Misc Crap I Find Interesting!

Prices of fruits & vegetables!

I cannot tell exactly what these are but it appears to be oranges, but the prices…Ouch!
Check out the price for a cantelope! That is almost $30 US!
Two persimmons for 398 yen, or $3.67.

Kitchen sink drain

Kitchen sink drain. You simply lift the center part out to change the “sock”
The kitchen sink drain trap, the sock is what captures the food particles. You simply take it off and throw it away.
The replacement sock for the drain trap

Instant Coffee

Open the packet and position on cup
Pour hot water in filter
let steep through

Thats all today for the first edition of Miscellaneous Crap I Find Interesting (MCIFI)!




Tempura Friday night Dinner

We met up with a couple for dinner,  Glen worked with him in Bremeton at PSNS and he and his wife are here for the same 5 year tour we are.   It was discovered that his wife is as picky of an eater as I am!  Yay!!  We met at the Keikyu Kuriham train station that is a 5 minute bus ride from our neighborhood.  We chose the place for the tempura, something she and I both like!

Tempura is a Japanese dish usually consisting of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried. The dish was influenced by fritter-cooking techniques introduced by Portuguese residing in Nagasaki in the 16th century, and the name “tempura” relates to that origin.

Glens meal, pork & shrimp tempura in a broth, rice, cabbage salad and miso soup.
My meal, two tempura shrimp and rice!

After dinner we went to a small bar called Gris for drinks.  I had a vodka cran and Glen had his favorite Japanese Hibiki whiskey.  Its very hard to find so he was a very happy camper!


Was a very fun evening!  We were both pretty tired since we got our Houehold Goods delivery on Friday morning.  They had a very hard time getting our bed upstairs.  They ended up having to pull it with straps up over one of our balconies into the living room, then to the bedroom.  It took both the kids they sent and Glen and I to get it up there.  The rest was pretty easy as it was mostly boxes with a few other household items.  Its been great getting our own things set up.  I hope to be finished next week and will do a whole blog with pictures!



Kamakura afternoon

Remember I told you the class was taking a field trip to Kamakura?  We did, and the bus and train rides were great.  The shrine they were visiting, I have been to before so I opted to skip that portion.  So at this point I am done for the day with the group.  Glen decided to meet me in Kamakura so I wandered the shopping area around the train station while waiting for him to get there.  I found some very cute shops.  One that was my pareticular favorite is HMT.  They had many cool edison type lights and the parts to make your own, sort of like a small restoration hardware type place.  Notice the cool brick road.


There were many clothing stores, eateries, bakeries and little markets.  I saw a few more interesting drain covers!:

Once Glen got there, we headed to eat.  He had found a place on Yelp we decided to try.  It was about a half mile walk from the station.  The area around this station had a little of everything!  So many side streets with food, shopping, markets etc.  It was fun just to walk through watching people.

We arrived at Kamakura Horetarou:


You come in to a small vestibule where there is a wall of small lockers.


Each locker has a pair of plastic slippers in it.  You put them on and put your shoes in the locker, and then close it an pull the wooden key out.  It locks your shoes in!


You can see the wooden keys have a number to match thier locker, and grooves for the lock.  Very old school, and very cool looking.  Not a huge fan of taking my shoes off and wearing someone elses slippers, but when in Japan, right?!  Please take note of the sliipers on Glens size 13 feet, needless to say they didn’t quite fit!  lol

So, we left our shoes and got a table. The table has a small hot griddle in the middle, really it takes up most of the table. As with almost all Japanese restaurants they first bring you a damp cloth to clean your hands with.  Once you place your order they bring you a small plate with a small metal pancake flipper, and of course chopsticks.

We chose this place for the Okonomiyaki  (o-konomi-yaki) which is a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “how you like” or “what you like”, and yaki meaning “cooked”. Okonomiyaki is mainly associated with the Kansai or Hiroshima areas of Japan, but is widely available throughout the country. Toppings and batters tend to vary according to region. Kansai- or Osaka-style okonomiyaki is the predominant version of the dish, found throughout most of Japan. The batter is made of flour, grated nagaimo (a type of yam), water or dashi (flavored broth), eggs and shredded cabbage, and usually contains other ingredients such as green onion, meat (generally thin pork belly, often mistaken for bacon), octopus, squid, shrimp, vegetables, konjac (japanese flower part), mochi (rice cake) or cheese. Okonomiyaki is sometimes compared to an omelette or a pancake and may be referred to as a “Japanese pizza”.  We chose a pork and garlic one, as well as pork fried rice.  They bring the raw ingredients in dishes and/or plates to the table.

