Japan current location10:51PM Gene and Lou’s in Misawa.

Another sadly disappointing log file for the most part. :)

A gentle rapping brought me out of sleep this morning. Rain. And lots of it. It was pelting down outside my window, which is pretty much always open, and making lots and lots of noise on the metal overhang outside. Oh fun. I stuffed myself under the covers deeply, and tried to sleep more. Gene came in and informed me that the water was going off again at 8am. I putzed around on the air mattress for a little while longer, but decided I needed at least 20 minutes to get ready, so at 7:40 I hopped up and took a shower.

I realized I was feeling much, much better, and although my nose was still wonky, and I was coughing nastily, I didn’t seem to be sick much anymore. Yesterday I really just wanted to be horizontal, but today I that wasn’t really there. Yay! I quickly shaved (that Japanese shave gel is awesome) and got dressed. Lou was in her room, and a little while later closed her door; I think she was taking a nap. Gene was already gone to work at that point. I went downstairs, made my coffee, and decided to organize my MP3s on my little Creative Labs Nomad Zen Extra. They’re way jacked up and unorganized, and I don’t have any playlists yet!

Lou came down a little while later and said that Gene was feeling really crappy this morning. She was feeling not so good herself. We later surmised that Gene is 24 hours behind me in sickness, and Lou is probably 48. Well doesn’t that just suck. She then ran off to a pedicure appointment, and I submerged myself in email and the land of MP3s.

I suddenly realized that it was noon, as Gene came home from work for lunch. We all made sandwiches and sat together at the kitchen table. The Swiss cheese Lou bought yesterday is moldy, despite having a January expiration date. It must have been poorly transported, just like the milk the other day. “The wonders of living on a military base,” said Gene. He looks absolutely ghastly. Poor guy… Really feels like my fault somehow. He survived, though and went back to work. He’s had some really stressful days there lately, too, and that can’t be helping anything. Lou and I dropped by the Commissary, and picked up a few items we were without, including new cheese. I picked up a cute Qoo bag, which I think they didn’t charge us correctly for, so we got it and a six pack of C2 (it was bundled) for the cost of one can. Heh.

Lou wanted ice cream, so we dropped the groceries in the car and went next door to the food court. She went to Baskin Robbins, and I went into the arcade, eager to play something. All the machines there take *quarters* so I was totally screwed. I walked back out to Lou, and she traded me $6 for a 1000 yen bill, as she bought some things for me at the Commissary anyway. I went back and tried to exchange the $1 bill in the American-style change machine. Ptoo. It spit it back out, over and over. Dejected, I walked back out to Lou, who was taking a seat at a table. “What now?” she asked. I told her the silly change machine wouldn’t take my dollar, even though it was all crisp and straight. Japanese change machines always seem to work fine on any condition dollar! She sighed, pulled out her change purse, and traded me four quarters for a dollar. “This is good practice for having a little boy,” she said.

I took the quarters inside and blew them all on Time Crisis 3, which is pretty neat. I haven’t played a shooting game in a while. A guy who was playing games started his own non-cooperative game next to me, and Lou, who had come in to watch after finishing her ice cream, said it was funny that the only guys in the arcade playing were over 30. Feh, I say. Feh. The guy said it wasn’t that weird, actually.

We returned home, and Lou went and took a nap for a little while, and I went back to MP3 land after playing with Jasper a little. After she woke up, she checked on Gene by calling, but he wasn’t getting out anytime soon. We got back in the car and braved the terribly 5 o’clock traffic to go to Yokomachi, a grocery store around the corner from the base entrance gate. Man, you would not believe how bad traffic is when every road is only one lane, and lights are pretty sparse. The traffic isn’t nearly as bad off base as it is on. I never would have imagined rush hour traffic on a military installation!

We tried to get a space in the parking lot right next to the store, but it was packed, and people were circling, even though it only held about 20 cars. She pulled back out into traffic and got lucky in the annex parking lot across the street, which holds about another 20 cars. As we entered the store, two little girls were running around outside, but they stopped and stared at us. I said hi, and they gleefully said hi back. As we walked in, we nabbed a carry basket. To the left, I saw something moving, so I took a look. Kaiten sushi! Right next door! Kaiten zushi is a fast-food type sushi place; there’s a little conveyor belt that runs around in a circle, and they put plates of sushi out on it. You sit in front of the belt, and pull off what you want to eat. When you’re done, you signal a waitperson and they come over and count your plates (different colors have different prices). That totals up your meal, and you pay at the cash register. It’s very fast, usually tasty, efficient, and very cheap. I can usually glutton myself for only 1000 yen or so. Lou said we should have lunch there tomorrow, but since I’m leaving for Hakodate, I figured I needed eat earlier.

