Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Day in Japan for 2013


Although we had plans to take a flight very early on the 30th, I wanted to show SMS the awesome town of Kamakura.

We had a leisurely morning and then headed out. We took the Keikyu to Shiori and then walked over to the JR Yokosuka station. The walk was about 10 minutes, but we were taking our time looking at the ships and dormant rose bushes. 

We got off at the main Kamakura station. We went onto Komachi Dori and looked at a lot of the cool shops. There are beautiful textiles, crafts, washi paper and lots of tasty food. We stopped for soba Nakamura,an, a place highly recommended on a random blog I found. We waited in line for about 25 minutes, but we watched the soba noodle maker chef while we waited. It was fascinating!
Smooshing out the circular dough

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mitsubishi Ichigokan and Tokyo Tower

My leave started yesterday...hooray! It doesn't feel like as much of a needed break since I've had a few days off already because of the holiday but it is really nice to spend quality time with SMS. I've taken a week off and we're hoping to catch an AMC flight out of here at some point, but for now, we're staying local due to lack of flights.

 Our day got off to a slow start. We had breakfast and headed to base for some errands. Most pressingly, I had to print out my leave chit and gram my orders/DEA in case we went on an AMC flight. We also decided to return some Christmas presents by mail and that's what really slowed us down. Re-packaging, filling out the return labels and filling out customs forms took way longer than it seems it should have. But, we persevered and headed out from base.

First, we stopped in More City, located in the basement of the department store adjacent to Yokosuka-chuo. Not only did mailing things take too long, it also made us hungry! We each got a bento box filled with 3 different types of rice, 2 pickled veggies, 2 small meatballs and a piece of chicken. We finished off the meal with a split order of tako-yaki. Yum!

We hopped on the train and off we went. We took the train to Shinagawa, then hopped on the Yamanote line to Tokyo station. That place is enormous! We exited via the Marunouchi South Exit and walked two drizzly blocks to the museum. On the way, we passed two businessmen who ran into each other on the street. One was middle-aged and the other quite a bit older and the middle-aged man bowed so deeply and held it for so long. The other man must have been very important!
Source
The Mitsubishi Ichigokan museum opened in 2010 and puts on approximately 3 exhibitions a year, mainly from their collection focussing on Western Art of the late 19th century. This corresponds to an era of modernization in Japan, the Meiji period. It's housed in a restoration of the first Western-style office building in the Marunouchi district. It housed the banking department of the Mitsubishi company, although others rented out office space as well. It was torn down in 1968 and rebuilt based on the original plans in the late 2000s.

Screenshot from source
The collection was fantastic!  There were 149 works from Pissaro, Monet, Cezanne, Redon, Toulouse-Lautrec and Vallotton.  Interestingly, in the 1890s, there was a influential show of Japanese woodblocks (ukiyo-e).  Vallotton, in particular, turned to a wood block technique for a lot of his work after the exhibit.
Source

Highlights for me included two beautiful Pissaro paintings of grassy open areas and farm buildings, Claude Monet's "The Evening in the Field/Le soir dans la prairie," and two beautiful color pastels by Odilon Redon.  SMS really liked the Redon's black and white lithographs from the "Dans Reve" collection.  
Source
We had a wonderful time and spent just under two hours there.  Afterwards, we decided to make the most of our travel to Tokyo so we decided to go the Tokyo SkyTree.  We walked back to Tokyo station and took the Yaesu South Exit.  We actually walked through the station, which always causes problems at the ticket exit since we used our PASMO.  But the conductor took it, asked a few questions that we couldn't answer and then coded our cards to let us through.  We walked to the bus loading area where there are numbered pillars.  The bus to Tokyo SkyTree is #4 and costs Y500.  I recommend swiping your PASMO!

At 634m, Tokyo SkyTree is the tallest tower in the world and second-tallest structure after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  It costs Y2,000 to go to the first platform and an additional Y1,000 to go to the higher, smaller observation deck.  There are children's rates, too.  We decided not to go up since it was drizzly and both the visibility and cloud ceiling were low.  We will be back though!

We walked through "The Japan Experience" displays and walked around the mall called SkyTree town.  We had BiBimBap bowls for dinner, followed by a crepe.  Yum!

Getting home was super-easy.  We headed to the Oshiage station, which is the A1 station on the Toei Asakusa line.  The line turns into the Keikyu limited express to Yokosuka so we didn't have to switch trains and we had a seat the whole way home, which was important since it was the end of rush hour.  This is an awesome piece of information to know since Hyperdia didn't give us that as a route option.  In addition, we can take the Keikyu to Asakusa for our next field trip, since that's an awesome area known for it's "Old Edo" feel!

Magic Christmas Tree!



As the Christmas season draws to a close, I present my Magic Christmas Tree .gif!  I bought this beautiful little miracle for about 200 yen at Don Quixote, an eclectic general store where I think one can buy just about anything.  Feast your eyes!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas!


SMS and I had a great first Christmas together!   I woke up early like a little kid- I was excited to open my presents!  We made coffee and exchanged gifts.  SMS was super-thoughtful.  I got Jerusalem (the cook book), special ear plugs (to hear voices while protecting my ears from the otologic drill!) and some clothes.  I got him some clothes from Outdoor Research, some shoes that don't really fit (whah), a photography book and a chocolate orange.  Mom and Dad "surprised" me with an awesome convection oven that I used today!  I made a clementine cake from Smitten Kitchen (gluten-free) with a chocolate ganache adapted from my new cookbook!  During the course of this, I tripped the kitchen circuit AND transformer since I was trying to extract 3 times the electric limit while running the convection oven and George Foreman with the waffle maker plates at the same time.  While this was a little ridiculous, I did impress SMS by rattling off the formula that Watts = Voltage x Amps.  How do I remember these things?!?!  And why don't I apply them?

