Saturday, December 27, 2008

Meeting the Neighbors, A Visit to Machida and NeverLand 2

All of Japan is gearing up for the New Year's Celebration. Everywhere you look is New Year's decorations. I saw lots of street vendors selling homemade New Years decor. Lots of Japanese people take vacation for New Years. Our Realty Agent is going to South Korea. He was very excited about his vacation.

We woke up this morning, did some chores, then headed off to Machida. I had a map from Fleet and Family Support Center. They keep maps for a good variety of destinations. They are in the foyer of the center, so you can go by there anytime and pick up a map. Most destinations have Train directions or Driving directions. It was about a 25-30 minute drive due to traffic. When we were getting closer to Machida, it turned into a more "downtown" environment. The buildings were taller and mostly businesses or apt. towers. We saw rental cars, hotels, dept. stores and car dealerships. The map was fairly good, it did get us there. There was a few landmarks that had changed. Our goal was to go to the FIVE floor 100 Yen store. It is called Daiso. However, it wasn't clearly marked. It took us quite some time to find it. In the meantime, we found lots of other stores that we did want to check out.

There was a really nice little coffee/international gourmet foods/snacks shop. We found several interesting items in there. I saw several stores I need to go back and check out. Once we located and went into the Daiso, we were like kids in a candy store. Wow! Did they have STUFF. All of the items are not 100 YEN anymore. Most are. I found a wonderful new igloo type fleece, cushy bed for Dolly. She will love it. There isn't any heat on in the middle of the night because we have kerosene heaters. We turn them off before we get in bed. We all have electric blankets, but not poor Dolly. She freezes even though she's wearing a sweater and has two fleece blankets on the bottom of her cage. This igloo bed can go in her cage and she can curl up in it. It even has a detached pillow in the bottom that I can wash easily.

There is a craft section, plastic section, household goods galore, wooden items section, toy section, cell phone accessory assortments, health and beauty items, clothing items, garden items. Think Dollar Tree on STERIODS. I have to go back. You'd have to spend 4 hours in there to look at everything.

After we left Machida with a whole big bag of stuff for under $30.00, we headed back to the house. Midori Tsugana, a volunteer for Fleet and Family, came to our house today. She helped me with a few questions I had about the trash separation here at the house. She also helped me with translating some signs in the neighborhood that I had no idea what they said. You know, it 's a good thing to know what the big red X means on signs. And one of them was directions to the hospital, so that was good to know.

Then, Midori took Brian and I to 3 neighbor's homes to introduce us. There are 6 houses all the same, owned by the man that lives next to us. They are like townhouses, but aren't connected. We went to the Owners house first. It is Mr. and Mrs. Onuki. They are about 60 years old, I think. They were very nice. They have a medium sized dog that was very cute. They enjoyed meeting us. They are very quiet people and said they don't know most of the people on our block. I hope that I get to talk to them again. I think I will take them some Lasagne when I get the energy to make it.

The next house we went to is the 6th house. It is Mr. and Mrs. Cantrell. Mr. Cantrell is retired military. His wife is Japanese. They were also very nice. They have 3 children and 6 grandchildren. His 2 sons are here in Japan and the daughter is in the states. I look forward to talking to them again, too!

The third house is across the alley and to the left 3 houses. I wanted to meet them because I knew that they had a dog. We met Mrs. Kato. Her and her husband live there and upstairs is their son and his wife and grandchildren. She was also extremely nice. She seemed very glad to meet us.

Here in Japan, they do the opposite of the states. Instead of your neighbors coming to welcome you to the neighborhood, You go to your new neighbors and introduce yourself and assure them that you will be a good neighbor. It is also customary to give them a bagged gift. I had brought Virginia Peanuts and Gourmet Hot Cocoa. I hope they liked it! Also, I gave the Owners a plastic container of my Christmas Cookies. Midori was very helpful and I also gave her a container of cookies. I was very thankful to have her help!!

