Something amazing!

Oh yes! That is what it looks like! Oh heavenly I am glad I found you. These precious gems were found at the liquor store next to our grocery store. Apparently they have quite a large selection of imported foods for pretty reasonable prices. Only about 700 yen for these bad boys. (Around $7 US) We found spices, pasta all sorts of things that we really enjoy cooking with! Thank you Yamaya!

It's a gathering

Last weekend my husband and I headed to the closest city for a party. It was a gathering for all the JETs in the Miyagi prefecture. It certainly was an adventure.

After scheduling two wrong hotels we showed up with a friend at his hotel to check in and managed to get a room, for the same price but it was a smoking room :( Smallest hotel room I have ever stayed in, but not too bad.

The bar that we were meeting at was definitely not big enough for the party. We had half the small bar to ourselves, but there were 40-50 JETs. Suposidly free drinks although I only had one because the waitstaff was so small they couldn't handle the drink orders. Not worth the money we paid to get in the door but it was nice to meet some other people that do what Luke does, who speak English, and many from countries other than America.

After the bar the plan was to go to karaoke or something but we ended up going to a Jazz Club instead. Very cool to find one in Japan and they had live music that was pretty decent.

Interesting how things get funnier the later you stay up!

Now that's a good one. Thanks to Eric Chan for the photos.

We left the Jazz club around 11:00 or 11:30 and headed to the hotel. I know this sounds early for a night on the town, but when you spend most nights just relaxing after an intense brain workout and bed around 9 or 9:30, staying up until 11 is a big deal! I know, we are getting old!

Eric said he knew the way back to our hotel so we had nothing to worry about, and he did, although it seems that there are like 3 hotels in the chain that we booked in the city and we were at the wrong one! Yeah, we managed to find all the other hotels before we got to ours at 1:30AM! Totally the best part of the night. Thanks Eric!!!

Track suits and hidden views

Oh the joy of track suits...

We went with Luke's advisor, Reiko Watanabe, to the sports store so we both could get track suits. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, the Mayor is gifting both of us track suits, so off we went to the store to find the right one.

Reiko-san said we had a budget of one maan each, which is a little over $100. We were very greatful, not only have I never owned a track suit before but now I was about to own a top of the line track suit!

When we get to the track suit section Reiko-san goes straight up to the guy working there and says that we want to see the track suits that are one maan, no more no less. Luke and I looked at each other. In America if you have $100 you can get several track suits or even get a cheaper one to save the person buying the present some money, but no, we were getting a $100 track suit exactly!

So I pick out one to try on, find what I think is my size and one bigger just in case and get in the dressing room. Low and behold the smaller size fit! It was awesome, I thought I looked good. I open the door and Reiko-san is standing outside with Luke. Luke tells me it looks good and she just looks at me and says that it doesn't look comfortable...

So after many smacks on my ass and telling me that I am too big and the store doesn't have sizes to fit me, and trying on MEN's track suits, AND matching suits with my husband, I ended up getting the first suit is the larger size that I hadn't tried on...

Needless to say, Japan has a huge weight complex. I thought that it was just America but no, I think Japan is worse, they are in your face about it too.

Anyway, moving on. The day did get better. On the way home Reiko-san took us to this place behind our house up in the mountains that we didn't know about. We will have to bike up there some weekend.

Hey Lindsey look! Me in front of the hidden lake high in the mountains behind our house. A definite biking spot some weekend.

On my own

I finally went out on my own...on my a new direction...and found something awesome! I have written about the 7-11 that I frequented before I acquired Blue Steel, well I headed in that direction with the plan of passing the 7-11 and just seeing where that road goes. No need to get lost, just take the same road so you can find your way back. And that was a great idea.

The road I took goes straight into Taiwa Town at the foot of the mountains. Just a short trip out my front door and I can be at the mountains! How sweet is that?!

Once on the other side of town there are no buildings to obscure the view. Just rice fields and these flowers.

I got a late start and left after lunch and had to be home to have dinner with Luke so I was only gone for about an hour. I will have to come back here and explore if there is a way up the mountain. But it was a beautiful day and Luke was right, when it's sunny out the rice fields blowing in the wind really does look like the ocean. Totally awesome!

Luke's first day

Just thought everyone should see what he looks like on his first day teaching for real...with kids.

