Japan current location4:57PM Gene and Louís in Misawa.

The train yesterday got in to Hachinohe right on time, at 2:04PM. Itís one end of the Shinkansen line, so it wasnít hard to know when to get off. Of course, the GPS also informed me early onÖ :)

Hachinoheís train station is brand-spankiní new and very clean. I took the escalator out of the track area and walked around the corner. The train to Misawa was leaving at 2:15PM, so I only had 11 minutes to find my train and my car. Thereís only one gate for the normal touhoku (express) train lines, so it was easy to find. I did ask a station attendant which track it was on, since I didnít see it on the signs above, and he answered before I think he saw my ticket. He either caught a glance of it, or he just guessed that I was going to Misawa. I got immediately on the train and had no trouble finding my seat. At this point I realized I must have dropped my phone card in Tokyo station, suck. I hoped Gene and Lou would find me when I got there.

The trip to Misawa from Hachinohe is next to nothing Ė 13 minutes. I got off and immediately noticed the change in climate and how cool it had gotten. I lugged my bag up a big flight of stairs, and outside the gate Gene and Lou were waiting for me. We hugged hello, and they brought me their car, a Helix, the Japanese equivalent of a Toyota 4Runner. I snagged a waypoint at the station and we were off!

They drove us through part of downtown Misawa and we entered the airbase. They check everyoneís ID, and do random car searches as well. Once youíre on the base, itís an entirely different world. In fact, one would have a hard time noticing they were in Japan if they didnít already know it. That and the fact that everyone drives on the left.:)
They live close to the entrance gate, so we were at their house in no time.

Gene said they were really surprised; they ended up with a three bedroom house, which gives them TONS of room. Itís very American, and doesnít at all look like itís in Japan, outside of some things like Japanese light switches and metal doors inside the house. Itís HUGE by Japanese standards; two storey, with a big living room and kitchen. Iím in the computer/guest room upstairs, next to the on-the-way babyís room. As soon as we opened the door, their great dane, Jasper came galloping at us. Heís HYUUUUUUGE, bigger than the last time I saw him! Jasper is adorably friendly though, even if he is a big horse slobberpuss. They showed me around their house and we sat and talked for a while. I showed them pictures of my pug kiddos and such for a while, then Gene took me for a driving tour of the base while Lou went on a walk with a friend. As soon as we drove out, I saw two Japanese F-4 Phantoms take off from the nearby airstrip. It was very loud and very cool. As we drove, he described all the planes that both the US and Japanese Defense Force have. I caught a glimpse of an F-16 sitting on the ground; Iíd never seen one in person before! He stopped to get gas, which is strangely cheaper than it is in the US! Apparently on base there are a lot of perks. We drove by his office work, and then sat near the airstrip and watched planes go by, that was really cool. Sorry I donít have any pictures, but you canít really take any on base, itís not allowed. I watched an F-4 fly overhead, and Gene said, ďHeís probably going to break right about now.Ē Not two seconds later, the plane banked right! It really impressed me somehow that Gene knew that.

We returned home and ran into their new next door neighbors who were moving in next door, Cliff and Mary Kay. They have a really pretty dog which was half husky and German Shepard I think, which freaked out when she saw Jasper. However, they both started to play through the fence and Jasper began to clomp around outside. Whatís funny is that Cliff is all worried that his dog is going to tear up the backyard, and Jasper, merely by running around in the backyard was ripping massive holes in the lawn! We talked about moving his 150lb kennel to the backyard (what they built and shipped him to Japan in) but decided to do it tomorrow since it was muddy outside. It cost them upwards of $3,000 to get Jasper here, what with the flight and having to drive to Tokyo to get him.

Out front we threw a football around for Jasper to go catch, then we ran into their other neighbors who live a few houses down. I had a hard time picking out the womanís accent (i.e. where in the US she was from) Ė it sounded like a weird mix of New York or Jersey, but limited somehow. As it turns out I was WAY off Ė sheís from Germany! Sheís just so fluent and colloquialized, I couldnít tells she wasnít from the US. At this point I realized there were really massive, persistent mosquitoes flying around my head and biting my on the neck! Ack! Somehow I didnít expect them. We raced inside and I put on shoes to go out to dinner.

They took me to Kiku Zushi, a sushi place around the corner from the entrance to the airbase. There wasnít any space at the bar, so we had to sit in a private tatami room, which would normally be fine if Lou werenít 8 months preggers. She did okay though. We ordered tons of food, and they were happy to have me there to translate and find out things like if they could substitute items they didnít like. I ordered a kageÖ kagesomethingorother set, which included snow crab, egg custard, 6 pieces of sushi, mushroom soup, and tempura shrimp and vegetables. I also ordered two HUGE (2Ē across) grilled scallops with special soy sauce and a big draft Sapporo beer.

WOW. All I can say is WOW. Everything was utterly fantastic down to the last little morsel. The scallops were tender and delicious. The egg custard was smooth and loaded with crabmeat and pork I think. The sushi was precisely flavored, and the tempura was crunchy and perfectly cooked. The full half crab was pre-cracked and the sides of the shell were shorn off for easy removal with chopsticks. The best part about the crab was that it wasnít salty in the slightest, like most snow crab in the US is. Just sweet and tender and delicious. We ordered an additional two pieces of toro (fatty tuna) and finally decided we were stuffed to the gills. With all of that, between the three of us, the bill barely totaled 9600 yen, which considering the amount and quality of food (not to mention the beautiful presentation) was a bargain beyond compare. I was blissfully happy and a little tipsy from the gigantic beer. I was also a little mad I didnít bring my camera to record the marvelous meal. No problem, weíll just have to go back!

As we left, I checked the arcade across the street for Dance Dance Revolution, but no such luck. They had some rhythm games, but no DDR. Odd, I havenít seen a single DDR game since Iíve been here. I also noticed at this point I was starting to crash again. It was only 8PM though, so I didnít want to sleep yet. We got back to the house, and I checked out some problems with my website, then Gene and I put on a little Lost In Translation since they hadnít seen it. Lou had already gone to bed. I kept nodding off, but fought hard until 10PM. At 10, Gene kicked me to go to bed, since he was losing it too.

I hit the air mattress and passed out almost instantly. Sometime in the night, I felt something breathing on me... Then scratch scratch scratch on the bedÖ I opened my eyes, and a hooded figure stood in the hallway barely illuminated in the light. My heart skipped a beat until I realized it was Lou, in a coat, telling Jasper to get the heck away from my bed and go potty outside. That was funny, in retrospect. I really thought it was some weird axe murderer for about 2 seconds. I went back to sleep.

-- Hikaru