Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our First Visitors

Yeah, they made it to Japan!
We've been really busy with our out of the country house guests.  My mom and brother made the 10 hour plane ride from California to visit us for two weeks.  While we saw and did a lot, we didn't get a chance to show them everything on the bucket list.  Its just a perfect excuse for them to make the trek back here sometime in the future so we can show them more of this wonderful country.

First off, I'm so happy they came for two weeks because the jet lag was pretty bad for them the first week.  Many naps, and early evenings.  Luckily, we had a pretty good balance of down time and being on the go.  Here's some of what we did in a nutshell:

Linkin Park concert

Week One
  • Stayed in Tokyo (1 night @ New Sanno/ 1 night @ Hardy Barracks)
  • Emperor's Palace
  • My brother and I took my oldest son to "Linkin Park" concert in Shin-Yokohama.
  • Ferry to Sarushima Island
  • Tons of shopping, napping and eating
  • Toured the base
  • Went to Ikego and Zushi
  • A zillion trips to Lawson's (my brother loved the pancakes in a package).
At horse archery in Kamakura.
Week Two
  • Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse and World Porters
  • Kurihama Hana no Kuni (Flower World)
  • Toured USS Blue Ridge
  • Sumo Tournament in Tokyo
  • Horse Archery (Yabusame) in Kamakura
  • Tons of shopping, eating and not so many naps
  • Dinner Show up in Shinjuku
  • Sunday Brunch at Officers Club
  • Went to Back To School Nights 
On the bus to airport.  Sayonara!
We had a wonderful visit.  Arigato gozaimashita for coming to see us.  Our doors are open to anyone else who would like to visit us in Japan.

      Tuesday, September 6, 2011

      Music To My Ears

      Some of my favorite things about living in Japan are the various songs/melodies you hear.  I'm not talking about songs on the radio, or music videos, I'm talking about daily life in Japan.  Here are some of the major melodies we hear when we are out and about:

      • Train Stations- When you are the train station, there will be a melody played that signals that a train is coming or passing through the station.  Also, certain train lines use certain melodies. 
      •  Garbage Trucks-  When we first moved into our house, I could not for the life of me understand (literally) why almost every morning I would hear a certain song played around 9:00a.m.  This puzzled me for months until I saw the garbage truck driving down the street with the speaker blaring the tune.  Now, I welcome the warning especially if I'm late in putting out my garbage.
      • Its 1700 or 5:00p.m. In The Neighborhood- In just two minutes, I'll hear the daily 5:00p.m. neighborhood melody that signals the kids to come home from the park.  I was also told by a Japanese friend that this daily melody began as a way to test out the tsunami warning system.
      • At Work and School- There is music for the bells at both work and school on base.  This may also be true out in town.  One time I was at my husband's work at the end of the workday and just about did a leap out of my seat when I heard the afternoon bell/siren go off.  I thought there was an emergency. There wasn't, it was just time for everyone to go home for the day! 

      Here's a video I found on You Tube where you can listen to a melody at the train station.....not sure what's up with the piano solo at the end of the video.

      Saturday, September 3, 2011

      School Uniforms (Gakusei-Fuku /Seifuku)

      Local school's uniform.
      Although its not the beginning of school for kids on Japanese school year schedule, it is for my kids which prompts me to write about school uniforms.  I think uniforms were such a rarity where we lived in America, that I can only think of one private school in town where the kids wore uniforms.  I personally think they are a great idea, even though I have heard they are quite expensive in Japan.  Some schools include the uniform fee in their tuition.   At least it eliminates the worry about what to wear everyday. 

      It is a very common sight in Japan to see children in public, private, and International Schools wear uniforms.  Most children from preschool through High School and even some women's colleges require students to wear school uniforms.  While the sailor uniform used to be a very popular uniform for girls, most kids around where we live, or that I see on the train, wear a parochial-style uniform that includes the following:

      • Yochien (Kindergarten) girls- pinafore, shirt, socks, jacket and hat.
      • Yochien (Kindergarten) boys- shorts, shirt, suspenders, socks, jacket and hat.
      • Elementary/High School girls- pleated skirts, white shirt, tie, blue or white socks that go mid-way up the calf, loafers, and sweater or blazer with school crest.
      • Elementary/High School boys- dress pants, white shirt, tie, blazer with school crest.  
      Ready for yochien.
      The above are just some random observations I've made.   There may be variations of the uniforms depending on the school and season.  What I do find interesting is that I've seen High School girls hike, or roll up their skirts so they are quite short.  High School boys, when not in school,  may take off their tie and lower their pants.  Instead of judging these kids, I've come to realize its just a way of being individual in a world where all your peers dress the same. 

      Formal Friday uniform at International School.