View from the top

Ok so I know I haven't posted in a while, but lets face it, between moving to another country, going to welcome parties (of which we still have more to attend) and starting a new job, not to mention biking around town to get to know the place, we have been a little busy here.

So I did happen to ride to Ohira Castle and here is the view from the top overlooking the countryside and part of our town.

You can see our apartment in this picture. It's the grey building behind the white square to the right of the blue sign....ok well I can see the apartment I don't know about you!

To the right of the last picture you have this view. These mountains are part of the seven mountains of Taiwa. Future camping trip?

Simple Tasks

I have discovered that even the simplest of tasks can be very difficult in another country. When lunchtime came around I decided to make just a simple yakisoba (Japanese noodle) but was stumped as to how to boil the water. Stupid as that seems, it caused me to melt down a little. When you can't read any of the buttons on the microwave (and there are no numbers), you can't figure out how to get the stove to work (gas stove) and can't find the tea kettle (which wouldn't matter because you can't get the stove to work) it makes having noodles very difficult.

I attempted to put water in a bowl and warm it up by pressing random buttons on the microwave. When I thought it was hot enough I tried to pour it into the noodle bowl. Pouring from a bowl is a bad idea. It went everywhere, none of it on the noodles. So I set down a towel and tried again.

Now you may be asking yourself, "why is she not making something else" and my reply is what else should I make if I can't use the microwave or the stove! Nothing.

So I warmed up a glass of water this time and nearly filled the bowl. The water wasn't hot enough. I was afraid it wouldn't cook the noodles. So I tried one last time, pressing a new button and that got the water piping hot.

Ok, so I added the hot water and waited what seemed like a fair amount of time. I couldn't read the directions of course and there were no numbers to give it away. When I thought it was done I added the two packets of sauce and other stuff.

Turns out you are supposed to drain the water before you add the sauce. I didn't know that until Luke got home and told me. That's probably why it didn't taste very good. I won't make those mistakes again and now I have found the tea kettle and know how to use the stove. I am on my way.

I can boil water now!

Big Bike Adventure

Ok so I was totally pumped to get my bike but was unable to ride it the day we got it! Sad, I know! So Luke and I decided that we would take them out on Sunday and ride to the mall because we needed a few things. So we hopped on our matching bikes of awesomeness and headed out of town.

Just out of town is a cool view of some rice fields between two forests. We stop to take pictures and it's the only time we stop on the way there. I look a little confused as Luke tries to figure out the camera on his new iPhone.

I made him get in one.

The ride there was long, well long for me but probably not long for some, about 9.5 miles one way, uphill in the rain and snow with no shoes!!! Ok, that's not true but the uphill part is true. The whole way uphill. It sure makes for a good time back home!

We get to the mall and went to the cinema to see what was playing. Unfortunately we didn't realize that they do dub some of their English films and the only subtitled ones were playing at night. We couldn't stay that long because I don't have a light on my bike just yet so we had to be home by dark. Dark comes really early here, like 6:45 and sunrise well before 5 AM.

We walked around for a bit, went into a CD/DVD store called Sludge (or something like that!) where I realized that we would never make enough money to buy a DVD here! Holy crap people! I guess they do have to import the English DVDs but even the Japanese ones are really expensive. About $32 for a new Japanese DVD so you can just imagine what an English one costs! So no shopping there.

We went downstairs to the cheaper part of the mall where we found everything we needed. Mainly a pair of track pants for me and some new shorts for us both. We found a few other things we couldn't live without and then decided we were famished and were ready to head back.

About half way home was a restaurant called Joyful which Luke had eaten at with some other people before I had arrived. He enjoyed it so we stopped there to eat.

We ordered all matter of food and while we waited for it to arrive we got some drinks. I started out with some strawberry tea over ice which tasted remarkably like strawberry Nesquik! And Luke had grape soda which he said was "a totally orgasmic drink!" (Grape soda in my hand something else green in Luke's)

We ordered these chicken popper things as a appetizer. I pick one up and put it into my mouth and eww, it's very fatty. I remember how all the chicken I have had so far has been real and I just think maybe that's all that's happened. Then Luke grabs one...same thing. Then he thinks to tell me "oh by the way you have to be careful what you order when it looks like that on the menu. Here you can order chicken cartilage instead of just chicken!" EWWWW. Yes, we indeed had ordered cartilage by mistake. We didn't eat anymore of that.

