Thursday, November 11, 2010

2 Years Completed in Japan!

Wow! Has our time in Japan flew by!! I can't believe we hit the two year mark on October 30th!! We are winding down on the cruise season and I should actually be able to spend some time with my husband for the holidays and beyond. The last 12 weeks or so have been spent cheering for and supporting Bryan as he played football for Zama American High School! He was #83 on the JV team. It's his first year of high school and his first year playing football. We enjoyed the games and meeting new people. He is happy to have his free time back now that the season is over.
The weather is gorgeous in Japan now. This is an ideal time to be sightseeing. Tomorrow we are taking the train to Shibuya. We will visit the Hachi statue at Shibuya station and the Hello Kitty store inside the 109-2 building. Shibuya is one of the busiest station's in Tokyo and is always cram-packed with people. It should be interesting!!
All of us are still loving living in Japan and we look forward to our last year to year and a half here. We've no idea when the Navy will send us back to the states yet!! I still have so many places left to see. We are currently making plans to visit Sydney, Australia for my Birthday in April! EXCITING!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Another Cherry Blossom Season is Over.....

videoThis was our second Cherry Blossom Season in Japan. I was so excited with the anticipation of the trees budding then blooming in full vibrant color! This is my absolute favorite thing about Japan and it is these memories of the brilliant pink trees that I will carry home with me and through the rest of my life. I wish that my family and friends in the states could see them for just a moment through my eyes. Japan is transformed into a magical land. We were blessed to be able to take the tour to Takato to see the Takato Cherry Blossom Festival. It is a small park that used to be a castle area that has 1500 Cherry Blossom trees! It was absolutely amazing and I'll never forget it!! We are having a fabulous spring in our home. Michael is doing well and Bryan is getting ready for summer!! Bryan wants to play football for Zama High School this year. He starts spring training in May. Brian is doing very well at work and up for Sailor of the Quarter! I'm so proud of him. I keep telling him that he's My Sailor of a Lifetime!! It's amazing how the time here in Japan is flying! I have been so busy with so many things. I'm still of the mindset that I don't want to miss anything that Japan has to offer, so I am always on the go! I LOVE teaching English to Japanese students. Of course it helps that I have some AMAZING students and teach for a WONDERFUL school! My Birthday was the other day and I spent the whole day just thinking about how amazing my life has turned out to be. I am so lucky to have my awesome husband in my life and two wonderful, kind boys that are quickly turning into men. Thank you God for blessing me with this life and I will always remember what you have given me. My sister's baby was born this month, Micah. I am so thankful that he arrived safely with no complications and I can't wait to see him!!! We have more adventures planned for this year, so I'll try to come back and get this updated!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One Year Anniversary of our Atsugi Life

October 31st was our 1 year anniversary of being in Japan. Wow! It went so very fast. When I first realized it had been one year, I thought, "I am really looking forward to the next two years." It has been an amazing year for Brian and I as well as for Michael and Bryan. I have made so many wonderful friends that I'm sure I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. I have become the Secretary for AESA (Atsugi Enlisted Spouses Association). I am so proud to be a small part of the assocation. They have given away over $44,000 this year so far. It all goes back to the community. I am also a board member for JATA (Japanese American Tomadachi Assocation). Tomadachi is Friendship in Japanese. My friends at JATA constantly surprise and amaze me with their kindness and eagerness to learn about all things American.

My close friends here at Atsugi have formed a close-knit support group as I deal with being without my beloved husband for many months of each year. I count on Leslie to always have that smile, on Robin to keep me updated about Days of Our Lives and shopping, Julie to chat with, Laura to be my girls night buddie and the list goes on and on. I am making strong new friendships with my fellow AESA board members. I look forward to getting to know them better.

I have become so used to small community life that it will be difficult for me to go back to being in a large community. I have come to know most people on base and am recognized wherever I go. Yes, it is different. But it feels like home and I am so blessed to have this opportunity to be "where everyone knows my name".

