Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's a Big Deal

Fall in Japan is a big deal.  Just like many American's flock to the New England area to see the maples turn in October, the Japanese have their spots for Fall foliage viewing.  I think the consensus this year is that the colors aren't that vibrant.  It's been warm here for a lot longer than "normal", whatever that is any more.  I'll take the warmth, myself.  They definitely celebrate the turning of the leaves.  There are festivals and "illuminations" of the trees at night.  I haven't been able to see that yet, but I'm sure it's beautiful.  I have been back to Tokugawaen Garden recently and took some more photos.  

It was very tricky to get pictures without people in them.  The garden had a lot of activity that day. This mom was trying to get photos of her little girl in her kimono for a special occasion.  Last time I was there, a professional photographer was taking pictures of a beautiful young woman in her kimono, too.  I think it's a beautiful place for photographs. All the beautiful trees in this garden were Japanese Maples which are also a favorite in American gardens.  They are typically small trees with delicate, lacey leaves. If you do a Google search for Japanese maple you will see how many beautiful colors they come in and also find this wikipedia information.  They are wonderful in the typically sized American yard and provide a lot of unique interest. They are probably not happy in my Southern California area, however.  

Yesterday I went on a tour to see ginkgo trees in all their Fall glory.  A few dahlias and camellias joined in.  

These dahlias got a little help from editing to really shine. It was a gloomy day. Did you know that ginkgo trees have edible nuts? I had one and it seemed a cross between a nut and fruit to me. It had a pistachio nut type shell, but the actual nut was softer. If you've heard about the smell of ginkgo trees, you would have heard correctly. The area we went to was obviously an area where they "farm" the nuts as there were fields of trees. The smell was pretty awful. Evidently it is from the nuts. 

I found a couple of articles on ginkgo nuts, here and here.  From what I read, you need to handle them with gloves and eat them sparingly.  I hope you've enjoyed a little Fall color, especially if you already have snow on the ground!!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"I just wanted to be sure of you"

FRIEND:  A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection. 

Someone asked me recently why my photos don't include Japanese friends.  Hopefully, someday they will.  I have learned that it is very difficult to build relationships when you can barely communicate.  I cannot speak Japanese yet, short of hello, goodbye, thank you, I'm sorry, etc. Many Japanese, while they learned English in school, are not also not comfortable in a conversation.  They know similar words in English that I know in Japanese.  It doesn't make for very in-depth conversation.  

For now I am relying on my new expat friends.  Relying heavily in some instances.  My husband is already traveling quite a bit.  In fact, he is in Brazil this week and Argentina next week.  Several of the ladies here have really extended the hand of friendship to me.  I've learned that I don't do well as a loner.  I'm an extrovert.  No doubt about it.  I need people, big time.  

I just thought I'd add a funny photo of my first squatty potty experience.  I REALLY didn't want to try this.  But, sometimes you've got to get with the program, so to speak.

We both conquered the use of the "self-serve" line in this grocery store.  
Thankfully it had an "english" button.
My new friends took me to a thrift store.  And they don't even know me well yet!  I might've jumped at the chance. That was probably a clue.  I bought the beautiful china plates below and the game board they are sitting on.  I really want to go back, but really don't have room for much.  

Another friend took me to Costco, which was such a help.  This is both of our stuff combined, by the way.  I don't even have a membership and she let me go with her.  Which was very generous.  Then she drove me home and helped me unload!  Which is not simple, since I live in the city in an apartment on the 12th floor.  
I have had A LOT of dining opportunities.  Above is my first Indian meal. 
And first for sitting on the floor.  
This was Japanese BBQ.  Most of it was delicious. ;-)

Expat's tend to recognize each other immediately in Japan.  Only 1% of the people in Japan are not Japanese.  So, we really stick out.  This beautiful family was from Norway.  Their little girls were Karen, Maria and Julia. 

