Thursday, July 29, 2010

One of Those Days...

So, today was one of those days where I was wishing for the more simpler life - a life with a car! Now I realize in the big scheme of all the people in the world, not many people own a car. I am very blessed to have had a car at some point in my life. But in the US I was used to a car and quite frankly I missed my car today. I ventured off to play group to an unfamiliar indoor play area. I had to switch lines from the Yurakcho line to the Ginza line at Nagatcho station (the details are for my few friends familiar with Tokyo). Well, I have switched many times at Nagatcho to the Namboku line or Hanzoman line without any problems because of the provision of those fine pieces of machinery we call elevators and escalators. However, the people who constructed the Ginza line must have not been informed of such machinery as the only access was via stairs, lots of stairs, with lots of people dressed in Armani suits with some place important to be, much more important than my little play date. I did have two sets of escalators to use at one point but I made notice of the only access down on my way back would be stairs. It probably took me 20 minutes just to switch lines and maneuver between all the people. And carrying the stroller with Miyako now verses when she was a 10 month old is a bit different due to her weight gain. I am thankful for a healthy growing baby, do not get me wrong, but when carrying the stroller plus 26 pounds of baby plus a diaper bag and lunch bag with lots of people scurrying around me, it makes for a stressed out mama. So, it was one of those days. To top it off, even with my handy google map on the Iphone, I had a hard time finding the place because it was on a small lane, and we all know google can give you general locations but does not always get those little side streets. I knew I was close because my little blue dot was close to the red dot. Or is it the other way around? I can't remember because I just now started using the google map service. Nonetheless, I could see on my map I was SO CLOSE, but kept going around in circles. One of my friends finally told me to stay put and she came and found me. :)

Ah, to have a car. The luxury of a car! Maybe a year from now I will not miss my car as I will be so used to the metro. And on most days, I do not miss the car, and I enjoy the public transportation. I think I have even mentioned this in a previous post. I like not filling up a gas tank when it is 20 degrees outside or having to park a mile away from the mall entrance at Christmas time. But today I missed the luxury of a car.

I was talking with a friend who just moved back to the US from Japan about 2 weeks ago and I expected her to have some major culture shock. When I spoke with her on the phone, she was so giddy. She said she forgot how easy it was to live in the US, how familiar it is, and also what it is like to choose form 20 different options of cottage cheese. :) She said there is a freedom in the US that she did not have abroad and a sense of familiarity. But she was also realistic about being in the honeymoon phase of her return and eventually she would meet those cultural adjustments head on. But as I think about this...isn't it what we all want...a place where there is freedom and familiarity? A sense of belonging? Today carrying my stroller through the mobs of people, I definitely felt a bit out of place. It was not familiar and it was very uncomfortable. But as I write this, a soft voice reminds me that I still have my freedom, I have a place I belong, a place that is is not in Tokyo and it is not in America, but it is with the Lord. And on that note, I can rest. Oh, and enjoy those brownies I made for our lunch guests tomorrow. :)

Yasakuni Shrine

Today is Thursday which means typically Nena comes and I head to Japanese class, only our Japanese class has been canceled until the beginning of September. For some reason, lots of things simply shut down here during the month of August, so rather than go to class I opted to do some sightseeing with my classmate and without Miyako. Yes, Nena still came today, and I went out with only one thing in my hand - a purse! Well, and an umbrella because it was raining, but I felt so light and carefree not pushing a stroller, carrying a purse and diaper bag, or watching my feet as I walk waiting for a doll baby or book to accidentally fall to the sidewalk. Miyako LOVES Nena now so I knew I left her in good hands, and I got to have some adult talk with a girlfriend and enjoy some sightseeing without a baby. It was fun!

We went to Yasakuni Shrine, which is a Shinto shrine dedicated to war heroes. It was built to commemorate and worship those who had sacrificed their lives in duty to their country. The meaning of Yasakuni means "peaceful country." In spite of the light rain, we enjoyed feeding fish in a small pond. Notice in the picture how they swarm for the food. I felt a little bit bad for the smaller fish as the larger fish would not let them get anywhere near the food.

