Monday, February 23, 2009

Pulling an All-Nighter

I am a pretty lame person these days...the general definition of lame in our circle of friends is that I only want to go out one night of the weekend (if that) and I am usually nagging Tom to go home around midnight. I am a nester and getting Fifa has only intensified my desire to stayed in and hang out in our cozy little condo. The last time we stayed out all night was quite by accident. Tom and I went to Kirkland to see Guy's new condo. Guy was the consummate host and never let your glass reach empty. While that is a superb thing for a host to do, it makes it very difficult to know how much you have drank. We were having a wonderful time and then the next thing I know Tom is waking me up (I was sprawled on Guy's couch). Tom informs me that he and Guy quit drinking a while ago and they have been chatting about football (soccer). Also, they just reheated some of the leftover Indian food from dinner and now we should go home as it is 7:00 am - yikes!

Last Friday was Betta's last night in Japan. Igor had the day off so they were gonna kick it in Tokyo all day and then Betta wanted to party all a club called Womb (I kid you not). They had a hotel room b/c Betta had luggage and I imagine she wanted a shower after dancing all night at a club before boarding a 12-hour flight to Seattle. Brian and I (Tom had to work on Saturday - boo!) choose to meet up with them and stay out all night, catching the early train home (the trains don't run between ~12:00 am - ~5:00 am).

Brian and I met up in Yokosuka and pre-funked on the train to Yokohama (it isn't not illegal to drink on the trains). A quick stop at Brian's place for a drink and for Brian to shower and change into "club" attire...then a bit more pre-funking on the train to Tokyo. At this point Betta and Igor are waiting very patiently for us outside the Shibuya train station...waiting b/c Brian and I had a bit of trouble finding the right station exit (perhaps a bit too much pre-funking). We finally met up and headed to Womb...we paid the crazy cover charge, stashed our stuff in a locker and hit the dance floor. It was packed! There was a live techno DJ and laser lights and smoke. The four of us spent the next four hours jumping around, "dancing", laughing, shouting, etc. Betta and Igor called it a night (sad - Betta is going back to Seattle) and Brian and I hit up a 24-hr ramen shop before catching an early morning train out of Tokyo.

All in all it was a great time and staying out all night was easier than I had thought! I'm not a techno fan at all but it was the perfect music to keep us jazzed up the entire also don't have to think too much about your dance moves since it involves a lot of jumping. Speaking of jumping...

I'm not really sure you can tell with this photo but the tops of my feet were absolutely brutalized from being stepped/danced on. My right foot has several very distinct stiletto heel marks (kudos to the girl - or guy - who can actually survive a techno club in stilettos).
The only downer was that Tom couldn't go...although, I guess that gives me the perfect excuse to do it again. :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I Miss Cooking...and Red Wine...

At home these two things usually occur simultaneously so because of that I think my longing is exponentially increased. In Japan I have a little burner thing to boil water and a microwave. I love going through my recipes (I have hundreds) and planning the next week or so of meals, grocery shopping for the ingredients and then putting it all together. When 5 or 6pm rolls around there is nothing like getting the day's ingredients out of the fridge, pouring myself a glass of wine and getting down to work. I miss the lists, the planning, the control (Tom has learned it is better to leave me be in our tiny kitchen when I am cooking), the is the engineer in me. I also like the variety and options...mexican, italian, chinese, comfort food...extra cheese for Tom, more garlic than the recipe calls for, etc. The food in Japan has been great but almost every meal here involves rice or some noodle...I am getting starched out! I looked online and 80% of Japanese people eat rice at least once is taking some getting used to.

Regarding the wine, I am coping. They have beer, sake and sho-cho (which I love!) to compensate. They are all good but I miss the familiarity of wine in particular. The 24-hour grocery store I visit regularly has a small wine section...the only brands I recognize are Yellow Tail and Carlo Rossi...I've yet to turn to either of them. Besides it is one thing to be at home cooking dinner for your hubby having a glass or two of wine and another thing to be sitting alone in your hotel room watching a Japanese game show chugging from the jug of Carlo Rossi...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Public transportation in Japan

Japan has a great public transportation system. They have trains, subways, buses, etc. Thus far I have found it extremely easy to get around. True, my day typically involves a relatively small area in which I can walk or ride my bike around but we do venture out on occasion. The train stations have wonderful route maps and the signs are abundant and easy to read. Most of the stations have an information booth where you can get local area maps and tips on how to get to your final destination. The major sites are well-marked with maps and signs along the roads (in English). Additionally, you can purchase a rechargeable card, put money on it and just scan in/out at the turn style at the station and it auto-deducts your fare (the card works on most buses too)...this further aids in the ease of transport.