Here I am with my lunch sipping my wonderful strawberry milk...I mean tea. Whatever, it was good!

My lunch close up. It was great, all cartilage aside. Clockwise from top left: miso soup (a true staple of Japanese quisine), dipping sauce for my pork, rice, pickled pickles (I call them this because they don't taste like regular pickles) and my pork and salad on the big plate. Between the dipping sauce and the breading on the pork it had a delightfully sweet taste. Like brown sugar and coconut or something. It was great.

Perhaps one of my favorite foods of all time, in any country, is gyoza. Lightly fried and great in its oily sauce it is just so tasty. You can find this same dish in many asian countries by different names. In Chinese it has a thicker wrapper but just as amazing! We made it in our apartment in Iowa all the time but now I have a different way to prepare it!

Of course we have to have a picture of Luke eating! He had a beef rice thing and miso.

We coasted all most all the way home and made it in time to get a lovely view of the seven mountains of Taiwa, our neighboring town.

Here is a better view of the mountains! I think we will clime them soon. It is lovely country here. Come join us if you can!

Ohira Festival

The Japanese sure know how to party! They do it up right the old fashioned way. And when I say old fashioned I couldn't be more accurate. From traditional drummers to village men retelling the tales of the samurai in dance to the dance of the dragon, they bring the old ways into new light.

The children played bingo and won prizes, there was a drawing for many many prizes for the adults and tons of food. I was so taken in by all the entertainment that I almost forgot to eat lunch!

As we waited our turn to get dressed up in the traditional garbs of Japan we witnessed the making of green tea by some of the ladies of the village. The tea is made from powder and not leaves. It is much stronger this way and doesn't leave stuff at the bottom of your bowl. Here she is adding the hot water to the powder.

Little appetizers were passed out as the tea was being made (she made it one bowl at a time). I don't know what they are called and Luke was having a little bit of difficulty understanding the old man who was describing the tea ceremony to him. All I know is you cut them with the stick and then spear the pieces with the stick to eat them.

There wasn't much to the flavor despite the colorful appearance. The texture was very soft and kind of doughy. And that's basically what they tasted like but they sure were pretty!

The tea, once prepared, was the prettiest shade of green you have ever seen. The liquid its self was a deep pine green with a foamy green over the top (pictured above) and tasted amazing. As you receive the bowl of tea you turn it three times to the right, and when giving it back you turn it three times to the left. Nothing homier than drinking a fresh ground bowl of tea!

Then it was time to get dressed up! Yeah, you see that right! It took three ladies to get Luke dressed! Don't feel too bad for him. It took four to get me dressed! There are lots of layers.

Luke the final product.

Us together! You can stop laughing any time!

We met lots of the students that Luke would be teaching. Everyone in town was at this festival. Here are some of the girls from the Junior High with Luke. You should have heard them giggle when Luke told them that we were married. Think of the most innocent, girliest giggle you can imagine....yeah like that!

The night ended with awesome fireworks over the park. I think there are fireworks at like every event and festival! They really like those fireworks.

My awesome new ride!

Saturday morning bright and early we went into town with Luke's supervisor and her husband to get me a bike! Finally we will be able to ride places together. Up until now we have been at the mercy of other people with cars to get us around. You see, although we are in a "village" we are on the outskirts of a large town and a car, or bike, really comes in handy.

So we arrived when the bike shop opened and looked around in awe. There were hundreds of bikes. If you ever want to open a bike shop, Japan is the place to do it! They will never be out of business, and people here will pay lots of money for a bike. Luke took me over to the mountain bikes. We had decided against the granny bikes, which most people in Japan own, because they don't have any speeds and with all the hills here and the places we want to go on our bikes we wanted more to our bikes.

When we had finally settled on one (it was the exact same as Luke's, color and everything) we told the owner. He was the same man that had helped Luke and of course, being the only non-Japanese around, he remembered Luke. Then he asked if we wanted to see the blue one. And I was like yeah! Alothough Luke's silver bike is very pretty I thought it would be nice to have one we can tell apart. And he brought it out, beautiful and shiny blue!

This is my new Diamondback bike! I love all 21 speeds! I call it "Blue Steel"! The reference is from Zoolander. I thought it fitting!

