Saturday, May 28, 2005


Sadly possessing a black thumb, I wouldn't be able to say with any authority whether roses are in season right now. Perhaps they are, as there's a Rose Festival going on down at Ark Hills today. It started yesterday and ends today (quick festival!).
Aya asked me if I had any ideas for a Roppongi-based Dream Church gathering. This Rose Festival seemed like a good occasion to invite people to come here, so that's what Aya and I did.
Ken and Aya came first, around two. Ken kindly stayed here in the room with Koji, who was meant to be taking a long nap (but actually only slept 15 more minutes after Aya and I left...). Meanwhile, Aya and I made a break down to the plaza to listen to some kind of lecture on roses.
The sound system the lecturer was using wasn't very good though. And the lecturer really was lecturing. So, for a black thumb like myself, it was a hopeless case. I was bored within nanoseconds of arrival. My reaction got me thinking about what an attention span-less modern girl I've become. I asked Aya rhetorically, "why isn't she using Power Point? or at least taking questions so it'll be more interactive?".
Fortunately, we had Plan B, which was to take advantage of The Body Shop's Reflexology room Rose Festival special(contact/location information in Japanese here). A 20 minute hand massage that normally goes for 2000 yen (about $18? I'm not in touch with recent exchange rates) was half price. That's my favorite price, next to free!
We were ushered into a thickly carpeted, dimly lit room that contained six Lazy Boy-type chairs. My masseuse guided me to the nearest chair and asked me to put my bag in the basket next to the chair. She then provided me with a separate small basket for my watch and rings, and then covered me with a blanket, gave me some kind of sand pack eye mask thing to wear, and reclined me in the chair, all the while apologizing profusely.
Though I expected just a hand massage, bonus! It turned out to be a hand + arm up to the elbow massage, which was great. When the twenty minutes that felt like two were up, the masseuse told me that the side of the palm opposite the thumb is connected to the shoulder and she sensed some tension there. Have I been stressed or tired lately, she wondered.
I told her that I have a two-year-old son who is the likely culprit, and we both laughed, though I laughed louder because I knew exactly what I was talking about! She wasn't surprised to hear that I had carried him, and his little friend Megu, around Costco quite a lot the day before.
Fast forward to dinner because this is getting too long!
We had planned to have dinner in an Italian restaurant one floor down from the plaza. Turned out some large group had first dibs, so Mr. Ohuchi, who was making the dinner plans, decided we should go to a French restaurant next to the plaza.
In principle, a great idea. I had wondered what the place was like, since we walk by it nearly every day. In practice, revoltant (French for disgusting!)!
The menu didn't appeal to me much but I had to order something so I finally went with the same thing most everyone else had ordered, Steak Tartare and Frites.
At some point, the waiter came out with a pile of raw hamburger on a plate. I thought that was our meal and I freaked! Fortunately, he had just come to demo our meal in its pre-cooked state, for some reason. Eewww.
Finally, the food came out, and I don't know what took so long because it wasn't much more cooked then it had been during the raw display. The outside had a thin cooked crust on it but the inside was still quite RAW (which is what tartare means, so I don't know why I was so taken off guard). And the frites were just a huge bowl of French fries, not the worst or best I've had; I felt like they had been run over from the nearest Mickey D's!
I picked some of the crust off the outside of my "Steak" and managed to choke it down with aid of the fries, but it smelled raw, so when there was still about half of it left, I couldn't take it anymore. I gave it to my friend down the table, who was still hungry because she had ordered a "Pot-au-feu" which is a fancy way to say "vegetable soup".
Most of you know I'm the queen of extreme reactions, so you can just laugh when I say I feel like I don't ever want to go a restaurant again. How can I say that when there are so many delicious offerings in Tokyo? It's frustrating to pay the price of three trips to McDonald's and get basically the same thing...not even as good because at least a cheeseburger would have been well done!
Also, I've been saying this to awhile to anyone who will listen (thanks, all you patient friends!), but it feels like a waste to go to a restaurant and eat something I could have made myself. However, I'm married to Mr. Gaishoku (eat out), so I'm sure that was not my last trip to a restaurant.
I hope the next one I go to isn't so revoltant!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Kame! Kame!

