Thursday, March 29, 2012

Beautiful Sunsets

What more could you expect from a country who's name, written in Kanji as 日本, means "sun origin."  The mountainous topography also makes for beautiful views...
I took this during a sunset bike-ride with the kids
Our daughter during a bike-ride stop
Both kids.  (Our son loved the ride, just not photos)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rainy Day Art...

So, we're always looking for fun projects to do, and we've had our fair share of rain keeping us from playing outside this late-winter/early-spring.  We'll share more projects later, but first: window art...
On our front door glass: Welcome in English and Japanese
Of course I had to let the kids pick their favorite designs for their windows...
Our son's space shuttle launch
Our daughter's "Tinkerbell"
Our sliding glass doors
 We did many other things like butterflies and dragonflies, but these are our favorites.  More rainy day art to come soon, and hopefully some fun adventures. ;)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Exquisite Confections...

One thing I never expected in Japan was delicious desserts!  They make all sorts of bakery items from bread, to nutty pastries and beautiful cakes...
A cake given to us by a wonderful neighbor for officially moving in
Our daughter trying to steal some light, fluffy frosting
 Of course with fresh berries, they do have more nutritional value than most American cakes, and notice the size; much smaller portions mean healthier people.  Most importantly, these things are not served on a regular basis, but mainly for special occasions.

Here is something else you'll see at many bakeries...
Strawberry filled pastry topped with whipped cream and berries
Japanese make delicious doughnuts that are much less greasy than ours...
Part of the selection at a Japanese doughnut shop
Our selection... some for now, some for later ;)
Strawberry goo filled and dipped doughnut
Sesame-seed covered chocolate doughnut
Many doughnuts a bit different than what we're used to.  Here is one filled with BEANS!  (I admit, we thought it would be chocolate or fruit inside.)  Of course this is healthier and more balanced with the added protein.
Bean filled doughnut
We have noticed that filling bread with beans is also quite common at grocery stores and gas station type stops.  The best part about all these treats is that a serving or even two won't leave you feeling sick to your stomach like many more calorically-dense desserts.

So, yes indeed, Japanese make wonderful and many beautiful desserts.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Yes, they still celebrate St. Patrick's Day many places in Japan, especially on the US bases.  And what is a military base without a St. Patty's Day run!  If you are a day behind in time, I highly recommend you get out to a St. Patty's run in the AM.  You'll feel great if you do.  Today I pushed the kids in the stroller on the base 5k run.  We entered the stroller division since "Daddy" had to work.  Though possibly more fun for the kids this way anyway...
The weather wasn't so great, so we brought boots to play in puddles after...
Our son having a wonderful time
Both kids enjoying their boots and puddles
So, go find a local run, and if its too late this year, mark it on your goals for next year. :)  Maybe you'll even get to pick out some cool "swag" like we did...

Finish tent

Friday, March 16, 2012


Japan has wonderful transportation, which makes it quite possible to live without a car. Here is how we started out this winter...

Stroller rides everywhere

Japan is well known for its wonderful train system.

There are many different types of trains for cargo to express passenger trains, with a complex network that goes nearly anywhere. We are lucky and can walk to a train station from our home. Many people bike to the train stations. They leave their bikes unlocked because theft is not a problem here. Something to think about when traveling with children, strollers are allowed on the trains at no cost, and children are free up to age 6 as long as they're not occupying a seat for an adult. However, it may be difficult to get to the train you need with a stroller. To get from track to track, you must go up a stairway that crosses to the correct track...

Stairway for crossing tracks

The commuter trains travel 30-200km/hr (30-125mph) average about 80 mph here, whereas the bullet-train, Shinkansen (or "Shin") travels up to 300 km/hr (186 mph). This makes travel easier, yet nearly as quick (no wait time) as traveling long distances by plane. Here is a link with more great information on the Japanese train system:

There is also a a good network of buses, plenty of taxi cabs, car rental companies, and ferries between ports. Many people also ride bicycles, particularly in the summertime. The one thing that hinders people from forgoing car purchases is the weather. (The current exchange rate isn't helping much either.) We finally decided on a car about a month and a half here, which I would have happily delayed longer if it weren't for RAIN. With children and grocery needs, almost everyone has at least one car. Luckily, on a military base, with quickly changing orders, vehicles sell cheap as move dates approach. Here's our "new" fun ride...

