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Thursday, August 28

Critter Talk

Have you ever felt that the only way you can get through your life is if you keep everything very compartmentalized? I feel this way pretty much all the time. I can’t stand when I am focusing on one thing and get someone (usually my darling husband) trying to shove four hundred other things into my mind at the exactly the same time. That doesn’t mean I can’t handle a lot going on at once. I work really well under pressue actually. It just means that each thing has its time and place to be dealt with. Within one frame, say work time, now 400 things can come up to do with specifically my job, but just don’t try to throw in life things at the same time I am in my work box or I will seriously spin. Perhaps what I am saying is that I have a lot of obsessively compulsive ways that people may or may not realize and I often pretend aren’t there. My family definitely sees it, but the rest of you… you probably have missed it. Great! That’s exactly what I want.

It’s really all about focus. I want to focus on what is directly in front of me. And I don’t like to play a lot of guessing games with everything else that I might have going on until each thing’s number actually comes up. What has got me in a tizzy, you think? Well, many things actually. But all those things have had to be shut out, after a polite conversation with my husband to simply NOT talk to me about where we will move to next year until it is time to talk about it… like next year. Until then, I’ve got other things soaking in way too much gravy off my plate.

This summer has been a lot of compartmentalizing. We took the trip home early on, so my entire focus was on that. Then I focused on the family visit here. Now we are past that and I need to focus on the next big thing… this baby thing. Anyone that knows about my obsessive tendencies would be shocked to know that I haven’t really done much about this whole baby thing other than let it brew. I just couldn’t focus on all those baby needs until I had the time to truly focus. And do it right. Because I think I kind of forget sometimes that this is… well… BIG. It must sound ludicrous to say that and you are probably thinking… that girl seriously has no right to have a baby if she only just realized that a baby is DAMN big now. I swear I thought about it before… once or twice. But now I am less than 11 weeks out and holy hell… there is a lot to do all of a sudden.

My friend just got engaged. I sent her a planner to help get her started. Why isn’t there a baby planner – one that tells you when to conceive in life, when to buy the furniture, when to make a birthing plan and when to start on number two? I feel gypped. I digress.

The past week has been all about the ‘baby do’ list. I washed loads and loads of little boy clothes, up until the 6 month range, hoping it was a decent head start in the never-ending washing process ahead of me. We have a three bedroom house which has a master bedroom, a guest room and the third contains our computer room. Obviously this wouldn’t do with a kid on the way, so now we have a guest room/computer room and one very empty room which some would call a nursery… if it actually had anything in it. I did check on the furniture order just to see where all of that was at, and particularly if the Navy Exchange ever even ordered it. Lo and behold, they did. It has all shipped… at varying times. We’ll still be lucky if a dresser shows up before the baby. Fingers and toes remain crossed. And the crib… well, we also still haven’t picked that up from our friend (it wasn’t right compartmentalization time before now), which means it also hasn’t been sanded or painted. It remains on the ‘baby do’ list, now getting shoved to the dad side of those to-do’s because the procrastination since we entered into the baby finish line phase three weeks ago has not been mine.

I also started taking classes. Together, we finally re-upped our CPR certification. Can you believe it is now 30 compressions to 2 breaths?? And doing it pregnant… dang… do you get out of breath. Not to mention the struggles to get off the damn floor afterwards. I also took a breastfeeding class. Found it completely useless. I could have read everything from a book and gotten more out of it. Plus, I swear they lied. I asked about that painful stage and was, with Heath Ledger mental/Joker-like smiles plastered on their faces, informed that there was simply no such stage. Not what my mom friends are saying. I tend to believe the truth to come from the lips of friends and not what these La Leche League cronies were selling. I’m still doing it. I just wanted to hear the truth from a professional or two and not what someone thinks I want to hear. We have two more classes to go, of which KH will be joining me. He is thrilled to be going to Labor and You and Baby Basics in the next few weeks. He is even more thrilled about the Bootcamp for Dads class I signed him up for, of which he will be going on his own. If I am going to push this thing out, the man needs to feel some pain too in the whole process.

