Tuesday, September 27, 2005

End of Summer

Great and beautiful day today. The weather has gone from hot and humid to warm and beautiful. School has started so the streets are quiet for most of the day and I've got a stack of great books to read. Sallie, my engineer friend here on base told me she was reading Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series and I remembered how much I loved them, sooooo I went to Amazon.com (What would I do with out Amazon?) and ordered book one thru 6. I'm reading three, the Mummy Case and its fun reading. The first book, she is a spinster who is traveling the world and while visiting Egypt, she meets and falls in love with Radcliff Emerson, a noted archeologist. The second book is just as good, they get themselves into some different mysteries, which together they solve. Now the third book, their young son Ramsey has joined them and he stays in trouble, falling into a sand pit, stealing a lion cub, etc....
Also, sadly in some ways, I am packing up and getting ready to return home. Leaving Japan will be so hard, for I have made some great friends, and we have had some great times. Roy is also dragging his feet as he doesn't want to leave either. He was even offered a great job here, where he would make lots of money, but we're ready to come home. We need to break in the motor home, we have guests coming for Christmas and I have been tapped to go on a disaster assignment as soon as I am ready. I don't think I'll be ready right away.
Anyway, I really love fall. Its my favorite time of year and Japan is beautiful

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sumo is over for the September Basho

Vickie, did I tell you that Sumo comes to Las Vegas in the fall. Meet me there next year (06) cause I won't be home in time this year. BUT, I will be going to Fukaoka in November to watch the last night of the last basho of 05. I don't care that I can only afford seats in the "nose-bleed" section and I don't care that Kaio, my favorite, favorite will probably be retired, I just want a glimps of Kotooshu, and I want to get a calendar and maybe a signed autograph and oh, another sumo doll to add to my collection.
This was a great match. Kotooshu, the big Bulgarian with beautiful blue eyes and not an ounce of fat on his body did an outstanding job, winning 13 of the 15 matches. He was just promoted to Sekiwaki, thats like the third level and he made history, beating just about everyone. Unfortunately, he didn't beat the Yokosuna, (top dog) so he didn't become champion but he still did an outstanding job and made history. There is always next basho. http://sumo.goo.ne.jp/eng/ozumo_meikan/rikishi_joho/rikishi_2510.html
I am going to miss Sumo. Its been a great part of my Japan adventure and I thank Vic for turning me on to it.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Can you do Japan on a dime?

Judy emailed me that she and DH are coming to Japan for a visit. Unfortunately she will be here when the cherry blossoms are out and I will not be here to show her around. She asked if I had any tips for doing Japan cheaply as she posted in another blog and the only comment she got was "Japan ain't cheap"
That person is right Judy. Japan isn't a cheap vacation. If you want cheap, right now some of the best places to go are Vietnam and China. Both places are great places to visit, and both can be done on a budget.
But there are some tricks to keeping prices down in Japan also.
1) The Bullet Train is the best way to get around Japan and you can get a two week pass and go just about anywhere with it for a bargain price. Make sure you get the pass outside of Japan cause it isn't available here in country. Japanese are good about helping and much is written in English. Just remember, they leave on time. Period.
2) There are youth hostels just about all over, and elder hostels also. While I have never stayed in one, I have seen the one here in town and it is in a beautiful park like area and quiet.
3) Food in Japan is expensive, but you can get some great meals from places like Family Mart and 7-11. They sell bento boxes for 3 to 5 dollars, juice boxes, soft drinks, coffee, etc. Bakery's sell delicious baked goods but be careful, some might have bean paste or potato or even bacon and egg or cheese. Also the fast food restaurants are a good deal and they are just about in every big town. Don't expect to get hamburgers, you'll more than likely get a rice bowl with meat, or noodles (Ramen) Dont eat in hotel restaurants, they are very expensive unless you get breakfast with your room rent.
4) Hotels are expensive so go online and spend some time looking around. If you only have a week
5) If you only have a week or so, fly into Osaka and take the local train to Kyoto. It is the best, most beautiful city with both history and lots to see and do.
6) We stayed at the New Kyoto Hotel or Hotel New Kyoto, something like that. It cost about $123 for two nights, and the room as a twin bed, table, chair, TV (All Japan TVs have pay porn, so if you think its a movie channel, think again. Its porn) bath, shower and they have slippers and a robe for you to wear. The robes are not to leave the hotel so don't think they are gifts.
In the lobby of the hotel you can get a daily bus pass for 500 yen. Its a bargain and you will soon find the tourist buses. When you have see all that Kyoto has to offer, check on some of the outlining areas for more great things.
The golden pavillion is a must. Nijo Castle with its nightengale floors is worth the price, great museams, craft stores, and the Ginza is not to be missed.
Anyway, Judy girl, you can do Japan on a dime , well lots of dimes maybe. But you will come back with a smile on your face.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Sophie Sale

