Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nicely sliced meat, ready for stir fry

More meat!

Meat on a stick. I'm sure that Liver on a Stick must be there. Blech!

Seafood! Check out the octopus on the right!

I haven't tried these, but I guess they are little prepackaged rice/sushi-type things that taste really good.

More sushi to go

Rice, rice, and more rice!

Cute doggy outfits. Happie, I took this photo just for you!

Here is my favorite (so far) Japanese chocolate--Meiji. Notice the electronic price labels. They can change the prices just by pushing a button.

Hello from Japan! How is everyone? I am doing okay. I haven't been too wild and adventurous lately, but Zach and I did make a quick run to a local Japanese grocery store. We've started buying our produce locally rather than at the navy commissary. The food at the commissary is shipped in from the States, so a lot of the produce shows up looking pretty pathetic. I snapped some photos so you can see some of the cool stuff at the store. The store owners go to great lengths to make everything look really nice. The prices aren't that bad for most things, but there is the occasional item that will just make your jaw drop. For example, I recently saw a cantaloupe on sale for 9800 yen, which is $98!! It was nicely wrapped up and displayed in this wooden box, but come on. The "regular" cantaloupes were between $9 and $15. I hate cantaloupe, so the thought of spending any money on one seems stupid to me, let alone $98!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Here I am with my shrimp.

Here I am stuffing my face.

Zach waiting patiently for his sushi. Notice the intercom and buzzer on the left.


Happy Saturday! It's a pretty day here, kind of overcast but breezy and nice. I've been getting a very good laugh from everyone's comments about the toilets. Maybe our toilets can say a greeting and I just don't know it. Guess I'll have to get cracking on translating the control panel.

I have some new photos to share of a recent outing to Sushi-Go-Round, a restaurant that we've been to quite a few times and enjoy a lot. I'm not a huge sushi fan, but it's definitely growing on me. Zach loves it and he's encouraged me to try different types of fish. I know it's lame, but I really do like the shrimp and cucumber rolls the best.

Sushi-Go-Round is near the navy base and located upstairs in a grocery store. As the pictures show, sushi and other food items are on plates on a conveyor belt that winds around the restaurant. You take what you want from the belt. At the end of the meal, you press a button at your booth and the waitress comes and counts the number of plates, and then she gives you the bill. You can special order items as well by either speaking into an intercom at your booth, or flagging down a waitress. We've given up trying to speak Japanese into the intercom because they usually ask us a question in Japanese that we don't understand!

Once they make your order, they place it on the conveyor belt on a special plate labeled with a colored sticker. The sticker matches another sticker at your booth. We learned this by accident. The first time we went I saw these cucumber rolls that I wanted, and I unknowingly took them off of someone's special-order plate. I'm sure there was someone at another booth wondering where the heck their food was, and they probably weren't too happy about it either! There's nothing like learning by trial and error!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Our toilet

Control panel on our toilet

Cute penguin on water faucet attached to our toilet

Okay, so here's a topic I haven't really given much attention to in my blog, and I really should have, but it's such a HUGE topic that I don't even really know where to begin---Japanese toilets.

Before I came to visit Zach the first time, I stressed out really bad because I had heard that the public toilets in Japan consist basically of a hole in the floor. I have since learned that not ALL public restrooms are outfitted with the squat-at-your-own-risk variety. Most have standard Western-style toilets too. I have had to use the squat toilet, and while it's not my idea of a fun time, I am proud to say that I can use one without peeing all over myself.

Anyhoo, enough about my skills. Back to toilets. As with so many things in Japan, they add improvements and features to everyday objects that would blow your mind, and the Western-style toilet is no exception. Our toilets in our house here are the Cadillacs of toilets. I am not kidding. Zach is already talking about buying one at a home store and taking it back to the States with us!

