Saturday, December 13, 2008

A small word about small change...

Since Jenn left today and I have lost access to our Slingbox to watch US TV (technical, network issues back home), I'm trying to catch up on some stuff that I've been meaning to post...

I never carried change back home. I would come home at the end of the day and drop my change in a large, glass jar in our office. It went in and never came out. I cashed in several hundered dollars in coins before we left.

Things are slightly worse here in Japan... they have larger denomination coins here, so you get more of them. The smallest bill is 1000 Yen (a good rule of thumb conversion is that 100 Yen = $1). The coins of Japan...


From Left to Right:
  • 500 Yen - The most coveted of Yen coins. I refer to it as an umbrella coin (all the convenience stores carry umbrellas for 500 Yen if you get caught in the rain) or the Starbuck's coin (it will get you a grande pretty much anything at Starbuck's).
  • 100 Yen - Still pretty functional. Very useful for vending machines, which are everywhere. A bottle of water will cost you 100-140 yen.
  • 50 Yen - Kind of cool with the hole in it. Useful, worth carrying. I will pick a few of these up when I walk out each morning.
  • 10 Yen - Discussed further below. Not worth carrying, as is everything from here down.
  • 5 Yen - Practically worthless. Vending machines won't take them. Easy to confuse with 50 Yen coins.
  • 1 Yen - Much like the US penny. You feel cheated when you get them back. Made of some space age material that feels like di-cast metal. It feels like it should float.

The 10 Yen coin has become the bane of my coinage existence. It seems like everyday I come home with a handful of these things. But you have to carry a bunch of them to buy anything, so they are not worth the work they require to haul them around.

Fortunately, the Japanese have provided a solution to this problem:





Yes, a beer vending machine.

As you look at the first picture, our apartment would be 90 degrees to the right around the corner. So door to coin drop, this is about 60 seconds away. Next to it is a cigarette vending machine. It's interesting that for cigarettes you need a special card to prove that you're 18, but you can just walk up and get beer.

Note the very ample selection - a variety of premium and lite beers, 12 oz. cans and tall boys. And it is actually cheaper than the convenience store down the street from it (the Family Mart).

So how does this solve my 10 Yen coin problem? Well I periodically gather up a bag of 10 Yen coins, grab a grocery bag and head over there and stock up. As was the case on this evening (Kirin Zero is my personal favorite):

The alternate title for this post was "The greatest vending machine in the world..."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

We Wish You a Merry Christmas...

We wish you a Merry Christmas...
We wish you a Merry Christmas...
and a Happy New Year!!!

So, I am heading back to Texas tomorrow and then John joins me a week after that. I have to say...very excited to be visiting my family. Not to mention that I LOVE Christmas time. In preparation for the big visit John and I had a whirlwind weekend of Christmas shopping and light viewing last weekend. We even went to a Christmas concert put on by the church that we go to. I have to say, one of the most interesting Christmas concerts I have ever had the opportunity of going to. It was fantastic, but as John pointed out...we realized after song #2 that there was little chance of hearing the regular and beloved songs we were familiar with. While the song entitled "Away In a Manger" gave all indication of being one of the classics...not so.

When I got out our very few Christmas decorations including our little silver fiber optic Christmas tree in the picture, I was a little sad. John and I always go pick out a live tree together and then spend a day picking out the best places for our decorations and putting lights on our house. It's like a fun surprise every year to look at our wonderful ornaments that have been packed away for the year and get to pick the perfect place on the tree for them. Well, I have to say, I have a whole new appreciation for our little tree and I will never take it for granted ever again.

However, while our apartment might not be full of all of our favorite decorations, I must say that Tokyo has not been a disappointment. Christmas is everywhere. Everything is decorated, just like at home. There are all sorts of Christmas trees and light displays. One of my favorite things about Christmas is the lights. I love lights....all colors, all places, all lights and I have to say that here in Tokyo they side with me. John and I decided the best way to express our Christmas greetings to you would be to share with you some of our favorite Christmas decorations...Tokyo style.



We want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Until next time....Jenn & John

Monday, December 1, 2008

Just a Walk in the Park

The day after our wonderful Thanksgiving celebration, John and I woke up a little groggily to get the day started. I had the beginnings of a cold coming on, but we got up and put everything back in it's place, put some things in the laundry...you know the drill the day after a party. And then I decided that I needed to go ahead and take down my Thanksgiving decorations and put up the Christmas decorations. Please note that I have a ton of Christmas decorations at home, but we only brought a few things to put around for the holiday.

My friend Kate had just lent me some of her Christmas CDs to listen to, so I fired up one of them and guess what comes on as I'm looking at my five sad little Christmas decorations....."I'll Be Home for Christmas"....needless to say, in my pre-cold, post-party state of mind I totally had a little girly breakdown. I realized just how ready I was to go home for the holidays. Poor John, he had no idea how to make it better....so he comes over to help me "decorate" our pint size silver fiber optic Christmas tree, which did get me laughing and then he decides that the weather is just too nice to miss out on, so we need to go for a walk.

We decide that the weather was so nice this would be a great day to take in one of the really big parks in the city...Yoyogi Park, which is a metro ride away. We had been there once before during the week and it's beautiful. That day there were just a handful of other people strolling along the many paths inside. So when we got there we were in for quite a surprise.

At the entrance to the park we were greeted with an offering for Free Hugs...spread a little love around people.

Then we hit the Dancing Elvises which were a riot. I mean they were really getting into it....rock and roll kids....rock and roll. Of course, the music was in Japanese, so we didn't understand it, but you could get the drift. The hair was priceless.

John and I then stroll down one of the paths...we see like 15 people under one tree that's changing colors trying to capture the perfect picture. This isn't one of the locations people suggest to see the foliage, but it was still really pretty there....especially coming from Texas where the leaves are typically green or dead.

There are people EVERYWHERE...it was insane how many people were just all over the place. Practicing their instruments (we heard the diggory do, trumpet, bagpipes), dance routines, theatrical performances, bartending skills....you get the idea. It was madness and pretty awesome. Then we headed over to the dog park within the big park. We walk up and John says, "this is just like home"....while I chime in, "except these dogs are all clothed". We saw sweatshirts with hoods, skirts, a French bulldog with a scarf, and one poor dog had shoes on all four legs, but the best was most definitely the family of pooches dressed in their Santa costumes. John said that they must be the toughest dogs in the park to be dressed like that....too funny. Just a regular walk in the park in Tokyo.

Needless to say my melancholy quickly cleared up and I was thoroughly entertained by it all. Of course, now my cold is full fledged and I'm confined to the house and lots of sleep (yes, I'm accepting all pity), but yesterday was perfect and any time that I'm a little sad...I'm going to take a look at this picture and remember that the world is really a funny place.....
Until next time...Jenn

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving....Gobble Gobble

As I mentioned previously, the Stanley's of Tokyo were in charge of hosting our American Thanksgiving for our friends over here. It was the very first time that we've hosted the holiday and as we all know I do not profess to be much of a cook. However, it turned out so great and we had the best time.

