Sunday Morning 2/24/2019: Week 1 in Japan

It is still wintery cold outside, but plum blossoms (ume) mean that it won’t be long before spring arrives. The blossoms are a symbol of strength and perseverance because they bloom even in the coldest weather.

It’s Sunday morning in Japan! We just finished up our breakfast not too long ago: some frozen waffles with syrup (C also had a bowl of cereal). I bought the frozen waffles at the commissary last weekend when we were out at the base with our son. We had our grandson to sleep over on Friday night, then watched the grandkids yesterday afternoon for a few hours while our son and DIL went out to dinner, and C came back home with us to spend the night with us again! Both Brett and I had sort of forgotten how exhausting it is to watch young kids, but we’re enjoying our time with them so much.

Our Tokyo apartment – we’re on the second floor, at the back of the building. Our host owns the entire building (nine apartments), and rents some of them full time and keeps the others as Airbnb-type rentals.

We’re mostly settled in now, and have figured most things out around our apartment. We still feel a bit though like we’re it will soon be time to pack up and get on the road again – the fact that we’ll be here for three months hasn’t really taken root with us yet. Our apartment is very comfortable (and warm!), but the chairs are lower than in the U.S. which has taken some getting used to. And, it’s the only apartment building I know of in Japan where the units don’t have a balcony, so we’ve had to dry our clothes indoors. They dry pretty quickly but we sort of dislike having the drying rack set up in the living room. Also, we had a bit of trouble adjusting to the bed at first. It didn’t feel soft, but I was waking up the first few days with a pretty bad back ache. It turned out we were sleeping under the futon that goes on top of the mattress rather than on top of the futon (which we thought was a comforter), and once we got that straightened out, no more backaches!

We’ve spent a great deal of the past two days over at our son’s home, only coming home in the evening. All we’ve done in the neighborhood is shop for necessities. It’s still a bit hard for me to walk for long distances – the toe I broke still hurts more than I’d like at this point, and I’m also trying to get the last bit of swelling to go down on my right leg. It appears I suffered a “bone bruise” on my shin when I fell as we left our Auckland Airbnb, a traumatic injury to a bone just short of a fracture. It’s getting better, and the bruising on my leg is almost gone (at one point it covered the entire area from my ankle up to my knee!), but the leg still needs some rest. I’m guessing it’s going to take around a full eight weeks for it to heal completely.

Finally, instead of my usual bonus question at the end, I’ve decided to add a Japanese word I’ve learned in the past week. This will be a useful or interesting word that I’ve finally figured out, and will hopefully help me remember what I’ve learned.

Today I am:

  • Reading: I started Becoming, by Michelle Obama, this past week and can hardly stand to put it down. It’s wonderful! She’s really a terrific writer and I’m enjoying her story so much. I am also enjoying actually having the time again to read – it was difficult when we were traveling around so much as I usually would open the book and fall right asleep from exhaustion.
  • Listening to: Brett is reading, but C is playing a game on my phone, and he insists on having the sound on. His mom or dad will be picking him up in a few more minutes though – they are going to the zoo today.
  • Watching: Nothing. We can’t understand anything on the TV so we just leave it shut off. I can access our Netflix account here, but haven’t watched anything yet.
  • Cooking: I am making two Chinese dishes tonight using Cook-Do sauce mixes: shrimp in chili sauce, and stir-fried peppers and pork. When I could find Cook-Do back in the U.S. it was very expensive ($4-$6 per package), but here it’s only around $1.50 per package. The sauces make cooking Chinese food so easy! We’ve figured out the rice cooker so we’ll also be having steamed rice along with the two dishes.
    Our son standing by the door to his sixth grade classroom. Most of the school has been rebuilt, but he found this area that remained from when he attended the school.

    Lots of Diet Coke, breakfast cereals, and other goodies for our son! Cereal with milk was his favorite snack when he was young (and the ones he got this time were cereals I would not let him have! Same for the PopTarts and doughnuts he picked out). We will go back again to restock before we leave.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: Our son drove us out to the NAF Atsugi base last Sunday and we got things we needed at both the exchange and the commissary, including LOTS of Diet Coke and breakfast cereals for our son. We lived on the base back from 1989-1992, so it was interesting and nostalgic driving around and seeing what was the same and what had changed (almost, but not quite, everything). Saddest for me was that the house we lived in, my favorite of all our navy houses, had been demolished and a new one put up in its place. Same for the house we lived in off-base. Brett and I also made a trip over to the New Sanno Hotel this past week, where we stayed with YaYu in 2017. We bought some KitKats there, including a new flavor: plum sake.

