Archive for June, 2013

My Farewell Party, Part One!

Red headed me, black- haired Jen, and barely-haired Jon posing over food.

The waitress agreed to take this picture of my friends and I during one of the courses. The “peace sign” I’m doing is the typical pose in Asia. I’m not sure why they do it but most friends posing together in Asia do it o it seemed appropriate.

I knew I was leaving soon but I wanted one last party, one last night out with friends.  I had a problem deciding who to invite.  You see, I have a habit of having a few good friends, not a bunch of people to party with.  However, I also have a habit of hanging out with odd people, the ones that you love ’em or hate ’em and there isn’t much in-between. So how do I figure out a group that could get along?  Finally I decided to go with my friends Jen and John and to quit fussing.  Jen, John, and I came to Japan within a few months of each other and had worked together for most of our stay.  Since I can reasonably say that I would have gone crazy a while ago if not for those two around to laugh with and at, I figured that  it would be fitting to finally hang out, just three of us.  We’d hung out with the rest of our coworkers a few times but that isn’t quite the same thing as the three of us alone.
Now that the players were in place, I just needed to figure out what we would do and when.  Hm, where did I want one last memory of Japan?  As my thoughts drifted through my time in Japan, I kept getting drawn to a memory of a coworker talking about the odd restaurants in Tokyo.  He had moved away so I couldn’t ask him to repeat the story so I did what everyone does when they have a question these days.  I Googled “themed restaurants in Tokyo”.  I was rather surprised at how many popped up since my coworker had only mentioned one.  Well, I looked at a number of sites that reviewed various places and settled on three possibilities.  After talking to John and Jen, we decided to go to two of them in a night so the ninja restaurant was rejected and I made reservations for the other two for that Friday night.  (Patience.  I’ll tell you which ones we went to.  Is the suspense killing you yet?  🙂 )

Me wearing makeup and barely visible black hair spray with a faint streak of neon purple.

I rarely dress up so that night I decided to have some fun, but it didn’t turn out as shocking as I had hoped. The black and purple spray weren’t nearly as obvious as I wanted. It confused people more than shocking anyone.

Friday arrived and our boss let us get off work early for our awesome night out.  (Okay, Jen convinced him that just this once he really didn’t need all of us there since most of our workcenter weekly work goals had been met and he liked to let people off early for going away parties.  As much as work can be a pain, we have been lucky in our bosses over the past three years.)  We each headed to our houses to relax and get ready before we met at the local train station in the late afternoon.  It was a long ride to Ginza station in Tokyo and we were all excited since none of us had gotten to these restaurants before.
Two Japanese businessmen amused on the bench across from us.–>
These guys were across from us for much of the ride and found our antics, as we teased each other, amusing.  That or they enjoyed the conversation they were in and their jokes matched up with ours a lot.  🙂  We finally got to the Ginza station and went looking for the first restaurant.  And looking…and looking…Okay so we were probably only looking for about twenty minutes before we got in a cab…that drove us two blocks and said it was somewhere on that block.  Thanks guy.  We finally asked a teller at a convenience store on the block and she led us to a building that had the restaurant on one of the upper floors.  Thankful and just in time for the reservation, we took the elevator up and were met by this when the doors opened:
A "aged" image of Alice leaning against a door surrounded by clocks.
Did you catch who that was?  One guess, give up?  It was Alice and the theme of the restaurant was Alice in Wonderland.  Jen loves the Alice stories, I rather like them, and John was okay with them so it was our first stop.  We were led through a short maze of curtained booths to our booth.
A folded blue cloth napkin on a plate and blue or pink coasters at each  place.Soon it was time to order.  This shadow box was on the table while we looked at the menu
A box of paper art showing a garden party with playing cards on pillars nearby.and the drink menu was a pop-up menu in Japanese.
A menu with a black po-up "book" surrounded by smaller "menus" with the discriptions of the drinks that you flipped open to see the picture of the drink.
None of us can order in Japanese so we each pointed at a drink we thought looked cool and ordered a seven course meal (the food menu was in both English and Japanese but the seven course meal seemed easier than each getting al a cart dishes).
My friend John posing with the waitress dressed in a blue Alice dress.
We were served by a girl in an Alice outfit and settled in for an hour or so of fun.
A salad for three with ham and greens in a clear sauce.
The first course was a big plate of salad of greens with dressing and croutons.  And yes, eating greens with chopsticks is rather interesting, at least for a beginner like me.  🙂

I'm holding a piece of lettuce in my chopsticks before I eat it.

The fork and spoon they gave us was just for serving. We used chopsticks for eating.

But I managed!
A business card decorated with a fancy skeleton key that says "Eat Me" under the key.
The next course was a soup course.  I don’t remember much the creamy soup but I’ve never been a soup person.  However, the decoration on the plate with the soup amused me.  Needless to say, we obeyed!
A plate of yellow noodles with bread for ears, eggs and olives for eyes, a cherry tomato for a nose, and sauce on the side forming a Cheshire Cat grin.
The next course was a Cheshire noodle dish with ham.  Tasted good and it amused us.  What more could anyone ask?
A light pink drink with tiny roses resting on the ice next to a red straw and a black staw.
During the noodle dish my second drink came with roses on top.  I didn’t drink the roses but I thought that they added a great deal of sight appeal to the tasty drink.  One thing we all agreed to was that the Alice restaurant had some awesome drinks (even if we had no clue what alcohol we were drinking 🙂 ).
Four medium sized chunks of meat in sauce decorated with sprigs of parsley.
The next dish was a fish in cream sauce.  John and I shared this dish as Jen didn’t like seafood.
Lettuce ears, egg and olive eyes, and a cherry tomato give the impression of a bunny on this beef and vege dish
Our fifth course (of the main meal) was a beef dish designed like a rabbit and John and I let Jen have more of this one since she didn’t eat the fish dish.  The last two dishes were desserts, YUM!
An illusion of a snail is created with green cakes cut with whip cream between and chocolate antlers next to a slice of chocolate pie, a slice of pinapple, and a strawberry.
The first dessert was a chocolate pie, a green tea snail with whip cream, and a small bowl of fruit for each of us.
A pastry decorated with fruit in front and a bun for a tail in back of the icecream look like the famous cat.
The last dish was a happy kitty as the Cheshire Cat bid us goodbye in ice cream and fruit.  YUMMY!
The food was done and we were feeling pretty good (like I said: the food was good,the company was fun, and the drinks were GOOD) so we paid our bill and headed to the next restaurant.
A plastic figure stands behind glass in a nurse outfit but with its heart removed.
Can you guess what this restaurant is?

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Cherry Blossom Viewing

My time in Japan has come to an end.  However, there were a few things I decided I needed to do before I left.  Seeing the cheery blossoms was one of those things.  As often happens in my time overseas, a holiday snuck up on me.  (In Japan many of the American holidays are not celebrated or advertised in shops as much as American malls do so it is easy for American or Christian holidays to sneak up on an American in Japan.)  This holiday was Easter.  So during Holy Week I was trying to decide what to do for Easter so far from family and with my friends busy.  Then it occured to me: this was the first year in the three that I’ve been in Japan that I was in the country during April.  April in Japan in cherry blossom season. What better thing to do on Easter than to view God’s gift of cherry blossoms for the first time?  The closest place to my house for viewing cherry blossoms is Kamakura,  Japan, a twenty minute train ride from my place in Yokosuka, Japan.  So I got on the train

Me posing in the Yokosuka train station with the blue pillars behind me.

Time for a ride!

 in the late morning, arriving in time for me to look for lunch.  So, what to have for lunch?  Kamakura is a lovely town built up as a tourist town with a large temple built as a royal shrine when Kamakura was the capital of Japan and the other end of the main street is a lovely beach.  Since it was a tourist town, I could have gotten most of the Japanese dishes for lunch that day.  However, I wasn’t in the mood to search for a fancy lunch with unusual flavors so , after a walk to see what was available, I sat down at a conveyor belt sushi place.
Plates of raw fish over a square of rice, two pieces on a plate, circle the table around the chef creating the pieces
A conveyor belt sushi place is simply that: a room built a round a central bar-like table with the chef inside the island table and a continual selection of two pieces of sushi on plates passing on a conveyor belt.  If you see a set of sushi you like, you pick it up and eat the sushi on the plate.  If you don’t like what you see, you can order request a specific fish and the cook will prepare it for you.  You can order a drink, like soda or a beer, and you pay by the color of the plates you have stacked next to you.  If you come with a family or a group, there are tables with benches along the conveyor belt in most places so you can still eat off the conveyor or order what you want.  My most interesting pieces were some small octopuses.
Two pieces of white octopus with the tentacles spreadover rice on an orange plate
They were a little tough to chew but their textured tentacles kind of tickled going down.  I liked the taste, just like I enjoy most sushi I’ve had but it was interesting having the unusual image to look at as I ate it and the odd texture.
After the meal I went to the main walk way in town, the parkway of the main rode.

A red and silver two seat carriage pulled by a man.

A Japanese rick saw next to its driver. I saw this on the road in Kamakura and had to get a picture.

It is the long walk up to the main temple in the town and is the walkway lined with cherry trees and paper lanterns.
A large tori-i gate protected by a huge stone lion on each side.  Through the gate is a walkway lined with cherry trees in bloom.
The entrance is protected by two stone lions in front of the first Tori-i gate.  I went on a Sunday towards the end of the cherry blossom season so there were a lot of blossoms already spent
Cheery petals along a cement path
but I still saw plenty of lovely flowers.
A pathway lined with cherry blossoms and white paper lanterns
One of the other big things about Kamakura is Hato Sabure, literally Dove Shortbread, a gourmet bakery on the main street of Kamakura.
A yellow paper bag with a "dove" (looks like a white chicken)under some red Japanese lettering.
While most known for their Dove Shortbread cookies and the distinctive bag you can see carried throughout the town, they also make an assortment of other cookies.
A number of colorful cookies and bars on display
As I walked around the shopping area, I saw a lot of mom-and-pop boutiques
A shop window with vintage looking items behind glass that says MOM&POP
and found this interesting cat
A large stuffed black cat similar to the one in Kiki's Delivery Service leans on a wall next to stairs
outside a two story store specializing in movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki.  The store was named after his movie My Neighbor Totoro but also features things from his other movies such as the cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service which sits outside to draw in visitors.
It was getting late and I had work on Monday so I got back on the train
A picture of the inside of the train through a door between cars
to go to Yokosuka but I want to leave you with one more picture of those lovely flowers Japan is so known for.

