Tokyo Drift


Ginza at Night. Or a scene from Blade Runner.

Still trying to figure out our groove between getting the kids out the door (biggest challenge to date), sightseeing, and planning for the cities later in the trip. It hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns. Just when we think we are not doing too much, the kids want to do less. I get it. There is a lot going on and they want to chill. Our friends, the Polas, did a year long trip a few years back and they reminded us that we will be coming from a completely structured life to a completely unstructured one- so we need do decide how much structure we should add.  Still a work in progress.

Tokyo-the last couple days in Tokyo were pretty cool-we seemed to be getting into the swing of things, navigating the subways, figuring out where to go, etc. On day 4 we hired a guide named Tomoko from (thanks for the heads up Chris Glubka) and she was great. It was nice to not have to worry about where to go and have someone translate things for us, especially the food with the girl’s allergies. The best part was just chillin with her at a tiny, local restaurant and asking her questions. We learned a lot from her – meals in bento boxes are generally more expensive, different styles of Japanese food, Tokyo taxis are 30% more expensive after 10:00pm, etc.


The Girls with our guide Tomoko

I’m getting more comfortable speaking some basic Japanese, enough to at least show some effort. For full disclosure I did take a quarter of basic Japanese my first quarter freshman year in college, which was my worst academic experience by far. I basically almost flunked out. What was I thinking taking that class my first 3 months in college? I was hungover half the time. But I digress. Since I did take the class and I look the most Japanese in the the group, I’m the guy that asks for directions (doko des ka? Where is —?), asks for the bill at dinner (Okanjo o kudasai?), finds the bathroom (Toy-re wa doko des ka? The old lady sitting next to me on the subway had a good chuckle when I was practicing that out loud), and excuse me (sumimasen). I’m cool with it. Every once in a while, though, someone busts out in full on machine gun Japanese to me and I just listen and say wakaremasen- which means I almost flunked out of Japanese and I have no clue what your are saying (roughly).

Regarding Japanese food-let’s just say I am working on my dad bod. I am also basically screwed. Japan has ruined me. I’ve had this feeling before. The summer after I graduated from high school I had my first Guinness beer. At a bar in Dublin. Every Guinness I’ve had since hasn’t come close. I still remember it. It was flat, un-carbonated. It was pitch black with a creamy head. For a kid from southern Cal that drank wine coolers (Don’t judge me, Bartles and Jaymes was big back then) and weak light beer, it was a revelation. I thought – give me 10 of these immediately.

The funny thing is we haven’t had that much sushi. The girls really aren’t into raw fish, so it’s been other types of Japanese food. Tonkatsu is one- a real thick piece of high quality pork with a light crunchy outer layer served with rice and julienned cabbage with an insanely good sauce. Another Guinness moment. Yakitori is another. We found an 80 year old yakitori place in Ginza. And I mean found- it took about 30 minutes to find the place. Good luck with addresses in Japan-you might as well be on Mars. The place was actually THE oldest yakatori place in Ginza- Ginza Torishige. I mean, its just barbecued chicken parts, why was it so damned good? It’s the simple stuff that has been so good.  “I wish I could export chicken to the U.S.,” said the owner. “It’s better than Tyson.” That night it was kinda tough to argue. And that wasn’t the 3 shots of 17 year old Japanese whisky talking.


Now that’s Tonkatsu.


Yakitori. Mushrooms wrapped with Duck, Chicken Skin, Chicken with green onions.

Japanese strangeness (con’t):


Instead of a coat check, an umbrella check.


Buy some cheese, get a little frozen packet to keep it cool on the way home.


Ear wax removal service. I guess that’s a thing.


Anti bacterial escalator handrail. Am I being punked?


Public smoking room.

The amount of times I hear Arigato Gozaimas (Thank You) when we leave a restaurant or store. The over/under is 10.

We are currently in Kyoto. Next stop is Osaka.


Thoughts on Japan by Kelly

Well we are on Day 12 of our round the world journey and so far so good.  Japan has been an amazing place to start our trip!  I can’t say enough about our experience.  The food has been incredible – sushi, ton katsu, teriyaki, Japanese pancakes called okonomiyaki, and yakitori at a place that has been serving the dish for 80 years!!  We navigated the subways and walked for miles to explore Tokyo – Harajuku neighborhood, Ghibli Museum, Tokyo Tower, an anime exhibit, giant pandas at the zoo and the Edo Museum.  The girls did great, although we all had to get over the jet lag, which would hit at all times of the day.  Thankfully we were staying the the Tokyo American Club which was a nice place to have some down time with a pool, a bowling alley and a library.  We have also lucked out on the weather – it has been slightly overcast with some breeze most of our time here.

