Friday, June 29, 2012


I've written about all the rain before. You would think that we were in Ireland for as much as it rains here. I thought when we got into June that it would start to wane and we would get summer weather. Unfortunately, I have been told we are just getting into the rainy season!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

I've been on a pumpkin kick recently. I saw a pin on Pintrest that looked delicious and had replaced some of the less healthy ingredients with better alternatives. So I set out to make it.

In a crockpot. 

Yes, bread in a crockpot. I just recently bought a crockpot and now make at least one meal a week in it. Where has this appliance been all these years?!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

(I know this is old, but I love it. When you ride it enough you can memorize where the camera is located!)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Prima Vera

We've done Italian in Japan a few times now. Each time I play it safe and get mushrooms in a cream sauce. That is usually a safe bet. In Japan food is so expensive that you must eat all the food brought to you, especially rice. It is considered very rude to leave food on your plate that you have been served. So when we go out I stick with something I know I can eat the whole thing and not be pinching my nose the whole time.

A friend recommended a coffee/Italian bistro about a mile and a half from the main gate. Prima Vera is known for their creative decorations in the cream of cappuccinos. For our visit we opted for dinner over afternoon coffee.

Finding the restaurant was difficult. We had tried a night before and driven in squares and circles with no luck. This time we walked out one evening and were able to find it with our iPhones. I forgot to take a picture of the building. It's a tiny little doorway on the backside of a warehouse. Inside it had a glass wall leading to enclosed outdoor seating.

I was in the mood for pasta, but Dustin ordered a set so I decided to get one too. Our first course was a tasty salad.

It was tasty! The cherry tomato was perfect. It had a light sesame vinaigrette. The next course was corn soup with small croutons.

The set comes with an option of bread or rice. We always get bread because the servings of rice are much more than we want to eat. I got garlic bread with big chunks of garlic. It reminded me of a certain dare while we were in California.

Our main courses were different. I had mushroom and shrimp. I thought it was going to come with pasta, but instead there was spinach underneath all the mushrooms. It came with a cream sauce.

Dustin got mustard breaded chicken. It came with lotus roots and another tasty tomato.

We were so full that we decided against dessert. Another tasty meal in Iwakuni! Next time I will make it early enough to see the specialty designs in their drinks.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Grocery Shopping

So grocery shopping in Japan can be an interesting experience. Fresh fruits and vegetables are easily recognizable, if not a little different in size, shape, or color. The tomatoes are darker... the fruits a little smaller. Shopping outside the deli section is hazardous. Even with a grocery list we still don't get everything we need. ("Honey, I'm looking for phylo dough. What does that look like in Japanese?")

From a cost perspective shopping in town hurts. Although the veggies are fresher and my conscience feels better about the carbon footprint, the cost is often too much. Our budget for groceries doesn't need to be more than our mortgage payment.

With that being said we often shop for groceries at the base commissary. Unfortunately this can be hit and miss when it comes to brands, spices, and dairy. Got a coupon for Cheerios? Too bad, no Cheerios on the last boat. Often the yogurt section is empty and I've been waiting to buy cinnamon for months.

So it was no surprise when the base newspaper decided to do a story on it. Below is a striking image that appeared with the article.
"A food container falls off of a ship inbound to Commissaries at overseas military installations. Commissary patrons may experience shortages of certain foods or packaged goods due to shipping. Supply ships experience the most delays during winter months due to ice storms in Dutch Harbor, Alaska." Source.
Talk about an amazing shot.

Man overboard! Cap'n Crunch went over the deck!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

For Fun

We're back!
I thought I would share a short clip that always makes me laugh. I love Jane Lynch.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I have reached the limit for a free blog. After only 180 posts (and a lot more pictures) we have reached the max storage space on Blogger.

