Thursday, April 30, 2015

Adventures in Tokyo

Last Sunday we decided to go to Tokyo.

The church there (Nikolaido). The people were exceptionally friendly.

Since the church is near the Akihabara district, we headed there next. Akihabara is the electronics and anime district (it used to be strictly electronics, but the internet devastated the electronics components trade in Akihabara, and a bunch of anime merchandise shops moved into the area).

 A funny house we saw on the way. The sharp angle reminded Millinophile of a pop-up book.

 One of the stores that we visited in Akihabara had several stories of high-end action models/statues. The top floor had these figures, painted by expert artists.

Each one cost several thousand dollars.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Our Apartment: Why We Haven't Had Time to Post Much

We move into our apartment onbase 2 weeks ago, and we've been fiendishly sorting our belongings (mostly books) ever since.

 Our front door. We were given a 2BR apartment, and it's actually pretty nice.

 On our balcony, looking right.

 We even have an ocean view!

We're really close to Millinophile's office.

More photos to follow, once we've put away all of our stuff!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Bento Box Dinner

We found a grocery store with tons of different Bento boxes. Millinophile had this one (note: the pink stuff is not ginger, but some other pickled vegetable).

Lotus root salad (it was tasty).

THE BEST STRAWBERRIES EVER. Seriously, they were delicious.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Frapanese Pastries

Japan has a thriving "frapanese" baking industry.  Millinophile and Chickadee have tried some rather interesting pastries since arriving in Yokosuka.

This croissant has mayonnaise and corn on it. Sounds gross, right (it kinda was)? Japanese people seem to love mayo. One of the most popular pizzas at Japanese Domino's is topped with tuna, corn, and mayo. We probably won't be trying it.

This one is a seasonal sakura pastry, filled with sakura-flavored white bean paste and topped with a pickled sakura bud.

This one was one of our favorites.  Chickadee chose it because it was so square.

It was filled with red bean paste.

This Mt. Fuji-esque pastry was filled with honeydew-flavored cream.  It was interesting, but not something Chickadee is in any hurry to try again.

 This one was actually pretty normal: a sugar-crusted bun. I'm not sure why we took a picture of it.

This one was soft and doughy and filled with something green.

This is a narwhal horn! Just kidding, it's a chocolate-filled cornucopia pastry.

This tasted like an English muffin/crumpet studded with sweet beans. It was surprisingly delicious.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pascha in Yokohama

We've been going to a lovely parish in Yokohama (here). The priest, matushka, and several of the parishioners speak good English, and everyone is very friendly. Two other families from the Naval Base also attend.

The church's exterior. Our service started at 9 a.m., hence the sunlight.

ハリストス復活! (Harisutosu fukkatsu!) 実に復活! (Jitsu ni fukkatsu!)

 So many kulichi!

A pretty Pascha basket.

 Handing out the red eggs.

 Well, mostly red eggs. Millinophile's has a Russian folk tale instead. After the service finished, the parish had a celebratory meal with tons of traditional Japanese food (sushi, yakitori, steamed edamame, seaweed rice crackers, spaghetti salad, and other dishes). It was lots of fun!

Millinophile: This iced tea tastes really bitter.
Chickadee: Yeah, it really does. Actually, it tastes almost! It's iced cafe americano.

 We saw some pretty flowers on the walk from church to the train station. 

 People around here have really nice gardens around their homes instead of lawns.

It's hard to see, but the white tulips have pink stripes.

Wait, I thought poppies were illegal in Japan...

All the photos in this post were taken with Millinophile's new phone. It has a 16MP camera. A little better than the 5MP on the 7 year old camera we've been using.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cell Phones (and other tech)

We finally got cellphones! After researching plans online, we decided we wanted to get plans from SoftBank, one of the largest cell carriers in Japan. There's a SoftBank in the NEX on base, so we went there to get phones.  Unfortunately, the lady we spoke to (who also appeared to be in charge) was both rude and unhelpful. Millinophile wanted last year's model of the Aquos (the Xx 302SH--it's the only SoftBank smartphone that's basically free with a new contract), but the onbase lady (without even looking it up) declared that since it was last year's model there was no way we would be able to get it, and no, she couldn't order it for us. We found this assertion doubtful, since it was still in stock online. So, we decided to walk to the SoftBank out in town to see if they could help us. 

They could! The woman we spoke to at the SoftBank in the Mikasa Mall, just off base on Blue St., was extremely polite, helpful, and meticulous. She made sure we were getting the best deal on everything, and that we knew all of the fees associated with each phone and plan. When Millinophile told her he wanted the old model of the Aquos, she said she could order it for us, but it would take a few days to come in. Then, when she was actually inputting our order, the computer said the phone was out of stock. While the woman was collecting other phones to show Millinophile, she happened to grab a box that was...the 302! Turns out, it was only out of stock in the color Millinophile wanted. They had it in black & pink in their back room. Chickadee's phone (the red one) is just a basic flip phone with talk and text. It's a Color Life 301P. 

We also decided to purchase a mobile hotspot to use for our home internet. We found out today that the only internet onbase is really slow, really expensive cable. The hotspot will give us internet that's 10x faster for half the cost (including the cost of the device). The only catch is that we're limited to 6GB at that speed before it's throttled.

On an unrelated note, the offbase SoftBank had a cool tea machine. You could choose from a variety of teas, coffee, water, and apple juice (though Millinophile said it tasted more like apple water).  Additionally, you could select whether you wanted your beverage to be hot or cold.

This is also unrelated, but Japanese companies frequently hire people to hand out these tissue packets on the street and in malls to advertise their services.  These are from SoftBank,whose mascot is a white Shiba Inu named Otosan/Father. Pepper is the robot, apparently.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Millinophile's Commute

Millinophile decided to show Chickadee how he walks to work in the morning.
 This steep, steep staircase. Plus the rest of the hill. It's especially fun when it's cold and rainy.

 The staircase from the top.

 A view from the hill.

 Another staircase (not part of Millinophile's commute). Can you find Millinophile?

 A tree with pod-like flowers.

 Moss on a rock. It's everywhere.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Kamakura, Part 3: The Hase-dera Temple

The last thing Millinophile and Chickadee visited in Kamakura was the Hase-dera Temple. 

Entrance to the temple grounds.

All of these little statues are bodhisattvas helping the souls of unborn children.

Lots of little statues.

The outside of a temple with an Amida Buddha. The main temple at Hase-dera has a giant statue of Kannon, the eleven-headed bodhisattva of mercy. The main temple was under renovation, so we couldn't take any pictures of the outside, and photography was not permitted inside.

The Buddhists ring this bell 108 times for the New Year.

An aerial view of Kamakura and the coast.

This is the Kyozo Sutra Archive. The turnable bookracks inside house thousands of sutras.  Supposedly, turning the bookracks bestows the same virtue as actually reading all of the sutras.

The gardens surrounding the temple were very pretty.

You can't really tell in this picture, but some of these flowers are white and some are lavender.

Pitcher plants!

Our camera's battery died while taking this picture, so please excuse the blurriness.  That petal is half light pink and half dark pink.