Meet some of the turtles we saw at Shinjuku Gyoen last week. Usually, I don't even try to take "nature" pictures because I just don't feel I have the eye for them. However, this one somehow seemed to turn out pretty well. And, I like that you can faintly see our heads, reflected in the water at the bottom of the picture.
Does anyone have any tips for taking "nature" shots? I may not be patient enough to try them out, but I'd still like to know what they are. If you have advice, please comment! Is anyone reading this blog?! (besides Julie...thanks Julie!)
I didn't used to concern myself with "audience," but I did some looking around at blogs yesterday, and readership seems to be a big deal. No, I don't have any plans to turn commercial with this at all! Just can't help wondering if I am talking to myself?!
If I am, note to self: go back to Shinjuku Gyoen to rendezvous with the turtles soon!

Kame! Kame! Posted by Hello

World Unseen

Here's (where there used to be*) a map of the world with the countries I've visited in red. I thought I was somewhat well-traveled, but seeing it this way makes me think I have a lot of work to do! And, this is even with China completely highlighted though I've actually only been to Hong Kong. This map is a shameless copy of the one I saw in Erika's blog. Thanks, Erika! Maybe we should go on a trip together?! What to do with the kids...

*on June 12, I'm taking the map down because I think it may be thing that's messing up the HTML I complained about in my last entry. If you are reading this and feeling cheated about not knowing where I've been, let me know and I will email the map to you! Or just go to
World 66 and make your own!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hidden Treasure

A few days ago, I posted a list of the places Koji and I had visited with Mark and Julie last week. It was utterly devoid of explanation; therefore, likely devoid of meaning for most readers. However, the truly curious can investigate sites like Lonely Planet for general information, as many of our destinations are common to the Tokyo tourist.
The first day Mark and Julie were in town, we walked from Shibuya to Harajuku, then down Takeshita Doori and up towards Omote Sando. After they bought some Japanese clothing (you'll need a special appointment if you want to see Mark wearing his jinbei, which is traditional Japanese loungewear), we crossed the street to check out the development under construction there.
Thinking the project was something along the lines of Roppongi Hills, but not being sure, we stopped so I could ask an older gentleman who seemed to be guarding the place. To our suprise, he answered my question in English, and he wasn't faking. He was actually quite fluent. We took a moment to chat with him, and he told us that he had spent some time in the States some 25 years ago. My memory is really bad, so this is story is not as interesting as it would be if I could recount our any rate, I was glad we met him because I think he helped make Mark and Julie feel welcome.
The next day, after viewing Tokyo from the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and eating lots of Indian food at Maharajah on Southern Terrace, we made a great discovery. Well, it's old news for plenty of people in Tokyo, but over the almost 10 total years I've lived here, I had never been to Shinjuku Gyoen . What a beautiful, serene place! If you don't peer at the tall office buildings profiled in the horizon yonder, it's possible to believe you are somewhere in the Japanese countryside. With the cute turtles (time for a little Japanese lesson: ka-me=turtle) and koi in the ponds and super clean restrooms complete with changing tables, you can bet that Koji and I will be back there soon.
Thanks, Mark and Julie! You helped us discover hidden treasure right in our own backyard.

Clever in Bed

Before you worry that my writing is somehow taking an X-rated turn, let me assure you that I have an explanation! As some of you know from the e-mails I've been shooting out for the last hour and a half, Koji has a terrible canker sore. It must a family legacy, as I'm prone to them myself and my poor sister has been known to have mouthfuls. As he's just two, he is lacking defense mechanisms against the pain. So, he suffers through by waking up every hour or two and shouting "ITAI!" which of course is Japanese for "ouch".
This is why we need a door on the kitchen. The curtain that we hung there does the job for getting him to sleep, but it's a poor substitute when it comes to noise management. Argh. The shout-out that he gave at 3:30 am woke me up, and I haven't been back to sleep since.
What I have been doing is composing this blog entry in my head, in bed.
What great, eloquent, witty ideas I had. Had. Two hours ago. When I was in bed. Now, I'm actually in front of the computer trying to make some kind of record of my experiences and entertain you in the process.
Alas, now that I'm actually in front of the screen, as the Japanese say, "my mind is white". In other words, apparently, I'm only clever in bed.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Hometown Eyes Don't See These Sights

