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 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 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 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 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's the small things in life, right?

Until next time, Jenn

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


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 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 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 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 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

Friday, September 12, 2008


Okay, so I was so spoiled in Dallas because pre-marriage John had put into place a bi-weekly cleaning service and we got to keep it since I was a "career woman". Well, let me tell you...once you go to the other side, you have to resume the cleaning. Okay, so the apartment is much smaller and let's face it time is on my side, but still after a year of basically no heavy duty cleaning, it's a bit of a shock to the system. Especially since the initial cleaning is pretty hard core. Just think a month of sitting around on the ocean somewhere....lots and lots of dust. Not to mention our rental furniture was brand new as well, so it is screaming to be dusted too. I am slightly rethinking my preconceived notions of how I would be so good at being domestic if only my pesky job didn't take up so much time (ha). Kind of like there has yet to be anything cooked in our kitchen despite the fact that my "I don't have any cooking utensils" excuse is no longer viable.

So, I go down to "the Don" as I affectionate have coined the Don Quijote down the street. John has mentioned the store earlier and I've already been, but I have to say examining the offerings at leisure definitely makes me thankful for small favors. Let's just say, it's right down the street from us and it has almost everything that we could ever need domestically. Especially since the two items that didn't make it to Japan tea kettle and the coffee bean grinder. I'm a huge lover of sweet tea and the withdrawal has been intense, but never fear the Dr. Pepper's are doing a fine job. Anyway I was really looking forward to making my own tea and coffee. The trouble with the coffee of course is that all we brought with us were beans and at the Don all I could find were beans, which do no good sans grinder. So, I'm happy to report that there was a very nice tea kettle available right at this fine store unfortunately the sugar was not so easily accessible.....

I have completely gotten off track, so getting back John had already purchased some Mr. Clean multi-surface cleaner and together we had figured out what we are assuming is a toilet bowl cleanser, but we never got any dusting stuff. So, I hike down to the Don and try to sort it out. I have to confess, the best thing ever is a picture on the label. I have a whole new appreciation. There is a wall of your typical cleaning options (i.e. the Mr. Clean, Febreeze, Windex, Pledge liquid for the floors, etc.), however no spray dusting option, which is what I remember liking from my previous cleaning years. Anyway, so I go to the Japanese label items, which if you can figure out what they are....present a much cheaper option. So, I'm looking at everything with a nozzle and examining the pictures closely. I finally find what I'm hoping is a somewhat similar alternative...and alas there is a picture of a living room rather than kitchen or bathroom, etc. I purchase it and have been using it on's not quite like pledge, but it seems to be doing the trick, so here's to hoping I have the right thing. All in all a successful trip...I only almost walked off with the gentleman's stuff behind me accidentally, but all was well and he laughed about it. Good times....

In other exciting clothes are gradually disappearing into the closet, which is a very exciting thing for me. I had a little twinge of doubt there for a minute yesterday and could hear John's warnings issued pre-move loud and clear. But, while I have had to be somewhat creative in how everything goes in, progress is happening.

On the food note, which may become a popular line of discussion, we had a wonderful discovery. John and I decided to eat out (recall the aforementioned absence of cooking thus far). We knew that there was a noodle house on one of the side streets right beside our house, so we thought we might check that out. We got there and it looked really tiny and full and as John said...pretty sure there wasn't anything but Japanese being used in there. Not that this is a deterrent necessarily, but sometimes it's hard to know exactly what you'd be getting just by pictures alone (that is if there are any pictures), so we continue down the street and run into an Indian restaurant.

When I moved to Tokyo I knew that I was going to have to be very open minded about food in general so seemed like the perfect idea. Up until this point I have been to an Indian food restaurant exactly one time in my life and it was with a manager at my very first job that was of Indian descent and therefore could advise with great certainty about what I might enjoy (thanks Narendra). I just always had a perception of Indian food being very very spicy and I can't do that spicy. Anyway, I got a safe Tandori Chicken dish, which was really quite good, but John got curry with chicken and garlic and it was AMAZING! Needless to say we'll be going back regularly. Who knew...I had to come to Japan to discover my love of Indian food....go figure.

