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Archive for October, 2007

We  moved out of the Route Inn this morning to go to the Washington Hotel. This hotel has a Japanese style room. There is an open bedroom with three futons on tatami mats, a small dining room, a toilet, a bathroom and a sink area with a refrigerator. Every morning the cleaners will fold up the futon and put them out again at night. It is a luxury compared to the teeny shoebox of a room Dave and I shared for two weeks!! I hope my back will be fine tomorrow for the futon is pretty thin.

We rented three bikes from the train station this morning and it was so much fun! I wished i had known about the rental program; I would have rented one these last couple of weeks. Besides Japanese school girls in mini skirts and black knee highs, women in high heels and men in suits plus school boys all ride these silver colored bikes, the likes of which you would never see in Truckee. There’s a plastic basket in the front and it has three gears plus a light for night riding. Then there’s me with my Louis Vuitton bag in the basket, peddle pusher pants and my purple New York sweat shirt. Lucy does not want to bring her mountain bike to Sapporo because she does not want to appear different so we will be buying her one of these silvered colored bikes

Well, we did the rounds of 7 Elevens because Dave was in search of a coffee fix. According to him no one makes good coffee here but the coffe that came from the 7 Eleven coffee machine is better than most. But the problem was that not all 7 Elevens have the coffee machine so we found out. We must have gone to 7 or 8.

He never did get his coffee until we got to the palace, where he bought a cup for 200 yen. His verdict – not a good cup at all. No one lives in the palace – it was first built in the 14th century and then throughout history it was built and rebuilt by different samurai leaders. The latest samurai to built it was Tom Cruise…wasn’t he the last Samurai?..just kidding!

We had lunch at the Hokkaido restaurant – tempura, some sushi, fried chicken pieces, fried whole fish – yummy!

Right now Lucy has crashed on the futon while Dave is watching Formula car racing from his sling box. I love that sling box!!

Tomorrow, Lucy and I will be going to Tokyo. Our main agenda will be to meet with the company’s relocation person and she will take us to choose some rental furniture for our apartment. Then, Lucy wants to go sight seeing. I have no idea how I am going to manouveure (?) ourselves through the subway system but Liza says it is easy.

We also got to get some cash for the trip. No one takes credit card. I hate it!! We always have to have a big wad of cash. I have it down pat asking if they take credit card in Japanese but no one does.

I did mention how clean it is over here, did I not? but it is so difficult to find a garbage bin! There’s more 7 Eleven then garbage bins! And  talking about garbage, one cannot leave garbage out the night before collection day because the crows would peck the plastic bag to bits – the crows here are so huge! So Japan has the crows, the Tower of London in England has the ravens, the Vatican has the pidgeons and Truckee…has the bears..? ah well, I am just rambling!

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I beat all the alarms I set last night. I wanted to wake up at 5am to wake Lucy up in Sapporo; instead I got up about 4.30 am. I could not go back to sleep til 5 am when I called Lucy up. She answered the phone immediately (thank god), then she told me that Sapporo is in the middle of a typhoon. All the doors and windows at the dormitory were rattling. I was so nervous for her – she has to walk to the bus stop to catch the 6 am bus to the airport. She called me abit later that she had made it to the bus stop – it was very wet and windy, she said.  I asked her to call me again when she got to the airport.

Lucy flew from Sapporo to Fukushima and when she landed in FUkushima, she had to take a bus to Koriyama and then another bus to Aizu Wakamatsu. She got into Aizu about 1 pm. We were so proud of her because she has never done any trips by herself, let alone one in a typhoon!

We took her to a noodle shop for lunch, and after checking her into the hotel we walked about abit. Went to the old Samurai hill. History has it that about 7 young boys founght a battle and when they lost the battle they went up on top of this hill and killed themselves. There were a total of 1200 steps altogether.

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Monday Oct 15th

 I bought bus tickets to Tokyo for Lucy and I this am and then I went to mail a parcel at the post office. I felt very clever – making myself understood! I even visited the pharmacy and got some needed meds. Thank goodness, the guy understood what i wanted.

Spent the afternoon watching my slingbox – Desperate Housewives!! I love the slingbox!

Dave came back to the hotel about 8.30pm – yes – he works all day and evening. I wasn’t feeling so good so he got me a hamburger while he had cup o noodle – curry flavor.

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Weekend Oct13th/14th

We spent the morning checking out our new 74 sq m (about 740 sq ft.) apartment. Dave likes it so we are going to sign a contract. It is smack in the middle of town so no driving needed. Loved it!!

We rented a car in the pm and went for a drive in search of cross country ski resort. We saw lots of ski lifts at Mount Bandai for downhill skiing but there isn’t a specific nordic area. So, we hope we will find one when the snow comes. It is a pretty area but the ski mountains did not appear to be as tall as the ones around Truckee.

On Sunday we drove towards the Shimogo area where we visited an old village that was restored. All the buildings had thatched roof and there were hundreds of visitors in  cars, buses, etc. There were alot of food vendors selling dried seaweed, cookies, trinkets, ceramics and lots of restaurants too. We did the round and got out of there as fast as we could – too many people!

The drive around there was very pretty – with deep deep gorges and layers upon layers of mountains. Pictures we took came out well. Pity I left my camera usb cable back home! Wherever there were flat land in between mountain ranges, people farm or plant rice. Most of the rice have been harvested and I took several pictures of different haystacks in the middle of rice fields, some are round like they have in France, only on a smaller (much smaller) scale and also triagular ones that were pretty neat.

