Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kamon Wharf

Outside the aquarium is an area filled with restaurants and souvenier stores. We found a street performer that was doing some amazing stunts with no crash pad below!

The Shimonoseki strait has some of the most turbulent currents in the world (according to the aquarium brochure). The area is known around Japan for its blowfish. So we just had to try it while we were down there.

Check out our feasts!

We had raw blowfish, fried blowfish, blowfish fritters, tempura blowfish, sauteed blowfish in a sesame salad, boiled blowfish in a soft-boiled egg. Blowfish in every possible way!

So yummy!
And we're still alive! Our chef must have sliced it just right...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Shimonoseki Aquarium

MCAS Iwakuni offers many different ways to enjoy the area culture and events. Our information and referral office will help you plan a trip, book your hotel or send your luggage ahead, or tell you what can't miss events are going on this weekend. Another major benefit are the group trips they take to places all over Japan and the Pacific theater. Sometimes during our exploring Dustin and I wish we had a translator or guide to explain some of the random things we encounter. So we decided to take our first group bus tour. This past weekend they were going to the Shimonoseki Aquarium.

From Google Maps
The bus trip took two and half hours, but it meant I didn't have to brave the Sanyo (freeway) in our little K-car. I'm pretty sure it won't survive anything over 45 kph. Dustin got some quality reading and I watched the passing scenery.

Shimonoseki Aquarium

"You can't make me look at you!"


"Seinfeld" -fish

Archerfish! - Shooting water at food in the hearts
Dolphin and Sea Lion Show
Our language comprehension is getting better. Dustin and I were able to understand most of the show. Couldn't read many of the plaques, but that's still a long way off!

Friday, February 24, 2012


Just a quick post to show something funny Dustin ran into during his layover in Tokyo. His hotel room was listed as follows:

Date:  2012/02/12
Check-in:  18:00
# of Nights:   1
Plan Type: Relax Stay (1 person(s))
Room Type: Standard single, one semi double bed

A what? Oh, oh, you mean a twin.

No, no twin here. Just a slightly larger mattress size than a twin, but not quite a full.

Okay, fine. A semi double bed.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


With all these cold days I have been craving soup. The Japanese do soup right. I haven't had a broth or cream based soup I didn't like. My favorite is corn soup, but I'll take a bowl of miso anyday.

On our recent Mr. Max trip I loaded up on some instant soups to take to work for lunches. My only problem is figuring out how to make it!

Best guess is to add 150 ml of water (milk?). The third line says to wait a minute. Hmm, I better ask someone first or this could be disastrous.

Family, be proud that I am attempting to cook. Or mix water (again, milk?) with powder. Baby steps. Baby. Steps.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Oshima Island

So the adventurers are back! ... with a long weekend to boot! The only sad part of our weekend adventuring was that Natalie forgot to put a memory chip in the camera! So what few pictures we could capture on the iPhone are not the best quality.

To start we decided to take a drive south along the water. Our final destination was a Mr. Max about thirty minutes away. I would compare Mr. Max to a Walmart. Cheap prices with pretty much everything. We wanted to grab some new snacks (can't get enough of Japanese chocolate), look for some small furniture pieces, and check out some neighboring cities along the coast.

It was a nice day albeit very chilly. We got caught in construction so what is usually a nice drive became a painful stop and go. After slogging some 30 minutes through one lane construction we made it to Oshima Island.

Now we had never been on this island, but a coworker got lost on it one time and said the view from the top the mountains was worth the winding road up. We crossed the bridge and found a small fishing village with tiny roads. I never had to back up to let anyone through, but we had to wait a couple times for people to come around blind corners. Definitely thankful for mirrors on trees and garages.

After winding our way though this tiny town we started climbing one of the mountains. Now if you don't remember our car, let me remind you that it's engine would be good in a golf cart. Lugging two adults up a steep mountain road was pushing 6500 rpms. I thought we were going to start rolling backwards.

At the top we were rewarded with an (eh-eh, not as phenomenal as she talked it up) view.

The biggest surprise was in this small park. CARPET SLEDDING!

Hope nothing here says 'Kids Only'
That's right! Astro-turf carpet sledding! Take a good-sized hill, add non-molding turf, and put out some sleds. Fantastic!

If you need some extra slick there is a water hose at the top to wet everything down before you slide away. It was so cold outside, but we couldn't stop. Something about sledding makes the long walk back to the top worth it.