Alas, my unpacking must continue....until next time


Thursday, September 11, 2008


So, the day that I arrive in Tokyo, John points out that we have received our first bill...Tokyo Gas. It's basically this slip of paper that says absolutely nothing that I can read other than our last name....wonderful. As John is leaving on Monday, he casually mentions that on my "things to do today" listing I should add paying the gas bill....hmm, sounds a bit tricky as I have no idea how one would go about doing that. He mentions that he thinks we can take it to a convenient store and pay in cash. Okay, on my list, but I ask if he could perhaps ask one of his co-workers if in fact we can pay the bill at the local Family Mart.

Three days later the bill is still sitting on the counter staring at me with no answer to where in the world I can pay this.... Luckily the movers had to return today to unpack a few more items (another story entirely) and the main contact spoke English and was super nice and helpful. He tells me that yes, the gas bill is one that can be paid at convenient store, however, what I have is not the bill. Thank goodness I asked... that would have been an even more confusing conversation when I try to pay a non-bill.

So...our stuff has finally arrived and it is so much nicer sitting in my living room with something other than the couch with no throw pillows and my laptop. The movers are all very efficient and move everything in with no problems and begin the arduous unpacking process. John and I were in the living room when two of them were unpacking things in the was so funny because there was one guy that would unwrap something and then just look at it with a "what in the world is this" look on his face...pretty funny. Not that we brought anything that you couldn't find here, but when you are only unpacking one piece of a two piece item it might appear odd. The looks were priceless though. As for pictures...we took them of course and I'll be sending them your way shortly. I wanted to at least be able to show you some pictures of our "decorated apartment" (aka: one where my clothes aren't littered on every available surface) before sending them along.

On a very personal note: I hope that those of you in the Houston area are surviving the hurricane. John and I are both thinking of you and we are especially thinking of our Dallas neighbors that just lost someone close to them .... Kali, we along with Cosmo are really going to miss you...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quick Sand of Clothes and Other "Neccessary" Memorabilia

Woohoo...our stuff has arrived. I'm now drowning in a sea of clothes that I'll probably never wear. Why do things seem so different when you are cleaning out your closet...I can talk myself into keeping a paper bag if the mood strikes. Anyway, no idea where all this stuff is going to go, but I'm putting up a good front for John as he's smirking and giving me the "I so told you so" speach. We shall see.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What we see outside our door

So, I know this is two posts in one day, but as the other one was postponed Alaska pictures, I'm saying it doesn't count. One of my mom's friends wanted to know what it was like right outside our apartment building, so I thought when I went on my first solo exploration trip I'd take some pictures and share them.

So, as I just mentioned, this was like my first push out of the nest so to speak. I had nothing on the agenda today and as we have nothing in our apartment at the moment and I still know so little about my surroundings I decided to walk to the park near us. It is about 10 minutes or so away and John and I had wandered over there on our "look see" visit in May, but we hadn't really gone into the actual I trot over there and went exploring.

The park is on two sides of the street and I think it could be on one of the other corners as well. It was walk up these worn steps and enter this completely new world. It's like a little haven plopped right in the middle of the craziness that is the city. You can just feel yourself relax because there aren't people whizzing by on all sides and the torturous heat isn't bearing down on you. The path even crosses a small stream with large rocks that you step on. It was great! It's not big at all....there is a huge park that is a subway ride away which is amazing, but this is just perfect for right down the street.

So I walk around one side of the street and then go to the other side which is a little more like a pathway...more people, but very shady too. I think about trying a new way to the main street, but just can't bear to leave the park quite yet. So, I sat on a park bench and decided to start a new book and my first to purchase in Japan....."Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer.

