Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Busy weekend

Another great dinner on Thursday. Macky and Sachiya came over, and we were all supposed to go out for soba, but the place near us was closed by the time we got around to going out. So, we decided to make it instead. So good! It was accompanied by some fabulous tempura (which I know how to make now). My favorite was with a really yummy mushroom called maitake. It's so beautiful and delicious that I've decided that it will be my new Japanese name: Maitake.

We also had sansai - mountain vegetable. Little mushrooms, and, I think, young ferns.

Friday was another Buzz Attitude party at Club Lizard. This band called 13 O'clock played, and were hilarious. Gothabilly to the extreme! Bands are really into audience participation here - these guys tossed out little dolls made to look like the band members. Somebody took a lot of time on them. M and D got a bunch, too. They are becoming the Club Lizard mascots. Every time we take them to a show, people give them toys and candy and carry them around the club on their backs. I'm glad, because it keeps them from getting bored and dreading yet another night out with mom & dad.

Saturday, Jeff's work buddy Mike came into town, and we showed him Tokyo. Shibuya was first, which everyone needs to see. It's like Blade Runner, all giant TV screens on the buildings and seas of Japanese in their Sunday fashions. I did a little shopping. Cool socks and shades. Cute socks are very popular here.

After, we went to Hibiya Park. It's this huge, gorgeous park in the city, across from the Imperial Palace. I'm planning on doing some painting there.

This is a lucky cat! The calico is considered the smartest cat, and lucky, so this is the cat represented in the maneki neko statue you see in a lot of stores.

This stone was once currency! No kidding, and not that long ago.

Near there was what Jeff described as 'the coolest water fountain collection ever.' He was right.
The kids had a blast running around here.

The last place we went on Sunday was Akihabara. This is a neighborhood world-famous for it's electronics stores. Acres of stereos, TVs, computer, iPods, and all the accroutrements. Since I was a good girl (i.e., I got out of bed and walked all over Tokyo after a late night with Helen at the Blue Corn after the Club Lizard show), I got an iPod dock with speakers, so I can listen to music while I paint in the office/studio/guestroom upstairs. Need to think of a better catch-all name for that room. M and D liked all the video cameras and their monitors; they got to see themselves on a dozen screens at once. They were bouncing up and down and making faces at themselves.

The kids found this machine. They rush these things bcause they usually have Pokemon or Gundam toys in them. M started howling 'Inappropriate!'

When we got home, Macky showed up with a DVD of the footage he shot when he was in Seattle. Strangely, Seattle already looked weird to me. The streets were too big, the people were too big, people drive in the wrong side, and my house was too cluttered. I haven't been gone that long, but it actually looked foreign. I did see a bunch of my friends in the BBQ footage, and that made me smile. I miss you guys!

Later, we called Mom & Dad Davis on Skype. Free internet phone calls! They could even see video of us - tho they haven't figured out the video on their end yet. I want everyone to get Skype, so we can all sit around and chat for hours like we did in Seattle. The times'll be off, like one half of us will have to drink in the morning, but hey? whatever. M and D had the same reaction to Skype that they did to the screens in Akihabara. We had to send them to bed before they exploded with spaz.

This next weekend, we are going to a swap meet where we hope to find the last bits of needed furniture (coffee table, nightstands, etc.). Then we are going to the Circus! I've never been to a real, live tent circus before. Figures I have to wait til I'm 35 and move all the way to Japan to see the circus, but there's that late-bloomer thing again.

Friday, September 22, 2006


We may experience our first typhoon this weekend. How exciting!

TOKYO (Reuters) - A powerful typhoon packing winds of up to 198 km per hour was moving slowly towards Japan on Friday and forecasters said it could brush past Tokyo over the weekend before veering back into the Pacific.

Typhoon Yagi, whose name means "goat" in Japanese, is a Category 5 super typhoon, according to British-based Web site Tropical Storm Risk (www.tropicalstormrisk.com).

At 9:00 a.m. on Friday (0000 GMT) the storm was about 400 km south-southwest of the remote island of Chichijima, about 1,000 km south of Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

About 2,000 people live on the subtropical resort island.

Yagi was moving northwest at 30 kph and was forecast to weaken before coming within a few hundred kilometres of the densely populated Tokyo region over the weekend, probably bringing high winds, but little rain to the area, the agency said.

We're pretty far inland, so I'm not really worried about it. Could be a gusty weekend, tho.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Food & Bugs

So, things are moving along. I start Japanese classes tonight, which I am looking forward to. It's half conversation and half hiragana/katakana. It'll be a start towards deciphering the gibberish I am constantly surrounded by. Maybe someday soon, I'll be able to go to restaurants that don't have picture menus, and buy products at the drugstore that don't have a pictures of their functions on the front.

I have discovered some great stores. Fred Meyer-like, Walgreen's-like, Target-like stores: Create, Shimachu, and Tokyu Hands. I have been able to find turpentine at last, so I can start painting again. It's nice to know that all stores aren't like the high-priced depaato department stores) around train stations.

We have started, by default, Friday-night dinners at our house. Macky has been coming over with the fish he caught, and we usually have Taeko, Toru and sometimes his family. Good eatin.' Our first meal was shabu shabu, which was like a hot soup kept on a burner at the table, and we swirled our fresh fish around in it until it cooked. We ate it with some greens and a lemony sauce. Yum!

