Sunday, August 21, 2016

Road Trip!

Whah ho hey I’m back.

Thanks for your patience, all.  I enjoyed a lovely birthday blog break. 

Kp2 and I had a silly birthday party, complete with piñata, tabehoudai*, and CAKE.  Mostly it was a nice chance to catch up with our friends.  I also made Kp2 and I birthday sashes, which are popular here in the same way that a fake veil would be popular for a bachelorette party in the states.  Before the party, I brought the blank sashes to my Japanese lesson and asked my teacher what would be the most appropriate thing to write on them.  I assumed she would direct me to write something prim and proper like “best birthday wises” but instead, with a devilish glint in her eye, my teacher instructed me to scrawl “Omedetou Obaasan, Banzai!” on each sash.  Which effectively translates to “Congrats Old Lady!”  Ha.  Good job, Sensei.

*tabehoudai: a style of Japanese restaurant where you pay a flat fee upon entry and then have 2 hours to eat and drink as much as you can.  (aka: “All you can eat.”)  Sometimes also referred to as a nomihoudai, or “all you can drink.”  We did both, no worries.

After that The Mister and I packed up and went out to the Navy Base in Yokosuka for a bit.  He had some work to take care of out there (and a promotion, what what!).  I just wanted to get out of the Nagoya Humidity (and buy a bunch of American strength cleaning supplies at the commissary).
Ocean Sunset from the pier.  I'll take it.
Usually we take the Shinkansen (bullet train) out to Yokosuka when there is navy business to attend, but this time The Mister decided he wanted to drive.  Notable as it is about an hour and a half to take a train out to the base… but a SIX (6!) hour drive!  Still, it wasn’t like, the most unpleasant thing I’ve ever done, guys.  Japan does road travel in style.

I’m used to road trips where you buckle in and you start driving and you don’t stop until you get there or you run out of gas.  If someone in your driving party is stupid enough to have had a glass of water at some point, and insists that the car make an additional stop (UGH), then you will be treated to a rest area that might *look* nice, but the smell of old urine that hits you as soon as you get out of the car lets you know you’re really making a throw of the dice at when it’s been last cleaned.  

In Japan, it is strongly recommended that drivers take a break once every two hours at least.  And when I say “strongly recommended,” I mean that our car’s navigational system actually chimed in at two hours and said “It’s been about two hours since you started driving.  Why don’t you take a break?”  Obviously, this isn’t something we were expecting to happen, so gold star to The Mister for not panicking at the strange voice in the car and swerving off the side of the highway into oblivion the first time it happened.

Because the entire drive out there was through Japan’s mountain ranges… beautiful, but a lot of real high up bridgeways to drive across.  Panic-swerving would not end well.

The first time we pulled over, we chose a rest stop near Mt. Fuji.  Unfortunately Fuji-sama (how Japanese folk address the mountain) was hiding in the fog this particular day… sorry for the crap picture.  But there were these little fuji-shaped cakes at the store there, so we can pretend.

Okay but the rest stops?  Amazing.  We ended up stopping multiple times on the way out and the way back from the base, and every single rest stop put American rest areas to horrible shame.  

The rest stops were all incredibly spacious and well organized.  Each stop had a row of restaurants, small gift shop(s), gas station, all the vending machines ever, immense parking, and giant rest rooms.  Most of them even had a well maintained dog-run area.  So… we all know what happens next time we have reason to drive out to the base.
Road trip with Capt'n Mac*!
*yes, I did buy him a tiny navy officer cap. how could I not?
The organization of these rest areas was awesome.  As we pulled in, we were directed by maps of the parking areas that had lights to indicate which lots had available parking spaces.  This is fairly common in Japan, so not surprising.  But what if I told you they also had maps like that… for the restrooms?

Yes.  Little green lights on the sign indicated which toilets were open, what kind of toilets they were (squat toilet vs. BIDET… who picks the squat when bidet is an option!?), and which sinks were available.  Every time we stopped there was at least one restroom attendant keeping everything clean and toilet paper stocked, while scented diffusers and fresh flowers (I mean, seriously) that kept the place smelling pleasant even though there were literally 100+ toilets all smashed into the same area.  

Really the moral of the story is that you think you’re going to go on a wonderful adventure and see such awe inspiring things but then Mt. Fuji decided to hide behind a bank of clouds and so you find yourself gushing about public toilets on the internet instead.

What was the coolest thing about your last road trip? 
Can YOU beat a bidet map?  
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson
omedetou obaasan (ojiisan), banzai!

congrats old lady (man)!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Up Nort, Japan Style.

Rejoice, for today it is only 87% humidity.  That is the first time this week it’s been so low!  Sounds like time for a walk!