Rock Climbing and Hiking at Mt. Joyama, Numazu

As the sign says, rock climbing to the right, hiking to the left (yeah, yeah, the pictures are reversed!).  Christmas Eve was an outdoorsy day!  Chris, SMS and I drove about 2 hours and change to get to Mt. Joyama, a great south-facing rock climbing wall with multi-pitch routes in addition to single pitch.  Although we drove, Ohito Station is the closest station with about a 20 minute walk to the trailhead.    


Mt. Joyama is part of a chain of several small mountains.  The translation is that they are "volcanic neck mountains," created by solidified magma in the central vent of the volcano.  The outer layers of the volcano erode away leaving only the solid core as a small mountain.  I think a better translation would be a volcanic plug mountain, just like the "Nine Sisters of San Luis Obispo County" that Morro Rock is a part of.  The descriptions of how each of the hills/mountains formed is pretty similar.  The other two mountains that are part of the hiking trail are Mt. Katsuragiyama and Mt Hottanjoyama.  The mountains are outside Izunokuni City.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rock Climbing at Takatori-yama (Hawk Peak)

Sandstone buddha 10 minutes from the wall
Yesterday, SMS and I went rock-climbing.  He had signed up for a beginner trip to a local rock climbing spot near Ikego.  SMS is definitely not a beginner but he thought it would be a nice way to meet some local climbers.

Trees, not in the best lighting but you get the idea.
There were trees.
It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful spot.  I met up with them shortly after lunch.  I had spent the morning waiting for our new dining room table.  Our new table is from IDC and looks great.  It matches our step-tonsen and is the perfect size for the room.  Both of us really like it!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Furniture shopping in Yokohama

SMS and I had our first successful road trip!  We went up to Yokohama to go furniture shopping! We headed out with a destination in mind- IDC in the Minatomirai LEAF building.  There are six floors of furniture and we were looking for a dining room table.  Well, maybe not that fancy but we needed a table for our main room and I waited for him to get here before picking one out.

We ended up with a really nice, fairly inexpensive table.  While I would love a reclaimed wood table in the future, we were shopping for our Japanese apartment which is on the small side.  We figured that our next places would likely be bigger so we'll buy a more permanent piece of furniture at that point.

The table is being delivered today, which is awesome since it would be nice to sit down and eat all the fantastic meals SMS is preparing!  Last night was an awesome dinner of mackerel, rice, cauliflower, salad and miso soup.  Yum!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

SMS is here!

SMS is here! Hooray!  I have missed him so much and even though I'm super proud of him in wanting to complete his MBA program, he is highly miss-able so I'm glad he's here for 6 weeks.
Near the New Sanno
He arrived on Thursday the 12th.  I made a bright green, Christmas-themed poster board sign so that he'd be sure to see me.  Ha, ha.  I just think signs are a nice way to make people feel welcome.  I haven't always thought this since I was really embarrassed to hold the sign for Katrin our au pair when I was 7 so I held it by my legs.  That was super helpful since it hid the sign completely.  But that was a long time ago and now I'm fully on board with "embarrassing" myself by holding up ridiculous signs.  I bet everyone was super jeals except for the people who had drivers holding boring signs.  The signs may be boring but they translate to, "Peace out suckers, I'm off to my limo!"

ANY-way, SMS arrived and we were so happy!  We took the KEISEI Skyliner to Nippori.  There we transferred to the Yamanote line, which is sort of the railroad beltway around Tokyo. We got off at Nishi-Nippori and then took the Chiyoda subway line to Nogizaka.  We were staying at Hardy Barracks for the first night.  We went out exit 5, hooked a left then crossed at the first intersection.  There was a large cemetery on our right and a park on our left.  Then we saw the barbed wire fence and the U.S. Army sign and knew we had arrived.

Monday, December 9, 2013

New Love!

Don't worry!  SMS is #1 in my heart in the person category but in the thing category, I have a new favorite.  This new object of my affection displaces my magic Christmas tree, so obviously you can tell I have really high and classy standards.

Out with the old...

Magic Christmas Tree: I will have a .gif timelapse soon!

In with the new...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas will come early this year...

When SMS gets here!  3 more days!  This Sunday was our one year anniversary of meeting each other at December Nights.  SMS actually went and met up with his sister and her husband.  It sounds like he had a great time even though he missed me.

I'm excited to create a December Nights-ish experience here in Japan.  There are a lot of Christmas villages around based on German tradition (?).  At least that's what I read.  But there are two I'm looking forward to seeing- Yokohama Brick Warehouse and Tokyo Tower.  When SMS arrives, we're going to stay up in Tokyo for a few days so we'll totally get into the holiday spirit!

This past weekend, I cleaned the apartment.  I'm excited to get everything settled because then I can also post an apartment update to the blog.  Exciting!  I also ended up doing something every night so it was a pretty good weekend.
Motomachi Arch
On Friday, I went to Yokohama with one of the ortho surgeons to buy a mask for the holiday party, which was weirdly themed as a Masquerade Ball.  Ok.  Santa meets Phantom of the Opera, I guess.  We went to Don Quixote which is the weirdest general store I've seen.  It has EVERYTHING.  Besides my mask, I bought a magic Christmas tree which is growing in my office and a surprise present for Mom.  I could have bought a lot more but since half of my apartment cleaning consists of throwing crap away, I refrained from adding more to the pile of the eventual dumpster-bound bounty.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Good days, Fun Nights!

