31 January 2009



No Nikon camera yet. I'm getting worried now, that it somehow got lost in the shipping process.

I want spring to get here already! I love winter and snow, but I'm tired now of cold breezes and winds, and want to go outside without freezing! I'm also a little melancholy towards the winter season here in Suzuka, since I've learned that we will never get a fraction of snow compared to what I was used to getting in Maryland. I love snow and think it's very pretty and I'm sad to have seen none this winter. And with March now starting, that's it for freezing temperatures for now. Maybe we should move to Hokkaido? :)

On April 10th I will start teaching English to the Sato family's 3 girls, Miki, Yu, and Nodoka (ages in that order again, 9, 17, and 14). I will not be teaching English in the strictest way, by way of textbook work or whatnot, but more of just practicing conversation with them, as they have asked me to do. I believe they also want me to teach them a little grammar and "reading English books".

I promised myself I would summarize what I did on my "birthday" this past February, when Takeshi and I went to Yokkaichi. We actually did something for my birthday on the day BEFORE my birthday, the 5th, because the next day on my actual birthday, Takeshi would be at work all day. We did so much that day, that I am going to be as brief as I can, so I don't drive myself crazy with details.

We left the house that day and rode the train to Yokkaichi; the ride to the Yokkaichi station is about 10-15 minutes. We got to our destination and decided to wander around to the usual places we wander around in, whenever we're there. In the immediate area there is the station itself, which has multiple floors above the trains, which hold shops, stores, and other attractions. To the left of the station, across the street is an outside shopping center, which is covered by a roof - this makes it seem like you're actually inside a mall walking around. And a few yards behind the station you will reach a multi-leveled mall.

The view from one of the floors above the station.

We went to all of the malls/mall-like areas which I just named, viewing all kinds of merchandise in many different kinds of stores. We also indulged ourselves with some snacks and food while we were there. The second mall down the street has an eatery on the first floor when you walk in, and I decided to buy a bubble drink. I love bubble drinks and have missed eating them. I got a peach-milk bubble tea. :) As if this wasn't enough sugar already, Takeshi decided to buy another treat as well, which we ended up sharing. This one booth makes shaved ice deserts, in many different flavors. The ice is shaved so finely that the first time I tried it, I thought it was just ice-cream. The pile of ice you get is huge, and you can have all kinds of syrup and other toppings put on it, depending on the one you choose to order. Takeshi got a matcha (green tea) shaved ice. It was goooood.

Matcha syrup and powder on top, with some mochi balls, and red bean paste.

After the huge intake of sugar (and an already growing headache from it), we wandered and wandered, like I said. We saw many things we wanted but definitely couldn't afford, or, did not have room for in our small apartment.

Unique holders for eyeglasses!

Unique figures in a hippy, Indian-themed store.

Spreading the love.

After wandering around for many hours, we finally got the chance to check out a coffee bar in Yokkaichi called "Alchemista Coffee". We had wanted to check this place out several times whenever coming to the city, but this place only opens until 2pm! So we never found enough time off to stick around the area to finally visit it. Takeshi was very excited since he is Mr. Coffee-lover. Long story short, that coffee bar is very, very cool, and has the best coffee drinks I have ever had, so far. It is located on the second floor of a commercial building on the street. You walk up a thin flight of stairs, and then you smell the deep, rich scent of coffee beans. The bar consists of only one room, and only one guy runs the whole joint, as far as I can tell. He is the owner of this coffee bar, and stands behind his small counter in the back corner of the room, and creates the best coffee drinks ever. And wow, does he know his coffee! We were very impressed. Takeshi, of course, could do nothing but gush over the experience.

As the day turned into the afternoon hours, and dinnertime grew nearer, we decided to head back to Suzuka for dinner somewhere. We weren't really sure where we wanted to eat yet. When we first got there, it was very cold outside now, after the sun went down, so I believe we chose the place we went to because we wanted somewhere close. Takeshi had been to this restuarant/bar called "The Ruffhouse", which was right next to the Hunter mall down the road from the station. We were thinking we'd like to get a mixed drink for my birthday, so we went there. The place was very nice on the inside, but we didn't stay there long at all - only about 30 minutes. We left for somewhere better, because we didn't find much on the menu that looked good and was not highly priced at the same time. Most of it was finger foods, and appetizers. It did have "dinner" meals but nothing was very unique and exciting. Also, I didn't think it turned out great because of the mixed drink I asked for. Takeshi told me that the menu said that the Ruffhouse had a big collection of liquors and whatnot, so, I could probably ask for any mixed drink I wanted, and they could probably make it for me. I asked the waitress for a pina colada, but she seemed to not know what that was....which I find weird, since almost everybody knows of a pina coloda, nevermind people who run a bar, who should know more than the average person (you would think). She hesitated and repeated the name of it over again, and at that point I was thinking, "Oook....she doesn't know what it is, does she..."

And sure enough, what they brought me was not really a pina colada. It was watered down, has tiny chunks of ice floating around it in, instead of having the ice blended with the rum and whatnot. So I was a little let down with that, since I like pina coladas. So! We decided very early on to get the heck out of that place and go eat some actual dinner.

We decided to eat at this new yakiniku restaurant down the street, called "Jonestu Harumon". Yakiniku simply means grilled meat, or parts of meat. The restaurant was small, cramped, lit with blazing yellow lighting, and the interior was all red! This place always looked extraordinary from the outside, never mind the inside! We decided to get some usual beef meat to cook on our little private tabletop grill, and then order some parts of the cow that were not so usual. I was in the mood to try some new food. On the menu you can order small portions of a part of the cow for around 300-400 yen depending.

The unusual parts of the cow that we ate were as follows: cow nose, cow tongue, cow uterus, and cow heart. My favorite was the heart. My least favorite was (surprise) the uterus, which was very chewy, squeaked between my teeth and had a very unique taste to it.




After we had stuffed ourselves, we headed home on our bikes and hopefully burned off some of the food we ate that day. So all in all, it was a fun day of experiencing new things. :)

25 January 2009

That Familiar Feeling

That familiar feeling of the winter cold or flu. Thank goodness I haven't felt it yet! But I have a good chance of catching something, because poor Takeshi has fallen down with some sort of cold/flu. His throat is the thing that's bothering him the most. Yesterday his fever only went up to about 101.8F, but today he has not had a fever as far as I know. His throat doesn't allow him to eat anything remotely firm or hard in texture or form, so he's been eating yogurt with sliced banana, zenzai (mochi with red bean soup), and extra soft rice with a packet of ochazuke mix. He's been drinking a lot of carbonated 'Gatorade'-like drinks that they sell in stores, such as 'Vitamin Water', 'Mitsuya Cider', and 'Amino Supply'. All of them tastes like a lemon-lime flavor of Gatorade and are slightly carbonated, but 'Mitsuya Cider' is very carbonated and closely resembles 'ramune' drinks.

So I've been playing nurse and cook for 48 hours so far, and probably a few more days, since the doctor told him that he should stay home, inside, for 3 days. His throat is extremely red, irritated, and has the high possibly of being infected with bacteria if he were to go outside and such. Even though I love having him HOME for change, I hope that we could have another couple of days off together, where one of us isn't sick!

I'm munching on a carrot that I sliced up for my dinner. I do love my carrots, and when I went grocery shopping yesterday (poor Takeshi at home asleep, waiting for my return), I found that Jusco had a couple of things at lower prices than usual. They had these huge, jumbo-sized carrots for only 58 yen each! Yowza. So you know I jumped on that.

So we're stocked up again with food for the time being, plus a few special food items for Takeshi. I don't have much else to talk about right now, so I thought I'd put up some older pictures of things I have talked about in past posts, and maybe some new images as well.

The infamous 'Super Viva Home' monster-store! I'm standing on the other side of the street amongst the rice paddies.

One of the many canals/streams/etc. that run through our neighborhood. Some houses don't have much of a backyard, until it drops off right into the water! Yikes.

A local, popular bakery, 'Pan de Koko'. The building looks big, but the interior is quite small.

And here it is.

A nice variety of yummy pastries, breads, and other unique treats.

05 January 2009

Winter Orange Trees

A new post finally. :D

I'm surprised to see so many plants and fruit-bearing trees that have been fairing extraordinarily well so far this winter in the Mie area, and perhaps throughout Japan. In our neighborhood area, people have orange trees, pomegranate trees, and other types of small citrus trees in their yards. Most of the pomegranate trees have already stopped bearing fruit, and are bare. On my way to the "Wonder Goo" electronics store the other day, I road past the HUGE home supply store called "Super Viva Home" which has a outdoor supply of plants in the front of the store. All of the flowers were not dying and turning brown, when I would think for sure, that these delicate flowers couldn't possibly survive the cold blustery winds and low temperatures at night.

These two stores are located at a new shopping center which is still being finished, with new stores. It is located about 5 minutes behind our apartment building. The Super Viva Home store is a gargantuan building, with an all black exterior, with its name plastered on either end of it. The shopping center is located at the edge of a road, and on the other side of that road, is a huge expanse of rice fields, beautiful woods, a very old graveyard, one barely paved road running through it, and beyond the woods, on top of the hill and beyond it, is the area's very large, park. When you're in the park actually, there is a spot on the top of the hill where you can look down to the whole neighborhood, and now, the new shopping center. I swear, you can see the words "SUPER VIVA HOME" from there, which is pretty far away. It's kind of a shame that that shopping center was built right next to such a pretty area of land, untouched by commercialism. But I do understand the Japanese's need for building new things wherever they can find a spot, since they are so crunched for space as it is.

Meanwhile, at the large "Bell City" mall across town in the opposite direction, you can see a bit of nature (the far-off mountains) within a huge area of paved streets, stores, pachinko parlors, and parking lots. Recently I took a picture, from the parking garage of the main mall, of the second, smaller shopping center behind the mall's back parking lot. The two areas are separated only by a small two-lane road. If you are high enough to see the mountains, they are a pretty cool sight.

The shopping center behind the mall. The misty mountains in the distance. It was raining that day.

A closer shot. The white and partially red building with a green roof is the large bathhouse.

There is a large bathhouse in the smaller shopping center, and the promotional pictures outside of the place looks so inviting and interesting to visit. Even though I have a shower at home, I always had the goal of going to an onsen and/or bathhouse in Japan, if and when I came here. I still want to try it out (the prices aren't that bad at all) but I would never go by myself, to sit in hot water with other strange Japanese women, who are probably staring at me, the only American girl in the bathhouse with them. It's a dilemma.