Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Heavens To Betsy-- Now What Do I Do?!?

Tanuki-chan... brought home on Papa's birthday (Monday)

So... I have a sick and/or injured Tanuki (Japanese Raccoon Dog) in my garage.

As you can see.

And anybody who's been following along on this blog knows exactly who brought it home.. (*cough*Koshi*cough*)

This time I swore the kids to secrecy--they were absolutely *not* to tell Papa, as I didn't think the poor man needed a heart attack for his fortieth birthday (yes-- Tanuki was brought home in the middle of cake and dinner preparations.  As ye sow, so shall ye reap.)

And I must leave off in a violent hurry, because I have to find a vet... or zookeeper... *quickly*... which is why I've got the computer on at this hour in the morning in the first place.  Thank goodness for Google.

Keep you posted :-))

Mata asobou, ne!  (Tell you more about Tanukis next post!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Kinmokusei...Osmanthus fragrans

There's a lovely Tang in the air.  I love the smell of this tree in the fall...

That's literally Tang -- the orange powdered breakfast drink, originally formulated for the Apollo astronauts, for those old enough to know about that;-)

Wiki has just tried to tell me that it is cultivated in Asia, Europe, and North America  "for its deliciously fragrant flowers which carry the scent of ripe peaches or apricots".  Rubbish-- those flowers smell nothing like peaches *or* apricots.  They smell exactly like Tang in powder form.  I know, because I noticed the smell before I knew where on earth it was coming from.  Walking down the road, suddenly assailed by childhood memories of yellow kitchen cabinets and brownish carpet and the little wooden table and the kitchen window and the bread drawer and the pantry, where the canister of Tang was kept...

"What smells like Tang?  There's no Tang in Japan, that I know of....??"  Oooh-- this tree smells like Tang!  Who knew!

Movers bow, and put protective covers on all the walls...
We are finally moved in.... wireless troubles and all that.  But I hope to be able to post rather more regularly from now (if I can get my computer to connect reliably.  Ahem.)

the Child who Falls Asleep Anywhere

No sooner do we buy a sofa, than somebody conks out on it... ;-)

The floors are nice and clean, though, because movers in Japan put drop cloths down everywhere and (of course) take off their shoes before they come inside.  Even if they are carrying your refrigerator...

I've traded four flights of stairs for steep hills in all directions...

Going anywhere is "whee!"

Coming home is "wuh..."

Nice view though...

See it?

The view out the dining room window...

Can you see it?


Mostly we can see the Mountain at sunset, when it's backlit...

This one came out nice-- ukiyoe sky and dark, feathery clouds behind Fuji...

On clear mornings we can see it-- after the rain last week, it emerged with a snow-covered cap.  The clouds came up from below that day...

Snow-capped Fuji under a soft duvet of clouds

*"Tadaima!" means "I'm home!" :-)

Next time I'll tell you all about the spider I caught in the garage.


Mata asobou, ne!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Gomen Nasai!!

Summer festival was loads of fun... at least, 'til the thunder started...
*So* sorry to be gone this long-- I had no idea we would have to move out of the company housing right after summer vacation.  That's where I've been-- a houseful of kids all summer, and then as soon as  I got them all back to school, I had a month to effect a move.  Found a place September third... and we move on Monday, October third.

Boy-- have I thrown out a bunch of stuff.  Had no idea that much unnecessary stuff was hunkered down in my kitchen.

I must, however, ask your patience for a few more days.  We're changing providers, so as of tomorrow I will be in the Inky Void Of OfflineLand... until sometime next week when we get a new router.

Goodness-- I have so much to tell you all... if I can remember everything.  We've had summer festivals...

Mr. Big Turtle... but Papa put his foot down, and we were Sad

...and quite an assortment of critters in the house...

Chuo Alps-- the Central Alps of Japan
...and we had a lovely vacation in the Central Alps.  In which I took far more pictures of flowers than of my kids, which YokohamaPapa thought very strange, but which I know my mother understands:-)

I have a zillion pictures--and you guys want to see all of them, right?

Teddy's Cardigan...awaiting zipper
I feel like I've gotten half a million things done (finally sorting out and putting old photos properly into photo albums, for one)... and nothing at all done.  A very annoying state to find oneself in, I must say.  I did, however, finish knitting Teddy's cardigan and am nearly done with Cici's.  And I knit myself a nice pair of hiking socks to climb those mountains in that photo up there-- does that count as getting stuff done?

