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Thursday, August 31

Things I Just Can't Understand

Twice now a truck has gone by with a loud speaker on top of it of which someone shouts out his message. It is usually around 9 a.m. It doesn't seem to be a truck selling anything or providing any service. I can only imagine they are spewing out political propaganda of which I can't understand. What do you think?

Our neighbor across our narrow street has swept the street in front of her curb and walkway three times today. Her walkway is covered in piles of dirt that come from a planter she was working with last week which has since been abandoned. She never sweeps the walkway. Just the street. What do you think?

Every day at exactly 5 pm, church bells ring just down the street. I have yet to see a church of which the sound is emitting. My understanding was that everyone here was pretty much either a practicing Buddhist or a disciple of Shintoism. Neither of which are likely to use a church bell. What do you think?

On a walk through town, I came across as ice cream shop today. At the counter, I ordered a vanilla cone. I was told there was vanilla or milk or mixed. I went with mixed and was handed a cone that was white on one side and cream colored on the other. The milk tasted like vanilla and the vanilla like another vanilla. Have I just lived through 33 years and not known that milk was vanilla? What do you think?

On that same walk through town, as I approached the center of the city of Zushi, a lovely calming country-esque kind of music could be heard. At my initial hearing, I thought it was live music from a nearby festival. Further investigation revealed that the sounds were coming from speakers on light poles. Perhaps more propoganda or are the people here really that into Zen? What do you think?

Wednesday, August 30

Just wanted to say quickly that I finally have the first round of pictures ready now that I am back online in the comfort of my own home. If you are interested in seeing them, please email me directly. I emailed them to a few but I don't want to overload every inbox in the States. I don't need your networks, or worse, your bosses calling me...

Ikebana Improvement

Just returned from Ikebana class number two. Things went much better this time, I am very glad to say. No tears of frustration this time. No mass confusion about what to do next. No thoughts of running from the room and hidding in the bathroom at all!

Since this is only my second lesson, Sensei asked me to create the same design as last week, the Moribana Upright. The only part I struggled with was the very beginning but even on this, I feel that next week I will be a lot more confident. I understand now how to choose my first pieces and no longer feel that I need kindergarten hand least in this respect. I also understand placement of each piece much better now.

When I completed today's assignment, Sensei told me is was beautiful and only moved one little piece. She said "understanding improved" which I will take as the biggest compliment ever as last week I didn't seem to understand a single stupid thing that woman said.

I actually almost chickened out in going back. I am definitely a high flight risk when I am feeling insecure and small. But as I have mentioned before, this is one of the many things I long to change about myself. Though I dragged my feet and *shocking!* was late in getting there... I did it.

And while I was there, I signed up and paid for the whole next month. The thought of losing money is always a strong motivator for me. I'm just finally learning to use that information wisely and not as frivolously as I used to.

Monday, August 28

A Fire Festival Like There Never Was

What I would love to tell you about is the Mt. Fuji Fire Festival! However, I won't. Because I never got there. Oh no, not for lack of trying. You see... am stupid. Very stupid. And so is the company I travel with.

The festival was to start at 3:30 on Saturday so we decided that we would give ourselves about two hours to get there. That morning, I asked Kimono Hubby to check out our train map and figure out which direction we were to go. I had the ending train station information and the train line information. Neither of these were found on the map we had. Our idea was to go to the train station and ask the attendant. Why we thought this was logical when we already know we only understand every fifteenth word of Japanese was completely idiotic. But that was the plan, whether right or wrong.

About 1:30 pm: Kimono Hubby, Kimono Buddy and I headed out to the train station. There are two train stations by our home. Of course... we picked the wrong one. But the kindly attendant sent us down the road to the next one.

1:40 pm: We got there only to find there was no one to ask for specific directions. However we knew we had to go north to start. We bought the cheapest ticket, 130 Yen (about $1.15), and headed down the track to hop on the train. As we waited on the platform, I went up to someone who read the destination I had written down on a crumpled piece of paper and he went straight in to the train servicemen. They pulled out a massive book and I immediately realized the direction of the day was going to go south. Very south. The servicemen relayed some info the the person I had asked who did his best to relay it to me... in Japanese... and with what I could only assume were correct directions, the three of us jumped onto the approaching train and were off.

2:35 pm: Arrive at the train station in Yokohama where we need to make the first train switch. Not too difficult and we are all feeling a little more confident about our navigational abilities and understanding which trains go in which direction and therefore which trains to get on and which to pass on.

3:03 pm: Still on the same train and the scenery around us is changing from city to small town. About 10 more stops to go to our destination.

3:25 pm: Festival is to start in five minutes and we are no longer confident but more or less sure that we are no where near where we need to be. About 5 more stops to next station.

3:54 pm: Arrive at train station to switch to next line. This line takes us off the map so to be sure, I ask a train serviceman for more direction. He tries to tell us. We don't understand. He writes to words down and we think we get it. We head to the platform for our next train with full knowledge that we will at least arrive at the festival by the time they light the town on fire (the cool part in our eyes) and we are therefore okay with the lateness.

4:15 pm: Train arrives, we board and are off. Again.

4:23 pm: Train makes first stop on line and then continues on to leave area considered civilization.

4:56 pm: Kimono Buddy makes comment that he doesn't think Americans have ever ventured this far before. So as not to cry in frustration, I attempt a laugh and turn and stare out the window. We have only been about 4 stops through this line and with each one, the area outside the window looks more and more desolate. We still are holding on to the knowledge that we only have to reach our destination on this line and then take one more train to the festival. The fires are lit at 6:40... we can still make it.

5:30 pm: Begin to discuss that we may never get there.

5:47 pm: If we turn around now, we may make it back home before the trains close for the night. Maybe. Decide to keep going for one more stop to see if the next is our station.

6:01 pm: Arrive at next station and decide to try for ... one ... more.

6:14 pm: Nope. Get off the train and decide to head back to Yokohama to get some big city food so as the day won't be an entire waste. We are quite certain that no American has walked here before and the people on the train were wondering what in the hell we were doing getting off at that stop. It turned out to be a lovely stop! We were right in the middle of about 15 mountain peaks scattered with a few very traditional Japanese houses resting quietly in the mountain valley. It is dusk but we take some absolutely great pictures and laugh about the 4 1/2 hour train ride we just took to nowhere. We wonder if when we finally get off and pay whatever the true fare is, if they will stop us because the time on the ticket was so long ago. Will they charge just for the distance we actually went... or for the hours that we travelled? All say silent prayer that the rate includes only distance for our new destination back to Yokohama.

6:35 pm: Train arrives to take us back. We settle in.

8:57 pm: Arriving at first switch on the line back. Hungry and exhausted (the last time we ate was around noon) but knowing we only have about 45 minutes left to go before food.

9:44 pm: We are one stop away from Yokohama and food. While waiting for the train to move on, the loudspeaker announces more of the "blah, blah, Japanese speakity, blah" and then moves on.

9:44 and 30 seconds pm: It took Kimono Buddy seconds to realize that the train was now moving back in the other direction... of which we just came from. Perhaps when everyone got off the train at the last stop after the announcement, we should have followed? F-ing hindsight.

9:49 pm: Get off at next stop and wait for yet another train going back the way we want to.

9:55 pm: Train arrives. We board. And at the next stop, hold our breath that it will go just one. more. stop. to Yokohama.

10:01 pm: Success! We arrive in Yokohama. Heading out of the station, we check our fares and blessedly, we only owe about 200 yen for the day's trip. My new plan for visitors is to get on a train with them and stare out the window all day and show them the beautiful country of Japan... from the train window only. If you never leave the station, you never pay more. Like my plan? Want to visit?

We finally wandered in to the only restaurant where there seemed to be one or two English words. We ordered, and ordered some more, and some more. It was delicious! Was that because we were like camels searching for water or was it really a good restaurant? Who knows and who the hell cares?

Back at the train station, Kimono Buddy takes a different line from us to go home. We say our goodbyes and jump on the train to Zushi. It is late when we get there but we only have a five minute walk to the house. Did I say five? It actually took us 25. Yes, we got lost WALKING home. I have no idea how. Kimono Hubby and I weren't speaking at that point. It may be safer to never bring it up again actually.