This is a somber dialog just to warn you:

I know that it's an older book, but now that it's been made into a movie it's back in the limelight in the bookstores. For those of you that may be unfamiliar, it's a true story about an upper-middle-class young guy that decides to leave everything he has and explore the world in a unique way. His remains were found 4 months later in the Alaskan Bush. I think the book drew me partly because I had just been to Alaska and encountered the expansiveness of nature. Something about Alaska just pulls to you, the beauty and the untouched feeling of it. The inevitability that nature is stronger than man in it's truest form. And then another part of me was just fascinated how someone could just leave everything that he knew behind and "live off the land" so to speak. Anyway, so far it just makes my heart hurt....I don't know how to explain it. I think that there are a lot of us that have moments where we question our lives...our choice of career, our choice of habitation, simply ourselves and we try to find meaning. Obviously we don't go to these extremes to do it, but we do it nonetheless. I wonder how many of us are ever sure we know the answer. Anyway, it just seems so so sad to me that this kid didn't get a chance to figure it out...or maybe he did I guess I'll just have to read the remainder of the book and figure it out.

Until next time....Jenn

Promised Pictures.....Alaska at a Glance

Okay, so a warning...there are quite a few pictures in here, so bear with me. If you click I think you can get to the site where you can go at your own pace rather than wait for the slideshow.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Quick Tokyo News Update

So there are a couple of items making big news right now...

First, the first, second and third sumo wrestlers ever kicked out of sumo for drug use have been kicked out in the last month. As CNN notes, this is a big deal since it is something that has never happened. The head of the sumo association also resigned today to accept responsibility. Of course, all three were foreigners (Russian) so it probably immediately raises concerns among the Japanese about opening sumo to foreigners in the first place. There is a big sumo tournament (there are four major ones each year) in a few weeks.

Second, there is a crazy monkey on the loose in Tokyo. If you only follow one of my links, please watch this. By way of background, Omotesando is a very fashionable, very congested neighborhood in Tokyo. And Shibuya station is one of the busiest metro stations in Tokyo. This camera man must have been some sort of track star or something. If you watch some of the other YouTube videos, you can see the throng of media and cops that were around before the monkey takes off. I like the way they are trying to waive people off like "there is nothing to see here" or this is an everyday occurrence or something. Funny stuff.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Roppongi Hills....aptly named

So, despite the fact that I've been here before and we selected our apartment only a few months ago...I was taken by surprise when in fact we began to encounter the very steep hills that encompass the area known as "Roppongi Hills". Well, now that'll be fun. My legs better look fabulous by the time all is said and done!

I thought I'd send out a few pictures of the apartment sans our stuff. Luckily it's supposed to get here on Wednesday, so I can get started on the decorative process. It's been a fun few days...easing into it. So...enjoy.

Until next time...Jenn

Saturday, September 6, 2008

That 200lbs of luggage wasn't everything apparently

So it's about 730 PM here in Tokyo and we start thinking about where we're going to dinner. We finally decide to head down to Tokyo Midtown or Roppongi Hills and find somewhere to eat.

Jenn: What should I wear?

John: Jeans are fine.

Jenn: Okay.... (rumaging through the bags)... huh.... uhhh.... I don't have any jeans.

John: What do you mean?

Jenn: They're all in Houston.

Nice. Jenn's mom should be expecting a call in a couple of hours.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Welcome to Tokyo.....

Hi friends, so I finally made it to the lovely city of Tokyo last night. It was quite an adventure getting here....

I have to leave my parents at 7:00am to catch my first flight from Houston to Dallas. I'm thinking this is good...I'll be totally worn out so I'll sleep. I in fact do catch a few zzzz's on that 45 minute flight. The only bad thing is that John has called moments before take off and told me that he has been called into a very important meeting with a potential client, so will be unable to meet me at the very busy airport...good times. So, I'm going to have to just deal with my 5 bags (2 carry on and 3 checked) which collectively weigh what feels like 200 pounds alone and somehow figure out how to cart them all around after I clear customs...fabulous.

