Sunday, March 31, 2013

Street Performer

We walked around Odaiba and came across this street performer. I imagine he gets left in pretty uncomfortable positions.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


The Tokyo Anime Fair had a section for cosplayers. We did not dress up for this event, but it was fun to see how others had put together some of our beloved characters. 

Tokyo Anime Fair

YAY! Nerd-girl half jumps! Dustin and I like anime, but living in Japan has made our fondness of fun storylines and beautiful artwork grow to marveling at the technology and animation styles. This exhibit was open to the public for two days and we didn't want to miss it.

Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba
Even the exhibit hall was fantastic. Amazing architecture both inside and out. And HUGE. Once inside we stowed our backpacks in lockers and entered the event hall. So many booths! So many nerd girl screams!
Ocarina of Time

Collector's Figurines

Animation drop-in classes
Toei Animation - a favorite

One Piece - HUGE in Japan

My favorite section was animation from Toyota. It was all interactive, but user input created different story lines. For example, light pressure might cause the character to something different than if you gave it a hard poke.

Open the door fast or slow. Rattle the handle. Soft knocks, hard knocks. All different animation responses.

The Original

After a few hours we started getting hungry. Dustin had a hot dog wrapped in naan. The picture didn't come out too well though. After a quick lunch we grabbed coffee from the Gundham Cafe. Nerd girl scream #178.

An excellent morning filled with visiting all the booths, seeing all the shows, playing all the games, and eating tasty food.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Night Bus

This past weekend the International Tokyo Anime Fair was being held in Odaiba. Getting to Tokyo is not just like jumping in the car for a few hours. Neither Dustin and I wanted to take vacation for it, but we also didn't want to miss it. So we looked into making the journey up and back on a normal weekend. That's a tall order. Plane tickets were costly because it is cherry blossom season. Shinkansen tickets weren't much better.

Our hopes were dashed.

Until a coworker mentioned the Night Bus.

A bus? Eww. No, thank you. I'm thinking uncomfortable seats, weird smells, and funky people. This was all until I learned that in Japan they are similar to the Knight Bus in Harry Potter.

Okay, so maybe not as spectacular, but still pretty nice. We got on the bus at the Iwakuni Train Station. I was thinking large tour bus with a center row, but instead there were fewer seats. Two aisles with one seat in each. Curtains provided your own little cocoon of privacy.

The seats reclined so you could lay down. There was a adjustable foot rest so you could stretch your legs out. Not bad at all.

The company provided free water, tea, and coffee. The bathroom was down a small flight of stairs under the bus. So eleven hours later we arrived at the Tokyo Station after a decent night's sleep and ready to explore the city.

Price-wise it was the most economical way to travel from Yamaguchi Prefecture to Tokyo. Time-wise was a bonus because we were traveling while sleeping so there was never any dead time. We also saved the cost of two nights in a hotel. Lastly, it was a pretty comfortable ride.
I have a feeling we will be making the journey to Tokyo a bit more often!

Thursday, March 28, 2013


One food we haven't tried since our first time is okonomiyaki. If you forgot, this is "Japanese pancake," although it is unlike any pancake I've ever had. First you start with a delicious crepe. Add in your choice of soba or udon noodles. We chose udon because we like the wheat noodles better. Next comes a huge serving of cabbage and onion, a few slices of pork, and a fried egg.

The cabbage wilts after a few minutes. Then, and this takes skill as we saw, they flip the crepe/egg sandwich over. Brush on the okonomiyaki sauce and add any special toppings and you're done.

We decided to split one because they are huge. We added green onions and garlic chips. The garlic chips were amazing! Chewy and crispy... and didn't bring up any bad memories.

For my Japanese friends, this wonderful little restaurant is at the end of Hondori Street. We shared the garlic/onion okonomiyaki and spent 680 yen. Not bad for some fantastic food.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mini Bikes

Whew! It has been a busy couple of weeks. I have over ten posts that I need to finish and edit. Tons of adventuring happening over here, ya'll. But until I sit down and write about our journeys I must show you this.

While walking on the beach the other day we came across mini bikes. Now this is not a Japanese only thing. But every time I see them I crack up. The singular version of a clown car.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Shower Songs

A conversation this evening:

Dustin (in the shower with the door open): NATALIE! SING ME THE CHORUS FROM OUR SONG!

