Sunday Morning 3/3/2019: Japan, Week 2

Airbnb life: These IKEA coffee mugs have been in literally EVERY Airbnb apartment we’ve stayed in.

Brett and I did very little this past week. All of our activities and busy-ness caught up with us and other than going on one big outing in the middle of the week we have mostly stayed home in our apartment and read, cooked, did laundry, and took care of some odds and ends that we’d been ignoring for a while. It rained a couple of days which gave us a good excuse to stay indoors, but otherwise we just didn’t feel much like going out. We did walk over to our local supermarket and pick up some things on Friday afternoon, and we went to our grandson’s basketball game on Thursday evening, watched our granddaughter on Friday morning while our DIL went to a job interview, and we went over to our son’s home and watched the grands on Friday evening so M & M could go to a reunion (and spent the night over there). Otherwise it’s been a very quiet week.

A shopping cart at the supermarket is just a regular basket on a trolley. This is about a week’s worth of food for the two of us, about $70. Clerks ring up your food, but don’t handle cash – that’s done in a machine that we quickly figured out.

Our big outing on Wednesday was a trip down to the Yokosuka navy base to get Brett a new debit card, and to the BIG commissary there to pick up a few things. We had planned to take the train, but our daughter-in-law volunteered to drive, and we had the grandkids along as well that day. The drive took just a little over an hour and was an easy trip. We enjoyed seeing what had changed around the base (mostly the housing) and what was the same. The USS Ronald Reagan was in port getting some work done so we got to see that (although we couldn’t get up close). Brett and I couldn’t get over how BIG the Reagan is compared to the carrier Brett served on (USS Midway) during both of his tours in Japan.

Well, she was thrilled to see him.
You need a regular-size U.S. shopping cart at the commissary – American product sizes and packaging are much larger than Japanese ones (and most other countries, for that matter).

After getting Brett’s debit card (which was made on the spot) we let the kids choose where to have lunch and they picked McDonald’s (ugh). Then it was over to the commissary, these days a massive supermarket like Winco or many big “lifestyle” grocery stores. There wasn’t a Starbucks inside (it was just across the street), but there was a deli, bakery, sushi bar, and several other specialty areas in the store. In the past we had to show our ID at the door to get in a commissary, sort of like Costco, but now it’s presented at checkout so our DIL was able to come in with us, and we scored one of the carts that had a little car in front which kept the grands happily occupied while we shopped. I would have just about died for a commissary even half the size of this one when we were in the navy, but I think M had the best time overall and was sort of amazed by the quantity of products available as well as the prices. Organic products are not always easy to find in Japan, but the Yokosuka commissary had numerous organic items so she was able to find things the kids enjoy and that she can feel good about. The only kerfuffle happened as we left the store – our granddaughter did not want to get out of the little car and pitched a fit! It took a few minutes but she eventually decided she wanted to go home with us rather than stay in the car.

Our low-key week has also allowed my toe to heal up a bit more and it is feeling much better. The swelling remains on my leg, but the bruising has disappeared completely, so I guess that’s progress. I’m beginning to think though that the swollen area might be permanent.

Anyway, this morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m a little over 75% of the way through Becoming, and still enjoying every word.
  • Listening to: The only sound around here this morning is the heater fan blowing! It’s working hard this morning as its raining and cold outside.
  • Watching: I’ve been watching The Big Family Cooking Showdown (another British cooking contest) on Netflix and like it pretty well – tonight I’ll be watching the final. I’m still looking though for a good British mystery/detective procedural though – it feels like we’ve seen them all.
  • Cooking: We are going over to our son’s again tonight but I will be the cook – I’m making chili pork burritos. When I made them during my visit in 2014, I priced out the cost for the burritos: approximately $40 for our dinner! Ridiculous, but that was the price we paid then for “exotic” foreign ingredients in Tokyo. This time I picked up everything I need at the commissary – the cost for the burritos for the six of us should only be around $8.
  • Happy I accomplished:  Getting Brett’s debit card taken care of was the big accomplishment – neither of us liked traveling with just one card and no back-up. Not my accomplishment, but Brett got started on our taxes. We are missing one important document which is on its way, so once that arrives he can finish up and submit them. Fingers are crossed for a refund, even a small one. We also got a few other business odds and ends taken care of that we had been putting off. I don’t think I accomplished much of anything else this past week other than the trips to the base and supermarket and watching the grands.
  • Looking forward to next week: We have nothing on the calendar next week, so Brett and I are going to try to get out to do a couple of outings, weather permitting. There’s an interesting temple near to us we want to visit, and we’d also like to go over to Shibuya and walk around there and see if we can find our way to the Tokyu Hands store. There’s also a Muji store (simple lifestyle) at the station next to Shibuya – I always love to look at their stuff.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We got to spend some wonderful one-on-one time with the grands this week, and our granddaughter was fine with staying with us when her mom headed out, so we have made progress. Brett and I greatly enjoyed the morning she spent at our place – she is such an easy-going little girl and we had a great time playing with her (I just wish I could understand more of what she’s saying). Our grandson is a typical eight year-old whirl of energy, but lots of fun too. We love watching him practice skateboarding –  he is fearless!
    C takes off down the side of the biggest half-pipe in the skate park. He is almost always the youngest skateboarder there, and practices almost every day to get better at what he has already accomplished while challenging himself to do a little more.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had five no-spend days this past week, which greatly helped our daily spend average at the end of February. Although it was tempting, we did not go crazy at the commissary, and stuck to basic and necessary items only. The prices were low enough though that our final bill was over $100 less than we estimated it would be as we rolled up to checkout!  We were a bit shocked by the cost of our little basket of food at the Japanese supermarket, but it’s more than a week’s worth of food so not as bad as it initially seemed.
    The right side of our kitchen with the microwave oven on top of the fridge and the rice cooker on top of the microwave . . .

