Saturday, January 24, 2009

Train Ride to An Audition for Ashley

My friend Julie invited me to tag along to take her daughter Ashley to an audition for a modeling job. All the modeling agency told her was that it was for a CD jacket. I'll get to that in a moment.....

Riding trains here in Japan is relatively easy as long as you understand the basics of the train system. For our trip, we needed to take 3 different trains. This does give one a certain amount of anxiety no matter what city you are taking the trains in. However, I do have a trusty train map that I guard like my wallet while traveling. The map to the left is the one found inside the train station. This is just one of the small maps with only a few of the train lines on it. There are around 40 different subway lines that you can take in the Greater Tokyo area. It is the major mode of transportation.
The Japanese government is trying to make it easier for foreigners to live and vacation in Japan. Most of the train stations have just enough English to help you out. One most excellent thing is that the ticket dispensers have a bright button to click that says "English" to purchase your tickets. They also dispense what is called a PASMO card that you can personalize with your name. You can load as much money as you want on the card. And if you lose it, you go to the window and they will refund the balance on your card or give you a new one. The train stations are very clean and if you look really lost a friendly person will always come up to help point you in the right direction. Once you reach the platform, you can always ask a station employee if you are taking the right train. It is a very efficient way to get around!!
Now, back to the audition.... The base hosts a modeling fair twice per year. In a country of 120 million people, there are only 3 % foreigners. Half of that are other asian nationalities. That means that probably less than 1% are caucasion, American or otherwise. If you put an American or other foreigner that is non-asian on an advertisement or other medium, it draws attention easily. What this means for us, is that you can be paid very well for modeling jobs. The jobs can range from print advertising, to commercials to voice narration. The pay is very good!

Ms. Ashley's audition was for a children's cd cover. The audition was at Sony Music Entertainment which was VERY COOL!! She just went in with the modeling agency agent and they asked for her name and they gave her picture. She will find out in a few days if she gets the job and how much she will be paid.
We saw this beautiful building and I asked the Agent what the building was. I thought maybe it was a hotel. But she said it was where they make wedding dresses. It must be VERY Expensive wedding dresses!!!

Bryan wants to see if he can do some narrating work. We will see..... The next modeling fair is in April.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Japanese New Things

We all love new things! I am no exception. Okay, I probably do a lot of shopping, I admit it. Anyway, our house does feel like home partly do to some new items we purchased to make it cozy or that I just had to have. Take my new rug for instance. It was lonely hanging at the Viva Home store. When I saw it, I just knew it wanted to come home with me. Rugs here can be expensive, but if you look carefully you can find them at a comparable price to the states. This rug is 8 x 6 and it was about $150.00. I really like it and it goes so well with the house and our furniture. I also purchased our curtains at Viva Home and they were cheaper off base then buying the limited selection ones on base. We have two windows in our staircase. They are shorter than the other windows. So, I cut the top off the curtains (they were the pocket pleat type) and used that Stitch Witch stuff to make an iron-on hem and hung them up with pressure rods. There weren't any curtain rods there. They look really good!
My most expensive and favorite purchase is my curio cabinet. It is absolutely beautiful and just what I wanted. I especially love the turtle hand pulls. It was not too bad at $325.00. All of the glass is beveled. I also bought a beautiful small jewelry box that has coral inlaid on the top and sides. It also has a turtle latch! When we went to the New Sanno brunch, they had a wonderful Japanese souvenir shop that had the best prices I have seen.
I was able to pick up the YEAR OF THE COW knick knack. It is a ceramic cow on a little base with a folded gold background. It was less than $5.00 and it is so cute! We intend to get one for every year we are here. Later, I will find a case to keep them in together. My husband has gifted me with two Japanese plates. One has Japan on it with the different city names. It shows ATSUGI. The other is a prettier, nicer one that is a beautiful blue opalescent rim and an engraving of Mt Fuji (pronounced by Japanese as HOOJI, they can't make the "f" sound) and some cherry blossoms.
My Enlisted Wives Association gave us an engraved handmade wooden doll at the Christmas party and it, too, is very special to me. It has been tough to not go crazy and spend too much money here. There are so many things that we would like to have as souvenirs. We want to take our time and make sure we are spending the money efficiently on items that we will really treasure. We do want a couple more pieces of furniture to bring home.