This week, I've felt like I have a real job. Yay!  I've seen clinic and operated so I feel like I've sort of earned my paycheck!  Although work has been nice, I'm really excited for SMS to get here. One more week and then my husband will live with me and we'll be like a normal married couple, living in Japan. Wait....

So much delicious food!
I have had some really fun week nights though!  On Tuesday, the interns had their half year party.  It was awesome!  We went to an izakaya, where it was great company and amazing food. We had edamame, sashimi with an incredible smoked tuna, a delicious shabu shabu style chicken soup, yakitori and fried seafood. It was so incredibly delicious and I'm definitely glad I was hungry. It was also a really fun, eclectic crowd. The XO was there , a few senior officers, the interns, some younger docs and the nurses. I haven't partied with nurses since my intern year. I felt very old and young at the same time!  Afterwards, we went to karaoke. Many of the more responsible peoples had bid adieu, but I went for a little bit although I didn't stay too long because of works the next day.   I was able to sing "Bad Romance" by Lady GaGa so I represented a little bit!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Amazing weekend!



What a crazy awesome Thanksgiving 2013!

On Thursday, I had a pretty full day.  I played flag football for about an hour and a half in the morning. It was a lot of fun and I was in a couple of key plays.  Granted, I was playing on the kids team with a few parents so the competition level wasn't high, but it was a lot of fun.  It was also incredibly windy, which sort of cut things off a little sooner than they otherwise would have.

After lunch, I got ready for my first Thanksgiving dinner.  I made a quick stop at AVE and bought pillows for the Etsy covers I bought.  They look awesome on the couch (couch before and after coming soon!).  Then I went over to Doug and Rose's.  I made an awesome Thanksgiving sandwich.  Unfortunately, Doug had gotten called in so I didn't see too much of him.  I hung out for about two hours and then headed out to Shiori for Thanksgivingkuh!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Movember!

Ha, ha.  I cannot grow a mustache.  Thank god.  But even if I could (and again, thank goodness no), I would not participate in the ridiculousness of Movember (Mustache+November).  For many, many, many people, mustaches are not a good look.  Definitely all ladies and lots of men.  Especially men in the Navy that have to follow uniform grooming standards so they have these truncated little mustaches. Blech.

But what, do you ask, has happened in November for me?  Thank you for asking!  Part of my honeymoon extended into November (yay!) and now I'm back, hard at work.  Work, speaking of, has been pretty great.  I had 5 cases on Thursday, was done at 1430 and had really good outcomes for all the patients.  It was a highly satisfying day.  I wish there were more of them but, eh, I'll take what I can get!

This week is, of course, THANKSGIVING!  I love the food and I am going to THREE Thanksgiving dinners- yeah!  Go me!  On Thursday, I will go to Rose and Doug's for linner than Adam and Jen for dupper (supper + dinner).  At Adam and Jen's, I will eat Kosher turkey so maybe being more pure leads to fewer calories?  Here's hoping!

On Friday, I have my nerd alert Thanksgiving potluck that Jenn is throwing and all of our favorite surgeons and sig o's (except SMS *sad face*) will be there.  The texts were flying last week and I suspect that dinner may actually be the best!

I have also organized the apartment a little more.  All of my textbooks are now at work and I disposed of a bag and a half of sentimental memories (read: crap).  It was borderline cathartic to get rid of stuff and the guest room is much cleaner, although still a total bomb.  I'm on track to be done before SMS arrives, which will be nice.  I really want to welcome him to a nice home, not a flat with a decidedly transient air.

Finally, I have read TWO books this weekend!  I'm going on a little fiction binge before reading ENT again in preparation for the oral boards.  I read The Magicians by Lev Grossman and The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling.

The Magicians was described to me as a "Harry Potter in College," which is sort of true.  The Harry Potter-ish parts were cool as I'm a sucker for imaginative stories about magic.  The College part was not- it reminded me a lot of The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides, which features three insufferable, inwardly myopic early 20-somethings that feel parroting post-Modernist philosophers to be the height of intellectual sophistication.  BTW, this may have been me circa 2000 but med school beat so much of my liberal arts sophistication out of me.  MEMORIZE THE KREBS CYCLE!  NOW!  BETTER YET, YESTERDAY!!!

The Casual Vacancy was quite good.  JK Rowling is a very talented story-teller.  The main plot line sort of flashed to a brilliant, although sad, conclusion at the very end.  It was a bit of a bait-and-switch since there was a seemingly more obvious storyline, but a key event at the end had one storyline jump out, apart from the rest.  But the weird thing is, there is still so much that needs to play out although the book has ended.  It wasn't a cliff-hanger, but so many lives and family dynamics were described that would still continue to play out even after the conclusion of the one plot line.  It's amazing how the families were brought to life.  While I don't need to know exactly what happens, it's fun that characters were so well-developed that I can think about what would happen after the small glimpse that the book allows.  So, while this book is not in the Parthenon of my favorite books, it's well done and I would recommend it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Great News!!!



Woo-hoo!  I passed my written boards!  This is such awesome news.  I thought I had passed my boards but I've been surprised by exam results in the past so I was relieved when I clicked open the email this morning!

My Dad pointed out that I've done a lot this year and when I think about it, it's true!  In 2013, I've gotten engaged, married, graduated from residency, moved to Japan, started as a staff physician and passed my written boards.  Also, I've gone on tons of awesome vacations.  I definitely have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving (and every day)!

I can't wait for SMS to be here!  Then my happiness will be complete!

Honeymoon- Part 2!


As nice as Kauai was, Waikiki was wonderful.  Yes, it's touristy and built-up but everything is just so easy.  It's like the perfect vacation where nothing has to be thought about but there's still plenty to do apart from lying on the beach, turning into a bored leather bag.  We both loved it and it was such a mellow, awesome time.

