Saturday, July 25, 2009

There Goes the Sun - Asia's Solar Eclipse

Well, the sun did go away for a little bit on Wednesday, July 22nd, but we couldn't see it because it was cloudy and completely overcast here in Zushi. We live in Kanagawa Prefecture, about an hour south of Tokyo by train. We don't live far south enough to see the total eclipse, and since watching from the front yard was pointless, I tuned in to some of our local Japanese television stations.

At the maximum spot the totality of the eclipse lasted 6 minutes and 39 seconds. The only area of Japan to see the total eclipse was the small islands between Kyushu and Okinawa. We lost 60% of the sunlight, and it did get noticeably darker outside, but it could have easily been mistaken for storm clouds rolling in.

Since we've known about the eclipse for a while I decided to show the girls pictures and try to explain what was going to happen. The night before we looked at pictures and diagrams, and even brought out the flashlight to make shadows with our hands. I realize Keanna's 5 and Sydney's 3 and didn't expect much from our conversation and shadow hand puppets. As we were looking at pictures of the umbra, penumbra and corona, I began having flashbacks from Mrs. Spiegel's earth science class from my freshman year of high school.

Anyway, getting back to watching it on t.v. I was scanning through the channels and figured we'd get local coverage along with live satellite feeds from the southern islands. The girls had an idea of what was going to happen, they knew the moon was going to come in front of the sun, and I wanted them to be able to see it. I always keep my little camera on hand to record video, and thankfully I turned to a certain station at the right time. Scanning through I saw this (see the video below), two men dressed up, one as the sun, the other as the moon. When we saw this it was a perfect way to show the girls what was happening...I laughed so hard I nearly snorted. We can't understand a word of it, so maybe that makes it funnier, maybe it doesn't, but take a couple of minutes to watch if you want a laugh. If you're an email subscriber you'll need to click here to watch the video.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Winning Haiku Submission

Thanks to all of you who submitted a haiku (or a few of them) for my contest! There were 27 submissions in all. I had my work cut out for me trying to choose a favorite. Jenni and Mandy_Reeves, you two are the winners. I couldn't decide between the two so I choose you both. Congratulations and thank you!

Jenni's: Kit Kats are yummy/Feels so good in my tummy/I'm eating some now

Mandy's: strange kit kats my fave!/their odd flavors I do crave!/make a ketchup flavor!

Jenni and Mandy, please complete the "Contact Katie" form with your mailing address. That'll come directly into my email and is only viewable by me.

I also promised a random drawing of my followers, and the person I pointed to on my monitor is....Kerri In CT. Kerri, please do the same as above with the "Contact Katie" form.

If I don't hear from you in three days I'll choose someone else in your place. If you don't hear from me within three days of contacting me please add a comment in this post!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Coffee Jelly Frappuccino is Back at Starbucks!

Living in Japan affords us things that aren't available in the United States, and vice versa. Well here's one thing that you can't get in the United ready? It's a new Starbucks drink called a Coffee Jelly Frappuccino. That's right, jelly.

It came out around this time last year, and while on base one day I tried it. It didn't last long, maybe throughout the summer. Walking through Zushi last week I saw a sign for it outside of Starbucks...and until then I had completely forgotten about it. After last year I know better than to buy it again this year!

By this point you probably are wondering what I thought of it. Well, it tasted good until chunks came up my was like chunks of jelly, but softer, more like Jell-o. It tasted good though, but it's a texture thing for me. The jelly pieces were large, but very soft so they broke apart and came right up the straw.

What did I think of it? Thumbs down. Coffee is for drinking, not eating...especially in jelly form at the bottom of a frappuccino! If you do try it, grab a spoon to go with your straw, you're going to need it.

And make sure you read the girl's hat in the first picture! She was very kind to let me take it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Things that Remind Me I Live in Japan

Here's a sampling of pictures I've taken over the last couple of's the little things like these that make me smile, laugh, and sometimes wonder "What the heck are they thinking?!"

I prefer plain cheese pizza and I'm willing to try new things, but asparagus and pepper? We've all seen the info-mercials for ProActiv, but look at this ProActiv vending machine! It still doesn't beat my favorite Liquor Shop vending machine. Click here to see that!

Decisions, decisions....tuna pizza, German trio or Wafu pizza?

It's not just a big bowl of ramen, it's UFO BIG! Do you think men can/will eat this SHEs yogurt?

That's a jar of baby food...rice, fish and seaweed. Did you notice the ages it's appropriate for? 0-100. I don't like Oreos, but look, it's a banana Oreo bar!

This sign was hanging in the train. Who knew McDonalds sold hot dogs? And this is a sign we always see after leaving a construction zone. We've been here for 15 1/2 months and I still love the bowing! It's on signs everywhere and I always smile whenever I see it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Grinder Shaped Bento Boxes, R2-D2 Soy Sauce Holders & Robster Curry

I'm from Connecticut and we call them grinders! I also heard them referred to as hoagies or subs. We went shopping with Julie in Yokohama and came across the neatest store! I'm not sure if it was an import store or not; they had products from the United States, but lots from Japan as well. Needless to say there were a quite few things that stood out! Lots of pictures below.