A few branches of cherry blossoms in clusters

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Naval Museum In Kure, Japan

After my stop at Kintai Bridge and Miyajima Island, I had one more stop to make before my day was up: the Maritime Museum in Kure, Japan.  It is built around a scale model of the Yamato battleship, the biggest battleship ever made.  The Yamato and her sister ship, the Musashi, were “the heaviest and most powerfully armed battleships ever constructed” according to Wikipedia.  The ships were designed to combat the fact that the US outnumbered Japan ships by attacking numerous ships at once.  Yamato’s keel was laid in late 1937, sea testing began in late 1940 and commissioned  a week after Pearl Harbor was attacked.  Built in secrecy (which was rather difficult due to US intelligence abilities), the real fire power of the Yamato wasn’t discovered until the end of the war.  Although the ship was built for war, it was used as a transport protector at least as much as it was a flagship.  It was present at the Battle of Midway but was to far away to participate.  Although present at the Battle of the Philippine Sea but only shot at Japanese planes, by accident.  It wasn’t until the Battle of Leyte Gulf that the Yamato finally did significant damage before being chased off by a spread of torpedoes.  As the war came to an end, the Japanese Admiralty made a desperate attempt to protect Okinawa by sending much of there surface craft (ships) to the island.  Yamato’s orders were to “be beached to act as an unsinkable gun emplacement and continue to fight until destroyed.”  It might have lengthened the war if the ship had made it.  Instead the Americans learned of the planand sank her and much o her strike group in-route.  She went down with most of her crew and the fleet commander onboard.

The term “Yamato” came from an old Japanese province.  It had become a term for Japan itself in mythology and many Japanese citizens believed that the war could not be lost as long as the huge ship was able to fight.  Is it any surprise that a museum was created to lament the loss of this flagship and the empire it represented?

That was a good history lesson, let’s get on with the tour, shall we?

I got off the bus a block away from the museum and walked over a walking bridge to the museum.

A Japanese submarine towering three or four floors above the cars driving by it.

A Japanese submarine on display outside the Maritime Museum as seen from the walking bridge.

In front of the museum you can see a huge statue of Neptune and a number of nautical items like the anchor and propeller seen here. Nautical sculptures in front of the Maritime Museum   Inside the museum we bought our ticket and had the option of paying for the audio tour or going through the exhibit alone.  I opted to go by myself instead of trying to keep up with the audio tour and take pictures.  In the first room, the one the museum is built around, sits the 1:10 scale model of the Yamato battleship.
The Yamato battleship scaled model as seen from front to back.
The 26.3 meter long model is a 1:10 scale (that’s one-tenth for those not used to building models) of the 72,800 ton ship that was over 860 feet from bow to stern was revealed in 2005 .
A closer version of the superstructure of the Yamato to indicate size compared to aperson.Can you see the scale?
This is a plastic model of a Japanese military man standing next to a gun on the main deck of the ship.
This guy is the scale of a real person compared to the ship.  Talk about a huge ship, especially for the time.
The Yamato battleship taken from nearly the back of the model.
Here is the ship from behind.  If you look closely at the guns in the middle of the picture you can see the scale sailor.
A model of the Yamato showing an airplane about to take off from the back of the ship via a slingshot method.
While the ship is covered in guns for attack or defense, it could also slingshot a small airplane off the aft of the ship.
A model battleship behind glass
Here is a smaller model of the Yamato to show you just how much they managed to get on this battleship.
Wax Japanese sailors in World War 2 outfits shoveling coal into large heaters.
I didn’t stop to read too much (we only had an hour and I wanted to get all the way through the museum before we left) but this scene implies the Yamato was run on coal.
A model Japanese ship behind glass.

Two model ships, one an aircraft carrier, behind glass.

Four model Japanese World War 2 ships behind glass
The museum had a lot of miniature ships
A model airplane from World War 2and airplanes from World War 2.
The wing and body of a full-size silver Japanese bomber.
There were also much bigger items to examine, like this airplane
A line of torpedo tubes of various shapes and sizes behind a railingand these torpedo tubes.
Four model battleships in a display case.
Another display case on the tour showed off more miniature naval craft.
A colorful playroom for childrento pretend they are sailors at sea.
The last room on the tour was a child’s play room designed to give children (and the young at heart) a hands on experience with naval technologies
A blue and white table with large wooden blocks.
like this Build-Your-Own-Boat table.

I had fun seeing the sights around Kure, Japan but I’ll have to remember that twelve hours is not a very good time limit for being in this gorgeous area.  I’m not sure I’ll ever go back by myself but the history and beauty of the area is something I won’t soon forget.

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