Monday, January 28, 2013

Home, Sweet Home

"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."  ~ Maya Angelou

Well, last week was move in week for us!  Kind of....  We were given the keys to our new apartment ("pawtment" as Garytt says) on Tuesday, 22 Jan and the building was opened to its tenants on Wed, 23 Jan.  We came by on Tuesday just to see what it looked like inside.  This is a building that was recently renovated, so we are the first people in this place since they put in new cabinets, carpets, paint, bath and shower, sinks, and appliances.  The kids picked which rooms they wanted, luckily without any argument!  :)  On Wednesday we had our inspection at 9 and as soon as that was done we started moving what little junk we have into our new home.  Since our household goods aren't in Japan yet, more on that later, we borrowed some furniture from the self help office on base.  They loaned us a sofa, chair, end table and coffee table for the living room; a dining table and four chairs; two twin beds and two small dressers for the kids; and one queen with two night stands and two dressers for our master.

Our building name:  Sakura Heights
After we moved our suitcases in, Kris and Mary Kay (amazing friend of ours!!!) took the two vans to the warehouse to pick up the tv, tv stand, two end tables and two recliners we bought the week before and we moved all this stuff in and got it set up.  Mary Kay and I then went back to her place so I could get a basket of goodies to borrow until our stuff gets here - sheets, comforters, towels, plates, pots, pans, cutting board, knives, measuring spoons and cups, and cooking stones. 

So, I mentioned this was a newly renovated building.  Pretty neat that we have brand new appliances to enjoy.  Not so neat that it hasn't been tested yet, so we found out some things did't quite work like they were supposed to.  The first:  Kris woke up Thursday morning to get a shower and get ready for work....the master shower didn't work!  So, we called the housing office, who quickly sent out four workers-one of which spoke English (yay!)-and in one minute they had it fixed.  Turns out, someone forgot to turn the switch inside the water housing unit so the water would come out.  Next, when Kris goes to fix lunch (maybe it's Kris that's messing things up!) the oven preheats, but as soon as preheat switches to temperature the oven blows a fuse.  Another call to housing and we have someone to look at the oven, who speaks no english.  He looks at the oven for a while, then makes a phone call and hands the phone to me.  I then learn that the wiring for the oven is American style, which is more sensitive than Japanese wiring, so it kicks the fuse at a low temperature.  He says this is a building wide issue and we aren't allowed to use our oven at all.  Oh great!  And, now they have locked the fuse box so we can't just reset a blown fuse.  Geesh.  Okay, so I'm not one for breaking rules, but we have been eating take out food for two months now.  And, I have a beautiful new oven in front of me.  What to do...what to do....test it to see just how many burners I can use before the fuse blows.  One is okay, two...good, three...still working....fourth burner...POP.  Luckily I have a husband with some skill, and he manages to get into the fuse box and reset the oven.  :)  So, two burners should keep my oven working just under the POP-zone.

I couldn't think of any other way of displaying our house pictures, other than just piling them all in with captions.  Here is our new home....sans our own furniture.....
Last sunrise view from the hotel
Hallway outside our door.  Behind the elevators, in the center of the building are the storage lockers.  They are actually pretty spacious - I could have brought more of our stuff instead of having it all stored back in the States.  Our building is shaped like a + with two apartments in each end.

Looking through front door to entry and living room

Just inside front door to right...laundry room
Just inside front door to

Family room.  Far left of pic is entryway.  kitchen is back left.  Dining in back of room with balcony.  Just behind recliner on right is hallway door.
View of family room from dining room

Balcony.  We got the side of the bldg with the biggest balcony!  Mackenzie says we have enough room to plant some vegetables in the spring.  I wonder how easy it is to grow stuff here.  I already miss my fresh herbs from my kitchen window.

View from dining balcony...not the beautiful ocean view we had at the Lodge, but it's good enough.  The road behind the ugly white thing there is the road the fire department uses to get to most fires on base.  So, the kids get to see the lights and hear the sirens several times a day.  I'd give up the view to hear the squeals of excitement about the firetrucks - as long as they both get to see it, otherwise one squeal is from a happy place and the other is a squeal of despair.

Hallway....on right is the big closet.  Just past that on the right is the kids' bath then our master bedroom.  Straight back is the linen closet.  On the left, back corner is Mackenzie's room.  The first door on the left is the boy's room.

