Monday, March 31, 2008

for those who have not seen our house

For those who have not seen our house in Japan, here it is. Our neighborhood is quiet and peaceful and the neighbors, although most do not speak English, are kind and considerate. It is a nice big drafty house with wood floors and lots of rooms. It gets very cold in the inside, in the winter. There is one large tatami room divided in two by sliding doors. It is the one where the shutters are closed over the windows. We dumb gaijin don't use that room much because the floor isn't practical for our heavy furniture. Our dog isn't allowed in there either, on strict instructions from the landlady who lives next door! There is a very high likelihood that he would pee on the tatami mats and rip them up a bit with his claws. I might also mention that our two darling sons have gone in there and played with swords, puncturing one of the lovely shoji screens. A small mountain rises up in the back, more of a hill and covered with bamboo trees. In a good storm you can hear them swaying, knocking and cracking. Imagine the hum of cicadas and the summer and the shriek of brown hawks circling all around.
Home Sweet Home, for now.
This is a picture of our neighborhood, at the end of the block, of old Kanai-san's store. We are not sure how old he actually is. We are not sure exactly what the hours of his store are, but he can often be seen outside of the store watching for people walking their dogs and kids leaving the elementary school. The little road in front is a skinny but two-way bridge, which is off limits to vehicles every day from 1-4pm, which is when there are the most children walking home from school If an unsuspecting person missed the sign and tries to drive over the bridge, they will get their comeuppence from Mr. Kanai-san, in Japanese.
It took about six months before he would look us in the eye and nod a greeting to us in the road. One year into living in the neighborhood and a few delieveries of brownies and rice krispy treats later, he smiles and waves at us.
I am always comfortable to sen Nate over to the store for a treat. There are only a couple of each item, of all the few goods available, so I know he will not spend all of his allowance in that one spot. And Kanai-san will keep a couple of his favorite candy bars and reach one for him when he comes in.

Only in Japan

Only in Japan... can a person find this yummy most awesome yogurt. Aloe Vera! Its really good, full of real chunks of aloe very which groes well here outside by the way. The pieces remind me of honeydew melon but not as sweet. So fresh, green and springy tasting!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Last night the kids and I went with a couple of Oakleaf families to Chinatown in Yokohama for some Chinese food. Jose had a party with the Japanese intern alumni, alumnesses ? alumnobs? anyway, he couldn't make it. Anyway, we took the train from Yokosuka to Yokohama station, about 1/2 hr or so. I would have paid better attention if the boys would not have teased eachother so much. Then, we got on the train Minato-Mirai and took it to motomachi something or other, or something. Turn into the Chinatown gate, go down the block, turn at the coconuts and that is precisely how to get to this restaurant. We had our own little tatami room which was cool. Kathy Mullens had the stroke of pure genius to bring a little portable DVD player to keep tiny little Erin out of trouble when she was done at the table. I did not bring enough duct tape to keep Nate out of trouble however. Our food was yummy: a plate of asparagus, a plate of spicy tofu, a plate of beef and peppers, a plate of fried chicken chunks for the picky ones, two big bowls of homemade noodles and spicy broth, some awesome fried rice with lots of shrimp, some fried dumplings and bowls of rice for everyone. The grownups had Jamine tea, my kids had coke.
Frankie really likes babies. Here he is with Kathy's little chubber, Natalie. She is darling! Frankie has a patience and gentle touch with babies and toddlers and I think he will make a great babysitter. I don't know why this gentle spirit or kindness does not extend to his little brother.

This is Darlene, her husband Bob, a surgeon at USNH who works with Jose and sometimes goes out for beers with him at the O Club after work on a Friday, and their little peanut Zelig. I must confess I teased Zelig and made him giggle and act silly the whole way to Yokohama. He is going to be four on July 21. He is going to have cake but no ice cream. He does not need any ice cream. He is going to get a Ben 10 watch. There will be Power Rangers there. His friends will be there. I am not his friend. I can come, but I cannot have any of his cake.

This is Kathy and her two girls, the baby Natalie and the the irrepressible Erin. Kathy is in my book club and usually reads the books. To top it off, she usually has intelligent and thoughtful comments and ideas about the book. I really like Kathy despite this. Her husband Frank is a radiologist at the hospital. Poor gal, he is one of only two so he is on call every other week intead of every 4th week like Jose. She is getting practice taking these two dumplings of the trains with their stroller, diaper bag, etc.

After dinner, we walked around a bit and enjoyed the sights. We got ice cream cones. It was hard to choose from: green tea, black sesame, chocolate, strawberry, mango, grape, pineapple, vanilla. Nate had chocolate and I had pineapple. Frankie was too cool for ice cream and as you will notice, he was too cool to stand too close to me because, in fact, I embarrass him. I do many embarrassing things and in fact my very existence is embarrassing. Now, isn't that an ironic twist of fate. More on that later, I am sure.
As you can see in the picture, there is a young person selling roasted chestnuts. There were lots of roasted chestnuts stands. They are pretty good, if a bit starchy and mealy. But yummy with syrup over them as a desert. I did get some giggles when a strange man offered me a taste of his nuts and then insisted that I eat one. Maybe one ok, but I'm not buying the whole sack. Sorry.

The city and the base are filled with cherry blossoms. It's time for picnics and sake under the trees. That is, until the first good rain or strong winds blow them away...

Awww, the cherry blossoms are out!

Living in Japan is certainly an experience! Being a gaijin or foreigner in Japan, I have fun with the interesting and sometimes downright wierd products I see in stores. I have not actually tried this yet, but I bet it would be awesome on a hot summer day.