I do take responsibility for deciding to go to the festival. However, I do not take responsibility for the hapless directions. I told KH to look over the map that very morning. Maybe if any one of the three of us were a little more smart about it, and a lot less adventurous, we would have never tried the trip when we realized the destination wasn't even on the map, therefore telling us that is was more than a few hours away. Oh, how I hate hindsight.

But maybe we'll try again next year.

Friday, August 25


The move went well on Wednesday. The movers were there from 7:45 until 1:30. They brought our bed in over the second floor balcony by standing on the top of the truck and shoving it in through the sliding glass door. Crazy. Only minor items were broken but unfortunately all of our good furniture was either scratched or knicked. Not the cheap stuff of course. Only things that carry the Pottery Barn name. Guess I won't be buying from them anymore.

After the movers left, I spent the rest of that day and the past two days putting everything away. I would not allow myself to rest until I completed all that I could. Although I did allow a five minute break yesterday to make tea... once I found it. Two days later, I am done. Of course, I can hardly lift my arms to type.

I still don't think I am quite getting the slowing down part of this self-exploration process. But at least I now know where the toothpaste got to.

Monday, August 21

Home Sweet Home

Please join in and dance a jig with me! Because... we have a house! Officially! We signed the contract yesterday, handed over just shy of $11,000 in cash (which is a really big wad o' cash in yen) and were handed back pretty keys!

Tomorrow morning we leave the hotel and head to our new home. After a few small mishaps along the way, all of our furniture and clothes have now arrived in Japan and will be joining us at the new home tomorrow. The delivery people will even unpack everything for us so I just stand around and direct traffic. I am going to give my couhc a big fat kiss hello when they unwrap it. And let's not forget my bed! More kisses for it too! I have missed them all so much. Then I am going to hang up all of my clothes, go out back, and burn everything in my suitcase that I have been wearing since the end of June. It's going to be a lovely day in Japan.

The house is in Zushi of which we have been told is the Beverly Hills of Japan, but I don't totally see that. It's a resort area though and only a 20 minute walk to the beach. Even better, it is only a 5 minute walk to restaurants galore, markets and two train stations to meet all of our exploring needs. There is a sushi restaurant a block away for the nights I refuse to be a good wife and cook a meal. We even have a yard! Something I haven't had in years. I wonder if I still know how to mow. There are gardens surrounding the home which I am allowed to plant in to my heart's desire. We have two floors and three bedrooms. So all of you naysayers who mocked and said they would visit and just sleep on the floor of our hotel room, you can stuff it. The home has lovely dark hardwood floors throughout and a bright white, tiled kitchen. No tatami rooms or shoji screens as the home is brand new and definitely more Western in style than Japanese. I know I really wanted the tatami room but the more I thought about it, the more I realized we probably wouldn't use it. You can't put heavy furniture on it and how often would I really get Kimono Hubby to sit on the floor and eat dinner? Plus, as Kimono Hubby stated, we are still American even if we are in Japan. So let's just be American. I'm good with that.

The street is about the size of an alley back home which amuses me to no end though I will probably freak out the first time someone tries to pass me. We sadly do not have the Mt. Fuji view we dreamed of. As we searched for homes, it became very apparent that views like that are few and far between unless you want to live in some highrise apartment building of which I definitely don't. So we choose a home with views of the mountains over the neighborhood. I can't wait to sit quietly in my room and stare out at the beautiful country that surrounds me... in awe that I am really here... living this new and wonderful life.

Like I said, we are going bright and early tomorrow morning. While we will have our computer, we will not have a hookup until next Monday so I will not be available online for a few days. Please talk amoungst yourselves until that time and rest assured that I will have all pictures ready to go next week when I am back online. In my new home sweet Japanese home.

August Is Not For You... Or Me

If there was a Guiness Book of World Records record for lamest weekend ever... I win.

I have mentioned to some, but if you were not previously advised, consider this for you. It is hot. Hot like in hell. Yes, I know you had a heat wave in recent stateside history, but I wasn't there and it didn't happen to me so I am going to pretend that it never happened at all. And I will continue with my rant as if I know nothing of your pain and suffering.

Here in Japan, there is something called Typhoon season. It can be likened to Hurricane season as that is pretty much what it is but we must use a much fancier word than hurricane because we are very cool like that here in Japan - yo.

This is what I have learned about Typhoon season thus far. IT'S HOTTTT! AND DAAAMMMP! Did I mention hot?
Temperatures range usually around the mid 80s during the day and while I never thought the mid 80s were hot, I do now. As such, I have since ended my love affair with the south. Because this... just sucks. It may say 85 on the thermometer (and it doesn't even say that, it says some celsius crap of which I still politely refuse to acknowledge the existence of), the thermometer is wrong and my calculations are correct and it is really 450 freaking degrees farenheit. In the shade, I would say you could knock off shy of 15 degrees or so. This is all why I buckled and bought an umbrella meant strictly for carrying around in sunny weather. This umbrella has absolutely no value except to stop the sugar that I am from melting into a steaming puddle on the pavement.

To add to the fun of the hotness, the weather is a bit fickle as well, thanks to storms fronts swirling the ocean waters around us. One morning you wake up to gorgeous sunny weather with big fluffy, white clouds out of your bedside window. Only when you walk out of the hotel on the other side of the building a short fifteen minutes later, you find mad, black clouds and torrential downpours waiting to swallow you whole. All the while, the ground that is still blistering from the day before, is providing vapors of its own, leaving you caught with hot rain creeping down over your head and steamy puddle water rising up into your undies. And they don't make an umbrella for that. There are days where you will spend with intermittent bits of rain and sun of which I have learned a very important lesson... never leave home without two umbrellas... the sun one and the rain one... and keep them very close to your persons, maybe even strapping an extra under your skirt for save keeping.

Then lovely nightfall comes. This is when I will actually leave my room and walk more than ten feet to the parked car. I will actually walk the whole way to the bar! On my very own two feet! Nights are still hot but without the humidity oppressing your shriveled lungs. So really the only dampness then is from the sweating because I am out of shape and that bar was far, y'all! You can even sometimes catch a cool ocean (well, bay) breeze (well, if you are lucky enough not to be standing between two highrises in the city that you inevitably live in) on your evening walk.

Technically, typhoon season is June through September. Though the area around Tokyo really only has their season from late August through the beginning of September. The southern part of Japan is fortunate enough to have the beginning part of the season and leaves us with only the dribblets that run down the side of its cheek during that time. In all, Japan sees six to ten storms a year.

What this means to me, with regards to the season I dreaded the most before I got here, is that I walk around daily with very damp clothes stuck to my body and people don't like to hug me. I haven't actually seen the Perfect Storm yet... but it's probably coming. Soon.

What this means to you is just as important. As I have only been here the end of July and beginning of August, I would like to tell all potential visitors this. If you want me to show you anything, DO NOT THINK ABOUT COMING IN AUGUST. I know my birthday is the most important time of the year and you would love to bring me a pretty present but I will ask that you just save it for September.

If you do choose to disregard my words, this is what you will be doing during you time here... a 48 hour (or how ever many hours you think you will tolerate this) marathon of Rescue Me. Because this is what I spent my very, very lame weekend doing. We finished Season One in the late hours of Saturday and while we were out for food early Sunday, (food was the only thing that could drag us from the shelter of AC) (and even with that we caved and ordered pizza one day so as not to bear humidity's burden twice in one day), we bought Season Two and went right back to the room to continue in our stupor.

Heed my words. If you don't mind hours of mindless television, by all accounts, come and partake with us. But if you want to see anything in Japan, and I mean even me walking you just down the street I live on, then come another month. For the love of God.

Friday, August 18

How Unfortunate... I Found Walmart

The Walmart is disguised here. But I found him yesterday afternoon. Wearing cheap fake glasses and a mustache, he was. I was on the hunt for special scissors for my Ikebana class. I left the gates and took a left down Rt. 16. I had seen these massive stores before but never was sure what one could purchase inside.

