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.....

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