The celebration was postponed a few days and was held on Saturday since all of our significant others (and Kate our friend) didn't get the holiday for obvious reasons (we're in Japan for those that were still scratching your heads). We started the turkey preparation on Friday night. John, who is the cook in our house, was in charge of the bird. We started off thinking that there would only be six people including a vegetarian, so a ten pound turkey would be sufficient, but then we discovered some new friends so now we were up to seven meat eaters, so after much debate I also ran out and grabbed a French chicken...fun times. John did his research and decided that we would brine the turkey. So, we had to boil water and add all of the pricey spices and let the bird sit until morning.

On Saturday, we woke up early to make sure the turkey and chicken were lookin' good. I made up the pumpkin pie and we cut up some fruit salad, prepared the guacamole (a house favorite), and prepped the house and fixed up the crab dip. Our friends came over around noon, we ate around 1:00 (which was pretty amazing). Everyone that came brought over some of their favorite dishes. Needless to say it was just like Thanksgiving at home...way too much food, but all delicious!

The event didn't end until midnight after several rounds of Apples to Apples and Catchphrase. It was so amazing and I'm pretty sure my mom would have been proud....I cooked, woohoo.



Until Next Time.....Jenn

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Best Birthday Present....Hong Kong

So, as many of you may know at this point, for John's birthday we decided to go to Hong Kong. First of all we had the best time....the best. After some begging, a little pleading, and assurance from reviews of other travelers John consented to letting us spend a little more mula and get a room with a view of the harbor. Let me just say, the view is awesome both during the day and at night. And little did I know, but we ended up in a perfect location for all the things that we wanted to do.

While I was frittering away my time before our trip and glanced only briefly at our travel book, John was totally on the ball. By the time we got there he had an appointment with the tailor, had us purchasing Octopus passes (metro cards) for easier travel access, and had the map all figured out.

So for his birthday, John got the trip, but his other big present was a hand tailored suit. He was so cute about it. He had done all this research on the right one to use including asking others, internet reviews, and pouring over our travel book suggestions as well. In the end we went with one of the premier (meaning, not as cheap as one originially assumes) tailors that actually visits the states three times a year if you need any alterations or want a new suit. I have to say they were really good. After a day the suit was already coming together nicely.

To give you an idea of what happens when you get to the area where the tailors are...picture every five seconds you encounter yet another person asking you if you are interested in a hand tailored suit. "Pretty lady" need nice dress? The best was when one of them told John that "nice suit would make you more handsome". It's a little annoying, but hey everybody has to make a living, right? Needless to say, the tailor John picked did not have a hustler out on the street. Although, on our first visit I had a few reservations as the office is in what one can only describe as a bombed out building up a very narrow staircase.

So after the tailor, we both decided that of course he needed some personally tailored shirts too. However, went with a different tailor for those...one totally across town. I have to say, we got to Hong Kong on Thursday so found the shirt tailor on Friday and left with four tailored shirts on Tuesday. It's amazing how fast they are there.

Now other than the tailor there were some fun sights.....we hit up the Tram to Victoria Peak, which had a fabulous view of the city. We also made the trek out to see the Big Buddha...and when I say Big I mean BIG. We wandered around Stanley Market and realized that neither one of us is a very good bargainer. There were all sorts of Chinese goods to be had at the market and it was just fun to play the game even if we probably over paid for everything that we bought. In addition, we traveled a million and one times on the Star Ferry from the Hong Kong side to Kowloon, and even saw the Symphony of Lights, which is a really cool light show put on by buildings on both sides of the harbor. Aside from that we just wandered around the city, ate some great Dim Sum and Thai, and generally just enjoyed the perfect weather.



I hope that you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving! We aren't celebrating until Saturday since no one has the day off. As we're hosting (yes, small gasp since we all know that I'm not much of a cook) there is sure to be a blog post to tell you all about it.

Until next time...Jenn

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Birthday To You...Happy Birthday To You...


Happy Birthday dear John....happy birthday to you! I just wanted to send a little lovin' to my honey on his 35th birthday. Sadly for him, we were traveling ALL day long. Of course, we were in Hong Kong (to be discussed in a later blog) to celebrate, so no need to feel too sorry for us.

My personal birthday philosophy is that no matter how old you get...you still get to be a kid on your birthday. John was thrilled to don the party hat and blow out the candles as you can see....ha! But hey...thanks to one of my new friends that's made a trip home already...we had pre-made frosting this time, which was a good thing since I had to whip John's b-day cupcakes after getting home tonight.


Until next time...Jenn

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Japanese Experience...Kendo

One of my friends recommended that I join the College Women's Association of Japan, so I decided to go to their information session and the luncheon that followed. It is really a great organization, so I went ahead and joined. I am missing the volunteering that I used to do with the kiddos at the hospital, so I'm hoping this group will help me find a way to get involved in the Tokyo community a little more.

The group meets for lunch once a month and after each meal, they have some sort of speaker or cultural lesson, etc. Today's topic was Kendo, which is one of Japanese martial arts that involves the use of swords (made of wood or bamboo in this day and age). It was a really interesting speech and demonstration, but one key thing that the speaker told us was about zanshin, which in it's simplest form means a state of constant alertness. The speaker mentioned that while this is a very important aspect of Kendo, this is also something that we should try to achieve in our lives....constantly being aware of our surroundings and ourselves, which I think is a very good idea.

We are off to Hong Kong tomorrow, so until next time....Jenn

Monday, November 17, 2008

Just another hair pulling shopping experience....

Okay, so Sunday John and I were on a mission to complete our apartment and purchase some bar stools. We don't have a dining table, but we have this great huge counter top that can serve as a eating locale especially since we are hosting a little Thanksgiving gathering in two weeks. So...after a little local searching we decided that we must hit up IKEA in order to find some that weren't going to bankrupt us.

We were forewarned in advance how daunting a task that this might be since we have some friends here that purchased a lot of their furniture from IKEA. They spent 11 hours (one of which was after the store officially closed) with the very hospitable IKEA staff, dined at the restaurant and generally had one of the most frustrating experiences of their lives (note, this was not due to the staff by any means, just circumstances). But, let's just say that my friend vowed to never set foot in another IKEA for the duration of her lifespan and I wholeheartedly believe her.

But, we were desperate since we were running out of time we had to go this past weekend to make sure that there was plenty of delivery time, etc. So, John looks up all the information on how to get there. We have to take the train to a station that we'd never been to, nor will we probably ever go to again and then wait for the shuttle. Shuttle times were posted, but we didn't know how long the train would take to get there, so we were just really crossing our fingers that all would work out because the shuttle comes round only once every 40 minutes on the weekends.