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Laundry Day Oct 12th

I sent a bag of shirts and tops to the hotel receptionist but all the hotels here will not do socks or underwear – so weird! So, they provide a washer dryer in the ladies and men’s bath house.

I have to take off my shoes before entering the bathhouse. I could take a bath in the community bathtub –  I would have to shower and scrub before i go in but the only problem is I am abit of a prude – I cannot slip into the bath with others without a bathing suit! Anyhow, I was only there to do my laundry but it looked like the bathhouse is empty at this time of the morning so I may give it a try…

When I came out of the bath house area, my shoes were pointing the other way! Apparently, whenever I take my shoes off, I should arrange my shoes so I could just slip my feet into them and walk off…makes sense.

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We got in about 8pm and Lucy’s dorm master picked us up at the airport with two boys – Jordan, from Canada, whose dad is working on a Russian island somewhere, and Joe  is from Newport Beach, California! It would have been impossible to negotiate a subway train with four suitcases and two back packs! So, thanks, Mr Gibbs!

They dropped us off at the Sapporo Guest House, located on top of Tenjin Yama (yama is Japanese for mountain) and about 15 mins walk from Lucy’s international school.  The room was lovely, with a kitchen and a spiral staircase that led to a bedroom and bathroom. There was a pull out bed too and a nice desk in the ante room. What struck me was the cleanliness – and towels that are really thin! Apparently, most hotel towels here are not thick and fluffy like towels at home.

Breakfast was a cold affair – except for the ocha (green tea). We had shredded cabbage, carrots, thinly sliced cucumbers, cold boiled egg and a croissant and another lovely bun.

We took Lucy’s suitcases to the school in a taxi. When we got there, at the front entrance we were greeted with hundreds of pairs of shoes neatly arranged on shoe racks. I thought for a minute that we had come to a skating rink or something! But these were the kids’ outside shoes. Every kid has to change to indoor shoes before going to class! The whole school was so squeaky clean!

We met the dorm mom, a lovely lady from Canada who has been in Japan for 8 years. She took Lucy to her room – she is sharing with another AMerican girl whose parents are in Ghana, Africa.

While Lucy attended her first day of school, Marla, the dorm mom took me shopping. SHe gave me an idea of what’s what. Everything is in Japanese, of course. I hope I will not buy the wrong stuff, like bleach for shamppo or something!! The maple syrup was in a teeny bottle, not like the giant one I usually buy from Costco!! and all the meats are packaged in tiny packs. Marla did tell me that Costco is coming to Sapporo next year. I am anxious to see if the pacakaging is going to be large or will they keep to teeny ones.

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House Finding Oct 10th

 I am in this shoebox of a hotel room!! I have to sit in bed while Dave gets ready for work in the mornings. It is also Lucy’s 17th birthday and we are not with her to celebrate. She told me she had to do dishes at the dorm – 22 dinner plates and pots and pans. She has to do it for a whole week. It has nothing to do with it being her birthday…hmm nah don’t think so.Today I went to look at houses and apartments with a rep from the relo company and several realtors at different times, of course.

One house was about 1200 sq. ft but it was in the middle of a rice field, closer to Dave’s work and there will be snow to shovel etc etc. But i wanted the town so I don’t have to drive much and it will be great when the kids are here at christmas time. The apartment that i really liked was 600 sq feet!! Coming from a 3400 sq ft home that was abit of a shocker. It was brand new with nice wood floors but only two rooms ie one bedroom and  one tatami room – ie with tatami mats on the floor – guests could sleep on cushions. I loved it if it was just  Dave and I,  but I have the kids coming, so that would be way too small. Then I saw another one which was about 1000 sq ft and it was on the  14th floor. I did not like the carpeting but it had three rooms. SO i thought that was it, but later i saw another – 750 sq ft – 3 b/rooms , a newer one with imitation wood floor (no carpets yay!!) and 4th floor too so i would feel less sway in case of earthquakes. So i am gonna sign a contract for that. ahh so tiny BUT it had the electric toilet that Dave loves so much! It also has a full bath (most of the apartments that we saw only has one toilet!! We’d better not all  get diarhea over christmas!) which doubles as a clothes dryer!! Apparently, you can hang your clothes over the bath tub, close the door and turn on the dryer. I couldn’t quite understand this concept – must use alot of electricity. The other alternative is to hang your clothes on the balcony like they do in Singapore – clothes waving in the wind like the united nation flags on every floor! But what I will end up doing is to get a clothes dryer/ washer combo.

The car park for alot of the apartments are so weird. You back your car into this floor plate. then it gets lifted to the top level and it stays there. When you want to drive your car, you have to push all these buttons and the machine shuffles your car around and the right one will come down from the top to the bottom floor and you drive it off!! To tell you the truth I think I am scared of it! I cannot back a car into that small lift plate.

The company will rent some furniture and i doubt if i could bring any of ours – too big.

I have only been here 7 days but it felt a year already!!!!! I think it will be better once i get my own place. I walked alot. Food is good. I am enjoying it although too much carbo n not enough veggies. The super market has lovely fresh fruits and veggies but i cannot cook in this room.

Last night we went to a shabu shabu restaurant for dinner. It was so good. It is like a hot pot – damn it was so good. They kept bringing in stuff to put into the pot, beef slices, chicken slices, dainty mushrooms, veggies, fish paste that came in a bamboo holder, ooooh so yummy! there’s this sesame seed that came in a little mortar bowl and you grind them up amd then you pour sesame seed sauce in them and there’s another sauce which is like soy soauce and some yummy vinegar too. and you dip your meat after it comes out of the hot pot. ahhh so good!!

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