Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Now that the year is over half way over, let me tell you about some of the things I have done in Okinawa, Japan during 2012 while I still have time.  You know, because the world ends in December.  Believe it or not, I have been making it around the island; I just haven’t had the energy to blog about it.  At the beginning of this year, we got to meet some wonderful new people and Mark and I also took a little time to see some of the island…before everything made me sick.  Though being pregnant did slow me down, it hasn’t stopped me completely.  I did very well for a puking, picky stomach having pregnant lady.
Tired, hungry, and pregnant in Fussa, Japan.

Mark came home on Christmas night, what a gift!  We opened gifts, I believe he talked to a few family members to say he was home, and since every overseas flight comes in late, we crashed soon after.  Since this wasn’t Mark’s 1st rodeo, he quickly and happily got back in to his old routine.  Hercules (our late cat) also, didn’t skip a beat.  The boys were reunited and back to being best friends.  Mark had some time off to spend at home and so we did a bit of traveling around Okinawa together.  We went to Okinawa world which houses the Gyukosendo cave.  It’s a pretty fun day trip, but the main attractions for us were the cave and the Habu Park.  The cave is pretty big, and takes a bit of time to work through.  We were rushing to see the habu show and the cave walk took 15-20 minutes at a brisk walk.  The habu and snake show is pretty interesting, mostly because you see women abusing the poor, poisonous animals.  “Beat a cobra in the head” was my favorite.  By favorite, I mean, not my favorite.  Like I always say, “imagine what others would do to us if we couldn’t talk,” I shudder to think.  They have a snake museum and I was able to get in the bed with a reticulated python last time I was there. (The 2nd time was with the Fast Girl University Crew) I must have been putting off extreme heat because the python was very aware I was there in the “bed” and turned straight toward me.  His mouth was taped, so no harm done.  I was about 11-12 weeks pregnant at that time.  You can also get up close to a bat and a mongoose.  At Okinawa world, you will find your “Okinawan classics”, bingata (a form of fabric painting), Ryukyu blown glass, pottery, goya, Okinawan soba, tshirts, have your picture taken in an Okinawan kimono, the usual all in one place experience here on island.  You may be able to find items cheaper elsewhere, but Okinawa World has it all in one spot, and you can buy the coupon ticket option if you know you will be shopping.  They have fresh fruit, beer made on Okinawa, and ice cream for those who need a break and would like something refreshing.  It’s a good place for visitors I believe, I am sure most of the places like that are. (Murasaki Mura, Ryukyu Mura)  They have a lot more, and one should plan to spend the day there if you want to take your time and experience everything they have to offer without being rushed.  I also made it down to Kokusai Street to walk around with friends.  It's been nice to get out and about when I could handle it.  I was SO SICK during my 1st trimester.  Surprisingly, going to the fish market on Kokusai Street had no effect on my stomach!  Go figure, garlic, BAD, fish, not so bad.
 Hello Kitty make up brush holder for Christmas and a husband, win/win!
Welcome home and Merry Christmas!
 In the Gyukosendo Cave in Okinawa World.
"I got a snake, mane!"

 Will and Steph with the same snake.
 Mark climbing the walls.
Wile E. and what was left of the fish, all the fish.

New Years was spent with friends and me trying Indian food for the 1st time.  I enjoyed it.  I am sure I did so because my dish was creamy, sweet, and laced with butter.  We saw fireworks at American Village and did a bit of karaoke that night.
Happy New Year!!

Will, Steph, Giles, and Amy singing at American Village....well, not Will.
Had to say mata ne to Anth and Hector.  I was not very happy, especially after finding out my good friend is expecting at the same time as me.

In February, our fur baby Hercules died.  We still don’t know the cause of the hole in his lungs but he is no longer with us, and this still hurts.  Mark and I were both home when he collapsed and called out before he died.  It is still very tough for me and I don’t like talking about it.  Much like with my mother.  Mind you, talking about my mother is much harder and I actually refuse to go in to much detail. It’s amazing how pets can make you feel that way, and with me being home, it made it 10 times worse.  Since the baby was already known to be on his or her way, we decided not to get another pet.  We would have no place to put the pet’s things and if I don’t have to put myself throw heartbreak, I won’t.  Melodramatic?   Maybe, but that is how I truly feel.  Then, after our 2nd trip to Tokyo together, we decided to get another pet.  We wanted something small and easy, and since they had no small dogs, we opted for another cat, her name is Sweet Pea, we call her Pea-Chan, and she is 4. 

As many of you know, coming to Japan has been a blessing, but it’s been hard.  God has helped us with every up and down though.  I pray, about everything.  Whether it’s a simple thank you or asking for something small.  I believe it helps.

Mura – village
Murasaki – purple
Ryukyu – The current name of the collection of islands that make up the Ryukyu islands.  Okinawa is the biggest.  Uchina is/was the name of Okinawa in the Okinawan language. 
Hanabi – Japanese word for fireworks.  There is not a plural form in Japanese.  Example, saying, “kuro tamago,” could mean 1 black egg or more.  When ordering you get more specific. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

The EPIC tale of Grandma Bear….or filler, you decide.

