Friday, November 27, 2009

Our tree lot

I know I posted my reaction to the cost of Christmas trees last year, but I am still having sticker shock this year and decided to post photos because seeing is believing right? As much as I have gotten used to spending more money for most things, I still cannot bring myself to rationalize buying a tree at these prices no matter how sad our artificial tree is...

The tree lot near National Azabu Market

This tree is only 18,900 Yen - (roughly 200 bucks)

Here is a little reference as to it's size...this is Connor's 4 year-old friend. Not a very big tree. My friend did point out that you can replant this one, but I would need a yard first.

A beauty of a tree

Here, let me get a little closer...
Yes, that's about 450 smackers in USD.
I think I'll just pass through the lot each day I go to the market and inhale deeply for my Christmas tree fix.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Packing it all in

I was talking with a friend trying to make some plans but as I told her we were headed to Kyoto and then to Mt. Takao, she sighed and said, "You are doing all the things that people do before they leave Tokyo." Kyoto is a must when in Japan. My parents came to visit and graciously agreed to mind the children for a couple of days so Jack and I could take off and visit this city known for it's temples and shrines that were spared from the bombing of WWII. Autumn is the ideal time to see Kyoto, so I mentally prepared myself for the crowds. My sister Jill visited Kyoto in June and my parents were going to take their own trip, so between those two I had a semi preplanned itinerary as they enjoy spending time pouring over information and finding out what to see and where to eat. It saves me quite a bit of time.

Kyoto is a 2 1/2 hour ride from Tokyo on the shinkansen(bullet train).

It almost looks like the train attendants are boarding a plane.

I was happy to see the changing leaves. The Japanese maple leaves are so tiny and delicate.

We had only a day and a half so we hit the main temples and the crowds really weren't too bad. This is the Golden Pavilion or Kinkakuji

At the Golden Pavilion you could light a candle for a personal prayer.
It was an easy decision for both of us. Jack chose 'Find Employment' and I chose 'Alleviate Stress'.

Have faith in the burning candles...

Next was the Silver Pavilion or Ginkaku-ji. Unfortunately it was under construction, but these grounds were the most beautiful to me. Below is raked white sand, known as kogetsudai, designed to reflect the moonlight and beauty of the garden at night.

This man was sweeping the leaves off of the moss and rock. I personally think the colors of the leaves looked beautiful lying on the ground, but things are always very tidy.

Perfectly Japanese.
From the Silver Pavilion we headed down Path of Philosophy- very quaint stroll with the canal on one side and shops and cafes on the other. At the end we caught a glimpse of some sort of photo shoot.

Nanzen-Ji Temple - Enormous!

This is a typical fence for the Japanese to wrap their unwanted fortunes that they received at a temple or shrine. We chose not to get another one as last time our fortune read that our marriage was doomed, our house would be lost and a number of other tragedies were going to occur.

Fushimi Inari Shrine
There are 40,000 orange tori gates covering 4 km in the hills. We did NOT see all 40,000, maybe a few hundred??? Very cool sight. It might have been helpful to be able to read Japanese here.
This dog - or this princess was almost more eye catching than the Kiyomizu Temple we were at. The dog had an elaborate outfit on that you can't quite see. Too funny.
Kiyomizu Temple Grounds

Following Kyoto we took our friends advice and ventured with the family to Ukai Toriyama near Mt. Takao (1 hour away and 4 trains that should have been only 2). The dining experience is ultimately Japanese. The clincher for me was that we had not only our own private room, but our own private Japanese House - perfect when you plan to have a 2 hour plus meal with your children. The grounds with the fall foliage, lanterns and Japanese Houses scattered around was really beautiful.

The lobby with hot rocks to keep your hands warm. Keep your feet OFF of the tatami mats!
Our house for dinner
Walking around among the various houses. Great at night as you could look in upon others enjoying their meals.

Our house again while we were in it.

