Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bullet Train, Bullet Train, Yeaahh! So Faaasst!

As summer came rushing to an end, Josh and I decided that we should take a short trip up to central Japan, to visit some of our great friends, Kelly and Corey. They were our neighbors when we lived in San Diego several years ago and we have been in touch through our many moves around the country as well as the world. Between the two families we  had been trying to manage a trip either here to Sasebo, or there to Atsugi for a while now, but it just hadn't happened.  Kelly and Corey are about ready to leave Japan and head to another duty station, so Josh and I decided it was now or never!   Although we live on different islands, about 17 hours away from each other by car, that didn't stop us! We decided we would just cross another thing off on our bucket list of things to do in Japan, and hop on the Bullet Train, or as the Japanese call it, the Shinkansen and head on up to Atsugi.  It was an all day affair, but it was worth it!  The bullet train was fun and it looked JUST like the interior of an airplane.

As we went from station to station, speeding down the tracks at a speedy 100+ miles per hour, we got to see some of the beauty Japan has to offer. My favorite view was of Mt. Fuji... Isn't it just amazing?!?

    Our main reason, (well, my main reason and perhaps Kelly's too) for us going up to visit on this particular weekend, was because she's always telling me about the "Shrine Sales" that are held up in the Tokyo area.  I guess we don't have such things down on Kyushu, but from what she was telling me, I knew I really wanted to check it out!!  After all, I'm a recycle shopping addict!! This particular sale happened to be that weekend, so we figured we'd plan the trip for then. A "Shrine Sale" is a giant recycle shop, or for those of you in the states, a big Goodwill, (with much better stuff) outside, with hundreds of vendors and thousands of people and it goes on for 6+ blocks!!  It's a bunch of second hand stuff, that people don't want and sell to others. HOWEVER, these second hand shops are like NOTHING you've ever experienced before. It could be because I'm American and I think Japanese stuff is so much cooler than American stuff, but it seems to be something that a lot of people, American and Japanese enjoy. I wish I had taken a picture or two from the shrine sale I went to, but I didn't, so I found these on line..

I had such fun looking through all of the bins and piles of stuff, chatting with Kelly and another friend who lives up there, Sandy. I found many kokeshi dolls to help aid my kokeshi addiction and a few other small things. I very easily could have spent all day there just looking and looking. There were thousands of Kokeshi dolls and no way I could have purchased them all, although Josh swears I did attempt to!  Perhaps I will do a post showcasing my collection some time?? 
 After we were done with our morning shopping excursion, we headed back to base to get ready for the Bon Odori festival, that was being held later that evening.  Kelly and her family were very involved in the entire festival, with Kelly dancing and her two oldest boys playing Taiko Drums. I have many pictures of that evening and all of thefun we had. Hannah got to dress up in a Yakata (summer Kimono) and even had a very nice Japanese lady help her put it on correctly.  Stay tuned for another installment of, " Bullet Train, Bullet Train, Yeaahh, So Faaast!", to see pictures of the festival and of Hannah all dressed up in her beautiful Yakata!!! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Campaign for a new Mac Book!!

 Well, I've failed to keep up with my blogging, as you can all see from the last date I blogged.... IN JANUARY!  I'm trying to convince Josh that he should buy me a Mac Book, so that I can sit comfy cozy on the couch with him in the evenings and blog my little heart out. It's just not as fun or comfortable blogging from a hard kitchen chair in the dining room, when he's in the living room on the couch watching TV.. As you can tell, I've not been successful, cause I haven't blogged since January and here I sit on my hard kitchen chair in the dining room.  I love IMac, I just wish it was sitting on my lap instead of on a desk. Silly I know.. However, if you like my blog and want me to continue blogging for your entertainment, send Josh a little note of encouragement.. ;O)
  Anyway, I guess I will start with what we've done lately and then work backwards over the last few months until I'm caught up!  Here I go!!!