We arrived in Oahu and rented a car for $15/day.  Srsly.  I couldn't believe it.  Parking was more expensive or at least it was until SMS got us a military discount!  We got up to our room that had the most amazing view and got ready for dinner.  We went to Marukame Udon for dinner.  It was delicious and nice to walk around Waikiki.  We had tried to go to Duke's (I know, SO touristy) but it was packed so we decided to go the soup route to help SMS get over his cold.


The next day was so much fun!  We met up with Marissa and Blake for an Oahu adventure.  We met at Boots N Kimo for breakfast where SMS and I split macadamia pancakes and a yummy egg dish.  Then we went on a hike that SMS really wanted to do.  It was the Olo'hana hike and the views were awesome.  It was a bit of a scramble at the top and there were some spots that had ropes tied in for assistance.  It was awesome!  Afterwards, we went to the Kalapawai Cafe, which was the cutest cottage cafe.  SMS split a sandwich and we had delicious coffee.  We hung out for a bit then headed towards Waikiki.  We hadn't eaten a lot at lunch because we were saving room for poke at Fresh Catch, which was absolutely delicious.  Then we grabbed mochi ice cream at Bubbies.  We relaxed in Waikiki for a bit before heading out to a late dinner at 12th Ave Grill.  The food was good but there was a lilikoi mochi cake for dessert that was unbelievable.

The next morning, we headed to the Moana Surfrider Hotel to have delicious Kona coffee in a French press at the Honolulu Coffee company.  We also had an acai bowl.  I've had two in my life and this was definitely not my favorite but the coffee was absolutely amazing.  Then we went surfing for an hour and a half.  SMS was really good.  I wasn't as good but I blame my le tired shoulders.  It's a lot of paddling to get out to the Waikiki break!  Then we lay in the sun and napped.  It was awesome.  For lunch and dinner, we went to House Without a Key for both.  The food there is so good and I had my obligatory pina colada!

The next morning, our (Hawaiian) honeymoon was drawing to a close.  We had Kona coffee in the room and then I  dropped SMS off.  I went back to the hotel and took a nap.  Then I went and lay out on the beach- sometimes the draw of turning into a handbag is too strong!  I checked out of the hotel and then had lunch at House Without a Key.  My cheeseburger was delicious!  I went stand-up paddleboarding and then showered at the Hale Koa.  I went to the airport where I had more of the delicious USO cookies before heading off to my flight.  Although I made it one last action-packed day, I really missed SMS!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Honeymoon- part 1!

I was so excited about our honeymoon!  I was unsure whether to call it a "vacation" or a "honeymoon" since it was a few months after our wedding but we were celebrating our marriage so honeymoon it was!

We had the best time.  We initially booked our tickets to/from Honolulu based on SMS' class schedule. Then, once things settled down after boards, we started planning what we wanted to do.  There were definitely a few things we wanted to do on Oahu, but we decided to go inter-island.  Maui was briefly mentioned but ultimately, we decided on Kauai.

I arrived in Honolulu first, several hours ahead of SMS.  So, I went and got my nails done so that my feet looked good in flip-flops!  I took a cab there, a bus back and got to the airport right when SMS got there.  He was waiting in the USO (my favorite place!).  This USO in particular had AMAZING cookies, although I learned that SMS is not a fan of shredded coconut.  Yum, more for me!  We headed over to the local air terminal and caught our flight for Hawaii.

We ate at Mark's Place for lunch that had local plate specials.  The salmon was amazing!
Beautiful Nepali Coast!

We stayed at a great apartment that I found through VRBO.  It was in Hane'a, just a little west of Hanalei.  I had really wanted to stay on the North Shore.  It was beautiful and a short walk from Tunnels Beach.  That night, we went to BARacuda and had a Spanish tapas themed meal.
Our hike.  Top right shows SMS near the death tally sign for people who
drowned at the beach.  He is very attune to safety and things one can die from!

The next day, we walked on Tunnels Beach, had pulled pork for lunch and went to Ke'e Park to watch the sunset over Napali Coast.  It was a very mellow paced day.  We had a totally opposite day the next day when we did an 8 mile hike along the Napali Coast and inland a bit to the gorgeous Hanakap-ai waterfall.  It was a great hike, but we were starting to feel the effects of not enough food by the end!  That night, we had a huge meal at Chicken in the Barrel to make up for it.  Yes, the place is as classy as it sounds but had great BBQ!

The next day, we took a driving tour around Kauai.  We stopped at Old Time Coffee and I had the most delicious maple cinnamon latte.  We saw Waimea canyon.  It's so awesome and beautiful.  SMS said that it does look like a "Little Grand Canyon" as all the Kauai literature says.  We got shave ice in town and then headed to barking sands for some beach time with snacks (very important).  We also went to a coffee farm and chocolate stand.  We got puka dogs for a late lunch (delicious!) and had leftovers for dinner once we got back to the apartment.

SMS was feeling a little under the weather so the next day, we headed to Oahu earlier in the afternoon than we originally planned.  We had a quick beach visit after eating at the Sunrise Cafe for brekkie.  Then I had a second delicious coffee at Old Time coffee and SMS had really good el pescador tacos from a food truck across the street.    Then is was back to Oahu for a Waikiki vacation, coming up in Part II!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Coming attractions!

Ooo, I have so much to report!  It'll be brief tonight because I'm really tired and I want to write good posts.

First, all of our furniture arrived and I am mostly unpacked.  The bad news is that I have delayed so long in posting that the apartment is messy again.  Whah.  Second, SMS and I had an awesome honeymoon.  Hawaii is wonderful and it was so great to see him again.

