Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday, Schmoliday

Tomorrow is Allan's birthday. He'll be as old as me. It's his little joke. My birthday is in March and he has until December 28th to be younger than me. Then he mopes around being crotchety, because he's my age.
His scuba diving trip to Hayama last Saturday was a bust. He enjoyed going, but of the five who went, only two got wet. And that was short lived. The water was choppy and the visibility non-existent. Since he pulled a calf muscle playing paintball a few weeks ago, it's probably just as well he didn't try to swim in heavy currents.
... and I have been published. Well, here in blogworld, I publish myself, but I also have a photo in the Fleet and Family Services newsletter (circulation slightly less than the Miami Herald). A few of the ships in the harbor are decorated, and I photographed the USS Blue Ridge in it's holiday attire.
The Blue Ridge is the flagship of the 7th Fleet, which means that the head guy (that would be Admiral Somebody) is on the ship. Odd that he's not on the George Washington, as it's a nuclear p0wered aircraft carrier, which sounds to me like the 'Top Gun'. Oh, well, that's one more military thing I just don't get.
Like George Carlin, it's my nature to think "Why do we park on the driveway and drive on the parkway?"
I'm sure I've mentioned that the food here is fabulous dahlings. This fellow is the 'Sake Master' at a Yakatori (grilled meat) place in Yokohama. We had dinner with our friends Chris and Jumi on Monday. Just like the states, restaurants come with categories; ramen, sushi, okonomi yaki, shabu shabu, you get the picture. Chris and Allan sampled some premium sakes while we waited for Jumi, who got stuck at work. I'm sorry I didn't get a photo of the silk covered box the Sake Master brought out. He took out a white glass bottle of sake. It was like presenting a gift to the Empress.
The sake was served at room temperature in that wine glass at the bottom. And those green things on the plate next to it are grilled peppers, very mild.
On Christmas eve, it was party time at Commander Paul Brochu's house. Paul and Sheryl arrived here just days before we did, and Allan is enjoying working with him. They have a nine year old, Bailey, who's a very adverturous eater. That's an attribute for living in Japan.
Allan found a pretty girl from Ft. Lauderdale to talk to at the party. Zayra is an Occupational Health Nurse, so her office is in the same building as Allan. She was also on the ski trip we took on the 26th.
CFAY (Command Fleet Activity Yokosuka) is a unit that organizes activities for off-duty times. It's a very large part of the base and there's no end to what they have available. There's an outdoor recreation center, and these guys do it ALL, fishing, surfing, white water rafting, mountain climbing. You remember that Allan went surfing. The same guy who gave him his surfing lesson gave him his skiing lesson.
I started with the lesson, but I was holding them back (falling is soooo time consuming, and it was a 2 hour lesson). The snow wasn't as dry as Wyoming, but there were some good runs. I'd heard that the Japanese were aggressive skiers, but I didn't find that the case. There were alot of snowboarders and they are generally dangerous on any mountain.

Here's Allan inside a gondola. This is a great way to get to the top. In Japan, our tickets are 1000 yen cheaper, because we fit into the senior category. I don't know if I really want to admit that, but what the hell, I'm glad we're still able to ski!
This next little item is my lift ticket. I stuck it in my side pocket, so I had to twist sometimes to get through the gate, but Allan had a little pocket on his left sleeve, which must have been specifically for an E-ticket because it was perfectly placed for the scanner. Some of the boarders and skiers attached bands around their left sleeve for the ticket. At the end of the day, we I got 2000 yen back for returning the tickets.
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Allan snatched this hat from the Massaglia ski lodge in Wyoming. It's former owner, Andrew Massaglia, wouldn't be caught dead in it now, but I'm told when he was 8, it made him easy to find on the slopes. Now it works for my 8 year old.

QUICK LESSON - If you need to use the toilet, don't ask for the ladies' room, bathroom or the restroom. A ladies' room would be a place where men aren't allowed, a bathroom is where you bathe and if you ask for a restroom, an Asian will probably think you want to sleep. So take my advice and just ask for the toilet. This is an English word most people understand.
Here's a sign explaining how to use a western toilet. Don't face the wall and straddle it or stand up on the seat. You might need the instructions for an eastern toilet when you come, but we'll save that for another lesson.

Allan and I send our best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year. Be safe and we hope to see you in March.