We actually also met a real doctor at the Navy Hospital. I was just glad to know that they really had them and it wasn’t some urban military base myth.

Left to do… find perfect homecoming outfit, pack for the hospital, figure out how the car seat fits into the Japa Capa, actually put some furniture in the room… when I get some that is, find a Japanese hospital that does the 4D ultrasound and who understands me enough to make an appointment, buy a scary looking breast pump, find a rocking chair in Japan (damn near an impossibility I’ve so far discovered), and continue to update the baby book of which I seem to be falling behind. I’m sure there are other to-do’s left, of which I will most assuredly remember at about 3:00 a.m. some morning, bringing me back into freak out mode that it’s only a little over 10 weeks away.

And the actual baby, you ask? All is very good there. He’s getting bigger and in position. He kicks like a fiend as felt by me and by anyone who has patience and cold hands they want to put on my belly will tell you. And his kicks… they rival Jeff Reed’s performance in the preseason game against the Vikings this past weekend. I truly love the feeling of his rolls and jabs and kicks, with the exception of at about 4 am when my insomnia is in full force and I desperate to fall back asleep. I swear he kicks harder then than at any other time of his active day, although I have discovered that my newly added, nightly Robitussin cocktail ritual is keeping him quieter than usual. Well, except for last night when around 2:00 a.m., I decided to re-dose in bed, in the dark, with a teaspoon so I wouldn’t wake KH for the first time in over a month. That was, until I spilled half the bottle across my stomach and legs, watching it seep into the mattress padding, at about which time I proceeded to swear up a storm while frantically wiping the red stickiness from between my legs with my nightgown. With all that going on, the critter riled up quickly to join his mom at the party.

For those that keep asking, here is a picture of me. 29 weeks and counting. Please don’t laugh too heartily… unless I am fully out of earshot.

And note that my very offensive sunflower tattoo is becoming more of a vine than the little tangle it used to be. The Japanese would so not be pleased.

Tuesday, August 26

The Work of Some Truly Creative Artists

Weeks ago now I went to an Ikebana exhibit at the Takashimaya department store in Yokohama. My invitation and tickets came from two women in my Kozan class who were going to have their own arrangement there. There’s one thing I know that is very important here and that is supporting fellow students, particularly at an event that was as large as this one was. The arrangements shown here were created by my friends, Nagasaki san and Gomi san. Not the best picture sadly, but I can assure you that these two have created some of my favorite arrangements in class.

There was one thing quite different about this exhibition than the many I have been to in the past… the Kozan school was very well represented. It isn’t that the school I study is so small, although it definitely isn’t one of the largest, but it just seems to go largely unnoticed or unknown… in my humble knowledge of the art form. The usual schools also well represented – Sogetsu (a more modern school), Ikenobo (a more traditional, elegantly simple school), etc – but it was the large amount of Kozan that impressed me. Even more surprising was my immediate knowledge of these schools. You see, the tags are all written in Japanese that tell me what the school and the artists name was and yet, I still knew on many of them before my Japanese friends with me translated a stitch of what was on the announcement card. Somehow, in my two years of study, and more importantly, plain old interest, I have gotten to know Ikebana much better than I thought. I really do have something to take home from my time here in Japan that was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I did post some pictures from the exhibit in the sidebar Flickr link, if you are interested. I wouldn’t say that some were my favorites, but some caught my eye and I couldn’t leave without getting a picture of the expressed creativity.

This last picture is from an amateur that you all know. It is my arrangement from class this week. Not quite up to par with the creativity of the exhibit, but I’m sharing anyway.