I think, when you lose a parent, or anyone you hold dear, you start another leg, another chapter, in your journey of life.  You will sometimes cry, you remember, you laugh, you cherish, and I, sometimes create what my mother’s “worldly heaven” would be, in my head.  I, like many before me, and many after me, and many who are with me, will start my journey as a mother without my own beloved mother.  For the most part, I am very good at not shaking my fist at the sky and crying out to God, “why?!”  Even now, though I feel my child is in some ways, “robbed”, I know my mother’s love flows through me, she is in my blood.  My child will know their grandmother through me, and have her love and strength in their veins as well.  My mom was preparing for her grandchildren well before Mark and I were preparing for our 1st child.  We only got as far as buying a HUGE book of baby names, which in the end, was never even used.  My mom had collected books, toys, and had every intention of buying all of our baby’s furniture.  She wasn’t here, but she made good on her promise.  With that being said, I’d like to introduce you all to something very important to me.  I hope my child will cherish this toy as much as I do.  This is a toy that is specifically for my mom’s 1st grandchild.  She even has a name, Grandma Bear.
"Grandma Bear" in a Columbus, Ohio hotel.  She was there for the free breakfast.

When Mark and I recently went back to the states, we went back to relax, and for the 1st time in 4 years, we were going to go back home together, and enjoy our family together.  Not because of a tragic loss, not because we had a job to do, because we wanted to have time with family and friends that wanted to share in our joy of welcoming our 1st child in the world.  That is not 100% true, I did have 1 job to do, in Ohio, and Mark agreed to go with me.  I was also able to see my wonderful family and they showered us with gifts, but the original purpose for my trip to Ohio was to get my bear.  Well, my child’s bear.  Once Mark and I decided to stay overnight, we got to spend a bit of time with my mother’s side of the family.  I can’t remember where she bought Grandma Bear.  I assume it was from a Victoria’s Secret Associate sale.  When my mother was well, she worked for Victoria’s Secret Direct, where she worked as a lead there and she loved her job and the people she worked with.  My child’s bear is huge! Where was my huge bear when I was a kid!?  For me to pretend that I was not a spoiled child would be severely incorrect.  Like both my parents would tell you, I was never a brat, but spoiled, definitely.  I won’t be jealous.  I remember having the bear talk with her my mom. One day during an Ohio visit, we sorted through all the Vicky’s goodies she recently scored at an associate sale, and she showed me the bear that sat on top of her cabinet that was filled with Victoria’s Secret (and other Limited Brand) items.  Actually, you couldn’t miss the bear, but she told me who that big bear was for.  “This is for my 1st grandchild.”  Who, at the time, was a good 4 to 3 years away.  This huge, brand new bear, perfect in every way, was for the 1 person, she never realized she would never get to meet.  The tiny person who was on the way, but none of us had any way of knowing when.  That bear was my 1 job during my visit home; my child had to have his or her gift.  The 1st gift that was ever purchased solely for them.  No one else could give this gift for my mom and I had no problem making the side trip for her.  This token speaks volumes of my mother.  Much like a picture, her actions spoke a thousand words.  That is a mom for you, isn’t it?  So, once seeing the bear again, I told Mark, “The bear’s name should be Grandma Bear.”  He looked at me with nothing but love in his eyes, and smiled, and I took that as him agreeing, because though cliché, sometimes words get in the way.

So how does one get a giant Grandma Bear back from Columbus, Ohio to Okinawa, Japan?  I wasn’t going to risk mailing such an item; too many things could go wrong.  Grandma Bear stayed with me and she would fly back to Japan.  Basically, if I am going down, the bear is going with me.  That may be too morbid but hey, it’s the truth!  Wouldn’t need the bear to get to Okinawa after that!  No more dark jokes.   Mark, my packing and organizing hero, placed the bear in what used to be my mother’s big, pink suitcase.   Now, Mark did have to tuck the bear’s legs under its ears, but she fit, and once freed, the bear went right back to its normal shape.  That one agile animal!  I am curious, what did the bag screeners think when seeing that bag?  There was literally nothing else in that bag besides a bear, and a journal that I never leave on a trip without.  Now, the Scott’s are safely in Okinawa again with   a very special addition to our family.
Grandma Bear WILL watch you sleep, I told Mark we'll have to find another spot for her after Baby is born.  Not trying for early dangers and nightmares!

This story is not exactly an Okinawan adventure, but this story plays a major role in my new chapter of life that will begin on Okinawa.  Boy will THAT be an adventure!  I wanted to share with other family and friends because every now and again, it’s okay to open the window to your soul and let some fresh air in.  After all, it promotes healing and breathing, which I am still doing, and will every day I am allowed to.  Now on to more pressing issues, like how to clean a giant Grandma Bear when your child pukes all over her?  Something tells me if stuffed bears could talk, she wouldn't have it any other way.

Ja, mata ne! <3 Talya

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

                                   Our Okinawa adventures have slowed down to a crawl, by choice, of course.
18 weeks

     Everyone who knows us and is near and dear to us knows by now we are welcoming our 1st child in to the world.  Everyone who has children of their own also realizes how much this changes things!  Mark is working hard and none stop, he is staying busy so that when Baby Scott (the coined name of our little bun in the ol’ oven) gets here, we can rest as a family.  I have given up on derby and probably won’t return.  Close friends and family know I’ve (we’ve) been waiting on this for a while, so I am going to take on the new hobby of motherhood.  I can already tell you, I won’t be one of those mothers that doesn’t do anything without her child but, for a while, it’s going to be Mark, Baby Scott, and myself, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We aren’t finding out our baby’s gender and we aren’t sharing the baby’s name until the day he or she is born.  I’ve heard, “you are having a boy and you are having a girl”, so time will tell.  I am already SO excited for baby’s 1st visitors, and help for the new mom and dad!  Mom and Dad Scott will be here 1st followed by Dad and Mom 2 Hood. We wanted both sets of parents to visit and I am already getting the apartment ready for the parents and for our 1st visitors in Japan.  Mom and Dad Scott have started a very expensive tradition of being there for every grandchild’s birth.  They’ve traveled across the states, Australia, and now putting Japan on the list.  The Hood’s and Scott’s are international families!  Though, if it wasn’t for Baby Scott, not sure if Dad Hood would have been to eager to come back to “The Rock” as he calls it.  He’s a tough soldier though, and this time he doesn’t have stay at Camp Hansen. 

