Friday, August 3, 2007

Looking back at Moscow

My first "real" trip out of the US - not including Mexico and Canada - was to the Soviet Union in 1990.

The first day in Moscow, three of us decided to "visit" Moscow State University or MGU. We bluffed our way in past the guard (yes, they had / have guards) and wandered around the campus and dorms.

Just three stupid American kids from a poor neighborhood with a reasonable command of Russian, meandering about in the largest country on Earth and long-time enemy of our home country. (Berlin wall just came down, Cold War still going, but just barely.)

Alone. Without an escort. Stupid.

Anyway, coming out the gate, we didn't realize that both sides of MGU look the same, so we thought we were heading back to the gostinitsa universityetskaya (hotel university) where we were staying. Oops.

After wandering around lost looking for our hotel. It became apparent that we had been walking for far longer than it took us to get to MGU in the first place. I posited that maybe we had come out on the wrong side and we should turn around and go back. Jeff (Jones) and Felix argued that we just hadn't gone far enough, so they voted to go onward.

I said I was going back and did so. Alone. Without an escort.

I made it back eventually, cold and tired, but very much correct in my directional instincts. Not so stupid.

Jeff and Felix got back much later, cold, tired and grouchy, after eventually finding a Metro station (MGU is pretty far out from the main part of Moscow) and working their way back using local transportation.

Lesson: Don't go to Moscow.

Just kidding. When visiting an unfriendly country, make sure you A: have a guide or escort. or B: speak the language or C: have a good sense of direction and / or D: the guts to follow your instincts.

Habe Mut! - German: Have Courage!

Tiny countries

So, here's the word on our next trip.

Our plan as it stands is to visit the three (possibly 4) smallest countries in Europe: Vatican City, Monaco, and San Marino. Number four would be Liechtenstein. Andorra will have to wait.

As these countries are surrounded by other, larger countries, we'll also have to visit Italy and France (and or Switzerland and Austria). Oh darn.

Now go look at your maps!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

I've been this woman!

OMG - I laughed, most sympathetically - really! - while reading this post from the Yarn Harlot. She got stuck in airport hell:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Where to next?

Well, a couple of candidates for our next couple of trips include:

Back to Japan in January. This time to the Northern Island of Hokkaido for the ice festival. COLD!


Greece for a couple of weeks next summer. I still need to finish my book, Go rammit.

Or... Back to Australia. This time to the West coast and Perth.

Or China, Thailand, Singapore, or back to Europe... Or..., Or..., Or..., You get the idea.

on going native

You know you've been gone a while, when:

You miss chopsticks at mealtime (we still use ours)

You feel uncomfortable around all the Gaijin (non-Japanese), but you're in the US.

You catch yourself still bowing to people (and apologizing profusely when you cut someone off in the grocery store.)

You make a special trip downtown to Sakura Square to shop for Japanese stuff you just had while you were there.

You find yourself looking for love hotels while riding the lightrail, knowing you won't actually find any.

You miss MOS Burger. Mmm... MOS Burger...

Back home

Starting to get back on track with the time change, but our sleep patterns are jacked right now.

A few more things about Japan before moving on to other stuff:

The big earthquake was on the west coast about 100 miles from us, but we did feel it. Several minutes of a 7 storey building swaying is kind of unnerving to say the least.

One of the things that made the earthquake so bad was that a major typhoon had just hit southern Japan, totally hammering the south islands of Kyushu and Shikoku, where we had just been.

Unfortunately for those up north such as ourselves, the Typhoon brought crappy weather in the form of a bunch of hard rain for several days. The main concern near the epicenter was landslides and sinkholes.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Comments please!

This will be our last post from Sendai, Japan.

Let us know if we are entertaining and or informative, and whether we should continue blogging on our travels.

Or let us know if we`re boring and stupid and should discontinue our rantings.

This is for posterity, so please, be honest. (name the movie!)