I also had a fun weekend outing right before the honeymoon that involved Godzilla, a croquet/par 3 golf/putt putt hybrid game and ramen.  Finally, I need to post a before and after of the couch SMS and I got reupholstered.

But for now, I am le tired.  But I will write more soon with pretty pictures.  Yay!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

YouTube round-up!

I love my friend Rose. She completely dispels the myth that moms are uncool. She's the coolest and by hanging out with her, I am able to update the latest awesomeness from YouTube.

First up, she and her group of friends dressed up as foxes. As well they should but here's Ellen setting up the scene for America.



And here's the full video-


We also spent the night Twitter-talking with hashtags.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Moving Day!

What, it isn't normal to have a fourth moving day in 2 months!?  Well, today is the big one- all of our furniture arrives!
Good bye old man chair, I'll have some nicer things now to sit in while I spy on the neighborhood!

I've been so excited about today. The past weekend was super mellow. I was on call, which was a great excuse to sit around the house and play on the computer. It was a little overdose but fun to enjoy my newly connected Internet!  I did head over to Ikego for a nice dinner on Saturday with some people from the hospital. It was at Dave and Ashley's house and the guest list included Rod, Theresa, Jamie, Peter, Scott and Melissa. It was a great group and not too much work talk. Among us, we had OBGyn, ENT, GS and ophtho represented!

Monday, I went over to Aaron's house for dinner. It is a gorgeous home and in such a neat location. His house is in a quiet neighborhood but there's a more vibrant area around the train station. We had steak, asparagus, chard and bread. Yum!  It had been a minute since I had a steak!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Awesome Day!

Yesterday, was my first awesome day here in Japan relative to how I feel like I fit into this place.  Of course, I still stick out like a sore thumb and need to work on my Japanese but I had such an awesome experience today that it was a huge weight off my shoulders/sigh of relief like, "Oh, I can belong(ish)."

I went out to Blue St yesterday after checking on a quick issue at work and an awesome workout (don't worried, I showered and changed!).  I was on a mission to get a phone, likely an iPhone.  I was using a pay-as-you-go flip phone that charges pretty high rates and has awful texting.  I remember a few years ago how stupid I thought texting was and now?  Text away my friends.

Blue St is the main street outside the gate that borders Hon-cho, or "The Honch."  The Honch is the easiest bar area to access right off base so there are a lot of people out most nights and this is where Shore Patrol hangs out.  During the day, there are lots of little shops and people going in and out.  Due to the proximity of the base, most of the service oriented shops (cell phones, housing agencies, internet) have English speaking workers.

Anyways, I went into a cell phone shop and a woman asked, "Can I help you?"  It was Ayuko, my soon-to-be-BFF for the next hour.  I had seen signs for "0 Yen" iPhones and asked her about them.  Basically, it's a lot like American contracts in that the phone is subsidized through the course of a 2-year contract.  This is awesome b/c it meant I could sign up that day and not pay upfront like the Softbank counter in the NEX makes customers do.  So instead of paying $600-$700 upfront for an iPhone, I get it for "free."  If I leave before Oct 2015 (and I better), I simply pay the # of months left x 1/24 of the price.   So, I'll end up paying ~$100 rather than the NEX price.  Score!
My other new BFF!
So, I was pretty happy.  You might be wondering why it took me so long in the first place?  Well, I just couldn't handle one more thing during Sept/early Oct.  There was just so much on my plate I couldn't muster up the mental energy to do an optional errand.  Don't worry- I was still showering and functioning on a pretty good level so no breakdown mode.  I just needed a little time and space and Sept/early Oct just didn't offer it for me.

I pulled out a little document holder so that I could store my phone documents away when Ayuko exclaimed, "JComm?!?!"  The folder was from JComm, the internet company that covers my apartment.  It turns out that AU, the company I went with for the phone service, and JComm are merged.  She got very excited and said, "Let's save some money."  She reviewed my JComm contract.  She managed to upgrade my service, get the installation fee waived (5000 Y) AND get a 1400Y monthly discount on my cell phone bill!  Awesome!  It took awhile to get it all sorted out but I was really happy.  I left and excitedly called SMS on Facetime and told him every boring detail (believe it or not, it's the short version above!).

But you know why I'm happy?  It's not so much the money saved, although of course that's nice.  It's the fact that someone was so willing to help.  Being a foreigner unable to speak the language is just a set-up for getting ripped off and just generally feeling out of place.  The fact that Ayuko offered great customer service and helped me out was such a welcome relief.  I know, it's technically her job to sell things and she was probably happy to sell an iPhone that day but it was so awesome that she went above and beyond for me.

And now SMS and I can call each other all the time!  Awesome.  I do need to figure out a way to attach a cell phone charm.  Then I'll really fit in!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gai-Jin Godzilla Shoplifter

It was a Thursday night. Well, really, it was 7 o'clock but it felt really late since it's dark by 5:15. I have been in love with a certain orange little guy lately and I was determined to find more of his kind.
Oh, persimmons!  I love you!  So delicious! 

I decided to walk to the grocery store. The first one was closed but no biggie, I figured that one out on my own.  So, off to LIVIN I went. I entered and grabbed a yellow basket that was by the door. I headed to the produce sections and picked up six of my lil' loves.   Then, I was moseying around, picking out figs, grapes and...

" Oh my god, what are you doing?! Don't do that!  Please stop!  You don't even understand what I'm saying do you!  Augh, you are bringing disorder and chaos to our peaceful land. Please, wait here, don't move, please!"


This, is at least, an approximate translation of what was all of a sudden being yelled at me. Not yelling by volume, but definitely by tone. A little stocker/store worker had torn me from my fruitful reverie and all of a sudden it was clear that I was doing something very, very disturbing. 

