Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Day in Japan for 2013

Although we had plans to take a flight very early on the 30th, I wanted to show SMS the awesome town of Kamakura.

We had a leisurely morning and then headed out. We took the Keikyu to Shiori and then walked over to the JR Yokosuka station. The walk was about 10 minutes, but we were taking our time looking at the ships and dormant rose bushes. 

We got off at the main Kamakura station. We went onto Komachi Dori and looked at a lot of the cool shops. There are beautiful textiles, crafts, washi paper and lots of tasty food. We stopped for soba Nakamura,an, a place highly recommended on a random blog I found. We waited in line for about 25 minutes, but we watched the soba noodle maker chef while we waited. It was fascinating!
Smooshing out the circular dough

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mitsubishi Ichigokan and Tokyo Tower

My leave started yesterday...hooray! It doesn't feel like as much of a needed break since I've had a few days off already because of the holiday but it is really nice to spend quality time with SMS. I've taken a week off and we're hoping to catch an AMC flight out of here at some point, but for now, we're staying local due to lack of flights.

 Our day got off to a slow start. We had breakfast and headed to base for some errands. Most pressingly, I had to print out my leave chit and gram my orders/DEA in case we went on an AMC flight. We also decided to return some Christmas presents by mail and that's what really slowed us down. Re-packaging, filling out the return labels and filling out customs forms took way longer than it seems it should have. But, we persevered and headed out from base.

First, we stopped in More City, located in the basement of the department store adjacent to Yokosuka-chuo. Not only did mailing things take too long, it also made us hungry! We each got a bento box filled with 3 different types of rice, 2 pickled veggies, 2 small meatballs and a piece of chicken. We finished off the meal with a split order of tako-yaki. Yum!

We hopped on the train and off we went. We took the train to Shinagawa, then hopped on the Yamanote line to Tokyo station. That place is enormous! We exited via the Marunouchi South Exit and walked two drizzly blocks to the museum. On the way, we passed two businessmen who ran into each other on the street. One was middle-aged and the other quite a bit older and the middle-aged man bowed so deeply and held it for so long. The other man must have been very important!
The Mitsubishi Ichigokan museum opened in 2010 and puts on approximately 3 exhibitions a year, mainly from their collection focussing on Western Art of the late 19th century. This corresponds to an era of modernization in Japan, the Meiji period. It's housed in a restoration of the first Western-style office building in the Marunouchi district. It housed the banking department of the Mitsubishi company, although others rented out office space as well. It was torn down in 1968 and rebuilt based on the original plans in the late 2000s.

Screenshot from source
The collection was fantastic!  There were 149 works from Pissaro, Monet, Cezanne, Redon, Toulouse-Lautrec and Vallotton.  Interestingly, in the 1890s, there was a influential show of Japanese woodblocks (ukiyo-e).  Vallotton, in particular, turned to a wood block technique for a lot of his work after the exhibit.

Highlights for me included two beautiful Pissaro paintings of grassy open areas and farm buildings, Claude Monet's "The Evening in the Field/Le soir dans la prairie," and two beautiful color pastels by Odilon Redon.  SMS really liked the Redon's black and white lithographs from the "Dans Reve" collection.  
We had a wonderful time and spent just under two hours there.  Afterwards, we decided to make the most of our travel to Tokyo so we decided to go the Tokyo SkyTree.  We walked back to Tokyo station and took the Yaesu South Exit.  We actually walked through the station, which always causes problems at the ticket exit since we used our PASMO.  But the conductor took it, asked a few questions that we couldn't answer and then coded our cards to let us through.  We walked to the bus loading area where there are numbered pillars.  The bus to Tokyo SkyTree is #4 and costs Y500.  I recommend swiping your PASMO!

At 634m, Tokyo SkyTree is the tallest tower in the world and second-tallest structure after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.  It costs Y2,000 to go to the first platform and an additional Y1,000 to go to the higher, smaller observation deck.  There are children's rates, too.  We decided not to go up since it was drizzly and both the visibility and cloud ceiling were low.  We will be back though!