Into the first store I went, after driving into their maze of a parking garage. (They park on top of the stores! In levels! I fear the number of people I will find inside.) The place was called Ave (pronounced ah-vay) and it turned out to be one giant grocery store. Of course, I don't have a house so I don't need fresh produce just yet so instead took the opportunity to wander around and check it out. They have everything! It's like the warehouse of a grocery store. Of course, I still don't recognize much of the food as it is written in Japanese but at least the prices here are in number form. Should make groceries quite interesting in the near future. I did found one heck of a wine section. See... must keep priorities straight at all times... am so smart like that. Can't wait to buy up that section, particularly the bottles in Japanese that I can't read but do have grapes on them so I am guessing they actually do make a red wine I am used to and not just the sake rice wine.

I was in this store for about fifteen minutes. It was packed the entire time I was there but the only person that ever acknowledged my existence (and people were watching me, just pretending not to) was the only other American in the store. How do I know that? She was blonde too and had two screaming children trailing her. Japanese children do not scream in public from what I have seen. Just sit quietly and intently until they are requested to speak. So see? I know she was American. We couldn't care less if our child was bellowing at the top of their lungs in public as long as we can tune them out.

Tired of the staring, I left and drove down the street to the next parking maze.

This garage was in a place called Livin. I made careful note of where I left the car this time because I was quite certain I would never see it again. In the middle of the rooftop garage, I found the store entrance. I memorized the miniature statue of girls in kimono, again thinking that I may never see them again and I never even took the time to get to know them. Down the escalator I went, dropping bread crumbs with every step.

Walking into the store as if I had purpose, I found myself in housefold goods. Or kind of. I have noticed that department stores as we would call them back home are a bit unusual here. On this first floor I entered of Livin, I found multiple departments as they would call them but we call them stores. For instance, I found Claire's. Yes, the place with all the chintzy jewelry back home. Here it was in the middle of the floor without walls, just like another department in the store. But if you want to purchase something from there, from as far as I could tell, you have to pay for it there. Then they tape your bag together and you can go to the next department and buy something there and get another taped bag. On and on it goes. But some departments are not so clearly distinguisable and are more like how in Hecht's, Ralph Lauren and DKNY are housed in the same area but you wouldn't have to pay for your DKNY only at the DKNY counter. Here I think you would. Of course, no one dares talk to me so this is all guessing. But I am fairly certain I have it correctly. Okay, maybe only slightly. It doesn't matter! What matters is that it is just different and that's all I'm trying to say. I walked through all the departments I could find and found some American selections and some Japanese. Each department within the department store was pretty clearly marked with what it was. And this is why I think Walmart has reared its ugly head... while staring at the different signs, I swear I saw a Rollback sign circa Walmart 2006. I didn't think much of it at first but when I swung around to find it again, I couldn't figure out where I saw it. But I swear those horrible Walmart execs are somehow involved and will eventually cause this country's demise just like they have done back home to our beautiful land and ruin yet one more poor, small business owner!

*ahem* I'm okay now.

I was there about an hour before I decided to try to find my car. But it seems that someone ate my bread crumbs. When I finally got back to the hotel, I have made a vow to myself that next time I take someone who has some directional sense or at least someone who won't get lost on the escalator. Tricky, tricky.

Guess I will have to find someone soon though. Because I forgot to buy my scissors.

Wednesday, August 16

Ikebana Grooving

Let's face it... I am type A all the way. One of the most important things I want to do while I am here in the land of zen is to learn to control the highstrung tendencies... at least a little.

Yesterday afternoon found me in my first Ikebana Kofu class. Walking in, all I knew about Ikebana was that it was a highly revered traditional, Japanese art form that takes a lot of concentration and patience. (Patience, something I have a desperate need to become much more skilled in if I am ever to have children.) There is so much more to Ikebana though. I still don't understand it all and I am told I won't for another three months. I can, however, memorize the facts... it's about creating harmony through linear aspects... a triangle to be exact... in the minds eye. The points on the triangle represent heaven, man and earth. The design of the arrangement places all elements facing one another showing how each is connected to the other.

What a significant thought and one I don't think I contemplate nearly enough. Each of my actions will affect the energy and air around me, relationships and the nature in which I exist. So through patience (again that word) and consideration, I can become a more harmonious entity in this world that I live in. A complete shared balance of the world. I don't want to wax philospohic, but this is something I do already know. And yet I live in a way that only considers each moment on its own individual basis and little thought of recognizance. I feel that there is much more than a creative outlet that this art form could help me with.

Yet the first day of Ikebana was not about balance and patience for me. I got frustrated when I didn't understand what the Sensei was trying to explain. I was sad when I was told I placed the angles of man and earth incorrectly. While others worked slowly and assuredly around me, I seemed to not be grasping a thing and sat there feeling very lost and alone. But I know that becoming a better person won't happen if I turn and run when I am feeling scared or inadequate. The whole point of being here - in this country - was exactly that... to become a better person. To find more of myself than I knew existed thus far. And to fight the fears I have hidden within myself.

I had to keep trying.

We were creating an upright Moribana style. This is basically taking the flowers we were provided - purple Turkish Bell Flower, Crazy Eggplant and Monstera Leaves - and placing them in the appropriate triangular shaped positions in a flat dish. Sensei worked around the room and finally came to sit with me and show me specifically how to place my initial lines. But language barriers (she speaks English but mixes it with a lot of Japanese) made it difficult to understand where she was indicating me to cut or place the arrangement. She was truly patient and by the end of the first hour, I understood at least the placement. And the arrangement looked pretty! Or so I thought. Then she tells me to take it apart and do it over. *gasp* By myself? But I did as she said.

I carefully took all of the flowers back out and started over. It took me about a quarter of the time that the first design did. As I peer around the room, I notice that everyone else is still working slowly on their first one. I somehow think I am not supposed to be shoving in the arrangement as quickly as I did. But Sensei came over and approved of my work. She moved one leaf and added one more flower but overall she seemed pleased. Everyone else was finishing up their design at this point. So they really only do one design a class but I did two to learn the underlying principles of Ikebana design. Understood. However... how in the world am I supposed to move that slow in my subsequent classes? It just seems unnatural! Hence, the reason I think I should stick with this. Anything that can slow me down and knock some of that type A down a notch can't be a bad thing for me to learn.

You can't carry your design home so you have to take it all apart. Again. Made me want to cry a little but I just bit my lip instead. I was supposed to pick Kimono Hubby up from work but I told him I needed a half hour. And what did I do? I went back to the hotel room and just as quickly as the first time, I put it all back together again.

I think there is definitely something I am still missing with this. Perhaps next class they will teach me to move in their turtle speed. I certainly am hoping so. And hoping for so much more.

Waving the White Curtain

Yesterday, I may have discovered what one of the curtains in restaurant doorways means. Of course, I have all of this information in one of the tens books I bought. Those books that are packed away with everything else we own and are now somewhere between DC and my future home here. For now, I just guess on what lies behind the curtains and hope for the best.

For lunch yesterday, I went in search of a Thai restaurant that I have been told by several people is so very good. The directions I have received tell me that it is two or three blocks before the train station on a side street to the left and on the second floor. I wandered up and down these streets yesterday looking for that second floor restaurant and run into yet the same problem I have had before. I don't read Japanese. After finding four different restaurants that could qualify as the Thai one based on the "specifics" I have been given, I finally just drew straws and headed up the stairs where I thought the writing looked rather Thai in font style. Not the best plan for future reference.

As I enter the restaurant, I notice I am the first one in for lunch this particular day. I am offered a seat wherever so I choose a spot at the bar. Not the drinking bar... just a line of seats that faces an open grill. Above the open grill are half-fileted fish that appear to be drying in the heat from below.

The waitress approaches me and brings tea. I kindly ask for water... "mizu, kudasai?" While a nice thought on the free tea, this isn't your southern variety. I've tasted a few that I couldn't even pretend to stomach. This one wasn't so bad but I really did need the water. The humidity of the day outside was actually leaving me quite parched.

I also asked for an English menu as what laid in front of me was written strictly in Japanese. No pictures. No plasty food in the window. No yen in real numbers... just a handwritten Japanese menu, nicely laminated, I note though. They didn't have anything else for me. Determined not to chicken out and make a run for the door, I ask her what they have. She doesn't understand me just like I don't understand her. But the man behind the grill shouts out and holds up a fish... a whole one... and tells me that it is the special of the day... barbequed. And I don't think he meant sauce, I think he meant barbeque as in slapping it on that open grill of which the fish above drip down on. He continues telling me what is on the menu, all sounding vaguely like fish. He is speaking in English but I just can't seem to get it. The only word I can honestly distinguish is tempura so I announce assuredly that I would like the tempura, kudasai.

