Thursday, October 31, 2013

Take a Nap

After living in Japan for over two years, (the countdown has begun... only ten months left!) I have come across many interesting and different things. In the last two years I have grown accustomed to the new experiences. Going back to 'normal' sounds so... boring.

In the first few months of living in Japan I saw many people sleeping in odd places. And not just on a long train ride, but in restaurants, at bus stops, and at their desks. But the more I think about it, I see that Americans don't sleep enough. Maybe someone can explain why the American culture generally equates sleeping during the daytime with laziness.

I discussed this with a Japanese co-worker who laid out the "typical" Japanese person's day. She wakes up very early to get ready for work. She rides her bike from her apartment to the train station. It is about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles). She then takes the train 26 minutes to the stop nearest our work. She often dozes on the train, but says she sets a vibrating alarm on her phone just in case. After exiting the train station in Iwakuni she rides another bike (kept overnight in the bicycle parking) the 6 kilometers to base. We work together. She orders a bento box from a delivery service that is allowed on base. She eats at her desk in about fifteen minutes. For the rest of her lunch hour she sleeps. We work the afternoon together and then she does her entire route in reverse. Some days she goes out to a restaurant near our office and sleeps in the restaurant. If she drives to work she will sleep in her car.

To an American, I feel like she sleeps a lot. And this is coming from someone who has established their adult bedtime to be 8:30pm. During our discussion I brought up reasons why an American would sleep in their car.

- We are sick.
- We are too drunk to drive and will sleep it off until morning.
- We are homeless.
- It is actually a dead body.

Then we discussed reasons an American might sleep in a restaurant.


I had nothing. We don't sleep in restaurants because people would think you're strange, possibly homeless, maybe drunk, and you run the risk of being kicked out of the establishment.

So this gets back to why sleeping in public has such a negative inkling.

Once while on a long road trip I started getting sleepy. I'm usually the driver for our long trips because I'm a bit of a control freak. After a bit I decided to pull off, sleep for a few hours, and then we would continue our journey when I was rested. Better to rest than to drive tired, right? Not twenty minutes into my nap, did a police officer pull up with full lights and tell me it was forbidden to sleep in my car.

In Japan I have gotten used to seeing people asleep in public. I don't worry anymore if they are ill or in need of assistance. They are just catching a few winks to make the afternoon more enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Kashinoki Bakery

Recently some friends introduced us to a wonderful bakery in Iwakuni. Dustin and I have driven past this building many times, but no obvious English signs or window cling photographs we were unable to tell ifit was food or something else. Food, it is. And even better - a fantastic sweets bakery!

We entered and looked around at the different options. They sell packaged cookies and cakes with local ingredients and flavors. Within a few seconds the shopkeeper produced a tray of cool wheat (barley?) tea and a piece of creme cake. Yum!

One of our friends got a green tea flavored-cream layer cake with fresh fruit on top.

Dustin got a tasty sweet pancake with custard and fresh guava.

I couldn't resist the chocolate selection! My teddy was delicious! I love how chocolate sweets in Japan aren't overbearingly (pun!) sweet. It was just right...

Saturday, October 12, 2013


There are many things I will miss about living in Japan. One thing near the top of the list is okonomiyaki. It has become one of my favorite meals and makes an appearance about once a week. Some friends recently showed us Tokugawa, a restaurant where you make your own okonomiyaki. I like restaurants where I have to make my food. It's just fun. We frequented many fondue restaurants when we lived in North Carolina. So a place where I can make delicious okonomiyaki was a definite win.

Dustin ordered a full size okonomiyaki with mushrooms and cheese. I opted for a half size and unfortunately, mine did not come with those tasty mushrooms.

First we applied a liberal amount of lard to grease the way.

Next we started pork to ensure it got enough cook time. Normally we tend to eat Hiroshima-style which takes all the ingredients and layers them on top of each other with a thin crepe. We had instructions (in Japanese) on how to create Hiroshima-style, but it seems a bit difficult. So everyone in our group mixed all the ingredients and made it in that style.