We get there at 12:10 by our watches and think...this is awesome, the shuttle is supposed to get there at 12:20. Ten minutes after 12:20 we decide that we obviously missed the shuttle and it must have been early. So we try and decide what to do next since the next shuttle won't be arriving until 1:00. Like your typical impatient Americans we decide that it would be worth it to leave now and hop in a cab. We go to the taxi line, get in one and ask if he could please take us to IKEA. He had no idea whatsoever as to what we were talking about. John was trying to use the phrasebook and then look it up on this phone to show the address.....let's just say this was such a frustrating moment. Frustrating in the fact that we just listened to him really try to understand us, but there was no communication going on. It made me really frustrated that I didn't know more Japanese (hopefully we will correct that in the New Year).

So, after accepting cab defeat we go back to the line for the shuttle which has grown considerably. The shuttle arrives like 15 minutes later and we wait and watch people get on and on and then....after watching the woman behind us originally in line get on....it was declared that there was no more room on the bus. I could have cried. So after yet another 40 minute wait we finally got on the shuttle and 30 minutes later set foot in IKEA.

I can't tell you what this store was like.....it was a mob scene. It was literally like the mall the day after Christmas where you can hardly move for all the people. Not to mention, this store is like a big maze...once you get inside it's hard to get out again. Thankfully, since we already knew exactly what we needed, we went straight there and then tried to find our way to the check out...we stalked one of the workers that looked as if he knew English to understand the process for delivery and were on our merry way. All that and then we got to finish it off with the highlight of the trip...a hot dog. I've eaten more hot dogs here than I did the last four years in Dallas combined!

Needless to say, barring complete disaster I too have made the vow to never again set foot in IKEA.

Until next time...Jenn

Friday, November 14, 2008

5 years and counting....


So, I know that some of you are scratching your heads and thinking...hmm, they've only been married for 1.5 years and you would be right. However, on this day 5 years ago John and I had our first "date" or that might be stretching it....our first time to "hang out" during our get to know you stage. It consisted of eating chips and queso for dinner and then going to this local Dallas neighborhood bar called Cosmo's. It was pretty great...obviously.

So to commemorate this event each year we always go to the same Dallas Dive for burgers and of course the queso (which is more like melted cheese..not much in the way of spices...in a bowl) and then walk to Cosmo's for a few drinks. Of course this year isn't going to be quite the same, but I have lined up a Mexican restaurant where we can at least get queso...albeit it comes in a tiny serving bowl and the basket of chips is maybe 10 chips strong...and there is no such thing as free chips of course, but in Tokyo it was the best I could do. So, I'm hoping that maybe instead you guys in Dallas can go to our dive and get queso and a stiff drink sometime this weekend....to help us celebrate of course.
I've promised John that since we're married, no we don't have to do anything over the top for this day, but I'm a little sad that we aren't carrying on our tradition...se la vie....

Until next time...Jenn

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Japanese Comedy...Rakugo

So, today my friend Nikki and I decided to check out one of the cultural programs offered by one of the women's groups here in Tokyo. This program was basically a very traditional form of Japanese comedy, but with a twist...it was all in English. Basically, in 1996 Dr. Kimie Oshima started a program to spread the art of Rakugo internationally. To be honest I didn't know what to expect at all....would the Japanese sense of humor be different than my own? Would I "get" the joke?

I'm excited to say that I was really entertained and thought it was hilarious. It was exciting being able to understand something that is so very Japanese. She mentioned that the serious Rakugo masters aren't all on board with performing the Rakugo in English, but she told us that she tries to use the California Roll analogy....she tells them that serious Japanese sushi chefs and lovers don't consider the California Roll sushi, however, the reason most of the world likes sushi is because they tried the California Roll first. I thought that was a good way to look at it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My 4 Year Old....Otherwise Known as John

So, I have to say that my husband keeps me constantly entertained and that's an understatement. Today we discovered the beauty of grocery delivery. Usually, I tell myself that my arms can use the workout and the mile or so walk home with a loaded down grocery bag on each arm isn't too bad, today I found out just how much I was kidding myself.

First, just so you can capture my full excitement let me give you an idea of my grocery shopping experience. As John and I have both mentioned before there is a store called Don Quixote like two blocks or so away from our apartment. Inside is an impressive bevy of offerings from certain grocery items, to beauty products, electronics, and even "costumes for the most creative and discriminating individuals that come with shall we say instructional videos". This is where I go for some of our staples....bread, milk, eggs, snacks, cleaning supplies. However, when meat is on your menu or pictures simply won't help you out in knowing whether or not you've gotten the right ingredient, I go to the international grocery store. I had such a trip last week and I just had a moment....like this amazing desire to get salad dressing despite not planning on making salad just so that we have it. But you can't do that when you live live without a car and walking uphill home must be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not you really need that extra item. I have to say that while the prices are high, they are not the main prohibiting factor to my shopping habits, weight is.

All that being said, we trekked to the store and signed right up for delivery. If you spend enough money it's free...yippie. So we spent an insane amount of money, but I was so excited to be able to buy whatever I felt like and know that it'll get to my apartment without my arms in pain by the time I got there. The groceries arrive shortly thereafter and guess what...to keep our cold items cold, they put dry ice in little baggies...I cannot tell you how excited my husband was about this. He immediately goes to the sink, puts the ice in a cup and adds the water and voila...smoky greatness. As you can see, he was thoroughly entertained and let's face it...so was I.

Until next time...Jenn

Crazy Tokyo - Volume II

Okay, so as promised...I am constantly on the lookout for interesting things to share. So as John and I were walking home from dinner one night I spotted these babies (the boots) and thought that my viewing public needed to know that they were available.

The crazy thing was when we went to London we saw these again and realized that they were in fact Gucci and most likely cost this VERY fashionable lady a very pretty penny.

Until next time.....Jenn

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

London Bridges Falling Down...Falling Down...Falling Down

So, John calls me up one random Friday and says hey...what do you think about London. Well, I proclaim...I don't really think about it. And then he pops the big news....well you better start thinking about it, because we're going there next week. What, whoa......we're going to London....woohoo. It appears that he had to attend a meeting there last Thursday and since there happened to be a Japanese holiday (I know crazy) that next Monday, we decided to make a vacation out of it.

So, last Wednesday we headed out to Narita (our international airport in Tokyo) where we discovered that we could provide a little assistant with some local Japanese school kids practicing their English at the airport. They were in the 6th grade and they were such cuties. They came up to John and I separately to ask us if we had a minute to answer a few questions. The questions were actually a little challenging if you are just learning English. Of course they asked where we were from and our names, but then they asked what we did for a living (my answer was a bit confusing to the kiddos), what we had dreamed of being, what type of Japanese food that we liked best and what we thought of Japan. Then afterwards they took their picture with us and gave us a special gift that they had made themselves...here is John showing his off.