So, I did what she said and just stood there as she ran off. At this point, I really had no idea what I had done, I just knew that I had done something wrong. 

She quickly returned with another basket, this one gray colored. We transferred my things, bowed and said a lot of Sumimasens.  We then parted ways.  

I still had no idea what exactly was wrong. I thought maybe it was another store's basket since all of a sudden, I realized everyone had the gray baskets.  

At the checkout, I paid for my purchases and at that moment, realized what I had done.  In Japan, the cashier rings you up and then you take your things to a little counter space just past the register to bag your things. Sometimes the cashier gives you bags, other times they're at the counter space (this is mainly a grocery store thing).   Anyways, as the clerk rang up my purchases, he transferred the items from the gray basket to a bright yellow basket!!!  I had been using a yellow, "already paid for" basket!!  Basically, I was the most ridiculous shoplifter ever. Don't mind me, I've already paid for these persimmons!  Just blending in with the crowd, yessiree!

Seriously, though, I almost gave that woman a heart attack. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mis-adventures in Japan

So, this was just inspired by the fact that I'm in my office waiting for an after-hours Japanese-American doctor social to start and I decided to practice my hiragana.  I opened up what I thought was graph paper but instead, it's one sheet and the main point of the purchase with the page protector the insert was in.  Le sigh.

Other things that have happened include Jenn and my's adventure in Yokohama.  First, we went to an "Ethiopian" place since Jenn was craving Ethiopian food.  Well, craving unsatisfied since the restaurant was, essentially, a Japanese curry place.  Then, we went to a restaurant for dessert.  We were seated and tried to order dessert.  The waiter said that he was very sorry but they were only taking dinner orders.  So we were escorted from the restaurant.  That was so weird it wasn't even embarrassing!

Finally, when I went to Narita, I took the Skyliner Express, which granted, was pretty swank.  It also required the purchase of two tickets, i.e. double the price.  Doh!

Edited to add: Last night had an AWESOME example. There was a providers' social at the O Club for the Naval Hospital and the local university. The XO was giving an introduction and, wanting to stress the importance of our joint efforts in caring for patients, said, "I am fairly certain that in every language, there is a saying, 'Strength in Unity.'" The translator stood there, completely unable to translate. There was an awkward silence and someone from the audience suggested, "Teamwork?" Still silent. Thus, the nascent sentiment of universalism was nipped in the bud.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Apartment!

Last Thursday, I officially moved into my new apartment.  Well, really, it's SMS and mine but I don't want to seem like I refer to myself with the royal "we!"  The apartment is gorgeous and satisfies all of the "Would be nice to haves..." that SMS gave me since he couldn't go apartment hunting with me.  It's 2 bedrooms, one bathroom (but with separate toilet room from the sink/shower room) with a covered parking spot, a nice view and close to base.  I lucked out!

The apartment is 2 miles south of base.  At first, I was averse to living South of base b/c I thought, "Why would I want to live farther from Tokyo?!"  Well, it's only two miles and the nearest train stop is a 7 minute walk and is an express stop on the Keikyu line.  It's right on the seawall and to the north and south, the seawall extends with a promenade that's great for running and biking.  It's good for exercise and commuting to work!

It's a 5 story building with a few other people from base, as evidenced by the car stickers and "Y" license plates.  We're on the second floor, facing the ocean.  There's a sort of infinity pool effect from the inside since it seems like the sea comes right to the base although there's actually a small utility road between the building and the seawall.

So, without further ado, here are some pictures!


In the above photo sequence, the top left shows the entrance way where one takes off his/her shoes.  The mid-top photo shows the vantage point if you were standing in the entrance way.  The sink/shower room is straight ahead and the main room to the right.  The toilet room is off to the left but not visible in the picture.  The top right photo is what you would see if you were standing in the main room doorway in the mid-top picture.  A bedroom is straight ahead and the kitchen slightly to the right.  The bottom left photo is from the corner of the main room showing the balcony and tatami room.  This shot shows some of the violent churning of the ocean from Typhoon Wipha that just came through.  The mid-bottom shows the tatami room and the bottom right is the kitchen (kind of self-explanatory).


Oh, the tub room!  This might be my favorite room.  The tub heats itself by recirculating the water and self-fills to the perfect depth.  Also, there's a small built-in bench opposite the window so you can sit in the tub and look out the water and meditate on the horizon.  Although there are fisherman below, no one can see into the second story level unless you smooshed yourself against the glass, which isn't my thing but I won't judge you, potential visitors.  (Well, maybe a little.  I don't want to get evicted!).  I'm not exactly sure why the water is light blue.  It's sort of disconcerting but doesn't smell like chemicals so I'm just going to go with it.


These are not the best photos but this just shows there are two bedrooms, one of which is a mess since I have no dresser yet.  I am a little concerned about the size of the bed we're bringing over but I think it should work.

So, there's a little tour for the three readers of my blog.  You're welcome!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tokyo Concert


After a great day at work with my first “real” surgery as a staff, I was on my way to Tokyo for The Killers concert. Now, if you want to feel like a big weird-o, buy tickets via a Japanese translator for a band named “The Killers.” I swear, it’s just rock, not death metal!

I headed out to Studio-Coast in Shin-Kiba using my trusty Hyperdia directions. I love that website. When I reached Shinagawa, I had a quick bite to eat at Soup Stock Tokyo. The dinner was amazing! I had two delicious soups: a lobster bisque and a tofu soup. Both were so tasty and served at the absolute perfect temperature. They were hot, but not too hot. I hate when soups are lukewarm because I don’t think they’re as flavorful and I worry about germs growing – yuck! But this dinner reminded me of how good food can be in Japan. I also had a tasty roll and a small mug of honey lemon tea that was also perfect. 

