Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sights To See When You Visit Us

Everything in Japan is spectacular.  There is great tasting food, efficient trains, courteous people, beautiful parks, and many places to sightsee.  Here are some of the places we will take you when you come visit:
Lighthouse at Jogashima

Jogashima- This is a lovely little island across a bridge at the end of Miura Peninsula.  It has many trails, lighthouses, tide pools, lookout areas, and a place to picnic.  The drive was maybe 30 minutes from our house...not bad!

Enoshima- This island is located in Fujisawa.  It has many restaurants, shrines, souvenir shops, caves, lookout areas, many, many stairs, an escalator (for a fee), garden areas, and yummy sweet potato ice cream.  Nearby is an aquarium and a great pizza place I hear.  From our house it took 4 trains to get there.  The distance isn't far and its a nice day trip especially if you get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji from the island.

Sarushima or Monkey Island- This island is an old fort and is located in Tokyo Bay off Yokosuka.  You can take a foot ferry to the island right near Yokosuka Naval Base.  There is swimming, fishing, hiking, BBQ areas, and many places to explore.  I love that it is close to where we live.  We can take the train or drive and park on base.

Zushi Beach.
  Zushi & Hayama

Zushi and Hayama are located on Sagami Bay. They are both quaint areas with beaches, eateries, marinas, shrines, and a good place to watch windsurfers.  Since there is really no parking available, we will be taking the train.  It will take about 30 minutes to get to the beaches (this includes the train ride, plus about a 15 minute walk from the train station).

Kamakura, Yokohama & Tokyo

The Great Buddah in Kamakura.

Kamakura has a lot of character.  It is a very historical city with many shrines, quaint shops, gardens, hiking, biking, and a ton of restaurants.  Its also close to "The Great Buddah" which is an amazing site to visit.

China Town in Yokohama

Yokohama is a bustling area with China Town, tons of shopping, waterfront, antiques, museums, dining, Costco, and amusement parks.  This area is very spread out, but there's always something new to see and do here.

Tsukiji Fish Market
 Tokyo is a large metropolitan city with endless possibilities.  You can shop for electronics, see Tsukiji Fish Market, go to The Emperor's Palace, go shopping in Ginza, or Shibuya and hit the dancefloor at a disco in Shinjuku.  There is a lot  to see here, and we're only about an hour train ride away. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Job Opportunities For Spouses Abroad

I attended a spouses employment brief a couple months ago to see what my options were in case I decide to work while I'm here in Japan. There was a lot of good information but my original goal was going to start job hunting in June. The reason being is that the government hiring process can often times take three months and that would mean I could start a job around fall when the kids are back in school. Sounds good in an ideal world, but I've decided that now is the right time to apply for some GS level positions...especially since there aren't many people to compete with on base at the moment.

I am going to start submitting my resume on CHART (The Navy's employment website) and also on USA Jobs. I have no idea how this process will go. I watched Justin constantly work and re-work his information on these sites last year and know it can be very time consuming and at times frustrating. I've decided to just take the plunge and have a wait-and-see attitude. I am in no rush and hope to savor my free time now before it gets eaten up by the demands of a job.

If I work for at least one year, I will have priority for a government job when we return to the states. This is something I've come to realize would be in my very own best interest to do. I could most likely get a position at PSNS, Keyport or Bangor.

If I didn't want to work on base, there are many options to teach English out in town. Some people I know teach anywhere from 1-4 days a week. Some teach children, while others teach adults.

I am just grateful for all the job opportunities here for us in Japan. I am hoping to start a nice travel fund for our family so that we can see many things here in Asia. Not to mention, I need to replace my diamond earring I lost about a year ago. Those of you who worked with me at my last job know how many "different" funds I had.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cherry Blossom Season

It is Cherry Blossom, or Sakura season here in Japan, and its absolutely gorgeous.  I always admired the Cherry Blossom trees back home, but didn't realize until we moved to Japan, how symbolical and beloved these trees are to the Japanese people. I'm so happy that we are here and able to participate in the festivities surrounding the Sakura.

There are over 200 varies of Cherry Blossom and they are native to many East Asian countries.  I've seen people at local parks, on the military base, and at temples viewing these trees. They have their cameras, lunch, and sketch pads in tow.  Viewing the trees is a time for people to relax and revel in their beauty.

Ohanami or flower viewing parties are popular.  It is customary for people to gather under a Cherry Blossom tree in the late afternoon and into the evening with friends or co-workers eating traditional Japanese food, drinking beer and drinking sake.  We attended our first Ohanami party with some of Justin co-workers last night.  It was a nice evening of food, good sake, great company and of course, lovely scenery.  Kampai!

Additional information about Sakura:

1) I've read that Cherry Blossom trees are planted outside of Japanese public buildings and schools to mark the beginning of the fiscal year and new school year which starts in Cherry Blossom season.

2) Cherry Blossoms are found in many food and drink items.  You can find them in wine, waffles, and pickled.

3) The Cherry Blossom is on the 100 yen coin.

4) The Cherry Blossom is symbolized in the Japanese military, art, film, music, anime, and song to name a few.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Making New Connections

Moving to a new country has been an interesting journey.  Making the decision to uproot our family, and transplant ourselves into a new culture, a foreign language, with few contacts, took some bravery.  Fortunately, the kids and Justin have a built-in social network at school and work.  I've always been a people person, so I wasn't too concerned about meeting people, but creating a new life here has been an evolving process.

Luckily, we were on base for 5 weeks.  This in itself was a good place to acquaint ourselves with others, and our new surroundings.  I never realized until we moved here how many things are offered to military families and Civilians working here long-term.  Free use of the gym, no sales tax, free courses, free Teen Center and no library fines to name a few.  Since the base isn't too big, the opportunity to see familiar faces happens regularly here.

Taking advantage of the classes on base has been a good networking tool.  I've met many new people this way, and it has opened doors to other connections, and friendships.  Next week I start my 12 week intensive language course out in town.  While I'm frightened (and sad since my friend who was going to take the course with me is back with her family in the U.S.) about this new journey, I'm also excited for the learning and networking opportunities this situation will present to me.  I've already seen the sensei who will be teaching my class on a tour we were on about a month ago.  She was one of the tour guides.  Small world!

International lunch with new friends!

Because of the events that have unfolded since the earthquake/tsunami hit Japan, the networks we were forming here have changed.  Many of our friends have chosen to evacuate to the United States for an indeterminate amount of time.  While I have my own self-pity moments, and want things to return back as they were, I've decided to push ahead and make the best of a tragic situation.  Since the disaster, I have met an amazing group of men and women who are still here in Yokosuka.  Some have been working the humanitarian efforts on base, others are Japanese friends I've met through new friends, and some are essential personnel.  Last week I formed a small private group on Facebook for the people who have stayed behind here in Yokosuka.  It was more of a way to have get togethers, to provide support to one another, and to just have fun.  I'm not sure the direction I wanted the group to take, but just felt compelled to start it.  In the meantime, another lady I met has been having weekly International lunch dates with her friends who are still in town.  I feel so happy to be included, and have been meeting some lovely people.  Our next outing will be to view The Cherry Blossom trees (Sakura).......can't wait.