Ferndale and Clear Lake Washington

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Edward Bear has been having so much fun that there hasn't been much time to write about all of his adventures. Last week, on Thursday, Edward, Elliot and Emmala went with Grandma and Grandpa in the camper to Ferndale, where they stayed at the Cedars RV park. On Friday they took the truck on a ferry to Lummi Island where they explored. The RV resort was full of fun activities: swimming, playground, climbing tree, bike rides and more. The crew cooked outside on the campfire and had ice cream from the camp store.

Then a dog, who wasn't properly restrained by his owners, ran and bit Elliot as he was riding his bike. Elliot was very brave, but he had to go to the Emergency Room to get his injury treated. The wound wasn't too deep, but it had to be closed with steri-strips and a dressing applied. Elliot went home with his father to stay in his own bed, so Emmala had a night in the camper by herself with Grandma and Grandpa.

Since we got home, Elliot is healing nicely and has had another sleepover at the camper. There have been lots of fun days of playing and exploring Clear Lake.

Mount Vernon, Washington

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Edward was excited! After three weeks of summer hibernation, which to a bear is just a nap, there was plenty of activity at the camper yesterday. Ted and Susan arrived from Japan with their backpacks and suitcases and Emmala came right over to play in the camper with grandma and grandpa. It was so good to have the family together again. Of course Ted and Susan were tired and mostly interested in getting to sleep, but there was a bit of work to set up the camper and get things arranged.

Supper was a picnic and grandma and the children made long chains of clover flowers. One chain was over 30 feet long. The giggles and fun were like music to Edward's ears.

Edward knows that there will now be a weekend of rest and relaxation and play and more exciting adventures ahead this summer!

Kyoto

Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

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Today we are in Kyoto. It is the last city of our visit to Japan. Tomorrow we start our long journey to come to your house and back to our camper. We will be excited to see you!

Today we had an adventure! When we got to Kyoto and got off our our train, we found out that the tour bus that we wanted to ride was not running. We got instructions on how to use the city busses to see the things that we wanted to see and, after placing our suitcases in safe storage place, we took off. However, the instructions we got were not complete and the bus was stopping at places that were not on our map. Before long, we found ourselves far from downtown without a clue as to where we were going. A helpful person gave us instructions on where to get off of the bus, but we still didn't know which bus was the right one to get back on. Finally we just picked a bus and ended up at a beautiful shrine in a peaceful park with a gentle stream flowing through it.

We toured the shrine, waking on the paths and climbing up to a hilltop where there was a good view of the city. We drank some of the water that we had brought with us. We looked at the people who were enjoying a day off at the shrine.

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It was a very hot day and we found a place where children were playing in the water and having a good time. Their laughter put us in a good mood. We found a bus that was going back to the train station and got on. It took it quite a while - about one hour - but it did take us back to the train station. We had gotten lost, but nothing bad happened. We got to see a beautiful place. We got to see children playing and having a good time. And we got back and found our hotel safely. It was a big adventure, but it worked out just right.

We will try to get a good night's sleep tonight and be ready for the big adventure of coming to your home tomorrow!

Hiroshima

Dear Elliot, Emmala, and Eliza,

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Today we toured all around Hiroshima. We spend the morning at a memorial and peace park with a museum that has a lot of reminders of a terrible bomb that was dropped during a war that happened before your grandma and grandpa were born. We will tell you some of the stories about that place when we see you. We have some books that help to tell stories about the people who survived that war. Emmala, you will be interested that in the park there is a monument to people from Korea who were living in Hiroshima at the time. The monument is a large stone pillar that is being held up by a giant stone turtle. Here is a picture of the turtle statue.

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We also saw the children's memorial. It has a statue of a young girl holding a paper crane. And all around the monument are thousands and thousands of folded paper cranes. I am sure there are more than a million paper cranes there, mostly in bright colors and all designed to remind people of how important it is to work for peace and to learn ways to be kind to one another.

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In the afternoon we walked around a castle that has been around for hundreds of years. The original castle was destroyed, but the people have rebuilt parts of it to serve as a museum to the Samurai and the rulers who founded the city of Hiroshima. We climbed up to the top of the tower that is on the corner of the castle property. It was a lot of stairs, but we got a good view of the city from the top.