Tokyo Station~
Kaiten Zushi~
Yoyogi Koen~
Harajuku/Takeshita Dori~
Omote Sando~
Mark City~
Higashi Kurume~

Shinjuku TMG~
Shinjuku Gyoen~
Ark Hills Wako~
West 612~

Sushi Lunch~
Massage Chair at Laox~
Imperial Palace from Otemachi to Sakuradamon~
Prudential Tower~
Tsukiji Sushi~
West 612~

Tokyo Station~

Tokyo Boy

Here's Koji lording it over all Tokyo from the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. Last week Mark and Julie, good friends from the Evanston Vineyard, came to visit, which was the perfect catalyst for us to see and do a variety of things we never would have on our own. More about our adventures to come! Posted by Hello

Friday, May 20, 2005

Happy Anniversary to Us!

It's been four years to the day that Aogu and I got married at the Marriott in downtown Portland. Time flies when you're having fun, as someone I know (named Craig) likes to say! We must be having fun, because it really feels like just yesterday that we were surprised to find that the weather in Portland could be beautiful on a May 20th.
We never thought then that four years later we would be in the middle of Tokyo with a small son. God has been good and we have lots of reasons to celebrate. Maybe we'll get to that tomorrow!

Friday, May 13, 2005

These Shoes Weren't Made for Walking

Japanese feet must not be the same as American feet. To the naked eye, they may appear the same: appendages extending from the legs and ending in five toes of various shape/size and protectively capped with toenail. Perhaps somehow the contents of the package vary, depending on nationality?
This is only--implausible, but only--explanation I can conceive for the fact that Japanese people, and women specifically, seem to have no problem trekking through their days in Tokyo on tiny little high heeled pinchy pointy shiny sandals.
In contrast, I present my own case: last Monday, May 9th, I decided to visit the Tokyo Immigration Bureau (hereafter known as "Im") to obtain "re-entry permission". This makes a lot more sense in Japanese than English. What it means is, if I were to leave this country without "re-entry permission," I would be in trouble upon trying to re-enter. Got that?!
Though I don't have concrete plans to travel out of this country at the moment, it seems best to be prepared for the moment I may receive an OK from the overseer of the family funds. Thus, my trip to Im. And may I comment that I feel I deserve to travel outside the country, now that I have conquered the trek to Im.
The first step was to drop Koji off at a friend's house. Wisest move of the afternoon, that was. Next, leave friend's house a little before three, knowing that Im closes at four. Walk hastily to the nearest train station. Descend to the platform of the Oedo line, which, excuse me, has been built on the next floor up from hell! It is that far down, and correspondingly hot!!
Travel about three stops, emerge from the pit of the earth, search for the monorail station, find it, trudge up four flights of stairs while thanking God I don't have Koji with me, buy a ticket, get on the monorail. Safely inside the monorail, get out tools for cooling my temperature back to that of a non-roasted human being. Fan self and mop embarrassingly sweatly countenance with hankie, while feeling impressed that said accoutrements were ready in my bag!
Get off monorail. Ask station guy where Im is. Get vague directions. Walk. Walk. Walk. Look for Bullet Train passing over head. Spy it in the distance yonder. Walk. Walk. Turn right under Bullet Train and start over bridge. Gaze longingly at bus that apparently transports less stupid people to the front of Im, but is running way the heck on the other side of enormous bridge and firmly out of reach. Walk. Walk. Reach other side of bridge. Hesitate. Turn head left and right. Walk more, hoping the direction being walked is correct. Arrive at Im and run up stairs to frantically pull a number at 3:58!
Wouldn't it be great if this was the end of the story?!
Getting the re-entry permission was easy, a matter of filling out a form and paying about sixty dollars to get another fancy stamp in my passport. I am now qualified to travel in and out of Japan at will for the next three years. Woohoo...
After the extreme effort involved in coming to Im via the route I had chosen, I was not willing to return the same way. So I lined up for the bus in front of the building, while gulping a bottle of iced coffee from the Ampm on the first floor. Reliving the experience is becoming painful, so I'll try to cut to the chase.
Sitting on the bus was a nice change. Once I arrived at Shinagawa Station, I realized that I needed to find another bus terminal to get back to my friend's place and pick up Koji. However, I was temporarily and happily distracted by the discovery of a Dean & DeLuca...
Once I finished exploring D & D, an adventure that ended ever so cheaply with the purchase of a few cookies for less than 400 yen (about four dollars), I was back on the hunt for the bus terminal. Calling it a hunt is a little too lofty...a hunter would be able to actually find her prey...I went out of the other side of the station and promptly turned in the precise wrong direction. I was sure I had seen a sign saying the bus terminal was 400 meters away.
Confessing my ignorance is a sad but necessary point of the story. I have NO idea how far 400 meters is. So once I had walked what felt like about four miles, and actually arrived at some kind of bus parking lot instead, I had to admit that I was lost.
I found an off duty bus driver and asked him where I should go. He gave me very precise directions for returning to the train station on the exact streets I had just come on, so that I could pass the place I had made the fateful wrong turn, and go just a few more meters to find the bus terminal, right there. Argh!
Having no choice, I dragged my sad self back to the train station and beyond, to the bus terminal. As I was contemplating the bus schedule and the likelihood that a rush hour bus would take way longer than the train to get me back to where Koji was, an email came to my phone. It was my friend, asking that I pick up some dinner at a certain shop near the train station nearest her house, on my way back there. Right. So I turned around and went back into the train station and back to her house via the train, the dinner shop and McDonalds.
It's fortunate that through all this, I was wearing my pedometer. My feet may still hurt from all that tromping around in backless sneakers (which were not nearly as cute as the tiny little high heeled pinchy pointy shiny sandals I mentioned earlier, but still not supportive enough for these American feet), but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I walked 20,493 steps that day!