Kids' Bathroom

Garytt's Bedroom

Mackenzie's disaster area

Master Bedroom...separate closets, to the far left is the door to hallway.  That ugly monstrosity in the back is the metal door to our balcony and behind where I'm standing is the bathroom.

Master bathroom
View from our balcony
That's our place!  We found out the day after we moved in that our household goods, the same household goods that were packed the week after Thanksgiving, did not ship out when they were supposed to, they didn't ship out until January 14th!  Yes, just two short weeks ago!!!  So, our anticipated delivery date of January 20th isn't actually going to happen.  We have been told that our stuff will be here around February 8th.

When we were living in the hotel I realized just how much I missed having a few simple things...a room to myself, rooms to send the kids to when they were driving me crazy, a room to send Kris to when HE was driving me crazy and a laundry room where I didn't have to put 8 quarters in to wash and dry one load of laundry and a laundry room that I didn't have to stand in line to use.  When we moved into our house, I was so glad to have the room.  Now, I'm missing things like:  my own bed and blankets, art supplies to keep the kids entertained, my shoes and clothes, and my cooking utensils.  We are moving in steps...they may be slow little steps, but steps none-the-less.  We will get there.  :)  I'm happy to have a place to call my own!  Even if it is a place that I like to call a house and then Garytt yells at me because it's actually a PAWTMENT!!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Watch out Japan....You have a Wheeler on your roads!!!

Last week Kris and I had an entire day of the AOB (Area Orientation Brief) dedicated to driving safety.  We checked out our driving manuals on Tuesday and started studying.  Really, most of the signs are the same here as they are in the U.S.  Slippery road, right turn ahead, construction zone.  Some are a little different...the stop signs are red and white inverted triangles, the speed signs are circles.

On Friday we were given the rules of the road.  Our instructor told us where to park and where not to park.  We also learned that driving offenses in Japan are WAY more strict than they are in the U.S.  Such as, hitting a pedestrian with your car - even if they walk out in front of you without warning - is almost guaranteed 100% your fault!  In Japan if you have a driver's license, you are considered a Professional Driver, so you are supposed to be accutely aware of what is happening ALL around you at ALL times.  If you do run into a pedestrian with your car and that person has to go to the hospital, you could be looking at jail time.  If that person dies, you are definitely looking at a long jail sentence.

Drinking and driving is serious business here.  He told a story of a drunk American sailor that hit a lady with his car and she ended up in the hospital.  That was a few years ago and the sailor is still in jail!  In the U.S. you are considered DUI at 0.08% Blood Alcohol Concentration. If you are caught, the first time your license is suspended for 90 days, pay up to $1000 in fines and spend at least 48 hours in jail.  In Japan you are considered DWDI, Driving While Drinking Indicated, at 0.03% and you can go to jail for quite a while as well as pay upwards of $200,000 in fines.  Our instructor told us one guy he knew was arrested for DWDI and put in jail for ten days, without notification to anyone-not even his command, released and as soon as he stepped one foot outside the police station, he was arrested for another 10 days, without notification to anyone again, then released again, arrested again, and still no notification!  That was for thirty days!  The guy was in big trouble when he finally got out.  It is also law here, that if you are the passenger in a car and the driver is pulled over for DWDI, you can be arrested even if you, or any other passenger in the car, is sober!  That should be law everywhere, in my opinion. Needless to say, we watched several sad videos of people being hurt or reenactments of serious car accidents that morning.  (If you want to show new - or old - drivers the consequences of drinking and driving or of not wearing a seatbelt check out these videos: and  - BEFORE YOU WATCH....they are pretty graphic, but drive the point home, reminds me of some of the videos we watched as part of our drinking and driving seminars at Lake Forest.)

Okay, so we get to the test Friday afternoon, and it was probably 80% road signs.  Yay!  We finished the test and waited for the instructor to grade all 100 tests.  30 minutes later they start calling out the test numbers of those who failed the test.  We passed!  Kris scheduled us to take the driving test the next week.

