Friday, July 30, 2010

When you are down, you’re down, when you are up, you’re up!

I guess if things didn’t keep happening to the Holmans, there would be nothing to write about!

I am very saddened to admit that we lost our Japanese home. L We will now be moving on base instead. This is not something that Nick and I are happy about, but we both know that everything happens for a reason and God has a purpose!

It all started Wednesday….

Nick came home from work (after midnight) to tell me the first bit of “good” news. Guess what? The very thing we had been anticipating finally came knocking on our door….Nick was deploying! Like within days!

Well when it rains, it pours. After trying to get used to the idea that this was going to happen whether I liked it or not, I was at least comforted by the idea that we would be moving into our new home in 2 days and our things would arrive in a few weeks!

The next morning we went to the household goods office to check on our stuff that was being shipped from the States. The man at the office tells us that no, in fact our stuff has still not been taken out of storage and started it’s journey to Japan! Excuse me? Can you repeat that? It is not going to be leaving the warehouse until August 15th! Oh, ok, that makes us feel better….NOT!

After a good hour at the household goods office, we left a little more than ticked off at the realization that our stuff wasn’t on it’s way yet, and there was NOTHING we could do about it! (Yes, Nick did ask several times who he could contact to complain…the man we spoke to just said that because it was the military’s fault and not the moving company, there was nothing we could do and no one we could say anything to! Great!)

Leaving there and going to housing in the state we were in, might not have been a good idea…nonetheless, we showed up at housing at the time we were asked to, in order to fill out paperwork and pick up the keys to our new house! We met with the counselor in housing who deals with off-base housing residents, and she handed us the paperwork we were to look over and sign.

The problem occurred when Nick looked at the sheet with the total on it and it had been changed from it’s original price. He asks the counselor why the price had changed and she pulls out our lease, which we had signed a week prior and shows us where the total had been scratched out and written below it with a new total. Of course, we were a bit confused by this. Apparently the landlord had come in the office that morning and been made aware of a “mistake” in the total, then the housing lady and landlord made the changes to the lease we had already signed. Hello, maybe they do that in Japan, but in the States, you can’t change something once it has been signed!!! That is completely unethical and illegal! Nick therefore refuses to sign and/or pay the extra amount! The counselor gets pissed (pardon, but she did…like steam was coming out of her ears!) and keeps repeating herself, trying to explain why it was ok for her to make changes…well it wasn’t! She then calls the landlord of the house we were supposed to move in to and starts going off in Japanese! (If only we knew what she said!!!) She then gets off the phone and says, “well, the landlord apologizes, but says you can either pay the extra money or find another house!” Ok, so glad we cleared that up!

Nick still refuses to sign and tells the counselor that he needs to have time to think about it. We leave and Nick calls the JAG (military lawyer) on base and asks his opinion on the matter. The JAG advices him to talk to the man in charge of the housing office. We then go back in housing and ask to speak to the boss man, and were told to have a seat and wait while he finished a phone call. After a few minutes the counselor whom we had the discussion (argument) with walks by and says, oh, are you back to sign the lease? Nick says, “no, I just want to get a question answered first.” She goes, “excuse me, do you mean my boss?” She then storms off, saying that she needs to talk to him first! At that moment, the boss walks out of his office, and calls us in! The counselor tells her side, we tell ours, the boss asks the counselor to leave and he shuts his door to speak to us in private! He is furious that this could have happened and agrees with us that the situation is not right! He tells us to leave so he can clear the mess up, but to come back in a couple of hours to settle everything. (Just a guess, but I think the counselor got mad because we went above her head!!!)

When Nick and I get back, the boss says, “I have some bad news, they don’t want to rent to you anymore!” WOW…thanks a lot! All because of their mistake, suddenly we have to pay for it!?! He says, “look, you don’t want to rent from them anyway if this is how they are going to be.” He tells us that while we were gone, the counselor made another phone call to the landlord and said God only knows in Japanese about us. He told us that he didn’t know exactly what was said, but it wasn’t very pleasant!

Ughhh! The language barrier is no fun!!! This situation was completely frustrating and out of our hands! It wasn’t fair that they could just change a document without telling us first, and had we gone along with it, it very well may have happened again! We weren’t ok, with letting something like that just slide under the table. However, standing up for ourselves, cost us the house in the end!

Lesson learned, do not question the Japanese!