I think of Seattle and I can't imagine a visitor from a foreign country getting around. You see people wandering around downtown with those silly cartoon maps that have no scale and it is a wonder nobody ends up in Elliott Bay. I think there are so many cool things about Seattle that aren't right in the downtown core (e.g.; the locks and Golden Gardens in Ballard, Gasworks Park in the Freemont area) do people get there? I guess they have to rent a car or take a taxi or if they have done their homework they might be able to take a bus. Such a shame...

Do you think the sign is grammatically incorrect in all of the languages or just English?
I did learn that the Japanese language doesn't use articles (the, a, an) and the verb is always at the end of the sentence...there are other differences that make it difficult to accurately translate what you want to say to/from Japanese. I will say that even if they don't always get it right, they do make an effort to translate and this comes in ridiculously handy...especially when you are an American and are too stubborn to learn the native tongue. :)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Things I love about Japan, Part 1

We have been here for a couple of weeks and are settling in nicely. Already there are certain things about Japan that I love (as a side note, how many of you are surprised that I am leading with things I love vs. things I hate?! Be honest...):

1) Crosswalks. Yes, you read that right - crosswalks. The Japanese have figured out a perfect system that works for both pedestrians and cars. Here is how it works:
  • Traffic lights in all directions are red so no cars are going, green "walk" signals come on in all directions so pedestrians have the run of the intersection - you can walk across the main road, across the side road...caddy corner - you have free reign! At the bigger intersections, the walk signals often have a countdown feature so you know how long it will stay green and they also play music or talk when you are allowed to walk. The walk signals also flash when they are about to turn red - very helpful.
  • Walk signals for crossing the main road turn red and the traffic lights for the main road turn green - cars are moving along the main roads and people can walk along them still crossing the side roads.
  • Walk signals in all directions are red, traffic lights for the main road turn red and traffic lights for side roads are green - no pedestrian traffic allowed across any of the roads so the cars on the side roads can easily go straight or make turns without fighting pedestrians.
  • Cycle repeats.

I love, love this system because it allows a pedestrian to cross on a diagonal (like right in front of Pike's Market) and it is easier for cars to turn because they don't have to fight pedestrians. Also, the walk signals convey a lot more info than in Seattle.

2) Grocery Stores. I love grocery shopping in the US so it was a pleasant surprise to find that I also love it here. Plus with me having 24 hours of free time a day, it is good to have a daily errand. Grocery stores in Japan (the ones I have been in thus far) have a very good selection of ready-to-eat items, frozen items, fresh produce and fruit, packaged items, staples, etc. I find the ready-to-eat section indispensable since we only have a tiny fridge and microwave. The quality of the food in this section far surpasses what I have been able to find stateside. For instance, they always have sushi out. The Japanese have rules about how long sushi can be in a display case so they meticulously put out new, fresh sushi all day (as a bonus they mark down the old sushi right before taking it you can imagine, Tom loves this feature). Plus, and this is the best part, they all have little bakeries inside them. They still have an aisle of packaged carb goodies (bread, rolls, doughnuts, etc) but they pale in comparison to the fresh-baked choices. This little feature has made my daily trip to the grocery store a bit of a land mine. However since we walk or bike everywhere, I have no trouble justifying my new pastry a day habit.

3) Not understanding the language. So this is a little bit of the ol' love/hate scenario. The thing I love about not understand the language is that I don't get sucked into everything little thing going on around me. Let me explain...I went onto the Naval Base to mail a package to my sister. The post office on the base is no different than a post office in Seattle...except you have to fill out a customs form to mail anything besides a simple letter. The lady in front of me was having a very difficult time with this and the nice guy helping her (the only person working at this particular time) explained over and over and over how to accomplish this. Needless to say by the time she was done and it was my turn I was super annoyed and frazzled - I mean how hard is it to make a list of what you are sending and sign your name?! A couple of days later I am at the grocery store and the lady in front of me is having some problem with something...I have no idea what...maybe something got rang up twice, maybe she thought a price was wrong...who knows! I was standing behind this woman easily as long as the post office lady but since I had no idea what they were saying, I stayed totally calm. In both situations I wasn't in any particular hurry (remember, I have 24 hours of free time) but just by understanding what was going on, I got sucked into the situation and my mood was affected. I plan on taking this realization back to Seattle. It won't be quite as easy since I happen to understand English quite well but the moral of not letting every little thing that occurs around you occur to you is a good one to hold onto.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Weird Step for Me...

First Facebook and now this - how hypocritical am I?! I am starting this blog because I have a lot of time on my is that for a recommendation - har. In reality, I have a lot of opinions and think about a lot of things on a daily basis and am egotistical enough to think someone might want to read them. :)

To start off I plan on blogging in a little more detail about daily life here in Yokosuka, Japan...after that, who knows? It will probably depend on if I get a job when we get back to Seattle...I'm sure the hair on the back of Tom's neck just stood straight up.

That's all for this first post. Cheers!