"When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky"
-Guatama Siddharta

Over and under and up and down...sunshine and thunder...a laugh and a frown!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Sushi-go-round

Dinner tonight (Friday April 30, 2010) was near perfection! Adina and I ventured out into our neighborhood, blue street, named because there are blue tiles on the road (creative I know!) and what we dined on was fantastic!

Finally, after being in Japan for 2 weeks, we experienced the ever raved about sushi-go-round. The fish is fresh from the fish market that day, and there is a man making the sushi and putting it on color coded plates (each color represents a different price) and then onto the conveyor belt that shuffles the dishes around the people who are sitting around a bar. It doesn't get better than this I assure you!

I unfortunately did not have my camera with my for this dinner experience, but don't worry, we will be testing out every sushi-go-round in walking distance!

Oh and since it's Friday (crepe day...declared by Adina and I) we had a fantastic desert from the creperie (I think I made that word up) downstairs. You see a delicious looking chart with pictures and the varieties you can choose from, then you put your money in a vending machine thing, select the corresponding number for your treat, a ticket is printed that you then hand to the person at the counter. Seconds later you are dining on the most delicious treat ever! Mine tonight was this whipped cream (but heavier so I really don't know what it was), pudding (again I have no clue what it was), strawberries, and chocolate.

Not a bad little Friday night!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I take my pig tongue with wine in a can

To start things off, everything is better in a can here in Japan! I have tasted many varieties of coffee in a can (hot and cold versions) and have been thoroughly impressed. Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks has nothing on this system!

Adina and I discovered that the shopping mall/plaza/tower next to our hotel has a grocery and marketplace in the lower level. One of the stores (labeled Kaldi's Coffee) has a wide array of products, certainly not limited to coffee (in fact coffee is only a small portion of what they have). This is where we made a huge discovery...wine in a can! This is a fantastic little item that comes in a can about the size of a Red Bull can! There are several flavors, and all of the flavors come in regular or bubbly. I know you wine snobs out there are turning up your nose, but don't knock it until you try it, wine in a can is great!

Tonight (4/27/10) for dinner Adina and I decided to go to the Korean Restaurant that has been recommended on several instances. Let me tell you it's an intimidating menu and ordering process. We went with the all you can eat option (to try everything and if we don't like it we move on to the next). They bring small plates of uncooked meats and you cook it on a little hibachi style grill in the center of your table. Round 1 scared me from the start. Pig tongue. We both were pretty adamant that we weren't eating any kind of tongue. After a quick reminder that we did vow to eat adventurously we decided to split a piece of this grilled item...I kid you not when I tell you, it was delicious! For the record I loved the pig tongue! It had a great seasoning on it (I couldn't tell you what it was) and it really was great!

If ever you are at a Korean restaurant and you are unsure about what to get, I highly recommend the tongue, just make sure it's cooked enough...I hear that it can be kind of chewy if it's not!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Curfew and regulations...

Today Adina (coworker) and I attended an orientation briefing (we will be doing this all week) and learned a lot of interesting things.

Most importantly, that we (we being Americans) have a curfew. Monday through Friday we have can not be out at the bars near alcohol after 11:59 pm. On the weekends (Friday is iffy as to whether or not the MP's consider it a weekend day or not) we can be out at the bar around alcohol until 2 am. If you are caught there are some pretty hefty consequences, and even if you are not drinking. If you are sitting at a table with four people and there is one drink, all four will get charged with the offense. Warning taken, I will not be in that position!

No tattoos. I found this interesting considering the high concentration of military personnel with ink, but hey, who am I to argue. I guess some time in the not too distant past there was a bit of an epidemic with hepatitis and tattoo parlor's here.

No massage parlors. At first I was really bummed, until I realized that they meant those kind of massage parlors. I'm legit to go get a nice relaxing massage, I just have to stay out of the dodgy ones, the ones that the sailors preferred I guess.

Here is one of my favorite regulations: no going to Mr Lady's Transvestite Bar...sorry mom, I guess we can't stop there on our site seeing adventures when you get here!

