Japanese Major League Baseball Game!

Its time to revert back to my American Roots! It’s a great thing that Japanese people looooove baseball. My sister decided that she was going to come live with me this past spring and I couldn’t have been more excited! She’s coming on a temporary visa with high hopes of getting a job and staying for a couple of years. We have been planning this for the past couple of months and before I even realized it the time had come for her to arrive. It was very exciting. I drove to the airport which is about 2 hours away with a friend from work and we had a grand time. When we arrived at the airport I ran to check the flights and we waited patiently for hers, it was delayed by 15 minutes. I thought for sure I would see her walking down the glassed ramp and it’s not very hard to spot an american among many Japanese people but she surprised me by coming out from another area and getting her luggage before I spotted her.

Her first meal in Japan was Coco Curries and she picked the quail eggs dish. She’s very adventurous. We ended up getting quite lost on the way home but I’m never surprised when that happens as it occurs quite frequently.. I feel like I’m always lost here!

The best part is that she arrived on the weekend and I had the weekend off so I made her go straight to bed when we got home and the next morning I woke her up and we were off to go to a Japanese Major League Baseball Game! The Softbank Hawks were playing and we wanted to see. We bought a shopping bag full of Chu-hi’s (best alcoholic beverage ever) jumped on the train and off we were zipping through the countryside with 8 people who I work with. It was a very enjoyable ride. I love trains.

We arrived back in the same town as the airport and after a subway ride and a short walk, we were there. Walking into the stadium I saw a monkey wearing a Softbank Hawk Jersey doing tricks. It was very interesting. Once we got our seats the game began and it was very fun. Our favorite part is during the seventh inning the away team and the home team blow up these balloons that look very funny and you don’t tie them off. The away team does it first and they sing their song for their team and then they release the balloons up into the air and let them fly around and fall down onto the field. Then the home team does it and we had a grand time. Watch the video below to see what I am talking about.

During the game I tried all of the different foods they sell at the stadium, noodle dishes, rice wrapped in seaweed, yakitori (meet on a stick), but nothing beats a hot dog and cracker jacks at a baseball game and I’m sticking to that story, It’s the first time I’ve really missed American food all at once.

After the game we stopped at the Hard Rock Cafe Japan which is right next to the stadium and then we got back onto the train and headed back to our town. It was a very exciting and exhausting day.

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Gangnam Style. HEYYYYY SEXY LADIES!

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The balloons in question

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Balloons everywhere!

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Away Team

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Chu-Hi’s Galore. Sooo Good.

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Beer Girl.

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Monkey!

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Nagasaki Peace Park [“The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war– Ralph Waldo Emerson”]

Labor Day weekend was fast approaching and I decided that it was time for some traveling and some exploring! I had been hearing about the Nagasaki Peace Park since I’ve arrived and since I have my car [2000 Toyota Vitz] it was prime time to check it out.

The drive over was very nice. It is always much slower progress here in Japan because the speed limit is always so slow but it was a very enjoyable day and Kip more Up all Night was playing on repeat so it made the trip even funner.

Here’s a little bit about the Nagasaki Peace Park:

The Atomic Bomb was dropped on August 9th 1945 at around 11am.

[Approximately 40 percent of Nagasaki was destroyed. Luckily for many civilians living in Nagasaki, though this atomic bomb was considered much stronger than the one exploded over Hiroshima, the terrain of Nagasaki prevented the bomb from doing as much damage. Yet the decimation was still great. With a population of 270,000, approximately 70,000 people died by the end of the year.

“I saw the atom bomb. I was four then. I remember the cicadas chirping. The atom bomb was the last thing that happened in the war and no more bad things have happened since then, but I don’t have my Mummy any more. So even if it isn’t bad any more, I’m not happy.”

— Kayano Nagai, survivor

There were many facts that I learned at the Atomic Bomb museum and at the Peace Park. When I first walked in I saw paper cranes lining the walls and found out that there were 1,000 paper cranes strung together leading down to the museum start. After walking inside I saw the screens that show pictures of all of the identified people involved in the bombing and was told that it takes 2.5 hours to rifle through all of the pictures and names. I also saw the glass towers that have sheets with all of the names of the people. It was a very somber museum and a quiet atmosphere. There was much time for thinking and reflection. I saw pictures of the devastation and items that were involved. Atomic bombs cause great destruction.

Paper Cranes Outside

Looping all the way down to the museum entrance

The names of all of the victims are stacked inside here

Afterwards we walked over to the Peace Park to see all of the different countries whom have come together to make statues symbolizing peace. The most well-known statue is of the blue man who is holding his arms in a peaceful manner. As we were walking up the steps to the park you could see bullet holes from bomber planes during World War II. That definitely brought everything full circle for me.

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The Porcelain Park, Arita Japan

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Imagine my surprise when I was just trying to go to a porcelain flea market and I found this palace!