I get on the 13 hour flight from Dallas to Houston giving myself the "big girl" pep know the one. Jenn, you are 30 years old, you have moved across the country without knowing anyone, you have gone to Europe all alone, you can do hard can carting 200 pounds worth of luggage in a country where you don't speak the language be...cue "I will survive" music. And remarkably this does boost the spirits and I'm very calm. So I strike up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me (which is ALWAYS a touch and go situation). It's always a good idea to make nice with the person that has the aisle especially when you are going to be in the air for a VERY long time and numerous bathroom breaks are anticipated. However, you don't want to come across as available for conversation for the entire flight and we've all been there...listening to the insessant talking of a total stranger next to you on a plane. He was so nice and come to find out was a Dallas police officer that was taking the flight so that he could get Platinum status on American airlines....that my friends is dedication to the cause. Anyway, couldn't have asked for a better flying companion.

HOWEVER, after yawning for the first hour of flight, drinking at least 2 glasses of wine along with a meal, I slept exactly 0 hours on the 13 hour flight over. So, I get there, it takes like 5 minutes to get through immigration (one of the benefits of being in the front of the plane) and then the moment has arrived...the picking up of the bags....and it turned out to be so perfectly easy.

In Japan they have the system all worked out and there are FREE carts everywhere that you can use to cart your luggage all over the airport. I got my bus ticket with no delay and hopped right on for my hour trek into Tokyo. I even met a very nice girl on the bus that is originally from Mississippi and has been in Tokyo for a year and a half....look at me.

I take the bus (the limo bus...fancy name but still just a bus) to this hotel where my wonderful husband is waiting for me. It was so so great to see John again....absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Then we have to walk to our apartment...quite possibly the worst part of the entire trip....10 minutes uphill with all that luggage - terrible. But we made it and I even stayed awake long enough to eat pizza and now it is morning in Tokyo and John and I are going to go explore this new city where we find ourselves.

So, to sum it all up....I made it to Tokyo. Until next time.....Jenn

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gustav....what kind of name is Gustav?

So, we finally made it home from Alaska on Saturday morning. Let me tell you, it was quite the day. We woke up at 4:30am on Friday because we couldn't possibly miss our last possible meal on the boat. Then we board the train, which is the scenic option we chose to get to Anchorage. I have to say after my first three naps I actually did enjoy the scenery, which was basically miles and miles of greenery and nature. Then we get into Anchorage around I don't know...noonish and have to get on a bus to take us to the Anchorage convention center, which was the location that we were joined with our luggage. There while we are all dead on our feet we have a few more hours (9 to be exact) to shop for our last souveneirs. So after waking up before the crack of dawn, we didn't head out to Houston until 9:00pm.

Around 7:00am on Saturday we get to Houston and I don't recall ever being more exhausted. So I have been catching up on that sleep for the last three days.

And after all that we come home to what....a hurricane. Can't leave good ole Texas without one more hurricane, right? Gustav...seriously, who is coming up with these names these days?

So Sunday family and friends were supposed to be coming over for one more goodbye, but it had to be called off because traffic from all the evacuees made it impossible to get to our house. AND that being said, I spent all day in my parents pool getting a tan while thousands were rushing out of the area. It was a gorgeous day!

Now I'm just hanging out with my parents for a few more days before I have to say goodbye. Hard to believe the time is finally here....very ready to see John, but still a little melancholy to be leaving everyone else.

I hope that you all had a great Labor Day and did as little as possible. The next time you hear from me I will in fact be an "American Girl in Tokyo".

Until then.....Jenn

Happy Labor Day!

Or as they call it in Japan, Disaster Prevention Day, or also "Monday." Apparently there was an earthquake in Tokyo on September 1, 1923 that killed 100,000 people. But I'm assured they are much better prepared now. I like the comment in the article that if there is an earthquake, you are just supposed to stay put for a while (i.e., don't try to walk home from work). There will be 36 million people trying to do the same thing at the same time, so it will likely be chaos.

Speaking of natural disasters, hopefully Jenn and her family aren't sitting around in the dark right now due to this. You might give her a call and see what's going on. But then if things get really bad there, my cousin (Captain Ed Greber of the TX National Guard and Black Hawk pilot) can rescue them off the roof - see video here and here. Pretty cool stuff.

She is due to leave Houston Thursday morning and get here Friday afternoon.