Wacky Japan

Golden Week Guests

Saturday, May 6.  Two things are dictating our Saturday morning.  One, Avalon has to go see the doctor about her big toe that has been bothering her.  I may have already mentioned somewhere that she had an ingrown toenail on her other foot and she thinks it’s the same thing, different toe. Two, Jun has to catch a plane from Itami to Tokyo and on to Baltimore, Maryland later today.  We’ve been practicing how to say, “Hilton,” with him.  He said when he stayed at a Hilton in Australia, whenever he said to the taxi driver, or anyone else, that he was staying at the Hilton, no one could understand him.  It’s “hill-tuh-n” not “he-rue-toe-n.” While I’m at the doctor…

Japan’s Manhoru Art

Call it a treasure hunt or a scavenger hunt.  One of my favorite parts about wandering around Japan is looking for fancy manhole covers (manhoru in Japanese) in every new area of Japan that we visit.  The first intricate and brightly colored manhole cover I saw was in downtown Minoh.  The Minoh manhole features the red maple leaves and waterfall that this city is famous for.  It is a beautiful piece of public art!  Every time I step on them I am amazed all over again at how cool these things are. Up top, the featured manhole photo is also from Minoh.  Avalon just discovered this one recently.  It’s by the train station and I don’t know why we never…

Snow Monkeys!

I so wanted to see Japan’s famous snow monkeys.  When we arrived in Japan I did not know where the snow monkeys lived or if we could see them.  I assumed they lived on Hokkaido where it is coldest, but when I told Mayumi I wanted to see the snow monkeys during our visit there she was surprised that they might live on Hokkaido.  Oh, gomen nasai (sorry)!  Bad guess.  They actually live in Nagano Prefecture.   There are several ski resort areas in Nagano, but one of the reasons I picked Shiga Kogen over the others is so that we would be closest to the snow monkey park. On Friday, March 24 we set out after breakfast.  It turns…

Avalon’s NC Pen Pals

Avalon has made some new friends in Japan… even though they live over 7,000 miles apart and have never met!  Recently she received a packet of 15 letters sent by a 4th grade class from Ballentine Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina.  They are Avalon’s new pen pals and they have an interest in learning about Japan!  Each student wrote Avalon a letter and she answered all of their questions in this blog post.  Before they wrote, they read some of our blog posts, namely the ones about the Cat Cafe, rice fields, trash and shoe rules.  So they had a lot of questions about those topics. Avalon also hand wrote a letter to the class, telling them a little…

Mata Ne Sapporo!

See you again, Sapporo!  We said good-bye on Sunday, February 12.  Here are some final fun shots around town.  Avalon saw some Hello Kitty neckties at this Sanrio store and she thought they would look good on Uncle Chris.  Hello Kitty is everywhere in Japan.  Even on construction sites.  These HK barrier holders below are keeping the fence in place around a street construction project.   Above:  These bananas looked very festive and yummy.  We thought for sure they must be frozen bananas on a stick, like in America.  We’d seen them at other festivals but never got one.  The kids and John decided to buy one.  Guess what – they are not frozen bananas.  They are chocolate and sprinkle…

Lucky Owl Cafe

Saturday, February, 4.  Our plan on this day was to go to a free event called Winter Hobby Fair ’17, which was a huge, free, hobby and gaming expo inside Kyocera Osaka Dome.  (This arena is home to one of Osaka’s oft-losing baseball teams called the Orix Buffalos.  I actually thought they were minor league because no one ever talks about them.  The Hanshin Tigers are Osaka’s most loved baseball team.)  The next Nintendo gaming system called Nintendo Switch was going to be previewed at this event and the kids were looking forward to playing it in advance, since its release date isn’t until next month.  And a large exhibit of Pokemon Sun and Moon was going to be featured…

Gotta Love Wacky Japan

Here are some thoughts about Japan I’ve been storing up in my head.  You will have to add some pictures in your imagination to go with my thoughts.  Friday, February 3. Japanese houses are freezing in the winter!  I don’t think I can overemphasize it enough.  FREEEE-ZING.  NO central heat makes our house an ice box.  Sometimes you can see your breath inside the house.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  In the US we really take central heat for granted.  When you adjust the thermostat you know that any room you walk into, including the toilet/bathroom, is going to be nice and toasty.  This house we are living in is only two years old so even new houses don’t have central air or…

It’s Snowing at our House!

Sunday, January 15, 2017.  It is snowing today (actually right now – this blog post is real time!)!!  It actually started very lightly yesterday.  But when we woke up this morning it had actually stuck on the ground overnight and it continued to snow through the morning off and on.  We can actually watch the snow fall from the windows in our house. The kids went out to play in it for a little while.  But there really isn’t enough to have a long snow play day.  It would be fun to play in the field across the road from us, but alas it’s actually a rice field and that would be very bad if we ran all over it….

Thoughts from the road

We have now been in Japan a solid 3 months.  We arrived on August 14 and today is Wednesday, November 23. (Okay it’s actually Nov. 30 now.  I’m so behind.)  I am typing this on the airplane to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  The kids have a Fall break before the next trimester begins.  They are off school from today, Wednesday, and do not return until Tuesday, November 29.  This coincides with Thanksgiving break back in the US.  I was hoping someone from abroad would come visit during this time since the Fall tree colors are so beautiful but no one could make it.  So we are flying out instead. We took the cats to a pet hotel (in Japanese it’s peh-toe…

Kuromon Ichiba Market

Kuromon Ichiba Market is in downtown Osaka, off of the Namba station exit.  We found out by trial and error that this is a daytime market, not a nighttime street affair.  It is fascinating!  The narrow alleys are crowded with stalls and people and the sights and colors are all vibrant shades that pop out.  The smells wafting out from each stall let you know if something is being cooked for the crowd.  Fresh, premium fish can be found here.  Wagyu and Kobe beef are cut here in generous strips and grilled on the spot.  Thick pieces of fatty sushi sit atop little pieces of rice.  Huge crabs, whole or cut up, are on sale.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are…