We left Tokyo yesterday to head out of the big city to the area around Mt. Fuki, Hakone.  What an experience this has been!  After taking a train trip up the mountain in a funicular, we were transported to the beautiful, scenic small town of Gora.  We were taken to our Ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.  The girls were ecstatic to get kimonos to wear all during our stay. They also slept on traditional Japanese futons atop tatami mats to add to the experience!

The funicular we took to Hakone

The funicular we took to Hakone


Sleeping on futons on tatami mats


This area is known for hot springs, so needless to say, we soaked as much as we could in our own “onsen” on our deck.  After all of our walking and touring, I could have soaked all day and night!!  The highlight of our time at the ryokan were the meals.  We were served a traditional 12 course Japanese meal that words cannot even begin to explain – see pictures below.  The breakfast was just as amazing.  None of us were sure how we would feel about starting off our morning with fish and miso soup, but we were all pleasantly surprised.  And the girls were adventurous in trying all new things.  Lauren loved the rice porridge for breakfast, Claire now likes raw fish, and Grace ate up the clams in the miso soup this morning!  We are so proud of all they have been trying.


Relaxing in our hot spring


I could go on and on, but suffice to say that I think Japan is pretty great!  Their attention to detail is incredible, they are so respectful and helpful – a woman on the street actually put an address for a restaurant we were looking for into her phone and walked us there!!  It’s clean, it’s safe and super fashionable, which leads me to my luggage.  Yes, I am living out of a carry on for 1 year.  How am I going to do it it?  I’m not sure.  Things are already not fitting in the suitcase like they did the day we left San Francisco, yet I have nothing new in my bag.  Go figure.  The hard part is just seeing what other women are wearing and wanting to wear it too.  But, no worries, I will survive with what I have…..I hope.

Hard to believe it’s only been 12 days and we have 11 months to go on this crazy adventure.  We hope to keep blogging to keep you all up to date and to create a journal for ourselves of this amazing experience.

Grace’s thoughts on Tokyo

I think Tokyo is an amazing place.  It’s fun, it’s different, and it’s cool to eat their food. Tokyo’s food is very good.  I love the sushi.  It’s the best sushi I have ever had:)  They read up and down, they don’t read side to side. They have these bugs called cicadas that are as big as my sisters’ thumb. They take 7 years to grow underground and only live for a week.  Tokyo has these amazing museums that you should see.  Tokyo is really clean.  Some people dress different.  My favorite thing was going to the top of the Tokyo Tower.  It is slightly taller than the Eiffel Tower.


We are not in Kansas anymore…

Tokyo is not for the faint hearted. It’s intimidating. It’s a trip. It’s an assault on the senses. Hardly anyone speaks English. Its also hot as hell right now.


The Japanese subway map. Just slightly confusing.

But despite all that its also totally awesome.

This is my 2nd time in Tokyo, the last time with my family when I was about 14. I remember it being totally clean and weird and cool. I bought a samurai sword (unsharpened) and a fake wig with samurai hair. Thats how cool I was when I was 14.

This is my kids first international experience. They haven’t even been to Mexico yet. Tokyo was an easy first choice for me as its so completely foreign, pretty damn safe for one of the biggest cities on earth (a testament to Japanese culture), and its 1st world. Doesn’t hurt that the Yen is at multi year lows vs. the U.S. dollar as well.

I needed the first stop on this trip to be smooth, to start the trip right. We are staying at the Tokyo American Club through my Olympic Club membership and it has been the perfect oasis to chill out after our daily adventures in the city. The place where you can get burgers and a western breakfast. The place is great for kids, it has a six lane bowling alley, kids lounges, a kids library and a great rooftop pool with a patio that overlooks the city. They even have a kids daycare but we have not (yet) used, but its nice to know that we can. Everyone here has been super helpful.

Here are some example’s of Tokyo’s strangeness-

-All the driving and walking on the left side of the street. Not that big a problem since we aren’t driving, but I’ve almost run into people on the subway several times by walking on the right side.


Very Helpful.

-All the weird versions of western food

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Oreos with green macha filling. Coke Cola Life.

-These strange Teva-like elevator shoes that were pretty common in Harijuku


I could have used these on my high school basketball team.