I'm not ready to purchase my own domain yet so be patient while I work out some more storage options for our adventures!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hirata Fruits Farm

All you can eat? I'm confident we have already eaten our way through a good portion of Japan. So when the thought of 'all-you-can-eat' came up we considered this a challenge we wanted to undertake. After a two hour drive we arrived at the Hirata Fruits Farm. Cherries are currently in season but the cost of buying a small bucket at our local grocery store is astronomical. Ten cherries for 1000 yen (about $13.00)! So when someone mentioned a farm where you can eat all you want we decided it was worth the drive.

We purchased a ticket for thirty minutes of all-you-can-eat cherries. It was a rainy day so I was glad to be in a greenhouse. We were given a small cup for seeds and stems and then set out to roam the trees.

There were three varieties that were ripe for picking.

Satonishiki Cherries - most popular in Japan

Sakuranbo Cherries

"American Cherries"
We ate our fill and then some. The Japanese cherries are very sweet. Not sure what variety the "American cherries" were (Bing maybe?). We found a tree that had almost been picked clean. A worker who knew a little English told us it had the best tasting fruit. We found a small batch at the top and have to agree they were the best tasting.

Almost empty tree

Very full tree
We will have to come back for grapes (September) and strawberries (January)!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Umezu no taki

I was recommended to check out some waterfalls about an hour from base. It is known as a good place to go swimming. Although it is still very cold, we decided to check it out.

After a short walk we found the top of the falls.

Then we walked down to the lower falls that opened up to a large blue hole.

It was only about 70 degrees outside and the water was very cold. I didn't brave the cold, but Dustin stripped down to his undies and dove in. It was crystal clear water.

The sign below was by the swimming hole. It has seen better days, but still made me laugh.


After his polar-bear dip!
 Once we had explored the falls we decided to follow an overgrown road. It followed the creek for a while then we came across an old bridge.

Up the ridge

Old Bridge
After carefully crossing the bridge we couldn't even tell where the road was. After taking ten steps and hitting ten spider webs we decided to turn around. Remember how I mentioned the spiders were big in Japan? We decided not to have them on us anymore!

The drive home took us through some small mountain villages. Here they have already planted the rice. By hand, each piece. The Japanese call this time hanataue or rice planting. There are festivals celebrating a traditional folk ritual of prayers to the Shinto rice god. We didn't attend any of the festivals this weekend, but seeing all the fields and knowing all the labor that goes into it was pretty amazing.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mikawa Mu Valley

This weekend we were only going to have good weather for one day. Did I mention it rains a lot here in Iwakuni? I had heard of a beautiful area about an hour away that sounded like a lot of fun. So we went to Mikawa Mu Valley. A coworker recommended this place because it is themed like an Indiana Jones movie.
 At the entrance was a small booth selling ice cream and snacks. On speakers we heard the Indiana Jones theme and "adventurous music." Off to one side was an area where you could mine for gold. We were very excited about the caves so we focused on that first.

We paid a small fee (about $10 a person) and got a scratch off card and compass.

As we made our way through the caves we would put our compass on a podium. If our directions matched up then this was a clue for us. You could have four different adventures. Our card was labelled WEST so we only did the clues that applied to our story.

Once we determined if it was our clue, we had to figure out the answer to the questions. Each time they were translated into English so we never had a problem. Once you picked an answer you scratched off that section of the card to reveal a new part of the story.

A clue with a secret wall!

As we progressed though the caves we came across an underground lake, a huge cavern, a waterfall.

What a fun adventure! I won't tell you what the treasure was at the end of our story. It was the journey getting there that was all the fun!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hiroshima Carps

On Memorial Day we decided to take in a Hiroshima Carps baseball game with some of Dustin's co-workers. A co-worker let me borrow a jersey so I would fit in.

Mid afternoon we started by taking the train from Iwakuni to Hiroshima. At the Hiroshima train station we walked around some vendors and bought some food. Then we followed the crowd to the Mazda Zoom Zoom stadium. No, I didn't make that up. Promise.

Our seats were down the third base line and came with unlimited beer and a small box of food.

Edaname and fried onion

Foul Ball Guy

Still a major sponsor here!