Success! I have ordered a meal! Yes, I am not entirely sure what it will consist of or even how much it costs but what the hell? I ordered all by myself! What a big girl I am.

As I wait for my food, more people enter and take seats, some at the bar and some assume tables, which gives me the opportunity to look around at my surroundings as the staff is no longer staring me down. The place is nice at first glance but I notice as I look more closely that it is a very old-fashioned, almost country style. The walls are two parts: the top being a straw curtain and the bottom being a conbination of mud, concrete and straw, like you would expect on a building in the distant past of the Samurai to be made of. There are no pictures on the walls. It is actually a very serene escape to the country placed right in a highrise in the middle of downtown Yokosuka. I note that the only English anywhere is on a bottle called 'Triangle,' yet the description underneath it never tells you what the bottle may hold. I don't dare. (Even though I am making a dive for another peach drink tomorrow night!)

My tray of food is placed in front of me - eight different dishes all in beautiful assorted ceramic bowls. I recognize miso soup with what looks like toasted tofu in it and sip this first. I don't think you can go wrong with this soup as it is always consistently good. The tofu... well... mweh... I could pass. There is a bowl of soy and my plate of tempura. I take some eggplant tempura and dip it into the soy. I don't usually care for eggplant but it is surprisingly good. I think the lightness of the tempura batter really brings a different taste to it. (Tempura here is not greasy like how we batter our chicken back home. Fried chicken - yum.) A bowl of rice. A bowl of what looks like meat is in the middle. Bonus!, I think as I pick up a piece with my chopsticks. Not exactly what I expected. It turns out to be cold, cooked fish. I did attempt a few more bites of it but couldn't handle the chilled taste anymore and I gave in trying to finish it.

I have discovered a trick for eating things I don't necessarily care for. My ultimate fear is always that I will be considered impolite so I try everything. But once the gag reflexes kick in, I usually try to put the bite in my mouth, take a few bites being careful to keep the bite away from any tastebuds, act like I swallowed and then take a big drink of water to wash it down without tasting. The problem is... I always run out of water. And they don't refill automatically here. Of course that leaves me with the tea in this case. Of which I did use. It was better than cold fish!

There are also Japanese pickles which I do have quite the liking for. A dish of pineapples - anyone who knows me knows I could eat a whole pineapple all by my lonesome. The last dish to try is a little bowl of noodles. These are actually very good! Cold, with some sliced ham (?) and a soy taste almost. But herein lies my problem with these noodles. They are clear. There are a lot of sushi bars here that serve sushi with these little clear fish in it... that look exactly like these noodles. So even though I know I am eating noodles, my brain says tiny, clear bait and I just can't finish the dish. No amount of water will allow them to get past my crazy brain.

Back to the main course of the tempura. There is eggplant (as I mentioned), a half of a green pepper, two large shrimp (of which, now that I think about it, I do think I ate the heads of them as the batter was covering it so I didn't notice) and finally two more pieces that have tails like the shrimp... but they are gray tails. Could be just a different type of shrimp so I take a big bite. Fish! In my tempura! And, oh yeah, it was the whole thing. Strange to admit that I could eat a whole fish... and like it!... and yet have a problem with the noodle bait but that is what happened. I didn't eat the tail though. I am not that strange.

I ate all I could, avoiding what I just couldn't think about and washing down with water what I thought I should try and scarfing down the rice and miso. I did leave some on my plate which is slightly rude, but there were eight plates, remember!?

I'm no genius or anything. But I think it would be safe to say that white curtains equal fish. Fish on a grill. Fish in batter. Fish in a chilled dish. Maybe even fish in the miso. Fish, fish and mooore fish.

While I like my fish (tired of the word yet?), I prefer a more American approach to this food. You know, pan fried and minus the bones and innards. The next time I see a white curtain, I think I will keep walking. And I will surely know it ain't Thai!

Tuesday, August 15

What I Am Not Going To Talk About

This has been a very boring week so far. I have done much! But nothing that is even remotely interesting to share. Oh! Except last night I caught my first glimpse of Mt. Fuji from the restaurant we ate at in Zushi. As we sat there scratching our heads at first trying to determine if it was a cloud that resembled Fuji in the setting sunlight or if we were seeing the real big kahuna... well, we believe we saw it anyway. Mt. Fuji viewing is said to be much better in the winter when the hot haze that hangs around all season has finally cleared the air.

But on to things I am not going to talk about today...

1. Signed up with the Red Cross and will be doing orientation this week. They are going to have me helping in establishing a Disaster Action Team. Guess I need to learn to not start running scared when I see that first monster typhoon heading our way. Just grab a tree and hang on instead?

2. Signed up for Ikebana (Japanese floral design - a significant art in this culture) classes. Starting tomorrow. Let's hope I still have a little artistic talent left deep inside. I don't want to get that icky feeling you get during a pedicure when you just know that all of the ladies are laughing at you and mocking your nasty trickies in their foreign language.

3. Having trouble finding the club info I am looking for after much searching. It's just some wives that get together and go traveling and other fun stuff while the other halves go to work to finance their entertainment. I think they are intentionally hiding their information on the internet so I can't find them. Guess I still am not wanted in the In-Crowd.

4. Took care of ordering Sumo tickets for the big tournament in Tokyo this September. I know someone who wanted a Sumo outfit and I might be able to help him out when I yank it off of one of the wrestlers at the tournament.

5. Might have found a house to live in and finally extricate myself from the hell I currently reside in. Am very afraid to jinx it at this early stage. If it all goes down, I'll let you know. And I'll pass out the address over the internet so you can all come and kill me dead in my sleep just like my husband has always feared would happen since I started writing this blog.

And that's what I am not telling you about.

Am not dead. Yet. Am not lazy. Mostly.

But Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince requires all of my attention for the rest of today so I can finish it. Three days flat. And it would have only been two if someone in the room last night (not naming any names *ahem* Kimono Hubby) hadn't yelled at me to turn the light off and go to sleep like I was a silly five-year-old or something. I totally need to buy me a flashlight so I can read under the covers.

Saturday, August 12

Quails Certainly Could Make Better Karaoke

Friday night, kids! And we finally made it out to play. We spent the night out on the town with a friend and trailed through the area tour that he had been shown the night prior. Now, our friend had been smashed so he wasn't sure he could get us back to the same places to show us, but he somehow managed to keep up most of the previous rountine...

The night began with this little store that looked like the most ghetto-licious liquor store you have ever seen! There was no door to enter, just basically the front of the store was entirely open to the street. Dusty bottles of Japanese liquors and a handful of cheap American whiskeys lined the walls. Some of the labels gave me the impression that they have sat waiting for someone to dare partake for a long time. That someone was not me. Now, this place is not a bar. Not in the way you are thinking at least. I think they can only make a handful of drinks there. There was a counter with a very tiny Japanese couple behind it pouring quite a lot of the house specialty... which is what we ordered. You can have peach, grape and I think lime. I went with what is supposed to be the best... the peach! I have no idea what is in this stuff as it tasted like pure and simple peach juice! But after half of what was approximately a 16 oz plastic cup, I felt some serious buzzing happening. Everyone who knows me knows that this is not me at all! I can take it like the burliest truck driver. But not this stuff! Very tasty indeed... but very, very potent. I do wish I knew what it was.

The store is only open until 8:30 so it is a place where you can stop off and have a drink before getting on the train. I love that idea... get a little liquored up before you head home to the spouse and kids. Guess it makes them easier to deal with? We were there from about 6:30 to 7:15 and the only other woman I saw in there besides behind the counter was a nicely dressed older Japanese woman who came and went with amazing speed. The place was packed with sailors in one corner and Japanese in the other making it oppressively hot and sweat ran down my skirted legs. The only cooling source was a fan that looked like it had been there since the war. One of the Japanese men apparently is there every night as our friend had met him only the night before. He was completely wasted but smiling away and kept coming over and telling us a story of which we understand not. a. single. word. Good story and we laughed with him though! But if we were going to make it a night, there was no way I was having a second one of those drinks.