Arita Porcelain Park, the place where the most exquisite porcelain is made in Japan. I’ve had my eye sights set on Arita since I first heard about it the first week I was here, especially since it is just one town over. It was time to do some exploring, especially since they were having a porcelain flea market, and there’s nothing like a good sale to reel me in. I was going to drive there by myself but my friends W & D, a very nice older couple came along too. We made the trip over on a gorgeously sunny afternoon. It was a fantastic day. We got very lost, as I had a small feeling we would, it’s almost impossible not to around here.

In the end, we asked directions from a Japanese family at a park and the whole Japanese family I was talking to piled into their mini van and they drove to the flea market while we followed so we would ensure to get there. I bet not many people in America would go out of their way to do something so nice as that. Along the way we saw the Japanese porcelain making university, the wholesale of Arita Ceramics, and porcelain shops everywhere along the way.

Nothing prepared me for what we saw when we arrived at the Arita Porcelain Park. A German Palace! It was magnificent. At first I wanted to run over and take pictures but instead I opted to shop and shop we did. W and I bought all kinds of things. I found a porcelain fish bowl and platter, a set of five porcelain bowls with lids and a sake set. As an FYI the word for 4 in Japan is “she” which also means death and so  NEVER sell things in sets of four. Its considered very bad luck to their superstitious nature so you will always find things in sets of 3, 5, or 6. More commonly 5 or 6. W saw a set of four plates in a box and an older Japanese women walked over to the stand and covered it up with a cloth.

We took all of our finds back to the car and then I set off to take pictures of the palace. The Zwinger Palace. All of the pictures attached I took using the Vivid option on my cannon camera to make it more colorful and spectacular! Inside the palace no cameras were allowed, but they sell the most exquisite porcelain pieces. I saw a plate for over 1,000,000 Yen, which would be over $10,000, for a plate! This palace is only about 20 minutes away from where I live. We spent all afternoon walking around and exploring and back at the main building this older Japanese man tried to get me very drunk. He almost succeeded. He made me try 5 different sake’s. The whole store was entertained by us.

Afterwards we went to a Sushi Go Round (The place where sushi swings by on belts and you just pick what you want to eat as you go) for dinner, and it was delicious as always. They even had electronic touch screens you can order from and when your food is on its way it dings for you to pick it up off the belt. That was one of the best parts although our food went by and then it dinged after it was already gone so we had to wait for a half of an hour for it to come back around. haha. The 105 Sushi as we call it,  is only 5 minutes from my house, I found a back road, so they will be seeing me much more often for sure. We stuffed ourselves for just over 10 dollars and it was so yummy. It always is. It never gets old. And it’s so cheap. Enjoy the pictures, I certainly am, I still can’t believe that was there.

Ekumae Lantern Festival, Japan

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It was Friday morning and time for my driver’s test in Japan (driving on the other side of the road for me is a very bad idea!) when another officer asked me if I wanted to go to Ekumae that evening to a Lantern Festival. I had nothing else going on so of course I said yet. I finished my drivers test (which I passed!) when shopping for a few items then headed back to get ready to go. I brought a back pack of snacks along for the ride and we were headed to the train station in the early afternoon to catch the train to Ekumae. J has more cultural experiences then me, so I decided to let him buy the train tickets and a good thing that was.

As you can see everything is in Japanese and you need to pick which town you are going to from the list. It is very confusing sometimes.

He bought us our tickets and for an hour and a half we steamed along the Japanese countryside past rice paddy fields, thatched-roof houses, and gorgeous mountains. It was a very relaxing ride and one I enjoyed thoroughly. J had bought 6 different pastries at the train station which we each tried pieces of. I can’t get enough of the pastries here. Since Japanese houses don’t have ovens, they buy all of their breads and pastries from the market and they truly have some of the best pastries I have every eaten.

Our train was small and only had 3 cars, there weren’t many people on board and we were 24 stops away. We worried a little bit how we would find the festival once we got to the town but as we slid into the station, there was no more worrying necessary. We could see the HUGE lantern tower from the train windows and knew exactly which direction to go when we debarked.

As we were walking off, we passed a group of school boys who said hi to us in English then they told me how hott I was. I just laughed and waved. O school boys. As we mosey’d up the street we immediately saw little stands selling different things. I bought a tea pot with two cups and I tried Takoyaki for the first time! Takoyaki is little dough balls made with octopus in the center and Japanese mayonnaise  on top.

Takoyaki– (very heavy in the stomach.)

I also tried octopus on a stick. It was very tough and chewy but pretty good.

We indulged in everything that caught our fancy this night. Candied grapes, snow cones, sashimi, all of it. We continued the short trek to the town and did some more searching around, then people started lining the streets just in time for the parade. Two small children saw J and me and ran away from us pointing and shouting. I guess they had never seen white Americans before. I smiled, and finally felt what it was like to be a complete foreigner in a different land. It didn’t bother me much.