After reading an article on MSN about infertility and how women struggling with infertility should speak up, I decided to share a little (very little) about myself and my family’s struggle.  I am not one to go in to too much detail and I still won’t.  What they said in the article I can’t say I completely agree with, it spoke of infertile women telling their stories, but women dealing with infertility shouldn’t have to stand on the tallest mountain and shout, “I HAVE INFERTILITY ISSUES”.  People should realize that just maybe, it’s none of their business what is going on in other couple’s lives and they should not be asking questions, period.  Mark and I tried for almost 5 years.  Tried is the perfect word when you realize how hard it is to actually get pregnant.  Mark being deployed didn’t exactly help matters, as asexual reproduction is just not how it works for human beings.  Months go by and friends that knew we were trying said just relax, go on a vacation.  After a year and a half, we run the tests and find out that nothing is wrong.  After year 2 I was sick of hearing the question, “when are you guys going to have a baby?”  It seems like a harmless question, and depending on whom it is from, it can be, as I eventually shared with family and some friends, what was going on.  Then the 3rd and 4th years pass and anyone who felt the need to ask the question I feared the most, were then met with, “if God feels the need to bless us, so be it,” or, “if it happens, it happens.”  All the while, on the inside I was mad.  For me and my personal experience with infertility (which by the way, is the term used for any woman who doesn’t get pregnant after 6 months to a year and is seeking medical answers for why she isn’t having babies) I found it beyond rude of the women, who had their precious bundles, and still felt privy to my inner most fears.  Most people didn’t realize what was going on because I didn’t share, and again, I shouldn’t have to.  As I talked on the topic with one of my friends, it’s the same as asking a woman who has lost a child the same question.  A family losses a baby, and though others may not realize the family’s loss, they ask the question, “so, when are you going to have a little one?”  That may put a person in a dark place that brings pain and tears.  It sure did for me with my infertility issue.  Holidays void of the thing I longed for, motherhood.  My mother waited and practically begged me to hurry it along.  “We’re trying”, was the answer, and it was true.  Hearing another person announcing they were expecting made me cringe.  Doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy for my family and friends, I was just dealing with my own problems.  Once in Japan, I was determined to spend everything I needed to, to make our dreams of parenthood come true.  Mark and I were slated to see a fertility doctor in January of 2012, but it wasn’t meant to be, because, as some women who have nothing “wrong” with them find out, sometimes, years later, it just happens.  I didn’t want to wait till 31 for my 1st, but then again, it was never up to me.  Then I had to figure out how to answer the question, “was this a planned pregnancy”, when the doctors asked.  How does one answer that question?  Simple enough, “we wanted this to happen.”

Mark and I just got back from the states.  It was supposed to be a treat for Mark’s coming home.  We went to see family and also, friends he hasn’t seen in 4 years.  We went to North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee.  My family in Ohio and Tennessee had baby showers for me.  I was super excited and now the baby will actually be clothed!  It quickly turned in to the LAST trip we’d go on before we become parents.  The flights were beyond rough on me.  I started off as an international traveler years ago, now, I am the international puker.  From Tokyo to NYC you don’t want to fly close to me.  When I could, I politely took my baggy to the lavatory to fill.  Finally Mark has his passport, but I am traveled out.  Next trip will be with Baby Scott…maybe.  I’d really love to go to South Korea pre baby.  I have waited this long though, it wouldn’t be the end all be all if I didn’t go, and besides, I have so much to look forward to!!
 A BIG thank you to my sister in law, Mel for thinking of it and Grandma Scott for hosting!!

Green and beautiful, Tennessee.  A Scott family walk in a Nashville, TN park.

Typhoon season and summer go hand in hand on Okinawa.  One day, rain boots, next day, bathing suit.  In true “honey badger don’t care” style, I bought a bikini to wear at the beach.  Some people think preggos showing it all is gross or uncalled for, I personally want the tan.  I have also found out that after about an hour and a half in the sun, I am done.  I am usually okay with a water bottle in one hand and up to my chest in water.  I plan on getting around as much as possible while I can carry the baby with the greatest of ease, well okay, I won’t go that far.  I do have a great pair of running shoes now though, thanks to the hubs, so it helps.  At least the summer also brings festivals and hanabi (fireworks)!  I won’t be wearing my yukata this year though.

I don’t want to give too much away because of what the military calls “OPSEC”, but this will be a year full of Okinawa and Japan, and trying to see everything we can while we still live in Asia.

Sayonara from the Scott’s!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Real Okinawa Adventure...and because I am lazy.