Friday, August 15

Stunning, Sobering… Hiroshima

Making a trip in Japan can be both easy and tricky at the same time. When we moved here, we knew that it was an expensive country, yet still the sticker shock of some trips never fails to surprise us. But in the spirit of living in a foreign country, we would be stupid to not take advantage of all of the amazing places to visit here. We’ve hit most of the major places… like Tokyo which is very close to us, as well as some more distant locations like Sapporo, Kyoto, Takayama (me – not KH), Okinawa (KH – not me) that have required either airfare or bullet train costs. On both of our lists though was Hiroshima, of which we just recently visited. To keep the travel costs as low as possible and still see everything we want, we try to save these trips for times when guests are in town who might like to see the same thing. It’s worked out pretty well for them and for us, because we aren’t revisiting sites we have been to and can therefore use that money on our list of must see places around Asia. With Kimono Hubby’s family in town, it seemed the perfect opportunity to book us to head to the southern part of Japan and take in their mix of modern and ancient history in the Hiroshima area.

Shinkansen tickets were purchased and we were off to Hiroshima on the first of August. Anyone who is big on their history (read: geek like me) will know that this is an exceptionally special time of year to visit Hiroshima. The atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima occurred on August 6th, 1945 at 8:15 in the morning. We were just days away from that date, when the whole town is preparing for the huge Peace Memorial Ceremony, an honorarium to the victims from that horrific day as well as Japan’s continuing attempt to pray for the realization of a lasting world peace, where nuclear weapons are no longer created or needed. I am not going to get into what I think about that day or whose side I am on. Doing so does nothing to help the victims of Hiroshima or to help the world continue with the move forward. But I will forever be altered after my few days in Hiroshima.

After a four hour trip on the shinkansen, we arrived early in the afternoon, checked into the beautiful Righa Royal Hotel where our rooms looked over the Hiroshima Castle and its grounds. It took us only moments to drop our belongings and head out for the first stop on our tour, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. While I am not usually one for touring museums when I am in a foreign country, unless they are full of art work, this was one place that I was absolutely insistent on going to and was willing to go on my own if needed. Fortunately, the family was willing to go along with it, with my husband and mom-in-law even as gung ho as I was. Our hotel was only a few minutes walk, but since we weren’t sure of the area just yet, we snatched a cab that drove us over to it. This wasn’t a bad idea since the temperatures in Hiroshima was even more excruciating than they were in our area.

We paid our entrance fee and also picked up the English headsets that were available and started through the museum. It is actually two separate buildings, connected by a bridgeway. The first part, the Eastern bulding, was filled with the history of Hiroshima, including a bit of feudal times, prewar activities in the area, war time itself as it became a military city and then eventually, that fateful August day. A reconstruction of the domed top of the building, now know as the A-Bomb Dome , dwarfs the three floors in the Eastern hall. On the lower floor next to the dome lies two reconstructions surrounded by televisions showing scenes from that day… central Hiroshima prior to the bomb and Hiroshima directly afterwards. What you see on the first are tiny buildings meandering in every direction around the rivers. On the second, you literally see nothing but flattened earth. The realization that the place you now stand on was once part of this nothing is enough to shake your entire being. When we finished with this building, I honestly wondered what could possibly fill a whole second building. Even though you had seen the destruction in wide view, my mind was still not ready to embrace the fact that the second building would be far worse to view.

Have you ever visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.? I have been there many times in the years that I lived there. I never made it through without silent tears streaking my cheeks. The Holocaust was certainly a horrific blot on our modern history and the museum tells the story well. But they have nothing over the story that Hiroshima had to tell. Perhaps it is because I am an American and know my country’s sole role on Hiroshima’s significant day. I am sure that is part of it. Even maybe a large part of it. But it was sheer, unadulterated emotion from the deepest part of my soul that conveyed to everyone around me as I made my way through the main building.

I couldn’t help but continue to press play on the headset at every stop, even though I was positive at everyone of the over 50 exhibits that I didn’t want to hear what was to be told. At one exhibit, it was all I could do to stand there and hold myself upright while the tears streamed down. If I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders when standing in absolute safety, how can I even begin to imagine the true depth of what the victims felt that day. Shock, horror, unbelieving, not understanding… pain… both mental and physical unstoppable pain. These people didn’t even know the truth about what had happened to them. Even now, almost two weeks later, I am still trying to block out what I saw. And I didn’t live it.

