Monday, December 24, 2012

Ebisu Circuit

When we found out that we were moving to Japan, my oldest son was hoping to be able to "drift" like he'd seen in the movie "Tokyo Drift".  Well, in August his wish was granted.
My son driving his 1997 Nissan Laurel
My husband, son, and a handful of other car enthusiasts made the 5 hour trek up north to Ebisu Circuit for their Summer Drift Matsuri ( this is literally a drift festival).  Ebisu Circuit is located in Fukushima Prefecture and is a world-renowned racetrack with numerous individual and skid-pan tracks.

Most people prepare for these events months in advance making sure their cars are in tip-top shape.  They come equipped with extra tires, tons of gasoline, tools, and extra car parts.  People use the racetrack 24/7, so its very loud.  When you need to get some rest, many people camp, or just sleep in their cars. 

This 3-day festival is quite expensive.  First, to drive to Ebisu, the tolls are around $100 each way.  Next are the entrance fees atb20,000 yen (over $200.00 USD) for the driver, and 3,000 yen (over $30.00 USD) for a spectator.  This can be pretty spendy if you participate in the three drift matsuris held each  year.

Also, if your car breaks down at the racetrack and is too expensive to get back to your home, you can sell it to one of the car companies that does business in the area.  We ended up selling my son's car to Power Vehicles because his clutch went out and there weren't any lifts available to properly install the new clutch.
Towing the car 4 hours back home would have been a huge expense.  This was a big learning experience for my family, but this still hasn't deterred my son from buying another car.  He's been eagerly saving his money and hopes to purchase another car in the new year.

Here is a link to the live web cam for Ebisu:

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Bonenkai held at Yakitori Hisago.
On 6 December I joined my husband and his co-workers for a Bonenkai. A Bonenkai is typically held in December and is a party that means to forget about the troubles of the current year, and is a way to celebrate the year to come.

The Bonenkai we went to was at a small Izakaya close to base.  For 4,000 (yen), we ate a variety of delicious food (steamed mussels, salads, yakitori, rice, etc) and had bottomless drinks for 2 hours.  This was a time for employees and their bosses to mingle in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.

Great laughs!
I was the only spouse at this gathering because in Japan, its not typical to have a wife accompany a spouse to an evening work gathering.  This is not meant to be disrespectful, its just part of their culture.  I'm just grateful that my husband's co-workers are always so welcoming when I crash their parties.  It was a night full of fun and many of us continued the celebration by dancing and playing pool at a local establishment.

Bonenkai 2012!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

As I'm writing this, it's already our second Thanksgiving in Japan.  We are all relaxing today, and meeting our friend from Bremerton for dinner tonight at The O' Club.  I am happy  to lounge around in my purple robe, sip coffee, read and feel absolutely no guilt about not preparing a meal today at home.
Celebrating Thanksgiving with Larry.

I am grateful for things big and small.  Even when things seem bleak, or frustrating, I try to look at the bright side.  Here are just some of the things I am grateful for:

  • I'm thankful for my family near and far.  Being across the world away from family has been hard at times.  I have been homesick for California and realize its been 15 years since I was home for the Holidays.  Also, being a spouse and parent isn't always "a bowl of cherries", but I wouldn't change a thing!
  • I used to love going to see my grandparents in the desert for Thanksgiving.  Good company, my gramps cringing as we all ate turkey (he didn't like it), my grandma's coleslaw, and our tradition of going to the movies in the afternoon.  
  • Thankful for the people I met in AOB, The Navy Lodge and after the earthquake.  Many have become my closest and dearest friends in Japan.
  • I'm particularly grateful for my job, my co-workers and my awesome volunteers.  I have a team that works well together, knows how to have fun, gets a lot accomplished, and are just plain dedicated.  I never knew going into management could be such an enriching experience.  
  • I'm happy to have re-discovered exercise.  I like how it makes me feel, the camaraderie I get at the gym, and being challenged has been so rewarding.... even with all the ice packs, Ibuprofen, massages, and crazy stretching I've found myself doing lately. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hiking Trails Around Yokosuka

I feel like I need to apologize for my lack of blogging.  I used to try to blog every week, but time is passing by very quickly this year!!  We are still enjoying our adventure, but this fall has been crazy with work, school and other activities we are doing.