I had a fun filled, cultural adventure this weekend and I got to have some great friends around me while Mark is off away in sand land. That is what I call it since technically I am not supposed to say. I take keeping my soldier safe and practicing good OPSEC very serious. OPSEC is a military way of saying, keep your mouth shut, it can affect the mission. Back to my Okinawan culture packed weekend.

Okinawa Prefectual Peace Memorial Museum
The men that Setsuko-San helped bring to peace.

On Saturday I headed out with my friend Anthea and her friend Stacie to go on the Battle Sites of Okinawa tour through Kadena’s ITT. *Side note, Kadena is technically pronounced Kah- deh-nah.* The tour guide was Setsuko-San and she was a survivor of the War World II battle that happened on Okinawa. Her family was held up in one of the many caves in Okinawa during the war and due to her mother’s lack of education (she notes) her mother could not be brain washed by the Japanese soldiers that told the Okinawans to kill their children and themselves. She was three months old when the Americans found her family and she feels it is her duty to teach the truth. Setsuko-San is truly an amazing woman. Setsuko-San also had a part in finding remains of fallen soldiers; she will continue to search always because the way she feels is that the war’s tragedy will never be over until the MIA have names and faces. Our 1st tour stop was Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. We were not allowed to take pictures inside and there were graphic pictures and stories. I only received a glimpse in to a world of war and lose. My friend Anthea did make a very valid point. It seemed the whole truth was not told in the exhibits but I am curious which side tells the whole truth? I was bothered while watching a video and coming to the part about the Tsushimamaru, a ship filled with civilians that were bombed by the Americans and someone said, “oops.” Oops? What would this person say about Pearl Harbor and a Japanese person said, “oops.” This comment was in poor taste and it saddened me. No one won, the Japanese own a land that is not theirs, much like America “owns” Hawai’i. We are still here, on Okinawa and on “Japanese soil”, and the Okinawans lost their nation. Countless lives were lost on both sides. War, necessary evil I suppose. The battle of Okinawa, for Okinawa, will hold a place in my heart. At the cornerstone you can find the names of all the lives that were lost. Setsuko-San showed us the names of the men she helped find within the last 10 years and were added to the walls. There is a monument to the Korean “comfort women” as well, though Japan refuses to apologize for the forcing of Korean women to lie down with Japanese men, being raped after being pulled from their homes. It seems there is much the Japanese government refuses to say they are sorry for. I cannot judge though, show me a “just” nation as I will show you surprised.

Next we had lunch at a lovely hotel, I was so ready, and Anthea, Stacie and I got to sit with Setsuko-San for added cultural info. Setsuko-San is a real spitfire. She was such a joy to have around. After lunch we made our way to the former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, where Rear Admiral Minoru Ota made his last stand, along with many others. His ashes, and those of his wife, now rest where he died. Strings of 1,000 paper origami cranes line the walls on the way down to the underground bunker. They are symbols of peace and healing. A young girl affected by the radiation of the a bombs believed if she could make 1,000 cranes from paper, she would be healed, but she was only able to make around 960 before she died, her friends made the rest, and the tradition of the paper cranes continues. As I ducked and weaved through the tunnels I was taken back, seeing where soldiers slept and ate. How horrible it must have been for them, and in the end, only death awaited, by ritual suicide or being killed by their fellow soldiers. One room still held the marks from where soldiers took out their grenades and blew each other up.

 Each bundle is 1,000 origami cranes.
The ashes of Ota and his wife.

Caption says it all...
The tour also took us to “Sugar Loaf Hill”, the scene of a bloody battle now surrounded by shopping and roads. The DFS (duty free shopping) Galleria is right across the street. We also went to a cave around Yomitan where 83 people died, killed for fear that the ugly, “demon Americans” were coming.

 A soldier's diary
Final resting place of many Okinawan people
Sugar Loaf Hill Memorial

Later that afternoon I then went to the Devil Dog Derby Dames bout and saw my favorite team the Machine Gun Mollies give the Blitzkrieg Betties the Heidi ho! (What does that mean, I should know since I am saying it.) After the bout it was dinner time with the Collazo’s and we went well in to the evening chatting away. It was the perfect day. I also found out that even though a bathroom may only have one stall that locks, you best make sure to lock the other door too because this embarrasses some to walk in to a free sink but not a free toilet. Talk about double protection. You would think in a nation where squatter toilets still are the norm you wouldn’t be shy about sharing the room. I say this but I am also forgetting the nature sound button that you can press in many places to distract other people for your sounds and you from other people. This scenario brought to you also in a place where if you are at a bar or izakaya you may find yourself sharing a bathroom with someone of the opposite sex. Luckily last time I had share a unisex bathroom it was with my friend Schuyler. I have now gotten past the point of caring about this since in Japan. I mean I haven’t seen anything and I also will go to the public bath so my modesty is slowly going out the window in certain situations.

The next day was the Shi Shi Mai O-matsuri! I went to the BX and had asked Kimie-San to dress me in my yukata for the event. I wear Japanese clothing every chance I get now. It was just a little festival where they had lion dancers and Okinawan musicians from the neighboring cities to perform. Food was sold and they had games for the kids. Beer, Orion beer, is a staple at an Okinawan festival. I had yakisoba and cotton candy that my friend Anth shared. It was a great time, good music, and we even got treated to a tarp to sit on by kind Okinawan ladies sitting close to us. Okinawan people are some of the nicest in the world.