Or not.  Being outside in Nagoya right now perpetually feels just like when you wear shorts and sit in a crappy restaurant vinyl upholstered booth.  You know those booths.  They’re always a gross red/maroon color, and there’s at least one rip, spilling out some sort of knobby foam that is of questionable *maybe asbestos* quality.  Then you get up but the skin on the back of your legs is all “you may not leave, I have become one with this disgusting vinyl" and you shall just have to live here forever… or slowly *PEEL* yourself off this seat in one of the most uncomfortable feelings that can be felt.

Sticky, is what I mean.  It’s all just sticky.

At times like these, I become thankful for the determination and mad google skills of KP2, for last weekend she declared “Eff this noise!  Let’s get out of the city and find a river to relax in!”  Then she up and found just such a river a few hours north of here. 

So The Mister, The Australians™, and Mac all took a Sunday drive Up Nort, Japan style.
on the drive up.  we def. went through that mountain.
dog POV for the cookout
Once we were able to find a place that let us park our cars, we had a lovely river-side cook out and waded in the River for a few hours.  If anything can cut through the thick and dismal air that is Nagoya in the summertime, this crystal clear river is definitely that.

tucked out, stretched out, blissed out.

Mac was in his element.  He was so happy to go along ( and in turn, I was so happy to be able to give my puppy some space for him to stretch out a bit - thank you to The Australians™ for letting this dobermutt tag along! ).  His [old] showed a bit as he struggled to keep his footing on the slippery rocks of the riverbed, and of course, Mac merely wades, he does not swim, because he’s a ninny.  But regardless, he was the happiest dog ever.  It could have been better if we’d have let him stick his head out the window on the way home.  Alas, this was not to be because around 3:30pm the sky decided it was murder time.

I don’t like storms.  One might even go so far as to say I’m afraid of storms.  You know what?  You go ahead and make fun of me for being an adult that is afraid of water falling from the sky but I feel pretty strongly that my fears are reasonable.  Consider for a moment, that I hail from the Midwest U.S.  Aka “Tornado Alley,” you know, that part of the U.S. where the summer skies regularly open a can of whoop ass on any and everything as far as the eye can see.  I believe that I have managed to survive into my early thirties* due largely in part to my ability to look at the sky and say “TIME TO GO TO THE BASEMENT RIGHT NOW.” 
facebook proof from the past.

We heard it coming.  The rumbles started up long before we saw any clouds or lightening, and as such, we tried to just ignore it for a while.  The River was clear and cool, the air was warm but crisp, and we were all enjoying the sunshine.  A little while later the clouds rolled in, and then the wind went from pleasant to “exfoliate your face” strength.  Then the rain, and mere seconds later… THUNDER AND LIGHTENING and me/ Mac running for the car.

I only yelped like a stuck pig once as we packed up the car, and I didn’t get struck by lightening and die, so I’d call that a win.

Then we spent the next four hours in bumper to bumper Japanese traffic while the rain came down in buckets and the sky made it’s best impression of what it sounds like when you accidentally drop a spoon in the garbage disposal.

Apparently the storms followed us home.  Yesterday it rained so bad the TRAINS STOPPED.  Can we talk about how absurd that is?  Last year we had typhoons roll through and the worst that happened was one train delayed for about 10 minutes.  They flat cancelled whole train lines yesterday evening.  As someone who mostly sticks to the 5 mile radius I can walk to from our apartment, that was crazy weird to hear about, but not alarming.

…you know, until I remembered that The Mister is a two hour train ride away at work.  Except not a train ride.  Because the train is cancelled.  

Like many other Nagoyans yesterday, The Mister was stranded at the train station.  He sat for an hour hoping the lines would be restarted, to no avail.  He managed to find a few co-workers in the area that were also stuck in the same area, so they had dinner together, hoping again that the trains would restart.  Again, no luck.  So they tried to get a cab, which all the other THOUSANDS of people who were also stranded had already taken.  Long story short, yesterday, my husband excitedly texted me that he had managed to get out of work early for the first time in forever at 5pm… and he didn’t actually get home from work until a series of subways, buses and a few still functioning train lines found him here at 1am.

Like the biggest BAMF ever, he still went to work this morning at 6am.  I have no idea how he does it.  Mad props, Mister.

At least that’s all over and done with tho, yes?  What’s that?  The weather forecast for today says MORE thunderstorms?
well, so there's that then.
What’s your take on storms?  
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson
watashi wa kaminari no kowai desu.
I am afraid of thunder.  

*Oh hey lookit that.  My birthday just so happens to be on Friday.  I’m taking a week off from blogging as a present to myself…. and then it’s Obon (Japanese holiday) and I can’t guarantee that I’ll be bringing a laptop along on our vacation so I will likely see y’all in two weeks!  Have adventures, I will do the same and we’ll come back here in a fortnight to discuss.