This is my kick ass kick stand. Every bike in America should have one of these. It is locked so it doesn't go forward. You put your foot on the short part to unlock in and move it back. It's awesome!

And here are my handlebars with gear shifters on both sides and my cute little bell which comes in handy when little grannies can't see you coming from behind! Soon I will get a light to put on the front for night riding.

P.S. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Japanese are a gift giving culture and when Luke bought his bike from this man he was given a bike light as a gift. When we got mine he gave me an awesome bike lock and chain oil. The Japanese are awesome!

Paaku Golfu

The agenda for the second day was to play Park Golf with nearly everyone that my husband works with. That morning Luke had to go to work. They didn't so much work as go on a tour of the new Toyota factory that is being built in town. (We are both not sure why the teachers took a tour of the factory but...oh well.) All the teachers were free a little before noon so Luke and I had time to have lunch before getting ready for Park Golf.

We walked again to the trusty 7-11 to find lunch. Don't worry this won't become a habit, especially for someone blogging about food, but with nothing in the house it was a must. I actually discovered something awesome. We had thought about getting the same thing as the day before but then I saw this noodle thing in the refrigerated section. It had chicken strips on top and we both thought "why not." So we gave it a go. They were fabulous meant to be eaten cold. There was a sauce that you add and then mix around the chicken, lettuce, carrot sticks and something else (long and white). It was great!

Then at 1:30 we were picked up for Park Golf.

So how to play Park Golf? It's quite easy and fun. You play two rounds of nine holes each (like regular golf) except you only have a putter and the ball is the size of a tennis ball but harder and colored. There are four people that play each hole (each with their own color ball). You draw sticks at the first hole to find the playing order and then you start. You keep score just like regular golf. Plus the view is amazing! It's better than "put put" because it's not cheezey. The distance along the green is actually pretty far so you get the chance to really hit the ball which was rather fun. Luke and I scored pretty well. I actually made it in under par a couple of times, which was amazing because I have never played golf before. Everyone was laughing and it was so much fun.

(These pictures were not taken on the day of Park Golf but this is where we played. I didn't have time to take my camera with me when we played. These were taken at the Ohira Festival which was right next to the course.)


Here are a few pictures and random thoughts.

These are peaches that we received as omiyage (a gift that is given when meeting for the first time). Japan is very much a gift giving culture. These peaches are huge, between the size of a baseball and a softball. Fruit is very expensive in Japan and as such it comes in its own Styrofoam basket for protection.

Here is a rough sketch of our apartment. I hope you can read it. If you have any questions just ask. The hash marks are doors and the boxes on the perimeter are windows. Lots of windows and natural light here!

Here is the toilet in our apartment. When you flush the water in the top turns on as well so you can wash your hands. It uses the water from washing your hands to fill up the tank, saving water. Pretty neat.

The flusher on the toilet has two symbols. The top means "big" and the lower one means "little". Well, you can figure that one out!

This is the entrance to our apartment. The box on the door is for mail (although we have a mailbox outside the door as well). The cabinet on the left has sliding doors which reveal shelves for our shoes. The cement area is level with the ground outside and you step up once inside the apartment. You always take your shoes off in your home. A doorway is barely visible to the right and that is the toilet.

On a hill across the street is Ohira Castle. I haven't been there yet but when I do you will hear about it for sure!

This is my hanko (personal seal). It was given to me at my first meal by Luke's supervisor. She picked out the characters for my name and had it made. When you say the characters it sounds like Lindsey but the meaning is "going for your dreams" which is totally perfect! The hanko its self is the size of my pinky and the ink pad is in a locket attached to the case.

A few other observations:

They always back into their parking spaces.
Don't do anything in public unless you want them to talk about it forever!
Recycling is huge here, sometimes divided into twenty-something piles. Ohira just has eight I think. You also have to put your trash into special bags which you have to pay for.
At the grocery store you bag your own groceries and pay for the bags there as well. You do have the option to use the boxes that they receive produce in for free instead.
All the cars here are brand new and small. I don't think I have seen a personal truck and hardly an SUV in sight. Still almost everyone owns a bike as well.
Hardly anyone wears a wedding ring and those that I have seen are plain bands. Interesting.
Everyone line dries there clothes.

It's like meeting the in-laws times ten!

