Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween in Tokyo

What do Jon Voight, an iPod Nano, popcorn and Tokyo have in common? Yours truly!

Okay, so this wasn't really Halloween in Tokyo, but we did go to a costume contest and brunch in Tokyo on Sunday. Julie called a couple of weeks ago asking if I wanted to go to the Sunday brunch at the New Sanno (military hotel in Tokyo), and said they were having a costume contest for kids too. I haven't been before but she has and raved about it. I didn't have to do much thinking, and when I said sure, she said, "Good, I already made reservations for five."

Keanna wanted to dress up as popcorn for Halloween, so I Googled it and saw a few examples. I took what I found, embellished it and added a few things to come up with her bucket of popcorn costume. Sydney was going to go as a movie ticket, but Keanna's took so much time that I passed on Sydney's and put her in what she wore last year, a poopie suit. Well, us submarine people call them that, but they're commonly known as "coveralls" in the surface community. When Julie and her son asked what Sydney was dressed as she said, "Bob, I'm dressed like Bob!"

When we got up into the lobby of the
New Sanno there was a small crowd gathered and some flash bulbs going off. Julie said, "He's famous!" So I looked left and immediately thought, "That's Nicholas Cage's dad from 'National Treasure' and Angelina Jolie's father!'" Sure enough, Jon Voight was standing there taking pictures with people. We were able to walk right up to him, and he immediately picked up Sydney and started swinging her. He was very gracious and asked the girls what their names were. We had maybe 45-60 seconds with him, then headed off to get our tickets for brunch and get the kids checked in for the costume contest. Come to find out he was in Tokyo for a film festival, but it was very nice of him to come by and take pictures with U.S. military service members and their families.

Everything was so delicious and beautifully decorated! Service was excellent and we had a really good time. About 30 minutes after we started eating they announced the contest would be starting in a few minutes. I got the girls dressed and we headed up to the stage waiting for their numbers (50 and 52) to be called. I left Sydney's number at the table, and when I went back to get it apparently a woman came up to Julie and asked in Japanese, "Taberu?" which means "Is it real food?" Julie nodded, and then the woman picked a piece of popcorn off Keanna's costume and ate it! I couldn't believe it when she told me, and couldn't help but wonder if she tasted any of the hot glue I used!

Long story short, and I realize I'm not good at that. There were five judges, and each judge chose a girl and boy winner. Sydney was chosen by the first judge who happens to be a photographer in Tokyo. She won a photo session with him and a $20 gift card to
AAFES (the store on Army and Air Force bases). I walked Sydney up to the stage, she walked up, waved, got her envelopes and came back down the stairs. The second judge announced his picks, and the third judge said, "My choice is, and as long as no one has eaten her, the popcorn girl!" Keanna and I walked up to the stage and again she needed help getting up the stairs. I heard something about an iPod as we were walking, but between the clapping and Keanna talking to me I couldn't understand what was said. When she came off the stage she showed me her prize, and sure enough it was an iPod Nano...a green one. And it's a new one, the kind that you can shake to shuffle the songs and turn on its side to rotate the image on screen.

As we were walking out Julie said in a sarcastic and joking tone, "Wow, aren't you glad I invited you along today? You met a celebrity, had a great breakfast and won two out of five prizes." Sure as heck I am! She told me about this party she went to in college...she asked a friend to go, the friend didn't want to but ended up going and winning a trip to Disney World. So if anyone wants to buy lotto tickets I strongly suggest you ask Julie to buy them for you! On a serious note, thank you Julie!!! We had fun and enjoyed your company as usual.

