Throwback Trek (1996): Asia Through the Eyes of a Child

Tokyo, Japan & Hong Kong

Proverbs 21:21: Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness and honor.

Do you remember what you did on July 4, 1996? It was one of the most memorable Independence Days for me in my lifetime as my parents and I were in San Francisco, getting ready to board a flight to Tokyo the following morning.

I had a brief break-up with my love of traveling while Logan and I spent the past eight years planning our family: engagement, marriage, dog, homes, two children. But as I look through my childhood scrapbooks of our adventures through the world, I am again reminded how travel has always been such a huge part of my upbringing (and on how my hair was seriously, crazy red).

My dad held a position at Cigna {now he specializes in being our Pop!} that required him to travel extensively: thirty times to Tokyo, in fact. My mom joined him on trips when it worked out with our schedules, but when I was eleven years old, I joined my parents for an epic summer vacation to Tokyo & Hong Kong.

Tokyo

I don’t remember the long eleven hour flight from San Fran to Tokyo being too torturous, but I do recall playing more than four hours of Uno with my mom. I also recall getting a McDonald’s Happy Meal onboard and being able to tour the cockpit back when those types of things were allowed. I felt on top of the world!

Of all of our experiences there, the three that still stand out to me were: our stay at The Capital Hotel, our trip to Tokyo Disneyland and our experiences dining in Tokyo.

The Capital Hotel Tokyu was full of koi ponds, beautiful Japanese infrastructures and the most kind and accommodating people I have ever met. Every morning, I would rush into the gift shop in the lobby and practice a new phrase my dad had shared with me in Japanese. “Ohayōgozaimasu!”, I would yell, “Good morning!” And the hotel staff would bow and clap in delight.

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Tokyo Disneyland was such a magical experience! After going on rides and being a tourist for a few minutes, my parents and I began to point out the obvious. Are people staring at us? And they were! Dozens of Japanese residents were taking my picture as they had never seen a redhead. It was hilarious! What child would not dream to experience the magic of Disney in a different country?!

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Although we took tours of Japanese temples and gardens, some of my favorite memories were seeing somethings that reminded me of home in Japan. The bustling streets, honking and businessmen on the crosswalks looked and felt exactly like New York City. On every corner (or even more?), we saw McDonald’s with the menu in Japanese characters and we ate at The Hard Rock Cafe, because in the ’90’s, that was a staple when traveling.

As a child in Tokyo, the food was just, no. I lived on white rice and McDonald’s alone. My most memorable {well, really, unmemorable} experience in Tokyo was dining out at Inakaya Restaurant. This authentic Japanese restaurant was staged to have chefs dressed as samurais cook and serve your food. Samurais have swords. And they swing them around. In your face. Screaming. I spent the whole meal crying in fear and my parents couldn’t help but laugh.

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Hong Kong

When we visited Hong Kong in the nineties, the country was still under Great Britian’s ruling. Compared to Japan, Hong Kong was SO Americanized. I was finally eating chicken fingers, we stayed at a Marriott and it just felt so – modern with an Asian twist. There were so many high skyscrapers and it was such a remarkably clean city.

One of the highlights of our trip was to take Cigna’s boat down the East Lamma Channel. I fell in love with the thought of working in corporate America after spending an evening floating down the channel with my dad and his work buddies. In fact, for the remainder of our summer trip to Asia, I spent a lot of my time at the desk in the hotel room pretending to be my dad’s work assistant, Dawn Lawn, and fielding his “business calls” for him.

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I feel so blessed to have had these experiences as a little girl and they inspire me to show my boys the world that God created. I fell in love with specifically the Japanese culture and I feel like I left a little bit of my heart there. For now, “Sayōnara”!


Trek Difficulty Level: (3): The scale is 0-3, with 3 being the hardest trek. Honestly, Japan/Hong Kong are REALLY hard to get to! I can’t imagine flying that far right now with 2.5 year old G, so I’ve got to rate it a 3.

Trek Budget: $5000; Japan and Hong Kong are really, really expensive to visit. In the ’90’s, I remember my hamburger being $16 USD. For a ten-day trip, including airfare, lodging and food, I do not think a young family could spend less than $5000.

3 Trek Must-Dos: 

  • Don’t litter – Hong Kong, specifically, is the real deal about this! Gum or a wrapper on the floor could get you arrested
  • Learn conversational Japanese; the staff at popular hotels in Tokyo are so friendly and love to hear you practicing their language
  • Bring items from home as comfort objects; I have so many photos of me with my stuffed animals from home that I carried on the trip. Asia feels like an entirely different world, so bring along some familiar items!

 

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