Saturday, January 28, 2012

Moving To Base Housing

We've had a busy week in our family.  I had a job interview and started a part-time job, Justin went on TDY to Sasebo, and we were offered base housing.  We have been on the waiting list for a year, so when we got the call that something was available, we decided to take it.  Its a nice 4 bedroom townhouse very close to the younger boys' schools, next to where I practice derby, and close to many of our friends.

The news was a little bittersweet for us because we do love our home, our community, and neighbors.  They have been so generous and kind to us over the past year.  I kind of feel like we are abandoning our neighbors, but am told that they understand.  It is easy to escort them onto base, or meet for lunch or coffee in town.   One of my neighbors would like to take me up to Tokyo in February.  I'm looking forward to continuing our friendship.

We had the inspection and received the keys yesterday to our townhouse.  Its pretty cozy, but I will enjoy the following amenities: a full size oven, a laundry room, a yard, and having a bathroom in our bedroom.  The movers will come on Monday morning and will be able to pack, and deliver our belongings the same day. 
Laundry Room

I forgot to mention that our neighbor across the street read Justin's fortune for him on New Year's Day.  In the fortune, it said that there will be a move and it won't be good, but that the family we will be okay.   I have hope that this move will be good for us.  I'm still looking forward to the next chapter in our adventure.

Our backyard.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age)

A friend snapped this photo at the local mall.
The second Monday of January is set aside for Japan's National holiday called Seijin no Hi. This holiday has been recognized for over 60 years and is a Coming of Age day for both male and female Japanese who have turned age 20 between April of the previous year, and April of the current year. 

Coming of Age ceremonies (seijin-shiki) have been performed for centuries marking a Japanese person's entrance into adulthood.  Currently, on Seijin no Hi, the celebrated go to local government offices for a ceremony and gifts in the morning, then continue the festivities with a shrine visit and partying into the evening.

Most girls dress in formal kimono, wear faux fur and go to a salon to get primped for the occasion.  When I was driving on Seijin no Hi, I saw many girls leaving salons with their hair done up so pretty.  Japanese males may wear a traditional dark kimono with a hakama, but as time goes on, many are found wearing suits and ties to celebrate their special day.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Loosing a Loved One While Abroad Part II

Before I move forward in this New Year I wanted to write a little bit about my Uncle Kevin.  He passed away just before Christmas at age 51 from cancer.  The news of his death is heartbreaking even though it was apparent that the cancer had been spreading violently over the past few months.  Kevin's death, coupled with the death of my grandfather just three weeks before, has been a very difficult time for our family.  Its especially sad that my uncle left behind a lovely wife, two daughters (12 & 14) and a handful of friends and family who will miss him dearly.

Although my uncle and I weren't particularly close, we were only 9 years apart in age. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when Kevin was still living at home.  Looking back, there are many things I remember about him:  he always had a meticulously clean car, going to see him at Marie Callenders where he worked, watching him play High School Football, his friends always being so nice to me, and him trying to scare me with a blackened front tooth and his hair pinned up in my grandma's clip (he was a teenager...what more can I say).

The last time I spoke to him was on Skype last summer.  He looked and sounded good even though he was was receiving treatments.  This is exactly the way I want to remember him.

Please click on the link below to read a blog entry from my Uncle Jeff.  He wrote a heartwarming story about Kevin and Starbucks: 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu (Happy New Year)!

I'm proud to say that we made it through 2011 in one piece. The year had so many ups, downs, happy times and sad times.  The great thing about having a New Year is a fresh start!
Kanpai 2012!
New Year's is a very celebratory time in Japan.  Typically between January 1-3 the Japanese will visit a shrine or temple for Hatsumode. This tradition allows people to say good wishes for the upcoming year, plus you are able to purchase a slew of charms, or omamori.

We were outside at Midnight on New Years and heard the bell at our neighborhood shrine.  Many people in our neighborhood were heading to the shrine to welcome the New Year.  We also decided to check it out and I'm glad we did.  It was very festive at the shrine with fires were burning in pits (also see the picture on the page), sake, people in traditional dress, and omamori.  I'm so happy we had the pleasure of participating in this annual ritual. 

Ritual of clapping, bell ringing and bowing.
Yesterday, a friend and I went to Kamakura where Hatsumode was still going on at The Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu shrine.  I think there were more people there yesterday, than when we visited it last year during this time.  It was a beautiful, crisp sunny day to visit this lovely shrine.  We are looking forward to this New Year and what it will bring!

People walking to and from shrine.

A spectacular view.