Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Week

Doroty and Toto
Tin Man looking for oil
We had quite a busy week leading up to Christmas...decorating, visiting friends, crafts, special shows, cookie baking....what a great way to lead into a beautiful time of year.
The weekend before Christmas we were invited to Tsukuihama to watch a group of sweet Japanese children perform The Wizard of Oz, all in English.  A friend of mine teaches English during the week and asked us to come and enjoy the show!  Yay!  We were so excited to watch the show and spend the evening with such amazing people!  All the children spoke pretty clear English.  We were able to understand each and every word.  When the show was over, then we shared Christmas treats with our Japanese friends.  My fruit tree was a hit....the chocolates went first, then the strawberries, and the grapes and blueberries were last.

 Following the snacks we helped the kids with crafts and then had a great game of Bingo.
Matcha Christmas tree

Christmas crafts
 We played Bingo until all the kids much fun!  Garytt won a pair of awesome socks (socks that he wore for three days straight, until I forced him to take them off so they could be washed).  Mackenzie won a cute little Santa plush (which, anyone who knows this girl, knows she lllooooovvvveeeesssss stuffed toys) and she also won an awesome roll of Santa toilet paper!  I think that was my favorite gift of the night.  :)  After the party, we headed to a pizza joint just down the road with our dear friends, Nina, Dan, Benjamin, and Henry.  The pizza was delicious!  Potato pizza, Margherita pizza, and I think the third was gorgonzola.

The very next day, Mackenzie was on a crafting mission.  She made cute little snowmen for the tree (supplies courtesy of Grandma) and decided to give one to Junkosan (our friend from Tsukuihama) as a thank you for inviting her to the play.  --that's the Santa she won at the party watching the magic happen.  She also made snowflakes, a nativity scene and other ornaments for the tree.

After our final football game that Saturday morning (cheer was canceled because of rain, none of us were disappointed in that) we went to Garytt's football party and then went to our building Christmas party.  The kids were able to see a very uninterested Santa Claus, one which I had to explain to the kids was a (poor) stand in for the real deal, because the true Mr. Claus was too busy to visit every party this time of year.  --Picture to the right is Boy in his new favorite monster socks, holding his new, and old, football trophies.

A few days later we spent the morning with our cute little friend Alyssa and her mom, Leanna, baking and decorating (very sugary decorated) cookies.

The final result:  about 10 dozen cookies to share with friends, Sugihara Sensei, Ayakosan, and the hardworking men and women at the 911 center.  (picture below was taken after we had eaten several and also handed out a few boxes to friends)

We are one of those families that has good times with our Elf on the Shelf, Jibee Hoban.  This year he seemed to have a little more fun than last year, though not as much fun as some other elves I've seen on Facebook.  But, I just can't bring myself to allow that elf to make a huge mess that I then have to clean up.  Plus, I was afraid if he was too tricky, Boy would try to emulate some of his maneuvers.  Here are a few of Jibee's adventures this year:

Practicing ballet with a few friends

Hiding in the ceiling pot light

Hanging out with his favorite ballerina

Hiding in the fridge with sugar cookies to bake

He got in a little trouble for making snowflakes and then not cleaning up his mess, so a few friends tried to teach him about cleaning up after arrow point.

Chilling with the angel

He delivered a new coloring book and even colored a few pages for the kids.

 On Christmas Eve, while the pies were baking, we headed out to the street corner and waited for the Yokosuka Fire Department to drive by with a special guest!  It was a lot of fun hanging out with all of our friends, climbing trees, chasing each other, and then finally, squealing with delight as Santa came riding past.

Kaylee and Garytt were so excited that they had each other by the shoulders shaking each other back and forth and squealing.

Blurry picture, sorry, but the driver kind of took off quick, maybe Santa realized he was out too late before delivering toys.

When we got back upstairs, ate dinner, and then had baths, the kids watched Santa riding over the Pacific on his way to deliver his first presents.

For some reason I didn't get a picture of Jibee with his Christmas Eve delivery...he left us a new book to read and a chocolate cake with candles so we could have our traditional "Happy Birthday, Jesus" party.

After cupcakes and teeth brushing, the kids settled in on the couch with one of the best books we have ever received....Twas the Night Before Christmas, read (electronically) by Pop Pop, even though he was home in bed asleep.  :)  My kids (as well as Kris and I) cherish this new tradition.

After reading the story of Jesus' birth to the kids it was time to hop in bed.  But, not before one last look out the window to see if we could see the sleigh...WAIT...HE SEES A BLINKING LIGHT!!!!  Oh, it's just an airplane. to bed....

One last craft for the week....a new nativity scene.  It was a lot of fun to make, the kids didn't help much, other than argue about which figure belonged to which kid.  Mackenzie set it up once we finished all the people and animals.  Garytt used a few leftover pieces to make a place to harness the donkey (on the left of the picture).

Christmas Day was started a little more unusual than others....Garytt came running in our room at 0830 and yelled, "The tree fell over!"

Me: Ugh, Kris...the tree fell over.