After a bit we carefully flipped our okonomiyaki.

Finally we added the final ingredients: melted cheese for some, bonito (dried fish pieces), green onion, red okonomiyaki sauce, hot pepper flakes, and garlic. Yum!

Dustin liked this because he could control more spice and flavor of the final product. I think we may need to have this again for dinner after writing about all the deliciousness....

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tokyo Game Show

The first weekend Dustin and I were in Iwakuni we heard about the Tokyo Game Show, a huge exhibit for video games and new platforms. We were excited, but after all the traveling we weren't really up for a big trip to Tokyo. So we skipped the first year. The second year was coiming up and after researching information found that the public days coincided for a triathlon in which I was training to compete. So we skipped the second year. As we enter our final year in Japan we have started making a list of the adventures that have been pushed off for one reason or another that we must experience before leaving this amazing country.

Finally we make it to the Tokyo Game Show. We recently had an airport open in Iwakuni. It shares use with the US flightline on base. We priced out some options to find the cheapest way to get back and forth from Tokyo in a day. There was some talk of using the Night Bus again, but ultimately I wanted a shower so flying up and back in one day became the best option.

We met some friends at the airport and began our journey to Tokyo. The normal train schedule from the airport to the event venue had been altered to accomodate the increase in traffic. So while deciphering the signs we were attacked! Out of the tall grass popped a wild nerd! An Batman-ified American appears out of nowhere,


Why yes, good sir, are we that obvious? I look around at our party. A Batman hoodie complete with ears, Doctor Who and the Daleks, Final Fantasy heroes, and the Triforce. Yes, we are that obvious.

After an hour of train hops we made it to the massive, albeit quickly moving, line.

Ta-da! Squee! We are finally here!

We entered in showroom 1 of 9. Well, technically of 12, but the last three showrooms were dedicated to cosplayers. My main focus was finding Square Enix. I have written many times about their amazing universes and had heard some rumors that there was going to be cinematics and possibly game play for Kingdom Hearts 3. Look up.... oh! There!

On one side of their HUGE display area they had some cosplay from A Realm Reborn.

On another side was a huge screen showing trailers for all of Square Enix's upcoming titles. It was on a forty minute loop (lots of new games!) that we stood among the sweaty mass to see. I was bummed about the Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer as it was one I had already seen online. They did spend ample time on the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. I was blown away by the new content and am quite excited about the open battle style. And it looks positively gorgeous.

Further around the Square Enix area we found an option to play demo versions of some of the titles. The lines to play were over ninety minutes. An hour and a half wait to play five minutes of game play.

We spent some time at the XBOX area, but none of my pictures came out very well. too much lime green everywhere. Each of the larger booths had a similar set up. Displaying new games in one spot, a demo experience, and then a stage where artists, creators, contributors, voice actors, etc would talk about their projects.

After a couple of hours in this area we decided to move along. We still had huge event areas we hadn't even been to yet. While walking between venues we found these ladies who agreed for a photo.

The next exhibit hall had a huge area for Sony products. Many people were lined up to play titles on the new PlayStation 4. There were so many sweaty people!

Seeing the new virtual reality (?) was scary and awesome at the same time. Some titles would be fun, but I need the separation on some of my scary titles.

We were quite hungry after an early flight and all our excited jumping up and down. So we slowly made our way through the crowd to the food areas. Curry, noodles, panko-fried things on sticks, and Domino's pizza were available. Ee edged into some available floor space and feasted.

The food area was next door to the merchandise areas. Dustin and I spent half an hour waiting through the Square Enix merchandise line. It was a little disappointing as much of their stock we have seen/purchased on our visits to Artnia.

On our way out we ran into Master Chief. Poor guy was just trying to go up the escalator but people kept asking him to pose. Hope he wasn't heading to the bathroom...

We made our way out of the exhibit area tired, sweaty, and with enough free loot to keep us entertained for a few weeks. It was an hour back to the airport and then a quick flight home. Definitely goes in the record book for one of the best days I have spent in Japan!