Monday, September 19, 2011

A year in our rearview and a visit of 2!

So...I started this blog post over a month ago...literally. But, as things go here in Japan, time slipped away from me and I am just now getting it posted.

Nick and my Japanniversary (1 year Anniversary of living in Japan) came and went, as did several months in the mean time. (We are now closer to our year and a half mark, but who's counting)

In between deployments this summer, Nick and I went to many festivals and tried our best to take advantage of living in Japan by seeing and doing something different every weekend. (Of course I did those things without him when he was gone, but I don't like to brag about it too much cause it makes him jealous!)

Then, just in time for Nick's birthday we were graced with two visitors! (We LOVE visitors....helps us feel a little closer to home AND we get to show off all that we think is special about Japan and our little world here!)

My Aunt Sharon and Uncle Pat! So glad they got to visit!
Uncle Pat and Aunt Sharon have been to Japan many times before...meaning, they've seen and done almost everything there is to do in our Nick and I made it our goal to create an itinerary for their visit that was full of things they've yet to experience!
Of course we showed them around the squadron...touring the hanger where all the helos are that Nick flies.
And took a picture with the famous MacArthur statue for Grandpa.

My aunt got to do some shopping at Ichiban Collectibles, the store I work at on base, and we all had a cocktail at the Atsugi Officers' Club, the "last remaining naval aviation Officers Club in the WESTPAC" that's something non-military tourists (or those with without military family) don't get to do on their trip to Japan!
Not only was Nick actually home from Deployment; (with such an up and down schedule, we simply never know when or where he'll be. Our family's visit was just days from Nick deploying again....absolutely lucky timing!!!) his birthday fell right in the middle of my aunt and uncle's visit.

We went to a fabulous restaurant in Shibuya for Nick's birthday dinner. Kozue, located in the same building as the famous bar from Lost in Translation, on the
48th floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Female Japanese dressed up in traditional kimono served us 8 different courses, each arranged and presented in a way that was picture-worthy. The food kept coming and though it's rare in Japan, we were too full to finish our meal! Oishi!
A day trip to Kamakura led us to a tasty tempura restaurant, Tempura Hiromi. (Aunt Sharon's not a big fan of raw fish, but had requested to eat tempura during her visit....lucky for her we stumbled upon a really yummy place! Thanks to Mari for her helpful guidebook with suggestions.)
Happy over her tempura!
Wall of sake barrels...

Though we had planned on getting to experience the "Annual Archery Festival" in Kamakura, we accidentally missed it by a day, but instead were pleasantly surprised to get to witness a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony! It was a first for all of us!

Not one to do too little in one day, we hopped over to Enoshima Island afterwards. (So much to see, so little time!)
My aunt's seen her fair share of beaches, but was excited to get to stick her toes in the waters of Japan.

On their last full day in Japan, Nick and my uncle took a 4+hour train ride to Motegi to see the Indy Japan Final. My uncle is a HUGE car fan; (He's worked for Toyota for decades, owns his own dealership, and has a car collection worthy of envy...if that says anything) so when Nick found out a guy in our squadron had a few free tickets to the races, it was too perfect of an opportunity to let pass by. Not to mention, this was the FINAL race in Japan....ever!

Over sea of Japanese heads was the American ironic

It's not a true Japanese performance without taiko drums!

Of course Nick had to take a photo of the helicopter...

I'm not much of a car race fan myself, but Nick and my uncle had a blast. Meanwhile Aunt Sharon and I did a little shopping. On top of getting to spend some yen at the Yamato Shrine Sale, (It only happens one day a month, so we were lucky it fell during her visit) we took a train ride up to Machida so my aunt could see (and shop at) the largest 100 yen store in Japan!

Just before flying out, we had lunch in Yokohama in one of the Sky Towers overlooking the city. After two weeks of touring Asia (plus they still had another week in Hong Kong after Japan) and eating nothing but Asian food, my aunt was craving Mexican...I warned her Japan-Mex was VERY different than the Tex-Mex she was used to...but for Mexican food made by Japanese, El Torito is pretty good.
After only a few days visit, we had to say to goodbye...which is always sad. With an extra hug for my mom, (Sharon's my mom's sister) we sent them on their way.