On to the the next place for dinner and more drinks. Our guide told us again he wasn't sure but he thought that it was a bit of a walk. As it turned out, it was directly on the next corner. Guess we know how much those drinks affected him too!

From the outside, the place looked like a shack. Back home, I would never dare eat at a place like this. But we were told it was delicious so in we went. There were strings of wooden beads hanging in the upper part of the door like a curtain which we pushed aside. This place was also packed full of people... alll Japanese. Directly in front of door sits the stove in the center of a U-shaped bar. The stove pipe is set to blow smoke out directly above the front door which basically blew it right back in through the door. Interesting situation but no one seemed to notice but me. To get a seat in the back of the bar, every one already sitting has to either move down deeper into the place or walk out to let us get in and then retake their seats. A total of 14 people were squeezed in counting us after we found a seat. Not a single soul more could fit. Your back is to the wall as you sit on your stool and your arms are on the counter. Every inch of space is used. You really can't be afraid of close talking in a place like this. With all of this closeness, we had to get up and walk out of the front door two differnet times, one to let a group deeper in from us out and let another in to take their place and then a second time when a couple came in and found no seats so they sent them up a narrow set of stairs in the corner past us. To which lead to...???? One will never know.

The menu is simple... meat on a stick. Called Yakitori. There were about ten different choices from the simple chicken variety to what they called pork belly (we call it bacon) to tongue to liver. My first order was on the safe side... chicken (2 delicious sticks of chicken mixed with large green onion with some sauce on it that I will never figure out how to duplicate because it is probably just from the years of grease on the open grill-type stove that actually seasoned it - it doesn't look like anything has been cleaned there... again... since the war) and simple pork (no belly and also equally as tasty if not better than the chicken). After appreciating the fine delicacy of this so-called meat on a stick, I went with quail eggs to spice things up! That's right... quail! All I have to say is yu-ummm! They, of course, are wrapped in pork belly (bacon and eggs we call it) shoved on a stick and served with dipping mayo on the side. Now, don't get all grossed out! This was by far my favorite of the night. After a few beers there, we headed to the next place in our bar crawl.

Still, our guide managed to get us there without too much difficulty. This place definitely classed the night up right and proper. It was a very fancy bar, just like back home, where we ordered fine drinks of draft beer of which I have no idea what kind I drank all night. If you order draft here, you take what they have. You just can't be all kinds of picky. The bar was very small with a handful of tables and it was empty when we arrived at about 9 pm. Halfway into our drinks, a Japanese man entered and sat next to us at the bar. I got to talking to him because the drink he ordered looked so good, I thought I might try one. He told me it was a "gentleman" because he had been out doing karaoke the night before and must have had a few too many. So this drink, while it would take me out, was meant for his calmer days. These people are hard core! The man also told us an animated story about karaoke the night before and about his team of singers. The night wouldn't be complete if we didn't partake in this, so after only one drink, we were off to do our own Star Search.

Here's where our guide faltered. He tried to figure out where he had ended the night before but didn't have a clue. So we ended up on a street where we heard singing and just followed the sound. This took us to a second floor bar that looked like a kitchen from the time of... yet again... the war. We choose a booth and a Japanese woman with long, black curly hair came running over with the biggest karaoke books you have ever seen... bigger than the DC area yellow pages. She told me I was pretty (don't care what you all say but these people are crazy!) and then cuddled up to our single friend and talked him into a duet of "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong." Not good at all but awesome. I followed with "All I Wanna Do" and then Kimono Hubby trying to trump us all with "We Didn't Start The Fire." Now if you have ever been blessed enough to hear Kimono Hubby's sister sing, you would realize that singing is not the family talent. But boy... do they got heart! The rounds of drinks, bottled Asahi this time, came and went and more songs were sang. My gentlemen companions were very into the singing and did rounds of "Ring of Fire" and "Cracklin' Rose." My brain resources were a bit foggy by then and I can't recall everything that was sung to give you all the giggles over. I think the best that came out of either of my male entertainment team was the end of "Cracklin' Rose" that was only "bah, bah, bah... bah, bah, bah..." over and over and over again.

Enough fun was had at this point so we all staggered back to the base. When we got to the room, I had a mean case of the munchies and went for this Japanese noodle dish I had bought and had on hand for whenever I needed a quick meal. Again, just one more thing that I had no idea what was in it, but I added water and poured the little packets in and nuked away. It has some serious spicy kick and I will have to think twice before I do that again after a whole night of eating and drinking things I don't recognize. Blech.

And then... I passed out... which is when I think Kimono Hubby must have kicked me several times because what a rough morning. Guess I won't be hanging with the Japanese on any sort of regular basis...

Thursday, August 10

Warning: Potential Ego Swelling Ahead

Wandering around town the other day to meet up with another realtor, hands full with my binder, my purse that is refusing to stay on my shoulder and my umbrella that the wind keeps trying to take away from me, hair a blond, frizzy mess from the humidity and dampness of the day, I pass a group of Japanese men and women on the street. The man in the front seems to be taking a picture so I step up the pace to get out of the way. However, I note that the camera seems to be following me. I pause. The man takes the shot, bows to me, and continues on his merry way.

What in the world will this man do with this picture? Scare of the rats out of his house with it? Or was that just the Japanese equivilant to Paris Hilton tellng you "that's hot"?

This happens only a day after I am sitting outside and a woman strikes up a conversation with me only to end it with... you should really look into modeling here.

I think instead... I will try to start up an charity organization that hands out glasses to the needy.

Oh, yeah! And I will definitely not be changing my hair while I am here! They really do like fat, blonde chicks!

Wednesday, August 9

Surviving 33 With Mild/Much (Circle One) Success

The rain has passed this morning and the typhoon has been downgraded to a tropical storm which has sent the rain remnants away today. Of course, yesterday it poured all. day. long. But even so, my brithday turned out much better than I expected.

I was marching in to the hotel around 11 in the morning after some quick errands to change clothes and head right back out to the mall in the city when I bumped into a woman who moved here only a day before us. Her husband works with mine so we have chatted each other up many a time. We both knew we loved shopping and I mentioned that was where I was headed, so she asked to join me. I was actually thrilled to have a cohort in my days escapades after I so obviously couldn't handle it by myself, so off we went.

We had a great time pulling her big size conversion chart out in every store and trying to figure out what our size might be. We passed through some of the same stores that had daunted me so the day before. It turns out that the sizes I kept seeing yesterday were in fancy European boutiques in fancy European sizes which is why I wouldn't have conversions on them... I was only carrying the Japanese sizes. While her chart was much more helpful, it still wasn't helpful on actually finding our sizes. It seems that it is true that they really don't make clothes here in my size. (I guess that will save me a lot of money! Oh, wait... I can shop online! Still haven't figured out how to ship it here without Kimono Hubby noticing... as he gets our mail and packages. Darn. Suggestions?) I digress. So we gave up on clothes and went in search of umbrellas. We again found a variety ranging in cost from $10 to $115! No I did not buy that one. I bought the $10 one which is red with pink fringes and perfect for sunshine or rain. I know the Japanese usually use two different umbrellas, but as an American, I find savings and dual usage more important... at least in umbrellas anyway. Success is mine already as at least one thing that I wanted to purchase the prior day was actually in a bag in my hands this time. I think the day before, the whole thing got a little daunting with an array of 200 umbrellas in every store and not being able to read Japanese, it was hard to determine if they were meant for sun or rain. Yesterday... there were stickers... for the dummies like us, I guess. Don't care if they call me a dummy because I have an umbrella and you don't. Mweh. (Oh you do? Never mind.)

We also came across toe socks... socks that have an indent between the big toe and the next in for wearing with the special Japanese sandals. I didn't buy them yet but I definitely plan too. Very cute! I did buy some funky socks that are clear with crisscrossed lines all over them. And two adorable hats! (Men... you may have already stopped reading. If you haven't, you might now as this kind of talk will surely disgust you.) One is a tan newsboy cap which was pretty cheap and the other, while not so cheap at about half of the more expensive umbrellas, is a black newsboy style but huge and funky. Very downtown Tokyo and I love it! The thrill of it all exhausted us so we went in search of nourishment and ended up at a Chinese place that Kimono Hubby and I had discovered that overlooks the city where we enjoyed delicious fried rice and dumplings.