You might be interested to know that the city where we are visiting, Hiroshima, is where the Mazda car company was founded. Your family's big car was built in a factory here in Hiroshima and then traveled by boat from the port of Hiroshima to the United States.

We have just two more days in Japan, so we are starting to think about coming back to Washington to see you soon!

To Hiroshima

Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

Today we traveled a long way on four different trains to get all the way from the northern part of the island to the southern part. We went through many Japanese Cities, including Sendai, Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. We left Rachel and Mike's at 6 in the morning and got on our first train at 6:49. We got off of the train in Hiroshima at 4:34 in the afternoon, so we spent most of the day riding trains. We got to ride on four different types of trains. Three of them were shinkansen bullet trains.

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Our first train was the little Misawa train.

Then we boarded the Hayabusa in Hachinohe. It is a modern, E5 series shinkansen, the fastest in Japan. We went all the way to Tokyo on that train.

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In Tokyo, we changed to the Hikari, which is a N-700 series train. It is a little bit older and a bit slower, but reaches speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour, which is pretty fast - way faster than you would drive in a car.

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We rode that train to Kobe, where we changed to another N-700 train. This was a smaller version of the train we had just been riding on. We only had 8 minutes to change trains in Kobe, and in that time our first train arrived and left, then another train came and went and finally the third train was the one we took - all in just 8 minutes! We rode this train to Hiroshima.

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Here is a picture of the inside of the last train that we rode on. All of the trains are very comfortable with plenty of room for luggage and lots of room to sit.

It was too cloudy for us to see Mount Fuji, which was a bit of a disappointment, but we will get another chance to look at it on our last day in Japan when we will ride the train from Kyoto to Tokyo and from Tokyo to Narita airport.

Pacific Ocean

Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza

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Today we went walking on the beach. It is the same ocean that you walk alongside when you go to the beach, but we are way on the other side of that ocean. The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the world's oceans. We are over 5,000 miles away, so you can tell how big the ocean is. The waves were kind of wild and we saw a few surfers out in the water. They must have been wearing wet suits, because the water was too cold for swimming. We went to another beach, where people do swim, but there was no one swimming today.

It was fun to look at the boats of the fishing fleet. They were in the harbor when we were walking, so we got to see some of them up pretty close. These were trawlers with their nets hanging, so they are ready to go out sometime soon. Perhaps they were waiting for better weather to go fishing.

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Today is our last day at Rachel and Mike's house. We'll spend three more days touring in Japan and then we'll be heading your way. We will be really tired when we arrive because that day we will start in Japan and then finish in Washington, so we will get a lot of extra hours in one day.

There will be a few more days of blogs about our adventures. Tomorrow we will be riding on the train again.

Misawa Air and Space Museum

Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

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Today was a rainy day and so we decided to do things that were indoors. We went to the Misawa Air and Space Museum. A long time ago, even before your grandma and grandpa were born, Misawa began to be an important place in Japan for flying. Japanese engineers and aeronautical designers experimented with different kinds of airplanes and Misawa had an air base with a long runway that was a good place for training pilots. It also has a very big lake, so it became a place to train pilots in flying over water and flying the kinds of airplanes that can land on the water.

The Misawa Air and Space Museum has a lot of displays that you can touch and interact with. There is a place where you can experience reduced gravity like the surface of the moon. You get to see how high you can jump. There are other places where you can fly model airplanes and do other interesting things. They have a wind tunnel where you can go inside and hold a wing and see how an airfoil creates lift when it passes through the air.

They also have a collection of real airplanes. Many of them are outside and it was raining, so I didn't get pictures of all of them. The one at the top of this post is an F-16, which is the kind of airplane that Mike works on. I also took a picture of a Japanese Zero, which was a very famous airplane during World War II. And I took more pictures of airplanes that were interesting.

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The orange airplane in the picture is a replica of the first airplane to fly nonstop across the Pacific Ocean. It is a Bellanca J-300 called Miss Veedol. Two men flew it from Misawa Japan to Olympia Washington in 1931 to set the record. The airplane in the picture was used for a reenactment of the flight in 2011. They had a display with all of the gas that it took to fly the nearly 5500 miles from Japan to Washington.

