Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas decor and new apartment

We semi-moved into our new apartment on Friday, December 16th.  We are still waiting for our regular shipment but have essential rental furniture to hold us over.  Miranda and Aaron have been busy trying to make Christmas decor.  Their home-made Christmas tree is pretty awesome.  We have Christmas decor coming in our shipment, but it will have to wait until next year to be used. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tokyo through Evan's Eyes

 Well, I got dragged to this really weird place where it sounds like people speak my language.  I spend a lot of time in my stroller being guided around by my family.  I like when I am a king and get carried up and down stairs which happens pretty frequently.  I think my parents complain about having to carry me up and down stairs to something called a subway. 

I got dragged to this big park last week.  My brother and sister seemed to be having as much fun as I was, is that what they are supposed to be doing?  They took me on this hill that had ropes, tires and I was a big kid liked them and climbed to the top.

 The best part was this slide that had these funny rollers.  I went down a few times by myself but my sister Miranda insisted I ride on her lap a couple of times.  I think she liked the slide so much and didn't want anyone to notice she was a big kid playing on a slide.  She used me as an excuse I think.

 See, I made it to the top all by myself.  Thought I would smile for a picture just to prove myself as a big kid.

Gosh, at the end of the day, I was really tired.  I would never let anyone know that, but boy did I have a good time.  I slept really well that night just so my family could rest after their fun filled day.  This place called Tokyo is not so bad some days!!

Shopping, Peasley style

I think this was BEFORE we started our power shopping, the after picture was Not good.

Bring it on

Tom using the smart phone to translate the GPS system.  We are definitely learning how to use technology the best possible way.

Once we figured out how to program this thing, we were on our way
So, we passed our drivers license test but have decided to make a go of it without a car for awhile.  A lot of Japanese people do not own cars, they just rent one when needed.  You can rent a car by the day or by the hour.  We had a ton of shopping to do, so we rented a car for twelve hours and headed out to Costco and Yokosuka Naval Station.  We arrived at Costco around 10:30 am to find a line for parking to be at least a 45 minute wait.  Tom kicked the kids and I out at the curb while he waited in line for a place to park in the garage.  A busy day in a Costco in the states could not come close to a regular Sunday shopping day in Japan.  I was tempted to pull of the "Crocodile Dundee" maneuver and climb a pole to take a picture of the crowd.  I thought maybe that would be a little foreigner like and changed my mind on it.  Just take my word for it instead.

We placed Aaron at strategic locations with the cart and brought food back to him.  Miranda loved the fish department.  She commented on the "fishy" smell only to realize they were literally cutting up the fish on location before selling it.  We purchased a seafood pizza (see picture from an early blog entry) and will enjoy it for dinner tonight. 

We only spent 2 hours and 45,000 yen (roughly $700) and should be stocked for awhile.  With a 1/2 loaded car, we headed down the road for the Navy base.  Finished the car off with loads of food from the commissary, Christmas shopping and Christmas dinner.  Missed an opportunity to fight for a last ham, literally a Christmas with the Kranks missed moment.  I gave up the fight and settled for a pre-cooked small ham.

We returned the car at 7:52pm, 12 hours of power shopping at its best. Moving in shopping, Christmas shopping, Christmas dinner shopping all on one day.  We probably won't rent a car for at least another 1-2 months, so hoping our supplies last for awhile.

On to....Garbage sorting!!

So, we conquered the drivers license test, on to garbage sorting.  In a country of 4 million people, trying to figure out what to do with all that garbage is no small task.  The Japanese have perfected how to sort garbage and recycle everything possible.  The rest of the world could stand a lesson or two in this activity.  the only problem is, no one would take the time to memorize the list and where everything goes.  Garbage is collected daily, but only certain garbage.  Our collection runs like this:
Monday and Thursday:  Burnables (see list)
Monday and Thursday:  Non-burnables (see list)
Saturdays:  Recycling (but only certain recycling)
1st and 3rd Thursdays:  Other recycling

If you want to dispose of a is going to cost ya!  And you have to call and make appointment with the garbage (extra for return of ashes)

I've finally figured out what category Evan's diapers go in, but I'm sorry, I'm drawing the line on having to dump fecal matter out of disposable diapers and dispose of the rest in burnable.  Limited amount of time with Evan's diapers is all I am doing!!  Since the requirement of your name and address are no longer required on the bags of garbage, I'm taking my chances on the diaper issue.

We have neighborhood garbage duty only once a year compared with living in the city where you have garbage duty many times a year.  We are going to be strict.  If you dispose of your garbage in the wrong way, we will TRACK YOU DOWN!!!  Our goal is to have the cleanest corner of garbage during our week of duty. 

