Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sanrio character Tenorikuma

Hey there. Just wanted to let folks know that I haven't disappeared. Things have been pretty quiet around here, and I'm doing my best to recover from another cold. My nose has been hurting a bit because of the cold and because of the chilly and dry weather we've been having. We finally got some rain the other day, which was nice. As a born-in-the-Northwest kind of gal, I haven't had to deal with a really dry climate for an extended period of time, so this has been a learning experience.

Zach and I are planning a couple of day trips in March, and I'm looking forward to those. I've been working on some embroidery projects that I had been putting off for a while, and studying some Japanese. I'm sure some of you will be jealous when I tell you that I went to the cool Yuzawaya craft store last weekend. I was good and didn't go crazy, and I bought some cute Japanese fabric with these little Sanrio coffee characters called Tenorikuma.

Okay, that's it for now. I hope everyone is well.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Zach cooking meat at the Sapporo Beer Garden

Inside the Sapporo Beer Garden

Ice Bear

This snow sculpture made me laugh!

I can't believe this is made of snow!


Zach's interpretation of "The Scream"

More goofy characters

Can you believe this?!

I thought this was sweet.


Hee, hee, hee!

Run, Zach, run!

My heroes

Hello Kitty in snow!

Check out the attention to detail.

This sculpture had seafood frozen in its walls.

Close-up of frozen fish


Baileys on ice, anyone?

It took three guys to lift this block of ice.

Radio tower

View of snow festival from radio tower

Hello! I hope everyone is well. I realize that it's been a while since I posted anything new. Zach took a week off from work at the beginning of this month so that we could go on a three-day trip to the northern island of Hokkaido. The town of Sapporo hosts of big week-long snow festival every year, with sculptures made of snow and ice. The trip was arranged through the travel agency at the naval base and about 60 of us went. Hokkaido is about an hour from Tokyo by plane, and once there, another hour by bus to the town of Sapporo.

I hope you can get a sense of how amazing and impressive the snow and ice sculptures were from the photos I've posted. We had a wonderful time. It was amazingly cold, and we found ourselves in the middle of a pretty heavy snowfall at one point, but the beauty of it all was worth being chilly.

As part of our trip package, our first night there included dinner at the Sapporo Beer Garden. It was an all-you-can-eat-and-drink dinner for 90 minutes, yakiniku style, where you grill your own food at your table. (This style of cooking your food on a gas grill is quite popular here, but I haven't seen it at home. Since there are people in the States who have to be warned about drinking hot coffee from McDonald's, I suppose the idea of allowing them to cook their own meal in front of an open flame isn't a good one.) The whole place was really smokey from the grilling and lively from the all-you-could-drink beer. They handed out plastic bags to put our jackets and sweaters in if we wanted to help prevent some of the smells from sticking with us, but it still didn't prevent it completely. Zach kept saying, "I smell like meat," after we left.

In addition to seeing the snow sculptures and the beer garden, we also took a ride to the top of the radio tower. I've been to the top of the Space Needle several times, and this was similar---but not. Our elevator ride to the top was a lesson in getting to know strangers. When we got in the elevator, I said to Zach, "Well, it's full. There's no way they can put any more people in here." Guess what? They squeezed six more people in! Zach and I towered over everyone in the elevator, and one of my feet barely touched the floor because I was so smooshed in. I kept my eyes closed. Once we got to the top, I was ready to go back down. The observation deck was so packed with people you could hardly move. I doubt that this sort of thing would be allowed back home, but we're in Japan, and things are definitely different here.

We enjoyed our time in Sapporo, but it was too short. There were a lot of other things to see and do there, and we only had time to hit the highlights. I'm so glad that we got a chance to see another area of the country.

That same week, after we got home, we went to see the comedian Sinbad at the base. Entertainers come here often, and it's appreciated a lot. One of my friends from my orientation class was sitting near the stage, and she got harrassed by Sinbad pretty bad, but it was all in good fun.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Can you believe it's already February?! Yikes. It's a quiet day here. The sun is shining and I think I'll go for a walk in a little while. I love sharing with everyone all the weird gadgets/toys that I keep finding here in Japan, and I snapped a photo of our collection of solar-powered toys that we have around the house. They serve absolutely no purpose, but they do make us smile. The apples, which are called Flip Flap, flap their leaves, and Hello Kitty's head bobs back and forth. They move slowly and are actually kind of relaxing to watch. They are made by the Tomy company, and if you google Tomy and Flip Flap, you will see that there are a whole bunch of different ones. I hope they make you smile!