Next Thursday, we'll fly from Japan to Washington, but we'll be on a modern 767. We'll have a much faster and much more comfortable trip across the Pacific.

Oirase Gorge

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Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

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Today we went to a national park that is fairly close to where Rachel and Mike live. There is a beautiful lake in the park and a long gorge through which a river flows with lots and lots and lots of waterfalls. It is a place with lots and lots of tall trees and everything is green. There are lots of ferns and other plants on the ground. It reminded me of some of the forests that are near where you live. It was really beautiful.

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When we thought about visiting Japan, we didn't know what a beautiful place it is. We knew that there were some exciting cities and that there was a lot of history and culture that was worth visiting and learning about, but we are learning what a really beautiful place Japan is. Our time in Oirase Gorge was relaxing and wonderful.

I know that you would like seeing some of the interesting things that we are seeing in Japan.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a rainy day and we have only two more days with Rachel and Mike before we head south for a few days before coming back to the United States and your house. Our time in Japan is going quickly!

A quiet day

Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

We had a very quiet day yesterday. I didn't even take any pictures to put with this note. We stayed at Rachel and Mike's house all day. It rained all day long and we only went outside for a short bit to walk with Zeus. He wasn't that eager to be out in the rain, either. We did our laundry, caught up on some of our writing, and sorted through our suitcases.

We packed a small box that we are mailing to your home so that we won't have to carry those things as we travel, but we also have some things in our suitcases that we have found on our journey that we will share with you when we get to your home.

Since it is day here when it is night there, we saw the pictures of you watching the fireworks and had fun thinking of you on your adventure.

The rain is supposed to stop today and we are hoping to get out and look at some special places that Rachel and Mike want to show us, so there should be some pictures and more news later.

We are thinking of you and we miss you, but we are having a good time with Rachel and Mike and are glad to visit them. Rachel is very excited to be planning her trip to come to your home in a few weeks. It will be very special to be all together.

Sendai Mediatheque

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Dear Elliot, Emmala, and Eliza,

Today we visited a very interesting library in Sendai. Sendai is a big city with over a million people. The city library is part of a beautiful steel and glass building that is called the Sendai Mediatheque. The building also houses performance spaces, galleries for art, recording studios and places to make videos. There are two floors dedicated to the library. You would have liked some of the fun furniture for the readers at the library. On one floor, everything is curved. The tables where the computers are are all round and there are round tables for readers. Even the shelves that hold the books are curved.

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Here is a picture of a very interesting piece of furniture. It is made for people to sit or to lie down while reading a book. If you sat on this, where would you like to be?

This building survived the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan. Some of the glass broke and there was a little bit of other damage, but the structure of the building remained strong even though it was a really big earthquake. When people visit the building, they can take elevators, escalators or stairs to get between the floors. Since we were visiting, we tried all three ways of going up and down.

We took a bus tour all around Sendai to see the city and enjoyed seeing the University, museums, the ruins of a castle and other special places in the city. In the afternoon we took the fast train - the shinkansen - back to Hachinohe and from there a small train to get to Masawa. We will be staying with Rachel and Mike for a few days now.

It is raining here in MIsawa. It is the first rainy weather we have had. And today is the 4th of July. There is a special party and fireworks for this evening, but there were almost no people out in the rain to celebrate. Maybe it will stop raining before the fireworks.

Matsushima

Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

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Today we visited a place that is called Matsushima. It is one of the most beautiful bays in the world. I think that you would like it, because it reminds me a little bit of Anacortes. It is a huge bay on the ocean with 260 islands. Some of them are very tiny. We saw a couple that had only one pine tree on them and a few that had no trees. We walked around on three of the islands that are connected to the shore by bridges. First we went to one that is connected by a long bridge. It is a nature preserve with quite a few interesting trails that we hiked.

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Another island that we visited is very close to the shore and the bridge is quite short. It was used as a training area for Zen Buddhist monks during the middle ages. There are no monks on the island now. They are trained in a large central temple. But we could see the meditation caves that were carved into the rock. The monks used to stay in the caves for a long time to pray and meditate. It looked like the island could hold hundreds of monks, each in their own cave, all at the same time.