So that night, tired from the full afternoon of paperwork and meeting tons of people, we went to a welcome party in our honor with all of Luke's co-workers from the Junior High School.

Of course it was over dinner....and with booze!

I have to say I really enjoy the Japanese way of life. Sure they work very hard, way harder than any culture I know, but they know how to relax as well. That's probably why there are a gazillion festivals throughout the year. They need to party hard to make up for working hard. I am down with that.

So, we go to dinner. Yet again at an amazing traditional Japanese restaurant. Still in my suit, feet killing me and cursing whoever invented pantyhose, I take my heels off at the door and put them in a locker. We are shown to our table with some of the other teachers who are arriving and I go through the formalities of meeting new people. There is a set way to do most everything in Japan right down to what to say to someone when meeting them for the first time. Very exhausting.

Luke and I sit down in the seats of honor. In Japan seating order is very important. I meet each teacher as they come in the door. Luckily one of the first I meet is one of the English teachers Luke will work with. She sits by me and is able to introduce the other teachers and tell me what they teach in English as well as translate most of the evening for me (once Luke had a few drinks it was hard to get him to talk in English! haha).

I think in all we ate about eight courses of food that night and lots of alcohol. I discovered that at this restaurant they had free drinks for two hours so everyone wanted to know if we would try something else. We tried everything on the drink menu! We ate family style (one plate of food for a group of people and you serve yourself) which you don't usually see in Japan but that is how I would rather eat with a group of people. The first course was a salad with a tangy Japanese sesame dressings and plate of sushi. We also had individual small bowls of tuna (raw) and potato cubes (raw).

Kirin Beer was ordered to drink, which tastes just like Bud Light! Another Japanese custom is toasting and the ritual of drinking. We all had small glasses, like a juice glass, for our beer which was filled up. After every sip it seemed, and especially after each toast, someone would fill up your glass. It never gets empty! Hard to know how much you are drinking but rather fun to watch.

After the salad and sushi was a fish course which was by far my favorite. Fried breaded fish, kind of like Long John Siver's but 1000 times better! The Vinegar-like dressing reminds me of Long John's. You must really be skilled with hashi (chop sticks) to eat like this. Everything is eaten with hashi, even big pieces of fish. Great fun!

Then there was a squid course (which was served in a pot over two small candles), a pork ribs and potatoes course (the potatoes were their version of french fries), and a desert course of orange gel (kind of like Jello). The pork ribs I have to say were very tasty but again hard to eat with hashi! My favorite drink was called a sour (flavored Japanese spirits) that tasted like oranges and Luke's favorite was the grapefruit sour.

By the end of the night everyone was pleasantly full and happy from drink. If I could eat like this every day I would!

How many people can I meet in one day?

Luke had the morning off of work so that we could relax together before we had to do anything on my first full day in Japan. Both of us thought that we would be sleeping in, especially me because I had been awake the day before for 27 hours straight. 27 hours and no caffeine! That shows you what adventure can do! But my body didn't want sleep. It wanted to get up and see Japan at 4:00 AM! I woke Luke up, made myself some rice with seaweed bits for breakfast (pretty traditional by the way!) and sat around the apartment. Little did my body know that there isn't anything to do at 4:00 AM!

By 8:00 AM I was tired again and we took a nap and woke up refreshed two hours later.

For our first meal alone together we had to go out. There was not much in the apartment in the way of food because so many people wanted to take Luke out he really hadn't bought groceries yet. We took a quick walk up the hill to the 7-11. For those of you who haven't been to this side of the world, 7-11's have some pretty great food. Renee you might remember what it was like in Taiwan. It's very similar here. We both got sandwiches. Mine was a chicken patty sandwich that I warmed up in the microwave when we got home. It was a great chicken patty. REAL chicken, not ground up and made into a patty but just a breaded piece of chicken breast with some kind of sauce (not quite sure but probably mayonnaise with something else). I also found some chips, pizza flavored, to try. When in another country you should always try new things. Turns out those chips are amazing. They have actual cheese bits on them. A favorite on the first try!

At 1:00 we had to be ready to go in suits to go to the village office to fill out all matter of paperwork for me to be in Japan. Mainly, I had to sign up for my alien registration card and meet everyone that Luke works with. Let me tell you there are a lot of people in that building and I met them all... don't ask me what their names are.

