Monday, April 29, 2013


Do you remember last week how we went on the ropeway up the mountain and then hiked back down? Well I skipped past what we did Monday.
We have two options when we face a new or different situation here in Japan. We can get upset, let it ruin our day, and wish that we were back home where we don't have to deal with the situation. Or we can laugh, take pictures, and enjoy our life for what it is - a constant unexpected journey. That mostly pertains to me and how I can react, my level-headed husband goes with the flow and I love that about him.
All of that being said, we decided to finally go to Costco and do some grocery shopping. A few things we knew about this excursion before hand: It is an uphill walk from the train station and about a mile away. That didn't scare us. We were making this trip happen regardless.
I picked up a rolling cart at the grocery store for less than $10 and I brought along a reusable bag Brandon bought for me for groceries a few weeks back. I headed to meet Brandon at the train station after his practice. From there we took roughly an $8 taxi to Costco. We made sure to remember the way as we were going to be walking back to the train station.
I think we were both so excited once we started shopping, mostly to see brands we recognized, but we had to keep in mind we could only get what we could wheel and carry back to the train station. Basically not a lot and nothing super heavy. I then devoured a huge slice of pizza and we headed home. I left the packing to Brandon and like always, he nailed it.  All of our groceries fit snuggly into two boxes and a bag. That guy is good. He had to be if he wanted to get his box of 72 frozen waffles home.

We took one subway and two trains back to our apartment. Each time we got on or off I had to help lift our cart so it wouldn't fall in the crack at the station. I could feel the eyes staring at us but couldn't have cared less. We were making things happen the only way we knew how. Besides the rolling cart being a little too short it wasn't that bad of a trip. I was laughing on our way up the escalator and there I had the, 'is this my life moment' but was loving every second of it.
Would it be easier with a car? Yes, but I learned that Wednesday when I took another trip with the girls in which one of them drove us. Definitely easier, but you got to do, what you got to do sometimes.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Full Fan Experience

I could kick myself because I don't sit and write things as close to when they happen and then the details get lost in the hustle and bustle of the week. For instance, last Sunday at Brandon's game I had a very interesting and blog worthy post to write. In fact as the game was playing out, I was writing the post in my head because I knew those were memories I wanted to capture. It would probably be easier to video blog this one but I'm not and it's a little lengthy so hang on.
Sunday: I mentioned before game days are a little hectic and this week I wanted to make sure I left the TV on the right channel. I made my train, even a little early, collected my ticket and made my way to my seat. I usually don't go to the games unless Brandon is pitching so I have only had less than a handful of times where I have had to locate my seat but I'm getting better. When I arrived at what my ticket said my seat was it was already occupied. Back home I would have sat in an empty seat close by but I didn't want to run into a Japanese person who woke up on the wrong side of the bed ready to chew an American's head off so the attendant helped me and moved the guy out of my seat. He apologized, several times, "Saw re!" Roll your 'r' go on and try it.
It was an aisle seat so him and his three friends were in and out in front of me several times, all with the sorrys and samisens. While they were gone, only one of his pals stayed behind so the seat between us was empty except for the guys jacket and his cheer sticks. The buffaloes were up to bat and this is the time when the cheer sticks get used the most. So no need to be wasting perfectly good cheering instruments, I stole them. His buddy then started laughing and put his finger to his mouth meaning, I'll keep your secret.