Yesterday Keanna asked me about the green thing she won. I told her what the man on stage gave her is something she trades in to me for a bag of candy. So as far as she's concerned she won some Kit Kats. When I emailed Bob and told him about it he couldn't believe it...then yesterday I got an email from him telling me Keanna promised him the iPod. Hmmm, was he the one that burned his finger on the glue gun making it? Nope, didn't think so!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Autumn Samurai Parade in Nikko & Soy Sauce Kit Kats

On Friday we went on an ITT trip to Nikko to see the Toshogu Shrine, Samurai Parade Autumn Festival and take a boat (ahem, canoe) ride on the Kinugawa River. This day trip was fascinating and worth the almost five hour drive each way. It was a great way to yet again dive right into the Japanese culture. I had a blast and so did the girls. I don't think they found it as interesting as the trip when we made the paper lamp shade and had parrots eating off of us...that was more hands on and creative, but they certainly liked riding in the canoe and seeing all the people in costumes.
Click here to see the pictures from our trip. I took almost 500 pictures and narrowed it down to 315 and from there posted about 200 in my Shutterfly album. Julie came on the trip as well and she and I swapped pictures. You'll see some of hers at the beginning of the album.

We got picked up at 4:30 am and didn't return home until almost 11 pm. On the way up to Nikko we stopped at a rest area to eat breakfast. There were a few vendors getting ready to open, and I'm so glad I stopped at one on the way back to the bus because I got this awesome potato thing to eat. The girls liked it too and ended up having one each. It tasted a little like chicken soup with gravy and was about the size of a hashbrown at McDonalds. I have no idea what it's called or exactly what was in it, but it was very good and if I ever see something that looks like it again I'll be buying it! Julie spotted these brown eggs, but it was the packaging that got our attention. Do you think what I do? Is that egg holding a beer? While at the rest stop I went to the refrigerated area in search of my new favorite drink, Muscat Tea. Anyway, just to the right of the iced tea was a Kit Kat display. I didn't give it a second look since they were white, but upon closer inspection I saw Soy Sauce Kit Kats - Tokyo Limited Edition. I waved Julie over and I think we actually "hi-fived" each other. They have 10 mini packages inside each box and the cashier gave me special bags for each package I bought.
Once we arrived in Nikko we headed to Toshogu Shrine. People were all over in costume and getting ready for the parade. We walked around for about an hour, and after we came out of one area we were able to take pictures with them. It was the neatest thing, and Keanna gave one of the guys a look like, "Why are you wearing that and why is it very orange?" We were even able to see a group of men come out and pray, and we were feet away from them. To see this and pretty much be a part of it was incredible. I snapped a picture of the kids standing to the side of them, and I hoped they appreciated it. After we got home I tried explaining it, but they were more interested in their shoes and different color "dresses" as they referred to them.

There were tour groups like ours, people there on their own and school field trips as well. The school children wore yellow caps and they were fascinated with Keanna and Sydney. Many of them asked to have their picture taken with the kids, and asked us to take pictures
of them with their cameras...other people even walked by and took pictures of them too. When we first arrived here in the spring I thought it was weird, but now that we've been here a little while we've gotten used to it. They'll take pictures of us or will ask to take pictures with us! Anyway, one group of kids even asked me to get in a picture with them!

At the larger shrines throughout Japan a nokyocho is available for purchase. It's a book that you can get stamped with a marking from the particular shrine you visit. The book was ¥1800 (about $18 USD) and each stamp is ¥300 (about $3 USD). First a stamp is put on, then a nokyo writes in it with black ink and add the temple or shrine's name, his own name, and the date that the page was marked. I took this picture of my second stamp that day, and love the nokyo's hands.
From there we headed down to the parade route and reserved a spot. Just as we settled in a group of men came up the hill dragging a big tree and handing branches to everyone on either side of them. We each got a branch and our guide told us to hang on to them and when we got home to put it in front of our house; the branches will protect us. Not sure what they'll protect us from, but I wish I asked for specifics.

The parade started and the girls recognized some of the costumes we had seen earlier. The parade is essentially a reenactment of the 1617 procession bringing the remains of Tokugawa Ieyasu to Nikko. About 800 people walked by us, children and adults, and their costumes were beautiful with so much detail. Towards the end of the procession men came through carrying a portable shrine. We knew to throw money at it, as much or little as we wanted, and the kids really loved doing that. I gave the girls a couple of coins each and they thought it was the neatest thing ever. As they were walking towards us I saw little white things being thrown in the air and at the mikoshi (portable shrine); the coins are wrapped in tissues! Afterward a group of men in suits came by to pick up the money on the ground and we followed the crowd down the hill to get some lunch.

