One major challenge I'll be facing is the garbage. Gomi, or garbage, in Yokohama is a serious business. We have to separate everything into plastic, paper, PET bottles, household (burnable) garbage, and "small metal objects." Everything goes into small, neatly-tied bundles, and is taken up to the locked garbage shed. This is D's job, to take it up. Unfortuantely, we've lost the key. Sometimes, the door to the shed is left unlocked, which is why we didn't notice that the key was missing for a little while. But then they started locking it again. Just call the landlord for a new one, right? All our dealings are supposed to go through the real estate agent. No one in that office speaks English. I think it's going to have to be Macky to the rescue again.
Thanksgiving was nice. We took the train to the Yokosuka base and had dinner with Bill & Keiko and another couple. Their place was nice, full of cool oriental furniture and art and a million rugs (to cover the fact that base apartments have linoleum floors - who thought that was a good idea???). WAY too much food, which we were sent home with. It was a little weird to eat all that western food, all the tradiitonal stuff - including that weird green-bean cassrole and fruit salad with coconut and marshmallows.
Our small (but awesome) fridge was stuffed with leftovers.
Friday, Jeff took the day off, while the kids were at school. We went to Harajuku again, but went the opposite direction, to the famous Meiji Shrine. It was a beautiful, sunny day, with a bit of nip in the air.
This is the giant torii gate at the entrance.
Biggest mums I've ever seen:
More pretty flowers. I think they are wired together.
Wall o' sake casks. They are involved in offerings, I believe. Or monk parties.
This is where you rinse your hands and mouth of evil before you enter the shrine gounds proper.
This is the tree that is the reason we tell our kids broccoli looks like trees.
I don't know why there were piles of vegetables in the square. Maybe a market, which they have at shrines sometimes. Anyway, they were packing up, and it was great to see the cooperation as they passed the produce from hand to hand, fire-brigade style.
For 500 yen, you can write a wish on one of these tablets, and the monks will petition the gods on your behalf in their morning prayers.
Just to remind you that these beautiful grounds are indeed in the middle of Tokyo.
After school, we got the kids and headed for Wilson & Miki's place in Zushi. It was around rush hour, so one of the trains we took was packed. I don't know if you've heard about rush-hour trains in Japan. Passengers will keep pushing in until the doors can close. They call it being packed like sushi, instead of sardines, as we might say. Jeff and I thought it reminiscent of a mosh pit. The kids were squealing with glee? fear? Some people do this every day. Anyway, we took a lot of trains and buses to get to Wilson's. We kinda messed up the last one. We are used to the pay-at-the-front kind. On this one, you embarked from the back. I didn't realize until halfway through the trip that we were supposed to take a ticket when we got on, so the driver, when we paid at the front, would know where we started. I remembered screwing this up in Kamakura a few years ago. And the trip was a lot longer than we had anticipated, and we weren't really sure where we were going. We were relieved to finally get there. The whole trip, door to door, took us 2 1/2 hours.
When I walked in the door and said Hi! to a bunch of strangers, I was met with blank stares. Uh-oh, I thought. This is going to be a weird party. Once Wilson walked in a few minutes later and introduced me to a bunch of people, everyone was friendly. One wife was reaaaaaally friendly, having gone through a bottle of wine before we got there. She wanted to wrestle. I decided not to take the bait. Too easy.
The rest of the evening was drinking a lot of wine with a bunch of Navy guys, talking the way Navy guys talk. It was pretty fun, actually. Once most of the guests had departed and the babysitter was left in charge, Jeff, Wilson, Miki, Frank, and I wove our way to the karaoke bar down the street. I remember sake, a singing more songs than I ever had before. It was mostly just us and one young Japanese guy. I think I sang a duet with him. Wilson sang the most, and mostly in Japanese. Impressive.
Saturday was mostly just making our way home and D on a playdate with a kid from school. Apparently they went to a park. I was sleeping.
We were all supposed to go to Macky's Buzz Attitude 5th Anniversary Saturday night, but the kids had been up past midnight, so I opted to stay home with them. Jeff needed a night out, anyway.
Sunday morning, we were picked up by Takaki for an interesting day. We had been told it was a river barbeque/car show/flea market. We were very confused when, after a long ride, we pulled into a freeway rest stop (lemme tell you, they know how to do rest stops here. It's more like a mall food court and gift shop). There were a bunch of Chevy Blazers parked in one area of the parking lot, some people milling around, and a guy with a megaphone. The scene was just as strange as the Paul Rusch Festival, which was like Little Kentucky in Japan. This was like being in Tacoma or rural Cleveland. All the Blazers were sold to their owners by one man, called "Tony," and it was his gig. Kind of an Appreciation Day, like Robin's yearly barbeque for her clients. But in rest stop? With cars flying by every minute? What? No, turns out it's like a rave: you have to know the right convenience store to approach to ask for directions to the party itself. The guy with the megaphone was Tony, and he was giving directions.
After much traffic and wrong turns, we managed to get to the spot. It was by a river in Atsugi, just a blank spot down a hill, covered with smooth river rocks. You need a Blazer to get down there, as Takaki soon discovered.
Luckily, there were all those Blazers around, with tow-gear.
I'm not sure why, but this buy walked out into the river on chairs-as-stilts. It was kinda neat to see.
Another example of teamwork: everyone fanning the flames with those plastic fans they hand out in train stations. They have ads on them. Very useful in the summer, too.
I was underwhelmed at first by the Costco hot dogs and sausages, but then the good stuff came out later. Best crab I've ever tasted.
This was the "flea market." A few clothes and shoes, and truck-related products.
A unique BBQ activity: rock balancing. Very Zen.
It drew a crowd.
M got into it, too.
Someone was selling carved rocks. M insisted we buy one, "to remember the day." Just like his dad. One of the white ones is now in our bathroom. M also has a new rock collection (he threw out the dead bug collection to make room in the display box. Reminded me of my brother's rock collection when he was a kid). We also have a bag of big rocks outside the front door, so M can practice rock balancing.
The pottywagon. The girls were occasionally ferried to a nearby portapotty, as there were no trees or shrubbery around, and any underbrush was covered with spiky burrs that stuck to everything.
Tony, the man in charge. He invited us to a more intimate BBQ later.
An odd and interesting weekend it was. And now, some random pics.
Another great example of the animation of everything. This one is prevalent on the trains. I call them the meat mascots. Check out their ears.
Saw this in the CREATE store. It's like Walgreen's. I think they are photo albums.
They tore down a block of apartments near our complex. The walls here are indeed made of plywood, I think.
A really small car
Karla arrives in a couple weeks! And then Val and her student, Katie. I'm so excited!