Delectable Matsutake...
...alright.  I've put off cleaning out under the bathroom sink all day now.  Off I go.

I'll just leave you with a Spyshopper photo I took the other day--

the Matsutake are in the stores!  Note, please, that there are a whole two mushrooms, delicately arranged in that package.  Care to guess how much?

Itadakima---su!  Or.... maybe not.
I kid you not.

Since the dollar is so weak right now, a ten-dollar bill would not be enough for you to take those mushrooms home for dinner...

Sometimes I just walk through the store just shaking my head.

Ittekima--su!  Be back soon!  Promise!
Mata asobou, ne!

p.s.-- I forgot to put this picture in.  We are living amid mountains of boxes...

...two more days...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Out To Dinner... Whew (Mama's Tired Tonight!)

Kappa Maki!

Gomen nasai!!

Apologies for the sudden blog break-- but Dominic was right, last week was the last week of school (meaning that this week is the first week of summer vacation).

Last week was thus spent getting things done (well, *attempting* to get things done) that are hard to do with three or more kids in the house.  I was mildly successful...;-)  This week has been largely trying to adjust to what I realized today is a new schedule for me-- in Japan in the summer with elementary-age kids (we're usually at my parents:-((  Next time I'll tell you about all the homework...;-)

Kappa Zushi!  Kids' favorite:-)
Today, though, we went to dinner-- yay!  No cooking in the heat! (Actually, the heat isn't too bad so far this summer-- not much over 33, and nights are pretty cool)

The kids picked Kappa Zushi-- their favorite Kaitenzushi restaurant.  Every time we go, it is 1) crowded, and 2) my husband swears he's going to buy stock in the company because it's always jam-packed in there.  That little character in the photo (right) is a Kappa, the water sprite of Japanese folklore whose favorite thing to eat is cucumbers.  That's why those cucumber rolls up there in the top photo are called "Kappa Maki":-)

Ikura-- Cici's favorite these days
You wouldn't think young kids would care much for sushi-- and for the most part, you'd be right.  Makes it hard for parents to go out to a sushi restaurant, in fact.  And therein lies the genius behind the creators of the Kappazushi chain of kaiten sushi restaurants.  First-- it's the kaiten style, where all the sushi is prepared in the back and sent round the restaurant on a revolving belt.  You take plates off yourself as things come by you.  Kids love that-- trust me;-)

Second--they've figured out that, beyond the easy-to-eat eggs (tamagoyaki or tamagonigiri) and Kappamaki (top photo)... most young kids won't yet eat much of the nigirizushi involving sashimi (raw fish).  So they've made up "kid-friendly" nigirizushi...

Teddy's favorite:-)

...like Corn.  Teddy likes this one.  It's a sort of corn-salad on top of the rice and wrapped with nori.

...and Tempura Zushi.  This one is Ebitempura (shrimp) on top of the sushi rice.  Kids like this, too;-)

Hamburger Sushi??

...and Hamburger Sushi.  Yes, really--little hamburgers (with or without the blob of mayo on top) sitting on top of sushi rice, nigiri-style.

The first time we ate there and the Hamburger-Zushi came rolling down the belt, I thought there must surely be people who thought it bordered on the sacrilegious;-)  I haven't personally eaten this one, though all three of my kids like it...


This time the new plate that came around was "Sukiyaki-zushi" with sukiyaki-flavored beef and a little bit of raw egg on top.

I couldn't figure out how they got the egg shaped like that... or how they got it to stay on top...

Of course, you need to see this in action.  Hai, dozo!  I took some video while we were eating (the Sukiyaki-zushi comes by right at the start... the camera follows in disbelief...)  Toward the end of the video you'll see several other reasons kids love this restaurant come by on the belt:

Teddy wants Hamburgerzushi... withOUT mayo!
 If what you want doesn't come round on the belt, you can order what you want using the touchscreen menu... and this is the other brilliant thing the Kappa chain does.  A couple of years ago,  they installed a separate belt (a track, really) above the main belt to keep special orders separate from the generally circulating plates (customers accidentally pulling off somebody's special order was sometimes a problem).  Naturally, it's totally kawaii.  Watch this:

 Is that adorable, or what?  The first time we went after they'd installed the Special Order Train, we hardly got any food because the kids insisted on special ordering everything just to watch their food come to them on the Shinkansen (see how it's made to look like the Bullet Train?)...

