Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Birthday, Kristofer!!!

The kids helped make a great day for Daddy. Garytt helped make the chocolate chip cookie cake. Mackenzie helped make the icing. Then, each kid had one half of the cookie-cake to decorate. Mackenzie did a moon and stars. Garytt did a smiley face and a rainbow. Mackenzie had no help from me in decorating, but the icing bag was a little too cumbersome for The Boy, so I helped quite a bit there. Not my best cake board covering, but I couldn't find parchment paper on base, so wrinkly foil had to work. After chicken adobo for dinner, then cake and ice cream, which was homemade by the kiddos yesterday in a ziplock bag as part of their science lesson this week, he opened the presents. Well, the kids opened the presents and showed him what he got. :) Good times!

Garytt making the batter

And, of course, tasting!

Mackenzie making the icing, with a smidge on her finger to taste in the meantime.

This picture is for my brother, Clayton....leftovers!!!!  Mackenzie has been begging me for more of it.

Left side:  Mackenzie's moon, stars and flowers.  Right side:  Garytt's happy face and rainbow.


Garytt helping

Beautiful pictures from Mackenzie

Yokosuka Spring Festival 2013

The Boy eating his hot dog.
A couple weeks ago we saw a notice for the Spring Festival and decided right away that we would attend.  Well, then the sequestration became a big issue, and we waited to see if the Festival would make the (long) list of base-sponsored events that would be cut.  Luckily, they kept this one alive!!  So, last Sunday we quickly changed after church and got in the car to drive to Mikasa Park (a Japanese park just outside the gate, from what we could see from across the water, we knew it had water fountains and a ship museum).  Well, we drove toward the front gate, only to find the road closed.  So, we turned around to go a different direction and found that road closed as well.  As we drove back to the apartment we saw tons of food vendors set up near the Commissary/NEX and realized that this was an event that the base opened up to the local community.  So, we laced up our walking shoes and headed back out.  My goodness!  I was amazed at all the people!  The CFAY website has a great picture of one of the main roads near the base shopping area that is packed with people, sidewalk to sidewalk!  Our first stop:  FOOD!  The kids both had hot dogs, Kris had a chicken kabob (I think), and I had a shrimp kabob.  It was yummy, not at all warm anymore, but still yummy. We noticed that most of the Japanese visitors were carrying the same boxes....Anthony's Pizza and Dunkin Donuts.
Four pizzas and a box of donuts

Cherry trees lining the road near the food court and commissary.
After lunch we made our way to the Japanese side (away from the awful music blaring from huge speakers on the American side).  The walk wasn't too bad.  They opened up a gate that is usually locked on the east side of the base, so we could make a short walk to the park.

Our path was from this point (just next to the picture taken above), then we followed this rail off to the right, walked across the area with the cherry trees (in front of the five story building int he background) and then all the way to the far left of the picture.
Once at the other side, we checked out the fountains first.  And, let the kids climb the hills.  Then, we stood and watched the mass of Japanese people in line to get onto the base.  I'd say there were thousands in line.  They stretched from the checkpoint before the gate, zigzagged for about a quarter mile, then stretched back out of the park and down the street!  It was insane!
The zig zagging line

Looking from on top of the ship, towards the checkpoint

Past the fountains, toward the checkpoint

Continuing from the zig zags, out of the park, and down the street.

Okay, so after the fountains, we boarded the ship, Mikasa.  This ship is now a museum on dry ground.  I wasn't able to get too much of the history because the kids were so excited to run around the ship.  They tested guns and cannons, they climbed up the stairs, climbed down stairs, sent a message via morse code, made waves in the kids' area.  So, we had to move quickly from station to station, no time to read any explanations.  The one time I tried to read three sentences, I turned around and my family had disappeared.  I spent the next 5 minutes searching, then headed up toward the exit and waited another 10 minutes for them to reappear.