Then we were off...I have only been to London for a day, literally, and John hadn't ever been. So, we got there after a lovely 12 hour plane ride last Wednesday. Hotel #1, which was provided by John's work was lovely and interestingly enough catered to Japanese guests. While John spent the day in a stuffy meeting, I spent my day taking advantage of all that Oxford street had to offer. Gotta love shopping where the all the clothes don't look like they are made for barbie dolls. No offense to the Japanese women of course...just means that they are all tiny...darn them. Anyway, I took some advice from my friends Elaine and Sam and hit up Top Shop and Selfridges. Then I wandered down to Picadilly Circus (why it's called a circus I have no idea). They proclaim this to be the "Times Square" of London, which I didn't quite get from being there, but oh well....I don't think that one flashing billboard on the side of a building quite captures Times Square, but what do I know.
Then I meandered over to the National Portrait Gallery, where I rediscovered that I'm not really into Spanish paintings around the 1500-1600's. I do however have a complete love of all things from Monet and they had quite a few great works of his including one of the water lily pond paintings, which is one of my favorite pieces ever. And Van Gough's Sunflowers were there too. Then I hit up the Texas Embassy for a little snack. Gotta love the fact that you can find a little bit of Texas everywhere.

The next day of course the real sightseeing began with John at the helm. After dropping our bags off at Hotel #2, we hopped on one of the double decker tourist buses and saw all kinds of major sights over the next two days. Some of my personal highlights were seeing Jane Austen's tomb at Westminster Abbey along with Queen Elizabeth I's of course, going to the Whispering Dome at St. Paul's Cathedral, reading some of the graffiti left by prisoners at the Tower of London, St. James park and all the fall leaves and seeing Big Ben with the River Thames as it's backdrop from the London Eye. We really loved London. There is so much to do there and I think we could have spend at least a week more and still not seen it all. Here are some of our picture highlights below in the slide show for those of you that have never been and for those of you that have...we hope these trigger some fun and happy memories.


Until next time.....Jenn

We hope you enjoy these!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Halloween!!!

Happy Halloween from Fred and Wilma!!! A yabba dabba doo.....woohoo!

I hope that you all have a fabulous Halloween. Thanks to my amazing friend Elaine, we got these awesome costumes. Sadly, we aren't getting to go to the Halloween party but we're going to London instead, so we should have some great pictures from that. I hope that you all have a great and safe holiday!

Until next time....Jenn

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Images brought to you by...

The Canon PowerShot 870IS. Jenn's parents bought us this camera last year for Christmas and it is great. It even shoots nice little movies (that are my list to get posted some day) and really takes great pictures.

Plus it has some really great features, one of which is the color hightlight where it takes a black and white pick with one color highlighted. I think we've posted some of them already, but this was one of the really cool ones...



But these features can also be used for evil when you see some of the things you see just walking around. This was a few weeks ago after we went to Tokyo Tower. This is why you have to keep the camera handy when you're walking around here.

This picture has not been digitally altered in any way other than highlighting a color that was already there... yes, her hair was yellow and she was probably in her 60's.

Well that makes perfect sense...

This may be the first in a series of signs that don't make sense (to us at least) and I guess it's really kind of interesting what you see in English when you are really not expecting much. But this AM/PM store is in the bottom of my building.



A little close look at the panels in the bottom of the windows...


If that doesn't make you want to go buy a Coca-Cola or maybe some green tea or tastey soy snacks, I don't know what will.

Quick...Catch Me If You Can


Okay, so it's not that dramatic, but you do have to grab the food as it goes by. Yep, you guessed it, John and I went to a conveyor belt sushi shop. It was delicious. I had actually tried it out before, with my friend Sam, but it was a first for John.

The sushi is just amazing here. I have eaten things here in Tokyo that I would have never dreamed of. For instance, in the U.S. I didn't go beyond something rolled, but here the sashimi is my favorite although there are a few things that you can get in a rolled format so to speak. So, if you are unfamiliar with my "textural issues" when it comes to food...let's just say they are quite insurmountable under normal circumstances. So John is basically blown away by my new love of all the non cooked fishes.

The weekend has been a bit low key for a change. I've been a bit under the weather so we just hung out in the area near our apartment. Last night however, we did meet some friends out for dinner, which I'm finding is always an experience. Wait 'til you see the cheese!!! And afterwards we were introduced to the BEST game ever....Apples to Apples. If you haven't tried it out...do, it was awesome.


I hope that you all had a fabulous weekend!

Until next time.....Jenn

Monday, October 20, 2008

Crazy Tokyo - Volume I


So, in an effort to share Tokyo properly with you I try to capture as many funny pictures as possible of both us and things we see around us. And here is the first installment....
Now what do we think was the motivation for this....talk amongst yourselves. No, seriously this was in a storefront window for what I believe to be a upper crust bar. The last time that I walked by they were in the process of changing the window display, so I'm on pins and needles to see what shows up next.
Until next time.....Jenn


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tommy Lee Jones will be very disappointed if you don't drink BOSS coffee.

I think the list of US celebrities who sell out to hock products in Japan is fairly well documented. Highlights include Cameron Diaz (she used to be plastered all over the SoftBank store where we got Jenn's cell phone), Brad Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nicholas Cage, to name a few. Do a quick search on YouTube... they are all pretty funny.

But this celebrity sellout has a more direct impact on our daily existence in Tokyo -
Tommy Lee Jones. Besides having won an Academy Award for The Fugitive, he's also known as one of those crusty types who treats acting as an art. Which makes me think these guys must have driven a dumptruck full of money to his house down there in San Saba County, Texas.

My walk from the Roppongi Metro Station to our apartment proceeds something like this
...





It reminds me of the Apple commercial from the early 80's with Big Brother staring down from above. It's been there a couple of weeks now, and it's still kind of creepy. Funnier still is to see his face plastered on a vending machine (iced coffee is big here... probably a separate discussion), something you would never see back home:

A little internet research revealed that there is an ad campaign backing this up. There are twelve commercials in all, but my favorites are here and here. He's an alien sent to earth to report back on life in Japan (yes, he was in a movie kind of like that).

A Japanese Experience...Karaoke


John and I started the weekend off with the Run for the Cure, which for me was a 5K run and for John a 10K (of course he had to go the distance - ha). It was really great to see everyone take part in such an important cause. There was a large PwC contingent participating, so I got to meet several new people that John knows from work.
It was a gorgeous day...blue skies and breezy weather. The run as I mentioned before was around the Imperial Palace, which is a bit of a hard course because it gets narrow a few times and then also goes uphill for a while, but the scenery couldn't be more beautiful. I so wish that we could have taken pictures of being at the race, but since we were both running we didn't want to carry the camera. As you can see...we were pretty scary looking afterwards, but a great way to start our day.

That night we had plans to go to eat with our new friends that I met at my women's conference and were on for karaoke....which of course called for another Jenn to John heart to heart:

Jenn (imagine a very smiley happy face with loads of extra enthusiasm): Hey honey, guess what, the girls were thinking of us all going to karaoke after dinner. Doesn't that sound great...what do you think?
John: I'm not going.
Jenn: Why not...we have to go at some point...we're in Japan, the land of karaoke. This will be perfect, checking it out with friends.
John: I do not sing.
Jenn: I know, but no one can sing. You don't even have to sing, you can just make fun of the rest of us.