That being said, Yokosuka has some great hiking places.  These hikes are relatively short, but offer some interesting scenery and also a chance to get some exercise.

Mt. Takatori

You can take the Keikyu local line and get off at Keikyutaura (listed as such on Hyperdia) station to access the trail.  Once out of the train station, you turn left, then head up to the first road you see.  You'll turn left at the road, go under the Keikyu railway, and wind through a neighborhood.  Once you walk for a bit you'll see a little intersection where you can turn left, or go straight.  Stay straight until you see some steep stairs at the end of the street.    Once you climb the massive stairs, you'll be on the trail.

There are a variety of things to see on the trail such as rock climbers, a stone Buddha, an observation area, and if you're lucky, a temple.  There is such beautiful scenery and you can finish the climb that ends near Higashi-Zushi JR Station in about 2 hours.  The trail is pretty well marked, and there are bathrooms and vending machines by the rock climbing area.  The base does regular climbing tours to this area for a fee.

The steep stairs.
One of the many areas to climb.
If you take the correct trail, you will end up here.
Kannonzaki Park

Another great place my friend took me to this past month was Kannonzaki Park.  It only takes 15 minutes from main base to get there and I was sorry that I hadn't been here sooner.  We went on a weekday where we were able to park in the parking lot for free.  You have to pay for parking on the weekend.

There was a ton to explore in this park and it is a great place to take kids.  They have a variety of play structures and roller slides.  They also have some lookout areas, a suspension bridge, and some open spaces.  We went on a beautifully sunny day.  It would be a perfect place to picnic and relax.

Cutter on the huge roller slide.

Other Places worth checking out  

  • The Plum Grove in Taura.  So beautiful during the spring when all the plum trees are blossoming.  Once to the top of the plum grove, you can continue your hike across the highway overpass and through a forest to my old neighborhood Minatogaoka.  This is a great loop what we've done many times.
  • There is a wonderful park above Anjinzuka station.  You can hike up there to view the cherry blossoms in season.  So very pretty.  Its also bike-friendly. 
  • Kurihama's Hana no Kuni.  I believe I've written about Flower World before but its still one of my favorite places to go.  Good exercise, the Godzilla slide, a foot bath, and glorious scenery to see.  They also plant seasonal flowers that you can pick.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fish Pedicure

Yokohama fish pedicure.

One of the most unusual things to do in Japan is to have a fish pedicure.  They are very popular in Asia, and in other parts of the world.  The species of fish used in such pedicures is simply called "Doctor Fish" or Garra Rufa.

Locally, you can go to Chinatown in Yokohama to Doctor Kiss Fish.  The cost for the pedicure is 1,000 yen or $12 USD for 15 minutes.   Before putting your feet into the water, you have to rinse them. The sensation is very ticklish, but the main purpose of these pedicures is to have the fish eat the dead skin off of your feet and legs.  This process is supposed to have many benefits with renewed skin being one of them. 

The fish liked my friend in the middle!

Fish pedicures are banned in many places in Canada and The United States.  They have been thought to be unsanitary and that the water could pass harmful diseases.  While this may be true, I've realized that each country has their own standards of cleanliness, or what they consider healthy.  Its very common to have communal foot baths in Japan, so I didn't think twice about a foot bath with fish in it.  

We also did this at Yunessun in Hakone.

Monday, September 17, 2012


With all the crazy drivers and seeing a tour bus on its side in a ditch, we were very grateful to have made it safely to the Thai/Cambodia border.  The process at the border took us about 1+ hours of waiting in line to both exit Thailand, and enter Cambodia.  I was relieved to see our driver who unfortunately had been waiting for us for hours.  I felt bad, but they said they are used to waiting for their clients.  We were then escorted onto a bus that was about a 10 minute ride to a bus station where people can meet up again with their hired drivers.  I found out if you hire a driver, that they cannot take their own vehicle to the Cambodian border and park.  Below is a small video I took on our bus ride.  Its hilarious if you can view it.

The scenery in Cambodia was nice and rural.   It took about 2 hours along the countryside to drive from the border to where we were staying in Siem Reap.  We stayed in a nice hotel that had very nice rooms, a great pool, excellent customer service and a superb breakfast buffet each morning.

Angkor Wat.

