Friday, January 23, 2015

Settling in at the Navy Lodge

Once we arrived on base we stopped at PSD for those meeting sponsors and then were off to the Navy Lodge. We got checked in, got to our [newly renovated] room with a queen bed, a bunk bed, shower (no tub) small fridge and microwave ($65/day) and all took a nap. By this time it was about 2 pm and we were physically and mentally drained. Our reservation was made months prior for two queen beds and a kitchenette for $72/day (we had that in 2008), but they weren't available. At check in we were placed on a waiting list for one of those rooms. During our 18 days there we did not get into the larger and more comfortable room. Our sponsor was very kind and left a bag of snacks for us at the front desk. The Lodge also provided a welcome basket/bag per their website (a quart of milk and some bottled water). They've got coffee every morning in the lobby, but not the complimentary breakfast that "starts the day off right" as stated on their website. There is a NEX mini mart next door which is convenient and the commissary is a 10-15 min walk away. We ate out in town quite a bit and made microwavable meals in the room. There's a Chili's a stone's throw away from the Lodge too.

They're renovating right now (started in November) so the playroom is an office and the playground out back is closed. It's scheduled to be completed in March. They've got two laundry rooms on the second floor but only one is accessible via the elevator; the other stairs only. If you need to print something you've got to email it to one of the staff and they'll print it out for you. At first we were told there were no printers but I asked another person and got a different answer.

The Yokosuka Housing Office is next door to the Navy Lodge and has a brief at 8:30 am every day except the first Wednesday of the month. Get there at 8 when they open, sign up for the brief (if you haven't already in advance) and fill out the paperwork. Several ladies were going in and out of the room and shortly after each person was handed a piece of paper with their name on top. On it was a list of available units specified for their rank and family size. On Bob's list was a handful of Yokosuka apartments, no Yokosuka townhouses, one Ikego townhouse and a lengthy list of Ikego apartments. He selected what we wanted, handed in the paper and was on his way to work. He made an appointment for later that afternoon for us to sign additional paperwork. Units were available so there was no waiting list for housing. Our control date was June 20th but that was irrelevant. Everyone in the room was assigned housing that day.

As far as the Navy Lodge is concerned, make your reservations as soon as possible. Before finding out we had to fly on the military flight we planned to arrive a couple of days after Christmas. I first tried making Navy Lodge reservations back in early October.  We didn't have dates or details, but reserving a room was the priority. I tried the toll free number and the hotel directly and was told the same thing. Their calendar only went out until Dec 31st so each week I called trying to extend it through January. It wasn't until the week of Thanksgiving that I was able to do that. When we were checking in there were people that said they had made a reservation but no rooms were available. They were given a Certificate of Non-Availability (CNA) and sent to a hotel off base.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Flying the Patriot Express from Seattle

Mt. Fuji during our approach. 
 When we moved here from Hawaii in 2008 we flew commercial, but we weren't that lucky this time around. 

Bob and I made calls and searched online for any information that would be helpful in preparation for our flight to Japan. Air Mobility Command has a website but it's vague, somewhat outdated and, in our experience, not entirely accurate.

The AMC terminal is in the SEATAC Airport. We were issued commercial tickets to Seattle and then were told to check in on Saturday night from 11 pm until 1 am Sunday morning. Check in was next to the Hawaiian Airlines counter. On the SEATAC website it's labeled as "1." The car rental shuttle dropped us off right in front of it. The departure time was scheduled for 5 am Sunday. According to the person at the AMC desk that I spoke with over the phone, the earlier we checked in the higher our chances of sitting together as a family. 

Long line to check in by 11:15 p.m.
One would assume seats would already be assigned because all of the passengers are traveling on orders, but that wasn't the case. We were staying with friends at the sub base in Kitsap so we were able to leave for the airport that night. Other people in the line of hundreds had flown into the airport that afternoon and were tired, bored and annoyed with the arrangements that had been made by SATO and out of their control. Two lines were formed and we were told to get into the one with families and people traveling with pets.  

There wouldn't be enough time to check in and get a hotel room to rest and let the kids sleep, so we were stuck at the airport. A map we found showed 24 hour Denny's about a 10-15 min walk away (not a great area). Our other option was the USO. We read that it gets packed in was. We were there from midnight until 4 am. Our flight was delayed a bit so we were sitting there for longer than originally thought.

Thank goodness for the SEATAC USO! Without it we would have been laying down on the ground in the
terminal. There were quite a bit of people doing that...some had spent the evening at the USO and some didn't know it was an option. When we got there they had milk, juice boxes, water, apple sauce, pre-made tuna sandwiches and some pastries. They had free wifi, some couches, a family room with cribs, a media room with recliners and a large TV and a luggage storage area. We got drinks and took advantage of the wifi while trying to stay awake. Our goal was to fall asleep on the plane since we would be landing at 9 am.