When he returned, he looked confused for a second and then quickly realized I was as thief. I tried to return them and he threw up his hands pushing them back on me. Okay fine... I'll keep them for now.
Then he asked if I liked the Orix Buffaloes and I explained that I was married to the pitcher. When I say explained I mean got out my phone and used the three Japanese apps I had to get the point across. Their eyes lit up and then they asked if they could have their picture taken with  me. Sure, sorry guys but you just had your picture taken with a normal, nobody, American girl. Jokes on you. Then the questions started, which I couldn't understand so we spent the entirety of the game, both using modern technology to try and communicate with each other. There was so much misunderstanding but understanding at the same time.
Then they start getting food out of their cooler and without any hesitation offered me their snacks. Skeptical me couldn't just try it I had to ask what it was and then we had more difficulty translating. It had hit me earlier that week that it was time to start fully embracing the fact that we live in Japan, food and all and this would be my first true opportunity to test that out.
Their first snack was chicken...with a bone in it. Lord help me, I already tired the raw egg, now I'm supposed to each chicken with a bone in it. So, as I promised myself, I picked the smallest piece of chicken and bit straight into it. They quickly began apologizing as the look on my face must have given away that I didn't particularly care for it. There were no napkins and I didn't have anything to dispose of it with so I took a huge drink of water and swallowed it, whole. Their next snack I immediately recognized. They told me chicken but I could see that it was cooked skin. It was chicken skins and I gave myself a free pass that time because I had just eaten a chicken bone y'all.
I think I needed to get the chicken bone thought out of my mind so I reached into my purse and got out a bag of pita chips my mom had sent in an AWESOME care package a few weeks back. My new found friend asked, "cookie?" "Chip," I said. We had lots of one word conversation but chip didn't mean anything to them. As kind as they had been to offer me their food, I returned the favor. I guess they liked them, I don't know? They then asked me if I made them. I told them my mom sent them from back home. Then they thought my mom lived here too and more phone translation came in. I kept my chocolate covered pretzels for the train ride home I was not even about sharing those. Sorry guys.
The game was passing pretty quickly and each time Brandon did something well his new fans started cheering super loud. They told me that they are his new fans and they will always support him. I believe the exact translation on his phone said, " Tell your master that we always are in support of him," or something close.
I had seen them play a game of rock paper scissors which I had assumed they were trying to figure out who was going to buy their next round of beers. When they returned they had actually went to get the celebratory seventh inning stretch balloons and before I knew it he was handing them out to all of us, including me.
Let me just say a few things, I had been wanting to buy my own set of cheer sticks because my hands were getting a little stingy the first few games from clapping but I just hadn't. The fact that I got to use a pair was kind of a highlight for me. I felt like a true Japanese baseball fan with them. However, the balloon tradition I was FINE not participating in. But, when my new super kind friends showed up with a balloon for me, I knew that I was not going to be able to get out of this one.
They even gave a balloon to the cutest little Japanese kid that kept climbing up the stairs towards us. It was so cute. Japanese = friendliest people ever.
Not only was I blowing up a giant sperm shaped balloon they were laughing at me because I couldn't blow it up the whole way. I know, shocker, me lacking hot air.  They cheered me on saying, "one more time," about six times and at this point I think everyone around us was laughing.
There I did it. I can officially say I've participated and hope that it is the last time. Or maybe secretly I loved it and want to do it again every game, but probably not. :)
And then they got out more food. I still tried my hardest to ask first before I tried but at this point the translation was not getting me anywhere and I just caved to trying something new again knowing I could always just swallow it whole like before. The one guy told me all the food he brought his mother prepared and sent with them which I thought was pretty cool.

I opted for the bean looking item. It tasted pretty good. Still not sure what it was. I tried it and I liked it and that was probably enough for me that day. There was another suspicious looking piece that I wanted to try, the square pieces in picture, but I didn't want to ruin a good thing.

We had to take several more photos them telling me I made their day and they will, "always have memory of day." I tried to return the set of cheer sticks that I stole but they refused telling me to keep them so that I had a memory of that day.
It was quite the fan experience and I love that I got to sit by such supportive, friendly, and fun fans and I'm super excited that I finally have my OWN cheer sticks. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Herb Gardens and Ropeway

Brandon's off days are quickly becoming my favorite day of the week. We spent the day visiting the Herb Gardens and a quick ride on the ropeway up the mountain. The view was excellent! We purchased one way tickets so that we could walk/hike down and enjoy some of the gardens and outdoors.
At the top there is a gift shop and the most adorable little snack shop that serves a delicious piece of cake and drinks. I opted for the Honey Chai and cake while my better half had ice cream.
Together we experienced our first Japanese footbath and we loved it. It was so relaxing and we had a great view. Our feet felt so good after the ten minute soak. It was worth the one dollar towel fee we incurred. While we were soaking, I told Brandon I felt like we were on our honeymoon and he sweetly responded we still are. He patiently waited for me as I had to capture the perfect shot of so many flowers. He is too good to me.
Isn't this little guy cute?  They were all over, big and small. I expect you all to make one for your gardens and front porch.
Once we were finished with the gardens, we still had half the mountain to descend so we followed our map and enjoyed a quiet hike with one another taking silly photos and enjoying our surroundings. We are loving the self timer lately. I think we have both missed the country a little, it was good to see Brandon back where he is most comfortable, the woods. Sometimes we chatted while we walked and sometimes we just walked in silence together enjoying each others company. 
We love making these new memories here in Japan.
We thank you for letting us share them with you.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Game Day

I'm officially a week behind on updates but will attempt to get better.
Last Sunday our day started with an email from our tax preparer asking where some time sensitive documents were. Turns out it was no big deal but put us into a frenzy until we figured out later that afternoon that everything was okay.
Trying to figure the tax situation out, I missed my train by a few minutes. This was a whole new route for me that included transferring to the subway. I knew that I could do it but I felt extra pressure trying to get there on time.
I have been setting up the computer weekly for those to enjoy the game back home. I try to leave as late as I can but early enough to make it to the game. The last time my hangout cut off because of inactivity and so I try to get the viewers as much of the broadcast as I can. Until last week when I left the TV on the wrong game.
I'm going to go ahead and say that sometimes game days are more stressful for me than Brandon.
The stadium they play at is really nice, fresh grass, and outdoor. It was a little chillier than I prefer but I wasn't complaining, until after the game when I had NO clue where to find Brandon and was without a special pass that I've been given the few times at the dome. I bought a cup of coffee that was awful but served as an excellent hand warmer.
The game itself was not bad. They ended up losing 7-6. Brandon got the no decision and pitched five and two thirds innings giving up three runs. The wind was going crazy which wasn't good at this hitters park. And it didn't just blow, but it blew in every direction.
I'll be honest I was glad to get home Sunday evening and sit on the couch. Little did we know the crazy events that would unfold the rest of this week back home between the Boston Bombings and the West, Texas explosion. It is so strange waking up to news like this and no less heartbreaking thousands of miles away.
Wishing everyone back home a relaxing weekend free of violence, animosity, and fear.



Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kyoto - {my newest favorite city}

The astonishing number of temples, shrines, and palaces that adorn the city make Kyoto's architecture its most famous feature abroad. Japan's capital for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto was the center not only for politics, but religion, philosophy, art, culture, and cuisine. Every one of Japan's refined cultural arts blossomed from seeds that were planted here, including the tea ceremony, Kabuki theater, Zen, and Tantric Buddhism.  - Fodor's JAPAN
Wednesday the 10th we ventured into Kyoto for the day to explore and sight see. Our neighbor Vinny had his girlfriend, Missy, visiting for ten days. They went into Kyoto a few days before to explore together but didn't get to see all that they she wanted while they were there. Since the boys still had to work we decided to go together. We took the train over which took roughly one hour. Despite hitting rush hour on the train it was an easy route to follow. Since she had already been she knew exactly where to go get our all day bus pass, maps, and where to catch a bus. It was perfect for her to show me the ropes so if I have a day and I want to go back I know exactly what to do. And I definitely plan on going back when my parents come in LESS than three weeks!
So back to sightseeing. I didn't do any research prior to our visit. I knew that there were a few places and things she wanted to see and I was more or less along for the ride. The map they give out is very detailed, borderline confusing, but we managed to find our way and we didn't care if we did get lost.
Our first stop was Kiyomizu Temple. We walked up the streets and at first we thought this was it. Until we quickly realized it wasn't. This is the Yasaka Pagoda. Maybe the lack of tourists was the first clue, but anyway we marched on and enjoyed the scenery along the way.
Brandon and I had a discussion if there were Japanese classic cars the day before and then I saw this. Turns out there are.
We walked the winding cobble-stone street lined with tea shops and vendors it was AMAZING.
We made it to the Kiyomizu Temple and so did thousands of other people! It was packed with tourists. And then we took pictures, lots and lots of pictures. Photography is a hobby for Missy so I am really excited to see how some of her photos turned out. I don't know much history about this temple except that many young people visit the shrine to seek help in finding their life partners. There is also a waterfall we passed with lines of people waiting for a drink. I later found if you drink from the waterfall, it supposedly helps with health, longevity, and academic success. We skipped the drinking of the water due to the long lines, but now that I know its effects and importance I will make my way back to have a sip. Can't hurt right?


Standing on the huge veranda jutting out over the valley with gorgeous views of the city.

I am not sure the name of this colorful pagoda and I tried looking online and on the map without any luck. But it was funky, orange, and very photogenic.
As we ascended back down the winding streets we visited several adorable pottery shops and gift stores. We may have also go busted for trying to take a picture of a Green Tea KitKat. They can be very strict about picture taking. Our mistake, just two Americans intrigued that they can make green tea anything here. We then searched for a little while to find the next bus to take us to our next destination and ended up walking pretty much the entire way. Missy also spotted three geisha girls, which at the time I had NO clue what that mean, but after getting home I quickly did some research and watched Memoirs of a Geisha in no time flat. Go, watch it now if you haven't. I am obsessed with the history and culture of the wonderful city of Kyoto and eager to go back.
We weren't finished. We found a huge market with fresh fish, food vendors, flower shops, craft shops, and my favorite candy store in all of Japan. It had the most elegant and adorable presentation for candy I've ever seen. I also loved the gorgeous fabric that a few of the shops carried.
From there we had a few more temples to check out before we headed back to Kobe and finding a bus that was headed that direction that wasn't full was quite a challenge. Once we did it seemed like it took forever to get across town. Some of us, Missy, even fell asleep on the bus ride (it's okay we can blame it on the jet lag). After the somewhat difficult task of making our way across town it was well worth it when we arrived at the Kinkakuji Temple, also know as the Golden Pavilion.

Gorgeous isn't it?  It is actually gold, although it appears yellow. The temple was reconstructed in 1950s after a monk set fire to the standing structure that was built in 1393. I didn't know, but there is a novel about this temple called, Temple of the Golden Pavilion. I added that cause I know my grandparents are reading this, Hi Grandma and Grandpa, and maybe they need a new book recommendation. Let me know if it is worth reading after you finish. :)
From there we planned to walk to our final site of the day, the Ninni-ja Temple, until we realized it was going to be more of an uphill hike than a walk. We waited for a bus, the wrong ones came and went, for a while, until we called it quits and headed back to the train station. We covered a lot of ground in one day, so we weren't too disappointed on missing out and I think our bodies thanked us for giving in.
On my next trip my plan is to first go to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. A scene from Memoirs of a Geisha takes place here in the midst of 10,000 tori gates. There are so many other shrines, temples, and gardens to visit, that I hope before October I can make it to them all.
Kyoto was what I imagined when I thought of Japan before we moved here. This day trip was so good for me and gave me the itch to continue to visit and discover much more of Japan. Although we are residents for the next few months, it felt good to sling a camera around my neck and go be a tourist for the day.
Thank you Missy for showing me the way and opening my eyes
to embrace this adventure here in Japan!