 Monday, August 27th, was the first day of school for the girls. Hannah started 5th grade and Elliot started 2nd. Like every parent says- " I can't believe they have gotten so big so fast. Where did the time go?"  We ordered special first day of school outfits a month before school started, but they didn't arrive in time, so instead we dug through their closets to find something " semi new" to sport on the first day. I don't think we did too shabby!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kintai Bridge

During our trip to Iwakuni for the girls swim meet, we also planned to go visit a few neat place near by. Our first stop was at the Kintai Bridge. The Kintai Bridge is a historic bridge in Iwakuni, that was built in 1673 and spans the Nishiki River in 5 wooden arches. It is also at the base of Mt, Yokoyama. At the top of Mt. Yokoyama sits the Iwakuni Castle. You can see it here in this picture, if you look through the bridge up at the top of the mountain.

Apparently the bridge was originally built completely out of wood, but it was destroyed several times, by floods and typhoons.  Finally they rebuilt it on these pillars and used nails to bind the wood together, instead of fitting together the pieces of wood together like puzzle pieces, as they had previously. Here are a  few other views of the bridge..

Along the side of the shore I spotted some cool little wooden boats with roofs. I wanted to photograph them, but I couldn't get a good angle. So instead I took the picture from this angle. Still pretty neat I think, but not what I was going for. They remind me of little party boats with the table in the center, but I'm not exactly sure what they are used for. 

While we strolled back towards the bridge checking out little shops, one of which was a stone doll shop. Legend tells that two young girls were sacrificed before the building of the bridge, to ask the "Gods" for ease in building it. The dolls, called Ishi ningyo, have been said to be the incarnations of the souls of the girls who died.  The "dolls" are found in the river bed and are sold as souvenirs. 
We also ran into a very sweet Japanese lady who was very interested in Elliot! She was enamored with her blue eyes and light hair. This was a quick snapshot, but it was so cute to see this woman so excited to see a little blonde American.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Off Exploring Japan We Go!

This past weekend, our family took a trip up to Iwakuni, which is about five hours north east of Sasebo and on Honshu Island, which is considered mainland Japan. The main reason for the trip is that the girls had a swim meet against the MCAS Iwakuni swim team. We only swim against them, because that base is the closest to us and also the only team that speaks English. So on Friday, we packed up the rental car, borrowed our friends GPS and off we went! Why did we rent a car, you ask? Well, Japanese toll roads are out of the world expensive and it actually costs less to rent a car and get the toll tickets paid for, (as part of the rental) than it is to drive your own car and pay the tolls yourself. How much is a toll you ask?? Well, we paid about 6000 yen, which is $78.15 for just one toll!!
     So we arrived in Iwakuni on Friday evening, checked into our room and then went to get some dinner. Everyone here always talks about how there's a Pizza Hut in their food court, so we were bee lining it for the Pizza Hut! I know people think we're crazy saying that we were so excited about Pizza Hut, but you have to understand that the only pizza we get is called Alexanders Pizza and it's NOT very good. We can't go out for an American Pizza in Japan. Well, at least I haven't found a place to go yet. Most "pizza's" out in town have very interesting things on top.. Like mayonnaise!! Who eats mayonnaise pizza?!?!?
   So, Saturday was the girls swim meet. We arrived at the pool at 12 and the meet started at 1. The girls changed up and started their warm ups, and I started playing around with my new camera!! Josh bought me a new camera and lens for Christmas and a friend of our who was a professional photographer, offered to help me learn how to use it NOT on auto mode. So, I decided to play around a bit with different techniques. My first was to try and freeze motion. So while Hannah was taking a short rest I had her splash water up in the air.. This is what I got...

                        I also couldn't resist taking a photo of my sweet girls loving on each other!

Fun was had by all at the meet, the girls were exhausted by the time it was over and were ready for bed by 6:30! We went and had some dinner and then chilled at the hotel for the rest of the night to prepare for our exciting day visiting Miyajima and the Kintai Bridge!!