I was the last to emerge from the museum. The entire family was sitting there waiting for me. I couldn’t look at them. I couldn’t speak. And I’m pretty sure that at least my mom-in-law was feeling the same way I was. All she could say to me was how she wanted to tell everyone in there how sorry she was. My God. Aren’t we all?

Heavy hearted, we made our way out to the streets to head back to the hotel. We all needed a mental break after that. It was a quiet trip back, each person lost in their own grief-stricken thoughts. Even rejoining one another for dinner proved to be a quiet affair, with a quick tonkatsu meal in the mall food court just next door. After dinner, I called it a night to rest my weary, swollen feet… and to think. The rest went for a little walk in the slightly cooler night air.

By the time the sun came up, the mood had again lightened. Again, I say we will never forget, but this was a vacation of sorts, not meant for continuing dreary thoughts. After a buffet breakfast, we set off on Hiroshima’s street cars to the island of Miyajima. Surely if you have ever seen pictures of Japan, you have seen this island. It is named as being in the top three scenic places in Japan and the picture of its large red torii gate standing alone in a bay is well known to marketers. At the end of the street car line, we hopped on a ferry to bring us across the short waterway to the island. It was another brutally hot day, broken only slight by an occasional breeze along the water. On the island, deer roam freely, even surprising me by being out on this particular scorcher. They are quite friendly, but signs remind the daily tourists not to feed them. One such lady was apparently not capable of following the rules, because we saw her running away from a huge herd that swarmed her after she apparently fed one or two. I swear she was an American too, which only makes me shake my head harder.

After capturing about a hundred photos of the torii gate, stopping to dip our toes into the ocean (where as I held onto Kimono Hubby to take that dip from a slippery step, his mom came to join me, almost tossing all three of us into the water for an instant) we moved on towards the most popular shrine on the island, Itsukushima Shrine. It is also known to be a ‘floating’ shrine because it looks like it rests on top of the water when the tide is in. We were a bit late for the full high tide, so many water areas were already seeing themselves emptied, but it didn’t take anything away from the beauty. We continued our stroll out of the shrine and into the tight, little roadways surrounded by souvenir shops. One such little shop sold snow cones. With two big shoppers in the group that got a little behind us, KH, his mom and myself plopped ourselves down for this icy treat. That small break was enough to get us through the streets ahead of us, streets that have preserved a feeling of classically Edo-era Japan. And a tiny meal at one restaurant, where I had to go back to my days of pointing at the plastic food in the window, helped too. There is a five story pagoda along the walk too, but the hill that led up to it was just too demanding looking for any of us hot and weary travelers. I would have suffered to do it and see the pavilion and pagoda at the top, but I certainly wasn’t going to bear that misery alone. Instead, we all slowly began the walk back to the ferry and streetcar beyond. We met one very friendly (read: very drunk) Japanese man who told us over and over again with his chu-hi stinking, smoldering breath how he only speaks English remembered from junior high. Smooshed between him and KH, who entertained this man with a long chat, I tried hard not to be rude as I turned my face away from the reek. I might add that not a single person in our family was willing to switch me places on the 50 minute ride back. Rude. I’ll pay you all back for that one. Anyway, a break from the burning afternoon sun was in our immediate future, not to mention an icy cold shower and hopefully some clean underwear, so I endured.

Little did I realize, but the group was not quite ready for that shower. Instead, we got off one stop sooner and took a long walk around the Peace Memorial Park. The museum is located on the southern part of these grounds, but we had not yet actually seen the part with the statues and the A Bomb Dome, which sit at the upper end closest to where we were. As we came upon it, we began to hear beautiful singing from somewhere in the park. Later, we came to realize that they were practicing for the ceremony now only three days away. The sole woman’s voice accompanied by a small orchestra added to the solemn quality of the park. Past the Dome, we made our way past many monuments including the Flame of Peace and the Pond of Peace until we finally stood in front of the Cenotaph that perfectly frames the monuments in its arch. A tour group stood there as silent as if we were inside the museum, everyone lost in their personal reflections, bringing back to me the realities of why we came to visit this particular Japanese city. The message this city is trying to relay is not lost on me. The damage done by the atomic bomb is too terrible for anyone to perpetrate or endure. I can fully understand the Japanese belief now so deeply rooted in their hearts and minds that tells them that nuclear weapons and mankind cannot coexist indefinitely. My study of history allows me to understand why it stands that way today, but at the same time, I still want to hope and pray that the world can find a better way to maintain the balance… for humanity’s sake.