We decided to pile in the car and Boyden came along with us to Neverland 2 to finish the evening. It is an arcade/entertainment kind of place. On the first floor they have a whole section of the crane/claw type games where you put in a 100 yen coin and try to grab a stuffed toy and bring it to the hole to win it. Although here in Japan, they put everything you can imagine in those machines. There was Ice Cream, pillows, stuffed animals, anime characters, hello kitty items, snacks of all kinds, warming slippers, etc.... Yeah, we didn't win anything. But, we didn't try to hard.

They also had the ice cream vending machines and we all had an ice cream. On the 2nd floor, they had all video games. But, again, in Japan it is taken to the extreme. There were video games for duel collectors cards that were interactive. There were dance-dance Revolution extreme games, and guitar hero and rock band. I just couldn't tell you all of them. We aren't this far advanced at our arcades in the states. Maybe that's a good thing?

Back down to the first floor, there is an over 18 section that has all the gambling type games. They had those massively addictive quarter eating ones where the quarters fall of the shelf as you feed them in. They had regular slot and card games. There was a huge one that I thought was really funny. It was bigger than a pool table with a green field. In the center it was a horse race in miniature. The little plastic horses where actually running around the track. Their little legs were moving and everything. It was hilarious. Yep, the screens were all in Japanese, so no betting the horses for us.

After we spent a sufficient amount of money on the car racing video games, we decided to call it a night. Brian had won a whole lot of tokens so I signed up for a member card and we have 642 points. You can turn the points in for prizes. They are only good for 2 months. The prizes actually weren't that great. So, I'm not sure why anyone would want to go there. It was okay for once, I'm sure we'll go back some rainy day when the boys are bored and want to play video games.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Comes To Japan

We moved into our new home and spent the first night there on December 17th. It has been an absolutely crazy, exciting, busy, confusing, delightful 9 days. We invited our good friends Laura and Boyden (and Gabe) and our realty agent, Nago-san, to Christmas Dinner. I had to get the house altogether and prepare for the dinner. I completed everything to my satisfaction in plenty of time. The dinner was delicious and a success. We had a lovely time with our guests and I was very happily exhausted by the end of the day. Thanks to our trusty Magic Jack (thanks DAD!) we were able to call lots of family members and friends on their Christmas morning.

The Japanese people love our Christmas. They do not celebrate Christmas like Americans. It isn't one of their holidays. However, they like the IDEA of the decorations and Santa and the food. There are plenty of places that display Christmas Lights. On our block, I think there are about 3 houses that had Christmas lights. On the main street, most of the retail or service businesses had lights. There are bakeries everywhere here. All the bakeries and grocery stores sell Christmas cakes and/or yule log type cakes. We were driving Christmas Eve and passed a bakery (Pattiserie is what they are called here) that had a table set up outside for the Christmas Cakes. Bryan and I walked down from the house (about 3 blocks) and they were absolutely delighted that we came to buy a cake from them. They were tickled to use their english skills on us and to wish us Merry Christmas. I purchased a yellow cake roll that had a cream filling for 1575 YEN (approx. $16.00). It had a plastic Santa pick and a Merry Christmas sign made out of chocolate. The Japanese do not have very sweet icing in their pastries and cakes, it is more mild like whip cream. It was very good.

Noga-san brought us a wonderful box of gourmet pastries when he came to dinner. They were beautiful and delicious. I made about 5 different kinds of Christmas Cookies and Laura brought 4 different types of bread cakes. I also had made cupcakes and purchased chocolate ice cream. HA! No lack of food around here!

We finally had internet connection installed on the 23rd. We were all having internet withdrawals by then! JCom had wonderful sales agents and the 2 fellows that came to install were very knowledgeable and polite. They enjoyed a couple of my Christmas Cookies. We have 4 computers (3 wireless) and unlimited internet for about $65.00 per month.

The house....Well, I took some pictures, then my camera broke. I promise I will take some more. The block we live on has some very nice houses. We live in the Minami-Rinkan train station area. I have been told that Minami-Rinkan has traditionally been an upscale area with the residences being for business owners. The houses on our block are large and mostly two stories, so it does seem to be somewhat accurate. Their is 6 homes like mine altogether here. They are owned by Onuki-san who lives beside us with his wife. I haven't met them yet. I have an appt. with a translator tomorrow to introduce us to the neighbors. I'll do a post on that.