Japan is a constant adventure, a new surprise just waits everytime you drive off the base. Brian and I had the good fortune to take a tour to Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, and Himeji Castle. It was a long 10 hour bus ride to get there, but WOW was it worth it. The beauty of Miyajima island with its water surrounded Torii was and temple was awe inspiring. The majesty of Himeji Castle again left us in awe. Hiroshima with it's shell of a building from the bombing was solemn and peaceful at the same time. We loved the trip and I was able to check off 3 places on my desired locations to visit list.
Our one and only sad spot from being in Japan is that Hunter, my stepdaughter, cannot come to visit us here. Unfortunately, her Mother is not supportive of her relationship with her Father at all. We are so sad that she will never have this experience. We pray that God will touch her heart and help her to see that Hunter needs her Father's love in her life.
One of the greatest blessings of our time in Japan is that Brian and I's still young marriage has absolutely blossomed. Navy life tends to pull a marriage together or apart and we have been lucky. We are all in this overseas life together and enjoying it so very much. Brian wishes that he was home more with me, but in return he has gotten to see China, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Phillipines and others. Next year I will have the opportunity to visit him in some of those places. Each time he reaches a port he calls me and wishes for me to be there. Even with the separation we feel blessed that technology allows us to email everyday and to talk at least once per week.
We are all looking forward to the holidays together. I am the chairperson for the AESA Annual Holiday Party and am very busy with the planning of the party for 100 people. Our theme is Winter Wonderland and I am enjoying the planning and my committee very much.
I need to blog more, but have been too busy lately!!! I walk everyday, do water aerobics twice per week, have 9-10 meetings per month, take Japanese Washi Paper class every week, along with being a full-time Mom with no Dad in the house. Whew! Sometimes I need a vacation!! But, it almost feels as if I am on a full-time vacation here at Atsugi.
Bryan turned 14 the other day. He is growing up so quick!!! He runs around the base like he owns it now. Lots of girls trying to talk to him and his many friends always ringing the door bell. I am so proud of the man he is growing up to be. He finally had his complete braces put on the day after his birthday. He looks so cute!!
Michael is still teaching English to Japanese students in Chigasaki. He is closer to getting a DOD job at Camp Zama Middle School. We think it is funny that he will work where Bryan goes to school. Once he is hired, I will take over his English classes and I am really looking forward to that!!
Well, thank you Atsugi for giving us a warm and wonderful welcome to Japan. We look forward to all you have to offer for the rest of our time here. :>)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Moving to the Base

What a crazy time for us this month. We were notified that we are moving to the base. Great time to move; it is rainy season, my husband is at sea, Michael has to have his gall bladder surgery soon, etc., etc., etc. Needless to say, it has been slightly stressful this month. But, we have had some good times too. We went to see Transformers before it even came out in America at the Japanese Movie theater at Vina Walk in Ebina. Toho Cinemas is a really nice theater. All the amenities of a good theater back home with a really large viewing screen. Of course, we enjoyed the movie!!! I'm not allowed to say more except that it "exceeded my expectations." (Brian is on the ship and unable to watch it yet.)

This week we have been very busy packing, cleaning, packing, cleaning, making arrangements, packing and cleaning. Because I have a dog, we could not move into the Towers on base (I didn't want to anyway!). Once you deny a tower, you get put on a waiting list for a garden apt. or a townhouse depending on your choice. We wanted a townhouse because they have been newly renovated and have a nice fenced yard. If you choose a garden apt., you can be on the first floor or second and that wouldn't have been very convenient either. So, we have a nice, newly re-done townhouse that you would feel like you were in a townhouse in the states (minus the fireplace). I will write more about that later.

Because we turned down the tower and waited on the townhouse, we have to PAY FOR THE MOVE TO BASE OURSELVES. Not only that, but the base doesn't help with the move AT ALL. I had to call movers myself. Only one replied. It is extremely expensive to get a moving company. We are only going to have them move the heavy furniture. Michael and I are going to move everything else in a van I rented for two days from the base. There is no sign of the rain letting up anytime soon. So, this should be lots and lots of fun.

I have practically put myself into bed cleaning like a maniac. I probably didn't need to go to the lengths that I did because I have a very kind landlord and the place wasn't this clean when I moved in, but.... I had heard some horror stories about people getting charged lots of money for cleaning fees because the owner couldn't smell the cleaning supplies in the air. Also, I have heard that they sometimes try to blame you for things prior tenants have done. So, of course, I have worried and went overboard to make sure we aren't charged anything else. Now I have told myself, if they charge me anything, that's just the way it goes, because I honestly couldn't get it any cleaner than it is. (I have become intimate with the toilet, and I don't like him very much.)

Everything else about moving from off base to on base goes pretty smoothly. The landlord is responsible for turning off the utilities (except the internet and that was an easy phonecall). Also, he will give me any of my deposit and remaining rent back on the day of the inspection which I think is really cool. So, I should walk away with at least $2K or more on that day.

We will miss our little Japanese house. I will really miss my quiet neighbors and the anonymity of living in a foreign neighborhood. On the base, you can't go anywhere without running into at least 2 or more people you know. At least off base, even if they know who the blonde is, they only smile quietly. I will also really miss the little bakery down the street with its sweet clerk who sang me a song from the Sound of Music and the 7-11 across the block. I am very honored that I had this experience and will remember it always.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kakegawa Castle