Mikasa.  According to the internet, this is a pre-dreadnought (these replaced the ironclad ships) battleship, built by, and in, the UK for the Imperial Japanese Navy in the 1890s.  This ship served in the Russo-Japanese War in the early 1900s.  It survived several hits in three battles, but none too serious.  Then, a week after the end of the war, a magazine exploded and the ship sank.  It was salvaged and repaired, then in 1922 it was decommissioned  as part of the Washington Naval Treaty.  It is the last of the pre-dreadnought ships in the world.

Kris showing Garytt how to tap out a G.  He didn't follow directions too well the next picture was a blur of him rapid-fire tapping while laughing.

Mackenzie tapping out her M.  She did a good job.
preparing to fire a shot!

Heading up!  When we walked by the crow's nest (I think that's what it's called) Garytt asked if he could climb all the way to the top.  Uh...NO!

That's the base across the water

There was an awesome theater on the ship.


Bedroom, with a teeny tiny bed
After our tour of the ship we headed back to the base.  We did NOT go the short route, along with the thousands of people.  We walked through town to the base gate.  Along the way we were able to see pretty flowers and water fountains.  And, we stopped and bought some kind of yummy chicken to share. 

Garytt:  Mommy, take a picture by these flowers to show Grandma.

A few feet behind me there is a sign that says "No climbing on rocks".  Garytt pointed that out to the kid whose mother was letting him climb. 

The sun came out during our last bit of walking.

This is actually on the base.

Chicken.  I think a sweet sesame chicken sausage.

This is the road leading to our apartment tower - the one just behind the trees.
It was a fun day.  It would have been nice to have some sort of flyer to tell us what time the events took place, because we noticed the next day that there was a Japanese drum show and we heard there were other Japanese cultural shows.  Oh well, next year!  Our plan is to head back to Kamakura this weekend, as long as the rain stays away.  I think this is the last weekend we will be able to see the cherry trees.  On our walk yesterday the trees "snowed" on us.  The kids (and I) thought that was pretty cool!  They sure are beautiful to look at.  If I could get some deeper blue skies around here they would make for some amazing pictures.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mt. Fuji and Hakone

The weather here last week was beautiful!  We spent several afternoons hanging out at the park and took a walk before dinner a few nights as well.  When we saw that Saturday was supposed to be 70 and sunny, we thought it would be a perfect day to go take a look at Mt. Fuji.  After looking at train rides and prices (2 hours on the train for almost $28 in tickets, one way) and then thinking about lunch, the thought came to us that maybe we would drive.  I mean, it's only 60 miles from here, and we could pack a cooler and a picnic basket and have a beautiful adventure!  So...we packed the car and headed out of the house at 945.

I don't quite remember the roads we took, I think it was 16 to 134 to 1.  134 and 1 ran along the shore, so we had beautiful views while we sat in traffic for HOURS!!!!!  Moving 20 feet and then stopping for five minutes, moving 20 feet then stopping for five minutes!  Oh my gosh!!!!  It took FOREVER!!!!

We finally found the road up the mountains of Hakone.  I don't think I've been on switchbacks as crazy as these!!!  Kris had a blast driving up the mountain.  Once we got to the top of Mt. Hakone we had a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji and the caldera lake below, Lake Ashinoko.  We wanted to find a park to relax, eat, and take lots of pictures.  So, we pulled out our map and searched for parks in the area.  We found one and headed in that this point (the three hour mark in a trip that was supposed to only take 1 1/2 hours to drive 60 miles) we all needed a restroom and FOOD!  So, we got to the entrance of the park and tried to talk to the lady at the gate...she spoke no English and Kris knows enough to say, "I don't understand".  We understood her to say "park" and "blanket" so we thought we were in the right place.  We asked about a restroom and she shook her head no and pointed to the restroom on the map that had an X on it.  But, luckily, there was another one in the park, or so the map said.  So, we drove up the road and found the restroom....doors were locked.  OH NO!  We drive a little further and find a parking lot to pull into.  We park and get out and realize that we are in a dog park!  Dogs everywhere.  It was a beautiful view, but not really somewhere we probably wanted to put down a blanket and stretch out on the grass. 