Sayonara Nihon,

J and B

Last day stuff

Saw Monkey Boi movie. Would have been great had we understood it. Possibly. Maybe it sucked. Dunno.

Manshon 2 Erkharts 0.

We`ve been here 3 weeks, and I just found out there was a light over our sink. Been washing our dishes in the dark all this time. Stupid Erkharts.

Shaky Shaky Earthy Quakey!

This morning we both felt the Earth move. At first we thought it was just the bouncy bed, then we realized it was the whold friggin` building! Looks at the wife, `You felt it too?`. Go ahead, think naughty thoughts. We were.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Umbi Karma redux

Since we never need umbrellas at home, we`ll be leaving ours here on tuesday, probably on the train or at our local grocery store. Perhaps some poor wet soul will make good use of them.

Have you seen my suitcase?

Monkey Boi!

We were going to go see a cool looking Japanese movie called Monkey Majik today, but there were too many kids since it`s saturday, so instead, we`re going to see Harry Potter and the crazy-assed Gaijin instead. Oh wait, that`s us.

We did`t think we`d be able to see it while we`re here, but evidently we were wrong. Wife is happy now.

We`ll let ya know how it is. Unless you`ve already seen it ya rat bastards ! ) Monkey Majik on Monday (hey, we`re alliterate!)

G`bye, for now.

Narita (not the airport)

We visited the HRC (Hard Rock Cafe) in Narita on Matsuri day! OMFG! Every town has a matsuri, and Narita is no exception.

Lots of people in traditional Kimono and making noise eating yaki-tori (literrally, bird on a stick), yaki-unagi (eel on a stick) and yaki-wienie (hotdog on a stick, duh!).

We got some cool pics of the festivities, including the townsfolk pulling a heavy wooden wagon filled with musicians singing a funky song. Fun, but crazy.

Remember, the best souvenirs are not the ones you buy, they`re the ones you can steal.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Saw Dralion and Shreck

Cirque on a bad day is still as good as ever. Even though almost every act had a small blunder (hard to remain unbiased when you know what you`re looking at from an insider`s technical perspective.) they were still worth the en. They`re gone now and on the way to Hiroshima... Dodgy hotels for the performers?

Shreck the third was actually pretty good, far better than expected. We had to miss the last 12 minutes, or we would have missed the last train home. All kinds of bad, considering how far out we were and how much it was raining!

Via con diabolos!

Stores with their own theme music

the 99en store has a ditty that won`t leave your head, even at 1 am. The place we`re blogging from is the media internet heaven called Popeye that also has a song that never gets old. By never, I mean you can`t stop singing it even when another song is playing. Arg.

Cowpiss and sweat

Yummy! Engrish rears its ugly head.

Two of our favorite drinks here are called Pocari Sweat (actually quite well-known) and Calpis (sounds like cow piss)

Bickle isn`t so good, but some of the other ION waters are OK.

Gotta love the Vendo (vending machines)

Manshon 1, Erkharts 0

After being here for almost 3 weeks, we discovered last night that our front door has a deadbolt.

Not that we don`t feel safe enough to leave the door unlocked, (as opposed to the dodgy place in Hiroshima) but it is nice to know that we can lock ourselves away from the world if we want to.


Yesterday we went back to Tokyo, and visited the home of Judo, The Kodokan (literally, the place to learn the way).

We kinda got lost at first, and were in the right building, but in the wrong part, just a bunch of offices that were unmarked or marked only with kanji. WTFAWI? (WTF are we?)

We finally found the main entrance and the gift shop (of course). I wanted to get a gi, a belt, a T-shirt, a key-chain and a... so I got a key-chain and a postcard for the BJJ Denver guys.

We saw the judo museum and the 500 mat dojo. Damn! Wanna come back to train Judo now.

jita kyoei - You and I shining together

Monday, July 9, 2007

The kids are alright!

Wife here.

Observation: Japanese kids are cuter than American kids (except for Kailey, Ali and Riley!) They're waaaay more well behaved than Australian kids (little monsters!), and most of them even make Ali look out of control!

