Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sumo Tournament

Today I got to check off one of my "must-do's" in Japan... I went to my first Sumo Tournament!  I didn't know what to expect except to see lots of really big guys wrestling, but I must say, it was pretty exciting!  It was full of rituals, traditions, cheering crowds, and souvenirs.  My friend, Christine, and I had a great time and did a TON of giggling! :) Here are a few pictures from today's fun tournament!

Warming up before the tournament begins

Christine and I inside the Sumo arena

The Sumo wrestlers parading in

Presentation of the wrestlers


Stretching before his big match

Bowing to each other

And here they go!

I don't really know who this was or what he was doing, but needless to say it was interesting!  Maybe it was the halftime entertainment!

With a sumo wrestler... doesn't he look thrilled to take his picture with me?!?!

During one match both of the guys stepped out of the ring at the same time, so the referees came into the ring to decide who the winner was.

Two cute little boys cheering for the wrestlers

This was interesting... these guys would come into the ring every once and awhile to parade around holding up banners from companies... it was like a commercial.

This guy did a little routine at the end of the tournament

It's hard to see, but this is outside after the tournament on top of the arena... there is a guy inside playing a drum.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Thanksgiving Full of "Firsts"

I had such an amazing Thanksgiving yesterday... even though Chris wasn't here (but we'll be together for Christmas, yay!!), it was definitely a Thanksgiving to remember!

It was my first time to not only contribute to the meal (usually my sister and mom do most the cooking and they let me get away with bringing the drinks) but I cooked half of it!  My friend and amazing cook, Amy, decided we were going to make Thanksgiving for my Japanese students and our French friend, Maud.  We planned our menu and went shopping well in advance (when the commissary gets holiday items, they go fast, so you better load up because there is no re-stocking in Sasebo).  I quickly told Amy that I would host if she would do the turkey, it was a deal!

Eri, Asami, Yasuko (my students) and Maud (our friend from France) were looking forward to their first Thanksgiving!  We started the meal with a prayer, explained all the crazy looking foods to them, and they dug right in! They were so great, they tried everything and  in true Thanksgiving fashion, they went back for seconds!

Here's a few pictures from the evening.  First, the table settings...

Next, here's the food.  I think Amy and I did a great job!  Amy made the all important turkey, dressing, corn bread muffins, sweet potatoes, and two yummy pies.  I made the green bean casserole, cranberries, stuffin' muffins, and smashed potatoes. The only thing missing was my mom's famous "Pretty Pink Salad," but she is the only one who can make that incredible dish.  Maybe she'll make it for me when I come home!

Turkey, gravy, and sweet potatoes

Corn bread muffins, cranberries (fresh), and stuffin' muffins (not pictured: canned cranberries)

Green bean casserole, smashed potatoes

Most amazing pies ever! Pumpkin pie and Pumpkin Cheesecake with a maple, pecan glaze.

Of course, they had a sample all flavors of cider!

And finally... here's the pictures of everyone sampling the foods.  It was so fun to watch their faces as we were explaining things like cranberries from a can and sweet potato casserole!

Asami trying the canned cranberries.

Amy cutting into her delicious cajun fried turkey!

Everyone crowded into my itty-bitty kitchen! I think all 8 of us were in here at this time!

Eri sampling the sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows!

Eri, Asami, and Maud (with sweet Liam)

Yasuko, Vince, and Joe

Everyone visiting while dessert is being prepared.

A group shot of all the girls!
It was such a fun night... we are already making plans for next Thanksgiving! It was such an incredible blessing to spend Thanksgiving with such great friends.  I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I am so grateful for each and every one of you and your friendship.  I love and miss y'all!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dinner with a Friend

I have dinner with friends quite frequently (especially when Chris is gone), but last night's meal was extra special.  I met my Japanese student and friend, Yasuko, for dinner.  Now, as Americans living in a foreign country, we all know which places have English menus and which places don't and we really only frequent the places with menus we can read (or places we know what to order if we get the same thing every time).  However, last night, she took me to a brand new restaurant.  We went to "Goose."  Here's what the menu looked like,

Where do you even start?  She was so great and read the entire menu to me.  We finally decided to share a pizza, salad, crackers and dip, and a potato dish.  Everything was delicious and I had such a fun time! This is what we ate:
Mushroom and bacon pizza... yum!!

My friend, Yasuko, with the potatoes au gratin... it was our favorite of the night!

Avocados with wasabi mayonnaise and crackers

After an amazing time at dinner, she took me to a great hole-in-the-wall place for dessert.  The atmosphere was incredible and all the desserts looked delicious! Yasuko said she has been coming to this place since high school, and the best item on the menu is the coffee jelly... so, of course that is what I got.  The Japanese love their jellies... they put jellies in their sodas and everything!  I was nervous, but I dug right in!  The jellies were of course coffee flavored, but the ice cream made it sweet and creamy. I was in heaven and I will definitely be going back!

Coffee Jelly for dessert

I had such a fun evening!  I can't wait to take Chris to these fun new places Yasuko introduced me to!  She said will we definitely do it again... I'm already looking forward to the next new place she will take me. 

Getting to know Yasuko and my four Japanese students has been such an amazing experience... a definite blessing!! 

Sunday, October 23, 2011


In my last post, I told you about my favorite things in Japan.  In case you don't remember here's my list so far:
1.  The kind Japanese people
2.  The amazing seasonal flowers
Today, I found number 3... the festivals! The Japanese love their festivals and so far I haven't been disappointed by any of them.  Their costumes are amazing and everyone is just so happy!

Well, this morning started off sad because Chris and I hadn't been able to talk all week and then this morning, while I was home, I missed two phone calls.  I'm not able to call him back, so it's frustrating when that happens.  After church I was going to go to the festival, but it was raining.  But I talked myself into it because I reminded myself that I had an umbrella in the back (turns out by the time I parked my car, the rain had stopped) and that I'm only in Japan once.  I'm so glad I didn't miss this festival! They truly changed my attitude today.  I walked to the festival feeling pretty sad and missing my honey, and I literally left with a smile on my face because they were so exciting to watch!

This was the Yosakoi festival. Yosakoi is a style of dance that is highly energetic and it combines Japanese dance movements with modern music.  The dances are done by large teams which include men, women, and children of all ages. A defining aspect of every team's dance is the "naruko." This is a small wooden clapper that the dancers hold during their routine.

Posters advertising the festival... the picture in the middle is the naruko.

Here's some fun pictures from the dancing teams... there were a ton of teams, so I'm just warning you, there are a ton of pictures, too!!

They just love to have their picture taken!

These performers were being judged, but I didn't stick around long enough to see the winners, so I am giving them the award they would have received from me. :)

This first group wins for being the most colorful and most costume changes...

Love her excitement!

Just beautiful!

This is why they won in this category!
This next group won for best use of pom-poms in a routine...

Look at their fun facial expressions!
 This group won two awards: Best  traditional costumes and cutest child award...

I told you!

She was thrilled when her mom gave her clappers to make noise with!

 And these are my winners for best eye make-up and hair accessories...

Notice the eyes...

Just love it!
 And these girls get my vote for best song... they danced to, "I Need a Hero," and yes, I was singing along!

Okay, and she was super cute, too!
 This group wins for being the most amazing. There was one girl dancing with about 12 elderly women, they were pretty spectacular!

 And finally, most dramatic... they were so loud, I had to stop taking pictures because I was giggling so hard, but they did a great job!

It's like she was screaming right at me!

Maybe they'll ask me to be a judge next year! :)