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Tis The Season

Christmas is alive and well in Japan, albeit slightly different. It's for children and sweethearts. Families have a big New Year celebration. But Yokosuka looks like any city dressed for the season, and the lines outside the local mall Saturday morning would've rivaled Space Mountain.
On December 5th, we went to Tokyo with the Russells for the hospital holiday party. The Russells caught the train at their local station and we met up with it in Kanazawa Bunko. That plan was put together by Allan and Gene and it worked like a charm. When the doors opened, we heard Gene calling us and we hurried to their car. The best thing was accessing the hotel through the underground passage as it was cold and rainy.
We dropped the luggage with the Bell Captain, and Allan took us to his favorite restaurant in Tokyo. I gotta admit, I do like the shrimp balls, and most everything else. Allan and Gene enjoyed beer and sake. There's no rule about mixing drinks here, you start with beer and then moving on to sake (it's not pronounced saw-kee, it's sah-keh). The restaurant is Gonpachi in the Roppongi district. I took this shot. I'd say Allan, Raeni and Gene are enjoying Gonpachi.

We took our time with lunch and a little browsing in the subway shoppes. Back at our hotel, guests were gathering for a wedding which we watched from the sidelines. It was a western style affair. Because of the weather, we caught a cab to the party, which was at the New Sanno, the American military hotel. I neglected to put my ID card inside my evening bag, which was a bit of an issue. There was dinner and dancing, and I was glad we decided not to take the 2-hour bus ride from the base to the party and back.
After sleeping in and grabbing lunch in the subway, we got the train home. Even in the subway you can get a good lunch. But then we love the food here.

The following Friday was the first night of Hanukkah (Dec. 11), and we lit candles with our Friday night group at the chapel on base. We didn't have dinner with them. We had steak and pototoes at the VFW. Yes, there is an American VFW in Yokosuka, and we met several retired and former Navy enlisted that night. This gathering was Allan's dive group, called the Bubble Club. A few of the crazier ones (yes Allan) are diving this Sunday, probably in 50 degree weather.

On Saturday, we went to Atsugi Naval Base for services and a Hanukkah party with folks from other bases in the area. Atsugi is where the aircraft from the USS George Washington 'park' (above) when the ship is in port in Yokosuka. The GW is a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, and not everyone is happy about having it docked at a Japanese port. Maintaining relations with Japan is a high priority for the command here, and they seem to have worked something out regarding the ship.

The chapel at Atsugi might have been built before it was a base. Someone put a very non-ornate cross on top of a shrine or a dojo (temple of martial arts), but the inside is very 'church' looking, and there were wreaths on the doors. We used a very plain room for our little shindig and had lunch and a rowsing dreidl game.

This week and next week, I teach English at the Turtle School. I was reading a book about feudal Japan during the train ride to Kawasaki. The lead character is on her way to Kyoto, but she had gotten as far as Kawasaki. I got so engrossed, I almost missed my stop.

I taught 4th - 11th graders in seven different classes. I don't want to go to Kawasaki too much more. I hope to get some students here. I teach a Monday group on base which is military wives. They are Chinese, Thai, Ethopian and Japanese women.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sites, Sounds and Smells

I have a very intellectual blog following, a high powered attorney and two calculus geniuses. And you!
Well, let's start with sites, then we'll talk about sounds and smells.
Remember we arrived in Japan on Rosh Hashanah, so we went to services. We haven't missed a Friday night since (we have dinner out at a different restaurant every week). Our lay leader went to the states for Thanksgiving, so Allan and I hosted services and dinner on Nov. 27. As always, one person is behind the camera (that would be Mark). Seated are Hiromi, Allan, Liz and Shayna.
Here's a sight I never saw in the states, Allan is changing the oil and filter on our car. There is an auto hobby shop on the base, so anyone can work on his/her own car. It cost $3 for Allan to work this day.

Did I tell you about the trash? We take it out every day. Kitchen trash and paper on Monday, cans and bottles on Tuesday, soft plastic and recycling on Wednesday, and so on... The cardboard boxes, newspapers and magazines that make up the recyclables are tied with plastic cord.

I drive Allan to the base most mornings. This sign tells us which lane to get into to pass by the guard gate.
This is a grocery store item. We eat alot of raw fish around here. This package has tuna, salmon, whitefish, eel, salmon roe and sweet omelet (really) over rice. Yes, I stopped these guys and asked if I could take their photo. So call me a tourist.
This is where worshippers put incense. Kinda like lighting a candle for Catholics. At shrines, people drop money in a large container and pull on long cords to ring overhead bells.These little guys are at a shrine in Kamakura. I'm not sure if they're symbolic of something or not, they're just cute.Here's the dollar store, although with the current exchange rate, it's more like the $1.25 store.
If you're looking for Nirvana, it's in Japan. It's an Indian restaurant on Blue Street.
Public transportation is efficient and well run. The passes are interchangeable for buses, JR (Japan Rail), and several private rail lines. I will be taking the train to teach English in Kawasaki.
And here we are, sitting on mats on the floor in a ramen restaurant.