We've noticed that kids under about 18 months, stare at everything, just like everyone elses' kids, though they do seem be able to fall asleep anywhere, in any position, at the drop of a hat. (Come to think of it, that talent stays with the Japanese into adulthood. It seems that anywhere there are adult Japanese sitting down, half of them are sleeping and the other half are text messing.)

Kids between about 2 and 4 seem pretty easy to spook. In the grocery store last night, a little guy came zooming around the end of the aisle where we were, took one look at the big, scary gaijin, braked, squeaked and went running back around the endcap yelling for his mother! Oops. We bowed a bunch to his mother when she came around the corner to investigate!

The lower elementary school kids stare and if you wave at them, they'll wave back. The upper e.s. kids will stare, then start egging each other on to come over and say "haro" to us. Then we become the most interesting thing in the museum (store, street, subway) - again.

Cross cultural defined.

When you are sitting in a restaurant eating Spanish Paella (is there any other kind?) in Japan, using chopsticks.

Although you know you've been here too long when you find it odd to get a fork to eat your Indian curry with, and you wonder where all the chopsticks are. Oh, note to Auckland, New Zealand - Sendai's now got the best Indian restaurant in the world. (Aurora, CO, USA has the second best ; )

Also, it is possible to eat pizza and ice-cream with chopsticks!


This means `Welcome!`, and you hear it A LOT. Whenever you go into any type of extablishment, you are greeted with this phrase. Kinda like when they say `hello` at Blockbuster, only louder and everyone says it.

In fact, they say it when you come in, when you leave and whenever anyone else comes in or leaves. They say it so much (and thank you as well) that it becomes a sing-song, call and response thing that all the staff do during your entire stay.

It may sound annoying, and at first it kinda is, but you get used to it, and you even find yourself kinda groovin` to the irasshaimase / gozaimas` beat. Strange.

Also, before you eat, you should say Itadakimas`. Which is sort of like a mini-blessing / grace only not religious just social niceity. Like saying `This I receive`. When you are done, you are supposed to say `Go-chisosamadesh`ta`. Or `What a feast that was!` Or words to that effect.

For a mini-example of the Irasshaimase thing, watch Monsters Inc. when they go into the sushi restaurant (Harry Hausen`s).

Yamas, gawas and shima

Language lesson from Husband-san.

Ever wonder why so many Japanese names end or beging with yama (Yamaha, Yamamoto, Yamaguchi, Takayama)?

Well, you may not realize it from pictures you`ve seen, but this place has a BOATLOAD of mountains! Guess what yama means. That`s right kids, it means flip-folps. Duh.

It is also a major character in the writing system. A `mountain sword` is an axe, a `mountain person` is a hermit and a `fire mountain` is a volcano (yes, they have those here too). A bird sitting on a mountain is the word for island, or shima / jima.

So, you get names like Hiroshima, Iwo-jima (now changed to Iwo-to) and Okinawa-jima. Cool ne (Japanese for innit)?

Next we have Kawa or Gawa. This means river. So, you have the Hirose-gawa (same hiro as Hiroshima by the way), which is the main river running through Sendai. Or for those of you in Colorado, 9 News has the Anchorlady Adele Arakawa. Her family name is from a river here in Japan. This kinda stuff is what makes me such a language geek.

Incidentally, many people call Mt. Fuji `Fuji-yama` technically this is sorta correct, since they use the same charachter as mountain, but in this case, it is more accurate to say `Fuji-san`.

So there.

How ya ben?

Another thing we (especially wife) like about Japan is the Ben. Short for O-bento, these are Japanese lunch boxes, with little rice pillows and various pickels (not like you`re thinking) and seafood and veggies and stuff.

There are many kinds, from the ones you can buy for train rides (eki ben) to the ones your mom makes, to ones you get at the local grocery store or 7-11.

Mmm... ben...