I in my yukata (summer kimono) and Anth in her Haori (kimono jacket)

Festival video

I had a great time going on these tours!  It really is a relief to have someone do the driving for you and share things about Okinawa or Japan that you may not find out yourself, so if you get the chance to take a tour, I say go for it! Sit back, relax, bring a camera, an open mind, and yen, and let someone else worry about the rest. Friends make it better but it's worth making the trek on your own.

Ja, matte ne from the Scott!
Cause sayonara is when you truly are saying goodbye!

Friday, August 26, 2011

My last day in Tokyo

It's taken me a long time to finish my exciting trip to Tokyo part of my blog, but now that I must stay awake until at least 9, I have plenty of time. Must get my body on schedule quickly, it's very hard, making my head hurt, but I am going to be thankful tomorrow. Herca and Mark are helping!

On my last day in Tokyo I went to Mount Fuji aka Fuji-san. I didn't hike it; I was ill prepared for such a hike so I opted to just take a visit and paid handsomely for a bus tour of Fuji, the area Hakone, and the ability to ride the shinkansen (the bullet train) back to the Shinagawa eki. (Station) 1st off, today was the only day where there was NO WAY, I could get lost. The tour guide picked me up at the hotel where I then met the other tourist as well as my tour guide Junko and traveled on another bus to Mt Fuji. Junko was very soft spoken, as many Japanese are under most circumstances, and her voice was very pleasant, pretty sure I could have been lulled to sleep. Of course when out having fun, like all of us do, they like to cut loose. I am also intrigued by listening to Japanese conduct business with each other; I can never understand how they hear each other! While riding through the city, I sat at the back of the bus, I had the big window with no lines in the middle and then I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I also got some pretty good shots of Tokyo Tower and other parts of the city. It took some time to get to Fuji-san. For some reason I was under the impression the mountain was not far in to the countryside and actually in the prefecture Tokyo was in, this was not the case. We weren’t at Mt. Fiji till noon-ish after setting on our way at about 9:45 am. It was cloudy the Sunday I went so on the way up I could not see Mt. Fuji from far away, we had to get to station 5 for the mountain to peak through the clouds. I was disappointed that we didn’t stay longer up at Mt. Fuji, but really, there isn’t much to do but eat and hike. While I was there the clouds did actually part, we got to see the top and I wrote Fuji-san a message and received a pin for sending a message to Fuji-san. I then proceeded to have my picture taken with Fuji-san and due to the size of the blow-up mountain, I am thinking mini Fuji-san was a woman.
The bus

Tokyo Tower

The famous Ginza shopping district

Going towards Fuji

We then traveled to Hakone ( and then had lunch at a hotel before going to Owakudani Valley (also in link). Here, I ate with an American who lived in Beijing, I believe his name was Brian….or I am making that part up, a Belgium gentleman, and a lady who lived in Singapore for the last 5 years. At 1st I wasn’t in to chatting with them, but it soon changed. Owakudani Valley was home to a massive, beautiful lake with a gorgeous view as well as a steaming hot spot that was used to boil eggs, among other things. Due to the water, the egg’s shell turned black and these eggs were called kuro tamago (black eggs). The legend says, if you eat 1, you will live 7 extra years, eat 2, you will live 14 extra years, eat 3 and you will have a tummy ache, HA! I ate one, shared one with a young German man that was on my tour bus, and forgot about giving the rest away. You got a bag of 5 for 500 yen and I wasn’t staying in Tokyo long enough to eat the rest. To get to the part of the valley for the eggs we took a sky gondola up and I was okay with this, until I realized how high up we were, it was still very exciting. The eggs had their own gondola too! That was pretty neat, they had to get the eggs up there somehow and the little metal basket held the eggs only. If you felt adventurous you could try wasabi ice cream, I did not, but I believe the young German man did, I should have asked him how it tasted. The Belgium man walked and talked with me to where the eggs were sold and though I was getting the stranger danger, OPSEC vibe from him, I think I handled myself well and I found him quite charming. I think I had him and the rest of my tour group I ate with fooled in to thinking I was younger than I actually am. Back down the mountain, we rode a pirate ship to the other side of the lake. The lady from Singapore, whose name was Gigi, kept me company then, I made a point to not entertain conversation with the men at this point for the most part. On the ship there was a “captain” who for some reason had to hold on to his hat, I am not sure if this is the captain’s pose? On the pirate ship, along with singing the many themes of One Piece in my head, I went by the gift shop and couldn’t resist buying a Kitty-chan (What Hello Kitty is referred to as here in Japan) pirate. They had One Piece items there too of course. (Those who don’t know what One Piece is, google it) The trip was over and then we headed to a station where you could ride the train back to Tokyo versus taking a 2 hour bus ride back to your hotel. I was a seasoned train rider then so I couldn’t pass up my chance to ride the famous shinkansen back in to the big city. The bullet train was fast, duh, and it only took about 30 minutes back to Tokyo! We were over an hour out of the city! I could never figure out how people could sleep on the trains and not miss their stops but there were people passed out. Noise is a big no no on the trains in Tokyo so I was trying to be as quiet as possible holding my walking sticks I bought at Mt. Fuji, and of course I had to buy the ones with jingle bells on them. At my stop, I said good bye to Gigi and exchanged pleasantries and made sure to take a taxi back to the New Sanno.

The gondola

Where they boil the eggs


Oh the Shinkansen

Kitty-chan and the kuro tamago

The pirate ship! One of three. 
YARGH!  I think there was a rule, if you looked at him he had to smile and nod.