We decided to hire a guide and driver for our 1 day to Angkor Wat.  The one day pass to Angkor Wat is $20 for adults, and kids 11 and under were free.  The temples were spectacular.  We went to Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and to Angkor Thom.  There is so much history and the places are so old its hard to fathom, but having a guide to explain things to us was nice.  The pictures we took don't even do these temples justice.  Although it was scorching hot and humid, I think we all mostly enjoyed ourselves.

'Tomb Raider''at Ta Prohm.
"Faces" in Angkor Thom.
The day after going to Angkor Wat, we hired our guide again and he took us on a Tuk Tuk tour around Siem Reap.  He took us to an indoor market, to a Silk Farm, to one of the small 'Killing Fields', and to Cambodian Village. This day was busy and hot.  Unfortunately, Danton started feeling sick at Cambodian Village, so we cut our tour short.  We think it was the flu, because Justin also ended up with similar symptoms a couple days later.  Overall, Cambodian was full of very sweet people, good food, and a good time.

Performers at Cambodian Village

You can become a monk at age 10.
Killing Fields Monument.

Petrol is being sold on the side of the road.  It is very expensive.
We even saw a family of 4 on the same bike.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Conquering the Mountain

On August 19th, me along with a busload of others, started our 2 day journey to climb Mt. Fuji.  I wasn't worried about doing the trek without my family because I figured I'd meet new acquaintances on the tour.  I knew I was more prepared than I was last year since I had a better attitude, trekking poles, two cans of oxygen, my IPOD, and beautiful weather.  I was ready to conquer this mountain once and for all!

Beautiful weather for the climb.  Happy there was no rain this time!
By the time the bus pulled into the 5th Station at Mt. Fuji, it was close to 10am.  The temperature was comfortable, the trail had few climbers on it and I think it was a perfect time to climb.  I started and climbed with the same few people most of the day, but I wouldn't say it was any easier this year.  The one thing that made a difference was not having any time constraints.  

With a nice leisurely pace, many of us arrived at Fuji-San Hotel (the 8th Station) by 4pm.  The hut where we were sleeping in was cozy.  It was like having a big co-ed sleepover.  There were two levels of bunks and people were to sleep right next to each other.  Many people were resting as soon as they arrived to the hut, but others ordered food (curry, ramen, etc) and drink.  The ramen and beer were a good treat after making it to the 8th Station.  I was just happy I made it this far!!!   

The cozy sleeping quarters.
Lights out was at 8pm, and I couldn't sleep.  I didn't come equipped with earplugs, or my IPAD, so I was literally tossing and turning for hours.  Between the snoring, being too hot, and anticipating the remainder of the climb, 1am couldn't come soon enough.  The night before, our tour guide suggested to many of us that we could take the bulldozer route to the summit.  He said it would be less-crowded than the main trail.   I was worried I would be taking the easy-way-out, but our guide said that there is no easy way to climb to the top of Fuji-san.

So, at 1:30am, a number of us set out on the bulldozer trail.  Man, was it cold but the view was one of the most spectacular sights I've ever seen in my life.  You could see the city lights as far away as Tokyo.  With one foot in front of the other, the thin air, the body slowly warming up, and a slew of others wanting to conquer the mountain, we managed to make it to the summit by 3:30am.  I was beyond elated to see the torii gate before me!!

With a little less than two hours until sunrise, it was hard to stay warm.  It was absolutely freezing. Luckily, they have vending machines, vendors that sell hot cocoa, and have warm food to pass the time.  The shrine that stamps the walking sticks didn't open until 4am, so once we finished that, we walked around with hundreds of other people trying to find a good place to view the sunrise.  

Top of Mt. Fuji just after sunrise.

The sunrise was worth the climb.  It was beautiful and you could see clouds hovering below.  Once we got a peek at the crater, we decided to head down the mountain.  Many people don't like the trek down, but the trekking poles were a tremendous help this time.  I made it back to the 5th station in less than 3 hours.  I was really enjoying myself and my accomplishment even though my camera battery died.  I am relieved to have this climb behind me, and am grateful for the friendships I made along the way.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Visiting Thailand


Uncle Scott at The Dangerous Market.
I know that many of you have been waiting to hear about our trip to Thailand and Cambodia this summer.  Honestly, I've needed up until now to process exactly how I felt about it and to write about it in a way non-offensive way.  What I do know is that I was the one who planned our itinerary and dragged the family to the  various places knowing that we may encounter some unpleasant situations.  We'll, let's just say that it didn't disappoint....we got more than we bargained for.  Overall, I think that the trip was an eye-opener which isn't a bad thing no matter what age.  Here are some of the highlights of our Thai adventure:

Floating Market
  • We stayed in Siam Square which was pretty decent.  Easy to get taxis, tuk tuks, and our hotel was a block from the Sky Train.  
  • Beware of motorized vehicles (buses, taxis, POV's, tuk tuks, mopeds, motorcycles, etc)  when you are on foot because the Thai drive like maniacs.  I've never seen so much chaos with motorized vehicles in my life.  Tailgating and speeding are normal. For instance, our drive from Bangkok to the Cambodian border was one of the scariest experiences of my life.  
  • Browsing does not exist in Thailand.  We were hit up at the markets, on the beach, for massages, on the street...for everything.  Use your imagination.  The Thai's do not discriminate on age, gender, etc.  
  • Bargain at the markets, for tuk tuk, taxis, you name it.  We walked away from a Tuk Tuk driver who gave us a cheap price, but wanted to take us to a Tailor Shop en route to China Town.  There are a lot of scams in Thailand regarding gem shops and tailors.  I think we dodged a couple bullets.  
  • There are often times no seat belts in tour vans or taxis.  When we went on a day tour with our lovely tour guide "A" to the floating market outside of Bangkok, we were flying down the highway without seat belts on.  Such a strange feeling since the U.S. is so safety conscious.  
  • You can't wear leggings as pants (if you're a female) to visit the Grand Palace.  My tour guide rented a sarong/skirt for me from a street vendor.
  • There are an abundance of 7-11 stores in Thailand.  This was helpful when we needed to get some Baht out of the ATM.
  • The food vendors pretty much close up shop by 10pm.  So strange to see empty sidewalks, and so early.
  • I know that the Baht is cheaper than the yen, but I didn't think that we saved a lot of money in Thailand...especially with all the tipping we had to do with our drivers, tour guides, etc.
  • We found out after the fact that the area we stayed in was not the best.  I picked the location because of its proximity to the beach, shopping and restaurants.  This was not good investigation on my part.  If you ever visit this area....especially with a family, stay in North Pattaya, in Jomtien Beach area, or don't bother.  As much as the guide books say that this area is getting better for families, its not.  I'm not prudish, and am pretty open-minded, but this would be a place for a person without children, say in their 20's.
  • We couldn't relax on the beach because of all the people hitting us up for Jet-ski's, massage, food, etc.  It was pretty bothersome, but in reality, this is how the people make their income....from tourists.
  • If you don't stay in a secure hotel, or at a resort, be prepared to hear screaming, domestic violence and prostitutes outside your door at around 4:30-5:00am.  This happened to us two different hotels.  We came to the conclusion that this behavior is a strategy for the prostitutes to get more money before they leave.
  • We did go on a nice dive/snorkeling boat for the day.  The water wasn't clear like in Guam or Hawaii, but we did see some fish, I heard the lunch was good (I was seasick and spent the latter part of the trip laying down on the boat), and our Australian guide was great.
  • We rode on a Songthaew (a mini-truck taxi) which was pretty cool.  You still need to barter with the price before getting in the vehicle.
  • We had a great driver named Adisak that came from Bangkok to pick us up and return us to our hotel  in Bangkok.  It is very popular to hire a driver or a van in Thailand for a set price.


Although we had a few rough patches in Thailand, it still hasn't deterred us from wanting to see more of what the country has to offer.  Chaing Mai in Northern Thailand is supposed to be beautiful as well as Phuket and other islands nearby.  I am bound and determined for us to have another Thai vacation that includes some much needed R & R.  I'm hoping to combine it with a trip to Malaysia, but we'll see.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The blog was mostly on hiatus for the summer because of all the wonderful travel opportunities I've had while living in Japan.  My store was closed for one month, so I was able to Space A to Guam for almost a week.  With only 7 passengers on the plane, I arrived at Andersen AFB where I was met by our friends who live on the Navy Base in Santa Rita.  Since the island is quite small (approximately 30 miles long and 4 miles wide) and no major highways, its still a relatively short trek from base to base (normally 40 minutes without traffic). 