The triangles are Husband`s favorite; not quite ben, but still yummy.

Umbrella Karma!

Since our umbrella got keifed at the museum, we had to buy another one at the 99en store. Then, we found one on the train, so now we have two! (so husband doesn`t have to get wet anymore.)

The Maersk game

Before we went to Iceland, we read a blog by some people who had been there who played a game while they traveled. They called it the Maersk game.

To play, all you have to do is travel a lot and any time you visit a new country, you look for a Maersk container.

For those of you not in the know, Maersk is a Danish shipping company, and they move stuff all over the world. Sorta like large-scale UPS.

Anyway, since then, we indeed saw one in Reykjavik, and one in Malta, and just this week, we`ve seen three.

You can also play at home. Sophie, you don`t count, you`re too close to the source!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Hell isn`t other people, it`s riding the train in Shikoku.

Japanese trains. Fast? OMFG yes. Will they get you there? Eventually.

This isn`t a big country, and yes, the trains go 190 mph. But they also stop at every station and can wait several minutes before moving again. Also, they don`t always go fast, since they have to slow back down to stop.

We spent an entire day just on Shikoku trying to get to the taga-jinja shrine. (Kinda like the Japanese version of the Phallological museum in Iceland if you know what I`m saying.) Anyway, it seemed like an eternity and let`s just say that is might have been worth the trip. Or it might not have. Kris Burns, you might owe Buddah some en!

Hoteru: not the dodgiest place we`ve ever stayed... but close.


On the way back from Fukuoka (far south big island of Kyushu) we stopped in Hiroshima since it was getting too late to get to Okayama. We should have kept going. We got a room at a business hotel. These are usually small, neat and reasonably well priced ($75).

Well, it was small, and not too expensive, but this was the kind of dirty, run-down, smoky place you`d find in Clint Eastwood movie from the 70s. Yikes. Even the roaches wiped their feet before they went outside.

It was second only to the place we stayed in Anchorage where people tried to break in. I even blocked the door here with a chair to prevent similar events. All bad.

That`s what travel is all about, adventure.

On the other hand...

The next night, on the way back from Uwajima (on the island of Shikoku) we did stop in Okayama and decided to try our luck there. There was no room at the proverbial inn, and luckily enough, we found a love hotel.

Much has already been written and blogged about these wonderous and fantastic places, so check out for a great read. Be sure to check out part two as well.

Let`s just say, it was a really cool place, and it had every amenity you could possibly want (I almost felt guilty it was so nice) and we`ve never had it better, even in nicer (read: way more expensive) places. Cost: $63 bucks. Damn.


Where to begin...

Lots of stuff coming, as it`s been a busy couple of days.


Cool thing here, BLIND TRACKS. Everywhere you go, there`s a strip about a foot wide that is a different texture from the sidewalk. It changes texture again when you are at a corner, stairs or other abnormal obstacle. This can be felt with a cane and even your feet. Very blind friendly. Plus, lots of people seem to have eye patches over an eye. It`s a thing.

The seats in the trains spin around so you can always face in the direction of travel. Some even do it automatically.

If you don`t like spiders, don`t come to Japan. They`re big and they`re everywhere. Warm and wet = spider heaven.

Neat game to play: scare the Japanese children. Except in the bigger cities, little kids aren`t used to seeing roundeyes / gaijin, so when they see you, they kind of freak out a bit if you surprise them. Kinda funny in the grocery store. Bonus points if you smile and or wave or greet them in Japanese.

More to come...

Monday, July 2, 2007

Potpurri for a 1000, Alex.

More odds and ends from Husbandsan!

Engrish! This is an odd thing that comes in one of three forms. You get the funny but (probably) accidental ones like the hair salon called S perm. or you can get the japanization of words like hamu to chizu sandichi. Or you can get the ones that are very likely crafted by an English speaker like `life is happy, so live like funny fish. Is stylish`. Or some stupid crap that is syntactically and grammatically correct but makes no damn sense.

