Friday, June 19, 2009

On our way back home...

We are headed back to the states for most of the summer. I imagine I won't be posting anything unless there is some unusual experience between now and stepping onto the plane - which is entirely possible. I am looking forward to the flight as I will be sitting in business class with the two older ones and Jack is sitting 'in the back' with the little guy - he's not old enough to sit up front as a non-rev rule. I may be speaking a little too early, but - knock on wood - everyone is healthy, right now, and hopefully can stay that way until we reach American soil.

Thanks to all of you for reading and sharing in this great adventure of ours, and we look forward to more upon our return in August.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack...or yakitori

My sister is visiting with her 14 year-old daughter and her daughter's friend. We all went to see one of Japan's major league baseball games, the Yakult Swallows, at Jingu Stadium tonight. We might as well have been back in Madison at a Badgers Football the student section! We unknowingly chose seats right behind the 'band'...the five guys playing trumpets throughout the game. We also heard random parts of the song, Africa, by Toto over the loudspeaker and then the crowd would sing the Canadian anthem when the Canadian guy on their team was up to bat. The crowd was crazy, non-stop cheering. I'll just have to let the pictures do the talking for this one.

Notice the guy in his work clothes? No time to go home first, men were hurrying into the stadium with briefcases in tow for the 6PM game

Kate and the girls enjoyed Baskin Robbins - green tea flavored on the far left, while the adults had chicken yakitori

A lot of flag twirling and most everyone had a jersey on - which was helpful when they started chanting a player's name as we just looked on the shirts to figure out who they were cheering for

This is a big thing - cheering bats that one bangs together - most everyone had these as well

By then end of the night these became weapons between the boys

Yes, cheerleaders

At every home run the mini umbrellas went up swaying and bopping in the air and everyone sang a song - this game was a blowout 10-1, so there was a lot of umbrella action, but I still never caught onto the words in the song

My sister couldn't resist - she had to have one too

The beer girls with mini kegs on their backs

Our Ebisu beer girl with a typical Japanese peace pose
A great time had by all. We will definitely go again.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I decided to squeeze one last cultural thing in before summer vacation. It was another opportunity through the social committee at Connor's preschool to take a class and learn how to make Washi paper. Washi comes from Wa meaning Japanese and shi meaning paper. There are stores throughout Tokyo that carry endless amounts of colors and patterns of Washi to be used to cover tea boxes, wrap gifts as well as so many other uses in traditional Japanese arts. The place holding the class was also a museum with a wonderful store selling an overwhelming collection of Washi. This stuff is much stronger than regular paper. They showed us a beautiful scarf and sweater made out of Washi as well as a Wedding dress that could actually be washed. Wow.

We were able to make two sheets of simple white Washi and one with a design sandwiched between two other sheets. Really interesting - many steps to the process that were explained to us at the start. When they saw the look of panic wash over our faces after reviewing the steps they reassured us that they would help us along the way.

There was a special way of dipping and dumping the pulp to get it onto the contraption. I was sweating knowing I wasn't going to remember the steps. Fortunately, the man assisting us was so sweet and helpful.
After a certain number of dips into the pool of pulp there were a certain number of swishes - so he tells me 9in Japanese of course) to count to twenty, 3x - but I not only forget how to count past 6 in Japanese, I then forget how many times to swish, 'Was that 2x to 20 or 3 times to 10 and what comes after 6? Ici ni san shi go roku...By my third washi paper making turn sensei gave up on me and started counting in English. So here I am counting as far as I can in Japanese and he is counting in English. You just don't want to screw up the method - this is an exact science!!!!!

Wiping of the excess pulp in a STRAIGHT line with a certain hand with certain fingers. Ah!!!

Transfer to a screen and lay down gently - rolling it little by little

Then rip it off - fast like a bandaid - can you see the look of relief on my face that I didn't screw it up?

Drying the Washi with a serious suction like machine

- The final step - smoothing the paper onto a hot metal board to dry, brushing it out from center to corner...she had to redo a couple parts for me
This is an art. I am not artistic, but can appreciate Washi paper now in a whole new way.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Just some photos that didn't need their own post

Kobe, not Tokyo - When the swine flu was confirmed in Japan the masks were out in full force

Daikenyama - My mom and I saw this shop - a shop just for tomatoes and all tomato sorts of things. Loved the window display. Yum.

Arisugawa Park - Typical Japanese preschool in their matching hats

Omotosando - I don't know.

Roppongi Hills - I parked my bike, got my hair cut, came back out and found this piece of paper attached to my bike. I never did ask anyone what it said - I imagine it was a 'no bike parking zone.' If it was a ticket - I never paid it.

Shinjuku - I kept seeing people with Krispy Kreme bags around the various train stations. Then I saw the mothership here. This was a rainy day. I have read that the line can get pretty long - notice the ropes. I will admit I haven't had one

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Convenience Store - part 2

In theory being able to buy tickets for something at the convenience store sounds great. In reality, not so much. The website for the museum I wanted tickets for had great step by step instructions in English for the handy machine which I printed out and took with me. This particular museum requires one to purchase tickets in advance, not all of them do. When I got to Lawson I found the machine and just stared at it for a while. Nothing matched up to my pictures and there was no magic 'ENGLISH' button. So I just started pushing buttons. No luck. I walk up to the cashier, 'Sumimasen?' and showed him my printout. I wasn't sure how I was going to convey, 'I need tickets for the Ghibli Museum, 3 adults, 2 children between the ages of 12 and 18, two children between the ages of 5 and 12 and 1 ticket for the 4 year-old. I just said Ghilbi Museum. He lit up! Hai! Yeah!! We are in business. So he starts pushing buttons. When he got to the credit card page - I gave him my card and he had to translate my name and number into Japanese. He used the backspace bar a lot. Then there was a calendar page with numbers that I could understand. So I know I got that right. But then the screen to order individual tickets was a little confusing. All I could understand was that there was a ticket for 700 yen, 400 yen and another for 400 yen. On my sheet there were 4 choices. Hmmm. I decided to purchase 2 - 700 assuming that was an adult and then 4 of the first of the 400 Yen, but not one for my little guy. Maybe he was free? Because on my paper he was supposed to be 100 yen. I am thinking I can't go to the museum without a ticket for Connor as they might not let him in. I guess I'll go back and buy one more 400 Yen ticket. I am going to go to a different convenience store though as I am too embarrassed to return to the original place of frustration. I have to assume that if I bought all the wrong tickets they will reimburse/exchange them for us at the museum and chalk it up to the stupid gaijin. And that process will probably take a half an hour.

Jill, we WILL be going to the Ghibli Museum on Wednesday at exactly 10 AM.