Monday, November 28, 2011

Week 2 in Japan

Everyday I think about how much our life has changed.  Our conversations seem so surreal sometimes.  We started our second week out by the kids spending the day at their new school.  Both came home with glowing reviews and smiles at the choice of a new school for them.  They both scored high on their acceptance exams and should be placed in the correct classes.  Our conversation today was concerning the kids from several different countries.  Both Miranda and Aaron met kids from France, India, Taiwan and Australia today.  They both don't seem to mind the idea that they will wear uniforms to school.  God is good for leading us in the right decision of schooling for the kids.  Of course, adding up all the zero's that come with the cost gives me a headache, but at least it will be worth it in the long run.

Tom and I spent the day shopping in nearby Yokohama.  We walked at least 10 miles up hills and down hills, but found the nearby markets to be exceptional in all they carried.  The small Navy base is very close to our house so shopping at the commissary will be a plus.  The local markets provide everything we need and more and will take me months to figure out what I am actually buying.  Welcome to "Tonia's surprise kitchen."  She has no idea what she is buying and no clue on how to make most of it.  It will definitely be a steep learning curve.  They have numerous cooking lesson stores all around so I might find myself taking a class or two (or 3 or 4 or 5)

Anyway, otherwise we are having a good time.  We spent Saturday in Ueno park and Sunday in Harajuko.  Oh, the costumes that the girls had on were spectacular.  We saw the next up and coming fads in fashion and boy, are they interesting.  We continued through the very crowded streets to Harajuko park where we found the 50's dancers that we remember from 13 years ago.  I am sure they are not the same dancers (possibly by the age of some of them) but they are still doing the same "Grease" moves they were doing back then.  We loved walking through the park on a brisk fall day.  You can definitely find all types in the park.  There were many groups of young adults spending their weekend with friends.  We found one group that was either filming a television commercial or just messing around.  They had a Darth Vader and all (pictures and all).

This weeks agenda includes getting drivers licenses, completing the negotiations on the house and getting Tom started at his new job.  We are edging toward some type of familiarity with a routine as we head into the holidays.  Not quite sure of where we will spend Christmas yet, but either way, it is sure to include some type of fun adventure.

BTW, for all our "techi" friends wondering about the newest inventions coming out of Japan, the newest I-phone seems to be the latest hit.  As for all the other odd gadgets, I'll have to ask my "techi" specialist, Aaron, to include a blog about all the new gadgets he has seen.  I'm pretty oblivious to them all. 

Till next week,
 If Tom can't figure out the all-in-one washer/dryer unit, I really have no chance. 
 We spent the day at Meiji Shrine on Sunday.  We witnessed two traditional Japanese weddings, a real treat at this Shrine that is one of the oldest in Japan. 
 Japanese couple tying the knot at Meiji Shrine.

So very traditional with a lot of customs that are observed during the ceremony.  You have to have pretty good connections to get married at Meiji Shrine.

 One of the many window displays of food in Harajuku.  Aaron is always amazed at how real everything looks.  This was an all you can eat pasta/dessert place.  There is a time limit of 90 minutes placed on all you can eat.

 These are the crazy dancers we remember from years ago.  They come out on Sundays to blast their 50's style music and dance the day away. 
 Evan wondering what all this is about.
 Random park go-ers.  Future commercial in the making, we think??????

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

House hunting in a foreign land

We spent the first part of this week house hunting with our re-location company.  We have been Thankful everyday for their assistance.  I do not think it would be possible, even with Tom's capabilities, to conquer this task on our own without a lot of frustration, tears and intense arguments.  Not to mention the lack of driving capabilities to get around.  Our agent has been absolutely wonderful in helping us narrow down the search for a home.  Unfortunately, due to the time of year, there is not much available.  Add the fact that we are family of 5 in a country where few people have more than 1 child and that equals even more difficulty in finding a place large enough to accommodate us. 

After deciding on St. Maur International School in Yokohama, we were able to narrow our search to a commutable area for the our housing search.  Tom will have to commute into Tokyo via train but the fact that he isn't driving is a definite plus.  The train ride will be about 40 minutes door to his office for him.  We want something close enough for the kids to either ride their bikes, walk or take a bus to school.  Aaron is quite bummed he is not the one doing the 40 minute train ride, but I am sure that would change after the first week.