So what can these toilets do? Well, my favorite feature is the heated seat. There are also bidet options for both men and women, air ventilation, and all kinds of other features that I don't know because the control panels are in Japanese and I haven't translated them yet! Check out my photos if you don't believe me. At the top of the tank is a water faucet. When you flush, clean water comes out of the faucet and refills the tank through a small hole at the top of the tank. I think this is so clever, because you can conserve water by washing your hands with the water that is used to refill the tank. Our faucet happens to have the cutest little penguin attached to it, as you can see in the photo. Carlina gave it to us. The water flows through it and spins a little lever, and it makes the penguin flap his wings. So cute! And no, Carol, I'm not getting rid of it.

Wikipedia has a huge entry on Japanese toilets if you want to learn more and see a picture of a squat toilet---

Many public restrooms have really crazy features that we don't have at home, like a button that you can push that makes the sound of flushing. And an anti-bacterial soap dispenser that you can use to wipe down the toilet seat.

Well, I think this is enough toilet talk for one day. Bidet to you! Ha! Ha!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hi! We had a nice weekend, with Zach off from work. We stayed around home and put up new curtains in the bedroom. On Sunday we took a little trip by train to the shopping center called Vinawalk in Ebina (it's only two stops from us), in search of Starbucks and something yummy from one of the many bakeries. I discoverd the first time I came here that the Japanese really know how to bake. The typical shop has everything all out in the open. You grab a tray and a pair of tongs, and then you walk around and choose what you want, put it on the tray, take it to the cashier to pay, and the cashier wraps everything up for you. They have bake shops everywhere. The one we went to at Vinawalk makes these croissants wrapped around a bar of chocolate! They also have lots of hard rolls, and breads that are more like a meal, with meat and veggies and cheese baked on top. And of course, everything tastes awesome and fresh!

In my last post, Jen wanted to know how I know what to pay when I'm shopping, and thankfully I just look at the total on the cash register. So far that has worked. The Japanese are very honest people, though, so I don't have a lot of worries that I wouldn't get the right change back. They do have a different way of paying though. At every register there is a small tray, and you are supposed to put your money on the tray rather than hand it directly to the cashier. I feel so formal every time I do it!

While we were at Vinawalk, there was also a festival going on, with several different dance groups performing. Like a dork, I forgot my camera, so I don't have photos to share. The costumes were beautiful and everyone seemed to be having a really fun time.

Well, that's about it for today. Zach is back to working nights, so we're trying to adjust to his schedule change. He switches back and forth from days to nights every two weeks. Yuck, huh? I don't know how he does it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Decorated pumpkin

Sink with soap, water, and dryer

Hello! I realize that it's been almost a week since I posted, and I have a few new fun things to share. I hope everyone is enjoying fall back home. It's definitely cooling off here now, and I'm looking forward to seeing all the leaves start to change colors.

This week we went to IKEA Japan, which is like IKEA at home, for the most part. The signs are in Japanese and things are more expensive, but those are the major differences. We unfortunately made the mistake of going on a Japanese holiday AND Columbus Day, which means that the place was in total chaos and at full capacity. I can take a lot, but this was a bit much for me. I had to bribe Zach with promises of a treat at the end so that we could at least find me a cheap dresser and a few things for the house.

On Wednesday, I went shopping in Sagami-Ono with my friend Carlina. We took the train, and Carlina showed me which trains to take in case I want to go back by myself. We had a fun time exploring the shops. We managed to find ourselves in an incredibly expensive department store, where the average price for shoes was $200! I did not see anything under $150, and the shoe department was as large as Nordstrom's downtown Seattle store. I was good (some of you may know that I have a shoe addiction) and didn't even think of buying anything. Of course, since the sizes only go up to 8 1/2 or 9 at the most, and I wear a 9 or 9 1/2, our bank account is pretty safe here. Or at least when it comes to shoes it is. :-)

While shopping, we found a little store selling tiny pumpkins and I had to get one. I took a picture of it so that you can see. It came with a bunch of stickers to decorate it. The kids don't trick-or-treat here, but the stores take advantage of the opportunity to sell cute Halloween stuff, so right now there are lots of Halloween decorations everywhere.

We also stopped for lunch at Subway, which sounds kind of silly, but Subway in Japan is so much better than Subway at home. They have different kinds of sandwich fillings that I think are more creative. While we were there, I had to use the restroom and snapped the photo of the sink. It had automatic dispensers for soap and water, plus a dryer---all built in. You just move your hands along, assembly-line fashion. Isn't that cool?!