A few short minutes later the parade began. It reminded me of the small town parades from back home but the best part was they would march down the street pushing a small stage with music and a guy talking in a microphone. At the end of the street they would wheel the stage around and head back changing the music and the guy in the microphone. They did this about four times until the parade came to an end. I loved it.

Parade Dancers

After the parade ended we climbed the hill to the Buda Temple and then walked over and up farther to the lantern festival pyramid. It was the biggest lantern pyramid I have ever seen!

GINORMOUS!

The festivities carried on into the night and I watched some karaoke, which led into a traditional Japanese dance off. It was awesome. Some of the dancers were really great the traditional dances were mesmerizing. After the dance competition it had grown very dark outside and a fire works display was about to happen. There were only a few more trains scheduled to pass through and J and I didn’t have anywhere to stay so we decided to skip that part of the show because by this times 1,000 of people had arrived at the town for the lanterns and fire works. We ran to the train station and were there just in time because I train was stopping. We jumped on and headed home. I fell asleep almost immediately I was so exhausted.

It was a great night! I made a new friend, I saw the tallest lantern pyramid in Japan, I watched a traditional Japanese dance competition, and I tried 4 new foods I have never had. Amazing!

P.S. I would just like to point out that societies are not very different. Girls on one side, boys on the other, as always. haha.

The Goto Islands- A chain of five islands in the East China Sea

So what do you do on your first weekend once you’ve arrived in a completely foreign country to live? Explore of course. At least that’s what I decided. It was a “Go Big or Go Home” Situation and I didn’t want to disappoint.

On Saturday morning I woke up and just decided to randomly catch a Ferry to the Goto islands. What are the Goto Islands you ask? The Goto Islands are made up of 140 islands but there are five main ones: Fukue-jima, Hisaka-jima, Naru-shima, Wakamatsu-jima and Nakadori-jima. The interesting historical tidbit about the Goto Islands is back in time when Japanese people were embracing a Christian lifestyle it was illegal to be Catholic and the Goto islands was the last stronghold for Catholic people before it became legalized in the 19th century. There are many beautiful catholic churches throughout the islands and that is something I would like to do next time I come back.


The Ferry Ride Over: I arrived at the Ferry station around noon because I didn’t know exactly where I was going and how I was going to get there. No one could understand what I was trying to do so it took me almost 20 minutes to buy a ticket because I didn’t know how to ask for the main area of the Goto Islands. Thankfully a woman was helping me and she called her English teacher for me to translate what I was doing and where I was trying to go. I just love the culture here!

Shortly after I had got my ticket we began boarding so I guess I got there at a good time because I didn’t miss the ferry. When we boarded there were just 4 open nicely carpeted areas with blankets and pillows in stacks. Everyone took off their shoes, neatly placing them in lines in the pathway and then they grabbed blankets and snuggled in for a nap on the carpeted area. A group of older men were eating lunch while relaxing and I was just looking around in astonishment. In America you could never go to sleep with your purse lying around because someone would surely steal it. But not here. People were just setting laptops on the ground and falling asleep.

I just went along with them. I grabbed a blanket and laid down falling asleep shortly afterward. The Goto islands are small and quaint and I would love to go back. I will have to actually take my car next time so I can travel through the islands. Once the Ferry arrived we debarked and I started just walking around and exploring. There were some little shops open and at one of them they were selling ice cream and candy!

 

Arriving at the Islands.

It was sooo sooo hot out that it was insufferable. The humidity and heat here really is hard to bear after being in such milder climates all my life. Even 114 degree heat in the Middle East wasn’t as bad as this was. I found a small temple and walked up to it and then I just walked around the neighborhoods to observe. There weren’t a lot of people out an about in the heat so I stopped at a shop to buy some noodle salad and a few pieces of sushi. I ate out on the back porch of the shop and then headed back towards the Ferry station because I wanted to make sure I caught the last one back. Along the way I was walking by the water and realized how clear it was. I could see Sea Urchins down there laying on the bottom of the floor. They say there are white beaches here and at the ferry station is a picture of the beaches. I just didn’t have good transportation to get to them yet but I’m going to go back.

This is how clear the water is!

After waiting for the Ferry teller to open the window back up, I tried to buy a ticket back to Sasebo. It didn’t go well. Unfortunately  I read the schedule wrong (I guess you can say that since I’m pretty sure I still can’t properly read the schedule even now) so I ended up renting a tiny room for $30 for the night. It had one tiny bed with an uncomfortable rice pillow, one small desk, and a shower and toilet, separated of course.  One thing I have definitely learned is that the Japanese culture is not worried about the comforts of the world. Their couches are itches and their beds are stiff. They are also very tiny and may not have the same problems Americans do. haha. I had quite a restless night but I was up early and I walked back to the Ferry station to catch a carless Ferry (A ferry that only transports people) back home.

When I was walking back to the base from the station I also walked by a pet shop and just had to stop in to see all of the animals. They had all kinds of different birds. I loved it!