I was introduced to the Mayor and the head of the village office, who is in charge of all the schools, at the same time. Neither of the gentlemen speak English so they brought in two other men who spoke a little English. Together with Luke's supervisor and the principal of the Elementary School (both who don't speak English) we tried to have a conversation. If you are ever in a situation like that, it takes a very long time to say anything and make sure all parties understand what is being said. Sometimes you go round and round saying the same thing. Still it was so much fun. Everyone laughing at each other and looking confused. It was a great start to the day! By the end of the conversation the Mayor had offered me a job, given me a track suit to wear to work and given me a box with three bottles of sake (made in Ohira). Score!

My first real Japanese meal

This restaurant was everything you imagine when you think of such a place in Japan. You enter and have to take your shoes off at the door. We store them in a tiny locker. We are escorted down a hall where you can see many small sectioned off eating areas. Our table is in the far back. The table is nearly on what looks like the floor so I sit down and you put your legs under the table into a big hole where everyone's legs fit. There are four of us and we scour the menu front to back (or in Japan's case, back to front!).

Each of us pick something different. Luke went with the house special, a pork loin. I chose the Japanese noodle plate. when my tray arrives I am astounded. There is soo much food on this plate. It almost looks like too much. The noodles and their sauce in a separate bowl, a tiny salad in its own bowl, a plate of tempura (vegitables which are breaded and fried) and their separate sauce, sashimi (like sushi but just a bit of rice with the fish laying on top) and a plate to mix the soy and wasabi (Japanese horseradish)! Amazingly I was able to eat it all. Despite how much food appeared to be on the tray the food its self is so light that you don't feel stuffed by the time you are done eating. I think I will really enjoy that about Japanese food.

My favorite thing I ate at this meal is definitely the pumpkin tempura. There were five different kinds of tempura on my plate but the pumpkin was amazing! The skin was green, unlike the orange of American pumpkin, and the breading and sauce I dipped it into really enhanced the natural sweetness of the pumpkin flesh. I will be having that again for sure!

Planes, planes and more planes…oh and some busses

It took three planes, two cars, two busses and lots of sweat to get me from Adel, Iowa to Ohira Village in Japan. Despite how tiring that sounds, and was, it was a great trip. On the first plane to Dallas I find my seat in row 4. Window seat! Awesome. Then I see a gentleman and a baby in the seat next to me...dun, dun, dunnnnn. But it wasn't bad at all. They were both lovely and we had a great talk for the next two hours. Thanks to my skills at making funny faces and my ability to make shoes dance like my mother, and of course the wonderful gift of pizza flavored goldfish, baby Milan and I became buds. Thank you both for making the first leg of my journey a fun one.

Second leg to Tokyo. Sat next to a girl from Ohio, Pam. Did the usual "hi, my name is...where are you from...why are you going to Japan..." conversation. She too was teaching English in a small village where no one speaks English. We had quite a bit to talk about and plenty of time to do it. Fortunately Luke and I were able to pick my seat when we bought the plane tickets so I had a sweet isle seat directly in front of the restroom! The plane wasn't that full, only about half, I don't know why I had it in my head that it would be a full plane. AND it happened to be one of those cool planes with the tiny TV screens in the back of the headrests so that each passenger can pick their own entertainment. I love those kinds of planes. That is what got me through the flight to Australia. So I was very excited to see that to say the least.

But as fate would have it something had to go wrong with my trip. The amazing TV screen, the one that got me through the trip to Australia, the one that was going to get me through this trip, didn't work! Oh it played video...sometimes. It flickered in and out and blacked out in places and the audio made this terrible screeching sound every once in a while. At first I thought that perhaps it had something to do with being in the air but as I looked around at all the other happy and content passengers I realized that no, in fact MY TV was the only one with a problem. How is that possible? Why couldn't it have been a TV in a seat that no one was sitting in? Finally with only 5 hours left in the flight, and two horrifying minutes into "PUSH", I got up the nerve to ask Pam if I could watch the movie on her screen because she was journaling. Thankfully she said yes and we switched seats for the remainder of the flight! Thank you Pam!!!