Elizabeth and I met when we both tried to pass the driving test.  We both failed.  Here are her boys, Aiden and Robin.  Such a sweet family.  Since then she has passed and I have my second test tomorrow.  I'm trying not to stress about it.  I won't try again, if I fail it this time.  All done.

 Blurry but funny.

These last two pictures are of my close friends in Southern California.  They made a "flat Karen" and took me antiquing with them.  I think we did a few other things together too.  I was told that I created quite a scene.  Silly girls.  I love and miss them a lot.  

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.  
"Pooh!" he whispered. 
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw.  
"I just wanted to be sure of you.

Friends are the best!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Our Home Away from Home

Our apartment is starting to feel like home.  We have learned that different companies have different systems for their expats.  Many people I know here arrived with only what they could fit into suitcases and bought everything they needed once they got here.  Some people moved all of their home furniture to Japan.  Obviously, probably only what they needed, since homes are smaller here than in the US.  A couple of friends got rid of pretty much everything they owned, brought the essentials and bought the rest here.  Some people get an allowance and what they don't spend, they get in the end when they return home.  We get an allowance for rental furniture and shipping.  We chose to ship our own furniture here to Japan.  Some of the larger items we are renting.  
We are renting a washer/dryer, refrigerator, sofa, recliner, table and chairs, bed and living room drapes.  
This chair is very comfortable.

We also received a set of linens when we arrived.  That included a bottom sheet and a duvet with a heavy down comforter inside.  No top sheet. No towels.  We had to hurry and buy those.
Our sea shipment made its way from Los Angeles to Nagoya, Japan, ever so slowly.

First our air shipment arrived with the rest of our clothes which were very welcome.
Not enough closet space at first.
 Finally our sea shipment arrives!

 The second bedroom will be the craft/office/exercise room.  
A few things didn't work very well.  Our soft mattress pad is too small for the Japanese "queen" size bed.  Our coffee table is too tall for the low Japanese sofa.  My Calaphon pans don't work on the induction stove top and my dinner plates don't fit into the tiny dishwasher.  

 I decided to take the legs off of our ugly ottoman and use it for the coffee table. I had plans to cover it already.

 The bedside tables are a little tall for the low Japanese bed.  I also cannot hang anything on these walls.  I knew this before we left California.  I wanted some pictures anyway and planned on leaning them on the bookshelves, etc.
 We closed one of the slider doors and are using it as a wall for our dressers.
This looks sort of lonely here, but it works very well.  I based the colors of the apartment off of the front door (bright green) the bathroom door (bright yellow) and this distressed TV cabinet that has aqua shades in it.
I didn't plan on bringing this glass greenhouse, but realized that it had gotten packed and shipped.  I'm amazed that it arrived unbroken.  So, now it sits on our coffee table, turned sofa table.  I'm going to buy a plant to put inside one of these days.
My Target rug works really well and the linen I already purchased probably a couple of years ago to cover this ottoman has a gold tone to it.  I'm going to sew a slipcover for it and plan on getting that done next week.  

I planned on using these IKEA bookshelves along this wall, for storage of books, etc.  One main reason was to put pictures here.  There are hooks along the ceiling on this wall that I can hang pictures from.  We finally found and bought the wire systems they use to hang pictures.  I'm going to try it out soon.  I will still have some leaning.  The two center pictures are new from Hobby Lobby with their 50% off sale.
 This is my little craft area in the second bedroom.  I was regretting bringing it all while I was unpacking, but amazingly have found a place for everything.  My husband has a table with his computer and printer.  This room also has a stationary bike and rolling cart for more closet space.

 He was happy that his binoculars arrived.  It wouldn't be our house without a telescope or binoculars in the window.
 We also finally found light bulbs which we were so thankful to finally get.  It made a huge difference in how the apartment feels.  More like a home and less like an office building in our opinion.
Well, I hope you have a better feel for our apartment now.  I'm sure things will continue to evolve, but we are happy with how it's coming together.  It feels like our home.


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