Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Helpful Websites For People Living or Traveling in Japan

This autumn is just flying by.  Hard to believe in just four days it will be Halloween and that there are already Christmas decorations in the stores......even out in town. 

Anyway, I've recently stumbled across some good websites for those living in, or traveling to Japan. You can never have too many resources.    This is a wonderful site where you can view things in Japan via video.  There are tons of different topics that this site covers.  Try clicking "like" on their Facebook site so that you can get regular updates on all the fun and exciting things to do in Japan.   This site is obviously geared towards the military community, but has pretty good forums, local job information, etc.  I went onto this site before we moved here just to see what other people had to say about the questions I had.  Check it out.   I just found out about this website yesterday.  I can't believe we've been here for over 10 months and we haven't used it.  This site will help you navigate the train systems from point A to point B, give you the amount of yen you will need, what trains to catch, etc.  I can't wait to use it.  Others swear by this site!

We've had many fun things the past couple of weekends.  Look for my upcoming blogs about roller derby, the Mikoshi Parade, and of course....Halloween.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Relay For Life

This past weekend, the younger boys and I participated in
the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life.  This was our first 
time at such an event, but not the first time its been held in our area.  I'm grateful that my roller derby team signed up for this walk and that we were able to camp out and show our support for people who have been touched by cancer.  An amazing $65,000+ was raised!
Survivors lap.

One of the speakers was a Japanese woman who was a doctor and a cancer survivor.  She spoke on behalf of Japanese Relay For Life which debuted in Japan in 2006.  This was the first time I'd heard of the relay being in other countries.  When I looked into this further, I found out that Relay For Life is held in over 20 countries around the globe.  For more information on International Relay for Life check out this link:

The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.  ~C.C. Scott

At around 9pm, the luminaria ceremony began.  This was very touching because the track was lined with bags (with candles) that had messages on them.  You could donate a luminaria in Honor, Support, or in Memory of a loved one.  They were very emotional to read especially since we have so many people we know that are survivors, currently battling the disease, or have lost their lives to cancer. 

A message for my uncle who is currently battling cancer.
My son and his friend walking around the luminaria.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


The dohyo or sumo ring.
Last month we attended our first Sumo tournament up at the Kokugikan in Tokyo.  Sumo is Japan's national sport and dates back some 1,500 years ago, with its origin being of a religious nature.  Sumo, along with dramas and dancing, were performed inside shrines as rituals to ask the gods for bountiful harvests.  Although the sport has made many transitions since its beginning, the Edo Period was credited for shaping the sport and how it is played today.

Sumo is played in a dohyo, or ring and  measures 18 square feet by 2 feet high.  The stage is built of clay, has a sand surface and the bouts are performed inside a 15 feet in diameter circle.  This is not much space to bout especially given the size of the wrestlers.  Basically, the first person to force the opponent outside the ring, or push them down inside the circle wins.  The bouts were rather suspenseful especially when the more advanced wrestlers were in the ring.  I found myself covering my eyes many times.  Most of the time the bouts were quick but we did witness a few wrestlers being thrown off the dohyo.  One wrestler even hit his head, and another one got a bloody nose.
Chiri-o-kiru.  Means sumo will respect fair play.
Sumo trivia:
  • There are 6 grand tournaments a year that are 15 days in length.
  • The average age of a sumo wrestler is 20-35.
  • Wrestlers live together in a place called a stable.
  • Each player has a ritual of throwing salt in the ring.
  • There are many foreign sumo wrestlers participating in the Japanese Sumo circuit.
  • The loincloth the wrestlers wear is called a mawashi.  It measures 10 yards in length/2 ft in width.  There are approximately 70 winning maneuvers a wrestler can use with the mawashi during a bout.
Here are some websites if you are interested in additional information on sumo:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Space Available

Happy to get onto this flight bound for Osan AFB in Korea.
I'm hoping to get back into blogging every week.  September was a busy month, and its only bound to get busier from here on out especially if I start working full-time.  I have so many topics I want to cover that I better get a move-on.

Today's blog is about Space Available flights (also called MAC or Space A).  One of the many perks we have living abroad is being able to take advantage of these military flights.  Each family member is entitled to 2 EML (morale leave) flights per year.  We can fly to such places as:  Korea, Hawaii, Alaska, Singapore, Guam, Okinawa, etc.  We're very fortunate to live within a couple hours of two bases that offer Space A.  The most important things you will need to travel are:  EML orders (I got them drawn up from Justin's command) or not if you're flying in the lowest category, your passport, military ID, patience and  some faith.

I like the price for the flight.
My friend asked me earlier in the year if I would be interested in taking a Space A flight to Korea.  Of course I said yes!  So, the week before last, we ventured up to Yokota Air Base and attempted to get onto our first Space A flight.  We weren't sure how it was going to go since the typhoon had knocked out power to the AFB air terminal.  We still had hope since the plane we wanted to go on was still scheduled to fly out that day.  Its very helpful that you can call the air terminal ahead of time to hear a recording of scheduled flights for the week.  Of course you need some flexibility because flights are subject to change. 

When taking these flights you can email or fax your orders ahead of time so that your name is in their system.  This is advantageous since anyone flying in a lower category (we flew in category IV) than us, had lower priority.  The reverse is also true.  Anyone flying in categories I-III had higher priority than us.  This did cause a bit of concern, but we still checked in upon arrival to the terminal, and tried to patiently wait until roll call.  If they call your name during roll call, then you made the flight.  Luckily, we were flying on a large airplane that had extra seats so we were able to make it to Korea.

The trick is to make it back to your original destination.  Fortunately, we were able to get onto the flight back to Japan.  This isn't always the case.  That's why you need to truly look at this as an adventure, give yourself extra time, and do your research.  There's always the possibility that you may have to pay for a ticket to fly on a commercial airplane if you cannot return via Space A.

While I certainly enjoyed my time in Korea, I cannot wait to take a Space A flight with my family! There are so many places for us to you can't beat the price!