Guam is the largest of The Mariana Islands and is full of lush jungle, fantastic weather, warm water temperatures (about 85 degree Fahrenheit), terrific Chamorro food, and a relaxed island life.  While many tourists visit Guam for shopping, there are also a variety of things to do and see around the island.  I was fortunate to have friends that were wonderful hosts and tour guides, so I saw probably much more had we had gone there on our own.  Here are some of the highlights and recommendations I have if you ever have a chance to go there:

Go Snorkeling

No only is the water warm, there are many locations on Guam to snorkel.  Some of the best snorkeling I did was down at Gab Gab Beach on the Navy Base.  Equipped with diving boots I was able to venture down the stairs into the water at Gab Gab and literally see a ton of fish.  There are also many dive boats for people who want to snorkel and dive.  Best thing about this is that you don't need to bother with a wetsuit.  There is supposed to be great diving and I presume snorkeling on Saipan...another of the Mariana Islands that I'd like to visit while we still live in Asia.

Chamorro Village on Wednesday Night

This was a terrific night market with tons of food, crafts, vendors and entertainment.  I had some of the best BBQ there, and got to pose with a crab and a old guy wearing a native costume.  The location is easy to find along the main highway, and well worth checking out.

Chamorro BBQ.
Tumon Bay and Two Lovers Point

Tumon Bay was inundated with a lot of tourists.  It is close to the airport, to the major hotels and to shopping.  The beach is nice, and you can take a bit of a walk to some of the area restaurants.  Not far from Tumon Bay is the popular Two Lovers Point.  We went for sunset and the view was spectacular.  The monument is set high on the cliff and boasts an ancient tale about two young lovers.  Kind of a Romeo and Juliet type of story with a tragic ending.  The scenery and grounds were breathtaking.
Hotels along Tumon Bay.
The southernmost part of the island is also worth checking out.  There are villages, lookouts, tons of history, a chance to see or ride a carabao (not caribou), and a trip to Jeff's Pirate Cove restaurant in Talofofo.  We didn't eat at the restaurant, but I did shop in their gift store which has some interesting things.  Overall, my experience in Guam was fantastic.  So much to see and do.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Military Lodging in Tokyo

Tokyo is an expensive place to visit, but can be affordable for military families, US Civilians on PCS orders, and US Government Contractors looking for reasonably priced lodging. There are two government properties worth staying at depending on your budget, location, and amenities you are looking for.

The New Sanno

Room rates are dependent on your grade so its pretty cheap to stay here compared to Japanese hotels. The rooms are pretty nice, and the dining, shopping and swimming pool make for a nice getaway to Tokyo.  It is often difficult to get rooms on the weekend, but if you go onto their website you can see the room availability.  

The New Sanno is easy to get to via train and car, plus they offer free parking. This location is great for getting to Shinjuku or Shibuya.

Hardy Barracks

If you want somewhere cheap to stay in Roppongi, Hardy Barracks is a good option especially if The New Sanno is booked.  The rooms are $35/night (or they were last year) and nothing fancy, but they do offer a continental breakfast.  This location is great for touring Tokyo Tower or Imperial Palace.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mt. Fuji Overnight Climb

Last year, I wrote about our experience climbing Mt. Fuji.  While Justin and Cutter were successful making it to the summit within our allotted time (must reach the summit by 1300), everyone knows that I was turned around at 1305 when I was about 15 minutes from the top.

I have not been quiet about my disappointment about "not making it" , and I am sure that people are tired of hearing my story.  I really felt like I would have been able to complete the climb with just a little bit more time.  After telling my Fuji sob story to a friend, she suggested going alone on one of the Mt. Fuji overnight climbing tours.  I'm happy that Outdoor Rec had one for August.  I'm signed up and ready for the August 19-20th tour.  Although I won't technically be "alone", not having to worry about  anyone else except for myself will be helpful as I endure this trek for a second time.

The overnight tour leaves base around 0500 and arrives at the 5th Station around 0900.  We will climb up to the 8th station and stay the night in a hut.  I've heard that I probably won't sleep since there are a ton of others, but I'm looking forward to getting to the 8th station, enjoying some food, and just allowing my body to acclimate.  After some rest, many people will begin climbing in the darkness at 0200 and reach the summit by sunrise.  I'm hoping the weather is good, so that I'll be able to see the beautiful scenery and of course so I can get my last stamp on my walking stick. 

The two things I will bring with me this time:

Trekking poles.