Fridge in the USO
Around 1 am food was brought in from restaurants that had closed. We had salads, wraps, sandwiches and fruit salad cups. The volunteer staffers were wonderful and were doing their best to make us all comfortable. Some people were laying on the couches and taking up the whole thing for themselves, so our younger daughter fell asleep on my lap at the table we were at. Jim, a volunteer, came over with a blanket for us. Our four hours in there seemed to drag on, but the volunteers made it much better. We really would have preferred to fly commercial or to have a military flight during normal operating hours when lounges and restaurants in the terminal would be open.

It took about an hour to leave the USO and get to the gate. Security opens at 4 am so we lined up a few minutes before. AMC doesn't participate in Pre-check, so allow for extra time in the regular line. The irony is that it's free to military members...the girls and I get it too. We took the SEATAC tram to the S terminal. The coffee place by the gate was opening up so I grabbed breakfast and a drink for each of us.

Beef stew
Boarding started with O6 and above and then opened to families and then single members. The plane was a commercial 767 flown by a charter company. Seats were spaced 2-3-2 and the entire plane looked like coach class. We were given breakfast around 8 am PST and dinner a couple of hours before we landed. 

The AMC website has a PDF claiming meals are "comparable to commercial airlines business class, and special meals such as kosher, children's, diabetic, and vegetarian can be ordered with a 24-hour advance notice." An announcement was made offering pancakes or an omelette for breakfast and dinner was a choice of chicken with pasta or beef stew. 
Omelette with sausage

We travel. We travel a lot and earned enough miles to fly in business class to Europe (this past summer) and SE Asia (summer 2013). These meals were in no way comparable to business class. The two meals we were issued could be compared to coach meals. If you've got younger kids I recommend a snack for them and/or getting a meal before boarding. We had both since our expectations weren't high and it worked out well. We used the ear plugs and eye masks from amenity kits we've gotten over the years. If you've got them, bring them. There were a lot of young kids on board and the crying was non-stop. Most on board were families so we had more kids on this flight than the average commercial flight.

After landing at Yokota everyone deplaned, but those staying at Yokota or going to Yokosuka had a short brief. The guy there stamped our no-fee passports, we signed up for a shuttle bus and then we headed out the door to a small baggage claim area. We waited about 45 mins in the lobby for the shuttle to board and then we were off for the two hour ride to Yokosuka.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Orange White Mocha at Starbucks

Starbucks in Japan never fails. They offer drinks I've never heard (or even thought of) throughout the year and often times put the Secret Menu to shame. Shortly after we got here in 2008 they had coffee jelly cappuccino on the menu. My favorite is the Sakura Steamer during sakura (cherry blossom) season. Anyway, it was pouring the other day and was very windy. My shoes were soaked through, my jeans were wet and sticking to my legs me making me even colder and I needed to burn time before picking the kids up from school.

We hadn't bought our car yet so I was at the mercy of the base shuttle bus and its schedule. I needed to dry off, warm up and planned on getting a white mocha. That plan changed when I saw this orange white mocha with caramel sauce. Yum! I love all of these things but wasn't sure how the combined flavors would be. Believe it or not, it worked.

It had orange sugar, orange zest, Valencia orange syrup, espresso, steamed milk, orange whipped cream and caramel...all kinds of delicious goodness. I got a tall for ¥460 and not only was it worth every yen, it was elegant and warm as promised!  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Katie the Cookier

I love baking, always have. A little over a year ago I started decorating cookies with royal icing and fell in love with it. When we found out we were moving back to Japan I had these kokeshi doll cutters custom made from Truly Mad Plastics. I post pictures of what I've made here if you want to check it out. It's a public page so you don't need a Facebook account to view it. I am anxious to start baking and decorating again! We're hoping to be in our house and settled by mid February...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

We're Back in Japan!