Now, I have mentioned this before in my blogging, but it seems that everywhere in Japan is known for some kind of famous food. Hiroshima was no different. It just happens to be known for one of my favorites… okonomiyaki. Every time our houseguests tried to get us to tell them what it was, we described it as a pancake with stuff in it. This description was definitely not suitable to them, and even had them more than a little wary of trying it. But, like the museum, I didn’t pay all that money to come to Hiroshima to skip on this point. At the front desk, I spoke at length with the concierge to find the place that was right for us… no sitting on the floor (not for our fellow travelers who may not be able to ever get back up from that position), not too far away that we couldn’t walk back with the little energy the sun hadn’t taken from us early and it had to be indicative of the best of Hiroshima. They actually had a map of spots, and the concierge was all to helpful to call and see how busy each place was and if they took reservations. As we hopped into cabs, I know our guests were not looking forward to what lay ahead for them. When we got to the tiny shop hidden away on and even tinier street, we were asked to wait as the place was quite full. We were provided with menus in English, which did absolutely nothing to waylay their fears. Setting aside their anxieties though, two of them did settle on one of the items and the other decided to just skip dinner and pray she would find something Western later. When seats for five became available, we were ushered in to a large table that we shared with many other groups. I did the ordering, hoping to streamline the process for the Japanese waitress who was giving us all kinds of baffled eyes. It took a second waitress to confirm my order, but they went to work on it. The place is called Mitchan. Servers line up in front of a long bar with their orders, while a line of cooks behind the bar prepares the okonomiyaki. Each cook has his own job in the process, passing the pancake on to the next as he goes. Essentially what went into this one (they are all a slightly bit different) was soba noodles, egg, cabbage, special sauce, pork and then additions such as shrimp or squid. Once it is served to you, you can add extra sauce and mayonnaise to it. The Japanese really are big fans of mayo, and are making one out of me too with putting it on so many things. It may not have looked overly appetizing, but our two guests managed to chow theirs down pretty well, leaving little to nothing behind, proving once again that looks shouldn’t influence taste! It was honestly so delicious. And filling. The lengthy walk back to the hotel was necessary to start digesting all that food… well and to find a KFC along the way for our last guest who had still not yet eaten a dinner.

Our last day in Hiroshima, we awoke to another… surprise… hot and sunny day. This time we had planned on making the short walk over to the Hiroshima Castle. This castle is the reason why Hiroshima was chosen as the first bomb site. The Japanese military had determined that the historical site made a perfect hiding place for their headquarters. Little did they know that the American military couldn’t have cared less for its history, only for its current use. Like with everything, the castle is a 1958 replica, but it is well done and worth the visit. It contains a museum inside about ancient Japan, which moves through decades and facets of live as you move up through the five floors. Did I mention that there was little to no air conditioning inside? Apparently, they were sticking to the original design when this puppy was rebuilt. Man, it was hot. Only once you made it to the very top floor where the windows and doors were wide open did you get a nice cool breeze from outside to bring your body heat back down about twenty degrees. After resting at the top, we realized that it was getting close to the time when we would need to catch our train. One last lunch in Hiroshima, more western after we had tortured them with ‘the new’ the night before, and we were back on the shinkansen heading north and home.

Despite the sweltering time of year to visit a city in the south surrounded by mountains, I really can’t even begin to describe how happy I am that we finally made that trip. Every bit of it was as perfect as it could be. Okay, no… not the heat… but everything else. Most of all, I am grateful to see a place that I had studied so extensively while working on my degree. I am sure I probably bored my fellow travelers with my constant tidbits, but I just couldn’t hide my excitement for being there and for learning more by actually seeing a significant part of shared Japanese and American history. I felt like I was one of Hersey’s characters as I roamed down streets overlooking the waterways. I felt pain. And I felt hope. And isn’t that exactly what they had hoped for.