We get up and head out to the family room.  The tree didn't fall over...Boy just thought that was the fastest way to get us up and out of bed.  Sneaky little Boy!

After cinnamon rolls were in the oven and sausage was sizzling on the stove, the chaos began.

A big Olaf!

A box!

Rainbow loom

Handmade scarf and hat, made by Aunt Tisha.

Lots of Lego toys this day.  We had a quiet afternoon as the kids spent time building.  Finally, Garytt is old enough that he could build his toys all by himself.  Well, other than just one creature that he put together backwards, so I had to reverse a few things for him to carry on.

The Havens' had a wonderful Christmas this year and we hope yours was just as magical!  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chojagasaki Ohama Beach (Near Hayama)

This is going to be mostly a picture-post.  We went to the beach yesterday with good friends and had an amazing time!  Fun in the sand.  Accidental fun in the water (well, fun up until the sun was inches from the horizon and the wind started to pick up, then there were a few tears and lots of shivering).  A beautiful sunset.  And, a yummy dinner to round out the trip.  Without further adieu....

We arrived around 1500 and parked in a nearly empty lot right next to the beach.  On the way out, Nina pointed out several other parking areas.  These places are obviously pretty packed during the summer and warmer weekends.  During peak time there are parking fees for all these lots, but we are out of season now, so it was free.  Also, the lots tend to close kind of early...around 1800.

Playing in the water.

Mackenzie found a crab's shell

The sun setting and Fujisan off to the right.  I really wish I had my camera instead of my phone.  

The boys playing dangerously close to the water - after their clothes had already been changed once.  

After running around on the beach we were all getting a little hungry.  So, we decided to stop at Denny's...our first time at a Denny's in Japan.  Well, actually, my kids' first time at a Denny's ever.

This is a shot from Denny's outdoor seating.  I could just imagine myself sitting out here in the morning, with a cup-o-joe, a yummy pastry, my camera, and a good book....then, the screeches of my children brought me back to reality.  

There wasn't an English menu, so this is what I had.  I think it was oysters.  The veggie salad on the right was delish....roasted zucchini, cabbage, and pumpkin.  WOW!

Garytt's pancake

If I can figure out how to get back to this place, I hope to make it out there several more times.  There is an Imperial Villa on this beach.  The Imperial family comes to Hayama sporadically for their winter retreat.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Kamakura Red Leaf & Salt Trails

It's the first Wednesday of the month again....time to hike with Fusakosan!  This month's hike was the Red Leaf Trail (on part of the Tenen Hiking Trail) and the Salt Trail.  I was super excited to get out and see the red leaves of the maples!  I was a little disappointed to see that there were a LOT of people signed up for the hike.  But, as it turned out, Wednesday was a chilly day and the winds were at 20 mph gusting to 25-30!  So, a lot of people dropped out at the last minute.  My kids ended up being the only two kids on the trip this time, at which, yes, we were given a lot of eye rolling and a few people kind of pushed them out of the way a few times.  But, when we got to the halfway mark and were given the choice of being guided back to the train station or off onto another hike, my kids outlasted those weaklings!  haha!  And, what would everyone have done without Boy's helpful advice along the way:  "Watch out right there!  It's slippery!"  "You don't want to step there because you'll fall!"  "Car!"  "Oooh, look!  BUGGSS!!"  

We made it to the Yokosuka JR station around 930 and caught the 0942 train to Zushi, where we met the second half of the group.  From here, we got on the 1012 train to Kamakura.  Just outside of the station, we got on the (incredibly full) #20 bus to the last stop:  Kamakuragu Shrine.  

Built in 1869, this shrine is dedicated to Imperial Prince Morinaga, who fought against the Kamakura Shogunate alongside samurai and the Ashikaga Clan.  He was killed in battle in 1355.  After the Meiji Emperor was reinstated he had this shrine built in memory of Prince Morinaga.  

Red Lion's head to fight against evil spirits

A wooden statue representing the samurai who sacrificed himself for the Prince.  

Small samurai statues you can purchase (although I couldn't see where the price was written anywhere at the table where I think you pick them up and write on the back).

Behind where I'm standing is the entrance to Kamakura-gu.  In front of me, up the steps, leads to the main hall and then to the right of that is the samurai statue.  To the right of where I'm taking the picture below is a building with restrooms.  Just past that is the beginning of the trail we took today.

The trail was pretty muddy.  And, there were several spots where the kids had to sit on their behinds to slide down.  You can see the many people on the beginning of the the beginning of the hike we were surrounded by people who walked quietly and left a good space between hikers, so it wasn't too overwhelming.  At one point we had a group of friends behind us that were right on my heels.  The same girls who almost pushed Mackenzie off the edge of a cliff trying to get a picture of Mt Fuji.  Thankfully, these girls, also the same girls who seemed annoyed at the beginning of the hike to see two kids tagging along, any who, these girls didn't join us on the second half of the trip.  :D

Pretty flimsy "bridge"

Mackenzie really liked when the path narrowed because of the foliage on the sides.  Me...not so much; because, she kept holding the stalks and then letting go so they would whack me in the face!  Garytt, well, who knows what he thought.  He abandoned me as soon as he saw Fusakosan.