I`m not so much curious about what is says, so much as curious about what they think it says.

Now I don`t feel so bad for Americans who get Kanji or Chinese writing tatooed on themselves whithout knowing if it`s correct or not. Can`t be any worse than Engrish.

This place is like a hive. Tokyo has too many people and is CRAZY! Osaka is even worse. I take pride in my ability to navigate my way around but I have never had more of a hard time than in Osaka. Moscow, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, No Problem! Japan is a whole different kind of megalopolis.

Part of the problem is that in the western world, we always orient (so to speak) our maps so that North is up. Here, up is the direction you`re looking, so you have to watch out for what direction is what.

How important is the bow? Let`s put it this way, the workers bow to the incoming train, the ATM bowed to us when we got money, and the snack lady bows to the train car as she leaves it. I won`t be surprised if we still bow when we get home talking on the phone.

They stack park their cars here. Like in a grain elevator. I`m still not sure how they get them down.

Thought we saw a Yakuza interaction in Aomori. An older dude (boss) touched hands in greeting with a younger guy (underling?) when passing on the street. Strange, as most Japanese aren`t physical or touchy-feeley. Usually they bow etc. It was weird. We both caught how odd it seemed in comparison of the other stuff we`ve seen.

Blah blah blog.

Impulsive, party of us.

I know, duh.

Husband again (`Go me` was mine too.)

Break out your maps and atlases (or Google earth or whatever)... Yesterday we decided to go up to either Aomori or Hachinohe on the North coast of Honshu. We ended up doing both. AND, we decided to go even further and ended up in Hakkodate, on the island of Hokkaido.

9 1/2 hours of trains later, we were out in the sticks, and we decided to stay the night. Nice, little cheap hotel later, and this morning we are back in Sendai.

We`ve got a bunch of cool pics, but we can`t post them from here, so you will all have to wait until the party. We`ll let ya know when.

Next time: Engrish!

Go me?

One of the cooler but more annoying things about this country is Gomi. Trash.

There is almost no litter anywhere, and yet there are no trashcans to be found on the streets. WTF? Well, if ya gots garbage, you separate it out into PET (recyclable) bottles / plastic, cans, burnable and "other". The best place to find recptacles is at the local 99en store or a convenience store.

"Other" is stuff like microwaves and cars. Each type is collected on a different day of the week / month.

Drink your drink there, eat your snack, and "gomi" your trash on the spot. Eating "on the move", except ice cream (what would Jesus eat?) is frowned upon. I suppose eating an entire pizza would be problematic as well.

Even the roughest looking people will police their garbage and not just throw it anywhere. Even the reprobates don`t want to live in a pigsty.

So, don`t gomi up the friggin` place!

Friday, June 29, 2007

When I’m dead, turn my rice bowl over.

Husband des’ with another grab-bag of observations and strange / odd occurrences...

Apparently in cemeteries, it is customary to take a person’s favorite rice bowl and teacup and turn them upside down on their monument. (No headstone, because there’s no body, just cremains.

Women here wear shoes that are too tall and cause them to walk pigeon toed and make my feet hurt just watching them. Oh wait, my feet hurt from all the walking we’re doing. But if we were just sitting around, my feet would hurt from watching them.

Think you’re good on a bike? Try riding in traffic, holding an umbrella in one hand and texting on your phone with the other. Dodging gaijin along the way.

Camera 1, Husband 0.  We`ve had our camera for 7 years, and I only just learned that you don't have to have the screen turned on to take a picture, just have the shutter in the front open. No wonder we've been going through batteries like crazy.

Coming out of the internet place the other day, I caught a guy trying to up-skirt photo the wife. I would have been mad and hurt the guy, except it was a SKORT dumbass. I probably should have taken his camera and dunked it in a cup of coffee, but I didn’t want to spend all night trying to explain to the cops why I broke his arm, when he’s the scumbag. He got nothing anyway.