After lunch we went for a walk further into town and saw the Shinkyo Bridge. We saw some men in costume there and asked for our picture to be taken with them. They were very sweet, spoke no English, and ask they were walking away the man on the left gave me his fan. After that we stopped in a couple of gift shops, saw a train car phone booth and beautiful lanterns in each stall of a bathroom....and of course the toilets, they were the kind that are in the ground that women have to squat over, not western style toilets. My favorite part of that was the sign inside the bathroom that read, "Please use the restroom cleanly." I snapped a picture of it but made sure to turn the flash off on the camera...didn't want to attract any more attention to myself!

After getting on the bus we headed to the Kinugawa River for our boat ride. I was expeciting a boat...nothing too large, but something larger than a canoe...not exactly what we did on Lake Ashi back in July. We were all getting tired at that point, and the girls were really showing it. I spotted a vending machine that sold beer and immediately pulled yen out to buy a can since they were driving me up a wall. It wouldn't take my ¥500 coin, so a woman sitting near us offered her help. It wouldn't take hers either, but I eventually got it working with ¥100 coins. But it's just another example of the Japanese people being so kind...they're especially willing to help a stressed mother in need!!! I drank as much as I could before descending down the 100 stairs to the boat...err, canoe. It was peaceful and quiet and nice though, and reminded me of tubing down the Farmington River in Connecticut in the summer time.

We had a great time on our trip up to Nikko, took lots of pictures and even the bus ride home was fun. At the rest stop I ran in quickly to look for more Kit Kats (no luck), but I did see a vending machine with a video screen, and in it the character spoke and then bowed! And the funniest part of it.... these feminine products!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blueberry Cheesecake Kit Kats, Strawberry Cheesecake Kit Kats & Pumpkin Kit Kats Too

I'll get to our trip to Nikko in my post tomorrow, but wanted to get a few things down before I forget about them! I had all intentions on writing about Nikko tonight, but got side-tracked as usual.
First, hi to Kim in Minnesota from! She sent me a message last night and it was great to read her kind words. At dinner the other night Keanna colored a picture for Bob. She was so proud of it and insisted I take a picture of her holding it before we send it to him. Behind her is the tansu I bought a couple of weeks ago. I set it up as a side table because they were constantly picking their own seats and trying to climb on it. I saw it coming as I'm sure many of you did, so this settled it! I bought an obi that day and put it on there as a runner.

Second, we went into Zushi today on the train and walked around town, stopped in a few stores and of course were on the hunt for Kit Kats. Two new flavors came out yesterday and we found them!!! Blueberry cheesecake and strawberry cheesecake. Last week while on my way home from Jusco I stopped at 7-11 and bought pumpkin Kit Kats. I haven't tried the cheesecake flavors, but the pumpkin tasted good-sort of like nutmeg, and left a flavor of chocolate and sweet potatoes. I have photographed and posted a picture of every flavor I found, and to see them click on "Food and Drink" below. That'll take you to every post I've made in that category.
Julie found these little egg things a couple of weeks ago, and when I saw them in 7-11 yesterday I bought a bag. They're very light and dissolve in my mouth, but they're sweet and good at the same time. I don't know how to describe them, but they're light and the yellow powder on the outside sticks to everything!

While we were walking around in town we stopped at a grocery store. Free samples were set up at the end of a few isles, and when I saw this moment I couldn't resist snapping a picture. I have no idea what it is and Keanna didn't either, but she and Sydney ate it!

After we got home from Zushi Ginza, the girls wanted to play outside with the neighbors. A couple of other moms were out there with their computers, so I brought mine out too. Thank goodness for wireless internet! We exchanged hints and tips about watching tv shows online since many of them don't come on here, and when they do they're reruns. Each of us had a different website we preferred, so it was nice to find out some more options. So Michelle (left) and Jen (right), are we dorks or what?! And Michelle, 'shaka' right back at ya!

Kit Kat Kount Updated thru October

For the most up to date list and photos (January 2010), click here.