After much more cajoling and wearing him down, we ended up going and had the BEST time! For those of you that might not know, in Japan you get a group of friends together and go rent a private karaoke room where you can just be silly with the people you know. It was awesome! The best was the room next to ours...there was a couple inside and the lady was calmly eating dinner while the gentleman had full charge of the microphone singing it up. It's a whole different ballgame here.

I hope that your weekend was as much fun as ours. Here are a few more pictures of our dinner and karaoke experience. One very fabulous girlie thing to note is that here in Tokyo, when John and I go out to eat, the waitress or waiter always brings up an extra chair for my purse. It's awesome! So, you'll see in the slide show, but at this restaurant, we all set down and they brought little stools for our purses...it was too funny!


Until next time....Jenn

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Icing On The Cake

I'm sad to say that I am no baking queen and therefore my attempts at baking (other than Christmas cookies) consist of some sort of boxed option or cut out cookies or something along those lines. Well, excitingly enough I brought a box of vanilla cake here with us and have been in the mood for some cupcakes. I have looked at all the stores for icing (also known as frosting) in the little Betty Crocker plastic can, to no avail. They have the boxed cake mix and cake decorations everywhere, but they clearly assume that real women chose to make their own icing.

So, if anyone happens to have an "easy" icing idea please pass it along. I now have sad little cupcakes with no "sparkle" so to speak. But at least I did a little baking...points for me!

That's about it from Tokyo, until next time....

Jenn

Monday, October 13, 2008

Whirlwind Weekend - Japan Style


So, John had yet another holiday (this one was the actual Health & Leisure Day) today (Monday), so we decided to take advantage and make the most of the weekend....and I can safely say we did just that.

Our first stop: OKTOBERFEST

In order to get in touch with our German roots we decide to go and see how Japan throws an Oktoberfest. It was held in Yokahama, which is kind of like a huge suburb of Tokyo (or that's how it's described). We went with our new friends, Nikki, Dave, Sam and little Brooklyn tagged along too. We had the best time...John drank some German beer and I had a glass or two of German wine. It was held in an area near the waterfront and we even had a little bratwurst...yummy!

So, here's a little slideshow if you want to see our celebration....



Weekend Day 2: KAMAKURA

On Sunday we decided to get out of the city and venture over to Kamakura, which is about an hour outside of Tokyo via the train. It's close enough to take visitors (insert your own name here) when they come, but yet outside the city enough to feel like you are getting more of Japan. It was really nice....we only made it to one temple area, but will definitely be going back to see the Big Budda. This was more of a scouting mission to get our bearings, but I have a feeling we'll be going back a few times before seeing it all.


And here are some pictures....we didn't get a picture of the crazy food thing that we had, but it was good. It was like some sort of fish patty grilled and put on two skewers. The lines were out of control due to the holiday for the restaurants and most of the food stands, but we found the one with the patty things that was fast. We are trying out all sorts of fun Japanese treats. So far I can say I haven't tried anything that I hated and usually I've really loved everything.

And last but DEFINITELY not least: Health and Leisure Day

John had Monday off, so we woke up gradually, John made me breakfast...I have the best husband ever and he makes the most yummy breakfast. We've managed to figure out the breakfast tacos here...woohoo! Then we roamed around, went to the bookstore, and decided to hit up Omotesando to see if we could figure out where the International Bizarre is. Some friends have been there and it's supposed to be fun to see, so we were off.

We gawked at the high end prices in Ralph Lauren and wondered what the VIP room there was and how one gets to that level....interesting.
Then we set out to find a pedestrian street that we had seen in passing on another occasion that had lots of interesting looking shops. And that is where we found "it".....all of a sudden we see this crazy looking building with this red piping all over the front.

Who could resist this building? So we see what it is...a gallery and cafe....awesome. We walk inside and there are all sorts of interesting art works in all these little rooms everywhere. We wander around and I'm thinking this is really interesting...and then we go outside to see what the cafe has to offer and that is when we realized that we were in for a show....and it was quite interesting to say the least. I can say that I've seen some "crazy Tokyo" today. Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment....


Well, when it comes right down to it I guess you could say it was just me and the girls.....

Until next time....Jenn

A Japanese Day - Asakusa

So, it's been quite a week followed by quite a weekend. I actually had plans to do something every day last week so that was exciting! One of the big things was to go on a walking tour of Asakusa, which is a big temple area that you can see without ever leaving Tokyo. It was so strange to see it after seeing Nikko with all the trees and the peaceful surroundings and then see Asakusa where the shrine/temple looked similar, but there was no feeling of peace. You can see the buildings of Tokyo right there in the background.

I hope that you enjoy the pictures....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The wrong way to ride the train...

If you come to Tokyo and ride the metro, this is not the way to do it...


What not to do if you visit the Imperial Palace...

Now why couldn't I have been there for this....

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081007/od_uk_nm/oukoe_uk_japan_naked

Better yet....a video:

We need your help.....

So, one of my new friends is having a Halloween party. And here is my conversation with John:

Jenn: Hey, we got invited to a Halloween party by Teri and all her work friends, which are Japanese, are going to be there, so it might be nice to meet some new people.

John: Do we have to dress up?

Jenn: It's a Halloween party, of course we have to dress up.

John: I'm not going.

Jenn: Of course you're going and don't worry about the costume...I'll find us something

John: (insert huge sigh)...we'll see

So, I really need some ideas for a good couple costume. The last few years we've been more in the hand out candy role rather than the get dressed up role, so we don't even have any old ones to rely on. All suggestions are totally appreciated...but keep in mind my sewing abilities are at a minimum.

Thanks in advance.

Until next time......Jenn

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

If you need a laugh....

Today started off with me finding the American Military hotel in order to get my eyebrows back into shape. It's easy located near one of the larger Metro stations. Oddly enough as I am walking down the street I notice that this street is looking very familiar. In fact right across the street was the restaurant where John and I ate dinner with some friends on Friday and then had to take a cab home because we had no idea where we were...good times. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is destined to happen again.

In other funny news....I met up with one of the girls that I met at my conference last week for lunch. We finally find the restaurant in what I refer to as the maze that is Roppongi Hills (super fancy collage of buildings containing shops and restaurants and apartments). And now I can officially say that I've eaten sushi from the conveyor belt. It was super yummy, but as we sit down my friend looks at the stuff on the table and puts the soy sauce in her bowl...then she looks at another little dish and says oh this must be the wasabi. Note that the texture was different, but neither one of us questioned it. Then a few minutes later the waitress comes over as I'm about to put the same "GREEN TEA" in my soy sauce bowl....we laughed and laughed and so did the waitress and I'm pretty sure everyone else in the restaurant.

Hope that everyone had a great start to the week!

Until next time....Jenn

Monday, October 6, 2008

Home Sweet Home

So, I have gotten quite a few requests regarding when I was going to post pics of our apartment with furniture and here you go...drum roll please.



We really like it. The location couldn't be better, it's a good size and now with our stuff and a few rented items it feels like home.

We went to the car show this weekend and we have a TON of pics, so stay tuned for those of you car lovers....John is in charge of that post.