It's been a long time since I've posted...and there are a lot of things I didn't post after we left Japan for Dam Neck, VA. Looking back at the photos made me miss it too much and I couldn't bring myself to do it. I'll get around to it one of these days... After a little bit of time in Dam Neck, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Newport, RI and Monterey, CA we are back in Japan! We've been here a week and are happy to be back. Things are hectic and we're not in a house yet, but once things settle down I'll start posting again.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kit Kat Japan's Regional Flavors

Most of the Kit Kats I have are in small boxes or bags, but some are in larger boxes or even boxes that can be sent through the Japanese mail system. On my list I have them noted as “Regional” and this map explains it. Different areas of Japan have different flavors available. The map above shows which flavor is available when and where. I’ve been able to get my hands on some and plan on getting the rest before we leave Japan. I've been told Narita Airport in Tokyo sells about half of these flavors, but for me, it's the thrill of the hunt, so buying them at a place I know will have them takes the fun out of it! But, on the other hand, If I'm not able to get some of the regional flavors, I'll be buying them from Kit Kat Japan's website!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Katie's Kit Kat Kount thru January 2010

Below is the list of flavors I've collected since finding my first Kit Kat in Japan, Matcha, in May 2008. I take pictures [on the kitchen counter] of each flavor individually, but in October I took a picture of them all on my kitchen table. The ones I've gotten between then and now won't be included in the photos below, but they are included on the list. I have a Shutterfly album of all the individual flavors and you can click here to see them. Click the pictures below to enlarge them.

Ajiwai Ichigo (Strawberry)

Apple Vinegar

Azuki Bean Bar for Setsubun

Azuki from Hokkaido (regional flavor)

Azuki Sando

Banana Littles

Black Kit Kats from Hong Kong

Blueberry Cheesecake

Caramel & Salt Littles

Caramel in a Jar

Caramel Macchiato McFlurry

Caramel Pudding for Halloween (2008)

Caramel Pudding for Halloween (2009)

Cherry with Free Music Download

Cherry Littles


Chilli Pepper Littles

Chocolate & Rose

Chocolate & White Chocolate Minis w/ Sakura & Message Packaging

Chunky Caramel Bar from Australia

Chunky Cookies & Cream Bar from Singapore

Cookies + Chocolate

Cookies + Minis

Custard Pudding

Daigaku Imo (Candied Sweet Potato)

Dark from Hong Kong

Dark Noir from South Korea

Double Berry

Easter Bunny (from U.S.)

Espresso Coffee

Fruit Mix

Ginger Ale

Green Tea Terimisu

Ichigo (Strawberry) Littles

Ichimi (Red Pepper) from Nagano (regional)

Ito en (Fruit & Vegetable Juice)

Iwate Zunda

Jasmine Tea

Jyagaimo (Baked Potato) from Hokkaido (regional)

Kic Ker from South Korea

Kinako (Soy Bean Powder)

Kinako Littles

Kinako Ohagi

Kit Kat Bar with Sakura Packaging for Exams

Kit Kat Coffee Mug

Kit Kat Eraser in the Shape of Bars

Kit Kats from Korea

Kit Kats from Korea (International Recipe)

Kit Kats from the Phillppines (International Recipe)

Kit Kats from Thailand (International Recipe)

Kokuto (Brown Sugar)

Lemon Vinegar

Lucky Littles

Mango from Okinawa (regional)

Mango Littles

Mango Pudding

Maple with Quebec Sugar

Matcha (Green Tea)

Matcha from Kyoto (regional)

Matcha with Kinako Bar

Melt in the Mouth Cocoa

Melt in the Mouth Cocoa with Cheese

Mild Bitter

Milk Chocolate & White (to write on) for Exams

Milk Coffee

Muscat of Alexandria

Nagano Ringo (Apple)

Nangoku Banana

Nescafé Gold Blend Special

Olympic Gold for 2008 Summer Olympics

Orange from Hong Kong


Peach & Yellow Peach



Raspberry & Passion Fruit for Valentine’s Day (2009)

Raspberry & Passion Fruit Happy Pack

Rich Soy Powder

Rilakkuma Ichigo (Strawberry Milk)

Ringo (Apple)

Roasted Tea

Royal Milk Tea


Santa Claus (U.S.)

Satsumaimo-aji (Sweet Potato) from Kawagoe (regional)

Shoyu (Soy Sauce) from Tokyo (regional)

Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Mailable from Tokyo (regional)

Sour Orange

Sparkling Strawberry

Sports Drink


Strawberry Cheesecake

Strawberry Cheesecake from Yokohama (regional)

Strawberry Mini

Strawberry Happy Pack

Strawberry Petit

Sweet Bean

Takimorokoshi (Grilled Corn) from Hokkaido (regional)


Triple Berry

Uji Matcha

Uji Tea & Chocolate

Ume Soda (Plum)

Lemon for Valentine’s Day (2009)

Wasabi from Kanto Plain (regional)

Watermelon & Salt

White Chocolate

White with Hokkaido Milk

Yakimo Baked Sweet Potato

Yakimorokoshi (Corn Butter) Mailable from Hokkaido (regional)

Yamanashi Grape from Nagoano (regional)

Yokohama 150th Anniversary Salty Caramel Kit Kats

Yokohama Strawberry Cheesecake (mailable)