I had made sure to order a nice Japanese breakfast the morning I was to set off. I had everything ready and a full belly. After reading that it took about 50 minutes to get to the airport I made sure to set off early. I found out, it takes 50 minutes on days that I am not going to the airport because the driver hopped on the expressway and it took maybe 30 minutes, if that. I was waiting around to be able to check in but I didn’t mind, I was used to waiting around at an airport. I went home on the fourth of July and my good friend, Anthea picked me up and then later I went to a beach party. It was such a lovely trip, I cannot wait to go back and share Tokyo with Mark. Maybe the Sky Tree will be built by then. Tokyo is a wonderful city and if given the chance to see it in its entire splendor, please do! I can only imagine how amazingly beautiful the rest of Japan is.
The view on the way to the airport.

Sayonara from the Scott!!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tokyo ni ikimashita Part 2

Tokyo Trip Day 2!

Bus stop outside of the New Sanno

Day 2 in Tokyo, Do-yobi (Saturday) I had the honor of hanging out with my friend, Mari Townes and her
dear, sweet mother. I, however, had to get to them 1st. I was meeting them at 11 am, okay, I get up at like 7, not a problem. I was to meet them at Shinagawa, hey, I've been there before, I can get there again right? Well sort of. I go 1st thing in the morning and used the front desk travel services to ask how should, could, one get to Shinagawa Eki? (Eki=Station) Well there are a few ways, 1st off taxi, which she didn't suggest, this is how I got from Shinagawa to the New Sanno when I touched down in Tokyo. 2nd, you could always walk up to Hiroo eki, and travel by subway and train, easy enough if you are not me. Lastly, the way they lady that helped me suggested was by basu aka bus. It cost 200 yen AND gets you right to Shinagawa eki. Well that is easy enough and cheap, so it was a no brainer. She let me know that it takes roughly 20 minutes to get there and she let me know to take bus 97 right outside the hotel. Sounds like I got all the info I needed and I did, but my brain doesn't process easy like everyone else's brain does. I must do everything the HARDEST way possible. I decided, since the bus arrives every 20 minutes, I'd have more than enough time to wait at 10 am for the bus, I would be way early. Well come to find out the bus didn't get there until 10:20 am. Still not a problem, I will still get there on time. My bus arrives, I get on, and about 7-10 minutes in to the ride, I read the screen wrong and I get off of the bus way too early. Now I am waiting for the bus again, paying the fare, again, and I am late to meet my friend and her mom that so graciously allowed me to tag along with them, knowing full and well they'd have to baby sit a slightly clueless American. I am texting Mari this whole time, giving her play by play and she is trying to help me, but I finally get on my bus, go the right direction, and thought of another way to help myself, when in doubt, follow the other person that is not Japanese. I did see the sign just fine however and got off at the right stop and sure enough that is where the other non Japanese person was going. I was told by Mari, STAY PUT, we will come get you. So, I did what I was told, I learned a long time ago when someone is helping you, sometimes you need to shut up and take orders. Though after a couple of minutes when they couldn't find me, I walked to the top of the stairs to use the elevated crosswalk and luckily, because of my height, I was found. NOW, I was off on the good part of my journey, with my friend, and I didn't have to think anymore, just follow, I liked, no, LOVED, that part.  I was so nervous on using my Japanese when you are introduced to someone that I totally didn't even hear Mari's mom's name!  I was saying "Hajimemashita. Talya Desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu", at the same time she was!  We were now off to Asakusa and Harajuku.

Mari and her mom showing me the way.

Mari's mom was too kind to me, I wish there was a way I could pay her back, she completely took care of me as if I was family, I am thinking that this is what it means to be a guest sometimes and goodness knows if Mari and her mom ever came to visit me, I'd do the same for them. Both are great women. Mari and I were catching up and her mom would give us tid bits of history as we were off the Asakusa, which you get to by exiting at the Shimbashi eki, well at least we did.

There was a steam engine out where you could see it. I was amazed that the Japanese used the same trains we once did to travel across our country, but then again, why would I be? Japan, in it's own right, is huge. The bullet train from Tokyo still takes you 3 hours if you are traveling to Osaka, I'm not even going to think how long that would take by car, regardless, in Asakusa I was taken to a very famous shine. My pictures show it's glory and how big it was. Though I forgot to ask whether the shrine was an actually Shinto shrine or a Buddhist temple. (There is a difference, Shinto religion, from Japan, is the worship of multiple spirits, animal spirits as well where as Buddhism, is not.) I took pictures as we made our way to the shrine and all down the road there were shops, food, snacks, knick knacks or various sorts, even wigs, and yukata. We went up and received our blessings after a wonderful tempura lunch. I was in awe of the fact that people from all kinds of countries were there in Japan, but then again Asakusa is very famous.

The actual shrine in Asakusa
From the street you can see the up and coming Sky Tree. The Sky Tree will be opened for tourist to come and go up and see Tokyo, just like Tokyo Tower, but the Sky Tree, once opened will be taller. Though this should give T.T. a complex, I am sure people will still flock to it enough that both buildings will not be lonely.

The Sky Tree (Not yet opened)
As we head off back to the station for Harajuku, I am realizing that as far as square miles, Tokyo doesn't seem that big, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in population, making it hard, very hard to get around by car, and making the subway and train systems ideal. I notice people taking naps on the subway, and I wish I could do the same, but I was way to excited to sleep as we were now going to the famous Harajuku.

