My Adventure Abroad

Prelude to Spring Break

We’re heading home to California on August 1, 2018.  Our tickets have been reserved and paid for and even the cats have tickets home.  Our Japan adventure abroad is coming to an end.  This August we will have lived in Japan for 2 years.  Before we leave this part of the world, we could (should?) take one final family trip. Our last spring break in Japan.  What to do.  Last year we went on a ski vacation in Nagano with 2 other families.  This time the kids voted to stay home in Minoh and do nothing.  One last overseas trip?  The question is, where to go.  How about Singapore, Malaysian Borneo or China?  The kids say we don’t want to…

Exploring Taipei

The ORIGINAL Din Tai Fung on Xinyi Road.  Did we really need to go there for dumplings and fried rice?  (Just a 45 minute wait the lady said.)  Read on. On Friday, March 16 we decided to stay in Taipei.  First: Our cash is almost gone.  We didn’t bring enough.  All over Asia, cash is king.  By now we’ve traveled to many countries so you would think we’d have figured that out.  I called AmEx early in the morning from John’s handy Skype phone number.  He pays a few cents a minute to have a California phone number and so it’s very easy for us to call the US.  The AmEx man said he could assign John’s AmEx card a…

Treasures, Treats & Teatime in Taiwan

We had a lot of adventure and some misadventure in Taiwan.  The misadventure involved nearly running out of cash (because we barely brought any, Duh!) and eventually not being able to access any more.  Not only did we waste 2+ hours trying to get cash at the American Express international office on Fuxing North Road, but it got down to us counting dim sum dumplings at Din Tai Fung to see how many we could order.  This kind of limits the Din Tai Fung experience when you are trying to figure out if you can afford 5 or 10 dumplings, but we decided to just spend our dwindling wad.  We left enough cash in our wallet for mango snowflake ice…

Going to Taipei with Hello Kitty

Halyard left on a week long service trip to the Philippines with his classmates.  Kaiyo went biking with his classmates on a popular route called Shimanami Kaido, across 6 islands and 6 bridges in southern Japan.  He’ll be gone for a few days.  So we decided to skip out with Avalon.  Halyard says he doesn’t like the fact that Avalon gets a stamp in her passport that he won’t have.  But none of us are getting stamps from the Philippines so it doesn’t seem too unfair. We’re flying on the special Hello Kitty jet to Taipei, Taiwan.  EVA Airlines, Taiwan’s airline, flies specially decorated SANRIO planes from select destinations between Taiwan and spots around the world.  Lucky for us, Osaka…

Ume Hana Matsuri & Tea

I learned a new Japanese word recently.  Baika.  The two kanji characters for Ume (plum) and Hana (flower) together read as baika (bye-kah).  It means plum blossom, just like sakura means cherry blossom.  I asked my friend about this and she said Japanese people still say “ume” for plum blossoms, but when you see the two characters together it is read as “baika.”  You always hear the word sakura tossed around.  Sakura flavored food, sakura themed souvenirs, pink sakura leaves on Starbucks cups, sakura season is very famous.  I’ve rarely heard anyone talk about baika.  But plum blossoms are beautiful too. Plum blossoms are the first sign of winter’s end and the beginning of spring time weather.  They appear about…

Making Vegan Ramen

Living in a country that loves its Kobe Beef, lives and dies by seafood, loves pork dripping with fat and cracks a raw egg on everything that goes in a bowl, vegan cuisine is hard to come by.  Luckily I’m vegetarian/pescatarian, not so much vegan, but I do enjoy this kind of food category. It happened one day that I saw on Airbnb an offering of a cooking class, in Osaka, for making vegan ramen and I knew I had to try it.  When I read the awesome description of the class, and the fact that it was near the train station AND the chef instructor listed UC Irvine as a place he had studied, I double knew I had…

Japan’s Winter Illuminations

Japan loves to light up their landscape in winter!  What better way to spend a freezing night than to walk around outside in your heavy coat, hat, scarf, gloves and boots.  It’s just like being inside the house so you might as well get outside and enjoy it! Nabana no Sato is a large and spacious flower garden at Nagashima Resort in Kuwana City, near Nagoya.  It is about a 10 minute drive from the Nagashima amusement park where we went for Halyard’s birthday on Saturday, November 4.  However, when we drove to Nabana no Sato, we managed to make it a 25 minute drive with hairpin turns and narrow roads with steep drop offs.  No thanks to Google.  Needless…

Japanese Winter

Subtitle:  This is no way to live. The average temperature over the past week has been around 4 degrees Celsius.  That’s 39 degrees F.  It was negative degrees C the other day.  I feel like I’m living inside an ice cube.  Finally it snowed today, Saturday, January 27.  If it’s going to be ice cold outside I prefer that it snows so at least it’s a beautiful sight and there’s the possibility of a snowball fight or snowman to be made.  Old timers at my kids’ school are telling me that this is the coldest winter in Osaka they’ve ever experienced.  Japan can be beautiful in winter but let’s be honest, my California self can’t take this cold.Japanese houses are…

Okinawa stories and photos

My prior post detailing my trip to Okinawa started to get a bit long and wordy so I had to cut it off.  Here are more sights and stories from Japan’s famous island to the south. I landed at Naha Airport in the early evening.  By the time I traveled from the airport to my Airbnb apartment and got settled in, it was dark.  On the main street, Kokusai-dori, brightly lit stores were crowded with high school students, marathon runners and foreign tourists.  It was raining lightly so everyone was trying to duck out of the drizzle.  Locals were everywhere, luring visitors to their stores, hawking t-shirts, keychains, Okinawa treats, restaurants menus, drinks and even two Owl Cafes along the…

Naha Marathon, Okinawa

On Friday, December 1 I am traveling SOLO to Naha, Okinawa.  I am going there for a long weekend getaway to watch my friends run in the Naha Marathon.  John was kind enough to let me go away by myself (he’ll spend the weekend planning his own trip I’m sure) while he holds down the fort at home. For the past year I have been working at a company called Semco teaching English once a week.  I teach for about 4 hours every Tuesday.  Semco is a family run business that deals with research and product development for pest control management.  Our friend Jay is the president of this company, his father founded it, and his mother ran it for…