Wednesday, August 13

Rubbed In Disappointment

Weeks ago a friend had talked to me about getting massages done. With the family visit, we decided to put it off until the week after they left. We figured I would be good and sore after all that running around anyway.

To make the appointments, we needed one of her Japanese friends to call for us, considering there are no English speakers manning the phones. I had chosen to get a facial done and a prenatal massage… two treats that I desperately miss since we moved to Japan over two years ago. My friend was going to have the same treatments done, minus the prenatal part of the massage. The spa we had chosen was actually one of the few in the area known for offering a prenatal massage. My friend had the facial there before and said it was heaven, hence the decision to have both done.

When the appointment was made through our Japanese liason, she found out that I was not going to be able to get the facial because of some chemicals that they used in the mud. Disappointment number one. I simply love facials. The look and feel of my skin afterwards is truly wonderful. All those tiny tired lines and blemishes are miraculously whisked away. But, I was happy to hear that they were so cautious about putting inappropriate materials on pregnant skin. I turned my thoughts instead to that lovely massage ahead of me. The one that would take away the ache in my lower back and the sharp pains in my heels. Bliss was still ahead of me.

I picked up my friend today and headed for Enoshima, the little beach town and island where Enospa was located. They even had parking, making this place all the more a score. We pulled into our reserved spot and made our way to the door and front desk.

Now Enospa is also a very fancy and popular onsen. I, however, have no interest in trying the onsen again in this lifetime, even though this one has several onsen accommodations that require bathing suits. First, I can’t get into any of my old bathing suits. Second, why would I want to increase my body temperature any more than the baby and the weather have already increased it to?

We took off our shoes and locked them away at the entrance. All was going well so far. That was until I turned around and saw the sign that states the rules, including one “no tattoos” rule. As you may recall, I have three… three of which got me my early exit from the last onsen. The rule worried me a little, but my friend and I figured that since neither of us were planning on using the onsen, it should still be fine. Then I arrived at the front desk.

Here is where disappointment number two comes in. At the desk, the very first question is… go ahead guess. My answer, trying to be an upfront and honest patron, yes indeedy, I do have tattoos. A quick sharp intake of breath and I knew I was in for it. In Japanese and broken English, she tried to tell me how I couldn’t get the massage. We tried to explain that we didn’t want the onsen, only the massage… which should be in a private room so what is the problem? No one will ever see the tattoo. Still explaining in the same un-understandable language mix, the head shaking was all we needed to know. She waited for reinforcements. Another receptionist came over. In mostly English, she said that even though I wasn’t using the onsen, the massage would not happen because of the tattoo. We still didn’t get it, because again… it isn’t like I am undressing and then walking naked through the halls until I get in to the private massage room. All I continued to get was flat refusal.

Here is the point where I am trying hard not to cry. I must admit that I do get frustrated at things like this, but usually I can hold it in better and be a patient and understanding foreigner. Chalk it up to pregnancy hormones, because I was not holding it in very well here. With glistening eyes, I decided to change tactics and instead ask for a simple foot massage. My thoughts? Well, I wouldn’t have to get undressed at all and therefore wouldn’t offend anyone with my unsightly tattoos. I have capris on, so just shove the legs up and help my feet to stop screaming out their pain!

I bet you know the answer I got back.

But why? Was it because I had already admitted that my body was defiled in their eyes that they wouldn’t even touch such a being? What if I had made the appointment initially for only a foot massage, signed in, denied that I have any tattoos? Would they have ever known that there are three hidden on my body? Three places that you would only ever see if I am wearing a bathing suit! I can only guess that the massage must not be in a private room and is instead out where everyone in the place can see, which is not at all the massage experience I want anyway. That would mean no quiet room, no candlelight, no soft music, no gentle aroma in the air.

