Thursday, December 24, 2009

Anpanman and Baikinman wish you a Happy Merry Christmas! (If you don't know who they are, check out my post from January 7, 2008).

Karaoke electronic menu

Khozo and Seiko---they are awesome at karaoke!

Yep, I tried.

Yes, this is proof that Zach also sang!

Khozo is ichiban---number one!

Seiko singing and dancing. This was so hilarious. She sang a Japanese song popular during her high school days, and she still remembers all the words and dance moves.

Our 2009 Christmas cake!

A closer look

Happy Merry Christmas Eve! We just got home from Vinawalk, our local shopping mall, where we bought our Christmas cake for 2009. The photo is pretty good, but I wish you could smell the chocolate scent that was coming from this dessert while I took the photo. I am planning to make Swedish meatballs and Norwegian rommegrot for dinner tonight, but maybe we should just eat cake. Hmmm...I'll let you know how it tastes.

The other night we went out with Seiko and her husband Khozo for a fun evening of dinner and karaoke. Karaoke was on my Japan to-do list, and now I can say I did it. It was a blast! In the States you usually have to get up and sing in front of lots of people at a karaoke bar, but in Japan you rent a small room for a certain amount of time (we had ours for an hour), with your own private karaoke machine and couches. This allows you to sing and embarrass yourself in front of just your friends, not total strangers. :-) The place we went to had free soft drinks, and you could also buy beer. Seiko and Khozo were amazing singers. Seiko even did a dance number!

We hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Temple at Mt. Fuji Peace Park

Mt. Fuji viewpoint from Peace Park---except the clouds were in our way, all day. Reminded me of Mt. Rainier and its amazing ability to also hide.

One of Mt. Fuji's eight springs

Torii gate at Miyajima Island

Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island

Yummy waffles shaped like leaves and filled with chocolate, custard, or red bean paste. Miyajima is famous for these delicious snacks.

Miyajima deer

Beautiful park near our hotel in Hiroshima

Fall leaves

Statue at Children's Peace Park in Hiroshima

Cranes that people leave at the Children's Park

Peace Memorial Park

A-Bomb Dome was left as it was the day of the bombing

Old photo of the city after the bombing. You can see the A-Bomb Dome in this photo.

Our okonomiyaki chef. Hiroshima is famous for these. They are kind of like an omelette pancake. It was so much food, but tasty.

Model of Yamato battleship

Entrance to Disneysea!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride

Zach is happy because he found smoked turkey legs!

My hat, my lovely, lovely Mickey Mouse hat. I love this thing. It kept me so warm! And yes, it is goofy, but so am I.

Freaky Duffy bears. People were going nuts over these bears, buying them like crazy, and I didn't get it. They have Mickey's face shape but they're not Mickey. They really disturbed me a lot, and that's saying something, isn't it, considering how many weird things I do like.

More of Disneysea

And more of Disneysea

Hello! Christmas is one week away! The tree is up, the decorations are in place, and Zach's presents are wrapped and under the tree. I guess baking a few Christmas goodies is next on my agenda, but not before I update my blog.

Our big news around here is that we finally have orders from the navy, and we're headed to the Washington D.C. area in a few months. Zach will be working at the Naval Ice Center. I will really miss Japan and the friends I've made here, and I think a part of me is in denial that we are actually leaving. I think I might also be trying to block out the thought of moving too.

We've been trying to get as much sightseeing in as possible, since time is quickly running out. Zach took a few weeks of leave at the beginning of December, and during that time we were busy. We went on a day trip to see Mt. Fuji and the surrounding lakes. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate all day and we never did see the mountain, but we've seen it before so it was okay.

We went on a longer three-day trip to Hiroshima and the nearby towns of Miyajima Island and Kure City. I've always wanted to go and pay my respects to the people of Hiroshima, and I finally got that chance. It was a sobering experience, walking around the town and visiting the memorials. What amazed me was the fact that if you didn't know history, you'd never know that a disaster occurred there so many years ago. The city is completely rebuilt and thriving.

The island of Miyajima is just a short train ride away from Hiroshima, so we went there to see the famous torii gate out in the water, and the Itsukushima Shrine that looks like it is floating in the water. Unfortunately the tide was out while we there, so we didn't really get the sense of floating on anything. But it was still beautiful. They do have a severe deer problem there, and there are signs everywhere telling you not to feed the deer. At one point, one of them tried to eat our map!

Zach wanted to visit the Kure Maritime Museum and the Japan Marine Self Defense Force Museum in Kure City, which is also a short train ride from Hiroshima, so we did that on our last day. The maritime museum houses a model of the Yamato, the largest battleship ever made. And the other museum has a submarine that you can go inside. Both museums were very nice.

During Zach's vacation time, we also took a trip to Tokyo Disneysea. What a blast! I think I really wore Zach out by the time we left, but it was so much fun. As its name suggests, the park has a nautical theme, and it's also where they've put some of the rides that are geared more toward grown-ups, like Indiana Jones. We also enjoyed a ride called the Tower of Terror, which takes you up in an elevator and then you freefall. And Journey to the Center of the Earth was another fun one. It was actually quite busy while we were there, which I thought was strange since it was on a Tuesday before school holidays started. And Karen, if you're reading this, it didn't rain! But it was cold. Everyone was wearing these goofy fuzzy character hats, and of course I had to get one. I finally chose the Mickey Mouse hat and just love the silly thing. It's so warm!

Yesterday I had a wonderful visit with Seiko and our friend Makiko and her son Ryohei. I used to teach English to Ryohei, but his dad works for Nissan and they moved to England earlier this year for his job. Makiko and Ryohei are visiting Japan for a week, and I felt so lucky to see them.

Okay, guess that's about it from here. I hope everyone is enjoying the pre-Christmas season rather than stressing out from it. If at all possible, take some time to just relax. And by the way, Reindeer Man says hello!