Truly was a great afternoon and totally not the like the vision I was having of more puppy dog tears in yet another fancy schmancy store that I had envisioned as my day.

There was one downside. As we walked back to the car, we passed through another market area. We found a store with the cutest clothes and very cheap! We would have carried out handfuls of stuff... if it wasn't for one Japanese man that kept coming over to us and telling us in limited Engrish... "for you? Won't fit!"... and then would practically tear it out of our hands. I know I am a bigger girl than what he is used to. However, I am quite certain that what I had in my hands would fit! There were fitting rooms but he wouldn't even let us in there to try anything on. It was the first time that the treatment here was more than a little rude. We tried not to take it personally and just left to head to stores where the people were nicer about our apparent massive obesity.

It was still pouring when we left, so we got to use our pretty new umbrellas. That made the mean man visions go away and we were all smiles again.

I dropped her off, changed into something nice and even topped the outfit off with the tan cap and headed out to pick up Kimono Hubby. I arrive and have to wait a bit until he finishes work. It takes longer than I expect so I turn the car off to conserve gas. And wouldn't you know... should I even tell you or can you guess... the damn car wouldn't start again. Why would this happen on my pretty day, God?!, I whine and drama away. We have to jump it again and that puts an end to the original plan as we have to take the car back to the mechanic.

On the way, we stop by the store where Kimono Hubby wanted to purchase my present. I have to wait in the car and keep it running as he makes his quick errand. Then straight to the mechanic's for them to check it out the next day. We leave it there and walk, me with head down low again, back to the hotel.

But I get my present right after we get into our room and TRUST me! It is all sunshine and bunnies again and who cares about the stupid dealer who told us the car was fixed but it wasn't! I got a docking station for my favorite-ist Christmas present ever... my IPod!... and now this is my favorite-ist birthday present! And I have missed my IPod. As with everything else, bright little me put the cables to charge it with the computer that is being shipped... along with the cables to upload the gabagazillion photos I have taken and can't show you. So no photos for you and no music for me as all our fancy equipment is dead like a worm on a hot 100 degree sidewalk. But now I have music! And who cares if you don't have photos? (I kid! I do! And you will have them soon too... well after we get the house anyway... but the wait will be totally worth it and you will be Flickr-ing away for hours.)

I had to put my pretty gift away so we could go have dinner. The plan was for a restaurant where you take your shoes off at the entrance and then sat on the floor but that will have to be another day. Instead, we went to the Officers Club where I had a big ole' American steak with all the fixin's! Topped with a delicious glass of Cabarnet and a surprise from Hubby... he had the staff bring out a piece of chocolate mousse cake with a brightly burning candle and sing happy birthday while a table of about 15 Japanese men stood up and did their best to join in. Not the average birthday song!

Back in the room, I went through our daily mail and discovered our first piece of Japanese junk mail. I couldn't read a damn thing on it but it was the perfect way to end the perfect day.

And I get to do it again today! Because it is still August 9th to all of you back home... so I think celebrating twice is entirely reasonable... don't you think?

Tuesday, August 8

Guest Blogging: From A Real American Hero

I have an extra special treat for you today! We have a guest blogger joining us to tell you all his story. He is another new Nippion (or whatever the proper term is... this was just a first guess) of about two weeks as well. Would you all please give your rapt attention and a polite round of golf clapping to a real American hero and friend as he shares his story of his first experiences here in our new "home" country...

Disclaimer: The views of our guest today are his and his alone. I do not endorse nor condone any of his comments. I would also like to add that I think all the Japanese women in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan should totally keep checking him out. And then marry him! Because I need to make a BFF (best friend forever) out of you!

And here is his story:

Well I made my first solo trip out into the Japan today. Of course, I've already made several forray's out there along with other fellow American's, but today was a true test to see if I could adapt and survive in a foreign land all by my lonesome...

First a little background on Japan... Japan is a an island nation, about the size of California. However, it has almost half the population of the United States and they only live on 15% of the land, as the rest is mountain or something. So as you can expect, it gets quite crowded, but other than that it is pretty much just like the United States... so much so that I've taken to start calling this strange and exotic place - American Junior. Then again, I pretty much call every country I visit American Junior, so confident am I that inside every foreigner is an American just dying to get out...

Anyways, I decided for my journey to leave base and take the train up to Yokohama. Yokohama is a big city that is pretty much part of the greater Tokyo metropolitain area. One thing a lot of people don't realize about Japan is that it is full of Japanese people... and when I say full, I do mean full. Of course me being the self-proclaimed genius that I am, I quickly picked up on this fact, that a lot of other people seem to miss... in fact Japan contains over 99% Japanese people... unfortunately for them, they do not share the blessing of cultural diversity like we do in America, and as such lack many of the great benifits, such as hip-hop culture and an army on illegal labors to do all the low income and middle class jobs that Americans refuse to work. As such, when you go out in Japan, the first thing you will notice is many, many Japanese people.

So anyways, I got on the train full of many Japanese people... one thing that was troubling, at the first train stop, this old Japanese lady sitting next to me got up and moved to another seat away from me... Hmmm... I wonder what got her panties in a bunch? Maybe she doesn't like Americans or is still mad about the A-Bomb? (Kimono Karen addition: This happened to me too! An older Japanese man that I sat next to on the train cleared his throat repeatedly showing some aggravation at my gaul of sitting next to him. He practically shoved me out of the way when we reached his train stop to get out and away from me. I was very surprised at this behavior and thought that I just smelled or something.) Oh well...all I can say is I'm glad Captain Harry Truman dropped the bomb... anything that saved the lives of half a million U.S. Marines can't be a bad thing.

But in a larger sense who cares what some old lady thinks... I'm more concerned with the opinions of the young ladies myself... many of whom I've caught secretly checking me out. (I guess somethings cross all inter-national boundries.) Oh they are appear quite shy, like timid tit mice, scurrying to and fro in the shadows, yet inexplicabally they find themselves drawn closer and closer to the wolf's lair... but I digress... back to my trip.

One thing you will notice about Japanese people is that they are rather conservatively dressed, very nice and exceptionally polite. I did however come across a few interestingly dressed people. While wondering around lost in a construction site in Yokohama, I passed a Japanese gentlemen wearing a shirt that said "State of Michigan, Detroit City" and it had a picture of a big truck on it. I laughed to myself as I realized that I was walking around his city completely lost and out of place, yet I felt perfectly safe (Japan has one of the lowest crimes rates in the world), but if that guy (or anyone of us actually) was wandering around like that in good old Detroit, he would would be immediately killed and eatin'. Next I passed a guy wearing a shirt with a Rebel flag on it that said 'These Colors Don't Run'. Ahh... good to know that the South will rise again - even in Japan. Still I had to laugh as I don't really think this guy would have faired much better in the Jim Crow South than the other guy would of in Detroit. Finally I saw a Japanese biker dude wearing a shirt that said "Fuck Ken." I don't know what that meant - I can only assume he has a grudge against that Ken guy who hosts Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. (KK: Who doesn't love this freaking show?) Oh also, Japanese don't really ride motorcycles, but rather little motor scooters... but if you have your woman on the back of the scooter and you are wearing a "F Ken" shirt, then you are pretty much every bit as much a Harley dude as anything Daytona ever produced.

The Meal. My big accomplishment of the day was to eat lunch... partially to take part in the rich cultural experience that is Japan, but mostly because I was hungry. Anyways, Japan is a shoppers paradise, with 12 story high malls on every block... but for me all it means is I have to take the escalator up 12 flights to get to the food court. Ordering a meal where you don't speak the language could be a daunting task for many lesser men and/or women than myself, but for me it was just another task I took in stride... by pointing at pictures on the menu, I was able to order just like a native born Nippion. To be honest, I still have no idea what I ate, although I think there were some mushrooms in there... at least I hope they were mushrooms. The one thing I was very good at ordering was a Coke, although in Japan they don't call it Coke, but rather Coca-cola or just plain cola. This is one of the many, subtle cultural and language differences between America and America Junior that most dumbass's overlook, but being the self-proclaimed genius that I am, I quickly picked up on this and was able to adapt and overcome for this situation - there by sucessfully getting a Coke!