You then mix the ingredients and pour onto the greased hot griddle, spreading it out to cook completely and evenly.

You then let it cook, flipping, chopping or stirring as necessary,


Once it is done, of course you add some to your plate.  Cooked okonomiyaki is topped with ingredients that include otafuku/okonomiyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter), aonori (seaweed flakes), katsuobushi (bonito flakes), Japanese mayonnaise, and pickled ginger.  The bonito flakes are fish flakes, and apparently they move when you heat them, I skipped that.  This is what they look like on the table:


I chose to have okonomiyaki & soy sauce on mine, and it was deliscious, as was the fried rice.  It was a great experience, and one we will do again!



Area Orientation Brief (AOB)

DAY 1 

While the briefing is very geared toward military families, they provide a lot of great information for civilivans as well.

They talk about the Sea Hawks, a large bird that will swoop down to take food out of your hand. However, sometimes it can be a finger! 

Wikipedia:     Osprey – The osprey or more specifically the western osprey — also called sea hawk, river hawk, and fish hawk — is a fish-eating bird of prey with a cosmopolitan range. It is a large raptor, reaching more than 60 cm (24 in) in length and 180 cm (71 in) across the wings. It is brown on the upperparts and predominantly greyish on the head and underparts.

The picture they use is below, enough to scare the crap out of anyone! I think many a horror film, one in particular, have had birds as the “monster”, appropriately so it seems!


They talked about poisonous snakes, which was also awesome to hear. The picture they used for this part makes me never want to check the mail again…


They gave us the emergency phone numbers, off base you dial 119, not 911. We completed paperwork for in the event of a natural disaster.  They talked about tsunamis, cyclones  and earthquakes.  We have a booklet we keep at home with pivotal information that we grab if we have to leave in a hurry.

The afternoon portion was a little resource fair. They had people from MWR, banks, Red Cross, & many military resource branches. Again geared more toward military members but some good information for us civilians as well.

We also signed up for the bus ride to the train station for tomorrow’s field trip to Kamakura. I’ll have a separate blog post on that afternoon,  Fortunately for me, I have been there before.  I went for the train and bus riding experience,

Wikipedia: Kamakura is a city in the Kanagawa Prefecture. Although Kamakura proper is today rather small, it is often described in history books as a former de facto capital of Japan, the nation’s most populous settlement from 1200 to 1300 AD, as the seat of the shogunate (government). Kamakura was designated as a city on November 3, 1939.  As a coastal city with a high number of seasonal festivals, as well as ancient Buddhist and Shinto shrines and temples, Kamakura is a popular tourist destination within Japan.

DAY 2 

This day started with Intercultural Relations.  This was probably one of the best (my favorite anyway!) parts of the entire brief. Great information to make living here an easier and most enjoyable experience.

The two ladies that gave this portion of the brief were great. They both spoke wonderful English and Japanese.  They explained things in great detail and made it easy to understand.

One thing they explained that I had no idea about is the differences between temples and shrines.

Shrines belong to Shinto, the Japanese native religion. Torii Gates are entrance to shrines.  Walking through a Torii gate symbolically marks the transition from the mundane to the sacred.

Torii Gate

Shinto or kami-no-michi (as well as other names) is the traditional religion of Japan that focuses on ritual practices to be carried out diligently to establish a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past.  Shinto practitioners believe that everything in nature is possessed by spirits, from trees and rocks, to rivers and mountains. Shinto today is the religion of public shrines devoted to the worship of a multitude of “spirits”, “essences” suited to various purposes such as war memorials and harvest festivals and applies as well to various sectarian organizations.

For extended information on the Shinto religion please feel free to read: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinto

Temples belong to Buddhism.  Buddhism in Japan has been practiced since its official introduction in 552 CE according to the Nihon Shoki (the second-oldest book of classic Japanese history) from Korea, by Buddhist monks.  Buddhism has had a major influence on the development of Japanese society and remains an influential aspect of the culture to this day.


For extended information on Buddhism and its introduction in Japan please feel free to read this: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_in_Japan

Shinto and Buddhism religions harmonically co-exist in Japan. Many religious coexist in japan.

They spoke about the Kimono.  Kimonos are often worn for important festivals or formal occasions as formal clothing.  For women the difference in sleeve length is martial status.  Short sleeve is married and long sleeve is single.   This is archaically because they assume single women are not doing housework etc so they can have the fancy long sleeves. The short sleeves are for the married women to easily do their chores…UGH!  Insert your own visual here, something like a cave man dragging his woman back to the cave by her hair…

Wikipedia:   Today, kimono are most often worn by women, particularly on special occasions. Traditionally, unmarried women wore a style of kimono called furisode (swinging sleeves) with almost floor-length sleeves, on special occasions. A few older women and even fewer men still wear the kimono on a daily basis. Men wear the kimono most often at weddings, tea ceremonies and other very special or very formal occasions. Professional sumo wrestlers are often seen in the kimono because they are required to wear traditional Japanese dress whenever appearing in public.