We had our last fund raiser of the year and my last fund raiser, period. It was a lot of fun and of course, we were some of the biggest customers. Sophie sells antique furniture, replica furniture, baskets and stuff.
I bought two beautiful, hand carved window shutters, one for each child. I know RB will love it, but might not be Bets taste at all. Also, purchased each a little chest with hand carving on the front. Then Roy won a 19 century red and gold cubboard. Again not my taste, but its very old, hand carved and I am sure one of our friends will love it, or maybe our new S-I-L would like it.

Sophie, the lady who sells the antique furniture and Nye, the Persian Rug guy, and so fun. Sophie is Chinese and just built a house in Bejing. She has invited us to come visit and we are thinking about it as it would be an adventure of a lifetime. Nye is from England but he is Indian by nationality and unfortunately, he got very sick while here and had to be hospitalized. I really feel sorry for him as he speaks only a small bit of Japanese so he doesn't even know what is happening to him. Sophie speaks Japanese, many of the Chinese dialects, English, and many of the middle eastern languages. I guess you have to be fluent when you travel like she does. She also owns a home in London and one in Okinawa. She is a citizen of the world.

Speaking about being a citizen, I am down to 2 months and one week before I retire. I am so excited. We have already made plans to have our buddy from Portland come and spend Christmas with us and then we are off Oregon, Calif, Arizona and New Mexico, Utah and Nevada. That should take us at least a year, but if I never get home that will be find also.

Still not feeling well, but think it must be bad diet, stress and just the crude.

Tonight is pottery class again. Haven't been in a month as the typhoon cancelled the last class. I hope my vase shows up, and the pot I was working on.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Its been a week.

All week, I have come here trying to think of something profound to write about and nothing has come to mind. I haven't been feeling well. Nothing that I can point to at all, just feeling bad. The problem is that, when I can't identify whats wrong, I get anxiety attacts ever since I returned from Iraq, plus I'm a hypocondriac, so put the two together, and I am a real mess.
Monday I started water arobics and ooooo, the water felt so good. I didn't want to get out at all.

See I have nothing to talk about and this is boring and dull. Maybe I'll come up with something next week.

Friday, September 09, 2005


1) Well one wimpy typhoon turned into a monster in the community. There was a lot of flooding and even more damage than we thought. I watched the Japanese news and it was scary.

2) Roy loved the idea of staying at the Buddhist Temple in October so he is going to sign us up today. Did I mention the price, $200 dollars per person for one night......

3) I think I am going to change the name of Casita to something Japanese and will decorate it with my beautiful Japanese art.

4) Pottery class was cancelled this week due to the typhoon and my poor half pot is rapidly drying out.

5) Two months and 3 weeks to retirement.

Mysteries of Buddhism Tour

Wait til you read about our next adventure. Its called the Mysteries of Buddhism tour and we leave on the 15th of October at 0500 and travel to Mt Koya. Mt Koya is north of here (well actually we've had this discussion about my sence of direction ) Its above Osaka actually, about a 5 hour drive.
Once we get there, we will have a half-day guided sightseeing tour to the Temples and around the area. Then we check into the Temple for a traditional Monk's lodging (males and females separate, of course) We have a half hour lecture on Basic Buddhist Concepts and then a traditional vegetarian Monk's dinner, followed by a concert by a Shingon Buddhist Monk. Sound fun so far? The night is going to be interesting. Males and females sleep separately, there is a public bath and toilet, but not in the room. Meals are, of course vegetarian and we will sleep on a Japanese tatami floor with a futon. We need to bring our own soap, shampoo, towels and toothbrushes.