Our house is very similar to an american townhouse. It is very basic in construction. It has white siding, and lots of windows. The front door is brown. Their is a wall/fence that goes around the property. I like the little front gate. It isn't completely enclosed, so I couldn't let the dog loose. It's more to keep people off your property I think. I wrapped pine garland around the fence and put a nice wreath on the front door and it looks Christmas-y. We also have a bay window in the living room and I put the tree in that window, and put other Christmas things on the shelf. The block neighbors have enjoyed looking in my window!

The front door opens into a square where you take your shoes off and there is a tall cabinet (looks like a wardrobe) that is a shoe cabinet. It is in our lease, NO SHOES TO BE WORN INSIDE THE HOUSE. We all wear slippers. After you change into your slippers, you step up into the livingroom. We have wood floors in all the rooms which is very nice, except you feel like you have to sweep EVERY DAY!! There seems to be a lot of DUST. The walls are all white/cream wallpaper, the rubbery kind. Then they also have brown molding. We have a good sized living room, and kitchen. Then there is a hallway, with the washer and dryer at one end. Off of the hallway is a bathroom and a small storage room (very thankful for the storage!).

The bathroom is interesting. It is modern Japanese style. Meaning that the WHOLE room is tiled except the ceiling. You can actually spray down the whole bathroom to clean it. I guess that's good with boys. It is a VERY COLD room. However, there is a heater in the ceiling above the tub/shower and you can turn it on, wait 15 mins. then take a shower. We also have heated toilet seats in both bathrooms, which is a luxury that I was soooo happy about. The tile is green, yep, Florida, 1960's green. YUCK!! The tub and shower are pretty much the same basic except they don't do regular shower heads here. They are like the handheld plastic ones that you can hook up at two different heights. The tub is deep and I like that for a bath.

Upstairs has a central hallway with the 3 bedrooms off of it and a 1/2 bath that is very similar to a bathroom in the states. The hotwater works very different here. They don't have hot water heaters. Down stairs, for showers or for hot sink water, you push a button that flash heats the water in pipes that are in the wall. The controls for this is very funny. When you turn it on and set it, it talks. It's in Japanese so I don't know what it says. It's very cheery though! Upstairs for hot water, it is automatic. The sink is in a built in cabinet that has a heater built in for the water. You turn a dial to select cold to hot, then you turn another dial to actually start the water coming out.

The bedrooms are all 12 x 12 which is a nice size with good sized closets. The house is just the right size for us, and because it is basically what they call "western style" we feel very comfortable here. It feels like home, and I am very happy with it.

Brian and I found a tall wicker shelf with the basket pullout drawers at the secondhand store two block down. It is very sturdy and in excellent condition. We only paid $20.00 for it. I will put this in the hallway upstairs for some extra storage. The shop owners around here are extremely polite!!

My neighbors are awesome. 4 of the 6 houses are Americans (Navy). But around the block and around, I have only seen one other American. So, we are an oddity and somewhat celebrities. Everyone loves to talk to me especially when I am walking Dolly. She's been wearing her nice SpongeBob sweater and she looks so adorable.

I have at least 2-4 people talk to me everyday walking around the block. Usually it is just them saying something about the dog or hello to me. A couple of times, they have broken out in Japanese sentences, and I just smile and nod and finally say "sumimasen" which is excuse me. I need to learn the sentence for "I don't speak Japanese" OR I need to learn more Japanese. LOL!!

I truly like it here very much. In fact, for now, I love it. I LOVE being off the base. I like learning something new everyday. I like being nice to these delightful people. I enjoy being different. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

So, We're moving into a Japanese Home

The lease is signed, our bags are packed, our household goods shipment has arrived. Monday is the big day!

Today we picked up the keys and went by the house and filled out the damages list. The house is small, like an American Townhouse. But it is sufficient and we like the location.

My wonderful husband sprayed for spiders around the house in and out. Yeah, believe me when I tell you that you don't wanna know about the Japanese Spiders. They are enough to give you nightmares for many years to come.