One thing about the meal... I expected some little Japanese meal, so I made sure I got an appetizer too... then they brought it out and I had more food than I could eat in a week. I was really starting to worry because I thought maybe I had ordered a family size portion or something... morever, I was concerned that if it was a family meal, I wouldn't have enough Yen on me to cover the bill and I'd get indentured to a Chinesse laundry for the next 20 years or something. But then I noticed everyone else in the resturaunt was getting the same portion sizes - and these little Japanese people were scarfing down every last bite! I felt sorta like a sissy when I only ate half of mine... but I'll get them back - next I plan on ordering a T-Bone steak for lunch. That will show them who the real American eater is - and my new nick name around here will be T-Bone-san.

Anyways, my meal complete, I found myself exhausted from a hard days work... did I say work? Yes, I was on the clock for all this... the American tax payer is funding my exploits - quite well actually - I thank you for that. (KK: Kimono Hubby and I would like to throw our thanks in there too! Hugs and kisses for paying your taxes!) I got on the train back to base and wouldn 't you know it - there was one other American guy admist the sea of Japanese... so I decide to sit next to him. E Pluribus Unum, I always say... maybe we could even stike up and conversation in English, as the only thing I said all day that anyone understood was 'Coca-cola.' So I sit down next to him, and you know what this Ugly American pig does? He promptly gets up and walks all the way across the train to the only other empty seat so he doesn't have to sit by me... man, I hate racists! Or maybe it's just that people don 't like me. Seems the only people who sit next to me are kids and hot Japanese women... I guess I 'll settle for what I can get... good work if you can get it, I always say.

Anyways, as I finally staggered back to base after a long hard day, I came across a Japanese Wendy's resturaunt... this was my final test in mastering the culture of Japan. I promptly went in and ordered a Frosty... ofcourse the serving size was only about 1/4 as big as I was expecting... and the pretty Japanese girl at the counter also gave me a strange look (apparently you're not supposed to touch the fast food workers over here - how the hell was I supposed to know that?) But all in all I considered it a success and I am now an un-official Japanese person... in my opinion anyways. Tune in next time when I attempt to become the first person in history to climb Mt Fuji.

Another round of golf clapping please... to our real American hero for taking the time to talk with us today. And if you tell him how pretty he is, he may even share with us again some day. Thank you!

Why I Haven't Written Turns Into An Act of Love

Let me tell you this... YES! I know we are ahead of schedule with getting acclimated to Japan, but don't for a minute think that some days I don't want to knock out whoever the lucky person is in front of me.

Yesterday was crap. Kimono Hubby went back to work and I took care of what should have been a few easy errands. We had final car registrations to handle. Someone did part of this for us but unfortunately got behind schedule and didn't get back until much later than I expected. Okay, I just need to move faster and catch up! Easy enough. I stop for a very quick bite to eat and then I head to the hospital to get a prescription filled. A task of which took me almost two damn hours. I was sent from one desk to another then to another building, back to the second desk, back to the first and then second and first... you get the picture. At 2, I leave with the prescription and head to yet only errand number two for the day.

I have no cell service in the hotel because it is your basic concrete and steel block. And it is considered impolite to talk on your cell phone in a lot of public places. So I found a bench where I tried to make some realtor calls and make appointment for two places that I had heard about only on Friday. As I sat there, trucks would continually drive by and block out what the person I called was saying to me. Highly frustrating. Why are trucks even allowed on the roads? Anway, I gave up playing nice and found a quiet spot in the back of a restaurant where I hoped no one would be too offended. From there, I called the people back only to find out that now... on Monday... the places have already rented. I made a few other calls but no one had anything to show me so I called it quits with the househunt for the day and headed to the library and check my email. First email I respond to, the system crashes and the desk tells me it will be a few hours until they are back up and running. Lady luck must not be much of a lady today.

It's time to pick up Kimono Hubby anyway to do the final step in registering the car. I get there ten minutes early (a damn miracle for me) and wait. And wait. And wait! He comes out with only five minutes to spare before the offices closing time. As we walked in, they were putting the closed sign on the door. Thank goodness we made it or it would have been an extra special night for KH. We have dinner, call it a day and head back to the hotel. I am thinking la-la-la thoughts to get myself in a better mood and looking forward to even the paid internet usage at the hotel. But guess what wasn't working? Of course not. Why would the evening be any better than the day?

Tuesday morning and I am ready to go. I have realtors appointments today... not totally what I am looking for but I might as well check it out. After the first appointment, I decide I have a few minutes to go to the mall and treat myself to something special for my birthday. The day of which I am already dreading as I am missing all of you tremendously! I so wish that you would be here to spend time with me and we would enjoy the usual debauchery. However, retail therapy should help my incredible sadness as it has always been a good friend. WRONG! I think we have broken up and the mall just forgot to call and tell me. I took my little conversion chart with me but it refused to help! First, I couldn't read the sizes because there were multiple numbers and nothing matches anything close to my chart. Second, what wasn't a number was in Japanese and hell if I can read that. I gave up and, with head down low from the weight of my depression, I headed back to my car.

As if the gods weren't laughing hard enough at this point... the damn box won't start. That's right, folks! The same box that I just purchased on Friday. Oh, yeah... did I mention that it is pouring down raining today? Blah, blah, baby poohcakes...

It is fixed now. Or so they said. How would I know? I'm just some silly American chick who has to take their word on it.

So I come to spill my sadness and depression onto the internet because that is what normal people do, right? And what do I find in my email? Loving, warm, happy birthday messages! I kid not at all about this when I say... I cried. Hard.

You all have erased my exasperation with just a few kind words and made it a better day. Everything you said reminds me of what is important in this world and the past two days mean nothing because my friends love me and are always with me, both near and far. And that is all I ever need in this world. Thank you all for the very best birthday present a girl could ever ask for... the love of a good friend! It will be a brighter, happier day indeed because I will be carrying your acts of love with me.

Saturday, August 5

Tidbits to Amuse

First! I have a correction to make to an earlier entry. The car I bought is a Honda Capa. Give me a break... like I should be responsible enough to know what the hell I just spent a couple of thousand on. Sheesh. Anyway, if you tried to google it, you wouldn't have found anything. If you try this correct spelling, you should. Or go the lazy route and try clicking this: If I did this linking stuff right, you should see the box I bought. If I didn't, better luck next time.

On with the show!

There are things that I see on a daily basis that amuse me. These are generally things that I just can't figure out the reason for.

For instance, the other day we were waiting for the car dealer to pick us up. We were on a busy corner in Yokosuka and heard ice cream truck music. As you all know, I took off running in the direction of that glorious sound! I looked everywhere! Up and down the street as the music continually got louder and louder. I saw nothing that resembled an ice cream man or his happy little truck. Moments later, Kimino Hubby, who had just caught up with me, saw the same thing I did... the source of my joy... a garbage truck! The garbage people play the same music that the ice cream man does back home! Now, I don't even know if they have ice cream men here, but I can tell you that THAT... ain't right.

We went with a realtor this afternoon to get her car and go check out another potential residence. The realtor stood by what looked like a huge elevator door and typed in a series of numbers onto the keypad to the side. A few moments later, the elevator doors opened and there stood a single car. Hers! It took us a moment to realize, but this was one of those massive moving garages that we were standing on top of. When you pull your car in, the panel underneath it moves it to a designated space underground where all of the cars are essentially stacked on top of one another. When you want to pick it up and take it out, the car will move on the panel, on the track, to be returned and waiting for you once the doors open. Amazing! Okay, maybe only to small town folk like me.

The language... English that is more Engrish... where the translations sometimes get confused but amuse the heck out of me. Essentially, the Japanese do not have an "r" in their language. When I say my name, it is usually pronounced as "Kalen" back to me. I'm kind of liking it. My menu last night had English under the kanji characters. It read, "these clams are good tasty." Maybe not funny to you but hilarious to me! I walked around all night saying "this is good tasty... that is good tasty." And yes, Kimono Hubby laughed every single time. Stop shaking your head and thinking "simple, simple people." We already did that too. At a sushi bar the other night, on the rotating bar, there was a sign that read "fresh fish change prices daily." And how make I ask, does the fish do this? Does it walk in to the bar and say, "hey, sushi dude! Me thinks my price should now be 340 yen!" and then walk back out? I had no idea that fish were so intelligent!