Here's the list of Kit Kat flavors and varieties I've compiled from searching various and reliable websites. I've highlighted in pink what I've found and purchased. They even have their own shelf in one of the kitchen cabinets...well more like two! As you can see below I've got my work cut out for goal is to find as many flavors as possible. Many of the flavors are seasonal, so what I haven't gotten so far will have to wait until next year.

-Kit Kat Dark Chocolate — UK, Canada, China permanent edition, Japan, US miniatures and limited edition
-Kit Kat Bitter — Japan limited edition — bitter dark chocolate coating with 62% cocoa content
-Kit Kat White Chocolate — UK, US, China permanent edition, Australia, Japan limited edition
-Kit Kat White with Hokkaido Milk — Japan limited edition

-Kit Kat White Bretagne — Japan limited edition — white chocolate coating w/Bretagne milk and cocoa butter
-Kit Kat Apple — Japan
-Kit Kat Banana — Japan, Canada limited edition
-Kit Kat Sakura (Cherry Blossom) — Japan limited edition
-Kit Kat Double Berry — Japan limited edition — combo cherry and strawberry flavored crème filling
-Kit Kat Muskat of Alexandria (White Grape) — Japan limited edition

-Kit Kat Lemon Cheesecake— Japan, Malaysia limited edition
-Kit Kat Yubari Melon — Japan — melon flavored crème in the wafer

-Kit Kat Citrus — Japan
-Kit Kat Hokkaido Yubari Melon — Japan — like above but w/ creamy melon flavor coating, not milk chocolate
-Kit Kat Brown Sugar
-Kit Kat Tea — Japan
-Kit Kat Passion Fruit — Japan limited edition
-Kit Kat Pineapple — Japan limited edition
-Kit Kat Strawberry — Japan, Canada and UK limited edition
-Kit Kat Ichigo (Strawberry) Milk — Japan limited edition — strawberry milk coating & creme filling in wafers
-Kit Kat Tsubu Strawberry — Japan limited edition — strawberry coating with freeze dried strawberry pieces
-Kit Kat Soy Sauce — Tokyo limited edition
-Kit Kat Azuki Bean, Green Tea, and Cream MULTI-FLAVOR (Kakigori) — Japan limited edition
-Kit Kat Café Latte with Hokkaido Milk — Japan
-Kit Kat Olympic Gold — Japan
-Kit Kat Chocolatier Noir (Dark) — Japan limited edition — dark petits with almond creme filling, dusted w/ dark cocoa powder
-Kit Kat Gold — Japan — petits with fudge like covering and dusted cocoa powder on outside
-Kit Kat Matcha (Green tea) — Japan limited edition
-Kit Kat Kir — Japan limited edition — dark petits with kir crème filling
-Kit Kat White with Maple Syrup — Japan limited edition
-Kit Kat Blueberry Cheesecake — Japan
-Kit Kat Strawberry Cheesecake — Japan
-Kit Kat Chocolatier Wine — Japan limited edition — petits with red wine colored white chocolate, wine flavored creme filling
-Kit Kat Cacao 72% — Japan — dark chocolate petits with 72% cocoa content
-Kit Kat Pumpkin — Japan limited edition
-Kit Kat Iced Tea — Japan
-Kit Kat Cherry — Japan
-Kit Kat Caramel and Salt — Japan
-Kit Kat Kinako (soybean flour) — Japan
-Kit Kat Caramel Macchiato McFlurry — Japan
-Kit Kat Caramel Purin (Pudding or Flan) — Japan
-Kit Kat Kiwifruit — Japan
-Kit Kat Cantaloupe — Japan
-Kit Kat Mango — Japan
-Kit Kat Watermelon and Salt — Japan
-Kit Kat Triple Berry — Japan
-Kit Kat Azuki (Red Bean) — Japan

Monday, October 20, 2008

Little Bit of a New Look

I changed the margins tonight hoping to be able to fit more photos in. I realize the photos in my posts aren't lined up the way they least on my widescreen laptop, but on Bob's computer it still looks okay. I'm going to leave those as they are and will be making sure they are right from here on out.

