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Japan current location5:42PM Gene and Lou’s.

My eyes cracked a little in the morning and I could see light. What time was it, I wondered. I hid my head under the covers as it was very cold in my room. We were sleeping with all the windows open, and quite frankly, it gets COLD at night. The comforter was enough, but I didn’t want to get out. I was mostly awake at that point, but I was afraid to look at my watch to check the time. How early could it be, I thought – Gene was supposed to leave early for uniform inspection, and so he was probably already gone. I really wanted to try and sleep some more, but I was waking up more and more. Finally I gave in and looked at my watch.

No freaking way.

It was only FIVE TWENTY SEVEN AM. What the…?? I pulled the covers down and looked out the window at the brilliant sun that was already well above the horizon. You’ve got to be kidding me. I gave in, got out of bed and put some clothes on, because it was pretty dang chilly. I snuck a peek in Gene and Lou’s room, and sure enough, they were both fast asleep. Oooh kay then. I took the laptop downstairs and worked on some work things that needed to get done.

Around 7, Gene came in, all dressed up. He said he looked like a United Airlines pilot, and I laughed. He fed Jasper, and we talked over cereal. He said he had to go in and work some, but he’d be home around lunchtime. After he left, I went back in and did some more website development, which hopefully you guys will see here soon.

A little while later I decided I was freezing and wanted to take a bath to warm up. They have a great bathtub, it’s like a good cross between Japanese bathtub (very deep) and US bathtub (very long). Perfect. I ran the water; I think they have instant hot water, like most Japanese houses do. Man I’d love that in my house. As I ran the water, Lou had gotten up, so we talked for a little while and then I nabbed some clothes and toiletries to go take a bath. Geez that water was hot; I had to cool it down to use it! Instant hot water is cool, but you have to take into account that it’s not going to cool off like my water does at home as the water heater runs out.

After the bath, I gave Lou the Keep Austin Weird t-shirts I bought them, and also the Don’t Mess With Texas shirt I brought for the baby. We both went downstairs, and I worked on the website while she checked out all these things people had given her for the baby. We decided to go to the Commisary, which is effectively a standard-type grocery store on base for the military. It’s pretty interesting, it’s in a little mall on base and as most things here seem, not Japanese at all. As you walk in, it looks like a small-town Albertsons. Almost all the products are US, and the prices are about the same. They even have Fresh Express Salad packages! We got some Splenda, Diet Rite soda, and looked for espresso beans so I could make lattes in the morning with their bad-ass Krups espresso machine. No such luck. I did get some canned Georgia Coffee lattes for caffeine fixes.

We returned home and waited out Gene to come home for lunch. Around 1 he showed up, we ate lunch, then Gene and I went out to head to Shimoda and the mall. While were driving, I started to teach Gene katakana (one of the three writing systems of Japanese, usually reserved for foreign words) and he picked up HA, PA, and SU pretty quickly. We stopped in a DoCoMo store to see if I could get a temporary cell phone, but after working with a woman for a while in Japanese were told that because I wasn’t a resident, the only thing I could get is a prepaid phone, which they didn’t offer at the store. She mentioned getting one at a convenience store, but the one we checked didn’t seem to have any.

We drove through the countryside to get to Shimoda Mall. It’s very small farming town type place; all the roads are two lane and surrounded by crops. We did see a few love hotels randomly on the road, one of which apparently has an onsen in it! We followed the same train tracks I took from Hachinohe for a while (so said the GPS) then arrived at the Shimoda Mall, which is the first mall I’ve ever seen in Japan.

Inside, it totally looks like random mall, as it’s two stories and filled with average looking stores. We headed up to Aeon, a big department store to see about a phone. I asked a woman about it, saying I was here for just a month and wanted something to use for just that long. She at first said the same thing as the other store, that I needed an alien registration card, but then found out it was okay without it. There was one type of prepaid phone to get, which isn’t all that cool, but would work just fine I think. We sat at the counter and filled out the paperwork for it. I figured it would be easier to get a quickie cell phone here, the land of insane numbers of keitai (cell phones), but it took a lot longer than I expected. We finally left, being thanked profusely, with my Enjorno pre-paid cell phone and 3,000 yen card (60 minutes). I don’t need much, just the convenience.

We walked to the other end of the mall and discovered a really great Japanese grocery store. Huge in fact. We ended up getting some massive shrimp for dinner (10 for 1000 yen) and I got a few sticks of yakitori for a snack later. We checked out and walked through the seafood shops next door. Wow, it was all so wonderfully tasty looking, and really not very expensive at all. Must be nice to be on the coast. I noticed a Doutour Coffee Shop, and we stopped in and asked about “decaf” espresso. The very cute and friendly sales girl who offered us little latte drink samples didn’t know what it was, and she asked her manager. She said they didn’t carry any, so I bought regular beans which she ground for me in her ever so cheerful way, then wrapped it nicely and presented them to me. I asked her what decaf was in Japanese, and she said “caffeine-less”. Hah, that makes perfect sense. I still love Japanese shops, she was just adorably cheerful and happy to be of service.

As we walked out, I noticed a shop, but chose not to take a picture as it was a lingerie shop, called “O U C H I M U R A”. I was like, “ouchie!” and giggled.

We took the same route home, dropping by the onsen love hotel to figure out exactly what it was. Meanwhile Gene was constantly practicing Katakana. We stopped at the Super Drug Asahi to get shaving cream, but it’s more like a limited grocery store it’s got so much stuff! I couldn’t resist getting some Can Chu-Hi (“choo-high”), a Kirin Fall Brew, and the best stuff ever – Happy Turn, what my friend Colin described once as “crunchy sweet cocaine snacks” because they’re so massively addictive. I also picked up a calligraphy pen just for kicks.

As we entered the gate, we were told that I needed a temporary pass to keep getting on base, but as we parked they were taking down the colors (i.e. the American flag) wherein they play the Japanese anthem, the US anthem, and the entire base grinds literally to a halt to pay respect. No moving cars, no music, etc. Afterwards we were told to park way over yonder and come back to get a pass. We decided after getting way over yonder just to get it tomorrow since Gene had a wood shop safety course to get to at 5pm.

“Aren’t they going to come get us?” I said, worriedly.
“Do you see them chasing us?” responded Gene.

Gene took off to the class and I heated up my yakitori (which Lou’s pregnant nose couldn’t stand), ate a few Happy Turn, charged my cell phone, drank a peach Chi-Hi, and wrote logs until dinner.

Dinner was the shrimp, yellow, orange, and red bell peppers, and portabella mushrooms all grilled outside, plus yellow squash and zucchini sautéed with onions. Yum! Afterwards we took Jasper out to the park to chase his soccer ball. At one point he took off running with me next to him and his bony knee nailed mine, sending waves of pain up my leg. I unintentionally got him back; he dropped his soccer ball, and when I stepped back, raced forward, and kicked it, it nailed him in the face full bore! Poor Jasper!

We came back, and Gene and Lou are upstairs debating the wonders of the names Eliot and Sean, and I’m down here trying to stay awake until 10. I also need to call Yuriko. I tried to enable my cell phone with the card, but I need to translate the menus they say on the phone. Oh fun!

-- Hik
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