Saturday, April 28, 2012

Koi nobori

We finally got our Boys' Day banners hung up!

The boys helping me get the koi ready

Now I'm just hoping that I interpreted the instructions correctly and we don't have a catastrophic koi collapse  lol

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ishiganto stones

Seems one of the first things you learn about Okinawa is the meaning of the shisa guard dogs.  But a lesser known talisman is the 石敢當 sign.

The view pulling into our neighborhood

As I've been running out in town, I've noticed lots of little stone plaques inscribed with 石敢當 (ishiganto).  At first I thought, wow, a lot of Okinawan families have the same last name.  (Instead of displaying an address number, most Japanese homes will display the family name.  The Japanese address system can be very confusing (for example, there's two neighborhoods called 西原 (one's pronounced Iribaru, the other is Nishihara), so letting visitors know they've found the right house by identifying the family name is important.)

Ishiganto on the left, the family name plate on the right

Then in Makeman's garden area, I noticed a separate display for the ishiganto stones and name stones.  Come to find out, the ishiganto stones are placed where roads end in a T or splits to keep evil spirits from entering the house.

Always learning something new!

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Japanese bathroom - part 1

The Japanese love being clean!  While American homes have a single room for the toilet, shower/tub, toothbrushes, medicine, ect, Japanese homes typically separate these into two or more room.  In our home, we have one room for the toilet and a small hand washing sink.  Near the washer and dryer we have a large sink for brushing our teeth and cabinets for storing clean towels and medicine.  And finally we have the actual bath room.  

From my understanding, Japanese typically bathe at night before bed.  (Makes sense to wash off all the dirt from the day before settling into your nice, clean sheets.)  I usually join the boys as part of our bedtime routine.  

Getting ready for the mayhem
First step, getting clean.  I sit on the small stool while the boys play with their bath toys - they absolutely love having an entire room to splash in!  We take a shower with our hand-held nozzle, making sure to have the soap and dirt completely rinsed off.  (I got our bath accessories from Aeon in American Village, but I've seen cute sets at Nitori too.  The blue bath mats are cushy in case Isaac slips on the tile.)  

Part two - relaxing! 

While this part isn't necessary (we only do it once or twice a week if we have time), it is very nice!  I believe the "proper" thing to do is fill the tub with enough water to cover the body from the neck down.  But the tub is deep enough that the boys could use it as a swimming pool, so I only fill it about halfway.  Also, the hot water helps heat up the room in winter.

Definitely going to miss our Japanese bath when we PCS.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Autism Awareness 5k

Saturday morning had us out for another 5k.  (Definitely loving the number of races on Okinawa!)

At the start of the run, I decided it was time for a little punishment, Prefontaine style.  I've been annoyed at myself for missing so many work outs since the Ayahashi 10k (my mileage last week was a whopping 8).  

I guess I should run angry more often.  I finished in 27:39 - 3 minutes off my last 5k and only 26 seconds off my PR!

Owen watching me cross the finish line

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The sweet potato man

Every few weeks or so, a little singing truck makes its way through our neighborhood.  All I could understand from the song was おいしい (oishii - delicious), so I assumed it was an advertisement for a shop or restaurant.   (Around election time, vans will come around blaring ads about local candidates.  Seemed logical to think other Japanese vendors would advertise the same way as politicians.)

Then a few weeks ago, Owen wanted to see the truck as it drove by (he's currently obsessed with all things on wheels).  That's when I noticed いしやきいも (ishiyakiimo) on the side of the truck.  A quick google search revealed he's actually selling stone-baked sweet potatoes.  Like an ice cream truck for yams!

We've been waiting and waiting for the yaki-imo man to come back around.  Finally!  This afternoon we heard the singing.  The boys and I got our shoes, grabbed some yen and hurried down to the street.  Owen was extremely excited!  I couldn't understand everything the vendor was saying, but with some smiling and nodding we got two good sized potatoes for 500 yen.  He put them in a little paper bag for us and we took them back to the house.

Owen digging into his yaki-imo

I think the sweet potatoes are meant to be eaten as is, instead the American way of smothered with butter, sugar, cinnamon, marshmallows.  The boys loved it (Owen attacked my plate for more!)  Personally, I liked the yakiimo better with a little bit of salt, but it was very tasty and we'll definitely be back for more.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Creepy crawlies

Ever casually look over at your wall and see a facehugger?

Yeah, not a pleasant moment.

But come to find out these little guys are just Huntsman spiders.  Apparently (and I'm putting a lot of faith in the interwebs to not be full of shit), they don't bite people and are otherwise perfectly harmless.  These gigantic brown spiders do seem to be pretty chillax, but still not something I'm going to miss about Okinawa.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

I'm always amused by our unique crossroads between our deeply conservative friends and the outrageously liberal ones (and a little bit of everything in between).  So no matter if you celebrate fertility and the rebirth of spring or praise your savior and the end of Lent - hope everyone enjoyed the weekend (and maybe a bite of chocolate bunny or two!)