Catch up Post on New Year's 2009

We spent New Year's Eve with our good friends Laura & Boyden and Julie and Charles. Brian's b-day celebration was that night too! We had them announce his birthday from the stage! They made him come up and dance in front of everyone! It was a casino night and was lots of fun. They had two buffets, one for dinner and one for breakfast after midnight. YUMMY. It was held at the Officer's club on base.

The boys liked our New Years Hats!!

Tokyo Car Salon 2009

Part of Brian's Christmas present was a MWR Tour to the 2009 Tokyo Auto Salon. Look at their website at: The boys went with Brian and Mom found something else to do! The Auto Salon is held in Tokyo at the Makuhari Messe Convention Center. This is the same center that we went to the large flea market in December.

The following information comes straight from the boys since I did not attend! They were in awe of all the cars! They were also a little taken aback by the attention the skimpy clothed Auto Salon girls were attracting. You couldn't even see the cars that the girls were showing because the Japanese men were surrounding the girls with camera bulbs flashing. They must be very popular celebrities OR Japanese Men are very deprived and don't know how to behave around girls and cars.

There were approximately 500 plus cars on display. There were sections for different type cars. One section was about "Drift" cars, another was about custom import cars, etc. Their absolute favorite car was a red customized car. Bryan says, "It had a bunch of TV screens and neon lights. It was awesome."
There was cars that were "BLING-ed out" according to Bryan. Can you tell the sparkle on the gold car to the left? Can you tell that the white car on the top is a Lamborghini? There was another car that the brakes were lighted and changed colors. All sorts of vendors were there selling and promoting their items for cars. Michael won two LED light strips for his car. They can go on the bottom of the doors. They also picked up all sorts of car stickers and pamphlets and brochures.

Outside they were doing "drifting" demonstrations. They couldn't get close enough to see them well. There was a guy on the inside that was drifting remote control cars. The boys and Brian really liked watching him. He was really good at it. Drifting is still very popular here in Japan. They have tracks dedicated to the art. This is a picture of a Drift car. The boys had a great time and look forward to going again in 2010 or 2011.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Our Japanese House and a trip to Grandberry Mall

I promised you pictures of the house! It is a lot like a western style townhouse you would find in the states with hardwood floors. There are only a few "Eastern Influences". The kitchen is definitly Japanese. The entrance and shoe cabinet is also very Japanese. The light fixtures and downstairs bathroom and the wallpaper, All Japanese. Also, you may have trouble using my washer and dryer, the microwave, and the thermostat. These are all in Japanese.
It took me awhile to figure out the washer and dryer. But after some trial and error and a few "Ah-HA" moments, I figured it out. I am lucky. Others I have talked to have a hose from their washer. They have to put it in the sink or tub full of hot water to wash with hot water. Not me. I have a hot and cold spigot going to my washer. However, if I want the hot, I have to turn off the cold and turn on the hot. I'll take that any day over the HOSE. Now, in order to use hot water, you have to turn the thermostat on. It Flash-heat's the water, there is no hot water heater. Believe it or not, it works really well. We all take long showers with no problem. I also turn it on for washing dishes and anything else I need Hot water for.
It is getting cold here. The kerosene heaters are on all the time now except if we are gone or sleeping. We received our first electric bill and it was only $120. We feel comfortable using the wall heater downstairs when we have to get the place warmed up quick. Say, at 8:00 at night and the house is frozen because we've been gone all day. It works quick, within 15 mins the livingroom is nice and toasty and we turn it off.
We have gotten very used to our little house and enjoy it very much. We will be sad to move onto base in a few months (not sure when). I prefer to stay in our house. The boys want to be on base to be closer to all the base has to offer and little Bryan will be near his friends and the teen center there.
Brian, Bryan and I decided to go to Grandberry Mall this past weekend. We spent about 3 hours there. You have to take the train about 4 stops. There is one transfer in between and on the way back we got on the wrong train! That was funny, but we realized it right away and only went 1 stop out of the way.
Grandberry Mall is a funny name for a Japanese mall. It is very much like an American Open Air Outlet Mall. They have Gap, Quicksilver Outlet, Outback Steakhouse, OshKosh Outlet, ColdStone Creamery, and many other American stores. There were lots of ladies clothing stores and lots of shoe and accessory stores. They had a upscale dog grooming/pet store called Joker. If I haven't told you before, Japanese LOVE THEIR PETS! This mall was dog friendly and we saw lots of people walking their spoiled pets. They are all dressed and bowed and adorable. Did I tell you about the doggie strollers?? They are all the rage here! They are EXPENSIVE. I want one for Dolly because she is such a wimp and doesn't like to walk very far. That way I can take her with me when I go exploring. My husband WILL KILL ME IF I PAY $130 FOR A DOG STROLLER. i'll wait until he goes out to sea. shhhh.
I had to have Outback YUM, again good English speakers there AND Bryan had to have Cold Stone Creamery. Just like in America, the girls that work there are young. For some reason, Bryan got about double the amount of ice cream as I did. HMmmm. I told him he should have given the cute one his email address. He said, "Mom! Shut up!". Oh well, one of these days he'll get over being shy and I'll wish he hadn't.