The boss felt so sorry for us that he offered us a deal. He tells us we can move into a 3-bedroom townhouse on base the next week and be done with off-base housing. Nick and I didn’t want the offer, we were set on living off-base. But the boss told us that we would be looking at living in the Navy Lodge at least another month, while we go through the same ordeal we just experienced, looking for a house, waiting for it to pass inspection and then having to set up another move-in! He told us that the on-base house was ready for us to move into immediately and we were crazy not to accept!

We were able to look at the townhouse today, and it was very nice! As an O-2 (Nick’s rank) we are only eligible for a 2-bedroom townhouse. The townhouse that they are letting us live in (due to our bizarre situation) is a 3-bedroom and is only available for senior officers or families of 2 or more children. It has 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a fenced in backyard, it’s two story, has covered parking, covered front patio, extra storage closet outside and under the stairs, and is plenty big enough for us. The problem was, we had our hearts set on living in a Japanese-style home!

The boss tells us that because we would be living in a place above our pay-grade, he would actually pay for our move if we decided at any point to move out in town! So, despite the stinky situation…the ups and downs of it all…we have really been blessed. It might not be ideally what we wanted, but it’s a situation we couldn’t pass up! With Nick leaving, it made sense to get me settled into a place. He will be more at ease leaving me on-base, next to so many other wives, than out in town, with an empty house and no dog! It will give us time to look at more houses off-base and wait for the “right” one to open up! This way, we won’t be rushed, because we will already be in a house, and can therefore take our time looking! (And by that time, Beretta will be here as will our furniture)

Yes, Nick is being deployed soon, yes our furniture won’t arrive for another month and a half, and yes we won’t be moving out in town as soon as we had hoped…but we have to be thankful for what we have and know that God has other plans…for now, it seems those plans are for us to live on base!

Liberty Lane, here we come!

(I apologize for the lengthy dialogue. Rather than answering a million questions and having to tell the story to multiple people, it was easiest for me to simply explain it on here and be done with it!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A few firsts…

Last week I got to tutor my first Japanese “student.” Her name is Kyoko and I will meet with her once a month for 2 hours to help her with her conversational English. Kyoko is an English teacher herself (ironically), but wants help with her English so that she is teaching her students correctly. She is good at speaking English for a Japanese person, but there are things she is not perfect at and wants to be!

For instance, she could not pronounce "fifth" and "twelfth"...she struggles with her x's, th's, r's, and l's. Lucky for her, I tutored at Sylvan and had to work with kindergartners and first graders on these very things daily! Japanese do not use their tongues or their lips to speak; therefore sounds that require the tongue or lips, they have trouble pronouncing! Upon meeting me, Kyoko told me I looked like a “modo” which left me confused, but I finally figured out she was saying “model.” Japanese don’t use l’s in their vocabulary, making this simple word sound very different! These were the things we worked on during her lesson! Kyoko also had many questions about grammar, wanting to know the proper way to say certain phrases. For example she got her past and present tenses mixed up! (Not that the English language isn’t complicated or anything!!!)

It was an intense two hours, but I left feeling like I learned a little as well. I learned, I really need to talk slower when speaking to a Japanese person. (It was the 3rd time I had been told I talk too fast since I got here!) This wasn’t that hard, I just had to get in the “Elementary teacher” mode (the one I know all too well) and talk like I would to my beginning readers. Also I learned that the food court on base smells “very American”…which is what Kyoko said the minute we entered the facility! (To that I had to contain a giggle, I mean what do we smell like? Greasy? Not fishy?) I learned that the Japanese are “skinny” because they drink tea…again what Kyoko told me during her lesson!

This week I got to teach again, but this time it was with two 3rd grade girls! They were so cute! (Or kawaii, as the Japanese say) I have always really enjoyed teaching the little ones, and this lesson was no exception! We did flashcards, discussed articles of clothing and played memory…all things that help to increase their English! One of the girls is really good at English and the other is a beginner. Both are eager to learn, and extremely attentive to my every word! I am going to enjoy teaching English in Japan!

