Friday, February 18, 2011

Day Trip to Ureshino

On Thursday I traveled with a group of friends to Ureshino for the day.  Even though it was raining all day we had a great time sightseeing, soaking our feet, shopping in the huge recycle shop, and eating yummy tempura.  

The first place we walked to was the Tokdoroki Waterfall.  This was the first waterfall I have seen in Japan, so I was pretty excited!

Me, Maud, and Amy at the waterfall
This town is best known for their Tea Cup Onsens (a personal hot tub in the shape of a large tea cup).  I didn't try them out this time, but I will definitely be making a return trip sometime soon!  However, we did sit for awhile and soak our feet in the Seilbold Footbath.  This footbath was just in the middle of all the shops and it was free to use. It was heavenly and so very relaxing!

Then we were off to the recycle shop!  These shops are huge in Japan and they are everywhere.  You quickly find out which ones are good for furniture, dishes, purses, and whatever else you might be looking for.  Most the time you can find some pretty great deals. The one we visited had a ton of dishes, platters, and tea cups.  In some parts of the store you had to use your flashlight if you wanted to find some good treasures.  I came out with a large platter and two small vases.
My recycle shop finds!

By now we were starving and ready for lunch.  We went to a delicious tempura restaurant called Munean Yoko.  Tempura has quickly become my new favorite food in Japan.  It is simply vegetables, shrimp or fish with a yummy batter on the outside.  

The tempura is in the top right corner. Our meal also came with rice and miso soup.
   On our way home we saw this huge statue in the middle of the town.
Our trip to Ureshino was such a fun adventure! Despite the rain, we still had a wonderful time visiting this cute town.  I will definitely have to take Chris back one day!

Lantern Festival in Nagasaki

The Lantern Festival is held every year in Nagasaki for two weeks to celebrate the beginning of the Chinese New Year.  I had a great time with my friends... it wasn't crowded at all so we were able to see all the lanterns and take some good pictures.  It was amazing and the lanterns looked so pretty all lit up along the water and in the town.  However, the highlight of our night was the excellent Mexican restaurant we stumbled upon. It was delicious! Here are a few pictures of the many lanterns and colorful displays we saw.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Family Pictures

I know this blog is supposed to be about Japan, but it's also about blessings in our life, so I thought this would be okay.  This fall before we moved to Japan, Chris and I were in Louisiana and my wonderful sister arranged for us to have family pictures taken by our great friend, EJ Schiro (she even picked out our clothes).  I have always loved and appreciated my family, but even more so in the past four years since Chris and I have been in Hawaii and now Japan.  They have unending love for us and I know they pray for me and Chris daily, and that means the world to us!  Most of my favorite memories include my family... whether we are watching "Steel Magnolias," eating pancakes on china by candlelight, or decorating Easter eggs, we are always having a great time! We love and miss y'all!!
This is everyone... my nephew, Cade, brother-in-law, Jamie, my niece, Ella, my sister, Julie, my dad, mom, and grandma, and of course me and Chris.

Cade and Ella, so precious!

My super cute niece, Ella... she is so funny and she loves to talk on the phone to me whenever I call! Don't you just love her cute smile!
My amazing nephew, Cade... I just can't wait to see what God has in store for his life.  He is just the neatest kid!

I love this picture of the four of us!      

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Life so far in Japan

We've been in Japan for a little over a month, so we are slowly starting to figure things out, with an emphasis on the word "slowly." Things are quite different over here, as you can probably imagine, some changes make us laugh, others take awhile to get used to. I've been writing some of our adjustments down, here's my list so far:
1.  Driving!  This is by far the biggest one, but it's not as bad as we thought it would be.  Driving on the left side of the road isn't so hard to remember because I see the other cars doing it.  The hardest part is remembering which side of the car to get in on and not turning on my wipers when I want my blinker on. This happens at least once every time I drive!  The good thing is that the speed limit is very slow.  The fastest you can go is 70kph (which is about 42 miles per hour).  Slow is definitely better here! However new drivers are encouraged to place green and yellow stickers on your car to alert others that you are new to driving.  I have two on my car, one in the front and one in the back! Here's a picture of our new (tiny) car named Sassy (get it, we bought her in Sasebo?).