I tried to get my friend to go through with her treatment, but she refused. She too couldn’t understand the adamant refusal for any sort of treatment, particularly when I switched to the foot massage. We both left, carrying the weight of our stress still trapped in our backs and feet.

And now I am home… and I still can’t entirely understand why. I get that I life in a foreign country where the rules are greatly different. And I respect these rules. I try very hard to abide by them and not cause a single ripple when I don’t understand them or agree with them. Yet, I can’t help feeling frustrated sometimes when it just seems so completely baffling.

I can’t stress enough how much I was looking forward to this. It was one thing that I wanted to do to treat myself… and something that was sure to help my body through the stress and work I had heaped on it recently. I can’t stop tearing up every time I think about how I was sent away. This incident has made me feel embarrassed about myself, when I have never felt that before. I like the way I look… tattoos, big belly and all. Now I am looking in the mirror and not liking what I see. I do believe this feeling has a lot to do (again) with the hormones that are going crazy on me of late. This current wound would probably not make a dent in my mind any other time, but it does today. I’m embarrassed. And I’m mad for being embarrassed.

So much for getting a massage that would take away the tension. Instead… it’s just made it worse. Grr. Damn Japan. Give a pregnant girl a break.

Monday, August 11

Summer Visiting

The paternal side of the Kimono family has come and gone. They spent two weeks here during the hottest time of the year in Japan. For that, I feel bad for them, but I think they had a wonderful time despite the tortuous heat and humidity.

While they were here, I spent the first week taking them to the usual local highlights… Kamakura’s Hachiman Shrine, Hase Dera and the Great Buddha. We had to break it up a little because the heat threatened not only my preggo self, but also his older aunt. No amount of water consumed stopped that dehydration and exhaustion process that the sun laid on us every day. I even broke the first week up with a trip to Daiei, a local mall. Since it was four women touring around each day while Kimono Hubby was out bringing home the bacon, I knew I couldn’t go wrong taking them shopping.

Each evening, we met back up with the man in the house and headed out for some local cuisine. I must admit that they were not the most adventurous eaters, but there were surprising moments. On the first night, KH’s aunt pronounced that she simply wasn’t hungry. None of us believed this, even though she swore up and down it was the truth until the day they left. We are more of the mindset that the look of the food at our favorite local restaurant threw her a little. If she reads this now, I know she will scoff. Besides their faces when seeing the food on that first night, the second best part of the night was the initial moment that each spent with their new tool… the chopsticks. KH’s mom and cousin picked it up right away, while his aunt struggled a little. This might have added to her aversion to any sort of meal that night. I gave the best lesson I could, but had to admit that the only way to learn was to practice, practice, practice.

The second day’s meals went a little better. We stopped at a soba restaurant in Kamakura for lunch, where they all choose the plain cold soba… a wonderful summer treat here in Japan if you ask me. They all seemed to honestly like that one. Dinner was at another Zushi favorite of ours, Matchpoint Curry Bar, where a hot udon dish seemed to make them all happy… along with the delicious and ever popular garlic potatoes.

Now the third day… that was something. Whenever anyone comes here, we really do believe that you should try one piece of sushi. We honestly ask only for one! So we took them to our favorite sushi-go-round for lunch, choose the tuna as it is the mildest of all fish and has the easiest texture to start with. I think they were expecting the sushi that is served in the states, the rolled kind and not the true sushi, the nigiri sushi, that is more popular here. The look on all three faces was priceless. Mom… sat and stared in horror, even noticeably gagging without ever even trying to pick up her one piece. The cousin… sat with the same horror on her face, violently shaking her head. The aunt… same look, but ballsy enough to pick it up and stuff it in. That’s where the really funny part came in. The noises and the face that she made while trying hard not to chew and simply swallow it was priceless and will not ever be forgotten by anyone at that table. She got it down, but hated it every step of the way. The other two pretty much refused to even try anything else after that, even though we ate their tuna for them. The lunch was a complete failure, only landing us at Wendy’s directly upon leaving the sushi-go-round. So much for trying anything new that day. All three of them apparently refused to trust us for the remainder of the day, which meant that there was only one option for dinner… Chili’s on base. There, they were quite happy and stuffed it in like they were squirrels storing up for winter.