I also finally got brave enough to leave the base by myself!!! (Or at least drive off base by myself…I have taken a train by myself, but never driven off base on my own!) This might seem silly to some, but being in a foreign country, driving a foreign car, and navigating foreign streets alone is scary and somewhat of a challenge!!! Well, one of the guys in Nick’s squadron is deployed at the moment and therefore not able to pay his rent. Nick volunteered (which really meant he volunteered me, since he is too busy to do it!) to take this guy’s money to the realty office for him. Being that I have my new I-phone, (loving it, wouldn’t be able to survive without it!) Nick dropped the pin where the landlord’s office was for me on my I-map. Easy enough right? Well, not exactly….since it was literally my first experience driving off base alone, I was trying to navigate the small streets, major traffic and people darting on foot and bicycle the entire trip! (As I have said before, Japanese streets are TEENY TINY. 2-way streets are smaller than what a 1-way street would be in the States! No joke!) On top of all that, I was holding my phone and following the pin on my map while driving!!! It is a miracle that I found the place, or that I didn’t hit some poor pedestrian! However, I did find the place and I had to give myself a pat on the back for a job well done (after I allowed my heart to stop beating so rapidly from the anxiety of going the wrong way on a one-way street)!

All the guy told Nick was to look for a glass building with advertisements of houses along the front windows. (It wasn’t as if he could give me the name of the company, because everything is written in Kanji!) Well, I found what Nick had described to me; only there were 2 of them, right next to one another! ….hmmm? Which one to try first? I did a little eeny, meeny, miney, moe, and walked in one of the realty offices. I breezed in through the automatic door and stood there waiting on someone to come ask me what I needed help with. A little man ran up to the front desk and said something in Japanese. (Huh?) I say something back in English. (Which is where he does an inside “huh” as well.) Then he runs off to get someone else to help me. Then a girl comes running up to the front from the back, (wait, what’s with all the running? I am not going anywhere till I have paid this bill) and tries to speak English to me. I say, “I am paying rent for an American!” (???) She nods her head like she understands, then runs off! She quickly returns and says, “Holomon?” I nod my head vigorously, “YES” I say! (I’ll forgive her for the mispronunciation of my name) Score, I did pick the correct place after all! Now we are both nodding our heads and the girl picks up the phone, says a whole lot of Japanese jibberish and then hangs up and writes down the name of the guy who’s rent I am there to pay along with the amount I need to pay. She pushes the paper in front of me to read, where I then reply, “yes that is correct” and quickly hand over the cash (yen)! I did not want to have that money in my possession any longer than necessary! The girl goes running to the back, (again with the running…so efficient I tell you) then returns with a receipt. I walk outside, and remember that I parked at some weird parking meter and I didn’t know what to do?!? I turn around and walk back inside. The girl runs back to the front desk and I point to my car and give her the shoulder shrug and question gesture and say, “parking, I don’t know what to do?” (I am an idiot sometimes, I know!) She goes, “ahhhh” and runs to the back. She returns and gestures for me to follow her outside, which I do. We both run (heehee, I can play this game too) outside to the meter and she asks me which car is mine, I point, she pushes a series of buttons on the meter machine, and a ticket pops out. She bows to show me that I can leave, I bow and tell her “arigato gozaimasu” and run to my car, while she continues to bow! Done and done!

After that little trip, which was an accomplishment, I felt on top of the world! I mean, I put my “big girl pants” on that day and had left base, drove and navigated, successfully found the realty office, chosen the correct one, and paid rent in a Japanese facility all by myself! So, while I was you know, doing so well, why stop? I decided, I was going to find Nick and my new house! Mind you, we had only been there once, and we didn’t know that we would be getting that house, so we didn’t drop a pin there or really pay attention to where it was located! But, I felt I could do anything at that moment, so why not! It was worth a shot in the dark! (Literally) Well, I suppose looking at 18 different houses (yes, I did house hunt for 3 weeks and looked at almost 20 houses) did have it’s advantages, because with all that looking around I guess I knew the area better than I thought. Next thing I knew, I was smack dab in front of our soon to be home!!! Success #3 for me! (Of course, I won’t lie, it did take me a few turn arounds…where I received more than a few stares from Japanese pedestrians, but hey, I found it!)

I almost didn't recognize our house because this is what it looked like...

Oh yea, duh...the whole reason we haven't been able to move into the house yet is because it is being re-painted! (Like the way they paint houses in Japan? Cover the ENTIRE house with a tarp/net...??? So that it doesn't get dirt or bugs in the paint? Hmmmm? Smart, I guess?!!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Life Chapel!