After driving around the island we were both pretty hungry so we decided to continue to Mr. Max. Yanai is the next largest city near Iwakuni and is home to many bigger stores and better shopping. We found Mr. Max and wandered through ever aisle for almost two hours.

Dustin picked out chairs
Inside the store is a McDonalds (see, I told you it was like a Walmart). After all these months we have never eaten at a McDonalds so I gave in.

The only difference was the size of the patty was a little bigger than the bun - which was a nice surprise. Otherwise, fries and burger tasted just like back home. Satisfying ending to a fun day!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


So this post should have come out back on December 30th, but someone who shall remain nameless (ahem, Dustin) forgot to upload pictures onto the computer after being kindly (absolutely no nagging) reminded a few dozen times. Then this nameless Dustin, I mean person, went on a journey to Texas and I still didn't have pictures! But, alas, here we go.

At the end of the year a local national that works with Dustin invited us to dinner to meet his wife and two girls. This was our first dinner at someone's house and I was very nervous! After last minute lessons on manners and etiquette, we drove out in a new direction from base. Japanese houses are different, but honestly I wouldn't know how to put it in words. They just are set up...differently. We walked into the main living area/dining area/kitchen. It had a very nice open floor plan with super high ceilings (13 ft?).

Joe-san, my husband's coworker, was raised on base by a Japanese mother and military father. His English is perfect and he understands slang and idioms. His wife and two (beautiful!) girls however do not speak much English, if any. So you can understand my nervousness.

What is an appropriate hostess gift? Do we take something for the girls? Should I serve my plate and eat or do small servings of each dish? (Side note: Something I haven't really gone into in past posts is the way food is served. Sometimes it is appropriate to fill your plate "family -style" and other times you should take a small sample on a small plate from one dish and when done serve yourself again onto a new dish. I'm not confident on the rules, so I haven't posted much about it yet). But what should I do here? I really didn't want to offend anyone and my language skills are limited to greetings, a random assortment of vocabulary, and curse words (which my coworkers get a kick out of teaching me when I ask for help).

So back to dinner. We brought a bottle of wine and a chocolate assortment for the girls. We figured that was safe in both cultures. We took off our shoes and sat down to eat. The girls (ages 6 and 8) had already eaten and were full of energy. They weren't nervous around us at all and we found that gestures often got the point across. Often the oldest would just keep talking even though I have no idea what she was saying. Joe-san said she would do that even if I did understand.

Dinner was amazing. I'm sure his wife cooked more food thinking we would bring large American appetites. I was so stuffed and there was still plenty left over.

We had "sushi" rolls with no fish, just veggies wrapped in seaweed and rice. Shredded chicken on a bed of lettuce with julienne cucumbers and sesame dressing (my favorite). Fresh edaname. Salmon with lemon and onion. Mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil on skewers. A beef teriyaki with fresh bell peppers (it had quite a kick!). And finally a platter with hard cheese, salami, and thin crackers. It was SOOOOO good.

I kept my hands on the table (rude to put them in your lap) and made sure not to completely empty my glass when I was finished (an empty glass is a signal that you want more to your host). We talked of cultural differences, language, Box Tops on cereal (?), and food. As the conversation turned to shop talk, his wife started cleaning and I was whisked away to an upstairs playroom. The eldest daughter kept chatting away while the youngest wanted to play with my hair. I think the color must be interesting. We put together a puzzle and then built towers with blocks. I was able to practice my counting and learned how to pronounce colors.

The evening drew into a late night and we finally said our goodbyes to make the drive home. The food and company were excellent. The night became one of my favorite adventures on this far-away island.

Thank you, Joe-san, for making me feel like home in this new place.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Ah, the Love Day is upon us!
Dustin and I didn't have any specific plans to celebrate. I had to work, he was still getting over the jet lag.

In Japan, Valentine's Day has a similar meaning to relationships. Custom dictates that only women give chocolates to men. Gifts such as greeting cards, candies, flowers, or dinner are uncommon. If a woman is brave enough she will give chocolate to a man she likes on Valentine's Day and hope that he reciprocates on White Day. (More on that in a minute.)

Many women feel obliged to give chocolates to all male co-workers, but in some environments is inappropriate. Giri-choko is obligation chocolate and is what most co-workers will give. This doesn't have the same romantic meaning. I asked at work if you could tell the difference when buying chocolate and didn't get a clear response. To me, the cardboard hearts filled with chocolate all look the same.

Friends, especially girls, may exchange chocolate referred to as tomo-choko or friend chocolate.