Here I am going to skip ahead a bit, because we did a trip to Hiroshima over a long weekend, but I am not ready to write about that as my fingers just are too darn tired today. Instead, I am going to jump to the following week, when we were back in Zushi.

The heat was intense the whole time they were here. Did you know that extreme heat and pregnancy do not go together? Well, I should have known with the daily repeated lecture my husband gave me on the subject. I think he was mostly just tired of rubbing my elephant sized feet. Okay, probably not… he is extremely protective of me and the critter inside. I digress.

Back at home, we took the first day off for them to relax and me to run errands. By Tuesday, they were ready to roll again. My dread of the heat was enough for me to suggest Sea Paradise, a lovely little aquarium in Yokohama that I like to bring guests to. Still stinging from other Japanese food days that we forced them into, we went for lunch at a western restaurant in that area, followed by pizza from the base pizzeria that night. But you won’t find me complaining about staying in that night for dinner though. I honestly wasn’t doing so hot myself. In fact, I had been having pains for days (another reason why KH felt it okay to provide me with the daily lecture). It seems that even if you drink gallons of water and head out, it still just doesn’t matter. A few hours in the hospital the next day connected to a uterine contraction machine and an IV proved that little fact. Once my blood pressure was stabilized and there seemed to be no more immediate pains, they released me back into the wild… along with the orders to chill out a bit in the current temps. Now any woman with visiting in-laws knows that this is just not possible! They flew half way around the world to see Japan! It isn’t there fault that I happened to successfully procreate after their trip was booked! The doctor released me and told me that the next day’s tour (which was already a day behind because of the unscheduled hospital visit) to Asakusa in Tokyo was okay as long as I sat down a lot and drank three gallons of water. I was all set for this, but I tell you what… that husband of mine was having none of it. Now, this is a man who I have to beg and plead with to get him to take a day off of work. Here at this point, that wasn’t even necessary. When I told him I was still planning on it, despite being one of the worst times to take off, he did it. He worked a few early hours in the morning, arriving back home by 9:00 so he could start heading up to Tokyo. Me… once the door closed with all of them… I didn’t argue with my orders. I laid down on the couch and watched old movies until they returned later in the afternoon. Believe me, I was eternally grateful for the break and to not be out in that heat. Willing and able yes, but wanting… definitely no. Plus, it was so wonderful for KH to get the day to spend just showing his family around the country he has come to love so much.

For their last day in Japan, I was ready to go again. Japanese pearls had been mentioned, so I chose Yokohama as the final trip. Takashimiya Department store has a wonderful selection of Japanese pearls, so it was the logical place to start. Of course, I warned them about price, but the sticker shock was still hard on all of us. In the end, no one got pearls, but we did have a good time touring around the rest of the store and then also the mall underground from the train station. Being the final day, I also managed to encourage them to try one more Japanese cuisine… tempura. The place was utterly Japanese, but truly delicious. No one had a problem with the tempura itself, but the rice with the tiny fish on it did make them a bit squeamish. Only one denied her hunger here, but she cleaned up with two desserts at the cake and tea shop we stopped by later that afternoon. Since they had been such good sports for lunch, it seemed only fair to take them to our favorite Italian place along the beach that night. No one denies that Napoli Cantina is delicious and wholly western.

With this night, their trip was concluded. We left early the next morning to get them to the airport. Those rides there are always the quietest… everyone lost in their own thoughts. Arriving at the airport, it is always this surprise that we got there so quickly and have to say goodbyes… goodbyes that are always hard because you just never know when you will see that person again.

I am always so happy when guests visit and have a good time here, but I will never figure out how to get over the stillness left in their wake.

I hope you all had a wonderful time. I hope you experienced things you never thought you would. But most of all, I hope you know how much we love and miss you… and how much we look forward to seeing you again.