I went to my first Japanese church last Sunday, and boy was it an experience! I was told that Japanese weren’t Christians, in fact I expected it...what I didn’t expect was to see Japanese Christians that were so strong in their faith!

The church, Life Chapel, was very small and intimate. There were only about 60 people (kids included…and boy were there lots of kids). But for such a small room, there sure was a lot of love and a lot of noise! The preacher would say the words of the sermon in Japanese and his wife would translate them in English! It made it a bit confusing at times, but the message was still received by everyone nonetheless!

Nick and I visited Life Chapel with my friend Mari. She and her husband have been going there for a year, and have had nothing but good things to say about it. Nick and I wanted to try it out!....We were very glad we did!!!

Below is Mari and I with some of her Japanese friends from her church! They were all so nice and welcoming, I felt just like I was back in the States being greeted into a new house of worship!!!

“One way, (clap, clap, clap) Jesus, you’re the only one that I can live for!”

The song that the Japanese sang (in English) at church on Sunday with smiles on their faces and hearts open wide…they were unashamed to be Christians in a Buddist country. Only 1% of Japanese are Christians, a sad statistic that is their reality. Due to so little Christians and so many who are either Buddist or non-religious, when a Japanese person decides to follow Christ, they are making a true commitment. It isn’t like in America where one can follow religions as they choose…when a Japanese person admits to being a Christian, they are literally going against their race, making a commitment that is “binding”! After the sermon, the preacher announced that two new followers had recently been baptized. The two Japanese individuals walked up to the front proud and grinning from ear to ear! They were so happy to have made such a “leap of faith,” literally. The preacher admitted the difficulty in a Japanese person being baptized. He said that it is a scary thing for them, because once they go under the water, there is no going back! They are making a life choice! What strong convictions! If only all Christians were that dedicated!

Coincidentally, the Sunday that Nick and I decided to try out Mari's church, it was their annual Hawaiian Aloha Party! They had a team of guests from their sister church in Hawaii visiting. Along with sharing their vision, goals and mission, they celebrated with a party/feast afterwards.

We played a game before eating...the following picture is of Nick up on stage...look how he sticks out! Heehee!

A mixture of Hawaiian foods along with Japanese foods! Yum yum!

This Sunday Nick and I were busy and not able to attend Life Chapel again. However, we would like to go back. It was refreshing to be in a place where Japanese and Americans could come together for one purpose...especially when that purpose is so very important!

"You're the only one that I can live for!"

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yamato Bon Festival

Bon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spirits of one's ancestors. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.

Bon Odori, meaning simply Bon dance is an event held during Bon. It is celebrated as a reminder of the gratitude one should feel toward their ancestors.

I can't say I am Japanese, or that I danced the Bon Odori dances for the reasons they were meant for, but I sure felt special in my patriotic yukata this Saturday! I might have stood out, and even had Japanese ask me if they could take my picture (and others not even bothering, just snapping away without asking!) but I still was proud to be American, if even in a foreign land where not everyone looks kindly on us gaijin!

Posing in my yukata...
Showing off the obi (belt and bow)
Several of the military spouses on base have been practicing once a week with a few Japanese instructors, to learn the dances that we would be dancing at the Bon Festival. There are 12 dances in all and we will be dancing on 3 different dates. This past Saturday I danced for the first time in Yamato at their Bon street festival. We paraded through the major streets of Yamato doing 2 of the dances we had learned. Though the dances are fairly easy, and we repeated them several times, I found myself getting distracted by the crowd and losing my steps! (And trust me, I was not the only one!)

With all the hyped up people watching on the sidewalks as we danced along the tiny streets of Yamato, it was easy to forget what you were doing and simply get lost in the music, clapping, and noise of the crowd!

My number one fact he stalked me during the entire festival, following me with a camera. He took several videos of me and my fellow dancers, helping us to get distracted and loose our choreography! Thank you hubby!
Getting ready to begin...
In formation, about to start marching through the streets!
Do a little dance...
Pausing for a music change...and photo op for my personal photographer!
Our instructors... (the little Japanese lady next to me was the one I mentioned in an earlier post, who sternly corrected me during practice. I made sure not to mess up in her presence again!)
And for your viewing pleasure...a little video from my paparazzi! As you will notice, he doesn't hide his presence, making it hard to concentrate on the dances!