Happy New Year 2009

Did you know that it is the Year of the Cow? I have seen funny cards saying, "Happy Moo Year!" My husband's birthday is 12/31. So every year we have to go out and celebrate (his idea). This year was no different. We went to the Officer's Club New Year's Casino Night Party. We had good friends there too! Laura & Boyden and Julie & Charles. There were others there as well. We had a very good time and was glad to welcome in the New Year! Oh, and just so you know, next year is the Year of the Tiger! That should be fun to get souvenirs!
We took our first tour of the year to the New Sanno Hotel Sunday Brunch in Tokyo and to the Sunshine 60 Aquarium and shopping complex. The New Sanno is a military (or DOD) owned hotel in downtown Tokyo. It is very near the popular Rappongi area of town. The hotel was beautiful. We had heard marvelous things about their Sunday Brunch and it did not disappoint! The ice sculpture above is a cow celebrating the Year of the Cow at the brunch. Our friends Laura and Gabe and Bryan's friend Brad are in the picture with us. The food was fabulous. They had every imaginable food you could want for brunch and then some. They had a whole section of just kids food. It was so yummy we're going back in February for another tour. While we were there we made overnight reservations for our Anniversary coming up the beg. of March. The hotel was beautiful and I'm sure we will enjoy our stay. There is 3 restaurants and several stores for shopping. I also heard their is a spa and a beauty salon. The indoor pool has a gorgeous mural on the wall surrounding the pool.

Our next stop on the tour was to the Sunshine 60 Aquarium and shopping center. It is difficult to describe this center. It is 3 or 4 very tall city buildings that are connected on the lower floors. The lower 3 floors are a shopping mall with everything imagineable for sale. Lots of clothing, jewelry, souvenirs, and dept. stores. There is also some sort of kids place that we aren't completely sure what all was there. Our first stop was to go to the aquarium on the top of one of the buildings. Imagine that! On top of the building! It was a very nice but small aquarium. We did get to see penguins!

When we were done going through the aquarium we went downstairs for some serious shopping for about 2 1/2 hours. They actually had a store with larger size women's clothes in it. I didn't see anything I wanted but shoes. The boys had fun walking around making googly eyes at the girls. And the girls enjoyed giggling at the boys. I bought a very pretty Hawaiian necklace that has my initial charm on it. It is sterling silver and has flowers engraved on it. Hawaiian items are very popular here in Japan, but not as popular as American items!! We all get a kick of reading the incorrect English t-shirts that are super popular here. We were ready to go home after a long day!