There is also the issue of to umbrella or not to umbrella. Everywhere you go, the women carry an umbrella here. These are not your average Totes kind either. I have seen silk, rice paper, lace, even damask umbrellas! They are all so incredibly beautiful and colorful. But what in the world for? You see, it isn't raining when you see these umbrellas being carried on the streets. You see them each and every single day, rain or shine. I get that the sun is enough to wilt these delicate flowers but is the fancy umbrella really necessary? Have they not sunscreen? And if a squall they did come upon, would the umbrella handle its original purpose and keep the rain off? Or would they have to switch to one of those silly waterproof ones we Americans haul around? I am so close to buying one myself though. Maybe it would help balance me out. If... scratch that... when I fell again, it would me more of the Mary Poppins style.

I am quite certain that it wouldn't be polite to ask why these things are the way they are. I don't want to be deemed callous or impolite in a society of such extreme regard for others. I just wish someone would volunteer the answers so I could stop walking around with this stupid look on my face.

Thursday, August 3

I Fell Down. Again.

I have a theory on this. I think the world spins faster on this side of the Earth and therefore when I take steps, my feet can't catch up with the sheer spped of which the Earth is moving and therefore I fall down. Any other theories? Because it can't be that I am just this clumsy.

This time I fell going into the bathroom at TGI Fridays. First, let me say that we only ate there because all we had was one hour before our next realtor appointment... and that isn't enough time to stare at all the plasty-food and figure out what it is, then try to eat it, allowing extra time for gag reflexes and all. So a teriyaki chicken sandwich at Fridays it was. Tasty!

I knew it would be hours before we were finished so I asked where the "toiletu" was which I hate asking because I hate that word. I tried bathrooms first but only got a blank stare. God, I do hate that word. I digress. She pointed me around the corner and off I went.

I opened the door, stepped over the vestibule and wiped out falling forward into the toilet, half under the sink, with my left hand still holding the door knob and my feet folded obtusely underneath me. Oh yeah, and I fell on my other knee... the good one. I am now bruised on both, thank you very much.

My first thought was that I wondered if anyone had seen me. Because I just can't stand anymore ground-time embarassment. So I just kind of laid back and peered around the corner. No one there! I casually got up and closed the door behind before I cried out in pain. Didn't want to look silly or anything.

Once I dusted myself off, I realized that I had just been sprawled on a public bathroom floor and now I would honor a shiny new realtor with toilet floor smell in their pretty car as they drove me around for a few hours. Truly an honor that I am bestowing on them.

I think I have a second theory. Maybe Kimono Hubby was half right. Not that my shoes are unstable as he said, because that is just plain nonsense. But I think it is safe to agree that there is definitely a problem. However, the problem lies in the fact that all of the shoes that I packed are broken. And therefore I can't walk correctly in them.

So, will someone please ship me some new shoes? If a certain someone gets a big Zappos box, I am pretty sure that will be the last anyone hears from me. But if it has my lovely friend's name on the return address label, I am safe! And everyone is happy and my knees can heal.

Wednesday, August 2

Me And My Box

No house yet! But if push comes to shove, I think we just bought a car that we can live in. Cramped, it would be, but isn't cozy supposed to be romantic... or some crap like that? Here is how it worked out...

A car is sent to come and pick us up on a corner and drive us to a dealership in a different part of the city. I am pretty sure the driver only knew hello and thank you in English so it was a very silent trip. We get there and see two cars that seem viable, one a black Mitsubishi RVR and the other a gold Honda Cava. Both have their pluses and minuses so they let me test drive both. Me! The girl who has had her license for exactly two days and has only driven one time and that was the test itself. They let Me! drive a car onto a major street and then loop around and come back. I love how they ask if you have a license and then take it on your word that you do. Anyway, Kimono Hubby sat in the passenger seat holding on to the Oh-Jesus bar but trying to make it look like he wasn't worried at all.

After test driving the first car, the RVR, I pull over so they can back it into the tight driveway they are calling a parking lot and the thing dies. And I mean... I never turned it off... because it turned itself off. It seems it felt inclined to take itself out of the running. Fine. I feared it anyway because it was as long as a regular-sized vehicle and it shuddered a lot while driving. I don't want to be pancaked my first time on the toll road to Tokyo. Later, KH noted that they had to jump start it to get it back into the parking lot. Definitely not our first choice.

The second test drive in the Cava actually went very well. It drives very smoothly. It has air bags - big news because most Japanese vehicles are not built with the safety standards that are used in the states. Makes you think twice about how long the front end is and how much an impact would affect you, the driver. It has a power button that makes the side mirrors turn in so you can get into those bitty little parking spots. Very low kilometer-age or whatever you want to call it. And the big winner... it makes beeping noises when you back up which is much nicer than me having to do it myself. It truly is a decent car. And you can't go wrong with a Honda.


I think we bought it. I'm not quite sure because the process is harder than trying to bring a tiger into the states and registering it as your family dog. We went to the bank and got cash. Then the dealer gave us yen for it. Then we went to another office and bought some insurance. Then we bought some more insurance from that same office. (They gave us a present for our business... a box of tissues and a pen. So very nice.) Next we go to something like City Hall and bought temporary plates. Once we have completed all of this, our dealer took the car back to the dealership for new tires and more cleaning.

At this point, you may think we just got ripped off of $500 dollars as we have just signed multiple Japanese papers, none of which we can read. But I don't think so unless the dealer and the insurance guy are in on it together and just split the dough. The plan, now, is that on Friday morning, someone will come pick us up again and drive us to the dealership to actually pay for our new box car and to hand over one good kidney (will have to be hubby's goods or they will send the police after us for giving them my damaged goods). We then get to give someone else some more money and they will drive to another city called Yokohama to get the official license plates.

Wait... there is more. After we have the plates, we take the car and get parking passes... and something else of which I can't seems to remember. Let's hope that Kimono Hubby was paying better attention than I was. Once this whole process is complete, I think the car is mine. Oh, except when we find a house, we have another process to go through with the local police.

I think I would rather have the tiger at this point.

I'm not complaining though. We need the car. It just had no idea that this is what you had to do to get it. There is one more fun thing we get to do... we get to do it all over again when we get a car for Kimono Hubby! I simply cannot wait.

Tuesday, August 1

Accommodating Accommodations

Last night was the beginning of our house hunting. We saw two last night. From those two, I can tell you that we will be living like a king and queen here. Or emperor and empress. I think I like the sound of that better... Empress Kimono Karen. What I mean to tell you is that the houses are huge and beautiful!

Now comes the hard part of finding one that will meet both Kimono Hubby's needs (air conditioning, no big snakes, and air conditioning, Western toilet, air conditioning) and my own (Japanese style, one tatami room, shoji screens and lighting, kitchen with countertops higher than my knees, door frames that I can walk through without bowing down, garden with rock and shrubbery, lots of closet space, heat). We share the wants of Mt. Fuji or water views and two parking spaces (and what I have seen for parking would hardly be considered two at home but here it is... just park bumper on top of bumper and you will fit two anyway). Today I saw two more homes. One with amazing views of Mt. Fuji looming over the house but sadly with only one parking spot. I am crying inside to have to turn this place down because of that. Another house was beautiful inside but only mountain and city views from the window. Who cares that it was only one block to the beach?

Househunting is my job for however long it takes. I intend to complete this job within two weeks and plan on setting a record - Girl harrasses Japanese into giving her the house of her dreams in one week and they do so just to shut her up.

Everyone tells us to be patient and the right house will come along, but I don't think either one of us wants to spend the next month in the Lodge. We are even welcoming back the days of air matress living if we can just do it once again in our own home. So I am on the hunt. I have appointments all day today and will be making more shortly for the next three days. I will find the one that is made just for us.

Another thought is this... since we have a nice condo back home... would someone mind just shipping it to us? I'm sure the locals will let us put it wherever we want.