Loved these cute little kids...they were in one of the dances for the parade as well. There was one video that I will not share where Nick is videoing me and I inconspicuously tell him to take pictures of the precious kids! Which he did...Thanks again Nick!
More dancers

My friends Mari and Rebekah were 2 of the 3 Americans to get to take part in this special dance, Awa Odori! This was the first year they let Americans do this traditional dance. The Awa Odori dances are much more intense than the Bon Odori, as are the practices. The girls practiced for 2 months, 3 days a week for 4 hours each practice!!!

Mari and I after one of her performances! Gotta love those "taco" hats! They might look funny, but they give a dramatic effect to the dances.
Mari, Rebekah and the rest of the Awa Odori girls had their first performance on Friday on base. Since I wasn't dancing until Saturday, I got to go watch, take video and pictures of their dances. It is so cool to witness firsthand, video doesn't do it justice...but I have to share a little segment of their dance anyways...

I couldn't help but be jealous that I wasn't able to dance with them! Their performance is awesome every time they do it! (Practices started just before I got here, and on top of that, I still had to take my orientation class as well as house hunt, so I wasn't able to partake in this years Awa Odori dances! Hopefully, next year they will allow Americans to do it again!!!)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Japanese Street Sale strikes again!

As the waiting game for our household goods continues, Nick and I decided, why not just purchase decorations. Cause who needs furniture with really cool decorations?! We found out that all of our things will not be arriving until September the 19th. So we might be sitting on the floor, but we will have wall art! Heehee!

Last weekend we went to the shrine sale again. It occurs the third Saturday of every month. Thanks to my friend Mari I just discovered it’s actual name, the Yamato Promenade Antique Market! Love it!

I posted pictures last month when Nick and I went to the shrine sale. However, this time we actually knew what to look for! The last time we went, we didn’t have a house and were so new to Japan that we just walked around with wide eyes and open mouths, bewildered at all the Japanese memorabilia. Now that we have been here awhile, we know what we want to put in our house and where! Needless to say, this time when we shopped at the Antique Market, we purchased a lot more!

My friend Sarah graciously drove us...thank goodness too, cause we had too much stuff to take the train!

This is by far my favorite thing we got...a giant Japanese glass fishing float! You can find these for a whole lotta money in the states and they are not authentic, but this one is the real deal! It even smells like it's been in the ocean! Japanese fishermen used to use these to keep their nets afloat. The floats I purchased caught my eye because they are teal...(as you will see, teal is a color that is used all throughout my house! ) Later in the day, I found the two small fishing floats and needed them to complete the set.

Apparently these will occasionally wash up on the beach and be discovered by a passerby. Often however, the nets aren't always in tact. I prefer the fishing floats to have the rope, that's what make the glass balls so unique!
Again with the teal...found these two pieces separately and fell in LOVE! Original pieces of art, which both will flow nicely in Nick and my home! (The artist's signature is even carved into the bottom of both of the vendors identified it for me, indicating that I got a good piece! Arigato Gozaimasu!)
The Obi we purchased....we plan to get several of these, using them as wall decorations, curtains, and also table runners. (Hope that's not offensive to the Japanese!) An obi is what is worn to hold the kimono together. It's the kimono's belt or sash. Many times the kimono or yukata will be a simple fabric, but the obi will be vibrant and a contrasting color! The obi's are my favorite part of a kimono. The obi's purpose is to hold the kimono secure and is often tied up in the back into a detailed bow. Because of this, the obi's are very long. Women's obi's can be up to 12 inches wide and over 13 feet long!

Table runners in the US are not this long, nor are they as beautiful and intricate! At the shrine sale, there are always tons and tons of vintage kimonos, yukatas and obi's for might have to dig to find the one you want, but in my opinion it's worth it!

This obi is nothing really special, but I was on a "teal hunt" and therefore this one struck my fancy! (Anyone who has seen my kitchen knows it is all red and teal!!!)

Scrolls, scrolls, scrolls! Nick and I dug through scrolls at the last Antique Market, and didn't find one we couldn't live without. This time I did the digging, and with my new house in mind, I found 3 gems!

Scrolls are basically a way for the Japanese to display calligraphy and/or art. Some of the scrolls we found were really ancient, with faded pictures on them and torn paper. Others were made out of silk and were more expensive. Old scrolls that are still in good condition typically are hard to find, and are very pricey. The scrolls we found were not that expensive, but were antique without being too worn...Sold!