Matsushima is famous for its oysters, so we had oysters for lunch. Some were served in their shells and some were fried. We also had rice and I had organs juice. Grandma had iced tea.

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After we visited the islands and walked around and had our lunch we took a tour of the bay and the islands on a tour boat. It had two decks. We had a booth with a table and a window that we could open on the first deck. The tour guide spoke mostly Japanese, but from time to time, we would get a few of the names of the islands in English. One is called turtle island. Another is called whale island. There are two islands that are called husband and wife islands. I think the the Japanese people must have had fun naming all of the 260 islands.

The tour boat that we took docked in a nearby town where we caught a train that took us back to Sendai where we will stay one more night. Tomorrow we will go back to Misawa and stay with Mike and Rachel.

Bento Boxes

Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

It is fun and interesting being in a country where we do not speak the language. Although there are a lot of Japanese people who know a little English, we also go many places where we have to use sign language and gestures to communicate with others. Fortunately, most restaurants have pictures of the food, so you can order by pointing to a picture. Sometimes, however, we still are surprised by the food we get because we don't know all of the foods that we see in Japan.
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When traveling on the train, many people eat packaged lunches, called Bento Boxes. The boxes are often very pretty with Japanese designs and the food is carefully organized to make a good appearance. This evening for our supper mom and I had bento boxes because we rode the train from Misawa to Hachinohe and from Hachinohe to Sendai. We looked at the pictures of the Bento boxes and even looked at some of the food through the clear plastic tops on our bento boxes. Still it was hard for us to know what we were going to get.

My Bento box had a lot of different kinds of food to sample. There was a piece of raw salmon on a bed of rice. I have gotten used to eating cold rice in Japan. We have been served rice both hot and cold. Then there was a small tray of vegetables, including sweet peas, carrot, seaweed, mushrooms and more. There was also a small squid that had teriyaki sauce on it, one shrimp that had been fried in tempura, a piece of tofu, a couple of pieces of chicken and a small dumpling.

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Grandma got a sandwich with seaweed in place of bread. Inside she found rice, egg and bacon. We think it was probably supposed to be a breakfast sandwich. She also had a small Bento box with several pieces of pork cooked in teriyaki sauce wrapped around rice rolls. We have learned to buy iced tea, usually green tea, from vending machines. Sometimes we try fruit juices, though we can't always tell the difference between fruit juice and pop because we can't read Japanese. Tonight I thought I was getting pineapple juice, but it turned out to be pineapple pop.

There are lots of surprises for us as we travel and eat in Japan. For the next two days, Grandma and I are traveling by ourselves while Rachel and Mike are working. We'll tell you more about our experiences in the next few days.

Mario Karts

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Dear Elliot, Emmala and Eliza,

Today we are having a quiet day at Rachel and Mike's house in Misawa, so I have time to tell you another story about Tokyo. One day when we were visiting in Tokyo we went to a very busy part of the city. There is a big intersection where a whole bunch of streets come together. There are also a lot of people walking. They call the intersection Shibuya Scramble Crossing because the light is red for all of the pedestrians in all directions and then when it turns green every one walks in whatever direction they want all at once. It is a real scramble of a whole lot of people. After we walked through the intersection, we went into a Starbucks where we could go upstairs to the second floor and watch all of the people crossing the street below.

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We had a real fun time watching the people and cars and all of the activity down below. While we were watching, we saw several things that were interesting and a few things that were a little strange. We saw people who were dressed up in costumes like animals. That got our attention. Then we saw people driving go carts dressed up like the characters from Mario Kart. It was kind of like the video game, except the people were life size. What we saw was an unusual way to take a tour of Tokyo. People who have their drivers' licenses can sign up and pay to take a kart tour of Tokyo with a guide showing them where to go and telling them what they were seeing. They can dress up like the characters from the Mario Kart video game if they want.

There will be a lot more stories to tell about our trip when we are together.

Today we did some shopping and found some interesting things that we will be excited to show you when we get back to Washington. We love you and miss you, but we are having a lot of fun with Rachel and Mike.