Saying goodbye is a re-occurring theme in Japan. Two days later, I had to say goodbye to Nick as on another deployment (8th since we moved here). But no worries, because goodbye's always mean there'll be a hello again soon! I just got to see Nick in Guam and hopefully we will have more visitors come out here for another "hello" in the near future!

Until the next visitor arrives...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Man oh Mahi!

Who doesn't love beating the sun up early on a Saturday morning, driving along the winding roads of the coast, and getting to the ocean just in time to see the sun rise? Yes, even in Japan we get to enjoy such simple pleasures of life.

Of course, we did this just so we could catch fish...and boy oh boy did we catch some fish!

As soon as the sun popped it's glorious amber head out of the sky, we loaded the boat with all our fishing gear and set sail to find a spot where the fish were plentiful.

Our boat driver and crew were all Japanese men, every one of them had a passion for fishing and sun-tanned skin from years out on the water! (Some things never change no matter what part of the world you are in)

Riding in the boat, while the driver looked for the "perfect spot" one couldn't help but feel peaceful. Nick asked, "Brittany why are you being so quiet?" as I sat on the bench of the boat staring out at the shimmering reflections the rising sun was making on the water. With the sea gulls flying overhead and the salty spray of the ocean lightly misting my skin, I was simply enjoying the peacefulness of the ocean, something Nick might get to do often (whether he wants to or not) but that I rarely do.

Just being on the water, completely engulfed by the heavenly smell of the ocean, all the while riding over gentle waves...somehow magical!

The crew didn't steer us wrong, in fact, they found such a great spot for fishing that everyone on board caught more than their fair share....after a couple of hours of the fish literally fighting for our bait, we all started to throw our catch back out into the water. (I didn't feel right about this....why hurt those fish if you weren't going to use them for food? At least let them swim merrily instead of putting them through the torture of being hooked and then thrown overboard! Oh well, such is the sport of fishing for some I guess.)

The fish that were biting that day was Mahi Mahi! These big fish were seen swimming in dozens all around the boat in shimmering shades of neon blue, green and yellow! They were stunning to watch swish through the water, yet powerfully strong and stubborn when attempting to reel them in. (And yes, though many have doubted me, I did in fact reel in my own fish....despite the tough workout that it gave my arms and back!)

I have been fishing since I was a little girl. My favorite childhood memories are spending the summers at my grandparents home out on the lake in Texas. I can distinctly remember my grandfather gathering all his fishing gear and going out to the edge of their dock to catch us some yummy fish for dinner. The entire event fascinated me...."PaPa, what's this?....Why do you do that?....What kind of fish are those?....What do we do with them now?" Most of the time I would just help him gather the bait and then watch as he fished, cleaned and prepared the fish for my grandmother to cook. Nonetheless, every time I have been fishing no matter where I am, I am reminded of those times with my grandfather as a child and it makes me happy.

This day was a "Big Catch" for the Holmans, Nick and I lost count after catching 5 a piece....but in the end, we took only 8 home. (Even with giving part of that away to our friends and my students, our freezer is stocked full of enough fish for a year!)

That night when we finally got home, after slicing all the fish and scrubbing ourselves clean of fish scales, we had a Mahi Mahi feast. Man oh Mahi, it was delicious!

We had grilled Mahi Mahi with mango and coconut rice, rosemary and olive oil new potatoes, fresh baked garlic bread as well as Mahi Mahi battered in Panko bread crumbs (the stuff the Japanese use to make shrimp tempura) stuffed into corn tortillias with shredded cabbage, peach salsa, black beans, cheese and lime! A la Mahi Mahi steak and Mahi Mahi fish tacos! Oishii! (Delicious)

Nothing beats a day out on the water and a feast of the afternoon's catch!

Nick and I have always loved fish, but living in Japan somehow makes us love fish even more....maybe we are becoming more like the Japanese, for we could eat fish and rice almost every day!