I find the kimonos very pretty, have even seen people wearing them on occasion at the train stations. Most likely coming or going to a formal occasion.  I however, would not wear one! They appear very restrictive and not entirely comfortable! 


For more information on the different types (there are many) of kimonos, please feel free to read https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimono

We also learned that in Japan people greet each other by bowing. A bow can range from a small nod of the head to a deep bend at the waist. A deeper, longer bow indicates respect and conversely a small nod with the head is casual and informal.  This bowing is representation of the most important custom; respect. You can shake hands as well. They will never force you to return a bow. If you choose to bow; introduce yourself then bow. No direct eye contact during bow, always look down. Women cross hands in front of self when bowing. You return a bow as low as the one given to you. Wait until they have completed bow to bow back. 

My experience so far has been a lot of head nods and some bowing.

Day 3

This day is all for obtaining a drivers license. I won’t bore you with the details as they are about as interesting as drivers training in the US…

However, I passed my written test and am set for the drive test next Friday. Wish me luck!

Drainspotting & Truck Rental

Remember a couple days ago I talked about the manhole covers and how beautiful they are? Well, it seems it is a “thing”, and it’s called drainspotting. There are many web pages about it and several books. I am going to share the ones I find.

As to why this phenomenon developed, according to some sources a high-ranking bureaucrat in the construction ministry, in 1985, came up with the idea of allowing municipalities to design their own manhole covers. His objective was to raise awareness for costly sewage projects and make them more palatable for taxpayers. Other sources say in the late 1980s, there was a Construction Specialist from the Public Sewer Division, Ministry of Construction who advocated the use original designs for each municipality in the hope that it would improve the image of the sewage industry and make it more appealing to the general community. Thanks to a few design contests and subsequent publications, the manhole craze took off and municipalities were soon competing with each other to see who could come up with the best designs. According to the Japan Society of Manhole Covers (yes, that’s a thing) today there are almost 6000 artistic manhole covers throughout Japan. And according to their latest findings, the largest single category are trees, followed by landscapes, floral designs and birds – all symbols that could, and surely did, boost local appeal. And now you have one more thing to look out for when you come to Japan!

Here are some I saw on my walk today in our neighborhood.

The American naval officer Matthew Calbraith Perry (1794-1858) is best known for the treaty he negotiated with Japan, which first opened the country to the Western world. On July 8, 1853, the American Commodore led his four ships into the harbor at Tokyo Bay, seeking to re-establish for the first time in over 200 years regular trade and discourse between Japan and the western world.

Fire hydrant manhole covers, or more precisely manhole covers over water and water Tanks accesses for firemen were among the first to be decorated by municipalities. The water access manhole covers come in three distinct kinds of motifs, either round or rectangular:
1) Fire trucks, firemen and Firefighter’ symbols
2) Regional symbols
3) Abstract symbols

The rest are simply pictures of covers I saw on my walk to the market today, with no additional information. The sewer grates are also decorative.

Another “fun” thing we did on Sunday was rented a truck from base to pick up couch. Renting a truck here is NOTHING like renting a truck in the US…

Exhibit A:

However, once you go to whatever address you are going to, you see that the size of our trucks in the US would NOT go in the places we had to go. The roads are so skinny and there is rarely much space to turn around. Its definitely an experience…

One thing I found so great; when we were at home taking the couch pieces into the house a car drove by. They obviously saw me struggling a little bit as I dropped my end once on one piece. Luckily it did no damage. However, the car stopped right past the house and a man got out and came to see if we needed help! We did manage to get it in without help but the fact that he stopped and got out of his car and asked if we needed help was amazing.

January 5, 2018 – Yokohama stroll

We decided to spend some time in Yokohama in Saturday. We rode the bus to the train station. The public transportation here is phenomenal. The buses and trains are very clean and quiet. I’m looking forward getting the hang of the actual stations so I can wander more! 😊



Of course being that it was lunchtime, we first went in search of food. Glen had heard good things about the place we chose; Ikanari Steak:

As with so many Japanese restaurants, you sit so close to other people. In this case, right across the table. There is a little wall type thing in between the seats of two. But it is not high enough to not see the person across from you. I find this incredibly awkward. I feel like I should pass him the soy or something, inquire about his day…🙄

Exhibit A: my non-chosen dining companion…

Anyway, I digress. They were nice and brought us an English menu! We ordered the tenderloin steak.