We walked through "The Japan Experience" displays and walked around the mall called SkyTree town.  We had BiBimBap bowls for dinner, followed by a crepe.  Yum!

Getting home was super-easy.  We headed to the Oshiage station, which is the A1 station on the Toei Asakusa line.  The line turns into the Keikyu limited express to Yokosuka so we didn't have to switch trains and we had a seat the whole way home, which was important since it was the end of rush hour.  This is an awesome piece of information to know since Hyperdia didn't give us that as a route option.  In addition, we can take the Keikyu to Asakusa for our next field trip, since that's an awesome area known for it's "Old Edo" feel!

Magic Christmas Tree!

As the Christmas season draws to a close, I present my Magic Christmas Tree .gif!  I bought this beautiful little miracle for about 200 yen at Don Quixote, an eclectic general store where I think one can buy just about anything.  Feast your eyes!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


SMS and I had a great first Christmas together!   I woke up early like a little kid- I was excited to open my presents!  We made coffee and exchanged gifts.  SMS was super-thoughtful.  I got Jerusalem (the cook book), special ear plugs (to hear voices while protecting my ears from the otologic drill!) and some clothes.  I got him some clothes from Outdoor Research, some shoes that don't really fit (whah), a photography book and a chocolate orange.  Mom and Dad "surprised" me with an awesome convection oven that I used today!  I made a clementine cake from Smitten Kitchen (gluten-free) with a chocolate ganache adapted from my new cookbook!  During the course of this, I tripped the kitchen circuit AND transformer since I was trying to extract 3 times the electric limit while running the convection oven and George Foreman with the waffle maker plates at the same time.  While this was a little ridiculous, I did impress SMS by rattling off the formula that Watts = Voltage x Amps.  How do I remember these things?!?!  And why don't I apply them?

Rock Climbing and Hiking at Mt. Joyama, Numazu

As the sign says, rock climbing to the right, hiking to the left (yeah, yeah, the pictures are reversed!).  Christmas Eve was an outdoorsy day!  Chris, SMS and I drove about 2 hours and change to get to Mt. Joyama, a great south-facing rock climbing wall with multi-pitch routes in addition to single pitch.  Although we drove, Ohito Station is the closest station with about a 20 minute walk to the trailhead.    

Mt. Joyama is part of a chain of several small mountains.  The translation is that they are "volcanic neck mountains," created by solidified magma in the central vent of the volcano.  The outer layers of the volcano erode away leaving only the solid core as a small mountain.  I think a better translation would be a volcanic plug mountain, just like the "Nine Sisters of San Luis Obispo County" that Morro Rock is a part of.  The descriptions of how each of the hills/mountains formed is pretty similar.  The other two mountains that are part of the hiking trail are Mt. Katsuragiyama and Mt Hottanjoyama.  The mountains are outside Izunokuni City.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Rock Climbing at Takatori-yama (Hawk Peak)

Sandstone buddha 10 minutes from the wall
Yesterday, SMS and I went rock-climbing.  He had signed up for a beginner trip to a local rock climbing spot near Ikego.  SMS is definitely not a beginner but he thought it would be a nice way to meet some local climbers.

Trees, not in the best lighting but you get the idea.
There were trees.
It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful spot.  I met up with them shortly after lunch.  I had spent the morning waiting for our new dining room table.  Our new table is from IDC and looks great.  It matches our step-tonsen and is the perfect size for the room.  Both of us really like it!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Furniture shopping in Yokohama

SMS and I had our first successful road trip!  We went up to Yokohama to go furniture shopping! We headed out with a destination in mind- IDC in the Minatomirai LEAF building.  There are six floors of furniture and we were looking for a dining room table.  Well, maybe not that fancy but we needed a table for our main room and I waited for him to get here before picking one out.

We ended up with a really nice, fairly inexpensive table.  While I would love a reclaimed wood table in the future, we were shopping for our Japanese apartment which is on the small side.  We figured that our next places would likely be bigger so we'll buy a more permanent piece of furniture at that point.

The table is being delivered today, which is awesome since it would be nice to sit down and eat all the fantastic meals SMS is preparing!  Last night was an awesome dinner of mackerel, rice, cauliflower, salad and miso soup.  Yum!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

SMS is here!