Kris took his practical test yesterday.  He found out that he got a 96% on his written and I got a 94%.  The driving instructor packed five people into the little car and let the first person set off on his test.  First, he started the test by having the driver adjust mirrors, then he got out of the car and had the driver pull forward one foot and stop (not at all sure why this happened??), then the instructor got back in, informed us all that he hurt his back and to avoid all bumps.  That is the same thing he told friends of ours five months ago.  He also tells the driver not to stop at crosswalks, it is not required, and so he doesn't want us to do it.  Well, that's mostly true, unless there is someone in the crosswalk, but okay.  So, driver number one drives over by the middle school then backs into a parking space.  Drivers two and three drive around an apartment building.  Driver four drives back to the licensing office and backs into the parking space.  Done.  Kris passes with 100%, of course!  :)  He did admit to hitting the windshield wipers a few times instead of the turn signal (did I mention that not only do we have to learn how to drive on the left side of the road, but we also have to learn to drive on the opposite side of the car?).

Today it was my turn.  I worried all night about the test.  There were three of us in the car today.  The first person was a young sailor.  We also got the speech about the back and the crosswalks.  And, he made the first guy pull out of the parking spot one foot before getting into the car and proceeding.  So, this guy pulls out onto the main road and the instructor says, "don't stop at crosswalk".  Well, there was a lady stepping up to the crosswalk just as he said that, the young sailor says "ok" and keeps going, even though the lady walked right on out into the crosswalk expecting us to stop!  Yikes!  He didn't hit her, but the car was a little closer than she would have liked, and she gave him the nastiest look imaginable.  The instructor says "it's okay, it's okay.  She is a brave woman."  ha ha.  This guy drives us to the parking lot, backs into the parking space and accidentally parks one foot into the spot beside him.  Now, it's my turn.  I adjust my mirrors and drive around the building.  20 km is a lot slower than I had imagined.  I had to be told to slow down once and I accidentally hit the wipers, but just once.  I backed into the parking space perfectly!  yay!  Now, it's the third guy's turn.  He is one of those drivers that slams on the brake when coming to a stop.  Whiplash!  Then, he had to drive back to the licensing building and on a gentle curve around a housing development the guy slams into the curb!  And, this is the guy who has to park the car in a full parking lot at the licensing place!  As he was pulling forward to back in the instructor said "don't hit curb.  don't hit curb.  don't hit curb" at least half a dozen times!

So, we now have licenses!  We've paid for half of our car (kind of slow when we have a limit to take cash out of the ATM each day), insurance is paid for the year, and the dealer is taking our car to Yokohama today to get it registered.  So, with any luck we will be able to drive our own vehicle by Friday!  :)  I'm only brave enough to drive on base so far.  It's too terrifying to think about driving off base!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Little Bit of History in Kamakura

Kris and I spent this week in Area Orientation Briefs and Inter-culture classes (AOB/ICR - as you can see I forget what the R stands for!).  The first couple days were painful.  This course is required for every new person to this base, including those on ships in port.  This class is usually conducted every week, but because of the Christmas/New Year's holidays the base went three weeks with no class!  So, an AOB usually has about 30-50 people in it...we had 300!!!!  It took thirty minutes to sign everyone in first thing in the morning and then again after lunch.  Probably three quarters of the class was made up of E4 and below, probably mostly guys and gals from the George Washington.  Days one and two were "Welcome to Japan, now, DON'T DO THIS!" speeches.  We heard a lot of stories about the dummies in Japan that have caused the trouble that resulted in the 10 p.m. curfew, the abuse speeches, etc.  The end of day two was the beginning of "What to do" while in Japan.  Yay!  We were given a lot of pamphlets and booklets to help us get around, to help us figure out when to go on vacation and how to get there, as well as booklets with language introductions.  We were briefed on what the base has to offer in regards to sports, travel packages, food, exercise, etc.  We even had a half of a day spent on Japanese history.  Kris and I have tried to dig into the history a little deeper, but American websites seem to tell the story a little differently than what we heard from our Japanese instructors this week.  I will do my best to put the pieces together in this post.  :)

Thursday we were taken to the train station, with bus maps and Kamakura brochures in hand!  We all hopped on the train and headed to Kamakura ... there was a little bit of confusion with the train here, we were supposed to get on the Yokosuka Line and go straight to Kamakura, but there were so many people signed up for this tour that we ended up having to take the train to one station, get off, go to the other side of the station and hop on another train to take us into Kamakura.  This probably wouldn't be so bad, except that I find it difficult to find my way back when I don't actually go through the process of getting myself there in the first was kind of like being blindfolded and driven across a strange town, then unblindfolded and told to go back to the starting point.  Needless to say, coming back we were a little discombobulated...more on that later! 

So, we get to Kamakura, I think the total roundtrip fare for one adult was around $5.00.  We headed out of the train station and were dismissed for lunch with a "good luck on getting back home" speech.