Beer Girl

Advertising before the game
Third inning
 The game is the same, although the cheers are different. After listening a few times we could keep up with the beat, even if we didn't know the words. The Carps were playing the Marines. The Marines fans had a chant that reminded me of the Atlanta Braves tomahawk.

At the seventh inning everyone inflated long red balloons. A song was played and then at the end we let them go and they flew everywhere. Not sure what it all meant, but it was very fun and exciting. The energy was contagious! Japan has some interesting baseball fans!

Unfortunately, the Carps lost 7 - 3. It was a very exciting game though! Afterwards we still felt it was early so we decided to go out and explore Hiroshima a little more.

At Molly Malone's - an Irish pub

What a fun night! The next home game is at the end of June. I hope to be there!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

White Water Rafting

Finally we get some good weather. All this rain was not in the brochure!

This weekend was supposed to be our trip to China, but Dustin had some work issues that kept us from leaving the country. So instead we decided to take a road trip down to Shikoku and go white water rafting. Shikoku is one of the four main islands of Japan.

Star is Iwakuni, marker is Yoshino River
The drive was about four and a half hours. We went over some remarkable bridges, but none of my pictures came out during the drive. When we finally arrived at the HappyRaft base camp I was so excited. Dustin was eerily calm. I think he was a little apprehensive about what was coming up. This was his first time going white water rafting and my stories weren't assuring him too much.

The water was a chilly 47 degrees. I'm pretty sure I felt icebergs while drifting along in the water. To prepare for the cold water, we were given wet suits and the option to wear a fleece. I decided I would rather be warm so I took both.

So after gearing up we took a short bus ride and then we were on the water! The Yoshino River had some major run off (according to the group guides) so were going to experience some "rough water." The rapids were classified as class four. Many times our guide (who spoke very very very little English) would tell us to just ride through the rapids in the boat. "Get down!" So in the boat we went. Better than getting thrown out I suppose.

Class Three Rapids
The river is broken up by long stretches of deeper water so a game was created. The goal was to knock, pull, or push everyone out of a boat and then capture it. Dustin and I were with a group of about 40 other Marines. Needless to say, I started just staying in the water rather than try to get back into the boat. The only bad part was when water would touch skin inside my wet suit that it had not touched before. It was an icy stab!

"Get down!"
So along the river we went. Get back in the boat when we were coming up on rapids, take over another boat (or just float in the water, like me) when we weren't. At one point, we didn't get in the boat fast enough and went though some rapids with just out life jackets. We called it "the economy trip." It was definitely a different experience! Feet down river... go! Hopefully you don't swallow too much water!

If the rapids and boat-commandeering weren't enough to keep you occupied, the view would have made up the difference. We went though some beautiful gorges and saw two tall waterfalls. At one point we came to an area that we were allowed to get out and cliff jump. So up the rocks we trekked and off we jumped!

Not me, but a better picture
Then it was back in the boats for another set of rapids before breaking for lunch. At the end of the stretch was a great place to go "surfing." The goal is to see who could stay in the boat and keep it upright. I posted the videos on my Facebook page so you can see the fun. Definitely some crazy water!

Sagoi = Awesome!
Then it was time to break for lunch. We crawled out of the boats and hiked about a mile up the ravine to a flat grassy area by the road. There a team had made homemade (and delicious) bagels. We used them to make tuna or ham sandwiches. Fresh tea, fruit, and a sweet orange cream on crackers rounded out the meal. Amazingly they had plenty of food for the forty or so Marines and families. We eat much more compared to Japanese customers!

Back in the water we had some quick rapids and then a deeper period where we flipped our boat.

Hang on!
Then we went down the last set of rapids with the boat upside down. It is very hard to stay on a slippery boat going down the river upside down! Once at the end it was time for a couple group shots and then the bus ride back to HappyRaft base camp.

Whew! What a fun day! We changed into dry clothes and watched the slide show from our trip. We will definitely be back to Shikoku to see what else it has to offer. I've heard rumors of great beaches, exciting spelunking, and thrilling canyoning. Who will join us on the next adventure?

At the end... very tired!