Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Protect you from red shells where ever we go

Blake and I may not have a car or any plans to get one just yet, but having our SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) driver's licenses will still come in handy. We will probably rent a car on various occasions, or possibly borrow one sometime. 

It also gives us the opportunity to rent a go cart, dress in costume, and drive around downtown Tokyo - Mario Kart style! And for New Year's Eve, that's just what we did!

What's that ahead? It's just Tokyo Tower, no big deal.
We joined up with several friends from work and had three guides showing the 20 of us around. At times, we were zooming up to 60kph (37mph), all around the real streets of the heart of Tokyo. Was it frightening? A little. I was scared of getting left behind, and there were a few times some of us got stuck at stoplights and had to really work to catch up, but no one ever got lost for long. We had to navigate around cars and buses and each other, but no one crashed. Sure, we question the true legality of it, and it certainly wouldn't ever happen in the United States, but It. Was. Such. A. Blast!
We were like celebrities! Lots of people were out for the holiday and many of them took pictures and gave us high fives!

Okay, yes, driving by Tokyo Tower was actually a big deal to me.

That's one handsome Mario!

There are other route options, so we will likely do this again sometime. And if we ever do get a car? Well, I've already survived driving around Tokyo in a go cart, how difficult could a real car be?

After driving, we went to dinner, and I made sure to include soba noodles in my order. Toshikoshi soba, or year crossing noodle, is traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve as it lets go of the hardship of the year because they are easily cut while eating.

We made it back to base with just a few minutes to spare before midnight. We joined the countdown at the restaurant on our detachment, but headed home to bed a few minutes later. Can't imagine that all of our New Year's Eves will be this exciting in the future, but this was certainly one of our favorites thus far!

Friday, February 10, 2017

How'd ya like to spend the holiday away across the sea?

Christmas 2016 was the first Christmas that Blake and I spent just the two of us. For our four previous Christmases, we'd hopscotched from one family to the other and we enjoyed it, but long before we knew we'd spend it in Japan, we decided it was time to spend Christmas in our own home. We knew we'd be moving in the fall, so no matter where we ended up, we would have just moved and didn't want to have a big trek planned anywhere only a few weeks later.

So spend it at home we did!

Fortunately, our household goods arrived just after Thanksgiving, which gave us time to set up our new home and even decorate for the holiday! It also helped with the getting settled in as we made this new place truly ours.
That biggest box is actually one of our moving boxes that has been upgraded to tree stand! The 3 foot tree that was perfect in my hobbit hole as a singleton was a little small for our giant apartment, but this actually worked out perfectly!

Our new front door! Completely decorated with things purchased or crafted here in Japan!

Without familial expectations and days lost to travel, we really got to start focusing on what traditions we want to have for just us. We've had a pretty good negotiation so far, though I think we will have to alternate whose breakfast tradition we use each year. I do love his family's breakfast casserole, but I also love my family's big huge all the breakfast foods breakfast. So, we still need to figure that one out.

One tradition we accidentally picked up and have now made official is seeing Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. As we looked back, we realized that we have now done just that most every Christmas, whether in Utah or Arizona, and now we have added Japan! Incidentally, they have also been Christmas lights at temples, and 2016 was no exception, just at the temple of a different faith! Oh, and they are called Winter Illuminations here and some can even be seen into March.

So, on Christmas Eve, we headed out to Enoshima Island, which is on Sagami Bay just west of us and connected to the mainland via a footbridge.

The train station we got off at! Not all train stations are this picturesque, but this one was!

Approaching Enoshima


This Hello Kitty cafe had just opened the day before. We're planning on taking Blake's sister here.

There are actually five main shrines and temples on Enoshima and they are all beautiful.

Dr. Fish pedicure - Blake did it too! I loved it. Blake didn't hate it, but he did think it was weird.

Washing station before entering a shrine - come visit and I'll show you how to do it!

Black vanilla for Blake, chestnut for me (seemed like a good Christmas flavor)

There is one main stretch of road off the island. It took us at least 20 minutes to work our way down. This was approximately half way.

We topped off the evening with the traditional Christmas Eve pizza, a tradition from Blake's family that I've happily accepted and even introduced to mine. Instead of the pizza place on base, we tried the Domino's off-base. The best deals are found by doing online ordering and carry out, so even though we got it home on the train, it was still warm and pretty tasty. We didn't try anything too crazy, this time.

