Surprise! This morning, I met my cousin and we traveled about an hour and a half on three different trains to make it to the Shiga Prefecture, where her parents live. I was so excited, because I haven’t seen their family in 16 years, since the last time we were all in the Philippines back in 2001! We were picked up from the train station by my uncle and we drove to their house in Shiga. As soon as I opened the door, I was immediately greeted by the sound of my aunt’s screams and enjoyment! Anyone that knows my family, knows that they are loud and proud, but Auntie Helen takes home the gold! She is the youngest and most energetic out of the eight siblings on my dad’s side.
Auntie Helen cooked a feast in anticipation for my arrival. To my surprise, she had a spread of chicken cordon bleu (with a panko crust!), thinly sliced beef, fresh veggies, dipping sauces, and a blueberry cheese tart for dessert! Oh my goodness. I was so full after our meal! It was so delicious and such a treat! After lunch, I video-chatted with my parents to surprise them. They knew I was in Japan, however, they thought I was only staying in Tokyo (which was the original plan). They were both so surprised to see Auntie Helen in the background, and I will never forget the look on my dad’s face. Since I wasn’t able to see my family in the Philippines again, I’m so glad I was able to visit our family in Japan! My dad is a man that likes routine, but he even said that this was a “good surprise.”
When the (very loud) conversation between the sibs was over, we left the house to go to Blumen Hugel Farm, which is an agricultural park in Shiga. We walked around the gardens and took lots of pictures with the flowers. My favorite part was the ginormous sunflowers that were standing tall. There were so many of them! In the spring, around late-March to early-April, the park is full of cherry blossoms that bloom for about two weeks. I’d love to come back and see the Japanese cherry blossoms someday!
Around 5:30pm, Uncle Frank picked us up from the park, and we stopped for ice cream on the way home. We had a quick rest and then picked up my other cousin from the train station in the evening. The last time I saw him, he was barely 1 yo and wearing diapers. Now, he is taller than me! I taught them all how to do a proper “sake bomb,” which is not-at-all Japanese and all-American. It was all a good time. Before I left, they took me out to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. We had a tower of plates stacked up by the end. After dinner, I got dropped off back at the train station and my cousins walked me all the way to the gate. I successfully made all three trains back to Kyoto on my own, with lots of help and planning from my cousin and had a hot shower then went straight to bed. Tomorrow I will be exploring the tourist sites around Kyoto that I missed, then I’ve got a few more surprises in store!