Bursting with Butterflies

Rainbow colors fluttering through the air, feathery antennas brushing our skin, the scent of juicy nectar and pungent flowers — these are the sights, sounds, and aromas that filled our senses when the kids and I visited Igashira Park’s  butterfly house last month.  The butterfly house was one section of a bird, flower, and butterfly exhibit on the grounds of the huge park.  We all entered the butterfly sanctuary expecting to immediately be pounced upon by friendly creatures who wanted to land on our heads, hands, and feet, but we soon discovered that getting to that experience would take quite a bit of patience and a little bit of creativity.

Austin seemed to be the most attractive to the insects flapping their wings all around us, but soon the rest of us were able to get some of them to stop and spend a few seconds resting on our fingers.  We found that staying super still, putting drops of nectar from the butterfly feeders on our hands, and even (oddly enough) carrying a coke bottle made us more attractive to the colorful creatures.

In addition to butterflies, the exhibit housed a couple of toucans, a few other small birds, some turtles, and a plethora of plants, including a tropical banana tree, which was our favorite.

All that communing with nature left us hungry, so we popped over to the cafeteria next door and feasted on some delicious ice cream cones before heading home for the day.

Igashira Park is in Moka City, about 40 minutes from our house, so we don’t go there super often, but with bicycles to rent, a “10,000 person sized pool”, an obstacle course, and other attractions it’s a fun place to spend a pleasant afternoon as a family.  We will definitely be back!

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Family Fun at Green Park

Friends from Katie’s jazz dance class recently invited us to have a barbeque at Green Park in Utsunomiya.  We’d never been there before, but were really impressed with how many fun things there were for kids to do!  After feasting on delicious barbequed meat and vegetables next to the Kinugawa river, the kids set off to ride funny bicycles and then test their physical prowess on the “over water obstacle course.”  There was also a water play area, a paddle boat lake, and venders selling ice cream, crepes, and other delectable treats.  The weather was perfect and we greatly enjoyed the time with our friends.  We definitely plan to visit again!

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Enjoying our Neighborhood

We moved into our house in January and I just have to say that I LOVE our neighborhood.  Our neighbors are all really sweet and friendly.  I’ve had lots of great conversations with people who pass by when I’m out in the yard pulling weeds or taking out the trash.   A couple of the neighborhood grandma types have been giving me lots of great advice about gardening (which I know nothing about!) and others have given us cakes, vegetables, and homemade pudding.  One little girl who lives across the street often calls hello to Katie from her second story window when she sees us outside.  It’s great!!  I also love the river that runs behind our house and the wonderful park that is just a few steps away.  And, to top it all off, it’s duckling season so we are able to walk along the river and find mother ducks with their ducklings swimming along.  At our old house I often felt that our kids didn’t get enough time outside since we didn’t have a yard, but now I feel like they have tons of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors without even having to leave our neighborhood.  I feel really thankful that God provided this house and neighborhood for us! 🙂

Hachimanyama Park

We are blessed to live close to a very cool park called Hachimanyama Koen (koen is park in Japanese).  There are go-carts to ride, a roller slide that massages your rear end pretty thoroughly as you go down (!), a super fast slide that the kids have fun sliding down backwards, in pairs and threes, and on their tummies, a water play area, and tons of space to run, jump, and be silly.  There’s also a small zoo and a radio tower with an observation deck at the top.  And it’s only a five minute drive from our house!  Now that the weather is getting better, we’ve been trying to go there more frequently and have had a lot of fun on our recent visits.  Here are some photos of the kids enjoying themselves at this wonderful place.

Enjoying Tokyo’s Cherry Blossoms and Time with Good Friends

Earlier this month, our family drove two hours to Tokyo to spend a couple of days with our friends, the VanZantes, who who are also on staff with the Navigators in Japan.  Since Tokyo is the half-way point between their city and ours, it was a good way to see each other without anyone having to drive too far.  We stayed in an area of Tokyo called Mitaka and the place where we stayed was within walking distance of Inokashira Park, which houses a small, but very nice zoo.  Our favorites things at the zoo were the squirrel exhibit (squirrels are rare in Japan), the guinea pig petting area, and the monkey exhibit.  Oh, yes, and the soft ice cream was also a big hit!! 🙂  The kids had a blast riding together on mini amusement park rides, like the tea cups and merry-go-round.  We had such a great time together, that it was hard to say goodbye.   We’re looking forward to the next time we can spend time together!!

Fun at the Park

Since we don’t have much of a yard where we live, our kids get most of their outside play time at various parks around town.  Austin has been swinging on his own for awhile, but this September in San Diego Ethan gained confidence  pumping  his legs by himself  after Aunt Lisa gave him some tips and now swinging is one of his favorite park activities.  Katie received a hand-me-down tricycle from a friend awhile back and just recently had some success in pedaling it so she enjoys taking her trike when we go to the park.  Here are a few photos of our most recent park adventures.

Wanpaku Park

The kids and I visited Wanpaku Park in Utsunomiya recently.  At the park there is a building called “Fushigi no Fune” which roughly translates to “Boat of Strange and Amazing Things”.  Inside the boat-like building there are different rooms where the kids can explore and experiment with things like mazes, mirrors, visual effects, and lasers.  After the Fushigi no Fune, we had fun playing outside and enjoying the beautiful summer day.

Here are a few photos of the day: