So today the base sent us on a free little tour of the local area here in Japan. I really had no idea what to expect but it was actually really awesome and informative. It was so informative that I am going to split it up into two blogs!
We started with a short briefing. During the briefing we were told about a lot of the common courtesies of the area. We were told about not tipping wait staff. The one thing that was discussed was an Onsen. A Japanese Onsen is a hot bath. It seems weird at first. Why in the world would you go to a public place to get undressed in front of strangers to take a bath? I can do this privately at home! After they described it, it made more sense. The way I interpreted it was more like what we would call a sauna or spa in America. It is meant to just be a relaxing and soothing soak in hot water. Prior to entering an Onsen you wash yourself off (you take your own soap and towels). The one thing that kind of surprised me was the briefer said before going always ask if they allow tattoos. The reason for this is because the Japanese often associate tattoos with members who have been in jail or in the mafia. Tattoos are not considered a popular fashion trend like they are in other parts of the world.
The next place we went was to the Misawa International Center. I am a little uncertain about this particular stop. We honestly did not cover anything there that we did not already know. One thing that we did go over was that the center offers a lot of classes. A few that I am particularly interested in are the language classes and cooking classes. I would LOVE to cook some Yakisoba and Beef and Noodle Bowls.
After the center we went to the Misawa Train Station to learn about purchasing tickets. The reason this is important is because one of the places people want to often visit from where we are located is Tokyo. I asked the question about other options (outside of the train) and was very surprised at the answer. To drive on your own from where we are located is over 8 hours and about $250 in tolls (that’s excluding gas). A plane ticket can range anywhere from $300-600. The “bullet train” known as the Shinkansen, goes about 200 MPH and will get you to Tokyo in under 3 hours. A round trip ticket, per person, on the Shinkansen is around $300. We do not have direct access to the Shinkansen from Misawa but we can take the train from Misawa to Hachinoe and get on the Shinkansen from there. The cheaper option is the “midnight” bus. This is a nighttime bus ride that takes about 12 hours but only cost $50. One thing that hit me while at the train station is the whole country uses a 24 hour clock.
The last place we stopped at in Misawa was the Veedol. To me this was a cross between a flea market, a farmers market, and an indoor strip mall. We had lunch here and bought some DELICIOUS pastries. Again, the sweets in Japan are very different from America. They are not as sweet. Many times the “foundation” of the sweets remind me of a shortbread or butter cookie. Very simple but not super sweet.
For lunch we ordered a value deal of Yakisoba and fried chicken and it was very delicious!
At this point we left Misawa and headed to Hachinohe to the temple and fish market. I’m going to end this particular post here. Keep an eye out for part II more tomorrow!
In a few hours we will have been in Japan for a whole week! I think we are pretty adjusted on sleep. Last night I went to bed around 10pm and was awake around 545am. We never sleep much past 6am since the baby was born so that seems pretty good!
We went to a Yen store yesterday and it was pretty much the greatest thing ever! The one we went to was called Daiso. The American equivalent to this is a Dollar store, so think Dollar General or Family Dollar. So family, be ready for tons of goodies from there! We loaded up on junk food to see what types of Japanese goodies are our favorite! The one thing I noticed right away is the “sweets” here are nothing like the sweets in America. Although I still consider them “junk” food, the sugar content is nothing like I am used to.
One thing that struck me as comical was in the parking lot of the Yen store was a lottery machine. When we were parking I could here something and I was thinking “what is that?” Well I look up and it is a little lottery machine in a vestibule with speakers on the outside blaring a voice!
I have talked a lot about driving so far. Below is a picture of the first little intersection off the base. The red triangle is the stop sign. You can see on the pavement the white diamonds. In the states those indicate a carpool lane. Here those mean that a pedestrian crosswalk is coming up.
Another thing (I don’t have a picture…yet!) that is very common here are vending machines in the middle of nowhere. There could be absolutely NOTHING but there is a drink machine! There is one right outside our door in our building…they have this coffee I LOVE. It is called Georgia. The vending machines seem similarly priced as American, I think. We did not really have iced coffee in cans in vending machines there! But the ones here cost the equivalent of $1.30.
With baby girl about to turn 1 (AHHHH) I will be leaning more towards posts on mommy hood here soon. I also have a few other things I want to blog about. One is I am doing Scarlett’s one year photos and smash cake myself so I will be writing about that and showing you how simple it is to do some of these things on your own. I know getting pictures taken and ordering cakes can be an expensive cost…that we do not always have! Stay tuned on how to save some of that money!
I will start by saying…for those of you who do not know me well…I hate not knowing what is going on. I also do not like feeling like I am offending someone. I have definitely felt both of those ways within the last two days! By saying it is overwhelming to be in a country that you do not know the language or the common courtesies is an understatement. For this, I am thankful for my husband. He is not gun shy and will jump right in and figure things out. I am so scared of accidentally offending someone that I just freeze and would rather leave than feel awkward.
The first place we went to yesterday was one of those sushi places where it goes around the room and you just grab what you want off of the conveyer belt as it goes by you. The excitement in my husbands eyes was so hilarious. He had been talking about one of these places since we found out we were coming to Japan. Me-I was terrified. Haha. Thankfully he figured out how to change our electronic menu to English. He took over and just ordered us a bunch of stuff. When you order from the menu it comes out to you on a little alligator. It was adorable. The picture below shows the fries we ordered for Scarlett on the alligator.
We ordered a kids meal for Scarlett and it came with real (raw) sushi, one chicken nugget, a few french fries and some juice.
Today the place we went I enjoyed MUCH more. I was still a little overwhelmed and this was because Scarlett was due a bottle and trying to ask for hot water when no one speaks English is not fun! They had an English menu, also. From the very few places I have seen, it looks like most of the places that are right here around the base in Misawa City have English as well. Which is very helpful! The place we went is called Sukiya. It is a Japanese “fast food” place and it was so delicious! We both had a beef bowl. They also have curry, eel, and a dish called gyudon-which is beef and onions. I want to try that the next time we go. Although we have not went to a “real” restaurant yet, the one thing I have noticed is there were buttons at both places at the individual tables to “call” when we were ready to order/pay/needed assistance.
The one thing that has been told to us repeatedly is that it is considered rude to tip here. It is an insult to the service they have provided you. This will save Nick and I SO much money. We were already very good at tipping and had become even better since having a child. That kid destroys the table everywhere we go!
I am not only excited to keep visiting the local places but also very excited to learn how to cook a few Japanese dishes!