The Fire Department did a presentation about fire safety and what to do in the event of an emergency (fire and natural disasters). Let me preface this by saying that the Fire Department on base is run by Japanese Nationals. We were warned to always lookout for salamis (Mike and Chrissy can appreciate this!) for everyone else, that translates to Tsunamis!

So you see, I have a lot to look out for here in Japan while minding my curfew! I love you all and definitely hope to make it out of here without any salamis!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kamikura, Hase, and The Great Buddha

On 4/23/10 which is yesterday for me but could very well be today for you, we visited Kamikura, Hase, and The Great Buddha. My first real expedition in Japan and it was fantastic, mainly because it didn't rain!

Kamikura was the first stop. You walk through the town and down the middle of the street is a walkway with beautiful flowers (the traffic is on each side of this). You follow this path to the main shrine. This place housed an ancient Gingko tree (now mainly just a stump) that was the site of a family murder that ended a dynasty in which this place was the capital city. While here we were able to see several weddings taking place (the final phase of the weddings, parts of the weddings are completely private and only the bride, groom, and the person performing the ceremony are present).

There were little street vendors along the way to the shrine in Kamikura, most of them selling some kind of candy, and several selling candied fruit. I tried the candied grapes (it was nasty, way too sweet!). Of course there was a stand selling some kind of hotdog dish. They love hotdogs here!

Next up we walked back to the Kamikura train station and went to Hase, home to several shrines and The Great Buddha. The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) is massive and I don't think my pictures quite captured that. We were able to pay 20 Yen and enter the Buddha (not very interesting and I hope to not have bad Juju as a result!) Walking back down from Daibutsu we stopped at another shrine, there were various parts to it and an uphill trek that took you to a lookout point with a great view of the beach. One portion of the shrine was dedicated to women who had lost children, there were thousands of small statutes to represent this.

The trains are pretty confusing, millions of different lines, sometimes the train will have 10 cars and at one point in the trip three will break off and go one direction and the rest of the train will o another so you have to make sure you are on the right car, etc. Very confusing!
video

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Adventurous eating

I swore to myself that I would be adventurous with my eating while here in Japan. Well last night started that off with a bang and I can definitely tell you some things that I will not be eating ever again!

The manager of our hotel wanted to take us all out to dinner (to his family's restaurant?), so we went to this great little establishment close to the hotel that was down and ally and literally almost covered by a banner with Kanji writing on it (you never would guess it was a restaurant/bar because we had to duck to get in, never mind see the place)

We sit down at this huge table with people who he introduced to us (Korean's who are his good friends, who live in the US, Seattle). He mentions something about Plum Sake, I don't remember ever agreeing to this beverage. Glasses are brought over, some identifiable, others less so. I can recognize a beer no problem, a small glass is put in front of me that looks like water with ice but when I sipped it it had a sweet flavor. Plum sake? Yes indeed it was. Made from fermenting plums in what looks to be a massive pickle jar sitting on a wall across from the bar. I'm certain they power the cars with this stuff!

Throughout the evening plates keep coming and the plum sake keeps flowing. Saying "no" or "no thank you" or "I don't eat that" is not an option. No means yes. In Japan at least. First plate was a variety of raw seafood (yellowfin, octopus, and squid). Squid I can tell you is foul in texture and doesn't have any flavor for the most part. The texture starts hard then rubbery then a part of is squishy. It was all I could do to keep it down (plum sake helped). Octopus (Yes BRad I tried it!) was interesting. The tentacles were still there which was a little much for me, again, the texture was just strange, kind of rubbery but not too bad. Yellowfin on the other hand was the best that I have ever had, very fresh and delicious!

Next up. Chicken balls. I can't be certain that this wasn't literal. I tried to clarify but seeing as I don't speak Japanese and don't know if "balls" translates the same, my efforts were lost in translation! I tried it. It was very gamey, not like any chicken I've had.