    … and the left, with its very nice cooktop. For an apartment the size of ours, this is quite a spacious kitchen.
  • Grateful for: I am so thankful to have a very nice kitchen (daidokoro 台所) in our Tokyo apartment, much larger than I expected. There are lots of dishes, plenty of cutlery, a large assortment of cookware and utensils, and a good amount of cupboard space. It’s very Japanese (no oven) but the cooktop has three burners and a fish broiler, and everything is perfect for cooking and preparing our own meals. We have seen some kitchens in Japan that are positively microscopic, with just a sink, hotplate, and micro-fridge, so we’re very happy with the size of our space.
  • Japanese word of the week: Atatamemasu 暖めます. I have heard this word over and over in convenience stores and finally figured out this week that it means “warm,” as in “Can I warm this for you?” (Kochira de atatamemasu ka?) which is what the store clerk says when anyone buys a bento. Atatameru is the infinitive form (to warm) – the character 暖 means “warm,” and -memasu is the Japanese verb suffix conjugated for the present tense.
These big, colorful flower arrangements from various neighborhood businesses offer congratulations on the opening of a (tiny) new ramen restaurant near our son’s home. The arrangements lined both sides of the sidewalk and went on for quite a while.

One thing I love about being in Japan is that every trip out of our apartment is an adventure, whether it’s going across town or just down the street. There’s always something new to observe or learn about, or something new to try so it’s never boring. I always feel like I’m working on an interesting but very challenging puzzle when I read signs (or try to read them) or listen to an announcement. There are many reasons why we’d love to live here, but this is one of the main ones.

That’s it for our second week in Japan. How was your week? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you?


8 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 3/3/2019: Japan, Week 2

  1. Haha! Mom has the same coffee cups too. Lol! She says IKEA has done what communism could not do. Everybody owns the same stuff! It is great that you have so much time with your grandkids. It is such a blessing. I am also glad that you are resting and taking it easy.


    1. When we opened the cupboard and saw those mugs we couldn’t stop laughing! They’re really good strong mugs, and a nice size, but I think your mom is right about everyone more and more owning the same things.

      We are soaking in as much time as we can with the grandkids – they’re the whole reason we’re here for three months. We had forgotten though about how active kids are at that age – they wear us out sometimes!


  2. Was Brett on the same USS Midway that is now ‘parked’ as an uber interesting attraction in San Diego Bay? Wow, if so!

    Am so enjoying your write ups of this slow-go phase of your travels. It’s very relaxing to read in particular on a wet Sunday morning such as it is here.

    Good things that happened here this week are a lovely run of sunny weather that allowed me to spend a solid five days outside hiking and biking, and a call fromour oldest daughter excited to share news of a very large bonus she received. Perhaps even better is that she has no debt, so most of it will be funneled into savings. Very happy for her in that she spent years living on figurative rice and beans in order to pay off her law school loans.


    1. Yes, the very same Midway!

      Happy, happy for your sunshine! We have cold rain here – we were hoping to go out today but will put it off until tomorrow. I think that’s one of the best part of slow traveling – to need to see everything right away disappears.

      Congrats to your daughter! Our son and DIL lived off of her salary the year after law school – he got hired by a big law firm, but ALL of his salary went to paying off his loans. No beans and rice, but it was still a very lean year for them as they had relocated to Tokyo. They were determined though that they did not want those loans hanging over their heads – they had been married for several years at that point and wanted to start a family.


  3. I was surprised by no ovens. How do they bake cakes/cookies or is that not part of their diet. So glad you are enjoying the grandkids.
    Once upon a time I would have recommended Florida for your destination but no longer.. It was 86 degrees today and we’re only at the beginning of March. I hate to think what the summer is going to be like. The news said Australia had the hottest summer on record. I know you have talked bout settling in one location but in terms of climate you might have to pick one for the summer and one for the winter.


    1. Baking is not part of traditional Japanese cuisine, so there are no ovens in most homes. But, it’s also why there are so many wonderful bakeries around – even in the smallest towns you can usually find a bakery with pastries that rival those found in France.

      We lived in Key West for two years, and I thought I was going to die during the summers there – SO HOT and HUMID! We enjoyed our time there, but have never had any desire to go back (to Florida). Brett and I have pretty much come to an agreement about where we want to settle – we just have one more thing we need to do.


  4. It must be nice to have a bit of down time after all your moving around, and especially with family nearby. Time with grandchildren is such fun, and I can relate completely to the meltdown when you wanted to get your granddaughter out of the cart. We have a grand that age, and they all melt down periodically. 🙂

    Glad your toe is better and the leg is healing. It’s so interesting that baking isn’t part of Japanese culture. And the sizes of the US packaging/serving sizes are not surprising, I guess.

    Your grandson is quite a little daredevil – and good at it!


    1. We went out for a while yesterday in the rain, but today it’s nice and sunny and we’re staying home because we’re exhausted! I love though that we have time to do this.

      It really is rather shocking to see American package sizing after shopping in supermarkets around the world. I’m guessing it’s one of many factors that’s related to America’s obesity issues.

      I wish I could show all the hours our grandson spends practicing, breaking down all those moves until he’s confident and then putting them together to practice the whole. He looks like a daredevil, but there’s a lot of work that’s gone into making those moves. I am so impressed with his dedication.

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