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Archive for December, 2007

tree-ties.jpgEmma on the castle ground.Paper Cranes tied to temple.We went to the train station at midnight Dec 21st but the train was delayed about 20 minutes so they arrived on Dec 22nd. Emma was really tired, having had no sleep on the plane and flying in from New York to SFO and then to Narita. Alex did all the navigating!

Took them to the castle, eat sushi and did abit of walkabout. Click on the pictures to see a bigger view. The first picture is how they tied up the trees to protect them from snow load, the second is of Emma with all the tied up trees in the background and the last picture is of paper cranes – tied up on temple walls.

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My Chirkeys Dec 21st

christmas-chirkey2.jpgchristmas-chirkey.jpgThe supermarket near us was supposed to be stocking whole chickens from yesterday onwards. Normally, all supermarkets here only carry chicken pieces, about 5 to 10 pieces in a package. None of your big packages like you get at Costco or Safeways!! So, just for Christmas, they bring in whole chicken and I went in today to get mine. There was only three left on the shelf, skinny scrawny ones and I have a new word for that – CHIRKEY . Not the turkey that I wanted and not the chicken that I am familiar with either!! So, hopefully, I can put at least two chirkeys in my tiny oven. Actually, the chirkeys looked like they are free range ones – there is no fat on them!

Emma and Alex are on their way too Aizu, They called me from Narita so I know that they have met up. I am really nervous  – I hope they will not fall asleep on the four hour train ride and miss all the different stops they have to get off at.

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It is nice and sunny outside for a change but for how long…..

My baby is arriving at noon from Sapporo – i said home but home is in truckee so I dunno but I am home wherever my head hits the pillow, I guess!

I guess we will go out to some nice lunch as soon as Lucy gets in. I had to wake up at 5am this morning to wake her up but she was already ready to go to the airport. 

Living here feels like a silent world. I have friends at the gym but conversation is really a quick laugh and many minutes of trying to understand each other. Dave leaves early in the morning and comes home late – 9pm most nights. Thank god for Yahoo Messenger and the sling box!!

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Ski and Snow Dec 17th

dot-ski.jpgIt has been snowing off and on the last couple of days. Hopefully, there will be lots more snow in the mountains. Lucy is snow boarding in Sapporo today and tomorrow, and ALex was snow boarding in Tahoe. Two different parts of the world – my babies!!

Dave and I went cross country skiing on the 5 Lakes Trails up at Ura Bandai about an hour away, on SUnday. It was a cold, snowy and blustery day. I had Lobster claws on but it penetrated through and my donnies were frozen!! So, I changed to another pair of gloves which was way better.

The coverage was about 6 to 8 inches or so and we had to watch out for rocks, wooden steps etc. The snow was sticking to my skis and i had no glide at all, even after rubbing the skis with some Toko rub-on wax. Did not help that the bottle of was  over 10 years old!!

The scenery was beautiful and the trail was along these five little lakes., about 4 km. long. I am not a good strider at best and these conditions did not help. I had to keep taking my skis off when we came upon rocks, wooden steps  and roots of trees. We did not do the whole trail – maybe in a couple of weeks we will try again.

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Bike Ride Dec 9th

It was windy and brutally cold, so we had to dress up really warm. I had my cross country ski gloves and ear muffs on. The first trail Dave took me to was all uphill. It was so steep, the trail was covered with wet rotting leaves and rocks with moss on them. A wrong move and I would fall off, so I walked my bike up and even then, it was difficult. My shoes kept slipping off the wet leaves. Dave kept urging me on just up there it will flatten but three quarters of the way up I told him to go ahead and that I would wait til he got to the top. But the trail wasn’t flattening off and he kept falling off so he finally turned around and came down and I walked my bike down.

The next trail we went on was alot better – at least I could ride it. We passed a lovely waterfall and we noticed a walking trail along the river a long way down from where we are. Good spot to take the kids for a walk when they come. The trail got steeper and steeper. It started to snow a little and i knew we were pretty high up. I could not get my gears into granny gears, so, I walked my bike while Dave went off. He was gone a long while and I was getting freaked out being left alone in  Japanese forest with snow flakes coming down that I started yelling for him. I was very surprised when I saw him coming towards me and he actually heard my calls!

Then, we rode to the Samurai cemetery tourist center to see if we could pick up some gifts but the stuff looked very touristy and trinkety (is that a word??). Next to the ticket counter was a long electric walkway that would take lazy tourists up to the top if they did not want to hike up the 200 hundred steps.