Our food ready to go
Front door of rest. 4th floor
The majority of us went to a Korean BBQ joint, Gyukaku,  just a block from the station. Our instructor already had it arranged for us to take over the place at noon, so the menu was set and the price per meal was 980 Yen.  So, we sat down at our table, Kris and the kids and I.  The coals were already hot in the pot in front of us, so as soon as our plates of meat were on the table we started dropping it on the grill. coals!
We had two plates with steak and chicken, then we had a four bowls of cabbage with a semi-sweet dressing on it, Kris and I had a small bowl of kimchi each, and we each had a bowl of white rice.

Once again, Garytt thought it was quite cool that he was able to add his own lunch food to the grill and cook it.  Mackenzie could have cared less.  I think she was ignoring the cooking process in the hopes that we wouldn't insist she try any of the food. 

After lunch we headed out to meet our group's tour guide and then make our way to the Shrine.  We learned this week that Kamakura was the seat of the first Shogun in Japan.  Japan has an emperor, and he is considered a national symbol of Japan, the country is governed by a Prime Minister and Diet (House of Representatives and House of Councillors).  The Emperor is believed to be a direct descendent of the Sun Goddess.  Around 1,000 years ago the Emperor actually ruled the country and appointed important people throughout the country to uphold his rule and protect his people.  Well, those important people, the Samurai, believed they should have more power and property than they were given, so they started to fight each other.  This is when shoguns started to take over the land.  Minamoto no Yoritomo is known as the first shogun, he moved the Emperor to Tokyo (put him in a nice pretty palace and basically said he was Japan's poster-boy while Yoritomo was its ruler) and set up his seat of power in Kamakura.  Our guide said that he chose Kamakura because Yoritomo was from the area and because between the mountains and the water it was pretty well protected from invaders.

The red gate separates the real world we live in and holy land
His wife, Masako, designed the gardens and ponds.  This was our first stop for the day.  (The guide was a little too boring for the kids, and we were unlucky enough to get the annoying guy from all of our classes and his whole family in our group - the Japanese are mostly very quiet out in public, you could hear a pin drop on the trains here, Well, this guy doesn't talk in a normal voice, he basically yells as his main form of communication.  And, his son takes after him, so after being embarassed a few times by this guy and his family, we departed from the tour group and did our own thing).

Walkway to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine
There is a long walkway from near the train station all the way to his shrine with cherry trees and lanterns all along the route.  This is probably a beautiful view in the spring.  ~One quick note to those reading the blog and looking at the is almost impossible to take a picture anywhere and not have a thousand "extras" in it.  Kamakura has a population of more than 10,000 people per square mile, then add to that the many thousands that visit it each day = not a lot of room!~

We walked the route, through two of the three red gates and then up the steps to the shrine. 

Final gate with the Shrine in the background.

We watched what others did and found that, once they walked through the final gate they washed their hands in a basin just inside the gate. 

Hand Washing
After washing their hands, they walked to the next structure, clapped their hands twice, bowed and said a prayer.  Most people threw money into a container inside this building.
It's rare that Mackenzie asks to be in a picture

At the top of the stairs no pictures were allowed.  So, you'll have to come visit us to see inside!  :)   It's hard to see in the picture on the right, but there are two mean looking statues on the left and right of the entryway.  Once you walk past those two guys there is a raised platform inside, surrounded on three sides with walls, and then the side that faces the stairs to the outside is a mesh curtain.  There was a line of people to get into the Shrine and pray.  Every ten minutes or so, a young guy would walk away from the entrance to the platform and strike a gong a few times.

Entrance to the Hasedera Temple
Small pond
From here, we headed back to the train station and then on to the Hase Station.  Our plan at this stop was to go see "Big Buddha".  But, on the way we discovered the Hasedera Temple.  It is a beautiful Buddhist Temple dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of mercy.  Once again, we weren't able to take pictures of any of the beautiful statues. 

The pictures of the main temple, Kannon-do Hall, do not do it justice.  The building is amazing.  The curves of the roof, the dragons on each peak, the colors....just fantastic!

We walked the gardens here for a while, there were waterfalls that traveled through bamboo trunks, lots of koi fish, and even a cave!

After a quick look out over the city we headed into the cave.  From what I've read on the Kamakura travel site, the cave is dedicated to the goddess of feminine beauty and health.  There are several statues inside the cave of other minor gods. 