I had heard that there were vending machines where you could get anything you wanted, from food, to CDs to porn to used underwear (still haven’t seen those yet), but yesterday we saw one with eggs. I’m not sure I want to get my eggs from a machine that sits out in the hot sun all day. Plus, won’t they break when they fall down the chute?

I read that it is good luck to throw a rock up on top of a Torii (gate to a Shinto shrine), so every time we go to one we give it a shot. Wife got one in Yamagata today and I’m still 0 for 4. Maybe next time I’ll get lucky.

When we’re about to do something difficult, we say we’re rolling up our shirtsleeves. The Japanese say they’re gonna tie on a headband. So if you see a Nihonjin with a headband, you know he’s getting’ some hard work done.

Remember, Jesus loves Ice cream (but Jesus hates chocolate). I saw it on a T-shirt, so it must be true!

Ame ga furimas'! (It's raining candy!)

Wife here! Sorry, I'm being a geek... the Japanese word for rain is the same as the word for candy. (Maybe that was funnier in my head???)

The mansion flooded this morning! We left the window open last night to get some cool air in the place and woke up this morning to a wet floor... desk... microwave... and tv. Bad gaijin.

We got out of Sendai again today, heading north?? to a little city in the mountains. These were capital letter MOUNTAINS, not quite Rocky Mountain high, but certainly steep as all get out. (No, I didn't get to climb them, though the tori at the shrine were found today certainly looked scale-able.... Too bad I was wearing a skirt ; )

We had soba again for dinner tonight - different restaurant. I still haven't figured out how to slurp without getting more dipping sauce on my shirt than in my mouth. Maybe by the end of this trip??

I will say that I've figured out both extremes of Japanese toilets. You'll find both types in most public restrooms. On the one hand, you have your squatter, simple and easy to figure out how to use. On the other hand, the electronic model, has more buttons than my VCR/DVD remote control. Push one and the toilet thanks you for your visit and then makes a flushing noise without actually flushing. Push another and the seat heats up to burning. Push yet another and you get a hot (or cold!) spray of water... well, you know. Very surprising if you aren't expecting it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

mixed bag

Husband here.

Lots of little things:

The subways have birdsong piped in. You can tell because of three things. NO birds present, it only comes on when people are nearby, and the noise is coming from the friggin speakers!

Toilets and vending machines talk to you. Toilets that are plugged into the wall with an electric cord are kinda scary. (Wife sez they are kinda nice when they are heated.)

Starbucks has a frapaccino made from azuki beans that I thought I would hate, but it is the best one yet. We need these back home. Oh, and they're short two espresso cups now. Julie, you get one of them.

Eel that costs $30. had better be the best friggin eel I have ever eaten. Not so much. Same eel, different store: $5. Same yummy, less en (yen). Stupid store. Stupid me.

The difference between tasty and nasty is perspective. Example: Raw fish vs. Hotdogs. Nuff said.

And lastly... Best. Fries. Ever. I've been around the world 13 times and have had fried potatos in 33 different countries, and today, I knew I could die happy. In Matsushima Bay, we stopped at a little stand to get some icecream. They had a sign that said: totemo oishii pote-to (in Japanese of course, what country do you think this is?). Basically, Super Fries. So I broke our rule about not eating anything that we could get here (awesome cheap sushi doesn't count) and got some.. OMFG! They practically melted in my mouth they were so good. For those of you who know me (especially Janae), this is telling: I dropped one on the ground and SERIOUSLY considered picking it up and eating it. I may even go to hell for not actually doing so it was so perfect. DAMN!

Gomi will be covered in the next blog, but don't let us forget.

TTFNMF (figure it out : )

The Most Interesting Things in the Museum

That would be the two of us.

Wife here! (Jeff's watching Jiu-Jitsu videos on another computer ; )

We made a rainy day stop at the Sendai History Museum yesterday. Since our umbrella was wet, it wasn't allowed inside, so we stashed it in a big bucket with a bunch of other umbrellas and headed in.

