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!