A happy Isaac opening Grandma's Easter baskets

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tide pools at Courtney Beach

After our 5 mile run, I knew the boys needed to get out of the house and get some Daddy time.  We grabbed a quick lunch from Taco Bell (nothing says glad I worked out for the last hour like canceling it out with a burrito) and headed down to Courtney Beach.

We were just in time for low tide!

Owen being brave (for some strange reason, he wanted nothing to do with the water)

Little green crab hiding in the seaweed

Little fishies were zipping around the rocks

Definitely a wonderful afternoon with the Hubby and the boys!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Zombies in Oki!

Just heard about a new race coming to Kadena:

The Running Dead 5k
It's on a Friday at 5pm, so not sure if Chris will be able to make it or not.  But what a fun date to see if you can survive a zombie attack together!

I'm even thinking of dressing up.  Hoping Chris has an old pair of cammie pants I can turn into a running skirt.

Survivor costume inspiration

Good thing I've got my zombie apocalypse playlist ready to roll!

UPDATE:  Since I see some traffic looking for the age requirements for The Running Dead 5k, from the race's website "due to the physical nature of the obstacles, we have to limit it to 16 and up only".  Strollers are allowed at your own risk (again, this is an obstacle course with people dressed up as zombies attacking you - thinking this might be a good time to splurge on a sitter) and runners who do not complete the obstacles are not eligible for prizes/awards. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Last Saturday, the family woke up early and got ready for a fun day in the sun.  We put on some comfy shoes and headed out for the March for Babies walk.  We were almost to Kadena when a big, nasty storm rolled in.

We waited but the weather didn't clear.  Normally I'm not one to ditch out just because of bad weather, but a double jogger with a rain cover = one big wind sail and I didn't want the boys getting blown around.  So we headed over to American Village for donuts then playing at Mihama Kid's.  While we were waiting for Mister Donut to open, we walked around Aeon's super market.  

The first thing we smelled - a wonderful bakery!  They also had a nice produce section - a little spendy but everything looked delicious.  I made a mental note of the Okinawan goat cheese.  Then we spotted the fish section - so much better than the sad little frozen packages at the commissary!

Today we headed back and picked up a few treats:

Yummy salmon!

Although most of the salmon (サーモン) was sliced into small pieces (I'm guessing for sashimi and sushi), we picked up a couple fillets.

The majority of the meat section was different fish, both whole and sliced.  Owen had fun seeing いか (ika - squid), えび (ebi - shrimp), and たこ (tako - octopus).  I'm not sure what kind of fish/sauce this is (haven't heard of a hokke before), but it looked good so I figured why not.

Mystery meat

I also got my goat cheese:

I let Owen pick out a few packages of cheese too.  So far, I've figured out that the little pink one has iron (Fe) added and the blue is a cream cheese.  Tomorrow I'm toasting up some sourdough and having a little taste tasting.  The round one from Kraft says that it's blueberry cheese cake (チーズケーキ) and I looked up Petit Gateau (a chocolate cake), but this doesn't seem to be an actual cake.  I'm going to try spreading it on some toast at breakfast, maybe that'll be better than just eating it alone.

For dinner, we prepared the salmon in our broiler.  I definitely over-cooked it (next time I'm thinking just a few minutes on each side).  Although we'd like to try a more Japanese recipe soon (maybe something like this), tonight we topped the salmon off with our favorite beurre blanc sauce and dill.

UPDATE:  by the time I confirmed that hokke (ほっけ) is the atka mackerel, I wasn't feeling that adventurous and ended up throwing the fish away.  Maybe next time.

The Okinawan goat cheese was more like a brie than chevre or feta.  It had a soft rind and a strong flavor.  I'm not a fan of heavy brie cheeses (or the nearly 1600 yen price tag), so I won't be getting it again.

The other cheeses: Hubby agreed that the Kraft "cheese cake" was just blueberry cream cheese.  Not bad on something like a bagel, but not so much just for nibbling on.  The smoked baby cheese was not good (fake flavor, weird texture) and the iron fortified cheese wasn't much better.  The Snow Brand baby cheese (雪印ベビーチーズ) was actually pretty tasty.

Also, I hate it when I come across blog posts about new adventures and no practical instructions (eg maps, directions, links to websites, ect).  But I always seem to get turned around and lost in American Village, so I don't want to lead anyone astray with my poor driving skills.  The Aeon is just off 58 near Camp Lester (this is a map to the Starbucks inside the Aeon mall).  The super market is on the first floor (if you enter near the Starbucks, the super market is to the left).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Some pics from Ayahashi

From Jim Blankemeier Photography:

Was not kidding about the race being crowded

I need to smile more when I run

Official photos here:  (Log-in/password (ログイン/パスワード) is 2aya.  Don't forget the capcha (セキュリティコード))

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ayahashi 10k

This morning was my first Japanese race!  Uruma City's Ayahashi 10k ( あやはし海中ロードレース大会).