It's hard to tell from the pictures, but the scroll on the left has a background that guessed it, teal and brown! The one on the right is brown with a light green edge, which also matches Nick and my house decor. The one in the middle was nothing special, but Nick loved the picture on it!

A set of 4 chopstick rests....Nick and I never could find a unique set of these in the States. We saw several for sale at the shrine sale, but none were in a set like these! Delightful! (Not teal, but blue...close enough)
And for my inner diva...two super cute fans! Here in Japan it is soooo stinking hot, and they don't believe in airconditioning! (Seriously) Therefore everywhere you go, women, girls and even men will be fanning themselves with these!

I always loved Japanese fans as a child...I thought I was so cool when I got one. Problem was, the fans that I had as a kid were fake and cheaply made, therefore they broke easily. (Not saying it was my parents fault, it is the manufactures fault for tying to replicate and coming up with a crappy model!) Now I not only have several of my own "real" Japanese fans, but I get to actually use them for their intended purpose!!! (Which I do...of course!)

Now if only we can move into our house so that we can put our new goodies out on display! Currently, they are taking up space that is not available, and cramming our already crowded Navy Lodge room!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ya Ya Yukata!

A Yukata is a Japanese summer kimono. The yukata is more casual than the traditional kimono, it’s made out of cotton and very lightweight. Yukatas are seen worn by Japanese men and women to summer events. I just got my very first yukata and I am super excited to wear it!

My yukata packaged up all nice and neat! Gotta love the efficiency of the Japanese!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I will be dancing in the Bon Odori festival. All of the dancers have to wear a yukata! Lucky me, cause I like to dance and I wanted a kimono! The yukata we get to wear to the festival is very patriotic…red, white and blue! Love it!

I had to pay extra for my shoes because my feet are so "big"! (I mean, I only wear a size 9, but here an extra large is a size 8, so I am considered a giant!!!)

I don’t have pictures of me wearing it yet, but the first dance is this Saturday and I will be sure to get pictures of me dressed in it then. I haven’t been taught how to properly put it on yet and I do not want to mess up a Japanese custom! Seriously!

Luckily the bow is pre-made so I don't have to attempt to make my bow look like I know what I am doing!!!

For the last month we have met every Thursday for Bon Odori dance practice. This is where about 30 spouses get together and learn the festival dances taught by several Japanese women. I say “taught” very loosely, because they don’t speak any English and therefore the American girls have had to simply watch the Japanese women dance in order to learn. (I have discovered from this, that one can actually communicate without talking…this comes as a shocker to someone who can’t seem to keep her mouth shut!!!)

During one practice I was doing the dance, mimicking one of the Japanese instructors (who was no less than 2 heads shorter than me!) and she came up to me after the song was over and corrected me…again with no words but with a serious face and a mocking way of showing me that I was not in fact doing it exactly like her! I felt reprimanded! I was dancing like a dancer from the States would, using my long bird arms and extending them like I have been taught. However, due to the fact that her arms were half the length of mine, she did not like the length that I extended them and very sternly showed me that I needed to be softer and not so sharp! (I have danced my whole life, I am used to sharp movements, perfect and precise…but the Japanese women dance completely different, less defined and more flowy!)

That was my first practice, I have learned since then to try and make myself not so long, if you will. I don’t use my arms like I would in ballet, but like a Japanese dancer telling a story! For each dance is a story, you just have to pay close attention to figure out what that story is!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Princess for a Price...

This last weekend I got to check two more things off of my "to do" list while in Japan.
1 -standing in the middle of the famous and busy intersection of Tokyo and 2 - eating at the "Princess Cafe"!

Three of my girlfriends had their birthday around the same time, so it was a perfect excuse to go out on the town for a girl's night! The Butler's Cafe is a little restaurant in downtown Tokyo, located in the district of Shibuya. I was excited to finally get to go to Tokyo! (I know, I have been here a month and never actually stepped foot in Tokyo!!!) Nick and I have done lots of things since we have been here, and gone many different places, driving through Tokyo, but not actually stopping in Tokyo!

One of the famous intersections in Tokyo is in Shibuya, right outside of the Shibuya train station. It is nicknamed the "Scramble Crossing" due to the immense foot as well as vehicle traffic that intersects there! This intersection has appeared in many movies! Of course I couldn't go there and not stop to take a the middle of the street no less!