Until next time,
Jenn

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Train Madness

So, the past few days have been a very eye opening experience in regards to the metro and the subway lines. Before Tuesday my days were very much free, so I have been thoroughly enjoying sleeping later than I used to in my career girl life. Well, this week that all changed and John and I were once again sharing bathroom space first thing in the morning. The conference that I told you about started at 8:30am and it's like 30 to 40 minutes away (depending on the shuttle from the metro station).

That being said, I was provided the opportunity to experience the metro in a totally different light. To get to the Tokyo American Club (TAC), I have to get on the Tokyo Metro, ride two stops and then transfer to the JR Yamanote Line. Well, the metro is GREAT...there is plenty of room, no one is obsessively rushing around, all is well with the world. Well....then I transfer to the JR Line to Shinagawa...and my oh my was this a different experience. This was what I refer to as the "true" Japanese metro/subway experience. People EVERYWHERE. We were basically sardines in the metro. And having lived in DC I was used to the sardine experience at rush hour and the mannerisms have some strong similarities....people are sleeping, if you have a seat you don't even look at others for fear that you might see someone that needs priority seating and then you'd have to give up your seat, and a lot of reading or texting. But...once the doors open things change somewhat. People just push and shove their way off the trains...then as you are walking towards the exit I've learned that the best thing to do is look straight ahead and pretend that you don't see all the zillions of people coming straight for you and not changing course because there is no where to go...it is truly an amazing experience.

That being said, I found this and thought it was so awesome.....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVFKdZ2N7KI&feature=related I apologize to those of you that can't view you tube at work (where let's face it you are most likely reading our blog). It kind of provides some perspective of what riding on the Tokyo metro/subway is like.

In other exciting news...I had dinner with two other girls. Very exciting. I went from knowing absolutely no one to helping one new friend celebrate her birthday followed up by dinner with different friends. It's all so much to take in (in a good way).

Until next time....Jenn

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tomodachi, Amigas, Amie, Freund, ....simply Friends

So, I've been attending this Women's Conference called Tokyo Here and Now this week. It's hosted by the Tokyo American Club and is a three day "getting to know Tokyo" informational session. And I have some very exciting news to report.....I have found some friends.

When John and I started talking about moving to Tokyo and we decided that I wasn't going to work, making friends was a very important issue to me. Who was I going to do things with during the week while John was at work? How was I ever going to meet anyone here if I didn't have a job? It was a vicious cycle of doubt. But, thankfully I managed to meet several very nice girls at this conference and interestingly enough we all seemed to be going through the same things (i.e., it isn't as much fun exploring Tokyo by ourselves, we spend way too much time at the grocery store because (a) we don't know what anything is and (b) what else are we going to do, and our poor husbands are driving us crazy with suggestions of things that we should be doing).

One of them is from Boston, one is from Michigan, and one is from Minnesota. So, I might have some new phrases or at least new ways to say things by the next time I see you!

Until next time......Jenn

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Japanese Day - Tokyo Tower



So, we finally had a clear day that coincided with John being off of work, so we made our way to Tokyo Tower, which is right down the street from us. It's very cool and similar in looks to the Eiffel Tower, but it's orange and white and in Japan.


We went to the Main Observatory first and the views are really great, but then there is a "special observatory", which means you wait a bit longer and pay a little more money and we'll show you the real deal. That observatory was VERY good and you could see so much more.

To give you a few stats, Tokyo Tower is 50 years old, and at 333 meters (yes, you can do your own math) is the world's tallest self supporting steel tower. All in all a very cool experience.

After the tower, we went walking around and ate these really cool little pancake type things. We have no idea what they were, but they tasted really great. There were some sort of beans in them, but they were sweet. Points for us for trying new things. After that we meandered to Roppongi Hills, did a little shopping (yes, I managed to get John there) and caught this really neat drum performance by what I will have to guess was an African Tribe. Then we had a great find...a Mexican restaurant. Not so much Tex Mex, but more authentic Mexican food and it was really tasty.

That's it from our end.....I'm attaching the slideshow from the Tower visit for your viewing pleasure. And I've posted these really cool pictures that John took of me in my red shirt...he is mastering our camera!

Until next time, Jenn


Friday, September 26, 2008

The Quietest Place in Tokyo

So, I'm just going to go ahead and say this up front...very girly post, so consider yourself forewarned...

After a little personal victory yesterday at the post office, I decided to go ahead and treat myself to a little shopping excursion today. I get dressed (please keep in mind that it is still in the mid-80's here) in a fairly summery top, but it's light blue and orange and puts me in a good mood and matches these great shoes that are slip-ons with the soles of Nike's. Well the minute I walk outside, I realize that you know it is fall and I should really consider changing out my closet. The only problem with that is that my fall clothes are in fact for cooler weather, which though we've had a taste of, we aren't there yet. But the minute I'm outside I notice that EVERYONE else looks like fall from head to toe - including scarves and Uggs - I would be a puddle of sweat. So, I'm already feeling like a huge fashion disaster....and this starts my trip. I know a bit ridiculous, but when you already feel like every time you go outside you stand out like a sore thumb this doesn't help. I also know that no one cares what I have on, but I'm a girl and there you go.

So, I decide that the closest shopping locale to us is Tokyo Midtown. Now this is near where we stayed when we first came to Tokyo on our "look see" to decide if we wanted to live here and I remember it being pretty fancy. So, I'm already resigned to the fact that this shopping trip is also going to be more a "look see" than a "buy me". What I didn't know was that this was quite possibly one of the quietest places in the whole of the city, it was really crazy....like radio silence. Now grant it there weren't all that many people given the time that I went and it is one of those very high end shopping areas, but we're talking I could hear my footsteps.

I felt very intimidated, just like I do in all those very uppity stores everywhere...you know the ones. You walk in and you feel like all eyes are on you...they say hello but there is only the slightest hint of a smile to go along with it and you feel like they KNOW that you aren't going to buy anything and you are never going to buy anything because you can't afford ANYTHING in the store. I'm specifically referring to my Harry Winston experience. I've never been in HW because my pay scale has never and likely will never go quite that high, but today I thought why not....let's see what all the fuss is about. There is a doorman to open the gilded gold doors and he was very cordial. There were two women that were in a room practically the size of my bedroom and one glass topped round table with the most amazing engagement rings you've ever seen. I felt so out of place....all eyes on me as I was the only person in the store and no one says anything other than the aforementioned greeting and it took me all of 5 seconds to see the entire display. So I go to leave, say thank you and with a laugh say I just wanted to look at all the pretty things. They all laughed and it was the best party of the visit, but incredibly awkward.

After that I hit some really great stores with very friendly salespeople. And it dawned on me that after leaving Japan I'm going to have the best accessories ever. Since most of the clothes are made for Japanese women, which are tiny, they don't lend themselves to purchase, however accessories are made for all body types and they are fabulous. That being said, I did find a cute shirt that fit me...bad news for John.

Anyway, I thought that the girls would appreciate that some things (i.e., shopping) are the same everywhere.