Hello, Harajuku

Harajuku, some have asked, and I am more that okay with this question, did you see the Harajuku girls?
Well, yes I did, but not many. In Japan, the day off is Sunday, so when I went, I saw a handful, maybe
5, 7 at the most. I was surprised that Harajuku wasn't all that big, or at least the shopping part. The streets were packed with people, I got very close and brushed up and bumped more people than I can
count. This doesn't bother me however, because when you don't have hardly any room to even breath, you
better know, you are gonna get close to strangers, my tip, just hold on to your purse. Back to the Harajuku girls, and boys. What I didn't know, and luckily didn't even try, is that you are not suppose to take pictures of them. Yeah, go figure, the reasoning, they'd rather hold out for the magazines that patrol Harajuku and want to snap pictures of the Lolita styled boys and girls( I mainly saw the sweet Lolita dressed girls, but there were a couple others that were dressed on the Punk Lolita side. (It is goth, get it right) Knowing the rule about the pictures, told to me by Mari, I didn't attempt to catch a shot because I respect the places that I go, I am the guest and should act like such. I was shocked by the amount of Africans in Harajuku, my main question was, how do I get to live in Japan, others make it seems so easy, but I am sure it is far from easy to get in and stay in the country. They weren't the only culture though, Indians were there as well. I was amazed, thought it was pretty neat actually. America is not on everyone's top spot of places to go to live. Harajuku had stores like H&M and Forever 21, so I stopped for some shopping, once we were down it was back to the station to head back home, well to the
hotel for me. I followed Mari and her mom back until they got off the train, we said our good byes and I made it back to my hotel just fine once I realized where it was that I was going. Which turned out to be very easy once I got the hang of it. Get to Ebisu, once at Ebisu, you head down to Hiroo, which is one stop and then I walk back to my hotel. I ate dinner, had a nice miso salmon, and I crashed. Lovely time but hard work, and I had to get plenty of rest, because Sunday was Mt. Fuji.

Good bye, Harajuku

Sayonara from the Scott!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tokyo part 1!

Tokyo ni ikimashita Part 1

Ahhh, I am back from Tokyo. Part of me is glad because Tokyo was a lot of work for me, though I had an
outstanding time, I can get back to cuddling with Hercules. He is rather happy I am back and being very
demanding of my attention. Now, it is also time to go back to school, awww. I decided to break my trip
up in to 3 parts, for the 3 full days I spent there. I will be sharing photos that I will not be posting
on facebook right away so make sure to check them out, though they are just alternative shots of the
same places ha ha.

Touchdown in Tokyo.

I arrived in Tokyo around 7:30 at the Haneda airport. Haneda is more for local travel though international flights stop through. From Haneda it was on me to head down past baggage and hop on the train. Since the taxi is around 7500 yen ($90) I opted for the train system. I wrote down long before I left that I needed to go to Shinagawa and from Shinagawa, I would take a taxi to my hotel. Of course I had no clue how much I needed to pay so I went to the information booth and took care of my fare this way. (I soon found out that when in doubt, INFORMATION BOOTH!) The ticket buying system has an English option, but without knowing where my destination was on the map, I had no clue how much to actually pay. (Though this is also not a problem if you don't pay enough, as I found out, they won't let you out if you don't pay enough.) Easy enough, now to hop on the train. I had no clue which train to take, 1 or 2, I believe either would have taken me where I needed to go but in my mind, it is now freak out time. Train 1 or train 2, well train 1 was the only one there and so I got on 1. Well, shortly after, because I am an over thinker and because a stranger kept bumping against me in a disturbing manner, I got off the train. I then realized there was no need for this and had to wait for the next train to come. Luckily, I wasn't waiting long and by looking on the local map I saw I was indeed on the right train. I made it to Shinagawa, out of the station and quickly realized unless you are actually IN the taxi line, the taxi will not pick you up. I made it to my hotel, the New Sanno, without too much trouble and felt VERY accomplished, very. I am a very smart traveler, but with a whole lot of "I'm a spaz" that traveler in me gets lost in translation.

The New Sanno is beautiful. If you are military, you must stay there. The services they offer are
worth the money, I paid $56 a night!! They make up for it though, if you eat there, you soon find out
why everything else is so cheap! (I found out my last night there, they have a food map of places to
eat at the hotel front desk.) The hotel is clean, the staff is friendly and fluent in English as well as other languages. They have service desks open during the day to help you find your way around Tokyo and I employed them every day. They really have everything you need at the New Sanno and again the service and the room made me feel like I was staying in a 5 star hotel. In my mind, it beats the Hilton hands down, though I have only stayed in Hiltons state side, not in Japan. I am sure anything accomendations in Japan trump much state side. Regardless, I truly felt the New Sanno was my home away from home. I quickly settled in, for tomorrow, I was going to the Ghibli Museum.

I was 1st introduced to Princess Mononoke and Grave of the Fireflies in high school by my then good friend, Heather Grice. This was the 1st time I was introduced to Studio Ghibli, and had no clue. I had been in love with Anime since middle school but these 2 movies were not at all my cup of tea. One was just weird and the other extremely depressing. A few years later, I saw a movie that would capture me in a way no anime had ever before, the movie was, Spirited Away. After that, if I saw that a movie was made by Studio Ghibli, I'd give it a watch, Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, and I even gave Princess Mononoke another watch. I found that more often than not, I LOVED Miyazaki-San's work. I now collect his movies and I always new that if I ever had a chance to visit Tokyo, I would visit his musuem, the Ghibli Museum. So I did.