Tom and I set out with our agent on Monday with 7 showings to look at.  Little to say, it was relatively quick to narrow down our search to 3 suitable houses.  The rest were either entirely too odd, small, DIRTY, or literally on top of a preschool.  I think 3 children of my own is plenty and I will excuse myself from the noisy chatter of 50 preschoolers (speaking in Japanese jibberish BTW.)  The search led us down some very narrow streets and very steep hills.  I spent several moments with my hands covering my eyes.  There are way too many streets in Japan that were never meant to have cars on them let alone cars going in opposite directions.  Driving in the hills is harrowing and not for the faint of heart.  I believe they should have a warning similar to roller coaster warnings when entering a car as a passenger or a driver. 

yesterday, the older two kids and I went back to the three houses/apts we narrowed down and our decision was unanimous.  Although the 120 sq. m.  (appr. 1300 sq. ft) will be tight, the unit is very clean, efficient, quiet and very new.  The red kitchen will either make us wear sunglasses to breakfast every morning or put a smile on our face everyday.  The colors in the bedrooms suit everyone except Aaron but we are working on getting the owner to change the wallpaper to something more neutral.  The back patio has an excellent view (something nearly unheard of in this area) so maybe a cup of coffee and a good conversation with friends back home will make up for the small space.  Positive thinking gets me through all the moments I would rather cry with being overwhelmed. 

This house is very close to the school and on a very quiet cul-de-sac.  The huge plus with this house is that it was so far at the bottom of our price range that we can afford to buy a CAR!!!!!!!!  I was picturing myself as the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz riding my bike with Evan on the back.  The hills in this area are quite steep so either I was going to have awesome legs or be dead from exhaustion of trying to pedal.  A car is definitely a plus. 

Our "post-arrival" checklist is dwindling as we check off tasks that are completed.  We are researching cell phones and trying to figure out the best way to communicate with friends and family back in the states.  We have skype set up so that is our communication line at the moment.  Today is National Thanksgivings Day in Japan and also Tom's Birthday.  We are celebrating both with an Indian food lunch and maybe a trip to a shrine.  Living temporarily in Roppongi has brought about some interesting sights to say the least.  Roppongi is the party district of Tokyo and viewing the clothing, hair-do's and amount of nicotine consumed brings realization that I am older then the last time we were here!  We try to exit the streets by no later then 8pm to limit the amount of stimulation our children are subjected to.  It will be nice to move to the suburbs. 

Your comments are always welcome!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

3-D pictures

Found these at a shopping mall today.  They are pictures that are on the floor that are 3-D.  You can take pictures of yourself looking like you are falling into them.  Only in Japan.


Our corporate apartment has been so much better than we expected.  It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and great views.  Tokyo tower is visible right outside our back window and views of the the Roppongi skyline are out the front windows.  We have a convenience store right downstairs and breakfast every morning.  These don't sound like too many conveniences but when you have moved across the world with a  family of 5, every bit helps.

We toured schools for the kids last week and choose St. Maur International School for them to attend.  It is the oldest International School Japan and 3rd oldest in the world.  They have a very impressive record and we loved everything about it.  Aaron is very excited about the cafeteria of all things.  The kids will start school mid January.  Our housing search starts on Monday.

We went shopping today in town a few subway stops away.  They had a huge shopping mall with stores such as Tommy Hilfiger, LL Bean, Laura Ashley Uni Qlo, as well as many others.  We were able to get a little grocery shopping done but since we don't have a car, everything has to be carried back on the subway.  Did I mention Evan throwing up all over his stroller and in the grocery store.  This boy is going to make sure he throws up at every inconvenient time possible.  We have decided it is his mission as a toddler, besides the screaming he tends to do as well!!  Good thing it is noisy, crowded and overly busy here in Japan.....he goes unnoticed.

We are still fighting jet lag a little.  The two older kids have beat it pretty well, Evan is now getting up at 3:30am.  He is getting there.

Living in Japan

Our adventure of a new life in Japan started last Tuesday at 0600am.  We left Denver airport, had a layover in Seattle and then started our 11 hour flight to Tokyo.  We were upgraded to Economy plus and has 14 seats between the 5 of us.  The flight was relatively empty and since we had plenty of room to spread out, Evan endured the 11 hours by sleeping and playing.  He was much better than any of us expected, Thank you God!!!

We arrived in Tokyo at 5pm on Wednesday November 16th.  The process of clearing customs was very easy and we collected our 9 suitcases to transfer to a bus for the ride into Roppongi.  Once we arrived in Roppongi, we had to take two taxis to our apartment since we had so many suitcases.  We loaded the bags into two taxis and then realized we had no room for the stroller and car seat.  The taxi driver informed us the apartment was right down the street and was a straight walk for about 1km.  Miranda and Tonia decided they could walk with Evan and meet Tom in one taxi and Aaron in the other (yes, within 2 hours of arriving in one of the largest cities in the world, we loaded our 12 year old in a taxi by himself!!  We are AWESOME parents!!)

The straight shot was not really a straight walk ON THE SIDEWALK as the sidewalk curved and followed another road.  After walking a few miles at 10pm after an 11 hour flight, Miranda and I decided we were lost and tried to catch another taxi to our location.  We couldn't find any taxi drivers that could understand my poor attempt at Japanese so luckily, Tom and his keen awareness of knowing what I would do next, was able to find us in a relatively short time.

So little to say, we are here.  The apartment we are in is very spacious and nice and right in the center of Tokyo.  These are a few pictures we have taken so far.