-How clean everything is, the subways, the bathrooms, etc

-The cabs here look like they are straight out of the 70s, with some kind of lace covering the seats, and drivers dressed in suit and tie. Also the back doors automatically open and close. Nice touch.

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-The Toilets. You have probably heard of how hi tech Japanese toilets are-makes American toilets seem downright primitive. Heated seats, plays music so nobody can hear you do your business, the bidet feature-(I’m not saying I tried it but if I did I would find it strangely thorough) Some of them even open up when you approach them. It’s like meeting an old friend. We will definitely be getting one in the Alonso household when we get back.

-The strangest thing so far has been all the french bakeries we have seen. The Japanese know what’s up.

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Who knew the Japanese were such Francophiles?

The kids are still adjusting to everything. After 4 days I think we are finally over the jet lag. Its been a pain just getting them out of the room (and off their new kindles/ipads) but once we do they have totally loved our daily adventures. We are trying to pace ourselves and just do half days while throwing in day of just chilling once in a while.

We havent had a bad meal yet and the girls have been game to try everything. All my kids have nut and seed allergies so we have to give people a sheet of paper written in Japanese. Its worked out well so far. One french bakery even refused politely to sell us anything becuase there were nuts in the back-which is fine for us but we couldn’t communicate that. We appreciated the concern anyway. Just the general politeness and respect here is unexpected and refreshing.


Call in case of emergency. They also have McDonald’s delivery.


Every kid needs Grateful Dead ankle socks. Roll away…the dew…


Vending machines everywhere, in the most random places


Bowling at Tokyo American Club


Why not.


Ghibli Museum


Fake tears


What does this picture mean? Is this a Bansky?


If I could get away with wearing a nice bathrobe in the streets..


Foie Gras Sushi. I might frame this one.

Let’s Light This Candle!


We are ready to go! Yes we are just doing carry ons for our round the world trip. Most people find this just as crazy as actually traveling around the world. We will see if this works, I am not wedded to the idea and if it doesn’t work we can just buy things along the way. So far the best part of the trip is seeing the response from people when we tell them about our trip. My best responses so far:

“What are you going to do with all your clothes?”

“But you’re not supposed to do that” (Jokingly)

“How is that even possible?”

“Is somebody dying?”

It definitely messes with people’s minds. It definitely messes with mine. We have been living with Kelly’s parents in Moraga for the last couple of weeks since we have rented out our place to some friends who are remodeling their home. Its been a nice transition period since we have space to spread everything around and parking if we need to run errands. So we’ve been doing all the little things- getting flu shots, making reservations (the general plan is to plan on a rolling 2-3 month basis), packing, downloading apps and movie on iPads/Kindles. Right now we just want to get on the plane and get this going.

Regarding packing this is what I am bringing:

3 Pairs of shoes- tennis, birks, flip flops

4 Pairs of socks

2 Pairs of pants

3 Pairs of shorts (nice, swim, gym)

6 Pairs of unmentionables

3 T-shirts (All merino wool-which I just discovered. Supposed to be much better than cotton- doesn’t hold smells, keeps you warm and cool (look it up), much more durable). We will let you know how many days I can wear it before washing or until my girls don’t want to sit next to me.

1 Long sleeve merino wool shirt

1 Tennis Polo

3 Long Sleeve Button Downs

1 Merino wool hoodie

1 Rain Shell

1 Sun Shirt

3 Hats

Toiletries-I’m not going into all the details but nothing unusual


Cameras-Fuji X-100s, Canon S95 point and shoot, and Canon SL1 with two lenses- 18-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS STM and 28mm f/2.8 fixed.

2 phones (my CDMA iPhone which will be pretty much useless and will basically be an iTouch and an unlocked GSM phone-Moto G with a global SIM card from

Computers- MacBook Air (Kelly), iPad minis (Dave, Claire), Kindle Fire (Lauren, Grace)

There is more stuff too but if I’m getting sick of writing this you are probably sick of reading this.

I just really feel fortunate to be able to do this. Its pretty much the #1 thing on my bucket list. I feel that the universe really conspired to make this happen and that if the universe is going to help you out, it might as well be for something like this. I should probably start an orphanage or something to pay back the Karma.

First stop is Tokyo for 9 days.

Its 3 weeks in Japan, 3 weeks in China, and 3 weeks in Vietnam.

Thanks for following us! See you soon!