So, with all this said, the kids have determined my day will consist of shopping, walking up the giant hill with the shopping, laundry and garbage sorting.  Little do they know, the garbage sorting just got added to their list of chores. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Food thoughts

A big part of our daily activities center around finding food (I know, that makes us sound like we are scavengers or something!)  Since Roppongi, where we are staying, is a party sort of town, you can imagine that grocery stores are not really in demand here.   Shopping trips have become my mission.  I'm not sure if that is just doing the mom thing or it is the one thing I can actually conquer and control right now.  I have set a goal to feed our family of five (really four, Evan doesn't eat much) for between 1,000 and 1,200 yen a meal or up to 5,000 yen a day for all meals and outings.  Having breakfast at the apartment complex has really helped.  They sometimes have broth mixes to go along with toast, cereal and coffee or juice for breakfast. 

With that said, when I can go out and shop for lunch, dinner, a special breakfast with eggs and bacon AND a bottle of wine all for under 4,000 yen, it really makes my day.  Today I purchased stuff for spaghetti tonight (regularly a small box of spaghetti noodles runs for 480 yen), a salad, bread and a bottle of wine.  I also picked up all these breads at a local bakery.  We had spinach cheese bread, potato and ham pizza, cheese rolls, fried pork sandwich, a german hotdog and dessert pastries.  And we have fruit, a 100 yen for 5 bananas and a 150 yen apple (I only buy one at a time, but they are large and we can all share).

Shopping for food will not be this difficult once we move to Yokohama.  I'm pretty sure people actually eat meals there instead of drink, smoke and party like here in Roppongi.  Wish we were the partying type, I'm sure we would find Roppongi a lot more fun.  I think food will continue to be my goal/mission in finding the best bargains for our family.  

We did finally order cell phones last night.  We were happy to find we could get me a smarphone w/unlimited data package and the kids both phones for about 6,600 yen a month (roughly $80).   So, we are accomplishing quite a lot in our first month here in Japan.  We are anxious to move to our house on Friday, although the services apartment has been very comfortable and we have had everything we need here.  Tom has started work and is diving in like we knew he would.  He has already been told by several people, along with the CEO, that they are happy he is here and he is anxious to start implementing some new procedures for crisis management and security that have been lacking. 

TT Tower and Zojuji Shrine

We have had a couple new adventures this week.  I had to go pick up our ARC (Alien Registration is official, we really are the aliens we have always thought we were) and if I have to go out to do something "boring" I try to pair it with something fun.  We visited the Zojuji Shrine that is located directly across the street from Tokyo Tower.  The shrine is one of the oldest in Japan and I remember visiting it 20 years ago when Tom and I visited Japan for our honeymoon.  It was a beautiful site as the fall leaves are just turning colors here in Tokyo and the gardens surrounding the shrine are filled with beautiful reds, yellow and orange fall colors.  I am terrible at remembering stories behind historical sites, so you will usually just see the pictures, if you want the story, you'll have to google it.

We meandered over to the Tokyo Tower site that is near by.  They have a kids play area at the base along with a crepe stand.  The kids have been dying to sample a crepe so we shared one filled with strawberries, chocolate and a whole piece of cheesecake in the center.  Aaron wanted to take the elevator to the top of the tour and since it was a clear day, I figured the view might be worth the 1200 yen admission fee.  Of course, Tokyo Tower is no longer the tallest tower in Tokyo, so it really doesn't dwarf the other building nearby and the views are not what I remember from years in the past.  The new Landmark tower is being built to now be the tallest tower in the WORLD, so that might be worth the views at some point.  None the less, Aaron had a fun time trying to find specific locations and I endured my stomach being queezy and the uneasy feeling of wondering what it would feel like to be in the tower during an earthquake.  Oh, the things moms do for their children!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A conversation....

Many of you know that Tom is often a man of few words.  He told me about a conversation he had on the train coming home the other night.  It was with a co-worker that takes the same train.

Joe: "hey Tom, ever seen one of those before?"

Tom:  Looking out the window of the train, he sees the train passing a vending machine.  "Can't say I have, what is it?"

Joe:  "It is a vending machine that sells banana's.  You can buy a single banana for 130 yen or a bunch of 3 bananas."

Tom:  "Why would you buy a banana from a vending machine?  Ever seen anyone buy one?"

Joe:  "Yeah, I bought one once."

Tom:  "Really, was it good?"

Joe:  "It wasn't very good.  It was more for the novelty of the experience."

Tom:  "Might have to try that sometime."