Uhhhhhh..... (sing-song voice) "Oh, baby, I love your way..."


That's all you know?!?!

Well, what comes after that?

Uhhhhhh...... "Oh, baby, I love your way..."

How do we not know our song?!

Go Google it!

So enjoy "our" song.

Monday, March 18, 2013


So I love Facebook. I am on it all the time. Like all the time. It is the first thing I open when I wake up and the last thing I close before turning out the light. This is definitely the definition of 'addiction.'

Our Facebook pages have become an extension of ourselves. It's like a diary that you let everyone read. Actually, that's the definition of a blog. So Facebook is more like the Cliff Notes version of your diary.

If something is private, and I mean private, don't post it on Facebook. All else is fair game for the world to critique. Now I love Facebook. I like “knowing” what is going on in people's lives without all that pesky personal contact that is usually required. I like seeing pictures of their lives - weddings, vacations, fun nights out. I like watching the relationship status go from ‘single' to 'in a relationship' to 'married' (queue wedding photos). And I give the obligatory "Oh no!" when it goes to 'it's complicated'.

There are things that should be kept private or limited. Often I will roll my eyes at the lame puns and poorly executed memes (spell check anyone?!). And how many pictures of your child are needed in one photo upload? All you did was walk around your kid taking the same photo over and over. Now I don't have children so maybe I will "get it" once I procreate spawn. Until then, a few photos of your child doing different things is appreciated.

One of the biggest things I love about Facebook is reconnecting with old friends. Over the years and half dozen moves, I have lost contact with some pretty cool people. For example, remember that girl you used play tag with and catch crawdads with in the creek? Or that boy you had a super duper crush on while taping Backstreet Boys posters to your wall? What about that teacher that changed your life in high school?

I love Facebook because now I can catch up with all of them. From Japan. Or North Carolina. Or wherever we are stationed next.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Toshogu Shrine

A little further down the mountain from the Peace Pagoda and the Kinkinari Shrine is the Toshogu Shrine. Dustin and I have visited many shrines and temples in Japan, but this one had beautiful wood carvings in the building. What was really unique is that they have been painted.

A few weeks before Sakura Season

Kinkoinari Shrine

After hiking up to the Peace Pagoda, we followed a trail down the other side of the mountain to the Kinkoinari Shrine. It was a beautiful area.


Prayers given at the Kinkoinari Shrine is said to bring prosperity in business and harmony in the home.

Hiroshima Peace Pagoda

We haven't been to Hiroshima in a while. Not because it is too far away or there is nothing to do... we just haven't. We like going up for the nightlife, but since the new restrictions on Marines took that away we haven't made the trip in a while. So this weekend we planned to take the train up and spend the afternoon in one of our favorite cities.

So after our training run (6 miles) we made our way to the train station. But, this is Japan, there is always something fun going on. At the train station they were letting people dress up and play with old weapons. So we laughed at that for a bit.

After the forty-five minute train ride we arrived in Hiroshima. And started climbing a Futaba-yama. Yes, after a six mile run, we climbed a mountain. A very steep mountain. The path we were taking led us through a Japanese cemetery. I haven't written much about them before, but they are eerily beautiful areas. I'll take better pictures and do a detailed post on them later. For now, we climb all those stairs. After running six miles. After hiking up the mountain to get here.

At the top we were rewarded with the Peace Pagoda.

Built to honor the victims of the atomic bomb, the pagoda is said to house the ashes of Buddha. Another reward for the mountain climb and stair climb was the view of Hiroshima. It was a bit overcast, but still a cool sight.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


I have a blog. Someone asked me recently what I blog about. Specifically,

Oh, you have a blog? What do YOU have to write about?

Major emphasis on the 'you' there. Ouch, meanie. But it got me thinking. I don't really have a classification for these ramblings. Not a fashion blog. Not a DIY blog. Not a product/review blog. Not a military life blog. Definitely not a "Mommy" blog. I just write about my life, the people in it, and the adventures we have along the way. It started as a way to keep in touch with all sides of our modern family when we moved overseas, but has grown since then. I don't always give it the attention it deserves, but I am trying to rectify that.

Honestly, bloggers are kind of narcissistic. Why would we think that people on the interwebs would be interested in anything we have to say? Or what we had for dinner? Or what we read last week? Or wore to work yesterday? Us bloggers are a self-absorbed bunch.