On the other end of Golden Week, Thursday, May 5th, we went to the Tama Zoological Park with Aogu's brother Ken and wife Aya. This was our first visit to a zoo since Koji has learned to say more words, and identify animals. Here he is with the elephants. If you wonder about the shape of his mouth, he is shouting, "ZOH!" which is the Japanese word for "elephant". One of his favorite songs is also about elephants. It's a Japanese song, which goes like this:

Zoh-san, zoh-san, ohana ga nagai no ne
So yo, kaasan mo nagai no yo
Zoh-san, zoh-san, dare ga suki nano?
Ano ne, kaasan ga suki nano yo

Approximate translation:
Master Elephant, master Elephant
(I mean "master" in the British sense of salutation for small male creatures),
Your nose is long, isn't it
That's right, and your mother's (nose) is long too
Master Elephant, master Elephant,
Who do you love?
That's right, you love your mother

Posted by Hello

Really Happy to Be Here on Your Birthday

On Tuesday, May 3rd, we were invited to a birthday party for Meg, the now four-year-old daughter of some great friends who happen to be visiting Tokyo from Turkey. Those who are confused, I know, I'm sorry.
Meg's grandparents own and operate a great Japanese style Chinese restaurant in a north part of Tokyo. If you come visit, I'll take you there! For the party, we had lunch at the restaurant and then went to play at a nearby park to work up an appetite for the fabulous Barbie cake that Meg's mom created. Koji was delighted to be there, but perhaps not as happy to be asked to pose for a picture with papa and mama. He didn't know what a rare privelege it was to be spending time with his papa on a Tuesday afternoon. Thanks, Golden Week! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Italy...or Disney Sea?

On Saturday, April 23rd, we went to Disney Sea. It's next to Tokyo Disneyland, which of course is not in Tokyo at all, but the neighboring prefecture, Chiba. Makes sense, I guess. Would people be as interested in "Chiba Disneyland"? So Disney Sea, which opened just a few years ago, is a little bit more "adult," in the sense that it's built around an Italian theme and doesn't have as many rides or characters wandering the grounds as Disneyland. When you walk in, you face a small harbor, which is watched over by a volcano! The volcano erupts every few hours and you can see it from most places in the park (another advantage, according to Aogu: it's not as big as Disneyland, so you don't have to walk so much). Koji was VERY excited by this volcano! We should take more advantage of this likely short period of his life when he is so easily entertained...he was also delighted to ride in the Italian gondola pictured here, and all the more so when the gondolier sang Happy Birthday to him in Italian! After the song was over, Koji held up one finger and said, "Mo ikkai!! (one more time)". The gondolier looked a little surprised but complied with the request and serenaded Koji again. He then let us know that he had NEVER before done the song twice in a row for the same person! Posted by Hello