Yokohama Strawberry Cheesecake

Yubari Melon Mailable from Hokkaido (regional)

Yukimizakura Mailable

Yuzu (Citrus)

Zenryufun Bar (Whole Wheat Flour)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sydney's Job as a Model for Combi Mini

Sydney's modeling debut is finally in print! Back in September a modeling agency called and asked her to audition for Combi's a clothing company here in Japan. They've gotten calls before, but either didn't get selected, we weren't available, or in Keanna's case, she had lost a tooth (or two, or three, or four). American kids attached to the bases here get called for stuff like this, so it's nothing out of the ordinary to those of us living here. The pictures from the shoot were taken on September 15th of last year. I was allowed to take pictures and video while it was going on, but couldn't post them anywhere until after the catalog came out. My friend, Sarah, was visiting from Hawaii so she came along too! Her husband served on board USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) with Bob.

She got a new hair style with each about six or seven. I took some video of the shoot too, and it was so fun! She had her own "pit crew" that made adjustments to her clothes, hair and makeup; they also had staff there to entertain the kids (balloons, stuffed animals, etc) and keep them happy. It was amazing, truly amazing, and everyone was so kind to us! We were fed breakfast and lunch and were there from 8:45 am until about 1 pm.

If you'd like to see her pictures in the online catalog click here. About halfway down you'll see four catalog covers, click the one on the far right, Ribbon Casket (the cover is light yellow). A new window will open up and all you'll need to do is hit the arrow on the right to advance pages.

-Sydney is on the second page (with the map) above "Hollywood" and you can click to zoom in.
-On page 4, "Have a Fantastic Trip" she's on the left, and on the following she's sitting on the airplane.
-Page 7 she's standing in front of the Eiffel Tower holding the lunch box.
-Page 10 her "mom" is giving her bunny ears. This girl was 17 and European...Poland I believe. She was very nice and Sydney loved her.
-Page 11, top of the page, she's the second kid from the left.
-Page 21, picture on the top.
-Page 27, boxing gloves and holding the bus. They were throwing a balloon around for her to punch.

The campaign on the website has some pictures of her too...they can be seen here, and I've included a video I took with my little camera, so if you get this in your email you'll need to click here to see it.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Takin' a Ride on the Kaiten-zushi Sushi Train

I have a new favorite restaurant in Japan! On Friday Sydney and I met up with my friend, Corayls, in Yokohama. Thanks for being such a good sport and letting me record you, Coralys! We went shopping, she took me to a great Kaiten-zushi (sushi train or sushi-go-round) restaurant and then we went shopping some more. I was like a kid in a candy store...this place was so neat! We've been to Kaiten-zushi restaurants before, but have never seen anything like this. With a lot of these types restaurants if you want to order something you can by speaking onto the box above the table and then it's delivered by the waiter or waitress. This place is different. The ordering process is by touch screen and then it's delivered on a motorized car on a track above the conveyor belt. Corayls explains it in the first video below and in the second you can see the process in action!

video* video

After you're done eating you slide the plates down the ramp and under the conveyor belt. This immediately reminded me of the TV game show "Scrabble" (from the mid 1980s) where the contestants picked a tile that corresponded to a letter and then dropped it in a slot in front of them. Anyways, the plates float underneath and into the kitchen. For every five plates deposited a game comes up on the screen that's interactive. One game was a sumo match and you pick the opponent, another was fishing and picking the lure and the third was slot machine sushi. We had 16 plates so we were able to play three games. There's a clear box above the touch screen and it's filled with little prizes like pins/buttons, cell phone charms, etc; when you win one slides down. If you want to find out whether or not we won you'll have to watch this video. It's about four minutes long so you can skip ahead if you like, or watch it to see us playing the games.


Parking is limited and under the building, and if you're not there by opening time (11 am) you'll be waiting in line to park; Coralys said it's even worse at dinner. The reason it gets so packed is because it's a ¥100 Kaiten-zushi. That means each plate costs ¥100 no matter the color. Sydney and I are anxious to go back...with Bob and Keanna this time!

To those of you that subscribe to this via email, you'll need to click here to watch the three videos.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Japan's "New Moon" DVD Premium Box Set

It's coming out on March 26th here in Japan and there will only be 10,000 of them. I am willing to bet the footage from the fan meeting I attended in Tokyo back in November will be included too! I know the fan meeting from "Twilight" was on a bonus disc and my Twilight Singapore friends were on it!

Amazon Japan is selling it for the cheapest I've been able to find (¥4662), and believe it or not, on a lot of things they sell they offer same day delivery.

They did the same premium box set for "Twilight," and that can be seen here.