Sake served in bamboo

One hour in...starting to lose control
Our wonderfully sweet Japanese server. She tried so hard to explain the unknown foods to us in English.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bad Hair Day

I can't seem to understand why I continue to see older Japanese women with brightly colored hair. I know we have our fair share of blue hairs in the states, but on a regular basis I see old women here with blue hair - royal blue, green - kelly green and purple -very violet hair! Is it just a bad dye job? Why don't their friends tell them that their hair is green? There must be more to this story. So sorry that I don't have a picture to post for this one.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Crow

Jack saw this new sign in our park across the street today... The crows here are large and scary - and there are a lot of them. But maybe we should now be looking out for one in particular.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Update - but not really

We know people are wondering what is going on - when are we leaving Tokyo? Where are we going next? And the answer is...we don't know. But just to give you all something until we know more, Jack's 12 years with Northwest(Delta) is officially over on December 18th. Our apartment lease here will end December 31st. Do we have arrangements for packers to come and move us? No. Do we know where Jack's next job will be? No. Am I concerned for our future? No. Am I disappointed to be leaving Tokyo earlier than planned? Yes. Am I still going to enjoy Tokyo as much as I can until the day we leave? Yes.

Jack is working hard to see what's out there to try and keep us international, but obviously it is now November 6th and the end of December will be here quite quickly. We still have our house in Minneapolis, just not sure if there is a place for our kids at their former school. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks our future will become more clear. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tourist for a day

Today was yet another Japanese holiday. I've given up on trying to keep up on each celebration. I think someone told me the other day there are about 300 hundred of them. Many people in the expat community often have these days off. Jack usually has to work, but not today. The kids had school and we, for once, had the chance to tour the city for a few hours alone. I suggested that he come up with a plan for us. So he decided that we should head to the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku and have lunch on the 52nd floor at the New York Grill - the place 'Lost in Translation' was filmed. It was a perfectly clear day and we had a better view of Fuji-san today than we did when in Hakone. On our walk from the train station to the hotel. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building - one of the many towering buildings in Shinjuku.

Playing tourist

View from the 52nd floor at the New York Grill - camera couldn't catch Fuji so well, but it was a great view.

The room/lounge from Lost in Translation

Our two hour lunch was wonderful although I can't say that I have ever dined in a place where the water ended up costing more than my glass of wine...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trick or Treat - Take 2

We took to the streets of Nishi Azabu and Moto Azabu again this year with the masses of expats and Japanese. I've been told it's getting so popular there are a couple thousand people weaving their way in and out of these streets. It certainly felt like it at times. Plenty of places the kids stopped at had run out of candy. Other places reported that they went through hundreds and hundreds of pieces of candy. I can't find my way around this area when it's light out, much less dark. Thankfully a dad in our group lead the way and helped me find my kids when I couldn't. Jack missed out this year as he joined many Aussie fans for a big Rugby match between Australia and New Zealand. I was told concessions ran out of beer halfway through the match. Doesn't sound like an Aussie event to me.

So the kids ran from building to building with a few houses in between. I think I saw every person I have met since moving here along the route. But whenever I turned to say 'hi' and talk to someone I lost a kid. I was thrilled when both Nicholas and Connor said they had so much candy and thought that they were done.
My little Transformer - Bumblebee

So most of the loot looks familiar...
Then there are a few Japanese treats in there. Kate was willing to give them all a go. I assumed they would all have some sort of fish flavor hidden in them. The first one looks more like salmon bites than what I think it was supposed to be - taffy? I snagged everyone's mini Milky Ways instead.
The night before...

Jack and I have now been here long enough to know someone that was having a Halloween Party, just for adults - The McAvoys
Nat and I after a Tequila Shot and a jello shot - I think

Our good friends The Gatherers

Jack surrounded by Marlo and Sue

The Pirate and his Maiden, although people
preferred to call me a wench instead.

A Field Trip

I volunteered to join Nicholas's Grade 2 field trip to the Tama Zoo. I was in charge of 4 kids - nice ratio. Nicholas and Aliyu from Nigeria

Ellene from Australia and Anna from Japan

But what caught my eye were the Japanese school groups - decked out in full uniform head to toe.
No variation except the color of their hats

I love the set up for lunch - an upright backpack right in the middle of each plastic mat.

If only I could have walked around and snapped pictures of their little bento boxes while they were eating lunch.