So there are a few sights. To enjoy sounds and smells, just get yourself a ticket and join us for some Asian experiences. See you soon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's Different Here

We've been in the house two weeks and it's almost perfect. We still miss Joey and Sammy. I skype Joey once in a while. But Sammy's doesn't want to talk to me. I hope he'll come around.
On Sunday, we went to Nikko with Jorey. Nikko is a religious center 125 km NW of Tokyo. That being the case, it is full of Temples and Shrines.
After lunch and a walk through town, we passed this 400 year old wooden, red lacquered bridge & arrived at the entrance to the Temple/Shrine area.


I took photos of the pagoda and shrines, but you've seen plenty of those.

This handsome guy is at the entrance. He looks like he could be a guard, but since he's a fountain, I'm guessing he's here to greet tired travelers making the pilgrimage to Nikko. This is purely conjecture on my part. What do you think?>


These are the wise monkeys who 'hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil'. Who knew the origin of these guys was Eastern religion? Not me.

As it got later, the temperature dropped. By the time we left the Shrines, even Jorey, who's from Boston, was shivering.

On our way back through town, we stopped in this shop where I watched the artist paint a dragon. He would put a message like 'Harmony in the Marriage' or 'Prosperity in Business' in Kanji characters. Jorey came away with 'Supreme Bliss'.>>

It was a long day - 7AM to 10PM. The day before, Allan had left at dawn to play golf. He got lost on his way back and got home after dark, so he had a really busy weekend.

He's been surfing, golfing, touring with Jorey, and this Saturday is paintball with Gene, his office mate and newest best friend. Gene has six boys, four teenagers. They should keep Allan entertained quite well.

It's different here and some things still seem a bit odd. We ride the train alot. There is no talking on cell phones, but texting is okay, so that's how teenagers spend their travel time. Napping, is almost encouraged. The hum of the train is like a lullabye and there is always someone nodding off.

It's rumored in the US that menopausal Asian women don't have hot flashes, because they eat so much soy. Possibly. But there seems to be alot of osteoporosis here, and that is certainly the lack of dairy in the diet.

These bikes are in a mall parking lot right on a major thoroughfare, and about 95% of them are not locked.

There's no plea bargaining here. Break the law - go to jail. People follow rules, they use their seatbelts, stay within the speed limit, stop at crosswalks, and are courteous in traffic.

The Japanese seem to take more pride in their work. Employees at Dunkin' Donut or McDonald's wear clean uniforms. You'll don't see stains, wrinkles, or paper hats. They keep their workspace clean and are attentive to the customers. Wish you were here?

As for driving, you know the wheel is on the passenger side, and when you reach for the blinker, you’ll find the wiper control. I have the cleanest windshield on the base. The geography here is very hilly so driving through tunnels is normal. You should turn on your lights if there aren’t lights in the tunnel. If someone honks, they are letting you into traffic (not giving the aural finger). Flashing your lights or emergency flashers three times is saying ‘thanks’. And if you are stopped behind someone at night, or if people are crossing in front of you, turn off your lights so they don’t get a glare in their face. Lastly, back into parking spaces, because everything is reverse here.

In restaurants, you’ll get a hot towel when you sit, and chopsticks of course.

We turn on hot water in the morning to shower, then off 'til time to do dishes. It takes about 30 seconds for the water to heat. Laundry is strictly cold water. We turn on the faucet by pushing the lever down. Yours turns on when you lift up, go check, I’ll wait.

Then there’s Japlish. Asians love anything western and use English words in strange ways. Phrases like ‘hair make peace’ and 'stable slow you'. Don’t start feeling smug. Our friend Mark says most kanji tattoos found on Americans are equally ridiculous.

Here's the 'Big Buddha' (44' tall) who lives in Kamakura. He's pretty famous in these parts.

The base is US soil, but you can still get a 50 lb. bag of rice, as alot of the wives are not American by birth. Gas is 1/2 price on base, and the seven exchange shops carry almost anything you want, furniture, gardening supplies, Asian gifts and in the main exchange Coach & Dooney bags. My resistance is weakening. I’m a mad pocketbook buyer, just ask my niece Rachel, who’s gotten a pocketbook from me for every occasion since her Bat Mitzvah.