Right after this picture was taken, my friend who was taking the picture yells, "get out of the street, before you get hit!" (About this time a bus was coming right towards us...oh well, we got the picture! Silly gaijin!)
The Butler's Cafe, or what has been deemed the "Princess Cafe," is a funny little bistro where male waiters (or "butlers" as they liked to be called) cater to women, treating them like princesses.

The whole experience is more of a production, the waiters are silly, (and somewhat creepy) wear a "butler" uniform and some even wear make-up. Oddly none of the butlers were Japanese, in fact, they were all from different countries. The 3 men who waited on our party were from South Africa, Germany and Italy.

Before the whole charade could begin, we were to each read a set of rules! As we were reading these (and taking pictures, which you will notice is the very first guideline) we were all looking at one another and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into!?!
There was a little bell at every table that we were to ring (but only for a short time as was specified in the guidelines) when we needed anything. The first time we rang the bell, we were surprised to discover what they did (and would do every time we rang it). In unison all of the butlers would say, "yes my princess" after the bell had been rung! Each time this happened, we would giggle at the hilarity of it!
We were told to just "go with it" by one of the butlers, because as I said, it was all just a big production. However, being that I am so mature (hahah!) I couldn't help but shake from trying to hide my laughter during some of the waiters elaborate presentations of the menus! They would explain EVERYTHING in great detail, doing so with raised eyebrows and thick accents, trying to sell us on whatever it was that was on the particular menu they were showing at the time. (The funny part was the fact that they said Princess with everything, "princess cocktail" or "princess special" and acted as if everything on the menu was simply heavenly and must be ordered!) There was a menu for everything...rules, drinks, food, dessert, extras, etc. etc! "Let me just turn the page and show you one more thing my princesses," said the German butler!
When our food arrived, we were told to close our eyes for a "special surprise" was at this time that they placed our food in front of us and placed a crown on our heads. After a dramatic countdown, we were allowed to open our eyes at the same time, thus revealing our food and tiaras. (Because clearly we didn't know what they were doing...right?!!)
Each plate was decorated (in chocolate syrup) with our names on it...that part was a surprise. The sad thing was, when we finally received our bill for the evening, we discovered that we paid for all of the "extra" things they did (such as writing our names on our plates) even though we didn't ask for it!
The "Princesses"
Even the bathroom was "princess" toilet paper and all! Of course, when you needed to go to the restroom, you had to ring the bell to ask to be escorted by one of the butlers! However, that meant I got to sneak in a few pictures!
The "princesses' throne"...heehee! (What I want to know is, where can I get me some pink paper???)
After the meal, the lights went out and the butlers came singing up to our table for the birthday girls! With flushed cheeks, they all blew out the candles. (Of course, the picture is the take-two shot, because they were too quick the first time!)
The cake was delicious, it was chocolate with a banana flavor to it! (Of course the cake was on our bill, but at least it was yummy!) Happy Birthday Jill, Chrissy and Audra!
Gotta have champagne with cake don't you?
Me and the lovely "Princess Sarah"...of course her name really means princess, mine doesn't!
The night was fun, and despite the pricey-ness of it all, I wouldn't mind going again! The butlers were at times a little over-the-top (and somewhat strange) but they only meant to make us feel like "princesses"!

Check and check!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Drum Roll Please...

I have had way too many people ask me to post pictures of our new house to wait any longer…so without further delay, here are finally pictures of the “new” Holman House!
Nick and I are still living in the Navy Lodge, which is part of the reason I haven’t blogged about our new house yet. It doesn’t seem like ours until we are actually living in it!!! Also, we have had a bit of a fiasco with our household goods (as in everything we own not including what’s in our suitcases)! Good news is we found out yesterday that they finally found our stuff, bad news is it’s in Georgia…as in the Georgia in North America! Who knows why it took them 4 weeks to track down our belongings, or why when we moved almost 3 months ago, our stuff is still sitting in a warehouse in the USA!!! They informed Nick last night that it would be another 60 DAYS before our things arrive here! Nick won’t even be here when that finally happens! But, we are staying positive…at least they know where our belongings are…several people have told me the horror stories of others who have had their stuff found at the bottom of the ocean! And here I thought I was nervous!!!