Inside - chaos. Seems like every school kid under the age of 12 was in this museum - against their will. We got plenty of stares just for being gaijin, but then Jeff took down his ponytail and shook out his hair so that it could dry a little. Picture this: a dozen schoolgirls giggling and staring at the foreigner with shoulder length red hair. OMG. Then one of them got brave and said "Hi." We said "Hi." back. Giggles. Lots of 'em. They were all talking and giggling at once trying to practice their English on us. Then Jeff totally blew them away by answering them in Japanese. We could just see their little brains going into overload. We're betting they went back to school and told their friends: "I talked to the big scary red-headed gaijin and he talked back - in Japanese!"

After we were done with the museum, we went to retrieve our umbrella, only to find that the bucket where we'd left it was empty - the school kids had taken our umbrella along with theirs when they left! Had we been able to read, we`d have known that the buckets were for the visiting school kids and that the rest of the visitors had their own (locking) umbrella stand on the other side. That and we would still have ours. Oops.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

From creepy to scary

Jeff here,

OMFG. Wife was in the powder room at the local store and I was chillin` and waiting when this old guy with a little kid comes an sits down at the end of one of the benches nearby. No biggie.

Wife comes out and sees dude and points out that he must have gotten a doll for his granddaughter or something... Huh? Oh, I guess you`re right. Then he starts talking to it and kissing it like it`s real. WTF?! Time to get the genkakusaishokushugisha out of here.

I think I need to wash out my eyes with soap.

Warning: strong language

Husband-san sez:

Oh fcuk! Checkout time and our card doesn`t work. Do we have enough cash to pay? Not with us. Time to find out if our ATM card works... Double Fcuk. Try again and we owe Buddah some thankyou yen.

Thank the Okami (gods) for good Karma, despite all the shit we talk about people we don`t know... for all the shit we talk about the rest of you we`ll surely burn in hell.

Speaking of which, when we took our newly acquired cash back to settle up with the wonderful people at the Holiday Inn Sendai, there was another Gaijin (non-Japanese) paying his bill too. He was also having problems with his card not being accepted, but instead of rolling with the punches, he was a complete dick to the (very) nice and (extremely) understanding hotel staff who were trying (desperately) to rectify the problem.

Stupid ugly American.


Wife here!

Food glorious food! There is soooo much to eat here it isn`t even funny. We`d heard people (other travelers) complain that they couldn`t get enough to eat here, but we`ve got the opposite problem. So much food, so little time : )

The options: grocery store (cheap and yummy), walkup noodle shops (also cheap and yummy); department stores (not so cheap, still yummy) and of course, restaurants (not cheap, probably yummy, but intimidating!) (Jeff here - not intimidating - never let them know you`re scared!)

Best. Soba. Ever. I really like soba (buckwheat noodles), Jeff, not so much, but even he really dug the noodles we had last night. Big bowl = 3000 yen (about 3 bux.) Cool ordering system: walk up to the console, put in your money, hit a button next to the picture of what you want, take your ticket, give it to the noodle dude (Irashaimase!), wait for your big-ass bowl of noodles and broth and stuff!, take it to the counter, say Itadakimas`! (more on that later), slurp, say Gochisosamadeshita! (again, more on that later), and bus your bowl back to the noodle guy.

More later! It`s time to P.O.S. (pack our stuff) for the move to the mansion!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

we`ve rented a mansion!

Mansion is the Japanese word for small, rented apartment. Our room is about 8`x 10`, so it`s the smallest mansion you`ve ever seen. That`s okay though, since we`re used to small spaces, because there`s not enough room to swing a cat. Good thing we left ours at home.

We love the grocery store, and everything in sight talks to you whenever you get within several feet of it; even ambulances announce when they`re coming at you in additon to the lights and sirens.

IRASSHAIMASE! You hear this everywhere you go, every time you go through any type of door, or even pass by!