It's time for me to start hustling for some students. I plan to teach English at my home, and I know that there are plenty of kids in this neighborhood. They pass my house on the way to school in the morning. Once I get my first students, everyone assures me I'll have all I can handle. I'm waiting for that.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Moving Day... er Week

It's Friday - As of Monday, we are renters. We love the house, the neighborhood and the country. It's an amazing place and we are thrilled to be here. We aren't fully settled yet, and I'm not even seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but it's okay. We have plenty of time.
We got up at 6:00 this morning. You know that I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON, but we only have one car and I had an appointment today. I'm taking a 3 day weekend, I've earned it. Here's the story...
Monday - We signed the contract so we needed yen, lots of it, in cash, enough for the rent, deposit, owner's fee (!?), agent's fee, 5% tax on the agents fee and renter's insurance and extra for some things we need for the house. We will pay our rent in cash. The Base Housing Office arranged for appliances, had gas and electricity turned on, supplied the paperwork for registering our car, and gave us information on how to sort our trash.

The view from the living room to the kitchen. You recognize our furniture.

We registered our car when we bought it, but must register it for this house. They actually send someone out to measure your car and your parking space. We have 3 spaces (I'm bragging).

I read the rental agreement, which says that we can't put very heavy furniture in (i.e. waterbeds), or put nails in the walls to hang art work or wear shoes in the house. I doubt we'll get any of the deposit back. This place would go for about 30% less to a Japanese renter, but a government inspector (US) approves the fees, so whatta ya gonna do? We actually got the owner down $300 on the rent.

Then it was cable, internet, and phone at the house. The appoint ment was set up for 3:30 and we made it with nano seconds to spare. Our agent put Allan's name on our signpost in Katakana. She came out to label all of the AC and gas heater controls, but missed the oven, so I won't be baking anytime soon. Just as well, the temperature is Celsius. F=5/9C-32? or it it 9/5F+32? I'll check the internet.

This handy item is a security camera. I can see you but you can't see me.
When we finished, it was back to base to meet up with our friend Gene who brought rugs and a TV to the house. Gene and Raeni Russell have seven children, so they have the largest personal vehicle on the base.
Allan piled suitcases in the car and went back to drop them off. Our furniture comes tomorrow, and we'll be out of the lodge after 53 days.
Tuesday - I met a neighbor, who was out directing traffic for kids on their way to school. He introduced himself (in English) as Rico and I said 'yoroshuka onegai shamas' (nice to meet you). Are you amazed?

The movers got our stuff inside in record time. Six guys unloaded, hauled stuff in and offered to unpack. At first I declined, because I didn't know where to put everything. Then they talked me into letting them do it. What could I say? When they left, there were piles everywhere.
The cable and internet installers arrived early, as did the delivery of my washer, dryer and fridge (which was a disappointingly small). Allan went over to the property office to ask for a better one, and got it (rank has it's privilege).
Wednesday - Allan's off for Veteran's Day. We did our best to hack through the piles of clothes, dishes, pictures all that stuff you don't think about having until you see it in a pile. We spent a few hours out shopping for things we needed and when we got home it was trouble in paradise. The culprit is trash disposal. Example: I emptied a salad dressing bottle and had to cut off the plastic seal that attaches the lid, then soak off the label, throw the lid and seal in one bin, label in another and glass in yet another. Allan spent about 2 hours setting up our four cans and deciphering the instruction book of how to separate, what kind of bag is acceptable, and what day each of the 5 types is collected. If it's not right, they leave it with a note telling you how you screwed up and better luck next time.

We got the TV at the exchange, and bought a stand for it in town, but Allan hasn't had time to put it together yet. Did I mention he's going surfing at 5 AM tomorrow? Yes, he does stay busy.

I had a small bowl with dishsoap and a few drops of bleach in the sink. Allan's camera was sitting on the kitchen passthrough counter. We have an enormous sink, and the camera fell into that little bowl. Thankfully, the Schreiber boys gave us a camera as a going away gift. It'll come in handy now.

I mowed through some of the mess before we had our first visitors, who brought a bottle of plum wine (my favorite). We hadn't bought food yet, but our candy dishes were filled. With no dinner in the house, we went out for okonomi yaki. I don't know why, but we like these 'cook it yourself ' dishes. Novelty perhaps.

