for a short while but then came back so I started having massages (hard life) :-) ,that helped a bit but not enough so I went to a chiropractor and that really helped.
Then we moved to Japan......
I was OK for a while but then that niggling pain came back, followed by sleepless nights where I was in absolute agony, I went straight to a chiropractor in Tokyo and it eased a bit but after 6 sessions it hadn't eased enough so he sent me to the hospital for an x-ray and injection to help the shoulder (steroid). The x-ray came back as "Frozen Shoulder" and there isn't much you can do there, different exercises and the steroid injection. Great I thought!! all over now!!! no such luck.... it came back but this time worse than before and my hands started to swell and then my right foot and then my hip... not a happy bunny!!! so I tried acupuncture (at this point I would have tried anything even cutting my left arm off) :-) and was amazed that it helped, this then made me curious about acupuncture so I bought a great book and started reading up. There were lots of case studies in the book and one of the patients had arthritis, I kept thinking, "I have that symptom, and that one, and that one..." it was strange but I thought "I can't have that I am way too young" :-) ;-)

I decided the only thing to do was to book myself in for a full medical to find out what was wrong once and for all. (plus poor Gra was getting a wee bit pi**ed off with my winging) :-)
When talking to the doctor I mentioned I thought it may be arthritis and he said he would add that test to the other blood tests I would be having. 2 days later he called to say unfortunately my tests had come back and I have RA. (and a shoulder impingement which needs more steroid injections). After the initial shock (about the RA) and being scared, miserable, tired and emotional I have now come to realise I have 2 options. 1. wallow in self pity 2. get on with it. I have fortunately chosen no 2. Gra has been an absolute saint, (as expected) and my family (and the few friends I have told) have also been just fantastic. THANK YOU!! I have an appointment with a rheumatologist on the 24th March where I will find out the next steps but for now I am just enjoying our last few months in this beautiful city.

Wednesday 17 February 2010


The four of us went out for pizza last night and were chatting about our time in Japan and all the fun times and the scary times (earthquakes) and Graham said "I miss the earthquakes, we need another one" we all told him he was an idiot but just carried on. with our meal.... guess what!! 4:56am this morning we had an earthquake... bloody Graham, all his fault... :-) it wasn't a big one but did wake us both up with the room moving so big enough.... told Graham to keep quiet from now on, I have had enough earthquakes to last me a lifetime...

Sunday 14 February 2010

Happy Valentines Day

In Japan they always seem to do things slightly differently than anywhere else in the world and Valentines day is no exception. Gian was given a beautiful box of homemade chocolates from our little Japanese girl neighbour, she is just lovely and they have a great time together, she doesn't speak any French (Gian and all his friends play in French) so Gian translates into English for her (she understands a little), just a lovely friendship. I have included a link with the rest of the tradition from Japan and Valentines day. Happy Valentines Day Everyone. xx

Sunday 24 January 2010

Hike and Lunch with friends, great!

Saturday we met our friends Kevin and Cecila and their friend Linda at Shinjuku station to take the train to Takaosanguchi. We hiked to Mt Takao, it took us about 70 mins of mostly up hill, I was really tired and really hot as I had put extra layers on thinking it would be cold in the mountains... but the sun was beautiful and the extra effort I had to put in to get up the mountain made me sweat!! :-) It was all worth it, the views at the top were just beautiful (almost as beautiful as Switzerland). We then started our way back, half way down we caught the cable car as we had reservations at Ukai Toriyama. This is a restaurant (!) more like little huts which is just fantastic! have a look at this article which says everything I would say (but better) :-) I took some photos so see my gallery too.

We were all very tired on the way home, hike, food, warm hut and the train had heated seats so nice and toasty, what a lovely day, it was really nice to get out of the city. It made me a bit homesick though as the beautiful mountains and out in the country reminded me so much of my "Home".

Tuesday 19 January 2010

If I can draw anyone can draw :-)

OK, a bit of background for those who don't know my art skills. Before this course my art skills were non existent.. I REALLY couldn't draw to save my life, ask Lisa who used to "help" me at school with any drawing and who used to find my stick men very amusing. So when Graham suggested we do an art class as a family I wasn't too enthusiastic as I didnt want to make a fool of myself. However, I knew how much it meant to Graham so I agreed. I just thought, Nothing ventured, nothing gained! and was quite interested to see if the class would really work. I thought if they can teach ME to draw then really anyone can.

The challenge was set, would we be able to draw after 2 days?? (9 hours to be exact), well the answer is YES!!

The first day was spent doing some drawing exercises, learning how we use our brain when we draw and proving that often, we draw what we "think" we see and not what we actually see. After a few hours we started drawing our own portrait and were all very surprised and VERY happy with the results, especially Gian who has been showing everyone his pictures and has been drawing lots more. Great!!

The course we did was based on the book Drawing on the right side of the brain by Betty Edwards

We went to the RBR school in Tokyo but this course is held all over the world.

We had a fantastic teacher Andy who was fun, interesting and most importantly patient! He obviously loves what he does and it shows, the kids just loved him and although Gian was a little shy to start with by the end he was chatting away to Andy and asking for help etc.

This was our first course (I have put more photos in my gallery but I am pretty sure it wont be our last.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Tim Ferriss

This video is amazing, the guy himself is pretty amazing but I love it as it is based in Japan and I just love the way he has shown just how the Japanese people are. Kind, patient, hardworking, etc etc... I am in the middle of writing a post just on that so wont do it now. Watch the video (is about 45 minutes long) but really interesting. Enjoy. x

No Man's Land

This is something I love about Tokyo, there is ALWAYS something going on. Today we went over to the old French Embassy to see an exposition. The embassy has moved so they are using the old one for artists to express themselves. I took some pictures and have uploaded them to my gallery. The day was free (well 1000 Yen for Mia and Gian to join the artists and make some hats etc) but the rest was free, really interesting so we had a nice afternoon.

Friday 1 January 2010

New Years Eve

First of all HAPPY NEW Year to everyone.

We were kindly invited to our neighbours flat for drinks/food and then we planned to visit our nearest shrine at midnight. We really wanted to see how the Japanese spent their New Years Eve so this part was important for us.
We arrived next door with Sushi (made by moi), Champagne and dessert and met some new people who were all French but all very nice (despite being French) :-) only joking Anne!!
There were 6 families so about 24 of us in all, everyone took something with them so dinner was lovely, lots of champagne was consumed and then we all left about 11:30 to make our way to the shrine. The kids are all about the same age so that is great, they all got along really well and had a lot of fun.
There were lots (and I mean LOTS) of people at the shrine but they were all very quiet and all in line waiting to go to the front of the shrine to prey. We didn't join the line but we did wait around and soak up the atmosphere. At midnight we all said Happy New Year and they had taken a bottle of champagne so we all had a glass of that (and were told off and asked to only drink outside the shrine) fair enough!! Got home about 2am and collapsed into bed. This morning we were invited back for lunch, everyone was abit quieter today, a few sore heads but lovely to spend time with them all again.