    Looking out at the Hiroo neighborhood from my favorite bakery. This is the area where we stayed on our last trip to Japan in 2017, and when I came in 2014 – there were so many memories as we walked around.
  • Looking forward to next week: We have no big plans for next week, although Brett may need to go to the base in Yokosuka and get a new debit card so we’ll pick a day for that as it will be an all-day excursion. We’ll check out their exchange and commissary while we’re there. I am planning to stop by the takoyaki (octopus fritters) stand sometime next week and get an order for our dinner, and we’re also planning to visit another nearby shrine this week.

    Our granddaughter loves showing us her hina dolls, an emperor and empress, along with their accoutrement. They’re set up for Girls’ Day (Hina Matsuri) on March 3. Superstition says that if a girl doesn’t display the dolls she will never marry.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We ate dinner at our son’s home on Thursday  and Friday evenings – our DIL in a terrific cook, and we of course loved spending time with the grands. On Friday she ordered out from a nearby sushi restaurant and we had a feast! Our grandson is having a lot of fun sorting out all of his foreign money and putting it away in a notebook for now. And, of course we loved having him over for sleepovers – he is so much fun and very helpful to us. On our trip to the New Sanno we stopped by my favorite bakery and I was able to get two loaves of their sliced raisin bread, which is my favorite bread ever (one was for the freezer). We enjoyed our trip to the very interesting Setagaya Kannon Temple – we’re still talking about it, trying to figure it all out. Neither our son nor daughter-in-law could explain it.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I’m not sure how frugal we’ve been other than we haven’t gone crazy shopping out in town (although it’s been tempting a few times), and have done a good job eating all of our leftovers. We’re right where we need to be, budget-wise. I’m so happy to be fixing our own meals again (or eating over at our son’s) versus having to eat out all the time like we did for the most part in New Zealand, but we also like to occasionally pick up things from the prepared food section at the supermarket or a bento from one of the minimarts a couple of times a week – they’re affordable, and not too big of a splurge.
  • Grateful for: I may have hurt my leg pretty badly, but I am exceedingly thankful I did not fracture my shin bone! What a mess I would be now if that had happened. It really only looks bad now – it doesn’t hurt otherwise, even when I walk. My toe is another matter though – it’s still painful nearly three weeks after I broke it although some days are worse than others.
  • Japanese word for the week: Mamonaku 間もなく. For several days after we arrived I kept hearing this word in subway stations or while I was riding the train, and decided to look it up. The characters for the word are ma 間(space or interval), mo も(too or also), and naku なく(a suffix forming the negative). So, the direct meaning is “no further space” but a more useful translation is “shortly,” as in “the train will be arriving shortly” (no more space in time). The video above is a recording of announcements you hear in train stations throughout Japan. The language is a very polite form. Can you hear the announcer say mamonaku at the beginning? She is announcing the arrival of trains on certain tracks and where they are going, as well as reminding passengers that it’s dangerous as the trains arrive so please stand behind the yellow line. I can actually understand most of what she’s saying in the video!

Sundays are kind of a crazy day to go out in Japan because everyone is off and doing things, and trains and places tend to be crowded. So, we’re planning to stay in today to take care of some housekeeping and other tasks.

How was your week? What are you doing today? What good books are you reading?


12 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 2/24/2019: Week 1 in Japan

  1. I was stationed at NAS Atsugi in 1964/1965. I’m sure everything from that era has changed.
    Semper Fi…


    1. Probably the two biggest changes you’d notice are that the White House (admin building by the main gate) is gone and the commissary, which used to be in the housing area) is now HUGE and located closer to the main gate, across from the sports fields. The main gate has been beefed up and there are loads of high-rise apartments for housing. The flight line looked pretty much the same though. No O Club either – many bases have moved to an All Hands format for dining and recreation (pool) although housing is still segregated.


  2. LOL. We had our grands for five days last week and were pooped out when they left. They’re a lot of fun, though. Your granddaughter’s dolls are intriguing, as is the superstition that goes with them. And I’m sure your grandson is loving being able to have sleep overs with you.