Until next time....Jenn

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Woohoo Folks....I'm Official

Today was actually a lovely Japanese day....you can feel the start of fall. It was sunny, but breezy and I just can't wait until the air turns crisp and I have to grab a light jacket before heading outside. I love fall and let's face it in Dallas, there is just no such thing.

As for today....I'm official!!! After a near mishap on the metro and a grueling yoga class (grueling because I'm so pitifully out of shape), I took a lovely walk to the Minato-ku Ward office and now I am the proud holder of an official alien registration card meaning I can live here. Very exciting...both the card and the fact that I actually found the Ward office!

As for the near mishap on the metro as I'm sure you are all wondering more about that...I have my route to get to the yoga studio down. I go to metro station by my house, get on one line (there's only one that runs on the platform I use) and it takes me all the way (4 stops) to Meguro which is where the yoga place is. This worked perfect last Friday. Well today, one stop short of Meguro, there's an announcement that this is the last stop so everyone needs to exit the train. I think that for some reason I haven't heard the full announcement, but sure enough at the stop everyone piles off - everyone. So, having no idea how I'm going to get there exactly, I see another sign stating Meguro, my destination and the train was there. I hop on with my fingers crossed that I'm on my way and sure enough, next stop...Meguro. Worked out totally fine, but I had a moment.

In other exciting news...John and I went exploring yesterday (he had a holiday...and it wasn't Sports Day but the Fall Equinox) and guess what we found....a grocery store that when you walk through the doors is exactly like being at home. Well, other than the triple prices, but you get the idea. We also found the Nisson nearest our house. Nisson is also an international grocery store where you can find a lot of the same things as we use in the US. The prices are slightly better, but I still paid $10 for a package of raspberries, so there you go. Everyone says that eventually you stop thinking of the money in those terms, but still quite difficult at this stage. In summary, we will still be frequenting the Don and the Japanese grocery stores if at all possible, but when we just really need to taste something from home, we do have some options. And that being said, I cooked spaghetti last night with wheat pasta, real beef, and the spaghetti sauce that we used in Dallas.

Alas, that's all I have for now. John has found some sort of car thing that I'm pretty sure he can't be talked out of for this weekend, so something to look forward to. He's managed to record every possible episode around for Top Gear (BBC car show) and last night we watched an episode that featured Japanese drifters, which if this is going on this weekend I'm totally in. And now I finally get the whole "Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift"....I haven't watched it yet (thanks Jay), but now it sounds even more fun.

Until next time....Jenn

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rain, Rain...Go Away!

So, it's raining again....makes for a melancholy day I tell you. It's been raining since yesterday at this point, but even last week there was quite a bit of rain. We are in the rainy season here in Japan and from what I've been told once the rain stops fall is here and the weather is really nice (i.e., no longer a million degrees) and from my little excursion to the Don today I'd say that fall is definitely on its way.

We tried out Tokyo Baptist Church yesterday and it was really good. It was really funny because the church is like a melting pot of nationalities, which is pretty cool...then the pastor got up to give the sermon and wouldn't you know....Texas accent loud and clear. I talked to his wife and prior to Tokyo they were in Grand Prairie (near Dallas for those of you non-Texans). What are the chances? And they introduced us to a family from Austin...such a small world. Anyway, we really enjoyed that experience and the couple was nice. Well the sermon was about the husbands role in the family.....to basically treat his wife like a queen....which I agreed with wholeheartedly. John's pretty sure that we have to go back next week to make sure I understand my role!

John has another holiday tomorrow...woohoo! I like these unexpected holidays. If I'm not mistaken I think this is called Sports Day or something along those lines where physical fitness is celebrated. Pretty sure this is right up John's alley and assuming the rain subsides we will be doing something very active.

On an entertaining note, we ordered (well, tried anyway) to order pizza via the internet. We really should have called but we attempted the on-line system. Needless to say an hour later we were pretty sure that we hadn't filled out the form correctly. Might need Tai-san's help with that one....but we will prevail!

Hope that you are all doing good. My family is still without power, so your thoughts and prayers are definitely appreciated.

Until next time, Jenn

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yoga Yoga Yoga

So, when John and I started telling people (you all) that we were moving to Tokyo a favored question was...."so Jenn, what in the world are you going to do". I kind of hate this question at this point, because I had absolutely NO idea. I've always worked and always not wanted to work, but when faced with the actual no working option, could voice no good alternatives for time usage. So, my standard response became...I'm going to get really great at yoga.

And I'm writing today to tell you that I have found my new yoga studio, have been to my first class and and now I am all set to accomplish my goal of a headstand. My arms feel a bit like jelly, but hey no pain no gain right? I have to thank, Hazel, one of my resources regarding Japan who recommended the studio. And I have to thank John for scouting out the location last weekend because if he hadn't come with me I might still be doing circles of the buildings trying to find it....not an easy task at all. I know that he was just humoring me by going to find it because he knew I was a bit leery of getting all turned around in the subway....but after what I have to say was a bit of a frustrating experience locating it he had a new appreciation for the team methodology.

Alright, just had to share the excitement....it's the small things in life, right?

Until next time, Jenn

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Workout....what?

So, as a jump start to my life as a wife only and to get myself moving in the morning, I've been creating little goals for myself each day. Yesterday was going to get groceries and paying the bills, tomorrow is cleaning our apartment, you get the idea. Well, today was going for a long run/walk. You see, John is the workout connoisseur in our household. His dedication quite frankly amazes me, so while he has already found a running path that he's been religiously using on his thrice weekly runs, I had yet to don my running shoes. Well, my friends that all changed today.

I decided to go do a lap of the Imperial Palace. The Palace is about two miles from our apartment, the lap is a 5k, and then you gotta get back, so all in all a seven mile round trip. You can all be impressed with my efforts appropriately now. I head out dodging all the people on the street during the two mile stretch.....as if I didn't stand out already it was 9:30 and I was wearing my running attire, needless to say everyone else looked like work was their location. And then I finally reach the palace and despite the fact that there are walls surrounding it and outside the walls is where the running trails was it's still quite beautiful to see. There is a huge moat surrounding most of it...simply gorgeous and it's one of only a few locations in the city with substantial trees everywhere. It was a really neat path and one that I'll definitely be doing often. Of course I'll be working on actually running the whole thing, but I did about 2.5 miles today, so not too shabby considering my hiatus of late. That being said this too is John's "normal running path".

And while we are talking about working out, just wanted to shout out to a few people that have been influential in my running/walking efforts...because quite frankly I hate to work out. First, there was Elaine my college roommate that's enthusiasm about running was infectious and she tried very hard to get me excited about it too. Then there is Jessie, my dear friend from DC that went along with me to join a gym so that we could be "lookin' good" by her wedding. Maren, my DC roommate that went on her own long runs and came back looking so at peace with the world in general. Emily, my running partner in Dallas that participated in all the races with me....go us. And last but not least Jen, my neighbor in Dallas that motivated me to get my rear out of bed to go walking every morning before work. Because of you guys I was motivated enough to go see and do something really cool today.