Thursday - Allan took the car. It didn't matter - I wasn't goin' nowhere! I had appointments for phone installation and refrigerator exchange. This one is so much better. It's Japanese, as is the washer & dryer. I don't know why they bother with dryers, it took 2 hours to dry my first load. I'll be drying one load of laundry each day.

This was cleanup day and I did for about 10 hours. Allan had a bowling tournament after work and arrived home at around 8:30 to find me sprawled on a chair gasping for air. My back and arm were throbbing, which meant I didn't sleep well. That brings us to getting up at 6 AM today.

We were out all day, and we decided to try a neighborhood restaurant called 'Table 9'. Sounds like it should have an English menu, right? Nope. But we took our chances and were not disappointed. We each chose something from the pasta list. Mine was chicken (very little) & cream sauce (which was just cream). It had a dry green topping which I thought might be basil, but this is Japan - it was seaweed, pretty good too.

Tomorrow while Allan is surfing, I might use the time to experiment with the buses. I'm good with the train, so if I get the right bus to the train station, I can get anywhere.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Our First Family Visit

On Saturday we went to Tokyo to spend the day with Allan's cousin, Jorey Ramer. We left early and had a 45 minute train ride. The trains are clean and comfortable, but crowded. The first part of the ride, I stood holding that plastic ring that hangs from the ceiling.
While on the train, I imagined how many more cars would be on the road if so many people didn't choose the train. Aarrrgghh! What a nightmare. Did I mention that the population of Japan is 1/2 that of the US, and the country is size of California? Yeah, it's a bit crowded.
Anyway, Jorey's been in Tokyo on business four times over the last few months, so he knows the city better than we do. He planned an itinerary and led our expedition.
Tokyo is a fabulous clean city with great architecture, restaurants, shopping and some pretty bizarre sites. Just look at this guy (girl?).
Did you see Inglorious Bastards? Well, while we were walking on a great shopping street, Jorey and I both stopped, SURE we had seen the girl who played Shoshona. Allan wasn't convinced. She stopped for a minute and then went into a store, so we got a good look at her. But none of us was willing to go ask, so we just discussed it for a while.

Earlier we saw a 1000 year old shrine. Prior to entering the area where the shrine sits, we came across these empty saki casks. I saw these at the Kamakura shrine also. They look small here, but each one holds probably 40 gallons. Somebody had a heck of a revival!

Around the shrine, there were quite a few ladies and little girls dressed in kimono, probably to attend a wedding.

It was November 7 (11/7), which must be a lucky day, because we saw 4 wedding processions, and actually witnessed part of a wedding ceremony.
The procession is very slow and people visiting the shrine all take photos, but the participants keep there eyes ahead and it's all very solemn, except for clicking cameras.
The groom's family is directly behind the couple and the guy with the umbrella, then the brides family. I figured this out because one of the grooms was caucasian, so it wasn't hard to figure out which set of parents was his. This makes alot of sense. The man is always the more important in this society.

We lunched at a sushi-go-round, where you sit at a bar and pick your food off a conveyor belt. There was edamame, fruit, soup and great variety of sushi. This was the best sushi-go-round we've been to so far.

We stopped at an antique store and a toy store (Jorey made a purchase), then headed to the Roppongi District where the nightlife happens. Jorey had been to Gonpachi, a restaurant whose claim to fame was that part of 'Kill Bill 2' had been filmed there. The food was really good, and I guess that's why Quentin Tarrantino likes the place.

We met the Japanese/Cuban Maitre d', and Allan questioned him about the 'Kill Bill' connection. He said that Quentin does indeed frequent the place when in Tokyo and that he would be in with Brad Pitt on Monday. That they were in town to promote a movie. BINGO! Quentin, Brad and Shoshona! It was our little Nazi killer.
The three of us shared a sampling of the food & tried saki and plum wine. May I say that a good time was had by all. From the restuarant, we tried to find the train station with a big shopping area. I think Jorey did that for me, and I appreciated it. I'm enjoying shopping here. It's not like walking into Macy's and seeing the same stuff you saw in Bloomingdale's. It's more like going into a gallery and seeing different things from the last gallery. And sales people are great. They chatter away in Japanese and wrap packages like every day is your birthday.