...at a sushi restaurant?  Yup.

The train... the juice... the fruit... the dessert.  Yup--they send pudding and cake around the conveyor belt, too (and recently, tiramisu pudding and New York cheesecake, among other things).  The other bit the kids like:-)


(p.s.--  apologies again for the sudden break in posting... I just realized I left everybody hanging after a typhoon post.  Aack!  Typhoon was pfffft---veered off into the Pacific, as usual.  It did get quite cold for several days afterward, though-- cold enough to warrant the warm blankies again)

(p.p.s.-- posting will probably be light for August, due to summer break.  I'm required to be a good Japanese-Make-Your-Kids-Study-As-Much-As-Possible-During-Vacation-Mama for the next couple of weeks.  That's another post:-))

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Can't Sleep...

...listening to scary Typhoon Wind outside...

It's been raining/ pouring in bursts all day (no pool at school:-(( ... and we're supposed to be getting whacked sometime tonight or early tomorrow (Wednesday for me) morning.  It was quiet around dinnertime, then suddenly about an hour ago the wind kicked up.  So I've had to go 'round, shutting the windows, in spite of how stuffy it will likely get in here.  Can't have rain blowing in all over the blankies!  It's damp enough as it is.

Here's hoping I can sleep through howling wind... (having leapt out of bed at 5:00 this morning to rescue my laundry from the Doshaburi--downpour-- that came down as the leading edge of the system crept northward-- I am already sleeeeeeepyyyyy....)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just... YAY!!!!

When Japan plays America, well...  I have to sit on the fifty-yard line (you know what I mean) wearing stripes and polka dots ;-)  Who do I root for?  Both, of course, not being a rabid fan of anything but a good game.   And this was a seriously good game:

Especially this bit-- this save by Kaihori-san ought to go down in soccer history as one of the great all-time saves.
Look at that foot!

Gambatta, ne, Nihon!

p.s.-- it would be remiss not to mention the mad skills of American Abby Wambach-- anyone who thinks women's soccer isn't interesting after watching her play hasn't got eyes.  *Three* goals headed in during this World Cup Final, including against Japan.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Traveling: To Enoshima

Groups of Geisha Crossing the Spit of Land to Enoshima, Hiroshige, c. 1850
The boys had baseball all afternoon last Sunday, so it was just me and Papa at home... plus Cici, who decided she had a hankering to go the Aquarium at Enoshima.

Enoshima Island, off the Shonan Coast

So we hopped the train and went, since it's not too far from where we are (just change trains at Fujisawa and go three stops to the end of the line at Katase Enoshima, if you take the Odakyu Line instead of the Enoden).

Katase Enoshima Station

I love the Enoden (an adorable, tiny little train that goes squeeeeee right down the middle of the road and past people's windows... but more about that one another time;-), but I also love the train station at Katase Enoshima-- all green roof and upturned golden curlies on the corners.

...No trip would be complete, to be sure, without a couple of Harajuku girls for color (at least, their hair and shoes were colorful)...

The island is visible almost as soon as you walk out of the station--at low tide, it's connected to the mainland by a narrow spit of land (which is what Hiroshige painted in the print at top).  Naturally, there is a shrine on it-- the Toori of which you can see almost from the causeway before you set foot on the island proper.

On the causeway, looking toward Zushi
It was rather hot on Sunday (I wore strippy sandals, and my feet are now distinctly tiger-striped...o_O), and the bay was filled with colorful sailboats, jetskis, and the beaches were crowded.

No seagulls, though.  Weird, no?

鳶に、エサ を やらないで!

This is why there are no seagulls to be seen anywhere on the Shonan beaches or on Enoshima Island.

Tobi.  Black Kites.

Milvus migrans... I didn't think this shot would turn out!

This particular one was circling *very* low, just above one of the bridges.  The Kites have figured out what a good deal the seagulls had going, and have taken over the territory. 

They will swoop down and take food right out of your hand-- a friend of mine had her hand badly scratched by a Black Kite grabbing an onigiri she was eating from her hand.  The gulls have prudently moved up and down the coast, and ceded the area to the Tobi.  One is so accustomed to having gulls around at the beach, that it's slightly unnerving to have raptors circling overhead...

Still, it was a lovely day.

I love the view through the Toori gate, up the narrow street to the Benten Shrine.  If you squint, you can almost see that Hiroshige print right in front of you;-))

I love how the shrine is still surrounded, almost protectively, by trees.