After visiting this shrine we walked to a nearby park called Kintanomaru Park where we stumbled upon a craft gallery show casing an exhibit about "colors" which featured beautiful pieces of artwork with color themes. My favorite room was the blue room, and not because I am a UK fan (GO BIG BLUE), but because the blues used in the artwork were stunning. Definitely not a kid friendly place, so I was thankful that Miyako was happily playing with Nena while I was touring an art exhibit. This park also served as the location for the Science Museum, maybe a fun place to visit when Miyako is a bit older. And this my friends, is what I love about being in a big city like Tokyo... lots of culture, museums, art work, parks, and other cool things to expose your children to. Of course, my child was not with me today. However, as we walked through the white room I saw a mom with two little girls doing a school type project and checking out the art work, and I thought to myself "what a great gift to give your kids and expose them to things such as art." The little girls seemed to really be enjoying themselves as they quietly walked through the exhibit with pencil and paper in hand checking off whatever it was they saw in the art pieces.

So next week, no class again! What will my classmate and I get into next? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Miyakos' Milestones

Miyako has made some milestones in the past couple of weeks and because I am not good on writing them down, I thought I would blog about them so as not to forget. She gave me her first big scare last week while we were in Kamakura by falling backwards down the stairs (about 7 stairs) and getting a slight bump in between her eyes and her first nosebleed. Let me tell you this...she did not fall down the stairs the rest of the trip. In fact, every time I mentioned the word "stairs" she would pat her head and start to make whimpering sounds. I think she learned her lesson the hard way and will only go down stairs crawling on her belly rather than trying to step one by one down like adults.

Miyako LOVES the beach. She has no fear of water. She thinks it is funny when salt water gets in her face. I still do not understand how she can enjoy this and not enjoy bath water getting in her face when I rinse the shampoo out of her hair, but nonetheless, she is a little beach bum. I am sure come winter time, she will transform into a little snow bunny for my ski loving husband.

Miyako now loves "Anpanman." Anpanman is a Japanese character and we have a small ball with his character on it. For the longest time she would point to the characters and ask me to say their names. Just a few days ago she looked at the ball and shouted "Anpanman!" Now every time she sees him out and about we hear "ANPANMAN!"

Her vocabulary is increasing each day. Common words we hear are the following: Nuno, water, toes, eye, Anpanman, book, milk, kagi (the Japanese word for key only it sounds like she is saying agi), woof woof, moo, baa, neigh, mama, dada, ball, bus, Nena, Nana and train. Some people have asked us if she is speaking in both languages. To that I would say no. I think she probably thinks the English word for key is actually "kagi." However, she does seem to understand Japanese. We have a great picture book that she enjoys looking at. When I ask her to point to the "boru" or "densha" she points to the ball and train respectively. When Kan or Nena speak to her in Japanese and tell her, for example, to go get her doll baby, she will understand and go get her doll baby. But whether or not her brain understands she is hearing two different languages, I am not sure. We will keep doing what we can to help her with both.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Big Buddha

So Miyako and I went back to Kamakura yesterday with the out of town co-workers from Louisville and we finally saw Big Buddha. I am growing to love Kamakura! It is an easy day trip with a good mix of shopping, temples, and my favorite - the beach! Again, Miyako had a blast. As I was holding her walking towards the water, her legs started going so fast that she could not wait to get out of my arms and run into that large body of water we call The Pacific. And we saw Big Buddha. Minnie may disagree with me, but I thought the Buddha in Nara was larger, but nonetheless, this Buddha was pretty big. Enjoy the pics.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Miyako and I have been seeing a lot of Japan during this past week. We came home from Kamakura Friday afternoon and Saturday morning we were off again to Nikko. Kan has had visitors from the US in for work this past week and Saturday we took his co-worker and family to Nikko for the day. Kan was not very familiar with the area as he had never been before, so we opted for a tour guide, which worked out perfect for Miyako as she took a 90 minute nap in the van. The tour guide took us up in the mountains for a wonderful lunch. You could see waterfalls from our table and it was a gorgeous view. The weather gods must have been looking out for us because it poured down rain while we were eating. Once we were finished though, the sun came out and we went to see some beautiful waterfalls up close. There is a lake at Nikko that is fairly large. The waterfalls you see on this post are called Kekko waterfalls and they are formed from the overflow of water from the large lake. They were absolutely beautiful. After the waterfalls we went to a famous shrine in Nikko. It always amazes me the attention to detail at these shrines and just how big they are. You can see in our group photo simply how big they are as our tour guide had to stand far away to get the shrine in the photo with us. We look like little ants. :) We joked that it would not matter if you blinked in the photo as we are so small, but it simply shows you the magnitude of how big the shrines are. This particular shrine we went to see supposedly was built in a year and a half and there were 6 million people who worked on it. Nikko is up in the mountains so you can imagine that when it was built, I think around 1100, they did not have large trucks to hall lumber or equipment up to build the shrine so they needed lots of manpower. To be honest, I was not quite looking forward to another long day as we had been in Kamakura and Miyako was probably needing a day at home to rest and recover. However, we really had a fabulous time and Miyako did great on both trips this week. It was fun to hang out with people from Kentucky. We joined them today for dinner at Monjayaki and a little more Tokyo sight-seeing. Tomorrow I decided to go with them back to Kamakura for the day and see the big Buddha. And Tuesday night we are meeting them for dinner in Odaiba before they head back to the States on Wednesday. The husband is a UK grad so we have lots to talk about!