    Sounds like you have quite a bruise, plus your toe. Ouch. Good to be situated somewhere for a longer time with those injuries. Take care!


      1. Oh good – I’m glad somebody likes the idea. I was surprised the first time I listened to the video and knew almost everything the announcer was saying – I guess I’ve heard it so many times I’ve learned by osmosis!


    1. One of the (many) reasons we were looking forward to coming to Japan was the chance to relax, to have days of not having to go out or have things to do. We have such a great time with the grandkids (and our son and DIL), but we were frankly worn out by the end of last week. We cleaned our apartment yesterday and are not going out today either in anticipation of tomorrow’s long and tiring trip down to Yokosuka.

      I did not know about the marriage superstition related to the dolls – I just thought it was a charming tradition for girls, to put out the dolls every year. Our granddaughter’s display is very elegant and simple; some of the sets are massive (and expensive!), with lots and different dolls and accoutrement.

      I still feel very, very fortunate to have not broken my shin bone – the fall was that bad. If my toe is bothering me tomorrow I plan to stop in at the hospital on the base in Yokosuka and have it looked at. The pain doesn’t keep me from walking, but it is annoying.


  3. It’s so sweet seeing your son stock up on his childhood favorites! We used to love to go shopping here at the commissary on Camp Pendleton. I have fond memories of riding full carts down a switchback ramp on our way to the car. And I loved the video Brett posted of your grandson skateboarding – he’s awesome!


    1. The cereal grab was actually pretty funny – you would have thought it was a little kid in a candy store with unlimited funds. The new commissary at Atsugi is HUGE compared to the old one we used to shop at, and with a much better selection of products.

      I predict our grandson is going to be famous some day with his skateboarding. He is fearless. He’s the youngest one there, but already gets a lot of respect for his skills.

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  4. The architecture of the apartment is so interesting. Is that tile? The plum blossoms are such a lovely indicator of spring–sure wish I could see some signs where I live. A single crocus would do. My grandson is stationed in Japan, although I don’t remember where. My son and his wife were there for a visit a couple of years ago and really loved it. They did experience some racism (he’s Korean, she’s a redhead), but it wasn’t enough to spoil their visit. Anyway, it’s so nice you’re going to spend three months in a place you love with people you love.

    We got back from Hawaii a few days ago. The weather on Kauai was a bit unsettled so we didn’t attempt too many hikes because of mud and slippery rocks. We did hike the Heritage Trail twice–so many different routes to take. We went to Da Crack, which we really liked, and I had lilikoi pie at Hamuras. We went to Lappert’s for ice cream twice, and I bought a bag of that wonderful Anahola granola. We also went to several farmer’s markets and to the Talk Story bookstore. So thanks for mentioning on your blog so many fun things to see, do, and eat. We want to go back sometime with the goal of hiking all the trails we didn’t get to this time.


    1. The exterior of the building is done in gray and white tiles – it almost looks silver in the photo! Just wish the apartments had balconies – it’s VERY unusual for them not to be there because clothes dryers are not usually used in Japan and most people hang their clothes outside to dry on their balcony, whether it’s a house or apartment.

      Loved, loved, loved reading all that you did on Kaua’i. I totally get why you didn’t hike – Brett stayed off the trails as well after rains because they could be very slippery (plus the red mud is impossible to get out). I miss Anahola granola so much (and Da Crack, and Lapperts, and Hamura’s . . . .)!


  5. Your granddaughter is sooo adorable! And how fun that your grandson translates for you. My granddaughter refuses to speak Spanish to me, explaining that I am her ‘English Nana’ but hopefully someday soon. 😆

    Over here in SoCal our cold spell has finally passed, and we are loving being able to play outside once again. Hopefully Spring is on it’s way to you all in Japan.


    1. Our grandson has been a great help although we try to do as much as we can on our own. It’s fascinating listening to him communicated with his parents, and how easily he slips between English and Japanese with both of them depending on what he’s trying to communicate. Our granddaughter still sticks to Japanese, although she can understand some things in English.

      The weather is still quite cold here, but there’s been lots of sunshine so that helps. We still have to bundle up quite a bit whenever we go out though – I am so thankful now that I bought gloves back when we were in Florence.


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