I bought curtains today for the livingroom, kitchen, and the boys' rooms. I still have to buy for our room, and their are two windows on the staircase. They were EXPENSIVE. Tomorrow we will go over and hang the curtains.

I am ready to move and excited to have a home before Christmas. It is a little stressful because I don't know everything about Japanese utilities and trash. There are crazy rules to the trash, and you have to keep 4 separate trash cans. You put trash out every single day, but different types. I forgot to ask the landlord how to do it. OOOPS.

I do feel comfortable now about driving back and forth. If you can drive by landmarks instead of street names, you'd do fine here. Our neighbors seem very interested about us moving in. I am looking forward to meeting them.

We will be without internet connection for about 1 week. JComm will connect us up. So, I'll write again after we are snug in our new home.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Is Coming To Atsugi

So, are you ready for Christmas. It is coming quickly!

Here at the NAF Atsugi base they are getting ready.

The big tree is full of lights.

The chapel was decorated today.

The nativity scene is ready.

The Navy Lodge had their First Annual Christmas Tree Decorating Party.

My gifts are bought and wrapped.

All we need is a home..........

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sunshine, Sweet Sunshine

So, are you wondering what our weather is like here in Japan? It is very mild. We haven't had a day less than 52 since we arrived at the end of October. At night, the lowest it has gotten is 39 degrees just once.

Today, it was 66 degrees and sunny!! It didn't last long, but it was wonderful while it lasted!!

It's so nice to feel that warm sun on your face! The rest of the week will be around 59 degrees.

The boys have purchased their car (Honda Ascot) and have almost gotten the paperwork done on it. Today we had Mongolian Barbeque for dinner. It was yummy. We are all getting ready to move on Monday! I packed a little today. I'm so excited about finally having a home again!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Akihabara - Tokyo Electronics District

Brian went through his orientation this week. Since he was out to sea when Michael and I went to the classes, he had to wait until now. He had his field trip this past Thursday and I went with him. I was expecting tall, stuffy buildings full of electronics. It was closer to a New York City feel on the crowded streets with vendors everywhere, but inside the buildings. A lot of the buildings were a mish-mash of this and that. We did go into a few buildings that were more like a dept. store. We were disappointed that it wasn't a nicer area. We may have walked out the wrong entrance of the train station, we're not sure. I did find a couple of places that sold affordable souvenirs and was able to pick up a few things.

We ate at a place called "Beckers" and it was a good, americanized version of a hamburger restaurant with regular fries. I had a croissant with lettuce, chicken slices, cheese and some green stuff. It was good and we were ready to browse.

There were too many stores that had ADULT merchandise in them. Let's just say that Japan takes Anime (cartoons) to the EXTREME. Again, I was disappointed. I will have to find a Japanese Techie and ask them about Akihabara and hopefully we will be able to return and see the robots and the race cars that you see on tv.