But I'm glad to be a part of it.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Dustin and I like to eat. It is no surprise that food is the largest tag hanging out to the left. We both enjoy adventuring, particularly when it is of the culinary variety. One great food adventure we take every day is lunch.


What? You don't eat lunch? Pity. Before I changed careers I packed us healthy, well-balanced lunches every day filled with fruit, veggies, juice (for him), granola bars, and a protein. Often there was a little bit of leftovers or a tasty sandwich. And always a prune. You know, for later. I’m an amazingly responsible wife.

Unless I’m lazy. Or tired. Or we forgot to go to store. Or we went to the store but they were out of everything. Then we buy lunch in the food court. Which basically means that we buy lunch 60% of the time. I'm kidding. It's more like 80%.

When Dustin came back from his latest solo-adventure, I vowed to make healthier choices for our little family. Since then we have enjoyed a much wider variety of foods (thank you, Pinterest) and I've gotten back in the kitchen. Gasp! I know, after years of claiming I never cook. I will admit defeat and cave to what Dustin has been saying all these years.

You are an excellent cook, when you do it.

Zero agrees...
So twice a week I sit down and plan our meals out. I wish I could do it once a week, but we find that our commissary is hit and miss with many "staples" which can throw a kink in any recipe plan. This coupled with our half marathon training schedule means I haven't done a whole lot these last few nights. And I miss my evening time. My decompress time. My read a good book, finish a Japanese language lesson, or catch a television show time. So last night I decided to create a menu with more crock pot meals. It's the perfect solution! Get it going and come home to delicious and healthy food after my ten hour work days and training runs. Win!

Until someone forgets to turn on the crock pot before leaving for the day.

We're back to sandwiches. Yum!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Loud and Proud

I love music. Almost any type of music. I love it. There is always music playing at our house. And there is often dancing.

Growing up I was blessed with parents who love music just as much as me. I remember getting yelled at for dancing too rambunctiously and making my mother's John Denver records skip. She knew all the words to every song and one time told me,

"There is a John Denver song for anything you're feeling."

After only a few decades, he sure has been good at getting me through some tough emotions.

My father and I would sing till we were hoarse on road trips. (Dustin, I think this is where I became fascinated with the repeat feature. Twelve times in a row is not enough.) Everything from pounding on the roof to some Shania Twain, hitting the high notes with Twila Paris, or head bobbing to some Point of Grace. I remember a lot of Barry Mannilow in there too while filling up the gas tank at 88 cents a gallon. (Can I write in the gas book?!)

I thank my father for my appreciation of classical music. The other day I was listening to our entire library on shuffle. After three songs I was in tears while cleaning the kitchen. Music is powerful. It reminds me of some amazing times. And no one can say no to a good trombone chorus.

We have lost something with the invention of the iPod. In Japan, it is very rude if your phone makes a peep. Even the concussive vibrating noise of the iPhone is enough to get some disgruntled looks. While I believe there is a time and place for earbuds and private listening, it shouldn't be all the time.

So pound the roof and shake the walls. Who cares if the neighbors call us rednecks? I want to feel music all around me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Delayed Entry

I am always the last one to the technology party. Today a co worker's children came to the office after school. It has been pretty gross and rainy all day so they were hoping Mom would give them a ride home. As they were sitting in an empty cubical waiting, I started talking to them: one boy, age 12, and a girl, age 10. They both were very excited to show me their iPads.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. What?

Yes, I am an educated, happily employed, woman in my mid (late?)-twenties and I don't have an iPad. And that's when I realized I am always late to the technology party. When did this happen? I was right on board for gaming systems growing up. When did I stop chasing the "next big thing?" I was delayed in joining Facebook. I didn't purchase an iPhone until we moved to Japan and I'm still not up to date on Twitter, Instagram, or pretty much anything else that has come out since I've been overseas.

Last year a friend introduced me to Pinterest. For those that haven't joined the international pin board, it is phenomenal. I turn to it for inspiration, ideas, products, recipes, upcycling, and tips and tricks. Everything. Rather than purchase it off Etsy, I can make/do/create it myself. It all looks so easy! Sometimes my Pinterest inspirations have been wins; however, some have been epic flops.

I have promised myself to stay more involved with the technological upgrades. Until I can play catch up, I shall be perusing the pins.

Happy Wednesday!