Fun Times in Kamakura

Miyako and I went home with a friend and her little boy. I think I need to give these friends internet code names as I refer to them a lot. So, we will call my girlfriend "Minnie" as she works for Disney and has introduced me to many things including how to escape from Tokyo by enjoying a day at Tokyo Disney. Let's call her little boy Mr. N. He is cute as a button and Miyako has said his name repeatedly since we left them on Friday. I think she may have a crush on him. :)

So Minnie and Mr. N took us "home" to Kamakura, about a hour away from Tokyo. And let me just say, it felt like home. Her parents' were so kind and warm and I felt like we were back in America, sitting around the breakfast table enjoying some coffee and bread, and simply enjoying fellowship. Do not get me wrong, we saw some sites, but I think what I enjoyed most was being with a family. It felt like being with extended family back in Lexington or Knoxville, and it was such a breath of fresh air.

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and Minnie's mom set up the kiddie pool, which Miyako and Mr. N LOVED! They were so stinking cute in the little pool and it helped to cool them off in this Tokyo heat. We relaxed at home on Wednesday, enjoyed a nice dinner, and headed to see some fireworks on the beach. Miyako DID NOT like the fireworks. Let me repeat, she DID NOT like the fireworks. But there was nowhere really to go so we stayed. If I would sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" she would get quiet and watch. Once I stopped singing she would say, "Bye Bye" which is her way of saying "Mama, get me outta here!" Mr. N thought they were pretty cool. Maybe this is one of the many differences between boys and girls.

Thursday we decided to get our hair cut. I was going to get mine colored as well but that was interrupted because Miss Priss Pooh did not like being away from Mama. I was only planning to get a little bit cut, but it turned out to be a little bit more than what I expected. However, I love the cut. It is nice and cool and I can actually wear my hair without a ponytail and survive the heat. After nap time, we put the kiddos in their summer yukatas and went to a shrine in Kamakura. For dinner Thursday night we went out for Minnie's birthday and ate at a fabulous Italian restaurant in Kamakura. I think I had one of the best meals I have had in Tokyo. It was so good I kept forgetting to take pictures of the food as each course came out. I simply dove in and ate. But I did snap a few. We first had a beautiful salad with locally grown vegetables. Then the appetizers came and I tried sardines for the first time. Miyako liked them as well, but they were lightly breaded. Anything fried is tasty right? My pasta was a cream based pasta with lamb. The main course was a special pork dish that was out of this world. It had a little bit of fat on the meat, but was very tasty. And dessert was simply delicious.

Friday we took the kiddos to the beach. We planned to go see the Big Buddha after wards, but between the heat and hungry kiddos, we opted for lunch at a place called Bill's that sat on the water. We were not totally prepared as I think it was not the most kid-friendly restaurant nor a beach attire restaurant, but they served us. Minnie said she had the best pancakes she has ever had; they were filled with ricotta cheese. I opted for a coconut toast with organic yogurt with honey and fresh fruit. Miyako and I sadly said goodbye Friday afternoon to prepare for our big day in Nikko on Saturday.

I really could not have been more encouraged with my time in Kamakura. It was so thoughtful of Minnie and her parents to open their home to us. Kan had a very busy week with work so it really helped to get out of our apartment and enjoy company for a few days. And I simply loved watching the kids play. It made me realize how much God has blessed us with this move. Usually people move and it takes a good year to make good friends and feel comfortable where you are. We moved here 6 months ago and I already have a close girlfriend who I can call upon to laugh with or cry with. That simply does not happen very often and I know it is only from God. Thanks Minnie for a fabulous week, and I hope you are not going to kill me for calling you "Minnie." I simply did not want to use your real name on the blog! :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Homemade Sushi

Last night some friends came over and we had homemade sushi! It was very yummy and the presentation of the food was beautiful. There was enough for lunch today which made it even better. As we were eating though, my friend was telling me you could go to some sushi restaurants in Japan and pay $500 per meal for your sushi. Can you imagine?! $500 for raw fish? I can tell you we did not pay $500 last night for our sushi, but it was quite tasty and we enjoyed it in the comforts of our home. Tomorrow Miyako and I are heading to Kamakura with our friend and her little boy. Stay tuned for a fun blog to come with lots of pictures of Kamakura!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

This morning...

