Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Typhoons (Taifu)

This is our second typhoon warning in the last two months. Typhoon season in Japan is typically between August and September.  Typhoons tend to hit areas in Kyushu, Shinkoko and Okinawa.  The effects of these storm systems can bring torrential rains and high winds.  Fortunately, a typhoon only lasts for approximately two days.

Before summer, we were given a checklist on what to have on hand in the event of a typhoon.  I did look at the list and bought some things just in case the storm hit and we were unable to get supplies at our local store, or on base.  I was most concerned about making sure we had enough water and non-perishable food.  Luckily, we had the rest of the items on the list such as: extra batteries, candles, paper plates and disposable utensils, can opener, wipes, First Aid kit, charged cell phones, etc.  Just because the last typhoon changed direction, we are still unsure what Tropical Storm Talas will send our way.  Mother Nature has not been too kind to Japan this year, so hopefully we will make it through this storm unscathed.

Here is additional information on emergency preparedness and tracking tropical storms:


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Hardest Climb Ever

The endless switchbacks up the mountain.
I had to give myself a number of days of recovery, plus get a better disposition before I could give an unbiased opinion about the Mt. Fuji climb.  When we signed up for the trek I honestly don't think we were aware of what we were getting ourselves into.  I think we needed to learn "the hard way" so that we would know what to differently next time (I'll be the fool who tries it again year).

We are still smiling.  I think this was around 6th station.
  "A wise person climbs Mt. Fuji once, only a fool would climb it twice'. 
Famous Japanese Saying

There are a number of things I'll do differently to prepare for this climb.  While I do realize that if I reached the summit before getting turned around by our tour guide, this blog entry would have a completely different tone.  That's why I've decided to incorporate some things from my son and husband who did indeed reach the summit.  Here are some useful recommendations to consider:
  • Get enough rest the night before.  We got about 2 hours of sleep before we had to get on the tour bus at 2:00a.m.  Not a good start to such a vigorous day of climbing.
  • Consider going without a tour.  If you do not want all the time constraints they give you on a tour, then consider making the drive to the mountain yourself.  They have parking at the 5th station.
  • If you buy the walking stick, limit the number of times you get it stamped.  We wasted a good 1/2 hour (total) stopping at each hut to get the stamps.  While I like the memory, if I would've known in advance just how many we were going to get, I would've limited it to a small handful of stations.
  • Buy a can of oxygen.  Some of us suffered from a headache, coughing and fatigue from the altitude.  I think the extra puff of oxygen would possibly have helped us.  I was told by a friend to bring a can with us, but didn't think we'd need it.  Next time I'll know better.
  • Make sure to eat enough.  I think along with the change in altitude, not eating enough contributed to the massive headache my husband suffered on the climb.  We bought gel packs, energy bars, rice balls, etc.  
  • Take small sips of water.  I would suggest getting a CamelBak (one that fits 2 liters of water minimum) and taking a couple small sips when you are thirsty.  My husband and son both ran out of water on the climb.  
  • Go in July.  I'm wishing we would have gone in July instead of August.  I'm just partially joking because I have to wait another 11 months or so to attempt it again.  I should be more than ready by then. 
The descent was very challenging and rocky.

Our walking sticks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How Quickly Time Passes

Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, or a new country.
- Anais Nin-

Almost daily we're asked by someone how long we've been in Japan.  Its more of a conversation piece with Japanese and Americans, but it struck me the other day that we've already been here for over 8 months.  Hard to believe that almost one year ago we received an email asking Justin to interview for the position he has today.  It just makes me realize how quickly time passes and all that we've experienced since we've gotten here.

While we do love this country, this move was a hard transition.  The workload and demands for the job have increased, the kids' (except for the High Schooler) school work was difficult and never ending, learning the ins and outs of "the base" and being thrown into a new culture where we spoke very few words at the beginning was intimidating.  And to top it off, we happened to be living in Japan when they experienced the worst natural disaster ever.

But overall I think we've taken all the changes in stride and embraced our new home.  Being in this culture where language, driving, the people and scenery are much different than home gives us endless subjects to talk about. 

I've been so happy to hear good reviews about this blog from friends and family.  Its been extremely rewarding to be able to share our dream of being abroad with people back home.  I'm just so happy we're still linked, even though we are worlds away.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bon Festival


We just experienced our very first Bon (also called Obon) festival last week.  Usually held around the middle of August, this is the largest summer festival in Japan that continues for three days.  The Bon festival is centered around a  Buddhist custom of paying homage to one's ancestors.  Many people return to the home towns of their ancestors and clean off their graves.  Buddists believe that once the graves are clean, then the ancestors spirit will returns to an alter which is in the home.  This is a busy time for Japanese, and a tradition that has been going on for centuries.  

Many people dancing around the stage.
The Bon festival we attended was just one evening full of food, games, dancing and of course drinking.  People wore traditional summer yukata or kimono and danced in a circle around the stage. Bon-Odori is a type of folk dancing that is performed during Bon. 

I had the opportunity to go to three days of Bon-Odori lessons last week before the festival, but I was working and missed out.  Next year, I will be sure to learn the dances so that I can participate in this event.  One of my kids even got in the circle and started to follow along with one of the dances.  Again, there are so many chances for us to be involved in the culture here.  No matter what season, there's always a reason to celebrate.

Dancing around in a circle in traditional costume.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Bucket Hat

I love my bucket hat.
The Bucket Hat is a very popular item in Japan  in summertime, and anytime the sun is shining.  Although they are available in America, I've never seen them as widely used back home as they are here.

I've been trying to do research about their popularity, but am not having much luck.  This leads me to come up with my own conclusions.  Here they are:

  • They are lightweight, and made of cotton.  Your head will stay cool.
  • They block your face and neck from the sun.  This is very important to Japanese who do not like to burn.
  • They are compact and easy to throw in a bag or purse when not in use.
  • They are easy to wash.
  • They can be unisex.
  • You can get them with small or large brims.
  • They are not bulky.
  • They are relatively inexpensive.  I bought mine for about 1,200 yen (just under $14.00 USD).
  • Most of all they are a fashion statement.  Although I've heard them called "ugly", I've grown accustomed to seeing them on just about everyone, and just about everywhere.   
I don't usually jump on a trend....or am late in doing so, but I think everyone should own one!