Wednesday, February 27, 2013


One of our favorite Japanese treats is Pizza-La.  

The large is about the size of an American medium.  And the price is pretty stiff - about $40 for a large.  But the toppings can definitely be an adventure (the pizza above was a cheese and honey.  As weird as that sounds, it was really tasty).  Although there's a menu in English, don't take the translations too literally.  Mayo, for example, isn't the sweet stuff Americans are used to.  Instead it's a savory sauce made with miso.

They do deliver and there is a way to order online, but my Japanese isn't good enough to navigate through all that.  Instead we go to the restaurant and order in person.  (We use the Uruma City store, which is down the 75 just past the 36 intersection (the one with the big, yellow Jeans Shop).  Here's a map.  The Pizza-La website does have a list of locations around Okinawa but you will need to know the neighborhood nearest you.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Little difference: call buttons

Japan has a brilliant system - the restaurant call button!

Just push the button to let the waiter know you need something.  No hovering waiters with corny jokes while you're trying to eat, no waiting for a refill or the check.  I love it!

(btw, if you've ever wondered what the server is saying when approaching the table: "Shitsurei shimasu."  The phrase is used like "Pardon me" but literally means "I will behave rudely.")

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Okinawa 10k and Comprehensive Park

Last weekend was a lot of fun!  We went to packet pick up Saturday afternoon and spent the rest of the day walking around Comprehensive Park.  Although I've wanted to take the boys to this park before, I've just never gotten around to it.

Comprehensive Park had jogging and bike trails, large fields and several courts.  Besides the water park, there was a large canal and a play area with fountains (signs were posted saying "Don't drink the water" in Japanese, so I assume at some point there must be water).

Summer fountains?
Eventually we made our way around the park to the playgrounds.  (The name of the playground area is ちびっこ広場 (Chibikko Hiroba), which translates as Ankle-biter Square or Rugrat Square.  Cracks me up!)  We went to the playground for younger children but older kids had several large areas too.

Playground for toddlers

Play structure for older children

Over at the ponds, the boys loved watching the carp and turtles.  I believe paddle boats could be rented too but we had already spent several hours exploring park and the boys were getting crabby.

Bridge to the islands in the pond

My plan for race day was to do the 10k this year as a practice run for next year's marathon.  Sunday morning we parked at Aeon in Gushikawa around 7:45 and there was still plenty of spaces open.  The shuttle bus got us to the stadium by 8:15.  Easy peasy!  The boys grabbed some breakfast from one of the food stands and we settled down to wait for the 10k.  The marathon started at 9 with a little fireworks show.  Then it was my turn at 9:30.

The course was mostly flat but I had a lot of trouble settling into my own pace.  Like Ayahashi, this race was packed.  I wasn't able to really pass anyone until after the 2km mark and the rest of the race was a lot of weaving in and out of traffic jams.  I've pretty much given up on setting a goal time for these races and will just run for fun.

Race shirt and 10k finisher's medal

I felt so bad for the marathoners!  Although the weather was fairly cool and cloudy for the 10k, the sun came out and the temp soared later in the morning.  We live near McT, which I think is around mile 9 on the course, and we got home around noon.  Even with the course open to traffic, there was still a steady flow of runners - and they looked miserable!  The heat definitely took its toll.  I hope they were able to finish and get their medal.

Crossing my fingers for better weather next year.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Setsubun and Lunar New Year

We've been busy little bees out adventuring and celebrating.  The good side of that is lots of fun with the boys; the down side is not a lot of time to blog.

We had fun with Setsubun (the Japanese holiday marking the first day of spring).  We got our mask and bean set at Aeon (they had a big display by the bakery).  Chris was "too busy" to let us throw beans at him, so the boys and I took turns wearing the oni mask and chasing each other around.

Demon Isaac

Soy beans

For Lunar New Year, I decorated the tatami room and I tried out some new recipes.  The spring rolls and wontons were yummy, the celery salad not so much.  The boys were in an antsy mood, so I only got a couple of pictures.  After dinner, we did some small fireworks and ate fortune cookies.

Isaac more interested in the dragon than me

We didn't do much for Valentine's.  In fact, we actually went out to eat at Obbligato (their chimichangas are amazing but not exactly romantic).  I made an angel food cake with strawberries for dessert and that was about it.  Low key can be a nice change sometimes.

Alrighty, I've got the Okinawa 10k in the morning so it's bed time for me.  Good luck to all the marathoners tomorrow!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ocean Expo Park and the International Orchid Expo

Last Saturday I needed to pick up my Nago Half race packet (I could have waited until race morning but I hate leaving everything until the last minute).  Driving all the way to Nago just to pick up my bib seemed like a wasted trip.  The cherry blossoms still didn't look more than 50%, so we found ourselves back at Ocean Expo Park.* 

Because our last trip focused on the aquarium, I wanted to visit the Tropical Dream Center.  But after stopping in the Native Okinawa Village area, we could tell the boys were getting bored and we decided to go watch the animals instead.

Native Okinawa Village

The Central Gate area was full of flowers for International Orchid Expo.  Very colorful!

Fountain Plaza

Flower displays


Watching the turtles

I think I've also solved my bone mystery.  After seeing the sea turtles up close, I'm pretty sure the bones and body we saw at the beach came from a turtle.  (Still a little creepy with the Japanese words for bone (hone,骨) and boat (hune, 船) being so similar though.)

* Although I probably should have been at home resting for the half, I wasn't worried about finishing the race or trying for any sort of goal time.  Having fun with my guys was more important than spending another day bored at home.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Nago Half Marathon

Last Sunday was the Nago Half!

My training was no where near what it should be, so my goal was just to finish.  (I crammed at least 5 months of training into 13 weeks.  Plus, I had a nasty allergic reaction right before my 10 miler, which means my longest run was only 8 miles.)

Sunday morning we left our house near McT around 6:40am, arrived in Nago around 7:20 (I think), and luckily we got one of the last parking spaces at 21st Century Forest Park (there weren't any signs or volunteers telling you where to park, and no shuttle buses).  I made one last frantic trip to the potty as the 10k started at 9, and then it was go time for the half.

My "wtf am I doing" face


Away we go

Mission accomplished!

Overall, I'm not sure if I'll do this race again next year.  The hills weren't bad for Okinawa (but the big hill around mile 10 was pretty rough on me.  Here's the elevation chart).  The scenery was average (a few great views and some boring sections of just shopping centers and pachinko parlors).  The crowd support was amazing!  So many people out cheering and handing out ice packs, candy and drinks.  But the official water stations only served water, no sports drinks or snacks.  Sections of the course were not closed to traffic (definitely glad I skipped using my iPod).  No finisher medals, no honeybuckets (just two bathrooms at the stadium with squat toilets).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Back to Bios on the Hill

Another trip I've wanted to do again is Bios on the Hill.  Last time we went the weather was rainy, Isaac wasn't walking yet, and Chris was in Thailand.  Nice weather and Dad home to play with the boys made for a great re-do!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pink flowers

One of the funny things from our trip to Agena park, we found pink plastic flowers from a local car lot attached to a tree on the top of the castle.

Now whenever I look out our window at the castle, all I can see is the pink flowers!

How did I not notice that before??