And while we are still talking about walking/running, John and I are doing the Run for the Cure here in Tokyo in October...yes, it's run not race here yet they give away prizes, so there ya go. It's around the Imperial Palace and I'm really looking forward to it. I've done it in Dallas with my friend Emily for two of the past three years and it's a really neat thing to participate in....just note that if you do in fact want to run versus walk make sure to get there early and go toward the front or there is no way running is happening (as we found out last year). Anyway, it's a great cause so I always highly recommend it.

And that's it for now....my jeans just arrived from Texas.....woohoo!

Until next time....Jenn

Everything in this country is smaller...

Being a resource and land constrained nation, it makes sense really. The cars are smaller (this is my favorite). The capsule hotel is unique to Japan. And you see lots of people with little dogs. It makes even more sense when you cram 36 million people into an area the size of Tokyo/Yokohama (with a density of around 4,750 people per square kilometer depending on how you calculate it).

And there is probably a corollary to this post as well… everything in Japan (for the most part, so far at least) is well-designed and works. You can see that thought and logic have gone into the design of most things. For example, Jenn noted this weekend that public restrooms are always clean, no matter where you go. And they all have hooks to hang your bag, purse, etc., showing that some thought was put into it.

So it struck me as odd the first time that I bought bread, a staple item by all means. This was not fancy, bakery bread. But pre-packaged, pick it up at the store on the way home, bread. The package was about a third or quarter of a loaf back in the states (8 slices I believe), but otherwise the same idea. Please see the picture below:




This bread is ENORMOUS. I mean, it takes almost two pieces of cheese to adequately cover a piece of Japanese white bread. (The cheese seems to be of normal size to me.) It is my recollection that a piece of cheese back home nicely covers a piece of American bread – providing tasty cheesiness to each bite of your sandwich. But here, you have to sacrifice almost two pieces of cheese to avoid a cheese-free perimeter of your sandwich. And then you are left with a cheese scrap you have to deal with. This clearly does not work.

Why isn’t the bread smaller or the cheese larger? Even we (Americans) figured out to make the hot dog long enough to fit the bun. But this seems to have escaped the Japanese eye for detail and design.

And not only does this bread have a larger cross-section, it is also sliced thicker. Perhaps someone could measure a slice of bread for us, but I estimate that these slices (in the 8 slice package) are probably 25% thicker than the average piece of US bread (about like Texas Toast I would say). You’re gonna want that cheese to cover the whole piece.

But there’s more… I made the mistake of not looking closely at the bread package before tossing it into the basket one time. They make it even thicker – you can buy that same 8-slice loaf sliced into only 6 pieces! It’s at least twice as thick as what we are used to in the states. If you’re making a sandwich from this stuff, you better triple meat it and double cheese it (4 pieces!) or all you’re gonna be tasting is refined white flour.

And for all the fans of whole wheat products (like myself, because they taste better and don’t make you fat), good luck with all that. I saw wheat bread for the first time this weekend. It too was freakishly large and thick. I'm not sure we'll ever get used to this.

Japanese people don't wear shorts

I think this was more noticeable when I first arrived back in August and it was probably in the 90s with high humidity almost every day (i.e., similar to what you would experience in Texas or other areas of the South this time of year). And it is also likely influenced by the fact that we are in Tokyo and in one of the more expensive areas of Tokyo to live (Roppongi), so the typical Japanese citizen that we see is probably better dressed anyway.

But just strolling around on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, you will see very few people wearing shorts of any kind. And then when you do see someone wearing shorts, they are most likely other expatriates (primarily Brits). The Japanese will typically be wearing some variety of designer jeans or something similar, but very few shorts. Perhaps it goes along with the lack of sensible shoes (as Jenn mentioned below). But it’s odd given how hot it was here. Even in Nikko this past weekend where we probably walked 6 miles up and down hills in mid-80s temperatures, there was hardly anyone wearing shorts.

If I don’t have to, I don’t wear anything other than shorts in weather like that. I think we’ve quickly gotten over the fact that we are normally underdressed most places that we go around here… doing our best to uphold the image of the ugly Americans.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Japanese Day - Nikko

So, John had a holiday on Monday (woohoo) so with the three day weekend ahead of us we decide to try our hands at a day trip from Tokyo to Nikko. John is the better planner of the two of us, so he mapped out how we get to the train station and the timing etc. We wake up at the crack of dawn to head out and catch the 7:30am train, which may or may not be sold out. There is no purchasing the tickets on-line, so in person is our only option. We get there and it is in fact sold out, but the ticket attendant was so helpful and told us that there was another train leaving from a different line at 7:50am that might work and he gives us very detailed directions of how to get there. It required more subway riding and to cut to the chase we get to the metro where we are supposed to change lines and can't figure out how to get to the other line.....and time runs out. This is not the best way to start a very long day...frustrated, but we pulled it together I gave John a pep talk similar to the "Big Girl" one that worked so well for me earlier. We can do this we just have to be patient with ourselves, etc. And we pick ourselves up, backtrack to the original location, and purchase train tickets for the 9:10am departure. The train ride is two hours so we still have plenty of time to see the town.

Nikko is a very cool place about with a very large area with numerous shrines and temples....here is one of my favorite pictures from our first big adventure to peak your interest


We saw so many amazingly gorgeous things in Nikko. We also got lost, sweat alot, backtracked more from shrine to temple to shrine and lived by the map, which at the end of the day looked quite sad from so much use. We also realized that it's hard to know exactly what you are seeing when you can't read the informational signs, but that's okay we got to give everything our own story. After what was a very full day we got to ride the Shinkensan on one of the legs home. This was one of John's favorite parts. The Shinkensan is the bullet train, which goes 120 mph...it was pretty amazing. Then we went to a bar and grill where I got very tasty nachoes and watched Formula One racing with the Europeans. It was a banner Japanese day.

I'm adding in the pictures from our trip, which have captions of where we were (when I knew) for you to enjoy. Photos of the actual shrines were not allowed, so you won't see those. To give you a little info though, you take your shoes off to go inside the shrines and some temples, so it was just craziness with zillions of people storing their shoes and then others retrieving shoes all at the same time while trying to avoid going out into the rain. It was a very different experience.

A little quick aside about Japanese women....first of all let me just say that the vast majority of Japanese women that I have observed are dressed to the hilt at all times and look perfect even after a full day. That being said, in Nikko at the shrines was no exception. Keep in mind that the paths are gravel for the most part and the stairs to get up to everything are incredibly steep, but that does not stop the Japanese woman from looking completely amazing......for instance:



These were some typical shoes worn at Nikko by a Japanese woman. In fact these might be a little lower than most seen. As you can see from my slideshow pictures...I opted for sturdy tennis shoes and my feet still hurt after a full day of walking. It is just really amazing to me and you would have no idea that they are at all uncomfortable in their heels. My friends that is dedication to fashion!


I hope this post finds you all doing well. My family luckily came through hurricane Ike in tact and now they just have to wait for the power to be restored at some potentially distant time in the future.

Until next time....Jenn