So now on to White Day. March 14 is the time when men will reciprocate if they feel the same. Custom dictates that their gift must be three times in value of the original chocolate. This usually means jewelry.

Does this mean if I buy Dustin a small television he has to get me a car?!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Welcome Return

So you may have noticed I've been less than adventurous lately. Yes, yes I still leave the base, but I tend to stay in my comfort zone and visit places I've been before. This is because my adventuring partner has taken on his own adventures in Texas.

Dustin spent six weeks at Sheppard AFB in Texas learning some skills for his new job. Highlights of the trip include eating at McCallister's, no mandatory physical training, and Papa John's on a weekly basis.

But now he is back and the adventures will continue!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Blog for a Job

We have all seen stories in the news describing how people are being fired from their jobs because of what they post on the internet. Employers are searching Facebook and MySpace to see perspective candidates before the interview... and often can form opinions before you walk in. And their opinions may not be positive. Got a picture of you drinking at a party? Poor taste in Halloween costumes? All of which can plant a negative seed in the back of an employer's mind.

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal that turns our linked social networks into a positive for job-seekers.

Instead of asking for résumés, the New York venture-capital firm—which has invested in Twitter, Foursquare, Zynga and other technology companies—asked applicants to send links representing their "Web presence," such as a Twitter account or Tumblr blog.
Companies are increasingly relying on social networks such as LinkedIn, video profiles and online quizzes to gauge candidates' suitability for a job. While most still request a résumé as part of the application package, some are bypassing the staid requirement altogether.
Who knows? Maybe my blog will help me get hired down the road. Hmm, better run this through spell check.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl.. Monday?

The other day my mom asked me if I ever get to watch American news programming in Japan. We do, but only Tuesday through Saturday. Being twelve hours ahead of the east coast means that most television that we would watch hasn't happened yet. I do miss my daily dose of Matt Lauer while brushing my teeth. My mornings aren't the same without him.

But I digress.

The base has been abuzz with the big game coming up this weekend. So how do our Marines and Sailors watch the game when it comes on at 8AM on Monday morning? Why, you close the base and make it a holiday!

Yep, Monday is a day of celebration for our nation' I don't even know who is playing this year (nor do I care), but I find it very interesting that the whole base is CLOSED. Sakura Theater will be showing the game on "the big screen" with free food and drinks. Also, because Iwakuni recently got cable the same commercials seen stateside will be shown.

Unfortunately, this closure doesn't affect me. Although, I recently read an article that talks about the most popular day to call in sick. The first Monday in February (cough, cough) sounds good to me!

Friday, February 3, 2012


Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!

February 3rd is somewhat of a holiday in some parts of Japan. Much like how we view Groundhog's Day, setsubun is the beginning of spring in Japan. The kanji translates to "season division" and is commonly known as the bean-throwing festival. The purpose is to chase away bad spirits and welcome the coming of spring.

The ceremony, called mamemaki, is still done in some rural towns, but most people will attend a shrine or temple where celebrities will host the event. Elementary schools make a whole day of it and will prepare themselves for the ceremony. So it works like this:

A male (usually the head of the household) will wear an oni (demon or ogre) mask and stand outside the house. The family throw soybeans while shouting "oni wa soto! fuku wa uchi!" (Demons out! Happiness in!) and then slam the door. Then each family member eats their age worth of roasted soybeans. There is some discrepancies depending on what part of Japan you are in. One coworker from near Tokyo says you throw roasted soybeans. Another from further south says to toss raw soybeans so the oni won't eat them and come into the house.

Another tradition is to eat an uncut sushi roll. To me, this sounds quite difficult! A sushi roll is made, but not cut into pieces. Instead you eat it in silence while facing the annual lucky compass direction.

Sorry, Punxsutawney Phil. This year we had a setsubun ceremony to welcome Spring!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Crab Into Kick"

MCAS Iwakuni is the first air station I have ever visited or lived. Our last duty station was home to a bombing squadron so we got used to rumblings (is that thunder?) and a few shaking walls. Since we have been in Iwakuni I have become fascinated with airplanes. In the last few days I have spent some time watching the jets come and go off the flightline. Unfortunately I cannot post pictures of the flightline for security reasons, so instead I will post a video I found during my internet research.

I found it very interesting to see how the pilots must adjust for the gale-force winds during a storm in Germany. As the accompanying article states, some of the landings are perfect and others are "good enough." Pretty cool if you ask me.