There's another shrine in a cave around on the side of the island--probably the original shrine-- though the whole island is dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten (goddess of music and entertainment who is said to have caused Enoshima to rise from the ocean).

Mukashi, mukashi (once upon a time)...

...possibly around on this side (if you crop your photo right, the island still has that wild look in spite of the crowds).

Since it's right on the ocean, naturally the Fruits of the Sea are available in every market...

Freshly grilled Ika-on-a-stick (Cephalo-pops!)...

...and a variety of mussles to choose to have grilled on the spot or to bag up to take home.

Back on this side, the Enoshima (where Cici wanted to go) was completely refurbished several years ago and is now well worth looking into-- they have an enormous tank with a huge variety of fish that you can view from several levels...

me-me-kuchi (eye-eye-mouth)
...including a view nearly from "inside"a half-tunnel.  Very cool.  Cici and I both loved the rays-- the incredible grace with which they fly through the water... their funny face if you see one from below:-))

Rhina ancylostoma
We also loved the Bowmouth Guitarfish, whose Japanese name ends in "--zame", a reference to how similar they are to sharks.  They are, however, an unusual type of ray that gives the impression of being a creature halfway in-between a shark and a ray.

...and the Kurage (jellyfish).  Oh my, I could stand all day watching jellyfish dancing in the water...
I was a bad girl and didn't write down names of types of jellyfish...
And they had a whole corner dedicated to the research done by the Emperor.

Did you know that His Majesty Akihito (the Heisei Emperor) was also a Gentleman Scientist?  Neither did I! 

He's silver-haired now, but he still looks cute;-)
 Tenno-sama has actually done quite a lot of research and published several papers on the Gobiid fishes, which are endangered--in particular, the Mudskippers.  We watched the mudskippers skipping for quite a while--they are so funny to watch.  They are such obvious evidence for how fish like Tiktaalik came out to make a living on the land, using their pectoral fins as pseudo-legs.

Aren't they adorable?:-))  They are completely amphibious, breathe cutaneously (through the skin and the lining of the mouth and throat), and can flip themselves up to 2 feet into the air.  How cool is that?  His majesty has discovered and named several species that can be found around the Japanese islands.

You wanted to watch the Mudskippers... right?  Hai, dozo!

Mata asobou, ne!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

O-Yatsu Jikan: Dorayaki

Two days of laundry...

Sometimes I think Japanese housing is so arranged to keep women permanently chained to the home...

Of course, the weather is also partly to blame--  high humidity that encourages mold and a rainy season followed by a long, humid summer that is the perfect environment for Dani (bedbugs-- those bites itch).  So you don't just, you know, put off-season things in the closet (unless you particularly *want* all your off-season blankets and clothes to mold and be filled with dani).  The rainy season is officially over(梅雨があがった)...meaning we've had more than two sunny days in a row and I could wash and dry outside all the winter blankies (except the feather blankies--those just got well aired and put into plastic).  A two day job...

O-Yatsu Jikan-- Dorayaki!  (Snack Time-- Dorayaki... no translation for that;-)
Whew.  Chotto hot--to, ne.

Nearly three o'clock, so I get to sit down with a snack ("san ji o-yatsu" means, literally, "3 o'clock snack"... and pretty much everybody eats an afternoon snack at that time if they have one:-)

These are erasers;-))
A while back I posted about some cute erasers that came in a set-- the "Set of Japanese Snacks".   One of them (left) I pictured but left unexplained-- I thought I might as well wait 'til I was actually eating one myself before I tried to explain about it.

That is a Dorayaki-- a vaguely pancake-like snack that nearly everyone loves.

Totemo daisuki, Doraemon!

It's the snack that gave the popular anime character "Doraemon" his name-- he *loves* Dorayaki (as you can see in the picture at right, although he's actually blue and white), whence his name. 

A dorayaki is basically two pancake-like rounds (so.mewhat sweeter than a regular pancake) with sweet azuki-beanpaste in between like a sandwich.

Oishii, yo!  They taste particularly good with green tea (hot or iced, but usually hot)-- and somewhat odd, I think, with coffee or black tea.  I think it has to do with the astringency of green tea (it's "shibui", 渋い)  that matches the particular sweetness of azuki beans.

I do! I like them, Sam-I-Am!

Try one if you get the chance!