We weren't sure when the trains stop running, so we headed back to Yokosuka around nine. I know Allan is looking forward to Jorey's next visit.
We returned home happy and excited to go back and see more of Tokyo. If you plan to visit, expect to see Tokyo. We will be taking you there.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

House Hunting in Yokosuka

!!!GREAT NEWS!!! There is a new dentist in Stuart and he's renting our house. As of Nov. 1, we have tenants. It'll be great if they stay for three years. Keep your fingers crossed. And...

we found a house here. We sign a contract through the base housing office on Nov. 9 and our furniture is delivered on Nov. 10. This is it...

We’ve adjusted to life on base. You can’t forget that it’s a Naval Base, there are uniforms all around and buildings have names like NavSup (Navy Supply) and Comfleat (!?!?).

In the theatres (admission is $3), before the previews, we stand for the National Anthem. But it is Japan and there are vending machines that take yen. I carry 2 wallets, yen and dollars.

Allan's glad to have a cellphone on his belt and keys in his pocket. We got the phones without paying anything, or giving them a credit card. I’ve been instructed to come in before the 15th of the month and pay the bill. Strange but true.

We also bought a Nissan Cube, a cute little box that’s roomier on the inside than it looks on the outside. Our tag number is Y 866. The Y indicates that we are Americans.
It's day 47 in the Navy Lodge, but Allan's holding up fairly well. He's in a room with a beautiful woman, two beds and ESPN. How bad could it be?

So we've been house hunting. We do not want to live on base. I can be surrounded by Americans in Florida. I’m in Japan and I want the full experience - maybe not full full. I do like my conveniences.

My requirements are simple, rooms that will fit my furniture, no tatami mats (we’ll cover that), an oven, closets and a parking space. Simple, right? Oh, nay, nay.
Let me describe a Japanese house:
The kitchen – two-burner stove, no oven, fish grill (teeny broiler used ONLY for fish), smallish but adequate refrigerator, no pantry, very little storage, even less counter space. Oddly the sink is big enough to bathe a terrier.
The tatami room - the photo below shows a 1 meter x 2 meter tatami mat, and the room is measured by the number of mats. They're made out of grass so your house smells like you just mowed the living room. And I imagine they damage easily, so you pay for new ones when you vacate the house. As I said, no tatami rooms.
Bathroom – This room has a tub and the portion of the room outside the tub is the shower. No soap in the tub, because the water recirculates through a heater to keep it hot. Western style houses might have a non-circulating tub, so I can take a bubble bath.
Toilet – This room has only a toilet, or a toilet/bidet. With the latter, you relieve yourself, then get a little spritz on your privates. That's what I call hygiene!
Home toilets are sometimes equipped with hand washing facilities, like the photo, but since the water runs into the tank, what about soap?

When you're walking through town, you may be offered a small pack of tissue with some advertisement attached. Take it. Most public toilets have a sink, but no toilet paper, soap or paper towels.

Storage - I don’t know where clothes are stored, but few older (15 years) houses have closets with racks. There is plenty of space to store your futon when you are not sleeping on it. There are few garages, so where do you store your tools, golf clubs, fishing tackle, scuba gear, and bicycle? We'll need to figure that out.

There’s a machine here that washes AND dries clothes. A young Japanese woman, whose husband is from Missa-sippi (I wrote that with a suthern accent), says they don’t really work well and I believe her. I’m going for the loaner from the Navy. Yes indeed, the Navy will give you a refrigerator, stove, microwave, washer and dryer if you live in Japanese housing. That's your tax dollars at work.

After about 15 houses, we found a new house with a roof deck that has a view of Tokyo Bay. We loved the place... except there were NO closets in any of the bedrooms and almost no cabinets in the kitchen. The owner intends to buy some storage from IKEA (yep, it's in Japan) and we had hoped to make it work, but we saw this other house (no view) with lots of closets, a good kitchen and parking (which isn't automatic). We hated giving up the deck, but we're going with this one.

The address is Shonan Takatori 3-3-1 Yokosuka. That will not help you find it. Like the U2 song, this is a place where the streets have no names. No kidding. Only the highways have numbers. To find a house, you will be given directions based on landscape and landmarks... (go through 4 tunnels and turn right at the public phone booth).

Don't worry, if you come to visit, we'll pick you up and bring you to the house.

QUICK LESSON – Kobe beef, you’ve heard about it, that deliciously marbled beef that you cut with a fork. But did you know... the cows are raised in a very clean barn, and they eat the highest grade of oats or grain. Then they get pampered with massages and classical soothing music, so that they are always calm and serene. Whooee!! Yeah, it’s all fun and games until someone gets slaughtered and eaten.