Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall Activities

Joe's home! No, I can barely believe it either. I have so much more fun sharing experiences with Joe than going it alone, so we've been making the most of our time together by checking out new restaurants and seasonal events in the area. 

I'm really not sure what the purpose of this parade was, but someone posted about it on one of the Iwakuni facebook pages to which I subscribe and we decided to check it out. Eddie came along with us because it's only about a five minute drive and he behaved well until all the noise and strangers petting him got overwhelming. It's okay, Eddie.

Here's a shot of Eddie climbing on my lap to take in all the sights and sounds:

These older ladies were my favorite. They were so poised and their kimonos are gorgeous.

 I'm 90% confident that this mascot is the albino habu snake. I've never seen one, but there is a visitor center near the castle where you can hang out with them (if that's your thing). 

Since the parade, we've decided that this strange green man that appears on everything in Iwakuni is a promotional character for to help Iwakuni lure athletes to train for the Olympics.

We love getting the scoop on new restaurants to try in Iwakuni, so we tried out another yakiniku (a.k.a. grill your own raw veggies, obscure animal parts, and delicious beef) place across the street from Jan Jaka at a friend's suggestion. I've come to partially hate yakiniku restaurants because their poorly translated menus describe normally gross animal parts in the absolutely most disgusting way thinkable. Joe ordered a massive set for himself that included chicken gristle, salted pork tongue (flattened), and a host of other vomit-inducing treats. It did include some tasty kim chi that I snagged off Joe's plate. I ordered some dependably delicious bi bim bap (under ¥1000) and the unlimited soda bar (¥220) while also stealing a few bite-sized pieces of steak from the grill. How would Joe even notice they were missing as he was filling up on all those other horrors?

The grill in action.
You might be figuring out that I hate grocery shopping, cooking in my obscenely small kitchen, and washing dishes without a dishwasher. Well, here is another way of avoiding such chores: Monte Beer! I think the idea is that it's a "bar" and restaurant rather than a brewery, because we didn't come across any new beers on the menu. My heart skipped a beat when I entered the restaurant because it looks like a (Japanified) Max & Erma's! We opened the menu and I was so excited to see American pub food on the menu!

How could you not order a Guinness "harf and harf"? This ridiculous beer was over $5. Blasphemy.
My first Caesar salad in a restaurant in almost a year!
Joe said his burger tasted like meatloaf. This seems to be a common recipe in Japan.
Love the Italianese plate and tasty (but not spicy) buffalo wings.
This is what to look for if you're in downtown Iwakuni (close to the train station). It's hard to miss and the waitstaff speaks good English!

I've been whining since we got here about the lack of cafes and sandwich shops. I was driving around with Joe trying to find a coffee shop I thought I had seen (maybe I dreamt it) when we saw this cute little bakery along the "New Road" (outside the main gate, past Mike's Tex-Mex, before the bridge). I'm thinking we were there around 5pm on a Saturday hoping to drink coffee and eat fancy desserts, but they were closing up shop for the day. I've noticed quite a few Japanese places that do brew coffee only do so between 10am at the earliest and 4pm at the latest.

Heartbroken with defeat, we took home this small consolation prize. I assumed from the color that it would be a mocha, cappuccino, or caramel flavor, but it's important to let go of any silly assumptions like that in Japan. This little treat was bean and lemon flavored with a sugar cookie center.

If you need to see something delicious again, here's Eddie:

It's love.
Through all my traveling, I've never missed food from home so much! Who wants to ship over a combo platter from Al Oumara? How about a sandwich and salad from Panera? Red pizza from Tomato's Apizza? Spicy garlic boneless wings from B Dubs? What about all those pumpkin beers and treats I've been seeing all over Facebook? I'm just getting started! I know you still have them! Put them all in boxes for me.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

For the Price of a Cup of Tea

More shopping adventures! Whenever I want to make a price comparison, this song always pops into my head. Go ahead and play it, it's a good one.

Here in the land of the rising sun, I've been stunned by the prices of everyday products like Parmesan cheese (or really any kind of cheese), melon, and today: grapes!

We can get all these things on base at average American prices, but I try to do my grocery shopping out in town where everything is fresh and, not unusually, very local. The problem with the food on base is that it comes from the USA, so it's already been on a boat for a few days before it arrives in Guam, leaves a shipment in Okinawa, then the boat makes another stop in Fukuoka, and finally we get the rest here in Iwakuni.

There are lots of rumors about the food here, like we get the meat that doesn't sell on clearance in the states, so it is frozen and then sent to "institutions" (i.e. prisons, hospitals, the military). Meat is a lot cheaper on base than off, but you can't get any fresh meat on base. I also think it's sort of questionable to have eggs and milk on a boat or airplane for that long.

So, I like to pack up my reusable bags (Japanese grocery stores usually only provide bags that are flimsier and smaller than our produce bags in the US), and peruse the aisles. Here is a selection of interesting things I've found lately:

At today's exchange rate, this cheese is $12.90. OUTRAGE.

$19.30 for ONE melon. You can bet I haven't tried one.
$7.68 for the bushel
Apparently Japan knows their grapes. OH MY GOODNESS. I read about an ITT trip for grape picking here in Japan, but didn't want to make a day of it. Finally I gave in and bought this stem of grapes with my normal-sized iPhone for size comparison. They are massive! They absolutely don't skimp on flavor either. They taste like a juicy plum and a seedless grape had a baby together. If you're in Japan, you have to try these! If you're not in Japan, well...I'm sorry.

That's all for now, folks. Did you catch my Halloween tablecloth in that picture? I'm getting the house extra creepy for Halloween this year! I don't think we'll have any trick-or-treaters, but we might have some drinkers. I'm so excited to see all the costumes!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Eddie Update!

The puppy and I have been very busy lately. We're going on lots of walks and meeting lots of neighbors who can't resist his adorable face. I can't blame them.

Our neighborhood has some great scenery for long walks. Here are the lotus fields at the end of the growing season.

The lotus fields, a neighbor's house, and the sunset.

A picture from a walk at dusk.

Strike a pose!

These are some of the cutest kids in the neighborhood. 

The two little girls were fishing and ran over to play with Eddie when they saw him. The little boy is Filipino-American and loves Eddie too! These kids motivate me to learn Japanese! Kawaii!


Eddie loves his care package from my Grandma Anna! :P Thank you so much! He loves his lion the most but he has fun with all his toys. He will chase his basketball to the end of the earth. :)

Now, here's a chance to get up close and personal with Eddie. Most of his cuddle time comes after a bit of biting and being bad. I think he might be making progress, but it's the reality of puppyhood. Eddie's teeth are growing fast and I was going to just take a picture, but he moves so fast that a video helped me capture his teeth better. Then it turned into tickle torture. Enjoy!

I think these moves might be inspired by the following classic:

Then! A spoiler! If you want to be surprised by Eddie's Halloween costume this year, don't click "play" below. If you don't mind because you're on the other side of the world and you need more cute puppy videos; play on, playa!

The main reason why we call our pup "Eddie" is because it reminds us of this hilarious cartoon: 

In Japanese, mame means 'bean', so a mameshiba (Eddie's breed) is a bean-sized dog, or shiba. We saw it only fitting that he should dress up to explain his name to his friends. I guess it's similar to a dachshund dressing up as a hotdog for Halloween. One word: adorable.

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