Now, onto the "Big Bhudda" statue.  Just a short walk from the temple is the Big Bhudda.  WOW!  A pretty awesome site!  The kids thought he was pretty cool.  And, what was even more cool - for 20 Yen each we could walk inside Bhudda!!!  You won't guess who actually begged to go inside...Mackenzie!  The child who is afraid to do anything new was so excited to get to walk inside Bhudda! 

       Kotoku-in Monastery Kamakura

Stranger whosoever thou art and whatsoever be thy creed, when thou enterest this sanctuary remember thou treadest upon ground hallowed by the worship of ages. 
    This is the Temple of BHUDDA and the gate of the Eternal, and should therefore be entered with reverence.

 This was our last stop for the day.  With the kids thoroughly exhausted, we walked back to the train station...well, three of us did.  Garytt was carried the mile back to the station.  Once on the train we all grabbed a seat and started on our way back to Yokosuka...or, so we thought.  Turns out, we got on the wrong train, so we left Hase St, arrived at Zushi St, then headed back to Hase St.  We got off here and got on the right train and NOW we made our way back to the Yokosuka St. 

What a fun day!  There was a lot of walking, a lot of laughs, and some awesome new experiences!  Not only did we get to take a trip into Bhudda, but we also got to taste new ice cream flavors.  We stopped and got four cones in Kamakura, the kids got vanilla, I got green tea ice cream, and Kris got a combination of green tea ice cream and sweet potato ice cream.  Actually, they were all really good.  Mixing sweet potato and green tea didn't taste good, but separately they were yummy.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shabu Shabu

I'm a little slow on this one...

We tried a new place to eat last weekend at the Daiei Mall, pronounced die-a,  that's a long A (it seems like all my blogs are centered around food!).

 I'm not at all sure what the name of the place is, I thought it was Shabu Shabu until we sat down to eat and found out that actually is the term used for how the food is cooked.  But, stopping in any store and saying Shabu Shabu got us to the right place.

So, we sat down at a table (we went with a couple friends of ours that had done this already and could explain what to do, although this restaurant was different from the one they went to at Yakota).  Anyway, we filed into the booths, three on each side.  There was a bowl already on the table.  Our server came over and took the lid off the pot, added water with some kind of flavor cube in it, and then turned some knobs on the side of the table.  We all headed to the buffet line and got a cup of rice for everyone, drinks for everyone, and then two small trays with veggies - a couple different varieties of onions, sprouts, cabbage, some thin noodles (like ramen) and some thick noodles.  When we got back to the table we were given two plates, one with very very very thinly sliced pork and one with very very very thinly sliced beef.

Within a few minutes our pot was boiling.  We added a couple veggies, at which point our server noticed our awkwardness and brought over instructions...YES!!!  Definitely needed!!  So, we stopped with the veggies and started with the meat.  Garytt was even able to do this part.  The directions say to gently move the beef/pork slices side to side in the bowl (a procedure known as shabu shabu) until the meat is cooked.  Then, you add veggies and add it all to a small bowl in front of you.  Then, you can add one of two sauces...not sure what they were, but one tasted like a spicy ginger sauce and the other like a sweet peanut.  What we actually did....added meat and veggies all at the same time then added noodles.  It was very tasty!  And...most importantly....I FIGURED OUT THOSE TRICKY CHOP STICKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Woo hoo!  But, I didn't want to let go of them for fear that my fingers wouldn't get back in the right position.  They did find the right position though.  :)

Garytt is a big fan of the shabu shabu.  He liked being able to put the veggies and meat into the pot and watch it cook at the table.  He also ate several slices of pork and beef.  Mackenzie at least tried the pork.  She only ate rice though.  Geez, I hope that kid ventures out while we're here!  So far she has only taken small tastes of all of our food.  We just say, "Try this.  Let this be the new thing you try today." 

On our way out we saw a restaurant next door that had grill plates in the center of the tables....maybe next time!!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Trains, Breads and Ferris Wheels

As I've said a few times in emails to family and friends...this hotel room is SMALL!!!!  And, getting smaller with every minute that passes.  This week has been cold and very windy, which restricts our outings greatly.  We just couldn't take it any more. 