Portable oxygen.  Something we didn't use last time.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Local Pampering

We all need a little pampering.  Months ago, I was searching out a good massage therapist, and a place (off base) to get a pedicure.  I've found a few local places that have given me professional, friendly service.  Here are some suggestions that I think are worth checking out:

A friend and I got pedicures on a snowy day!


I've been really happy with Sakura Beauty Salon.  They are located outside main base, and making an appointment is easy.  The owner is an Amerika-jin, and the nail technicians do a thorough job.  If you're looking for a deluxe pedicure, the chance to watch a movie, and drink a complimentary beverage, then this is the place for you.  They are not that cheap, but the service I've received at Sakura, was far better than I had at the NEX.  Here is their website for additional information:


Purdy Gym on main base has a variety of massage therapists.  I asked friends about who they use, and many gave rave reviews about Mayumi.  So far, I've had 2 different types of massages from her: Thai Oil Massage, and Aromatherapy Massage.  To schedule a massage, you go to the main desk at Purdy and pay for the type of massage you want.  For a complete listing of massages and their cost, click on the following link:


There are many options for getting your hair done in Yokosuka.  I know people who go to the NEX, go to in-home salons, to Tokyo, etc.  I originally started going to someone in The Honch who I liked and who was cheap, but have since changed to a friend's hairdresser named Takumi at Kenje Hair Designs in Mikasa Mall.  He gave me a great cut, and loves short hair.  This is good since it will be getting really hot here, and I need to stay cool.  The salon hours are from 10:00-6:00pm (they may take after-hour appointments) daily.  Their number is: 046-820-6021.  Look for their coupons.  A stylist is usually in the mall, or on Blue Street handing out coupons.  What a great way to try someone new, plus save some money while you're at it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer Changes and Plans


After a busy spring with work, school, out-of-town visitors, and other activities, I am welcoming some of the quiet in this first week of summer.  While this is one of my favorite times of the year, living on a military installation means that it is also a time for change.  Our neighborhood has become a bit of a ghost town and our house has become less Grand Central Station.  Once school is out on base, many families and teachers return Stateside for part, or all of the summer.

This is also PCS, or moving season for many Navy families.  Everyday I see moving trucks and read about friends who are packing out soon.  I work at the base thrift store where I am constantly receiving donations from people on-their-way-out.  For the past month I have been in denial.  I don't want people to go onto their next duty station.  Sometimes I even kick myself for not forming certain friendships sooner.  While some of the circumstances are beyond my control, the one thing I am grateful for is the people I have met here.  I know just like anywhere else I've lived, that I am committed to staying in touch with people I care about.  The convenience of Facebook and email makes staying in contact easier and softens the blow to those of us left behind.

My neighbor writes a very fun and witty blog about her family's experience in Japan.  Although she will be moving soon, here's the link if you want to check it out:

Summer Plans

We are planning on having a typical summer with a lot of sunshine, beach time, going to the outdoor pool, socializing, BBQ's and relaxing.  My oldest will be working, my middle son going away to 4 sleep-away camps, and my youngest will be dog-sitting, cat-sitting and performing trampoline patrol for our neighbors.  Justin is at Boy Scout camp this week, will be doing Aikido as much as he can, and be busy working.  I have a month-long break in the summer from my job, so I will be catching up with friends, hoping to get onto a Space A flight (alone) to Guam, plan to conquer climbing Mt. Fuji on an overnight tour, and dance in my Yukata during Bon matter how hot it will be.  I am the most excited about our 10 day family vacation to Thailand and Cambodia.  I've always wanted to go to Thailand, and am especially glad to have my brother joining us.  I can't wait to see the sights, eat some delicious food, expose the kids to new cultures, ride a Tuk Tuk and be doing all this with my family.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Disney Sea (Tōkyō Dizunīshī)

On Memorial Day we went to Disney Sea up in Tokyo.  It is a theme park near Tokyo Disney where the kids and I went last June.  You can get there by train, but this time we decided to drive.  It only took 1 hour to get there, and was by far cheaper to drive (even with all the toll fees), than for all of us to take the train. Parking was convenient and only a short distance from the main entrance.

Just inside the park.  It was hot and crowded.