Kamakura Orientation Field Trip Part TWO

After we left the Italian Restaurant in Kamakura, we hopped back on the train. We went to the Hase stop. The first thing we did was to get off the train walking in the wrong direction!! A very nice Japanese woman helped us to get going in the correct direction. She walked with us for about 10 minutes to show us the right way. She was extremely kind! Once we were walking in the correct direction, it didn't take us long to arrive at The Great Buddha. The following excerpt is taken straight from our entrance ticket. "The seated Buddha, Amida Nyorai known by the familiar name of the Kamakura Daibutsu is the principle deity of Kotoku-in temple. It is a national treasure. Construction of the Daibutsu began in 1252 and continued for approximately 10 years. The costs of construction of the Daibutsu were met by the priest Joko, who successfully persuaded members of the community to make the necessary donations. Among the records of the temple, the name of Hisatomo Tanji appears as a craftsman responsible for the casting of the Daibutsu, and a man known as Gorouemon Ohno appears in the temple lore, but the designer of the original model and many other details surrounding the construction remain unknown to this day. It is thought that the hall which housed the Daibutsu was destroyed twice by strong winds in 1334 and in 1369. Records are not clear for the intervening period, but it was not re-built again after the fifteenth century." The statue weighs 93 tons, is 13.55m high. It is massive and impressive and when standing in front of the Buddha, we had a feeling of awe. Mostly because of how old the statue is, but partly because of the reverence in the people around us. It is Old and beautiful and peaceful. The sky was so blue that day. We did enjoy it and I had a moment of amazement that no one else in our families will probably ever see this Great Buddha.
We left the Great Buddha and walked down the street a little ways to Hase-Dera Temple. This is one of the most attractive Temple's in Japan. It was beautiful to see and I can only imagine how much more beautiful it will be in the spring cherry-blossom flowering season. Information from our pamphlet follows. "According to legend, in 721 AD the pious monk Tokudo Shonin discovered a large camphor tree in the mountain forests near the village of Hase in the Nara region. He realized the trunk of the tree was so large that it provided enough material for carving two statues of the eleven-headed Kannon. The statue he commissioned to be carved from the lower part of the trunk was enshrined in Hasedera Temple near Nara; the statue from the upper half was thrown into the sea near present day Osaka with a prayer that it would reappear to save the people. Fifteen years later in 736 on the night of June 18th it washed ashore at Nagai Beach, not far from Kamakura, sending out rays of light as it did. The statue was then brought to Kamakura and a temple was constructed to honor it. Since time immemorial, hasedera temple has been known as the 4th station among the 33 holy places in the Kanto area." The first area you come to is a peaceful garden with water features. It has 3 different areas and is very calming. Then you climb some stone stairs and come to an area with thousands of little "Jizo" stone statues standing in long rows, some wearing bibs or caps and festooned with charms. They are there to comfort the souls of unborn children. I was told by a Japanese person that the flowers left there now are more to bless the miscarried or aborted babies. It is a quiet and somber place. You can purchase the flowers and favors there at the shrine. When you walk up the stone stairs again, you come to the level that the Temple is located. "Inside of the main hall, called "Kannon-do Hall" is housed the magnificent statue of Hase Kannon. It is 30.1 ft. tall and has 11 heads in addition to it's main one. Each face has a different expression, signifying that the deity listens to the wishes of all types of people. Gold leaf was applied to the statue in 1342. Kannon is a future Buddha, destined for enlightenment, who has vowed to save all sentient beings--and represents compassion, mercy, and love."--From the pamphlet. The temple is beautiful. When you go inside, it is very calm and quiet. There are people that arrive every day to pray there. For a Christian walking into the temple, I respect the reverence, and my eyes are those of seeing a piece of history, and a part of Japan. The statue is amazing. We were not allowed to bring in a camera. It is something that I will always remember, seeing the golden statue. It was beautiful and glowing. I did snap a picture with my zoom all the way out from the outside. You can see the orange glow. The Japanese are very much into nature being apart of their lives. They always incorporate gardens and greenery with there shrines and temples. This temple was no different. However, it had a little more than usual. There was a platform or deck that you could walk over to from the temple. Remember that we had walked up stone steps twice. The platform overlooked the town below and out over the ocean. It was beautiful and quaint. Our short visit to Kamakura has been my favorite place of all so far and I look forward to returning at least once more.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kamakura Japan Our Orientation Field Trip

Michael and I had to take orientation classes the week of Nov. 17-21st. This was actually a good week for us to take the classes because my husband was out to sea and he would return the night of the 21st. The classes kept me busy and made the waiting game a little easier. The first day is called AOB, area orientation brief. It should be called Base Orientation. We sat through an endless line of different dept.'s coming in and telling us what they had to offer and what we couldn't do on base. I'm being a little sarcastic there. Some of the info was informative, but none of it was on paper and there was no way I was remembering all of that info. I think we had about 30 different speakers. We were all glad when the class was OVER.