Fish! Macky taught me how to fillet them easily.

Jeff and shabu shabu

Speaking of food, I have pics of some interesting differences in the grocery stores. For one thing, the fruit is pretty pricey, and the variety small. Apparently, produce prices fluctuate a lot, depending on the season's weather. It rained a lot this summer, so the fruit didn't do as well. But, man, is it pretty.

Biggest grapes I have ever seen.

Gorgeous apples

On the other hand, if it's tofu you want, there is no shortage there:

Or mushrooms. Of infinite variety and price. Some cheap enoki, or the ones I saw last weekend, which were about $35. For 3, I think. Macky tells me they're really good, but geez.

Milk comes in small containers. A quart is as big as you can get it, and it's about double Seattle's price. It took awhile to figure out which was milk and which was thins weird yogurt drink. (A bad surprise when you're not expecting it) Also, I have recently learned where to look for the fat percent, which comes in 4.5, 3.7, 0.8, and other unfamiliar things unlike 1%, 2%, and whole.

Our favorite 'milkmaid' brand is 3.7%

and sweetened condensed, in a tube! I may do a future blog on all the things that come in tubes...

Grocery-store bread, sadly, sucks. I have no gripes about cutting off the crusts for the kids' sandwiches. And it comes in 6 or 8 slices, nasty white or nasty wheat (the kids refuse). There are real bakeries near train stations, but I'm usually not around one when I need bread for the next morning.

BUT it has a Fine Aroma!

To turn the conversation, I promised bugs last time. I honestly believe that the little critters (and not so little) had a lot to do with easing D's homesickness. First it was the ubiquitous cicadas, which have thankfully begun to die off and shut up as the weather cools. Then grasshoppers and other large bugs. Then it was tiny lizards and salamanders. Last week it was moths and a (gak) cockroach. All these things can be found in our apartment complex, and he is an avid collector.

D with grasshopper-thing

M, too

Giant praying mantis - so cool! He was probaby 5-6" long.

A couple lizards. D had 5 at one time. He has let them all go, since none of them would eat the mealworms we got them.

Finally, here's a picture of Yuta (who stayed with us in Seattle) and a girl I met called Hiro. We were at Club Doctor on Saturday to see Sparks & Twinky, whom we unfortunately missed. I did see a band called Shell Rockets I really liked, tho. There's another Macky-DJ'd event this Saturday. It's another Buzz Attitude party at Club Lizard, which means we've been here a month already. Wow.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Internet again!

Woohoo! I am online again! Today was an interesting day, full of important people who did not speak any English: the AC guy and the internet guy. Macky had to come bail me out again.

There's a lot to tell, but I'm pretty tired from the thunderstorm-induced lack of sleep. It was a doozy at 4 am, both kids, terrified, in my bed (J is in Sasebo for work), watching the show. It was better than a Cleveland summer storm, and the kids had never seen its like in Seattle. I'm told such storms are common here, and I am thrilled. Even M was sold on the coolness of nature's fireworks by the end.

Anyway, our house. It's cool (especially now that we have AC upstairs, too). Much bigger than I expected we would have, and full of exciting novelties (for me). Let me share some of them with you:

The toilet, separate from the shower room, has a heated seat, a bidet, AND a dryer.

The shower/bath (o-furo). In Japan, everyone shares the bath water, which is for soaking (nice and hot and deep), not washing. Hence, the washing is done with the showerhead prior to entering the tub. You can do it sitting down, too, which is great for shaving. The coolest thing is, the whole room is the shower, so you can spray everywhere and completely overfill the tub, and it won't matter. AND you can reheat the tub. It's a dream.

The kitchen has a tiny dishwasher, and a combination oven/microwave, with a little broiler above it (great for fish).

We had to buy this (Japanese apartments don't usually come with anything). It washes AND dries. Put a load of clothes in at night, and you have clean and dry clothes in the morning.

My walk-in closet. Not a novelty for some, but I've always wanted one. It has a light and a fan, too. No more squashed clothes.

All these pictures were taken pre-furniture. We have a little now.

That's all I have to say about my house right now.

I also have some pictures of a cool festival we went to a couple weeks ago, called a matsuri. It has something to do with this small shrine a bunch of guys carry around, and the little girls dress in kimonos. There are a bunch of them all summer long, in different neighborhoods. They also have way cooler food than US carnivals. So much more interesting than funnel cakes. The kids, of course, ate hot dogs, and J had a big baked potato thing completely slathered with mounds of butter. I had yakisoba, with an egg. Here's some pictures:

Beautiful chocolate-covered bananas

Dog-feeding action shot

Pokemon fishing game. Easy to win (yea).

Okasan with a gun.

Pretty little girls in kimonos.

Mmmm, okonomiyaki, made to order.

You can sort of see the little shrine thingy. A bunch of guys pick it up and bounce around with it, with everyone claps. Someday I'll figure out why.

A shrine thingy on wheels.

Barbecued squid. Yum.

Anyway, that's all I have time for at the moment. Next post maybe: the giant bugs and other interesting fauna.