Then I got on the Yamamote line followed by the Tokyo metro. I sped-walked to the venue because as I learned the hard way with Arcade Fire in 2008, concerts in Japan start on time! 

The concert was amazing. I stood on the steps to the main floor so I was close and had a great view. The venue is about 2000 people and has a wide, shallow floor so there really isn’t a bad vantage point anywhere. The whole band has a great stage presence although Brandon Flowers is definitely the focus, apart from the instrument solos. The concert was similar to X-fest last December. They played “Mr. Brightside” with the lights up, which felt like I was watching a band inside a school auditorium. The rest of the concert was darkened with lighting for effect. “Human” was awesome, both in the piano intro and full-song version. “A Dustland Fairytale” was a new-to-me song and I really liked it. Battle Born has some great songs and I loved the live version of “The Way It Was” and “Runaways.” It was just an overall awesome show. 

During “Read My Mind,” a Japanese fan in a green dragon costume was invited on stage. He was great! He danced and sang the “Read My Mind” line a few times. He was also very hug-gy. Flowers got 3 hugs from him and several deep bows! I later found out that the guy was dressed as Gachapin, a character that shows up in the “Read My Mind” video. Ah, so desu. 

Here’s the set-list: Mr. Brightside* Spaceman* The Way It Was* Smile Like You Mean It* Human (piano/vocals)* Bling(Confessions of a King)* Shadowplay (Joy Division Cover)* Human* Somebody Told Me* For Reasons Unknown* From Here On Out* A Dustland Fairytale* Read My Mind* Runaways* All These Things That I’ve Done* Encore: Jenny Was a Friend of Mine* When You Were Young (The Internet tells me that on 10/9, they also played Under the Gun, Prize Fighter, This is Your Life, Battle Born, but minus Jenny. Neither show had Miss Atomic Bomb.)

Monday, October 7, 2013

San Diego, Part 2

On Friday, SMS and I headed out to Idylwild/Tahquitz for a day of climbing. It was so much fun. The weather was perfect and the area was gorgeous. I definitely see why it’s SMS’ favorite area. I really liked the climbs and rock quality. We started with a 5.9 single pitch, followed by a four pitch route. Both were awesome and we had so much fun.


 That night for dinner, we went to Aroma CafĂ© in town. I had their delicious bread, followed by spaghetti and meatballs. It was so good, plus I was really hungry! SMS had the sausage lasagna that was incredible. Overall, it was a really great day and I got introduced to a few more of SMS’s things. He’s always talked about Idylwild but the 2 hour drive kept us away until now! 

On Saturday, we went to Rip and Linda’s house and hung out by the pool. Then we went to Starlite and had a delicious dinner. We had mules, cheese board, arugula/ricotta flatbread, kale salad and polenta fritters. It was all so delicious. We finished up the meal with an ice cream sandwich- yum! 

Then, unfortunately, it was time to go. But really, the weekend was so perfect I wasn’t even that sad. The whole time felt like a bonus vacation since it was fairly impromptu and we had the best time. One month until Hawaii!

Friday, October 4, 2013

San Diego mini-trip

Mid-September, SMS and I decided we didn't want to wait until the end of October to see each other. So...I saw clinic Monday and Tuesday so I could head home to San Diego for the rest of the week!  It is SO nice to see SMS- he is very missable and although Skype is wonderful, it's great to be home!

We've also seen a few other people since being here. I think the highlight was going out to dinner last night (Thursday) with Linda and Rip. We arrived at the restaurant first and they were shocked when they saw me.  We wanted to surprise them and we definitely did!  It was pretty awesome and we had a great yakitori meal together. 

On Wednesday, I went out to dinner at Stone with several of my friends. No pictures, unfortunately, but I have lots of mental snapshots and memories from dinner. I feel very lucky that 7 of us could get together. There was the added bonus that SMS actually got out of class early and hung out with us. It sounds silly, but I love when our lives become more intertwined and when we hang out with great people together. 

Wednesday was actually the longest Wednesday ever since I left at 4 pm Wednesday and arrived in San Diego at noon on the same date. Since I left later in the afternoon, I actually got a fair bit done in Japan.  I finalized my car purchase and obtained base stickers. I also turned in my paperwork to arrange my "signing paperwork appointment" at the housing office. In the spirit of "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," I have nothing to say about the Yokosuka housing office. 

It ends up that I/we will live off-base. I found a great apartment in Miharucho. It's a 2 bedroom apartment on the second story of a five story apartment building right on Tokyo Bay. We have a full ocean view!  We also have covered parking and are only 1.7 miles from base. It's an incredible find and I'm really happy!  Pictures will definitely follow!  I am signing the contract on Wednesday, getting gas turned on Thursday and I'm going to have appliances and my express shipment delivered on Friday. I'll have a home by the end of next week!

As for the rest of my San Diego trip, SMS and I are going climbing at Tahquitz today and going to Starlite for dinner tomorrow before I go. We're going to use the birthday gift card I got from Brady.  I can't wait!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

San Diego mini-trip!

Mid-September, SMS and I decided we didn't want to wait until the end of October to see each other. So...I saw clinic Monday and Tuesday so I could head home to San Diego for the rest of the week!  It is SO nice to see SMS- he is very missable and although Skype is wonderful, it's great to be home!

We've also seen a few other people since being here. I think the highlight was going out to dinner last night (Thursday) with Linda and Rip. We arrived at the restaurant first and they were shocked when they saw me.  We wanted to surprise them and we definitely did!  It was pretty awesome and we had a great yakitori meal together. 