The next 4 days of the class are ICR, Inter-cultural Relations. We had two local Japanese instructors, Naoko (pronounced NOWCO) and Hugi (prounounced HUE-JEE. Naoko is a woman and Hugi is a man. They took turns teaching us. We learned the meaning of CULTURE through an amusing fictional exercise. People don't realize that culture is all around you. From your weather, to how your parents raised you, to what kind of food is available to you, to how crowded your city is OR NOT. It was a very good lesson and a valuable one. Then they took us through very basic language skills, japanese history, geography, do's and dont's of ettiquite, using the bus and train systems, eating in a japanese evironment and speaking with japanese people. I'm sure there was more to the class than just these items. We all learned a lot. We also had a presentation from a "Gaijin" (foreigner, actually an American) that has lived in Japan for over 12 years. On Thursday we went on our personal choice field trip. Michael and I chose to go to Kamakura and we took a new friend, Henrietta with us. We met Henrietta on our first Tokyo sightseeing trip. She is a great sightseer and we enjoy having her with us. Bryan also missed the bus that morning, so he went along too. Lucky him.
The trains are an affordable and efficient way to get around Japan. When you go to Kamakura you take a train that is an older train. It is called the Enoden Line. It is alot like a trolley type of train. It was not very crowded and was very comfortable. Check out the Coca-Cola sign on the side!! Japanese are very funny with English. The special pass you buy for the Enoden line allows you to get off and back on the train as much as you need to on this route. It is called the "Kamakura Free Pass". Ha! It isn't free. It cost about 1200 YEN per person. That's about 12.00 in US$. This is a round trip ticket and took us all the way there and all the way back with many stops in between. Very nice. There's a lot closer places you can go that cost more than that and you can't get off and on in between. Due to time constraints, we weren't able to stop at all the places that you can stop. We boarded the train and decided to go all the way to the end of the line at the Kamakura stop. We looked out the windows and saw more of the same looking city. The train stations did look a little smaller. Then all of a sudden the city stopped on one side and we saw OCEAN. Beautiful water and sky and surfers in the water. It was beautiful. Henrietta has been on the West Coast of the US and she said it looked alot like the Pacific Coast. But because it is a large Bay, there was mountains way on the other side of the water. It was just an amazing surprise and made us all very happy we came already. When we got to Kamakura I wanted to try and find an Italian Restaurant that was listed in the Frommer's Travel Guide. It was listed as Milano a Riccione. We did find it!! But the name is A Riccione Milano. After we asked about the 10th person, they said, "Riccione" and showed us which way to go. It was an AUTHENTIC Italian restaurant in the middle of Japan. Amazing!! They had a brick oven and since it was lunchtime, we decided to try the pizza lunch special. It was a thin crust pizza with FRESH tomato's and FRESH mozarella. Also, I requested the "set" with the appetizer and received a plate with a tiny portion of a potato salad, a raw slice of fish, and Italian ham, but tasted a lot like bologna. Yes, I tried a tiny piece of the raw fish and NO, I didn't care for it. It was fishy. Oh well, at least I tried. It was very nice that they spoke enough English to explain the menu to us and to make a few cute jokes. The waiter was very nice. Like all restaurants in Japan (except on base) you do not tip. They see it as an insult. They are paid very well, not at all under the same pay as the wait staff in the United States.
WORK IN PROGRESS ***Will Finish this blog later..............Sleepy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Houses and Cars, OH MY!

Okay, I am a little behind on this blog. I promise to get caught up soon. Brian is wasting away in orientation this week. I thought I would have a calm, relaxing week. WRONG!! I found out yesterday that our house will be ready to move in on Monday, Dec. 8th. Tomorrow I go to finish the paperwork on the lease and our personal property items. Our wonderful landlord did have a gas line run for us so we can have an American Oven!! I never realized I would be putting so much importance on an oven. CAPS needed!! AMERICAN OVEN!! We also scored an extra parking spot that the Navy is paying for!! WOO-HOO!! I will add much more later about the house as we move in and get settled.

I have had a continuing car saga going on that has been fairly stressful. We purchased a Nissan Cube, 2001 model last Wednesday. There is a TON of paperwork that has to be done when you buy a car in Japan. You have to do the paperwork for the government just like in the states. Their DMV is called a LTO. That stands for Local Tax Office. We opted to purchase our car from the monopoly LOT down the street called Wellcham. The reason I call it a monopoly lot is because he makes it easier to buy a car from him than any other dealer around. Therefore, most of the families buy their cars from him. The difference is getting the car in one day as opposed to one week and a lot of hassle from another lot. He takes some advantage of his captive audience due to this. He also is very arrogant. It will be the ONLY car we buy from him. You can purchase cars from other military who are leaving and have it transferred to you. This isn't too difficult. There just wasn't any good choices for us at this time. We are trying to do this to find Michael a car.