So, we throw together four sandwiches, pull out drinks and pretzels and desperately search our map for another bathroom.  Deciding that there were no others in this park, we decide to just head back down the mountain to the city of Hakone.  As we got to the park entrance, Kris said, "You probably need to say 'toilet' not 'restroom'.  I gave it a try, and, SUCCESS!!!!  Woo hoo.  Kris thought this is probably one of those places we heard about in our AOB class where there was just a hole in the ground.  So, I ventured in first, and, he was right.  Oh, how do I convince Mackenzie to do this....I'm lucky the child is smarter than me...she found that the last stall had a full toilet in it.  Yay!

Waiting for our turn
Now that we all feel better, we head off to see if we can find the steam vents and hot pools of Mt Hakone.  By looking in my book, I think that Owakudani is the area with the vents, so we start on our way.  About a mile from the steam vents we hit a traffic block.  After sitting here for a few minutes and not moving anywhere, we decide it's best to just give up and try another time.  We head back down the mountain, all the way to the lake.  We decide to park and take a little walk.  On our way, we see that there is a ropeway from Togendai (where we were, at the bottom by the lake) up to Owakudani.  It's a little pricey, but so far this trip was a cheap one, so we decide to spend the money.  They let the kids get on free, which I'm pretty sure Mackenzie should have paid a fair, and Kris and I paid 1800 Yen each.  We pay for our tickets and head on up to the loading station.  Garytt was sooo excited!  Mackenzie was quiet, probably a little apprehensive.  But, she hopped on and took in the views. 

A view of Lake Ashinoko

The Boy looking down on the trees

Fujisan hiding behind a bit of smog

Looking back towards where we started

Checking out the view

Fujisan is the highest mountain in Japan, at just over 12,000 feet.

On our way up to see the vents

It was hard to see Fujisan in my camera with the steam and fog, so I didn't realize they were standing in front of it.

Again...couldn't tell we were in front of Fujisan

Boiling hot spring.

I read that it is tradition to buy and eat these eggs that are cooked in the natural hot water.  The sulfur in the water turns the eggs black.  It is supposed to add 7 years to your life to eat one egg.  They came in batches of five....I thought Kris and I will be eating a lot of egg because I didn't expect the little ones to eat.  Well, Garytt ate most of his and Mackenzie even ate most of hers...all but the yellow stuff.  :)  Then, Kris and I had one each and split the last one. 

The egg and it's packaging
Garytt peeling his egg

Miss Picky eating her egg

Once we arrived at Owakudani, we squeezed through the crowds and headed to the steps up toward the steam vents.  The walk was a little tough on Garytt's legs, especially since it was after 2 and he hadn't had a nap.  So, we walked slowly to the top of the steps, and he only fell half a dozen times...which, is typical.  Wow!  What a view!  If only it was a clearer day we would have had amazing views!

My fabulous husband thought to take a panoramic shot.  I'm so glad I keep that guy around!
After inhaling about as much of that yucky smelling sulfur as we wanted, we jumped back onto the ropeway and headed back down to the river.  Once at the bottom Kris and the kids headed to the car while I ran down to the river to get a shot of the ships that take a tour of Lake Ashinoko.  Pretty cool!  Maybe next time.

Lake Ashinoko tour boat, with canons and everything!
Now, it's almost 4 o'clock so we head back home.  OH MY GOSH!!!!  Lesson learned about why most people use trains in Japan.  We only had to drive 60 miles!  We decided to avoid the route we came in on because we thought we'd go crazy if we had to move inch by inch for three hours.  Well, that would have been better that the four hours of inching we did on the other road.  We got to the base around 8 o'clock, grabbed McDonald's for dinner and went home. 

It was great to see the mountain and ride the ropeway.  The kids had a blast, and actually did pretty good in the car for 8 hours.  And, it was nice that we just finished a lesson on the earth's layers and volcanoes, so it gave a nice finish to the things we talked about all week. 

Best line of the day:  Kris:  It sure is a good thing I had two eggs on that mountain, because I'm sure all this traffic has taken years off of my life!