Bryan and I took another tour. This one was all day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The really great thing about it was our friends, The Takanami's came with us. There is Shigeru-san, the Father, Akemi-San, the Mother, and two sons, Nataku who's 12 and Yakimo who's 3. Although there was 3 parts to the tour, I will post a separate blog on each. The last part of the tour was to Kakegawa Castle. This is from the tour program: "Plans for Kakegawa Castle were first laid during the Muromachi Period, when the famous Suruga Daimyo Road Imagawa was aiming to move into Toutoumi region. To accomplish this, he ordered his retainer, Asahina to build the castle. During the period of the Warring States, Yamanouchi Kazutoyo, famous for the episode of his supporting wife, was in charge of the castle for 10 years. Even while organizing the area around the castle and undertaking major repairs of the damage the castle suffered during the violence of the conflict, he followed through on the construction of Tenshukaku Donjon. During the Edo period, eleven families for 26 generations, including the Ota family, descendents of the builder of Edo Castle, Ota Dokan, flourished as the occupants of Kakegawa Castle. The beauty of Tenshukaku mad the place famous as the best castle in the Tokai area. Kakegawa Castle reflects that original beauty, as the first fully restored wood construction of its kind in Japan. Tanshukaku was re0pened in April of 1994. The Tehshudai, which overlooks the city of Kakegawa, stands 56 meters above sea level. It offers a great view of the city streets surrounded by natural beauty and greenery." Whew! That was a mouthful! What that implies is that the castle was destroyed. There was a very rich lady that lived in Kakegawa City who wanted it to be rebuilt as it was before it was destroyed. She, alone, donated ONE HALF of the money to rebuild the castle, the rest was donated by ALL the citizens of Kakegawa. So, the each have ownership and responsibility of the castle.
It was our first tour to a castle and it was really beautiful. There were LOTS OF STEPS leading up to it!! Inside the castle, it had really steep stairs. And actually what we think of as the "castle" is actually the "Keep" or the place that people went when the castle grounds were under siege. Thus the reason for the VERY steep stairs inside. The living quarters are actually in another building entirely. When the paragraph above mentions Yamanouchi Kazutoyo's Wife, it refers to his smart wife. She had a lot of money from her Dowry. She took the money and purchased her husband a magnificent horse. Her husband became well known because of this majestic horse and they give her the credit for being wise to help her husband.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Passing the Time

Since our Guys are gone for 4-6 months out of the year, what do we do to pass the time? Well, one of things we do is go to parties. No, I don't mean PARTIES. I mean Women's Parties. Like Partylite Candle parties, Pampered Chef, Stamp It Up and Close to My Heart. Today, I went to my first scrapbooking party. It was a Close to My Heart party. We made a card to send to our husbands. Close to My Heart has some really cool products. I'm way behind on the scrapbooking front. They now have acrylic stamping blocks that you just peel off the rubber part you want, put it on a block and stamp away. No more bulky block stamps to store. Very cool idea!!! Check out their website at www.closetomyheart.com.

They also have way cool card making kits. Who wants the same old Hallmark card when you can give them a unique homemade creation. And they are really, really beautiful. It is very relaxing to make a card too!

I DO have one scrapbook done since we came to Japan. It is from Halloween to January. Pretty good huh? I only have FOUR months to catch up on!!! That's a lot of pictures!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mystery Lunch

I belong to the Atsugi Enlisted Spouse Association. AESA is a big thing on the base here in Japan. We meet once per month for our general meeting. At the meeting, we discuss association business, get to voice concerns directly to the Command Master Chief, socialize, and we always have an activity. For example, last month we made the Mother's Day Card I blogged about right before Mother's Day. AESA does a tremendous amount for our base community. They run a second hand store and they generate more money for base organizations than any other association combined. The second hand store is very well run and much better than the second hand store at the larger base. AESA also gives out scholarships every quarter.

They provide a very nice Christmas party, a summer party and a surprise trip every year. This year they went to Disneyland Tokyo. They paid for everything and even gave spending money. Unfortunately, I missed the sign up this year. They also have started up a book club. I haven't tried that yet.

Along with our montly meeting, there is always a monthly activity. Usually in the form of a Mystery Lunch or Mystery dinner. What's the Mystery? The location! Today I went to my first Mystery event. It was a lunch and we all drove over to Grandberry Mall and went to the Chinese Buffet. I thought I would tell you what is different about a Chinese Buffet in Japan. The first thing is that the food is more authentic Chinese. It's really very different than any buffet you would find in America. They do have some similar foods, but not a lot. I can't find my Beef and Broccoli here in Japan.

They are big on "food stations" here in Japan. They have a Ramen noodle station. They make two different kinds of Ramen. There is the pork cutlet ramen with a darker soup and there is a clear broth type with some strange veggies in it. (Like norii-seaweed.) They have gyoza stations that have different types of gyoza. That's kind of like a perogii with meat in it. Then they have the buns with bean paste in them. No, I haven't tried it. They did have a lot of mixed dishes at this particular chinese buffet. I tried the meatballs and they were delicious. Add them to the sticky rice and you've got a yummy little dish.

All the restaurants have dessert stations with different types of tiny desserts. Most have ice cream. Most of them also have a drink bar. This particular drink bar was 210 YEN for unlimited refills. They had oolong tea, coke, fanta, alot of different juice drinks and coffee. I haven't been brave enough to taste the vegetable juice with vinegar in it. YUCK.

Another thing that is odd to me is that when you go in you ask for a particular time period. For example, it is 1500 yen for 2 hours at the buffet. Wow, if you need two hours you should really stay away from buffets. LOL!

It was a very pleasant mystery lunch and I look forward to the mystery event next month!