They bring the raw steak out to you, for your approval, before they cook it:

After it’s cooked (we ordered medium) and brought to you, it has butter and shaved cooked garlic on it. Prior to this the server brings you a large bib because the steak comes on a small cast iron skillet, still cooking (oil popping). There is also corn and onions cooking on the plate as well. There are a few different sauces they offer, which we both liked. It comes with a nice sticky rice as well.

I think this is the first place I’ve been to in japan that didn’t offer chopstick and actually already has forks and steak knives on the table. I always wonders how they cut steak! Now I know, the same way we do! In reality though, they mostly cut it all prior to cooking.

Once we were sufficiently stuffed, we left there and just kinda wandered around. Checked out a store that would be a possible equivalent to cash-n-carry. It has cases of liquor, tea, foods, etc. Picked up a couple interesting items to send home to friends!:

Appears to be a couple different kinds of fried squid. Hard pass for me…

Wandered around the town a little.

In the distance of this picture you can see the Yokohama Bay Bridge.

Wikipedia: The Yokohama Bay Bridge is an 860 metres (2,820 ft) cable stayed bridge in Yokohama, Japan. Opened September 27, 1989, it crosses Tokyo Bay with a span of 460 metres (1,510 feet). The toll is ¥600. The bridge is part of the Bayshore Route of the Shuto Expressway.

The rest are just pictures around the area we walked.

We then wandered into the Nissan museum. It is free to the public and had a nice area that looked to be a craft thing for kids. Some interactive driving games, and a vertical reality one as well.

Wikipedia: The Nissan Engine Museum is an automobile engine museum run by Nissan Motor Company. The museum is located at the first floor of the guest hall in Yokohama auto plant, Kanagawa-ku, Yokohama, Japan. The building of the museum was built in 1933. As the first auto plant of Nissan Motors in Yokohama, the building has also been worked as the headquarters of the company until 1968, when the headquarters was moved to Ginza, Tokyo. The building was accredited as a historical building by the government of Yokohama city in November 2002, and the Nissan Engine Museum was opened officially at the first floor of the building, which had been used as a guest hall, in April 2003. The museum exhibits the latest model car and a memorial car of Nissan brand, 28 Nissan’s auto engines, history of Yokohama auto plant and equipment for environmental techniques.

I will say, they had one of the nicest public restrooms I’ve ever been in! The doors are floor the ceiling, no ugly noises or olfactory offenses getting through! 😳 The toilets are typical awesome Japanese toilets, with flushing noises & options for butt showers! The little niche in the wall was the hand dryer.

We then just walked around looking in shops at nothing in particular.

At this point I was getting pretty tired of walking. We headed to a place Glen likes, and English pub with good beer and fried spaghetti that is really good. We had it last time I was here. Glen was bummed, it wasn’t open yet. Stores and restaurants here don’t open early like at home and it’s still New Year celebration going on so places are closed. So we decided to just hit the TGI Friday’s that we’d passed. We both had a drink and a little relaxation before heading back to the train.

Once back in the train station, which are like small cities, we found

some interesting food items, which in reality nothing should surprise me anymore but still… dried baby crabs! and tiny fish! entire dried bodies! 🤮

This picture is just because I think the name of this clothing store is funny, because sometimes my sense of humor is that of a 10 year old boy…

Glen had a surprise in store for me; Real Italian Gelato! We ordered chocolate, and Nuts chocolate. We both enjoyed both flavors but agreed the one with the almonds was the better of the two.

The day was long and on the train ride home we had to stand most of the way so no chance to snooze. Was glad to finally get on the bus and then the little walk to the house. In all it was almost 6 miles and 14,000 steps! We are definitely getting our steps in!

Something I’ve noticed and decided to take pictures of is the manhole covers everywhere. They are all some pretty picture with the town name. This is one from Yokohama, with the above mentioned Bay Bridge.

Because once I noticed this in our neighborhood I wanted to know more, I of course asked google.

Here is what I found! Japanese manhole covers come in a variety of designs depending on locality, utility type and the manufacturer of the manhole cover. They often include a symbol specific to an area or town as part of their design. In addition people, festivals or flora and fauna can all be incorporated into these underfoot works of art. Trees are the most common design, followed by landscapes and flowers.

If you’re interested in reading more about this phenomenon, here’s the site where I found my information:


I wish more areas world wide would do something like this. I feel like it promotes pride of ownership of a community. And it just plain looks nice!