Next was a plate of pizza, clearly done for our benefit. I actually passed on this dish (I don't think they new, they were too preoccupied trying to make sure my plum sake glass was full!)

Next plate was "meat" cutlets that they called chicken. Again I tried it. gamey. But the wasabi textured condiment (it was yellow and very much like horseradish) was fantastic!

Final plate was what I like to call meat on a stick. I think it was pork, and for a non-pork eater it was pretty good. There was some kind of sauce on it giving it some flavor.

After all of the eating Yoshi-San (our hotel manager) wanted to take us out for Karaoke (haha!) He wasn't really taking no for an answer but thankfully our supervisor was with us and she was more firm about us being tired, etc. She was able to respectfully get us out of that portion of the evening! Karaoke will have to be experienced at a later time, not a work night!

Sorry no pictures of the food/experience. It was pouring and I didn't bring my camera to dinner (Had I known what was in store I would have been more diligent about it!)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...


Pictures will follow later because I have not been astute enough to capture these elements of awesomeness! So here we go, and please don't be jealous! Thus far my favorite things in Japan are: what I refer to as the "magical toilet seat", and the coffee in a can machines. These things are amazing and need to somehow come home with me!

The magical toilet seat (first encountered at the Radisson near the airport, but then also later discovered to be in the airport bathrooms as well) is a device (kind of like a seat cover) that goes on the toilet. It has various buttons on the side with some pretty amazing options. Two of my personal favorites are the heated seat option and the faux flush option (I guess the sound creates the appropriate ambiance). The other options are a bit intimidating and definitely not standard on American toilets (bidet, shower, heated shower, etc).

The coffee in a can machines are vending machines that have sports drinks, energy drinks, water (although that was questionable), tea (available hot or cold), coffee, and fruit drinks with real chunks of fruit. Some of them also have beer. The coffee in a can is fantastic! You have the option of selecting hot or cold, and it literally comes out of the machine nice and warm in a red bull sized can! It doesn't get much more wonderful than this folks!

Last night I ate at a "chain" restaurant with one of my coworkers, it was called Coco Curry and it was fantastic (it has been recommended to us at least 3 times in the 3 days that we have been here!) The process is great, you basically piece together your plate of wonderfulness starting with how much rice you want, you then move on to the ingredients that you want in your curry, next is the crucial step, your level of heat...Anyone can select levels 1-5, but levels 6-10 can not be chosen until you have eaten a full plate of level 5. This is a serious system people! I chose level 3 and will be going no higher! It was wonderful but I definitely felt burning!

Now that I have been moved into a non-smoking closet...I mean room, things are looking up! I purchased some things on base to make it more like "home" including some coffee essentials! There are some really fantastic things to do around here and I have a coworker who enjoys similar things, so I have a feeling we will be doing a lot of exploring on weekends/after work! Yesterday we learned about a place where you can rent kayaks (near the seawall) and you then can kayak out to Monkey Island (there are no monkeys). This will happen soon! Adina (coworker) and I are also looking into renting bikes for our rotation here because we do not have a car, and for the days when it's extra rainy that will be a quicker jaunt to base! Everyone here rides bikes and walks (which is great!)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

With love from St Louis

So I had a fantastic dinner with even more fantastic friends last night, only return to my goodbye present from the lovely city of St Louis...



This is the temporarily repaired version of the mess that I received. Apparently someone decided that they needed/wanted something within my car. What they were probably looking for was a GPS (I never leave that in my car), what they walked away with was my phone charger and a cable that plays my iPod through the car's radio. Wonderful! So, added to my very long pre-departure to-do list now is to have my car window repaired and to somehow remove the very small shards of glass that are everywhere.

Japan 2010

Hello dear friends, family, stragglers, and whatever other label you may attach to yourselves...
I decided that this was the best way to keep everyone informed/posted/and full of pictures of my journey in Japan, not knowing how effective the internet will be at my hotel, this seems like the best way to reach the masses! So, you're all traveling with me :) Oh yeah, we leave Saturday!