Lazy Store: Genuine American Goodies - wow, is this what they really think of us?!
I spotted this café; my mom's name is Nina.

The grinder and burger bento box. I bought the space shuttle one.

Enjoying my "robster" curry, and that's Landmark Tower in Yokohama covered by clouds.

The girls love Indian food. I hadn't had it until we moved here!

They hallowed out Texas French Toast and made it into an ice cream sundae. They call it "Honey syrup toast with ice cream." I'll be going back there when Bob comes home. We walked by someone eating it, and there's no way one person could eat it alone. The Japanese wear masks all the time, we found some funny ones, though I've never seen these being worn on the train!

They stick a camera in your ear and clean it out while you watch on a monitor. I didn't want to be too rude and take a picture of the inside of the place...but there were TVs in front of the chairs. These are key chains, the top is like opening a package, and the bottom is just like popping bubble wrap.

If you have a friend who happens to be a fan of "Star Wars," you can get them a handy R2-D2 soy sauce holder or pepper shaker. These were adorable even though I'm not a fan of dressing up your pet. They're little yukatas for dogs.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Celebrating America's Birthday in Yokosuka, Japan

Happy Birthday to my sister, Sara, and Happy Birthday to the United States of America!

“Every good citizen makes his country's honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defense and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it.” -Andrew Jackson

On July 4, 1776 the American Continental Congress voted to approve the Declaration of Independence, in which the American colonies proclaimed their separation from Britain. And fifty years to the day after the approval of the Declaration of Independence, which they both had a hand in drafting, former presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died in 1826.

Tonight we went to the carnival/fair MWR put on for the families on base. It was open to the public as well, so there were a lot of Japanese families there. Little girls were wearing their yukatas, and I even saw a woman wearing one. The majority of Japanese were dressed in red, white and blue, had patriotic hats on, and most even had the temporary tattoos on. It's a great way to improve the relationship with our host country.

We had temporary tattoos put on our faces and I even joined the fun and got one. We walked around for a little while, then grabbed a snack [at the all-American fast food joint], McDonalds, and headed over to watch the fireworks. After all, how can a red-blooded American celebrate Independence Day without seeing fireworks?! They started right on time, of course since it was put on by the military, and since we weren't at the field yet, we met up with some friends, sat on the steps of the post office and watched from there....perfect view with minimal crowds!

Bob, wherever you are, I hope you had a good holiday!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Teru Teru Bozu - Welcome to Japan's Rainy Season!

It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring....

Early summer is the rainy season in most parts of Japan...mid June to mid-late July. Tsuyu is what the Japanese call the rainy season, it means plum rain (plums ripen at around the same time), and even though it's been rainy all last week and will be this coming week, I don't think it's as bad as it was last year.

Japanese children make Teru Teru Bozu (てるてる坊主) dolls, and that literally translates to "shiny-shiny Buddhist priest." They're pretty common around this time of year, hanging from porches, laundry clips and balconies. We made and hung ours in front of the sliding glass door. Supposedly if you hang them up it's supposed to stop the rain, and if you hang them upside down then it does the opposite! According to Wikipedia, "This amulet is supposed to have magical powers to bring good weather and to stop or prevent a rainy day."

We made ours and got them hung up. They're simple to make, and while we used cloth napkins, people also use tissues. They're the same concept as ghosts that we Americans make at Halloween time....make the Teru Teru Bozu exactly the same way.

It's easy to make one! You'll need two pieces of tissue paper (or a cloth napkin, etc) and a piece of string. Crumple one tissue into a ball and put the ball in the middle of the other sheet. Tighten the flat tissue around the ball, tie it up at the base, and that's it! Hang your teru-teru bozu outside a window a few days before the day you want the sun to shine. Ours are up because we don't want rain for fireworks on the 4th! The base has stuff going on all day and fireworks at night.

There is also a Warabe uta (Japanese nursery rhyme) that goes along with teru teru bozu:

Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu
Do make tomorrow a sunny day
Like the sky in a dream sometime
If it's sunny I'll give you a golden bell

Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu
Do make tomorrow a sunny day
If you make my wish come true
We'll drink lots of sweet rice wine

Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu
Do make tomorrow a sunny day
But if it's cloudy and you are crying (i.e. it's raining)
Then I shall snip your head off

I think the last line is a tad bit creepy!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hydrangeas Galore

About five or six minutes from our house, on Route 24, there's a little stretch of hydrangeas on the side of the road. When I saw these blooming last year I was so excited to see how they'd look, what color they were and how big they'd get. I took the girls around this time last year, click here to see those pictures, and went again Wednesday on our way home from the base.

The flowers are already on their way out, I wish the weather was nicer last week...didn't want to go in the rain with them. So even though the flowers aren't as nice as they were last year, I still got some pictures, the girls were able to talk about how much bigger the flowers are compared to their heads, and Keanna decided she wants to plant these flowers in our front yard.

I'll put a few of this year's pictures on the left and last year's on the right.