Tuesday, July 17, 2007


This blog is officially one year old!!! That means we have survived our first year in Japan in one piece. Hurray for us!!! Please join me in bowing deeply in front of the computer to celebrate. (Note: If there is some one else next to you please remember to bow even deeper than them, in order to show respect.) All this time my little blog that could has developed it's own little following. It has received around 3797 hits in one year, that means that about 316 people take the time to check it our each month. Of those 316 people about 160 of them are returning visitors (I have my tricks) from all over the world as you can see below:
Who knew our so-called Japanese life could be so interesting? I mainly write it for myself in order to keep track of everything we have seen and done. Recently I went back to first entries of this blog and laughed my $%# off. I remember how I could not even figure out how to use the appliances around the house, I barely bought anything because all the consumer goods and food around here are extremely expensive and every day I used to go up and down the same street because I was afraid of getting lost!!! It was even a challenge to change the air conditioning to heater and back to air conditioning during the changes of seasons!!! Now I'm getting mentally prepared for my family's visit next week and I'm going to be the one telling them how to work the microwave and giving directions. I think their visit will let me see how much I have really learned in one year. Wish me luck!!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Natural Disasters

As you all might all ready know (unless your living under a rock) there was a big earthquake in Japan on Monday. The earthquake was in the northwest part of Japan (indicated by the red area in the map below) and did not affect the Hiroshima area at all.
The earthquake had a magnitude of 6.6 in the Richter scale. There where 7 people killed, more than 830 where injured and 500 houses where destroyed. The powerful quake caused transportation to grind to a halt and several blackouts were reported. Expressways were shut down for safety checks after landslides hit several roads.
(reference: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070717a1.html)

Orlando and I did not feel the earthquake at all. We did not even know that there was an earthquake. We where golfing with some friends (Monday was a Ocean day, a national holiday in Japan) and had no idea until Orlando saw destroyed houses on the club house's TV. On the way back home he kept saying "I think there was an earthquake". Once we got home I checked the computer I realized what had happened. It's really sad to see all the destruction being reported on the local TV channels all day, non stop. We have no idea what the reporter is saying but a picture speaks a thousand words. My heart really goes out to all the people affected.

I realized we have been very lucky this weekend. A typhoon was supposed to hit the southern part of Japan on Sunday. Luckily it just kept turning toward the east and never actually hit us. We even had a typhoon party at the neighbors house and at one point everyone came outside to see where the typhoon was and guess what there was not even one drop of rain!!! Nothing, Nada Zilch!!! Hey I'm not complaining I've been through many hurricanes back home and I don't wish them upon anyone.
I would really like to thank everyone who worried about us and left messages on facebook, called or e-mailed us to check if we where OK. I'm happy to report that we are both fine.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Girls trip to Kyoto and Osaka

As you can see from the title of this posting a few friends and I left our poor husbands at home with the kids (in Orlando's case with the PlayStation 3) and went off to Kyoto (the historical center of Japan) for a short trip. This was the second time I went to Kyoto (refer to the posts in August of 2006) and I was amazed at all the new places and little corners of the town that we discovered in only one day. My friends and had only one plan - no plan, we would just end up where ever our sense of direction (or lack of) would take us. If there was a side street that looked interesting we would take it and if there was something interesting going on we would just check it out, as simple as that. This strategy turned out to be the absolute best!!! Here are the girls and I in the Shirakara canal which we found by absolute accident.
There where a series of small shrines (Shinto religion) all over Kyoto. Here is one of them:
We wondered around the Gion district which still has many old-style Japanese houses called ochaya, which roughly translated means "teahouses." These are traditional establishments where the geisha have entertained their very exclusive customers (not me) for a long time. Sadly, I have to report that I failed in my second attempt to find a real geisha, but I'm not giving up yet.
There was allot of activity along the Kamogawa river walk. People of all shapes and sizes where walking and hanging out so we spend some time there just people watching and taking in the scenery.
We where very serious about capturing every moment as you can see:
Everyone had huge high tech cameras, all I had was my trusty little Canon:
This proves once again that the size is not the most important thing. I managed to post all the pictures I took in Kytot with my tiny camera, go to the following page to check them out:
We had a chance to visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is about twenty-minutes to the south of Kyoto. Dedicated to Inari, the Japanese fox goddess, Fushimi-Inari-taisha is the head shrine (taisha) for 40,000 Inari shrines across Japan. Stretching 230 meters up the hill behind it are hundreds of bright red torii gates. (reference: http://www.wikitravel.org/)We walked through the torii gates up a one of the hillsides and almost got bitten alive by mosquitoes!!! Note to self: don't go a shrine in the middle of the forest late in the afternoon. This shrine was really beautiful and different from the ones I had previously visited I definitely recommend it. Here are more pictures:
The next day we went to Osaka (the second largest city in Japan) and explored the downtown area for the afternoon. There was literally endless streets of shops and restaurant all over the place. My senses where on overload the whole time we where there, as you can see:
To see more pictures of Osaka go to:

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Cultural Exchange in Japanese Middle School

On 6/23/07 (yes I've been slacking) Orlando and I joined a group of English teachers in a cultural exchange activity in a Japanese Middle School. The English teachers are contracted by the Japanese government to teach English at the public schools for at least one year (some of them were going on their third year here) and in exchange they get cheap housing and a decent salary. Hey sounds like a good deal to me?!?! If your looking for some adventure after college why not come to Japan for a few years? As you can see from the pictures we played a little baseball with the kids (13-15 years old). Here we are in our gear.

The afternoon consisted of trying to relate to the kids by playing sports and trying to talk to them in English so that they would practice what they have been learning. I found that allot of kids once they got over the curiosity of staring at all the foreigners (only 2% of the population in Japan is foreign) they where eager to try to talk to you and ask questions. I tried to answer them back as best I could in Japanese so that they see that learning any language is hard and that making a mistake is OK. The funny part was that a bunch of them would consult what to say and ask each other if anyone knew the word in English and after 5 minutes of group discussion they would come up with a question. This is a very common trait in this culture, to always consult and obtain consensus as a group. Once the chatting was over it was time for...DODGE BALL!!!

As a reminder to everyone who has not played Dodge ball in for ever like myself, it actually hurts more than what you remember!!! I made some friends while playing as you can see in the picture below.

I asked them who was their best friend (BFF) and they said all of them because they are all in the basketball team together... even though none of them was over 4 feet 6 inches tall but that's OK it's the fighting spirit that counts. All the kids where super cute and nice, I really think I learned more from them than they did from me.