Day 2 is Morning Zen Meditation, followed by a traditional monks breakfast and after breakfast we will visit yet another Temple and participate in the "Goma" Fire Ritual and more meditation.
I am really excited as it sounds like a great time. I just hope we can find a few more folks to join us as minimum 15 people are needed to do this trip.

I will certainly tell you all about it and hope that I can take pictures of everything.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


While the US has been recovering from Hurricane Kathrine, we in Japan had our own Super typhoon to deal with yeasterday. Actually, while there was some flooding and a few deaths, Japan was very lucky. It was classed as a Super Typhoon, a 4 or 5 on the US scale, but it only glanced off Okinawa and by the time that it got to us, had lost a lot of its punch. The winds gusted at about 50 MPH which is nothing. Today it went back out to sea to see if it could regroup but I think the cooler waters in the north just killed it off completely

Last year, we had three typhoons hit and the year is still young, so we will have more I am sure.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Kyoto, Japan

Its my birthday and what a way to celebrate. Saturday morning, Sallie, Berry and Bev Nelson and Roy and I loaded up a van and headed north to Kyoto. The weather was outstanding but we did hear about a Super Typhoon brewing in the south. Nothing we were going to worry about.
We have all been to Kyoto before and we have all loved it, but before we had taken a tour with ITT and this time we were on our own.
We had a lot of trouble finding a hotel that could accommodate us all. We needed two doubles and one single and we needed parking. Parking it turned out was the hardest thing to find. Some had no parking at all, some changed hourly, but finally we found one with free parking, and the price was right.
Well, okay Japanese hotels are expensive. If you can find something for under a hundred a night, you can consider yourself really lucky. The Kyoto New Hotel, (which I don't think is very "new") checked in at just $100 a night for a double and that was a great deal. It had two beds, a refrig, a pot to make hot water, and like all hotels, robes and slippers.
The trip up was about 6 hours long with all of us taking a turn at driving, and we arrived before check in time so we started sighseeing right away. The first stop was to a handicraft place where they showed how textiles were woven, wood was carved, pottery turned, etc. It was fasinating, especially the textiles. We spent a good three hours just wandering around looking at all the Japanese crafts.
Our Hotel wasn't hard to find and like most Japanese hotels, the rooms were small and clean. The beds have to be the hardest in the world, and the pillows are all rice husks or barley or some sort of bean. Also, you can always find porn on Japanese television so I always tell folks not to let the kids channel surf in Japan cause they will get a great education.
We all decided that Italian would be a great dinner and we found a restaurant a couple blocks away. Have I mentioned that Japanese food is expensive. For 33.00 Roy and I had a plate of noodles and some garlic bread and drinks.
Sunday morning, we went downstairs for breakfast and I ordered the Japanese Breakfast for 12.00. I got a green salad, a raw egg, a slice of smoked fish, miso soup and a bowl of rice. I mixed the egg in the miso to cook it a bit. The others only groaned when they saw me eat it, but it was better than their watery scrambled eggs with catsup and corn soup.
We hopped a bus and went to the Silver Pavillion. They were doing some construction but the grounds were beautiful. From there we walked along the river on the Philosophers path, past a half dozen or so temples, like the one above. They are so beautiful, but like castles, temples are all starting to look like, so we headed to the Kyoto National Museum.
I am telling you, it was probably the most interesting one that I have seen in a long time. There were huge Buddas carved from wood dating back to the 15 and 16th century. There was pottery dating back to about the 1st century and examples of kimonos that were just awesome. It was an amazing museum.
Lunch for 4, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches and ice tea. 30.00 dollars
Our final stop was the Kyoto Handicraft Gallery where they make and sell everything Japanese from pearl jewerly, laquare ware, woodblocking, textiles, etc. We bought a music box for a friend of mine in Washington and some pictures of Kyoto for us. While we were shopping, the rain started and it didn't let up for the rest of the trip.
We certainly lucked out for dinner. We found this little Chinese place a couple blocks from the hotel and we had the most delicious meal, best Chinese since I have been here. It was a popular place, as tables were all full and folks can in for take out constantly. It was a winner and if I ever go back, its on the short list of places to eat. Cheap to,,,, well for Japan.
Monday we headed home as the typhoon was getting closer and closer and we didn't want to get stuck.