Christmas Day was a Sunday, so we enjoyed an hour of church in between present opening and video chats. I think we talked to each of our families at least twice. I also did most of my Santa tracking on this day, since we were visited a lot earlier than the rest of the world.
Christmas morning Pepsi is traditional for Blake, but we made sure it was a Japanese Pepsi for him and I opted for a Japanese Coca-Cola with the bow!

We live here now! I recognize this view!

I recognize this view too!

We may be with our families for future Christmas holidays, but for now it was nice to really be home for Christmas.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do you see what I see?

Even though we used to live in northern Virginia, it was and remains easiest to say we lived in DC or the DC area. Northern Virginia is culturally more like DC than the rest of Virginia anyway, plus it's more likely people have heard of DC than the specific town(s) we lived in, unless they had also lived or traveled there. I still give directions to my hometowns of Orem as being about an hour south of Salt Lake City or Beaumont as being about 80 miles east of Houston. Generalize and then specify.

So, we share that we live in Yokosuka, but when people don't know where that is, we explain it's on the mouth of Tokyo Bay, about an hour south of Tokyo. More technically, we don't even live in Yokosuka itself. We're just stationed there and live in a housing detachment within the city limits of Zushi.

Even more technically, Tokyo isn't even the biggest city near us. It's actually not even a city! As of 1943, it's a metropolis made of 23 municipalities. The biggest city we live near is actually Yokohama, the most populous city in Japan, and even I hadn't really heard of it before this particular adventure came into our lives.

Now, we've already been there a few times, like our trip to the CupNoodles Museum, and I love walking by the laughing god in Hinodecho, especially on my way to my favorite Daiso (a 100 yen shop).

Because of its proximity to us, we can easily get there for date nights and other adventures, including one pre-Christmas date that Blake planned for us!

Our first stop was Marine Tower, which offers wonderful views of the entire city. The glass elevator makes for a little vertigo on the way up, but the views were worth it.

We strolled along the bay, on our way to a German Christmas Market at the Red Brick Warehouse.
Japanese ocean liner from the 1920s

Guardian of Water

The Drinking Fountain presented to Yokohama by the Indian Community in memory of those lost in the Great Kanto Earthquake

Downtown Yokohama

The only Nativity we saw not at a church the entire season

This ocean liner embarked on their voyage as we passed by

For dinner, we went to Eggs N' Things, a Hawaiian chain that has made its way to Japan.

And then we capped off our evening with another walk-by of the Marine Tower to see their winter illumination.

So much to explore here! So glad we've got some time!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why don't we do it in the road?

When we last left our intrepid explorers, they were celebrating a free dog with walks to beaches and caves and things. The next thing to conquer was first joint sightseeing trip to Tokyo and explore the neighborhood of Shibuya!

We had been to Tokyo to attend the temple and I had gone to Harajuku with girlfriends, but that was it until December 17th. This was also our celebration of four years of marriage!

Our first stop was the Old Asakura Family House, built in 1919 by a local businessman, which survived both the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and World War II, and is now designated an Important Cultural Property. I love house museums and visiting a traditional Japanese home from almost 100 years ago was no exception.
Would I mind if this were a room in my house? I would not.

The most well known attraction in Shibuya is the crazy scramble crossing, rumored to be one of the busiest in the world, which, of course, we visited. We watched it a couple of times and then did it ourselves! So many people! So fun!  You can watch a live webcam here.

We paid our respects to Hachiko.

And then we did some wandering. I had heard of a farmers market nearby that also had a Christmas market adjacent. We arrived just before most of the shops closed up for the evening, but we did manage to snag some delicious blackberry jam. We saved it until the next time we made homemade bread and it is definitely quite tasty.

Around this time, we were getting a bit peckish, plus I needed to find a toilet. Luckily, where there is a Golden Arches, there is also likely a restroom. Once we took care of business and looked at the local McDonald's options that you can't get anywhere else, we decided that Blake would be able to get away with taking me to McD's for our anniversary dinner just this once. My fried mac-n-cheese sandwich and his cheeseburger with a fried egg amused us (sorry the photo of these has vanished!) and fed us for the night.

That is, until we found Pie Face and each got a hand pie for dessert.

We did a bit more wandering, something I fully intend to do more of this neighborhood. We checked out the Disney store and a Winter Illumination that also happened to be Disney themed.

Sleeping Beauty and a random stranger

They don't really call them Christmas lights, but Winter Illuminations are popular thing here. Some of them can even be visited into February and March.

After one more crossing at Shibuya, we called it a night and headed home.

It was definitely an anniversary date to remember!