Thursday, May 03, 2007

Only in Japan

What is it? A hamster? A mushroom? No! It's a stuffed tofu!

Only in Japan.

My friend just left from a two-week visit to Japan and before she left, she told me all the things she found unique about the wild and wacky world of the rising sun.
  • Calpis Soda -- the name of a very popular softdrink. In fact, it's my daughter's favorite.
  • Lunch tickets at the rest stop -- we took a short drive on the freeway (which cost a LOT of yen) and stopped at a scenic rest area for lunch. I guess they don't get many foreigners on the road because there was no English whatsoever. This wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that to get lunch, you have to decide what you want from a menu with no pictures -- just Japanese writing -- and push the appropriate buttons. Then the machine spits out tickets for what you bought, which you present to the cooks who cook it and call out your number. Luckily for me, most menu items are written in "katakana," which is the phonetic alphabet for foreign words, so I could figure most of it out -- chi-key-n, ra-mah-n, ka-ray-rah-ee-su and so on.
  • tofu pillow -- Where else on the planet could you get a child's stuffed toy in the shape of tofu?
  • curry cheese fries - We stopped at Wendy's for some good old fashioned American food and had this with our singles.
  • grocery carts -- instead of pushing a huge cart, you get a basket, which most people then set on the cart -- or you can just carry it around. My friend thought this was most handy.
  • vending -- There is literally a machine on every corner for drinks. You can also find just about anything else, from soup to porn magazines, but, for some strange reason you never see snacks.
  • set meals -- Something you can find at most fast food places in the U.S. comes at most restaurants. You order the main dish that you want and for a few dollars more you can get the "set" which usually includes bread or rice, soup and/or a salad, and a drink. At one Italian restaurant it even included your choice of red or white wine!
  • business hotels -- And we MEAN "business." The hotel we stayed at in Kobe refused to let my child stay with us -- at any price. These are cheap (by Japanese standards) and spartan -- usually a bed and a TV. Ours didn't even have a window!

Coming Up Next . . .

More of

Wild and Wacky


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Time of our lives

Who would've thought? In the midst of our first bowling excursion the other week, Bonnie turns to me and says, "Mommy, we're having the time of our lives, aren't we?"
On the left you can see her standing in front of the alley while her ball goes straight down the middle, heading to pick up a spare. Of course, it didn't hurt that the alley the kids were using had a "fence" on it to keep the balls out of the gutter. On the right of her is my ball heading not so neatly down the middle of the lane, veering into no man's land.
Later, we tried out the conraption in the next picure, which is for even younger children to use. I love the way Wayne is pointing like the hero of Moby Dick spotting the great white whale in the distance. This ball rolled every so slowly to its final destination, knocking over seven pins in slow motion. The kids were delighted. The little boy, Koken, is the son of our manager. He is a year behind Bonnie in school, but they are great friends. Bonnie has seen soaring castles, ghost-faced geisha, eaten feasts, dressed in summer kimono and flown on a farris wheel here in Japan, but BOWLING earned the description, "time of our lives." I wonder if that had anything to do with the fact that she beat me. Next time I'm bowling on the kids' lane!