Saturday we decided to go figure out the train system on our own.  So, we hopped on the bus at 1020 and made it to the front gate 20 minutes later.  We then took about a 15 minute walk to the train station, Yokosuka Chuo, and bought our PASMO cards.  Mr. Garytt is young enough that we don't have to pay for him for another year and a half!  Mackenzie's card has her name printed on it and then Kris and I got plain cards.  We loaded them all up with money and headed through the gate.  Mackenzie thought she was quite a grown girl because she was able to take her own card and roll it over the sensor and wait for the big blue arrow telling her to pass.  :)  We headed into the station and, thanks to a train app, found the correct train, hopped on and headed on to Yokohama.  We arrived at the Yokohama station about 35 minutes later, where we hopped off of the Keikyu Limited Express line and hopped onto the JR line that runs into the center of the city.  Once out of the train station, we head for the ferris wheel!

 First, we walked across the Kishamichi Promenade - a boardwalk built over an old railway connected to the other side with a bridge built in America and then shipped to Japan.  This bridge is probably beautiful in the Spring since it's lined on each side with cherry trees. 

These guys know where to go!
Mack's paw and our pizza
Mack's 2nd choice
On the other side we went into the World Porters, a six story facility with food, movies, home design, clothing, shoes, etc.  Just a huge mall, and apparently, the guys who know the most about the place are guys we grew up watching on t.v.!  We had a bit of an issue finding food to eat since Kris accidentally put too much Yen on Mackenzie's PASMO card.  Luckily, we found a restaurant, Bon Pain, where you picked up a tray and a set of tongs and then picked out what you wanted from their line of food.  And, to Mackenzie's was all bread!!!!  Mackenzie's first choice was a pastry that looked like a dog paw.  Garytt chose a loaf of garlic bread.  Kris and I chose a pizza thing, which was pizza on a sweet sesame bread.  Yummy!!  Garytt got grape juice, Kenzie had strawberry and Kris got apple.  Garytt's bread was yummy, not what he thought it would be, but he ate a good portion.  Mackenzie happily tore off and ate each toe and then took a big bite of the center only to spit out a chunk of bread and beef and gravy.  Oops...she was then terrified to eat anything else off the table.  We did finally convince her to taste our pizza and then coaxed her into another treat off the table.  She got a snowgirl looking thing and Kris got a sausage surrounded by bread.  Well, Mackenzie at the top of the bread girl then took one bite into the body and found a hidden treasure....strawberry yogurt!  Well, she didn't care for that either, but at least she didn't spit it out.  With our bellies satisfied we headed out into the town to find the ferris wheel. 

We found it, but unfortunately we didn't have enough Yen to pay for a ride.  We got ourselves a map of the place, it's all in Japanese, but it at least shows the prices for all the rides.  As we stood by the flume ride - yes, there were people riding a water ride in this amusement park in 40 degree weather - but, as we stood by the ride Mackenzie stated, "This is definitely somewhere we will bring Aunt Tisha and Uncle Clayton!"  On our way back to the train station we decided to walk through the Queen's Mall so we could be in the heat for a bit.  Well, this mall is probably the biggest mall I've ever seen.  We walked for quite a ways (and found a Krispy Kreme in the process!!!!!!) before we found the moving walkway to carry us from the mall to the train station since the littlest feet in our group were desperately looking for a bench - or, Mommy's arms, as it turned out, since the walkway was broken in the direction we were going.  Ugh!  We had an uneventful journey home, Garytt took about a 15 minute nap.  We walked back to the base, and sadly, watched the bus pull away from the front gate bus stop.  Which meant another 40 minute wait for it to come back around.  Kris hollered, "if we run up this hill we can make it to the next bus stop and catch it there"  HA HAHAAHA...boooo hoooooooo....we did run, taking turns carrying the boy, and we almost made it.  Luckily, the bus driver saw us running and took pity and waited.  Shew!  Three weeks sitting around in the hotel has killed my muscles and cardio.  We all took a great nap that afternoon and then went to bed early and all slept nearly 12 hours!

Lessons learned on our first excursion:  Make sure you take lots more Yen than you think you'll need, just in case you accidentally put way too much on the youth PASMO card (we probably won't have to refill her card for at least a year!).  Google the food options where you're going so Her Highness has something to eat.  Take more Yen so I can go shopping!!!!!  Oh, and the train is loads of fun for the little ones! 

Definitely making this trip several more times!

Not sure what the deal is with creamed corn, but you can buy it in almost every vending machine here.  And, the red box underneath means it comes out hot.  Might have to try this just to see what it is.  :)