SMS is here! Hooray!  I have missed him so much and even though I'm super proud of him in wanting to complete his MBA program, he is highly miss-able so I'm glad he's here for 6 weeks.
Near the New Sanno
He arrived on Thursday the 12th.  I made a bright green, Christmas-themed poster board sign so that he'd be sure to see me.  Ha, ha.  I just think signs are a nice way to make people feel welcome.  I haven't always thought this since I was really embarrassed to hold the sign for Katrin our au pair when I was 7 so I held it by my legs.  That was super helpful since it hid the sign completely.  But that was a long time ago and now I'm fully on board with "embarrassing" myself by holding up ridiculous signs.  I bet everyone was super jeals except for the people who had drivers holding boring signs.  The signs may be boring but they translate to, "Peace out suckers, I'm off to my limo!"

ANY-way, SMS arrived and we were so happy!  We took the KEISEI Skyliner to Nippori.  There we transferred to the Yamanote line, which is sort of the railroad beltway around Tokyo. We got off at Nishi-Nippori and then took the Chiyoda subway line to Nogizaka.  We were staying at Hardy Barracks for the first night.  We went out exit 5, hooked a left then crossed at the first intersection.  There was a large cemetery on our right and a park on our left.  Then we saw the barbed wire fence and the U.S. Army sign and knew we had arrived.

Monday, December 9, 2013

New Love!

Don't worry!  SMS is #1 in my heart in the person category but in the thing category, I have a new favorite.  This new object of my affection displaces my magic Christmas tree, so obviously you can tell I have really high and classy standards.

Out with the old...

Magic Christmas Tree: I will have a .gif timelapse soon!

In with the new...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas will come early this year...

When SMS gets here!  3 more days!  This Sunday was our one year anniversary of meeting each other at December Nights.  SMS actually went and met up with his sister and her husband.  It sounds like he had a great time even though he missed me.

I'm excited to create a December Nights-ish experience here in Japan.  There are a lot of Christmas villages around based on German tradition (?).  At least that's what I read.  But there are two I'm looking forward to seeing- Yokohama Brick Warehouse and Tokyo Tower.  When SMS arrives, we're going to stay up in Tokyo for a few days so we'll totally get into the holiday spirit!

This past weekend, I cleaned the apartment.  I'm excited to get everything settled because then I can also post an apartment update to the blog.  Exciting!  I also ended up doing something every night so it was a pretty good weekend.
Motomachi Arch
On Friday, I went to Yokohama with one of the ortho surgeons to buy a mask for the holiday party, which was weirdly themed as a Masquerade Ball.  Ok.  Santa meets Phantom of the Opera, I guess.  We went to Don Quixote which is the weirdest general store I've seen.  It has EVERYTHING.  Besides my mask, I bought a magic Christmas tree which is growing in my office and a surprise present for Mom.  I could have bought a lot more but since half of my apartment cleaning consists of throwing crap away, I refrained from adding more to the pile of the eventual dumpster-bound bounty.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Good days, Fun Nights!

This week, I've felt like I have a real job. Yay!  I've seen clinic and operated so I feel like I've sort of earned my paycheck!  Although work has been nice, I'm really excited for SMS to get here. One more week and then my husband will live with me and we'll be like a normal married couple, living in Japan. Wait....

So much delicious food!
I have had some really fun week nights though!  On Tuesday, the interns had their half year party.  It was awesome!  We went to an izakaya, where it was great company and amazing food. We had edamame, sashimi with an incredible smoked tuna, a delicious shabu shabu style chicken soup, yakitori and fried seafood. It was so incredibly delicious and I'm definitely glad I was hungry. It was also a really fun, eclectic crowd. The XO was there , a few senior officers, the interns, some younger docs and the nurses. I haven't partied with nurses since my intern year. I felt very old and young at the same time!  Afterwards, we went to karaoke. Many of the more responsible peoples had bid adieu, but I went for a little bit although I didn't stay too long because of works the next day.   I was able to sing "Bad Romance" by Lady GaGa so I represented a little bit!