We were hoping that by going on a Monday it would be less crowded.  Unfortunately, it was still quite busy.  It wasn't until after the fact that I found out that The City of Yokohama had a holiday on Memorial Day.  We still had a good time even though we had to wait in some really long lines.  I was just grateful that the weather was nice a majority of the day, and that it wasn't humid.
Great European theme.  You can see Tower of Terror to the right.

I liked the ambiance of Disney Sea.  I have heard many people rave about it, and say how fun it is. It reminded me a little of Universal Studios, Knott's Berry Farm, and Las Vegas combined into one.  It had nice walking areas, some shopping, a lot of food vendors, yummy popcorn (Milk Tea, Strawberry, etc) a welcoming breeze from the water and a variety of rides for the thrill-seekers and non-thrill-seekers.   

The photo from the Indiana Jones ride.  Too funny!
We decided against the Fast Pass because the return times were late in the day.  The shortest wait we had was about 20 minutes, while the longest wait was 1 1/2 hours.  At least in the longest line, I ran into 2 different sets of friends from Yokosuka.  Some of our favorite rides from the day were:  Tower of Terror,  Indiana Jones, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.  We were sorry we didn't get a chance to ride on the upside down roller coaster because it was closed.  We'll have to try to catch that ride the next time we go.

Something I learned about going to Disney in or around June, is that you should bring both an umbrella and/or a poncho.  The lovely day we were having quickly turned stormy and we found ourselves in a downpour.  Luckily, we were close to Mermaids Lagoon where we were able to seek refuge....and buy new ponchos (at 500 yen a piece) and an umbrella. 

New poncho and umbrella.
After a fun-filled day, we watched an amazing Disney water show.  It was perhaps the highlight of the day.  A lot of music, dancing, lights and fireworks.  It was really impressive.  Overall, we had a really great day.

Water show and fireworks!

Friday, June 1, 2012


Hello Kitty is an icon in Japan and around the globe.   Founded in the early 1970's by the Japanese company San Rio, she made her way to The United States back in the mid-1970's.  As a child growing up in the 1970's I remember admiring many of the Hello Kitty things in the mall.  There were cute erasers, pencils, stickers, purses.....I wanted it all.

Since all of my children are boys, I hadn't given Hello Kitty much thought until I moved to Japan.  She is everywhere, and you simply cannot ignore her!  Not that I mind, because she is so "kawaii" (cute in Japanese)!  I don't currently own anything that has Hello Kitty on it, but do enjoy buying memorabilia for people living Stateside.  Not only are the products targeted towards young girls, but many adult women love her as well.   For adults, you can find an abundance of Hello Kitty products such as: clothing, jewelry, trinkets, dishes, bedding, cooking utensils, and purses to name a few.

Hello Kitty fans can also go to theme parks and hotels with HK decor, and see her face emblazoned on airplanes, cars, motorcycles, and buses.  It is nice to see this character on so many things.  Hello Kitty is innocent and sweet and makes me smile.  Again, just another reason for me to love being in Japan. 

Hello Kitty Airplane

Hello Kitty Hotel

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Military Spouses

I mostly write about our Japanese Cultural experiences, but my sentimental side is in full-swing at the moment, so I'd like to dedicate this blog entry to military spouses.  Although we are civilians,  I am not completely immune from being a part of a military community. Previous to coming to Japan, we lived in a Navy town for many years. I have had many co-workers and friends whose spouses were deployed at one time or another.

Back in 2003, my friend's husband was on a 9 month deployment on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson.  She had 3 young children ages 3-8 to contend with and I watched her as she held down the fort, dealt with all the emotional issues with the kids not having their dad around, connected with her friends in her spouses group, and utilized some of her civilian friends for additional support.  I was amazed at how she handled everything, even though it was a daily challenge.

This was my first real taste of being around a military spouse.  Now, on a daily basis, I'm surrounded by these amazingly strong women (and some men too).  They are the most flexible and independent people I have ever met.  Having to deal with everyday issues, regular moves, changes in orders and often doing these things with a deployed spouse is commendable.  Many of the Navy spouses here have "deployment wives", playgroups, social groups, sports teams, their jobs, Command spouses groups, and do volunteering for support, personal enrichment, or stress relief.  

As a civilian, I can't completely relate to having a spouse who is deployed because my spouse's job is here. The one area I can help is to offer my support.  I can help with carpooling, babysitting, shopping and to be a good listening ear.  My offers are sincere, and I am more than willing to help.