Dave found another tricky trail and coaxed me to follow him. The trail was narrow and I had to watch where i was going . When i looked up I saw that Dave was on an embankment of a canal and he was gesturing to me to climb up. I saw that on the other side of the concrete embankment was a steep ravine. I told him I could not possibly walk along the narrow concrete with the bike and he said it is only for 100 yards or so and I said are you kidding, one false move, i could be in the canal or down the ravine! He thinks I could do whatever he could! I told him I wasn’t going to do it and turned around.

On the way home we stopped at a supermarket and I felt really guilty walking in with muddy shoes for the floors were sparkling clean. We had mud on our shoes, up our backs and legs! We got some nice bread for a tuna sandwich, salmon sashimi and an apple tart with nice flaky pastry. Yum.

We decided to leave our bikes in the apartment communal bike parking with some trepidation but we took our lights, and i took my seat up with me. Dave went off to check on them not so long ago and they were till there. On Tuesday, my translator will be coming to take me to a bike shop to register at least one of the bikes. Then, hopefully, she will write a note so that we could take the other two bikes. Here, in Japan, bikes are required to be registered so that in cases of theft, the police could go hunt for it.

I have seen bike patrolmen checking up on brakes, condition of the bikes and their registeration at bike parking lots.

The apartment manager told me that it was safe to park down there. We have been carrying our bikes up four flights of stairs to park them on our balcony and it was getting to be a nuisance. First thing tomorrow, I will be down to check our bikes.

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Dave went off to work at the AMAT office, which is about 5 minutes walk from the apartment and I went to the gym, which is next door to his office. I did about an hour of step classes with some stretching. I thik I lost about a pound since I signed up at the gym.

We drove off to get some gas for our rented Subaru Impreza. BTW, gas is almost $8 a gallon and the Americans are complaining?! It is full service here and no tips for the gas station attendents. As soon as you drive into the gas station, a guy directs you to the pump, hands you a wet clean towel – no not for your face! but to wipe the interior while he fills up, and he rattled off some Japanese as if to say”cigarettes” and I said to Dave “Is he offering you a ciggy, in a gas station?” and we burst out laughing but we think he is actually asking if we wanted to empty our ashtray.

Then we went to a 7-11 store to pay our electric bill – we pay all our utilities at any convenient store like 7-11, but the counter girl will not accept the bill; so we went off to another 7-11 and the girl there shooked her head and then showed us a formal bill; apparently, we have to wait til a formal bill comes through the mail. Cash only- no credit cards accepted for utility payments.

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Mini Lessons Dec 6th

After my trip to the gym, I invited my new friend Hiroko-san, back to lunch. I had cooked some chicken curry yesterday with rice, so all i had to do was stir fry some veggies.

She brought me a bottle of honey, a bottle of wine and a pair of  slippers that she crochet herself!

I showed her our tiny apartment. When we went to the living room, she promptly sat on the carpet by the coffee table. I followed suit but it hurts my knees and back to sit on the floor. Even when she sits at the dining table, she folded her knees to sit on the chair. Yikes, that would hurt me.

I learnt that all the persimmon trees in Aizu produce bitter fruits! No wonder no one picks or steals the fruits from the trees. To make it sweet, the fruits have to be placed in an airtight box, and sprayed with shojoo, a kind of potato wine, and must be kept closed for a whole month to take out the bitterness!! No wonder persimmons are expensive here. I am glad she told me this bit of info, cos I thought the waterfall gods had punished me with a bitter fruit!!

I got all these info from Hiroko-san but it took a long time to process this info. She would talk in Japanese, look  in the dictionary and then translate. I bought this Japanese dessert and did not know how to eat it – if you can believe it. It is shaped liked a little bowl and the outer covering is hard like the cone of an icecream and there are stuff inside. WHen i broke it open it looked like sand to me and it tasted sweet. What Hiroko-san said was to put it in a bowl and pour hot water in. I gingerly poured a little and she said “more” and I kept pouring until the whole thing is covered with water. The hard outer covering went really soft and the sandy part melted and it looked like soup. I ate the outer covering with a chopstick and drank the soupy part. I would never have guessed that’s the way to prepare the dessert.

After lunch I showed her how to knit this short sleeved sweater that i had just finished. She had brought some yarn over for that purpose.

Later, we went to the super market where i got more education on how to shop and what to buy. Hiroko-san said to stay away from ramen noodles (of course, that’s what i lived on the whole month of October! Hence, the extra extra spare tires!!)  because ramen has lots of oil and more fattening than udon or soba.

It was a fun day and I really appreciated her kindness. Tomorrow, I am going  to cook some soup the way she does it.

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