After you buy the car, and get it inspected on base, and talk to the Japanese LTO person on base who doesn't make any sense, and go back and forth 4 times between the dealer and the base, AND your active duty spouse gets his license AND you get your permanent address, you are finished with the paperwork. So we should be done with all of the car stuff by the end of December. My aggravation in all of this is that NO ONE has this information printed so that you can understand the procedures. I tend to put in a complaint about that today!! We actually had to go FOUR different places to get all the information we needed to just start the process and buy a car. Ridiculous! I think I have a handle on it now and it is a relief!! I will take a pic of the car and upload it later!!

SHERRY DRIVING IN JAPAN ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD, ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE CAR IS VERY AMUSING. I STILL HAVEN'T FIGURED OUT WHICH ONE IS MY WINDSHIELD WIPERS AND WHICH IS MY TURN SIGNAL!!! BRIAN CONSTANTLY TRIES TO GET IN THE DRIVERS SIDE WITHOUT HIS LICENSE!! Oh, and I know what it is like to get a ticket from a Japanese Policeman. I found this out on our way to Zama last Friday. I still am confused and am not sure what I did wrong to get the ticket. I have asked several people and they don't know either!! It's something about the railroad tracks, blowing my horn, and the number 6. The best guess is that because the caution light started as I was crossing the tracks, I should have stopped, blown my horn, and waited 6 seconds to go. All I know is that if that ever happens again, I'm just going to STOP! Anyway, the ticket was for 120,000 YEN and no points to my license. The cop said, "You pay before 6th day at bank or post office. You pay, DO NOT go to JUDGE! " Oh, and he said he was sorry about 100 times. I PAY ALREADY AT POST OFFICE YESTERDAY!! I have no need to go see a judge!!! The Yen to Dollar rate is 93 Yen to 1.00. So it was about $130 for the ticket. Yikes. Brian and Michael were both with me and they were just as confused as me. ??? Anyway, I chalk it up to being new and they were so nice, it's just water under the bridge. At least now I know not to be scared of them.

We went to another Bazaar at Zama and I wasn't impressed with the tables this time. They had beautiful big furniture for very reasonable prices but the smaller things were not as nice. Zama does have a very nice Asia Tree store that has a lot of nicer authentic items to purchase. She was having a 20% off sale and I purchased a beautiful little box for myself that has a turtle latch to match my curio cabinet with the turtle handles. I promise I will take pictures of these when we get moved in to the house.

The boys and I explored a store close to the base called VINA HOME. It is like a home Depot and a Bed, Bath and Beyond in one store. Very interesting. I priced some curtains and things, but they are all very expensive off base. Some things that we may need like clothesline and dog items we can get for reasonable prices there. It is funny to find the items that we normally buy in Japanese packaging. It takes awhile, but you can find them.

Brian, Bryan and I went to see Laura and Boyden's off base home on Sunday. It was beautiful and VERY Japanese. I am so jealous!! They have the shojii screens on all the windows and each room has the sliding doors. It does have a closed in feel as the doorways are short and some of the ceilings are low. But the charm of the place definitly wins you over. She has more storage than we had in our house in Virginia and that is very unusual for a Japanese home. They are lucky enough to be 1/2 a block from the train station and 1/2 a block from Oak City Mall. We walked over to the mall and it was really neat!! They have two building to choose from that each have their own food court!! There was a really nice little store that sold Hello Kitty items. I will definitly have to do some more exploring there!! Luckily, we are only 1 train stop away from this area. I think that the boys will really enjoy going over there to explore.

We went to the O Club for Thanksgiving to have dinner with Laura, Boyden and their son, Gabe. It was yummy and they had all the trimmings!! We ate too much and then went bowling and laughed a lot. It still wasn't like being at home. Mom, I missed your Turkey and Pumpkin Pie! Well, that's all for now. I just have one post left to catch up about our trip to Kamakura. Thursday is when Brian's orientation class goes on a trip, and I will post about that too!!