So, if you are a woman reading this blog, you'll understand my humor at this conversation.  More time spent on a banana conversation then discussing real life events.  If you are a man reading this blog, I'm sure you will agree with Tom that it was a worthwhile conversation.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pet Rabbits and an $8.50 cup of hot chocolate, and COSTCO

Yes, we have seen another odd thing after only 3 weeks in Japan.  We ventured out to Ebisu last night to meet friends and see the Christmas lights.  We met up with the Wagner's and enjoyed one of the most expensive cups of hot chocolate I have ever had.  We wished we would have thought of taking a picture of the hot chocolate to photo shop it into looking better.  I wish I could say the cup was HUGE or the Chocolate was godiva, but alas, it was just a regular, good cup of hot chocolate, enjoyed on a cold Tokyo night in the company of good friends.

The hot chocolate was topped off by seeing a pet rabbit at an outdoor cafe.  It was definitely a pet rabbit with a nice leash and collar and he had his own little cushion for the chair.  Didn't stick around to see if any rabbit pellets were created.

Someone asked me once if Japanese eat dog.  Of course not.  The Japanese are very fond of pets.  We have decided it is so expensive to try and have children in Japan, it is probably cheaper to have a pet.  We found a dog massaging parlor the other day.  A massage for your beloved dog will only put you back 4,500 yen.  We also have been told they have boutiques that have matching pet/owner outfits.  We so miss our kitty cats.  Just imagine how we could have dressed them!!

Anyone that knows us well, knows the Peasleys love COST-CO.  It is our "home away from home" and so after finding out Japan has eight, soon to be 9 locations, we decided we had to venture out.  I was curious to see if they would have the same items as in the states and desperately wanted to stop the hemorrhaging of money I pay for Evan's soy milk at the local Supa.  The kids and I actually tried to venture to a Cost-Co on Thursday, but we won't mention what a failed attempt that was.

So, off we went on the Subway/train to find our way to COST-CO.  Passing Tokyo Disneyland on the way did not even live up to the expectations we had of COST-CO.  Once off the train, we had to walk about 2 miles, in the very cold wind, but it was worth it.  There in front of us was one of the Grandest COST-CO's we have ever seen.  Three stories high with escalators that carry your cart to the top floor.  Now, if you have ever thought COST-CO was busy in the states, do not ever venture to one on a Sunday in Japan.  It was fun none-the-less to see all the same products sold in the states, same packaging and everything.  Kirtland toilet paper and massive containers of fabric softener were found in almost every cart that passes us.  And of course, more Japanese products as well.  A lot of sauces and the tiniest steaks I have ever seen.  The take home pizza's were different with corn and seafood toppings.  I would love a few comments comparing some of these prices to what the same items run for in the states:

Pampers diapers  4,120 yen for 240 diapers
clamshell of Blueberries:  898 yen
Large Cost-co  pizza: 1,200 yen
small container of strawberries:  1,200 yen

So, at the end of the shopping venture, we walked away only spending 17,400 yen (I will only tell you the conversion is 76 yen to the dollar right now!)

The best part of the trip had to be the samples and food court.  I have never seen such orderly lines for samples.  None of this walking up and crowding in to get a sample.  You make a neat, orderly line (sometimes 20 people long) for a sample of chicken nuggets, noodles, coffee or bread.  What a hoot!!  Below is a great picture of Tom standing in line to fix a hot dog.  A very orderly line to add your onions, relish, ketchup and mustard.  Of course, as most of you know, the presentation of food is very important in Japan, and that includes piling on the sauerkraut on your hot dog at the Cost-Co food court area.  These were gourmet hot dogs when all is said and done.

We were thrilled with our purchase of a case of soymilk, gloves, juice and a couple of items for meals. We even found Evan a new book for Christmas as they have an entire section of English children's books.  Just not any movies that will play on our DVD player.  I am sure Cost-Co will continue to be a part of the Peasley's lively hood for quite sometime.

So, week three has been eventful with Tom starting work, a new VPN to enjoy American television shows on the computer, Tom officially being retired from the AF on 01 December 2011, 2 earthquakes, a building fire alarm and a pet rabbit sighting.  Oh yes, we also saw a snow monkey doing tricks today.  Years ago when we lived at Japan, Tom reported to security forces that he had seen a snow monkey on base.  He has now witnessed two snow monkeys in his life, one on a fence and one doing tricks.   I've never been a fan of animals that entertain, so I will exit the soapbox before I even step foot on it.

View from our front door of downtown Roppongi
Christmas cakes, a Japanese tradition that the Peasley family will be immediately "diving into."  This tradition only costs 2,990 yen to indulge in. 
Have a grand week of advent as we celebrate this beautiful Christmas season from a different part of the world.   Check in next week for our next update.