On Wednesday, I went out to dinner at Stone with several of my friends. No pictures, unfortunately, but I have lots of mental snapshots and memories from dinner. I feel very lucky that 7 of us could get together. There was the added bonus that SMS actually got out of class early and hung out with us. It sounds silly, but I love when our lives become more intertwined and when we hang out with great people together. 

Wednesday was actually the longest Wednesday ever since I left at 4 pm Wednesday and arrived in San Diego at noon on the same date. Since I left later in the afternoon, I actually got a fair bit done in Japan.  I finalized my car purchase and obtained base stickers. I also turned in my paperwork to arrange my "signing paperwork appointment" at the housing office. In the spirit of "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all," I have nothing to say about the Yokosuka housing office. 

It ends up that I will live off-base. I found a great apartment in Miharucho. It's a 2 bedroom apartment on the second story of a five story apartment building right on Tokyo Bay. We have a full ocean view!  We also have covered parking and are only 1.7 miles from base. It's an incredible find and I'm really happy!  Pictures will definitely follow!  I am signing the contract on Wednesday, getting gas turned on Thursday and I'm going to have appliances and my express shipment delivered on Friday. I'll have a home by the end of next week!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Local hike


Today was a pretty great day!  I got back last night and felt like relaxing today.  I had a small urge to go into work and see what emails transpired on Friday in regards to my housing debacle.  But I squelched that urge and decided to stay away from work.  Then I was super lazy and decided I had to get out of the house.  I decided to go for a run/hike.  I ran to the hiking trail in Zushi that is opposite the Jimmuji train station.  I was a little lost and ran for about 40 minutes (it's really not that far).

I went on the hike.  I would have run but my knee has been a little twinge-y since I hyper-extended it a few weeks ago so I played it safe.  I came upon a pretty awesome shrine but didn't find the rock climbing wall that is pretty popular.  Next time, next time.

Above, I included some photos including a sign stating that the area is a Wildlife Preserve.  Apparently, Seamus Squirrel's Japanese cousins are well-liked around here.  Gross.

Okonomiyaki


One of the foods that the Hiroshima Prefecture is known for is Okonomiyaki.  It is amazing.  There is a thin wafer/tortilla of flour and water, tons of cabbage and sprouts, pork, egg and the most amazingly delicious, addictive sauce ever.  I had one at Miyajima and one in Hiroshima proper.  I'm fairly certain that both places were the ones that Mom and I went to in 2008.  It was so tasty and awesome!  Whoever visits, even if we don't make it down to hiroshima, I will find a okonomiyaki place locally just so you can try it!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hiroshima



We arrived in Hiroshima and walked along the Peace Promenade and went to Atomic Peace Park.  I went twice in two days: once on Friday afternoon and once on Saturday morning before leaving.  I skipped the museum this time but the park itself is very solemn and hopeful at the same time.  There are many memorials and signs with multiple translations.  

 I just finished “Unbroken” and they talk about riding through that countryside and witnessing the destruction.  That first, the trees had no leaves, then there were no trees and then there was nothing.  It was horrific but at the same time, the reason why the POWs were free, rather than dead.  The Japanese knew they were losing the war and had issued an “All-Kill order” for all POWs later that August.

  
It’s amazing how the city rebuilt.  And now the hope is that no city or place on earth has to go through that destruction again.  One new sight I saw this time was the marker that indicates the hypocenter, the location where the bomb exploded, 600 m above the ground.  It’s outside the park on a street that is otherwise completely modernized and contains several parking structures.  

On Saturday, as I was walking to the Peace Park, I took a different route and it was completely jarring to me that all of a sudden, there was the “A-bomb dome.”  It was a striking reminder that it can be so easy to be involved in our daily lives and forget to pay homage and witness to the past.

Sasebo


Next up...Sasebo!  The clinic went well although there were fewer patients then Iwakuni.  Sasebo is a beautiful place with rolling green hills that meet the water and gorgeous sunsets.  The base is pretty small.  We had a mini-adventure getting there since I thought Nagasaki and Sasebo were on the same train line.  They’re not!  

Also, I am confused about the Shinkansen to JR transfer.  When we arrived at Hakata, we were able to transfer directly to the JR limited express without any other ticket.  But then on the train, the conductor wanted our JR tickets, which we didn’t have.  Eventually, we worked out that we would pay when we arrived at the station but there has to be some way to pay for JR tickets at the beginning.  Currently, it’s an awkward experience that I'd like to avoid.  Also, a side note to this experience- always have extra money on me in Japan.  Yikes!  The transfer station did not have ANY foreign ATMs.  The main tourist/international ATMs are at the 7-11 and when there’s no 7-11, well...it's no bueno.  Fortunately, I didn’t need the money since we got picked up by the duty driver but it was still pretty stressful.

So, in Sasebo, I went out with a former medical school classmate who’s a GP right now.  He and his friend Edgar took me out to the most delicious yakitori place, followed by a karaoke bar where they had bottle service.  The bottle service concept confused me at first.  I thought, “Wait, we’re about to spend $250 on a bottle in a random bar on a Thursday night?”  No, thank goodness!  They frequent this bar and they buy a bottle of alcohol at wholesale cost.  Then, each time they go, they pay a flat fee of 800Y and they can drink as much as they want from their bottle.  We stayed out until midnight, which was later than I was expecting but a lot of fun.  To finish off the evening, we went to “Ra-ra ramen,” which was so good!  I can't wait to take SMS and see if he thinks it's better than his L.A. spot!  Then I took a cab back to the hotel while Edgar and Scott walked back to their apartments off-base.

The next morning, I was sleepy but I had one patient and then we were off.  The corpsman and I went off to Hiroshima for the evening before heading back on Saturday.