Today was so much fun and there's so much to re-cap, so I'll just start at the beginning and ramble from there.

I picked up my packet yesterday.  Thankfully, the diving directions were super simple coming from McT/Courtney - I just took the 8 and followed the road signs for Kenza Island (a left onto the 37).  At the bridge, I turned right and took a left at the following light (there was a big sign for packet pick up in English and Japanese).  I was able to park right in front of the building (there was another parking lot across the street too) and get my t-shirt and bib without any problems (but there was a table set up specifically for English speakers).

I was extremely nervous this morning!  I had heard that parking might be a problem on race day (there were over 10,000 people registered), so I left around 7am and stopped at the first parking lot I saw.  I kept warm in my car, read some magazines, ate a little breakfast, used the bathroom*, and eventually made my way to the shuttle bus stop (シャトルバス).  I still arrived at the stadium with plenty of time to spare before the half marathon start.  (Post-race I saw that parking and driving near the stadium was very chaotic!  Glad I decided to park further out.)

Very important:  remember the name of your shuttle bus (there was a piece of paper on the front windshield with kanji written on it.  At the time, I didn't know that the kanji was the name of my parking lot).  After the race, I made my way over to the shuttle bus stop.  Then I realized that there were shuttle buses for each of the different parking lots.  I had to make an educated guess at which shuttle bus would take me back to the right parking lot.

There was no bag check common at large American races.  Instead, I saw a lot of Okinawans simply leave their bags in the stadium.  I was sitting by a wall waiting for the opening ceremony to end.  A man walked up next to me, set down his backpack, did a few stretches then just walked off to join the half marathon start.  By the time the 10k started, bags were all over the place.

The race atmosphere was like one big party!  People were dressed up in costumes.  Lots of families were there to cheer on runners.  They had little picnics set up with tarps on the ground and tents overhead.  There were also plenty of booths selling food - everything from cotton candy to drinks and bananas.  The park next to the stadium had a roller slide too, so next year I'll definitely have Chris bring the boys down.  (The shuttle bus was packed, there's no way something bigger than an umbrella stroller would have fit.  Glad I opted to leave the boys - and my jogging stroller - at home this time.)

After watching some Eisa dancers (they even did a routine to "Beat It"!!), it was time for the 10k.  We lined up at the far side of the stadium and away we went!  (All the announcements were in Japanese, but it wasn't hard to figure out what was going on.)

The race was crowded!  It was hard getting into a steady groove with so many people around.  I've been in big races before (like Rock'n'Roll Virginia Beach and the Disney Marathon), but those usually thinned out after the first few miles and you eventually get enough road to run your own pace comfortably.  This race was crowded start to finish.  Nice because you're always passing people (ego boost!) but it can get a little claustrophobic at times.

The course for the 10k was a simple out and back.  There were two "hills" at the bridges (nothing major) and four water stations (cool sponges, cups with water, and various spectators handing out goodies).  The 10k was a "trim marathon" - at sign up you guess your finish time and the closest person to that time is the winner.  I've heard of a couple races like this in Eugene, but definitely not a popular race format in the US.  (I did see plenty of people with headphones in and even some with watches on, so not sure how strictly the rules of the trim marathon are enforced.  I even saw a few of American women with jogging strollers, but that seemed to be frowned upon in the 10k.  I heard the 3.8k is a more of a kids and families run.)

I ran my heart out.  My pace was slow in the beginning, but I crossed the finish line knowing I gave it everything I had.  Then we got our finisher's sheet printed out and my time was 1:05:52.  What the fucking fuckity fuck fuck.  I walked so often and was so tired during the Tengan 10k and finished in 1:06:45.  I was hard-charging today and took off less than a minute??  And I ran a 4 miler with the jogging stroller - even walking up some of the hills and waiting at crosswalks - in 43 minutes last week, so I know I should be able to do better.  Even if they're using gun time instead of chip time, I know I was no where near my goal of 1:00 (and I would have been happy to see 1:02 given my recent 5k times).  Extremely disappointing.

But what's done is done.  I still had a good time and got some sun.  I'm definitely looking forward to running this half marathon next year.

* (トレイ (toire) or お手洗い (otearai) are the common words for bathroom.  女 (female) and 男 (male) are also helpful to remember.  And seriously, I'm going to be so spoiled by the nice public restrooms here (I'm talking heated seats, y'all!) that I may never want to poop in America again!)