I'm not quite sure how long we hiked before we found the red leaves.  When I looked at a friend's pictures from this hike last year there was so much more red!  Now, I'm not sure if that's because of editing, or if this place really turns totally red this time of year.  I might have to go back in a week to see how much more red it gets.  Of course, with continued breezes in excess of 20 mph, I might not have a chance.

Mackenzie said this should have been called the Yellow Leaf Trail
because the ground was covered in a yellow blanket of leaves.
Probably very pretty if it weren't for all the mud.

This tree had green, yellow, orange and a little bit of red.

From the top we caught our first glimpse of Mt Fuji.

Back on the trail!  Just up a few more stairs and around a corner, we came to where I think this trail runs into the Tenen Course.  Off to our left was a bamboo forest.  We took a right turn here, though.

"Wow, Momma!  How does this even happen??"  Hiking with kids is a lot of fun!  Everything is magical and jaw dropping.  :D

The end of the trail came out into what seemed to be someone's backyard. 

This road comes to a T and we took a left.  But, off to the right is Myooin Temple.  Myooin is a private prayer temple built by the fourth Kamakura Shogunate, Fujiwara Yoritsune.

From here, we walked through the city a bit before coming to Kosokuji Temple.  Founded in 1274.  According to the Temple literature:  "It has been said that Priest Ippen, the founder of the Jishu sect, founded the temple.  The wooden Amida Nyorai statue and the statues standing on its sides (Hoyake Amida), the principal images of the temple, bear the legend, according to which Amida got his cheek burned to be branded as a criminal for a priest suspected of theft.  It has been believed that the name, "Shioname Jizo," was given because every time a salt vendor living in Mutsuura (now Kanazawa Ward, Yokohama City) crossed the Asahina Pass to visit Kamakura and offered salt to the Jizo, he found the salt gone on his way back.  That tells that salt came from the Kanazawa area then."

Ok.  What Fusakosan said, when she was young she was told that people believed Buddha liked salt, and that's why the salt was gone when the vendor came back through.  I believe salt is called "shio" in Japanese, hence Shioname Jizo.

This temple used to be the residence of Mitsunori Yadoya, who was one of the seven retainers for the Fifth regent Hojo (early 1200's).  At the time, Priest Nichiren, founder of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism, wanted the Regent, who followed Zen Buddhism, to read his treatise, where he insists that the Lotus Sutra is the authentic Buddhism.  He asked Mitsunori to deliver it, which he did.  And, which, of course, made the Regent just a tad bit angry and just a little bit offended.  So, he threw Priest Nichiren's five disciples in a cavern at the back of Mitsunori's residence.  Mitsunori was so impressed with the way Priest Nichiren's disciples treated each other, as well as their "jailer" that he eventually converted to the Nichiren Sect (this was years after the fifth Regent's death).

After he lobbied for, and won, an early release from exile for Priest Nichiren, he converted his residence to a temple for Nichiren sect Buddhists.

The cave where they were kept is at the back of the grounds.

This is the main hall.  We were told that if you make arrangements a week in advance, they will open the main hall to you, if you pay a 300 Yen charge to enter.  

The Shioname Jizo

Checking out the big leaves.
From here, we headed toward the Salt Trail.  When you walk out of the temple grounds you would make a right turn and walk down the road a bit before coming to the trail.  This trail was covered in leaves, was pretty darn slippery, and starting to get quite chilly since the sun was starting to hide behind the buildings and trees.

On the Asahina Kiridoshi (Asahina Pass)

Entrance to the pass
Back before there were, waaayyy back before there were trains, there were seven passes (kiridoshi) used to get into Kamakura.  The Asahinna Kiridoshi was dug out around 1241, on the order of the Regent Yasutoki Hojo, as a way for salt and other goods to move between Mutsuura and Kamakura.  It was also a good way for reinforcements to arrive if the Hojo clan was attacked.  This is supposed to be the best preserved of the medieval passes.  

A Boy with his Fusakosan
There were several yugara (burial tombs) along the pass.

Well, look-y there!  We made it all the way to Yokohama City!

Mackenzie hiding in the cave.

According to a few ladies on the hike, at this point you can split to the right and it takes you back to Ikego.  She said there is a fence there, but if you walk around you can get to the front gate.  We went left at this point.

And, walked amongst the magestic sugi, cedars.

After walking through the cedar forest we walked under the YokoYoko, into town, and to the bus stop. We hopped on the bus and rode to Kanazawa Hakkei Station.

A map of our excursion.  

From one of our hike coordinators, T. C. Thomas

Shew!  This was a long hike!  The end result:  7.2 miles and over 14,000 steps!  We got home, ate dinner, I convinced the kids to let me read the next chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe about 30 minutes before normal story time.  Then, the kids were asleep before 8!  I was in bed by 830.  Now, I've been so impressed by this trail that I MUST find out more about the Tenen course...stay tuned!

Even Jibee Hoban was excited about our hike