Once in Tokyo I had a four hour layover which I was grateful for. We landed in the smaller of the two terminals at Tokyo-Narita airport and the customs area was in terminal 1. So I navigated my way with the other passengers staying in the country to the customs area. We first went through immigration and then down the escalator to the baggage claims area. Once I had found my two bags and had them properly stacked with my carry-on luggage I was starting to wonder why I had packed so much! I did not have a boarding pass for my next flight so the challenge was to find the check in desk. After asking several helpful airline workers I found out that I had to go find the bus to take me back to terminal 2. Yes, that's right. I had to go back to the place we had landed. Doesn't sound so hard. Except I had my giant back pack on me and was wheeling my 50 lb. bag with my 30 lb carry-on and my camera bag all strapped together. It was like dragging another person along side me. Lets just say I have killer forearms now! I made it to the bus stop, on the bus and then off again. Asked another helpful gentleman at the tourist counter where my check in was at and discovered it was on the other end of the terminal!

So i lugged the dead body of luggage across the airport for the second time to the check-in counter where I gave them up again. All this done in an hour! So I get my boarding pass, exchange my currency and look to the area where I have to clear security. The lady at the ticket counter tells me "Please proceed up the stair to security." I look to the stairs... it's like a freaking Mayan temple of stairs!!! So I slowly carry my 30+ pounds of carry-on luggage up the stairs down a hall, helped out by a moving walkway, to the revolving door that leads to security. I go up to the doors which remind me of the subway and I push. Nothing moves. I push the other way. Still nothing. Then I see a sign that says "Security will be unlocked at 3:00". Are you kidding me? It's 2:00 and I am standing in a long hallway with no where to sit.

I begrudgingly turn around to head back down from whence I came and realized that the moving walkway is, of course, only one way. So back down the long hall. As I was reaching the top of the stairs a lovely Japanese lady exits the bathroom and sees me about to descend the stairs. And she says, "It's not open yet is it?" She introduces herself and asks if I want to walk around with here until it is open. As much as I was hating walking I was glad for the company. We talked until I got on my plane at 4:35. Great lady.

I had to take ANOTHER bus from the gate to my turboprop plane at another area of the airport. That's right, turboprop.

That last plane ride was probably the best plane ride I have ever been on. Japanese flight attendants are awesome. Everything about these two lovely girls was refreshing. Their outfits (I wish I had a picture) were color coordinated, one in blue and one in purple, down to their watches and scarves. They even had color matching aprons when serving the beverages! So cool. Also, something amazing happened on that flight. You know at the end of the flight when the plane has landed and everyone is eager to get their luggage and get off the plane, the flight attendant gets on the speaker and reminds everyone not to take their seatbelts off until the light goes off? Yeah, right, like anyone ever listens to that! Not true! On that flight you couldn't hear the clicking of belts until the ding of the light went off! AMAZING!

My Last Day

This morning started out like most of my mornings for the last month. I woke up and called my husband from my computer. He has been in our Japan apartment for the last month without me. Fortunately there is a great thing called Skype that allows us to video-chat over the internet. Ahhh technology! He was preparing for bed as I was waking up. Difficult time change.

Then it was off for my daily yoga/pilates and then for my last American breakfast. We ate at this great local place. Everything omelet with hash browns and wheat toast and a large orange juice. Very American.

I am very eager to embrace the Japanese food palate. So many different tastes, and some familiar used it an entirely different way. I hear that Miyage (our prefecture) is the food capital of Japan! We have the best rice, beef is available and our town (Ohira) even has its own Sake factory! (Uncle Kelly I will try to send you that bottle you requested for Christmas!!!)

Next time I post it will be from the other side of the world! Exciting and a little sad. Come visit if you can! It's going to be a great time!


I love food.

I love to cook. But when my husband and I found out in April that we would be moving to Japan a very daunting task arose. How to pack? What would we take? I came to the conclusion that I would not be able to take any of my beloved cookbooks with me. Sad, very sad.

Unlike my husband I usually don't whip things up in the kitchen. My all too anal brain wants a recipe to follow, instructions, measurements, something concrete. He however never makes the same thing twice, never follows a recipe but still manages to make an amazing meal every time! How he does it I will never know.

So many challenges have presented themselves on this great journey to the east. No cookbooks, no American food or ingredients and a very small town. What will we eat? How will I cook? Am I afraid? No! Like I said...I love food. And I know I will love the food there.

I just need to learn how to cook it!