This place had me truly smiling from ear to ear, I felt like a kid, or rather, the adult that can still get lost in a world created just for that purpose, to get lost, to see someone's imagination spark your's. My photos are limited and makes the Ghibli Museum even that much more special, because you are not allowed to take photos of inside the museum, so I keep the images I saw that day close to my heart and mind. I saw people from many places there, Europe, North America, Asia (duh) and the sights were amazing. There is even a mini theatre to see shorts created for the Ghibli Museum by Studio Ghibli. The movie playing that day was a short about a little boy who went to play after a good rain, while playing he finds a cane and goes to pick it up, but a little bunny boy had the same idea. After failing to find a clear winner in a couple feets of boy strength, the boys deside to go see the bunny boy's grandmother and find out it is in fact, her cane and the boys are rewarded with hugs for finding it. Each ticket to the musuem (That much be purchased at Lawson, if you are in Japan) gets you a little slide from one of Hayao Miyazaki's film. I received one from the movie Princess Mononoke. I left at 9:30 am just to make sure I got there for my 2:00 pm entrance time. Good thing too, because I arrived at 12:00 pm, and of course, there was a "Misadventure of Talya Hood-Scott", I arrived ALL that way, from the New Sanno to Mitaka, a good hour and a half away and saw I left my ticket to the museum at the hotel. Of course I freaked, but after talking and waiting and with the help of an awesome staff (aka my knight in blue armor)
 I was able to get in the museum. Luckily, I know what my name looks like in kanji as well as knowing my 11 digit Japanese telephone number. The musuem was packed and shopping for things to bring home was almost too much to handle. I did score a very special music "box" if you will. Modeled after the character, Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, he is a magical, dashing cat figurine that comes to life in, "The Cat Returns". Played by Cary Elwes in the American movies staring the Baron, (Also in "Whisper of the Heart.), the Baron is one of my favorite characters, so I had to have this special item, no matter what. Another highlight of my trip to the museum was being able to sit in THE cat bus. If you ever have seen "My Neighbor Totoro" you don't even need to ask. For those who don't know, the cat bus is the magical transportation called upon by Totoro to take Satsuki to find her lost sister, Mei. The cat bus was
amazing, with scenes from the movie outside his "windows". He was soft and inviting, exactly what I would imagine him to be if he were in fact real.
       I didn't bother eating there, I just waited to get back to the hotel. I did have a snack, Japanese pear ice cream, more like sorbet. While I waited for my time to enter, after all I did get there 2 hours early, I walked around the park the Ghibli Museum is nestled in, got ate up my some hungry mosquitos, and had a friendly, or angry Japanese man come talk to me. He spoke only Japanese and asked if I was American. I understood this much only, after telling him "Hai, so desu" (Yes, that's right), he then asked me where in America, I only understood the "Doko" and "Amerika". I told him "Tennessee" and he seemed to understand this and either wished me well or told me to a kite...I'd like to think he wished me well as he biked off on to the trails. I ate a rice ball at Lawson, was called "kawaii" by some chreepy old man, and I attempted to buy another ticket, but they were sold out, and it turns out, there was no need anyways, as they found my reserved spot. I did not walk to the museum from the Mitaka station, as I figured I would get lost, so I bought a special ticket for the Ghibli Museum bus.

 My trip was over after I saw EVERYTHING in the museum and I decided to head back around 4:30 pm.
Believe by the time I got back to the hotel at about 6:30, I was so tired.

I was told by another American in my class that the Japanese will help you, they love to help foreign
people, and I found this to be slightly true. My classmate made it seem that they would be very curious
about me, talking to me, but only 3 people spoke to me, that I didn't know, the whole time I was there,
and it was only the one day I was completely by myself. I am okay with this, though I did stick out as
I was rather tall, I didn't want to attract too much attention, as they teach us not to in the military.
I did receive glances, but of course, I was looking too, and I felt very safe. My 1st thought was that
Tokyo was cleaner than Okinawa, though Tokyo had some smells that I was none too pleased with and I learned very quickly Okinawa is nothing like the mainland when it comes to being Japan, but of course, Okinawa is not Japan, only by law, so I can understand the differences. I would totally go back to Tokyo by myself, though like any big city, there are dangers too.

Next up, my day at Asakusa with my good friend Mari and her mother, but for now, Sayonara from the Scott!

A side story about the Baron in his first movie, "Whisper of the Heart": A grandfather onces traveled
to Germany to attend college and there met a beautiful woman and they fell in love. One day while
shopping, the couple stopped at a cafe where the Baron and the Baroness had caught their eyes. The 2 cat figurine's eyes were made out of stunning jewels that glittered in the light. The, at the time, young grandfather, decided to purchase the Baron one day, but the cafe owner could not sell the Baron. You see, the Baroness was in another shop receiving repairs and the cafe owner would never split them up, they were only to be sold as a pair. The beautiful woman, Louise, told her Japanese boyfriend, who was to leave Germany very soon, that she would buy the Baroness once she returned and keep her until he returned to Germany to be with her once again and both her love and the shop keeper were fine with this option. The grandfather promised, that once he returned, they would be togehter. After the man left with the Baron, and made it back to Japan, war soon broke out, he made good on his promise and returned to Germany years later, after the war, but the cafe was gone, and Louise was no where to be found.