Mitsubishi RVR 2L Turbo

And yes, we'll surely still be walking and biking most places daily.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Japanese Cooking Classes?

Yes, I am officially taking my first cooking classes... EVER!  In Japan!  The first class we made "Iwakuni" Sushi (large square sushi pieces).
My "Iwakuni" sushi with shrimp and vegetables
We also made Marmalade spare-ribs, which tasted great and looked beautiful; but I'm sorry, I did not get a photo before they were eaten.

My second class was "Famous" Fried Chicken and Squash Salad.  Everything has been wonderful, as our teacher has been cooking all her life, and working for some famous Japanese restaurants.  Fortunately for me, she is currently teaching from home as she now has 3 children.  She only charges 500¥ to cover the cost of the ingredients, which comes out to less than about anything we could eat from a restaurant, but her food is much healthier.  Here are photos from class #2...
Completed squash salad with chicken awaiting coating and cooking
Squash salad

The Squash Salad here is my favorite.  Amazing!  We used a squash like the one in the photo above, combined with bacon, a little sugar, a pinch of salt, and just enough mayonaise to coat.  Finally we added chopped しそ (Shiso) leaves.  Delicious!
Completed "Famous" fried chicken (with ginger and garlic)

I'll surely post more photos, and maybe even some recipes as I take more classes, which are held twice a month.

Happy White Day!

Today is Japanese "White Day".  It is exactly one month after Valentine's Day as a chance for men to return a gift to women who have presented them with something special on Valentine's Day.  It is "White" day because it started as giving gifts such as white chocolate, or marshmallows (by food companies), and has spread to giving other gifts like white flowers and lingerie.  The "white" gifts are supposed to be about 3x the value of gifts given by women to men on Valentine's Day.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What's For Dinner?

Yes, I know that's what everyone really wants to know, and it has become clear that with all the new variety, this will take many posts to share.  If we wanted, we could go to the base Commissary and get almost all the food we would buy in the States... but where's the fun in that?  There is so much more variety off-base, much fresher fish, meat, and produce, and much of it is less expensive.  The majority of produce is all locally grown in fields like this...
As to be expected, there's lots of sushi, curry, kabob style meat on sticks, rice, and noodles.  We will get to all that eventually, but last night, we FINALLY walked out to 105 Sushi!  So fun!  You pick whatever you want as it goes by your table on the carousel...
Our son eating shrimp sushi and watching food spin around the carousel
Yummy fish wrapped around crab
Teriaki Shrimp
Fried sweet'n sour shrimp
Eating delicious Teriaki shrimp

Hello Kitty stuffed with rice,
 and shrimp sushi

Pineapple boats

Our son had so much fun!

Our daughter enjoyed it as well

Yogurt with Strawberries
My husband with all the trays of sushi he's eaten
Dessert: Creme Brule or some other yummy custard
105 Sushi!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Daiso LOVE!

Imagine going into a foreign store that has thousands of fun new things for a little over $1.  The Daiso is a Japanese 105¥ store, very similar to the American $1 store.  With today's exchange rate, it comes out to $1.30.  Still an excellent price for the wonderful items that would cost much more anywhere else.  Today I walked there with the kids in their stroller, and was so excited about what we got, I just had to share...
Bamboo table-mats, sushi trays, and bags of chopsticks all 105¥
Several fun types of paper available
The Bamboo mat hanging

Most fun: Food shape cutters

Apple shapes on a 105¥ cutting board
Our daughter gobbling them up
Many other kitchen items and snacks available
Wonderful selection of storage containers
They also have toys, bathroom and cleaning items, gardening supplies, and so much more!  The Daiso... Such a fun place to shop. :)