We walked over to Bel Grain, a panya inside the store. As we walked in, Lou ran into her friend Denise, whose husband, Robert, works with Gene. Robert walked up a moment later, so we were introduced. Lou told them one of our major goals here was to retrieve the “happy wonder crunchy cocaine snacks” that I’ve hooked her on. Yes, it’s happened. I’ve addicted Lou to Happy Turn. I tell ya, those crackers are DANGEROUS! Robert walked me over to the cracker aisle, as he knew where it was, and I quickly located the wonder snacks. Apparently they also come in mini-size crackers too. He said he thought he had had some before from a variety pack; indeed, Lou and I saw some in a variety pack of crackers at the Commissary. He picked up a pack anyway, since Lou was raving about them. I grabbed two bags, since Lou had already eaten half of mine! We walked back to the panya, and Lou and Denise were checking out. Robert asked if I had the same problem with little kids following me around. He’s African-American, and very, very tall, so I told him that he probably really stands out, and moreover, they probably think he’s a basketball player! He laughed and said that might be the case.

Lou and I said bye to them, and she had me show her exactly where the Happy Turn aisle was. “You got me hooked on these things, you better not leave my dry when you’re gone!” I showed her, and she snatched up two bags of her own. I said I had put two of them in the basket already, and she was like, “Oh heck no! These are MINE! You can get whatever you want,” turned her nose up, and walked away. Cocaine snacks. I’m telling you. Seriously.

We wandered the aisles of the magnificent store; I don’t know if it was just that I was hungry, or that they had a good selection, but it was just so fantastic to see all those Japanese things in one place. I was in heaven. Lou was a little weirded out by the pre-cooked quail eggs for o-den (a traditional Japanese soup-like dish) and all the chopped up fish and octopus, but was very interested in all the various pre-made tempura things they had. Everywhere I looked there was something really yummy I wanted to buy. I was good though, since I knew I wasn’t going to be here tomorrow anyway. In the pre-made food area, I did buy a salmon rice ball, a crab salad (with real crab), some beef croquettes, and a cheese potato roll from the panya. We also bought a set of tempura spring rolls to share. Lou picked up a tempura sweet potato, but at the time we thought it was eggplant.

As we checked out, I noticed people bagging their own groceries, and mentioned to her how much Molly hated that while she was living in Japan. Lou said she had never bagged her own groceries though, and sure enough, when she paid, the lady bagged them. I was confused until the woman put my stuff back into my basket, and laid a bag on top – it was because Lou is pregnant, and obviously so. That makes sense. I sacked my groceries on the table nearby and we returned home, eager to try out this cool food.

We heated up the spring rolls and the potato in the broiler to make them crisp again. The spring rolls were really tasty, and had shrimp, eggplant, cellophane noodles, carrots, and other vegetables rolled up in a crisp crust. Lou ate one, but gave me her other as her pregnancy is screwing with her taste buds, and the shrimp were too fishy for her. The potato wasn’t good for either of us, as we’d just realized what it was, and it was undercooked. Lou picked off the tempura and we threw the rest out. I offered to show her the beginning of Lost in Translation, as I really want them to see it and Gene’s seen the beginning, but she said she didn’t want to see it at all; she doesn’t like Bill Murray, and her mom had given it a bad review. I protested, but she just wasn’t interested.

Gene arrived home a moment later, and after a little preparation, we walked out the door to go to dinner. We went to a place on what they call “White Pole Road”, which is the road that runs right in front of the base entrance. They have to do a long drive to get to a lot of places on it since it’s one-way. They took me to Homura no Ryoorinin, “People of Flaming Food”, which is a Chinese/Japanese restaurant. It’s very small, and was deserted. The extremely friendly woman greeted us warmly, and brought us three glasses and a full bottle of cold water. As we were about to order, Gene, who is really sick, took out a tissue and blew his nose loudly at the table. I tried to stop him, and cringed when he did. Blowing your nose in public in Japan is really rude, and doing it at the table is about as rude as you can get. I told him for future reference, better to do it in the bathroom. It’s kind of like wiping your butt at the table. He didn’t know, and fortunately nobody else was around. The woman didn’t say anything either. Lou and I ordered miso ramen, and spring rolls and shumai (round dumplings), respectively. Gene ordered Pork with Bell Pepper stir fry. Gene got up a couple more times to blow his nose, and did it in the bathroom, which was polite.

The ramen was a little weird here, as it was more like spaghetti than ramen. Actually, come to think of it, it was like I made pasta on my pasta maker, then used the spaghetti cutter to make noodles. They were square, and didn’t have the characteristic curliness that makes ramen ramen. The soup was pretty good, but the noodles really threw me off. The shumai wasn’t bad either. We were watching baseball on the TV (every restaurant we’ve been in so far has had a TV, except for Ohashi) and a really bizarre commercial came on with a mouse in a smoking jacket relaxing in his library. His cat (!) sat on his lap, and his mouse French maid came in and poured him a brandy. She didn’t stop though and it ended up overflowing. He started freaking out about “Free Communication” (I think, it was in katakana) and spilled the brandy everywhere as his hand shook. It was totally bizarre, and I have no idea what they were selling. It was so bizarre, in fact, that even the woman at the restaurant laughed!

We finished up, paid (mine was 1120 yen), and returned home. Lou went pretty much straight to bed, but Gene and I played some quick online Halo. He’s feeling bad, though and went to bed really really early. I’m just going to finish this up and head to sleep as well, as tomorrow I have to get ready to go to Hakodate around noon!

--Hik