Saturday, December 29, 2012

Akiyoshidai Caves

This weekend we finally got to explore the Akiyoshidai caves in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

My husband took this shot of me and the kids near the main entrance of the main cave, Akiyoshido. Yes, the cave is enormous! Very wide, and about 1 km from start to end. Trails are paved the entire way, most of which have railings to prevent falling into water below. The entire thing is lit, though still quite a bit darker than these photos would suggest. We used no flash or tripods for these photos, but exposures around a second long, mostly stabilizing on the railings. The cave actually gets quite crowded, so we were glad we did okay without the tripod. Here is a photo from the entrance followed by some more of our favorites...
Cave entrance
My husband with the kids
Looking out the cave entrance to exit
The creek that runs through the caves flows out into a beautiful forested area.

A short walk leads to a brick street with shops selling stones and carvings of all kinds...
Several small parking lots lie just past that, charging ¥100-400 per vehicle. (up to about $5) Nearby the area are rocky grasslands that go over the caves. There is also a zoo nearby lions, tigers and other animals. Definitely a place for all to go visit in Japan!

Happy Holidays!

December has been a busy month for us, so I apologize for the lack of blog activity.  When I say busy, it is probably not what most families would envision for this month.  My husband was working out of the country for 3 weeks along with many of my friends' husbands, so it meant a little extra effort with the kids, plus making some extra meals to deliver to families struggling to make it through the month (some with newborn babies).  I also volunteered to make cookies for the school kids to decorate, more for kids in a Japanese orphanage, and more cookies and food for our "Unit's" holiday party.  Besides the holiday party, we also got to participate in a base "Jinglebell jog" and see Santa...
Here are some photos from the Jinglebell jog...
Many Santas, several units and hundreds of dependents head towards the start

Luckily my husband returned before Christmas.  Though with uncertain return dates, no family within thousands of miles, and very little opportunity for communication while he was gone, we had a hard time figuring out holiday plans.  We did try to take some time off and "space-A" somewhere fun, but that didn't work out.  So, we're enjoying some local relaxation.

Of course for Christmas eve I got to make more cookies for Santa.  One of my cousins sent some wonderful sea-life cookie cutters, so here's what we left for Santa...

The next AM our son was thrilled to get his Legos and daughter her first bike they asked for from Santa.

Of course I also had fun putting up Christmas lights on the front and back of our house.  Here is what I did to the kids' fort...
So, though we are far away from family, we have tried to make the most of our holiday season.  For the kids, as long as there's a tree and lights and Santa doesn't forget them, they're pretty happy.  We feel so grateful we are able to provide them that, as we know many families in the world can not.  Every year we also donate to "Toys for Tots" a military program that brings toys to some of these children in need.

We hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and have an excellent New Year!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mikan (Orange) Season

Wherever you live, you have probably seen bags or boxes of little Japanese oranges for sale in your grocery stores.  Here they are called Mikans, or formally Unshu Mikan, but in other places Satsumas, Tangerines or Mandarins.  Cold weather ripens the fruit, so Mikan season starts soon after Halloween.  We have been enjoying eating them for nearly two months now.

There are plenty of places to go pick Mikans straight off the vine.  One area to do this is Oshima Island.  Here are some of the Mikan picking farms we found...

It is so fun getting the fruit fresh and ready to eat.  Something we will surely miss when we leave Japan.  Luckily we should still be able to buy boxes of them in the US (or wherever we might travel).

Friday, December 7, 2012

Earthquake Safe!

Today there was an earthquake of magnitude 7.3 in Northeast Japan.  This post is just to let my viewers know we were not affected in our area.  Our hearts go out to those who were affected!