And please, please, please, vote for my blog at Blogger's Choice Awards! There's a link for it on the right margin, or you can go to this website to cast a vote. It's nominated in three categories.

I've Been Tagged

10 Years Ago, in October 1998, I was:
1. a sophomore in college
2. dating Bob for three years and 11 months
3. working at the Housing Office at college
4. working every other weekend at Mortensens' Restaurant in Newington, CT
5. eight months away from becoming engaged

Five things on today's "To Do" List:
1. Take the train into Zushi
2. Wardroom Wives' luncheon with Sydney
3. Strip beds and wash the sheets
4. Dinner, bath & bed for the girls
5. Rinsing and washing the tie-dyed shirts for us

Five things that I would do if I were a millionaire:
1. Invest
2. Invest
3. Invest
4. Buy a Roomba to be friends with Rosie, my Scooba
5. Invest

Five places I have lived:
1. Zushi, Japan
2. Pearl City, Hawaii
3. Old Saybrook, Connecticut
4. St. Mary's, Georgia
5. Kensington, CT

Five jobs I have had:
1. Dishwasher
2. Waitress
3. Computer Tech at Double J's
4. Graphic Designer
5. Photojournalist

Okay the five people I'm tagging are:
1. Shari
2. Susan
3. Melissa
4. Kelsey
5. Megan

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Photo Teaser of Nikko

We went on an ITT trip to Nikko yesterday and had such a good time! When we got on the bus (at 4:30 am) the guide said it was going to be about a five hour drive...I immediately thought, "Umm, that's like going from Connecticut to Maryland for a day trip!"

I took over 450 pictures and have narrowed them down to about 300. But until they upload into Shutterfly and I am awake and alert enough to write the blog entry, here are some pictures to give you an idea of our Friday...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'd Like to Thank the Academy....

Nah, just kidding! I haven't won anything, but it is an honor being nominated! To the right and just under the spinning globe you'll see the Blogger's Choice Award icons. Click one of those and please, please, please vote for me!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Soccer Season Rolls Out

Keanna's end of the season party was yesterday, and it was really fun. Her coach did a great job of organizing it, everyone brought a snack or dessert and we had chicken sandwiches from the restaurant on our housing base. Each kid got a soccer ball, trophy and a goody bag of soccer stuff. The coach was so sweet she even gave Sydney a goody bag. As soon as we got in the car she wanted to open it and was so happy saying that she was on Keanna's team too!

So thanks to Coach J. for being such a wonderful coach and introducing Keanna and the rest of the kids to soccer! You taught them the basic skills of the game, teamwork and more importantly, you instilled the confidence in each one of them that they can use off the field as well.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Bamboo Temple, Hokokuji

Wow was this place neat! It's commonly known as "The Bamboo Temple," and Hokokuji (報国寺) Temple lived up to its name. This temple was founded in 1334 by Tengan Eko reportedly under the sponsorship of Ashikaga Ietoki or Uesugi Shigekane. This temple is famous for a beautiful bamboo garden that is laid out behind its main sanctuary. It belongs to the Kenchoji faction of the Rinzai Buddhist sect. Kamakura Goddess of Mercy No.10 / 33.

Saturday morning started off raining and windy, but by mid afternoon it cleared up, the sun came out and we hit the road! It's only 200 yen to get in, and for an extra 500 yen you can sit and have a cup of tea overlooking the bamboo grove. Next time I go there it'll be without the kids, and you can bet I'll have myself a cup of tea! So many things were so pretty, but were roped off so we couldn't get to them. I may bring my telephoto lens next time. I took about 50 pictures and uploaded them into a Shutterfly album if you want to see more than what I post see them click here.

Afterward we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant across the street from Zushi Beach. I should say an Italian restaurant with a Japanese twist. We had pizza with ham and AN EGG on it! It was absolutely delicious! The girls had two or three pieces each. I took a picture of the menu because of the Engrish...we got a laugh out of it.

As we were getting ready to leave the waitress came up to Keanna and gave her an origami flower. She was so happy and even bowed when thanking her for it...and of course the girl bowed back. It was so nice of her and such a sweet moment to see them bowing to each other.