I woke up early and found clear blue skies and Mt. Fuji in the distance. Beautiful.

Friday, July 16, 2010

While the Cat is Away...

The mice will play...Kan is on his way home from Hong Kong tonight which means I do not cook. So, Miyako and I had dinner tonight with our friend and her little boy, who is just one day older than Miyako. I may be a bit biased, but I think they are two of the cutest kids on the planet!! Red is definitely a good color on them. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Random Visit to the Imperial Gardens

Kan headed out to Hong Kong today for work and he accidentally left his passport at home. He needed Miyako and I to bring it to him at the train station, so my classmate joined us in the venture to the train station. I was so thankful that she came along as I did not know what bus exactly to take and it is much easier getting on a bus with someone else to help me with the stroller. After handing over the much needed passport, my classmate and I walked to the Imperial Palace to take a stroll through the gardens. It was rather hot so I found a small water fountain for Miyako to get wet in. Once we started with that, she did not want to leave. My classmate tackled a little bit of the gardens. They are rather big and we got there about a hour before they closed. They were beautiful, very well manicured and green. It was a fun little random sightseeing adventure. Our plan is to go back one day in August since our classes have been canceled for the month. I am still getting my babysitter and decided to do some touristy things that are just not easy with Miyako. I thought walking around the entire gardens in the heat would be something she would not really enjoy. You will probably see another blog entry in the future about an August garden trip with a nice little lunch at a cafe in the area.

Speaking of heat, just for the record, it is downright hot here. I decided I am going to blame everything on "it is hot." It really does drain the energy out from under you. But I cannot complain too much. The skies today were bright blue and beautiful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Girls Night Out Monja Style

Two of my friends from our Friday play group joined me for a Girls Night Out for Monja-yaki. I have talked about Monja in a previous blog regarding my cooking class. However, last night was a fun experience with it because I was not worried about a 20 month old burning her hand on the hot plate it is cooked on. My girlfriends have both lived here a significant amount of time (6 years and almost 3 years) but had yet to try Monjayaki. So we hit Monja street for a girls night out and enjoyed some fabulous food. We ate what the restaurant owner recommended - the first one was made with fish eggs and cheese while the second one was a curry based monja with corn beef. Both were delicious. Enjoy the pics.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Saturday and Sunday we ventured down south to a coastal area near the town of Shimoda. It was a much needed getaway from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. We went with my classmate and her husband and had the best time. We stayed at an inn called The Ernest House. It reminded us of a bed and breakfast you might find back in the US. Our breakfast came in a little basket you could take to the beach or eat outside on the front lawn. There were many highlights of the weekend. For one, we were nowhere near a computer so I was not distracted by emails, facebook or blogging and Kan was not distracted by work. We could focus on having fun and enjoying our family and friends. The company was excellent as we really enjoy my classmate and her husband. They are laid back and easy going which is our style! Another highlight was the beach! I love the beach and from the looks of our pictures you can see Miyako does too. She LOVED the ocean. In spite of how cold the Pacific was this past weekend, she would have gone head first if we would have let her. She did not mind at all when the waves would come crashing into her face. She would look up and just laugh and laugh. Funny considering when I bathe her she screams loud enough for our old neighbors in Lexington to hear when I shampoo her head and the water gets in her face. But salt water? Sure, bring it on, she says! We also did some exploring. We found a tasty little Italian restaurant for dinner. We were the only ones in the place, which is not always a good sign. :) But the food was delicious and we could watch them make our wood oven pizzas. On our way back Sunday, we stopped and did a mile long hike along the coast to a Suspension Bridge. The hike was not stroller friendly, and since Kan and I were in flip flops, we were not too prepared. But we made it and got some beautiful pictures of the scenery. We found a paved road to take us back as we did not want to take the chance of falling and getting hurt with Miyako. Miyako was exhausted on the train ride back. She fell asleep on Kan for the second half of the train ride back, woke up long enough to eat dinner and get a bath once we got home, and then went right back to bed. I am already trying to decide when we should book our rooms for next year.