I got excited all over again just looking at the photos of our soon to be home! I made it my mission to find the “perfect” house. I will admit, though the search was not very fun, I am pleased with what we chose! I looked at almost 20 houses, but Nick and I were very specific and picky about what type of house we wanted to live in. This will be our home for the next 3 years! For us, this is a big deal! We have lived in 4 places in the last 3 years, so this will be the longest we have ever lived anywhere together!

Because our dog Beretta will be living here with us, we needed a house that was do-able for her as well. Also, even though Japanese-style homes are typically older, we were set on living in a traditional Japanese home, versus a newer home that was more modern. Nick and I love the tatami rooms, shoji windows and sliding doors. However, landlords assume since we are American, we want to live in a Western-style house, not a Japanese-style home! Needless to say, it made the house hunt take a while, but we finally found our gem!

Entry way...every Japanese home has little cabinets right by the front door for you to store your shoes and slippers.
View from front entry. To the right is the kitchen and dining room and to the left is the living room and other kitchen...yep that's right, we have TWO kitchens! Holidays at the Holmans anyone???
Washitsu (Japanese-style dining/living room) and kitchen
One of our kitchens....notice the storage in the floor, this is typical in a Japanese kitchen, used for extra storage! In the winter, it keeps things cold, due to the low temperatures and proximity to the ground. Genius!
The kitchen opens up to the washitsu...this room we want to make into a Japanese-style dining room by adding a kotatsu and tatami pillows. (A kotatsu is a low table with an electric heater attached underneath to keep your feet warm in the winter, it's the low tables you see in traditional Japanese restaurants where you sit on pillows and eat cross-legged.)
Lots of storage in the washitsu!
Living has a sliding door that leads to a front patio! Great for Beretta!
The living room opens up to the the second kitchen, nice and open, great for entertaining!
Side door out of the kitchen...
Very unique layout, there are several levels.
Our "garage" doesn't fit a car, but great for bikes as well as storage!
Our first floor toilet...toilets in Japanese homes are separate from the "bath room." Also, as you notice, there is a sink on the back of the toilet...this is to conserve energy by using the same water you wash your hands with to flush the toilet! Again, very clever!
Bath room...most houses only have one actual "bathroom" and one to two toilets. The bathroom also serves as the laundry room, right next to the sink is where our washer and dryer goes! Again, this is very typical for a Japanese-style house.
The actual shower and bathtub...the Japanese are really into their baths! They take a shower to get clean, then soak in the tub! As I said before they are really conservative with their water, so typically a Japanese family will fill the tub up once and everyone in the family will use the same water....the mats propped up by the tub are to put over the bath in between different people using the water so that it stays hot! Interesting.... is all very open, the Japanese don't like shower curtains because they think the curtains are dirty/unsanitary!
Staircase to the second floor...
Looking down to the first floor...
Love the natural lighting upstairs!
Upstairs toilet, complete with an individual sink and mini vanity...this is rare in a toilet room!
Two tatami rooms that open up into one giant room, which will be our master bedroom! Whoohoo!
Lots of cabinets and storage in the master
Shoji windows, sliding doors and tatami floors!
Across the hall is two more rooms, the office and the guest room! They have an adjoining door...again a very open floor plan, very unique, but we LOVE it!!!
The office, with a built-in bookshelf!
The guest room...lots of storage as well!
Built in cabinets and a balcony off of the guest room!
The opens up from the guest and the master bedrooms! The weird looking pole-like structures that you can see on our balcony as well as the neighbor houses are to hang-dry your clothes on. This is very typical in a Japanese home. (Again with the conserving energy...)
View of our front yard from the balcony...
We love that our house is right on the corner, so that it is not completely sandwiched in by other houses, and that there is a BIG sidewalk in front of it...due to the lack of space in Japan, most houses are literally right on top of the roads as well as each other!
Right across the street from our house is a river and lots of green trees, complete with a running path for us and Beretta, that leads to a park!!! Love, Love, Love! (You can't see in the picture, but there is Koi swimming in the water!)
The location of our house is just what we wanted! It is within walking distance from a train, a 7 minute drive from base, and in an area that is not very busy and more quiet! We love that it is by water and a park for our dog!

We won't be able to move in for another 2 weeks because they are doing some cleaning and renovations to the house. As our landlord told us, "we make it more beautiful for you"! This works out, considering we still don't have our furniture!!!

We are blessed to finally have a home and are praying that our stuff arrives soon...when it finally does, there will be more pictures to post of our decorated home!