Okay, that's it for today. Oh, by the way, since I've been here, I've felt at least five earthquakes! They've all been relatively small, but I freak out every time I feel one. In fact, I think felt a little one while I was writing this. I suppose I'll get used to them, but do I have to? If I want to be with my husband, and have access to all things Hello Kitty, I must.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Entrance to our local train station, Sobudaishita

A tiny section of the bead department at Yuzawaya

More beads!!

Yesterday was a big day for me. I successfully used the train, by myself, to get from home to the town of Yamato, and then back home---without getting lost in the depths of Tokyo. And what was the reward in Yamato for my bravery? A FIVE-STORY craft store called Yuzawaya. They are a chain here, and apparently there are six or seven of them in the Tokyo area. The Yamato store is a few stops from the navy base and I figured I could navigate my way there.

I must have had my "I don't know what the heck I'm doing" look on my face as I was purchasing my ticket at our local train station, because an incredibly nice Japanese woman helped make sure I got on the right train. I wanted to talk to her so much, but since I haven't learned much Japanese, all I could do was keep saying "domo arigato gozaimasu" or "thank you." Plus, and this is going to sound really weird, my brain wants to start speaking Norwegian. I guess my brain figures that I'm in a foreign country, so therefore I must speak the only other foreign language I know fairly well. Weird.

I had to transfer trains in Ebina, and I had a moment of confusion but I took my time and made sure that I got on the right train. I feel like I'm learning how to read all over again. I'm starting to recognize the names of things in the Japanese characters. You have to think of them as little pictures, which they are. And since I'm more of a visual learner than anything else, I'm hoping that it will get easier the longer I'm here.

The craft store is located right outside the train station in Yamato, so I didn't have to walk very far. And here's where I get to scream---OH MY GOD!!!!!!! Yuzawaya is the most incredible, extensive, well-organized, well-stocked, has-everything-you-could-think-of, craft store I have been to in my life. It puts Michael's and Super JoAnn's to shame. Deep, deep shame. The "How am I going to move back to the States without this store?" thought has already crossed my mind. I guess there is an eight-story one in downtown Tokyo, but this one kept me busy for four hours! And I only scratched the surface. The fabric selection is to die for. They have aisles and aisles of yarn, all organized by dye lot so you never have to hunt for the right skeins. Stationery that is more beautiful than anything I've ever seen. Beads and beads and beads. And if you think of something you need, not only will they have it, but they'll have it in 20 different colors!

I got sucked into their embroidery section for a long time, and finally chose this cross-stitch pillow kit and a little Hello Kitty key chain kit. It was almost too much for my brain to take in, and I left without spending too much. This nice lady at the cashier counter pointed to this membership card they have for 500 yen, which is about $5. I decided to get it. I'm not positive, but I think you get a discount with it.

I've only been there once, but I know that this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Tofu Man

Say hello to Tofu Man. Isn't he adorable? He's this really squishy, super-soft pillow that I bought. There's a little soy bean attached to his front corner, so I'm assuming that he's supposed to represent tofu, but honestly, I have no idea. He frightens Zach. How could anything this cute be scary?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Our house!

Another picture of our house!

Our shower room

Our awesome Japanese-style bathtub

The Fish Oven. All I have made with this thing is toast. And I burned it.

Our kitchen
Cute Hello Kitty chair and table leg covers

Hello! How is everyone? I am doing pretty well. Zach had this weekend off, and I enjoyed having him home. We stayed close to home and did some grocery shopping. I also got a cell phone, so now I'm trying to figure out all the cool stuff it can do. The keypad has both English and Japanese, and the people who sold it to us set it for English---thankfully.

The weather is much cooler than when I arrived, and I am relieved about that. It's been raining the last few days, but I can deal with that. The hot and humid stuff is what gets to me.

A few of you have requested photos of our house, so I will include them in this post. I am also including pictures of our Hello Kitty chair and table leg covers. Zach doesn't mind that I put them on the furniture, and I just think they are so cute!