2.  Even though we enjoy our cho, it has taken some getting used to as well. Japanese chos are not insulated, the walls are very thin, and they don't have central heating; therefore, it gets super cold inside.  Each and every room has a door so we have learned to keep all the doors closed and only heat the rooms we are in.  The good thing is that our heaters have timers on them. This is important because you don't want to come home to a freezing house!  We also have kerosine heaters that get carried from room to room.  
3.  In Japanese culture, the entry way of your house is considered public property. So it isn't uncommon for a person to ring your door bell once, and if you don't answer quickly, they walk right in, but they don't go past the entry way.  In our pictures of the living room you might see a random phone on the wall, this is an intercom to the front door. Usually I would like that, but since most visitors are speaking Japanese, I find it easier to just go to the door.  

4.  All of our major appliances are in Japanese, with the Japanese writing symbols on them. It has taken us awhile to learn how to use our four different heaters, kerosine heaters, washer, dryer and stove.  I posted a picture of the buttons on our washer, fun times!

5.  I was thrilled to find out that our cho came with cable, but when Chris turned the TV on we found out we had about fifty Japanese stations, none of which we could understand.  The next day we quickly went to the base to rent a dish and now I have seven American stations! I'm thrilled!!
6.  I love the fresh produce in the Japanese grocery store. The fruits and vegetables are presented so nicely, most of them are even individually wrapped. Sometimes its tricky to figure out what is what, because of the writing and many of the grocery store workers don't speak English. But they will try their hardest to help you out. It's always a fun and new experience when I go.
7. Using the Japanese money, the Yen, has been fairly easy to switch over to, the only tricky part is the coins.  We have to remind ourselves that even though they resemble American coins they have a dollar value. For example when we buy coffee from a vending machine we insert what looks like a nickel and two pennies, but actually we are paying $1.50.

Our favorite thing has been the kindness of the Japanese people.  They always have a big smile on their face and they are so willing to help. They actually feel bad when they can't speak or understand English which amazes me since we are in their country (we should be the ones apologizing).  They don't like to say "no," so they will do whatever they can to assist you. 

Okay, sorry this blog has become quite long, but I hope it gives you just a little insight of what life is like in Japan. We are so thankful to have this unique opportunity to live in different country and culture, each and every day we learn something new!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Our Cho

Here are the latest pictures of our new house in Japan.
Our tatami mat room (and also dining room). Remember we can't hang things, we can just use "pins." So only lightweight things are hung and other pictures are just propped up.

The coffee and tea bar in our tatami mat room. We had fun setting this up!

The other side of the kitchen. We bought these units for more storage area.

Living room 
Living room leading into the tatami mat room

Sink area with the washer and dryer to the left and the shower room is on the right.

Window nook upstairs

Storage closet room, which I use for my school books and files

Craft room (not completely finished yet)

Guest bedroom (yes, that big white thing is a full size bed). Now, we just need some company to come!

Our room

Our first piece of Japanese furniture that we purchased. It is a kimono dresser. We just use it for Chris' stuff. But both doors open and the drawers pull out. 

Chris' Birthday Trip

Yes, I know it has been forever since I've updated our blog, but I have a perfectly good reason. Even though we've been in our house for almost a month, we just got the internet connected last week.  See, that is a good reason, right?
Well, since I've last blogged, we've been quite busy. We learned how to drive on the left side of the street on the right side of the car,  we moved into our cho (house) which we love, we took a day trip to celebrate Chris' birthday, and Chris left for his first deployment.
For Chris' birthday we took a trip through the MWR (a place on base that plans wonderful day trips) to a market, Japanese buffet, and an onsen (a private family natural hot springs bath) and a tea.  It was a wonderful experience!  Our first stop was to a market where we saw huge and unique foods, here are just a few pictures. Notice the huge grapefruit, red carrots, and yes, that's fish on a stick (this picture is just for my nephew).

Then we headed to the Japanese style buffet. It had some delicious, but also different foods, such as chicken feet. Sorry, I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of them this time.  Our view while we were eating was beautiful, it had just snowed the night before, and the snow was so pretty glistening in the sunlight.

Then we loaded the bus for the Japanese onsen. These places are all over Japan. They are natural hot springs baths and your skin feels so soft after you get out of the extremely hot water!  When you first enter the onsen, you go downstairs to a long hallway full of doors.  Inside each door is your own private onsen!  All of the onsens face a beautiful view of the mountain. It was a fun experience and we can't wait to try more! Then we ended the day at the onsen with some hot green tea.  Chris had a great birthday and it was a fun last trip before he left.