To answer the question posed earlier: Iced Cucumber Pepsi isn`t bad. It tastes like Sprite, without the lemon or lime flavors, with a hint of mint. It`s better cold.

So, in other words, we made it here safely and we`re busy absorbing everything. More later. Maybe by then we`ll be a little more awake and coherent!!!

Mata ashita ne!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We're gonna backblog too.

Ok, most of the upcoming blogs will be from Japan, but in between we may inject anecdotes from some of our other adventures.

So look out for cool stories about Hakarl (mmm... Shark), Dead people (people seem to jump a lot when I travel?), the best Indian food (Auckland, New Zealand), and what to do when someone takes your bags at the train station in Magdeburg, Germany (say "WTF?!" really loud in English.)

We'll also bore you to death with these and many others after we come home and plan our next trip. We'll also offer local colorful vocabulary and tips.

Today's Japanese word: genkaku na saisho kushugisha - vegan (we also use this in place of wtf.)

If she dies, someone else has to tell her mom

The wife has the tendency to climb stuff while we're out and about in the world (Mt. Tibrogargan comes to mind), but seeing as she knows how to go up, but not down, potential for badness is high. (I do to know how to get down!)

On our last trip to Australia, she tried to wreck her bike at high speed, "mucked about" with the deadly poisonous cone snails in the tidal pools and tried to go up the aforementioned peak while hanging out over the abyss.

Something tells me that our journey to the land of Fugu (mmm... pufferfish) could also be fraught with danger...

I don't want to have to call the in-laws and explain how she ended up dead while I stood by and watched. Apparently they don't know their own daughter very well. (Actually, they do know me very well.... remember my mom's quote: "There are some things that your mother doesn't want to know." I think that I'm the reason that mom doesn't like heights anymore!)

Oh and by the way, I'm also teaching her how to ride a motorcycle.

"Danger, danger, danger" - Steve Irwin

Friday, June 15, 2007

Iced Cucumber???

Just saw this on MSN:

We'll have to try it and give a report!

The first WTF of this trip...

Per United Airlines, we have to be at DIA and checked in 2 hours before our flight leaves. The flight is scheduled for 6am, so we are supposed to be checked in by 4am. Problem: United Airlines check-in counter doesn't open until 4:30am. Brilliant!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

You know you have a problem when...

... your yarn for in-flight/on-the-bullet-train crocheting takes up more backpack space than your clothes. There's also the issue of how I know this already.... Ask Jeff, I've been trying to pack for almost 2 weeks now. (I seem to think that packing now will make our departure day get here sooner....)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Backstory: Dude or Fish... Fish: Japan!

Vegas gave us itchy feet. Again.

On our way home from our 10th anniversary wedding this past January, we decided that we absolutely had to get out of the country again. Even though it had only been just two short months since we came home from Malta and Sicily, we were ready to go.

We knew we didn't want to do another short trip, so we picked places that we wanted to go to where we could spend more than just a few days. The three candidates were Scandanavia, the micro countries of Europe (Andorra, Monaco, Liechtenstein, San Marino and Vatican City), and Japan. Since the prices were about the same, and we knew we could only do one, we let the fates decide.

Dude I win, Fish you lose...
On one side of the Icelandic one Kronor coin there is an Icelandic cod - "Fish". On the other side, there is a cool representation of the Norse God Odin, henceforth known as "Dude". So rather than calling "heads" or "tails" when we flip a coin, we call "dude" or "fish".

Since Odin hails from Scandanavia, and the Japanese are known for fish, Japan won the first round, and the second round as well. Statistically speaking, I'm not sure what the odds are for throwing "fish" twice in a row, but this way if all goes horribly awry, we can blame statistics, probability, the gods, the fates or the norns or whoever, thus absolving us of any blame for bad decision making.

Long story short: we flipped and The Dude said Japan. Nuff said for now.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Trip prep

Okay, we're getting ready to go again. Nihon here we come!