Dean and Linda’s Kobe Adventure

Today Dean and I traveled to Kobe, Japan. It is Dean’s first Japanese business trip. We are scheduled to be here for ten days.

Dean’s company is concerned about service interruptions due to the uncertain power situation in Tokyo. This is having a significant impact on employee’s ability to get to and from work. To mitigate the Tokyo risk, some employees are going to Nagasaki and others to Kobe while most remain in Tokyo. Dean was sent to Kobe, so we embarked on our first Japanese adventure outside of Tokyo.

Kobe is centrally located by Nara, Kyoto and Osaka – all places we want to visit. We had several mini-adventures today including the Haneda airport, our first flight in Japan, a new city and some amazing goyza (dumplings) for dinner.

For clarification, we still don’t think Tokyo is a dangerous place to live. The temporary relocation is to accommodate business continuity not because of safety concerns. It is disappointing as we have things to do in our new apartment and now we have to readjust to an adventurous spirit instead of one focused on home. Power cuts have not yet affected our central Tokyo apartment but there are outages and transportation stoppages affecting other employees at Dean’s company. This is especially relevant to the trains. To function, his office needs power to work, trains to bring their employees in etc.

For anyone worried, Kobe is 267 miles south of Tokyo and 364 miles from the Fukashima reactor. This should be good news for anyone worried about radiation. It takes one hour to get fly to Osaka from Tokyo, and another 40 minutes to Kobe.

The only negative I can think of is lack of an iP phone. With our iP phone, I chat away, as long as I want for the cost of a local call. Without it, we are back to international calling or Skype. So, if you want to chat skype me – I even have skype on my cell.

Today, Dean went to the office and I started walking around Kobe. I found hundreds of restaurants. Hundreds. Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Chinese, Belgium, German, Turkish, Russian and more. Then there are the Japanese; Don Don, Sushi, Tonkatsu, Okkaymayi, Steak, Shabu Shabu, Goyza, Curry, Sandwiches, baked goods etc. I’m sure if I could read I would know about even more.

Kobe gives me access to a new city, and lots of other historic and cultural sites. Tomorrow I will start exploring. Thanks again for your thoughts and support – lots of interesting pictures and stories should come from this trip!

One month in Japan

One month in Japan and I have learned the following things

Some of the Hiragana: the Japanese writing system is made up of Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. For those of you who followed our China adventure, you may know how much I HATED being illiterate there. In Japan I am absolutely determined to learn to read. This is the first step. So far, I can read a few words, like cat, dog, horse and some colors.

Japanese like electronics and high-tech stuff. There needs to be much more information about this for you and much more education about it for me. High-tech is key here. This explains my bathtub, my toilet, my refrigerator, the elaborate fan system and venting in my apartment.

Japanese food is excellent and varied. Yakitori, soba, Udon, Korean BBQ, Tonkatsu, pickles and on and on. One great thing about Japanese foods is that they are generally basically the same. If you buy something with the same name from two different places, it will be pretty much the same. This makes it so much easier to manage.

Japanese tofu, I can’t believe I am back to this. In China, my favorite dish was Mapo Tofu. Pockmarked women’s tofu, with spicy Sichuan peppercorns. But what I have learned here is there are tons of different kinds of tofu and I like them. In fact Dean has been to a tofu restaurant. So far, I prefer grilled tofu – somehow it is grilled, then packaged and sold in the store just like regular tofu. What I need is something like an encyclopedia of tofu. So far, all I have been able to find is a 1970s book with some definitions in it, but maybe I’ll have something when my regular cookbooks come. I’m going to learn all about this miracle bean product.

Japanese snacks are amazing, and delicious and shocking. Doughnuts, rice balls, strawberry flavored Cheetos, plum flavored potato chips, a cold hot dog in a bun from the bakery? You can find it all here.

Sushi. Having our own local place, trying a few others and serving it at home are just the beginning. I’m going to buy a sharkskin grater and grate my own wasabi and after that, who knows? My first sushi class is Monday.

Japanese drinks are a completely untapped area of knowledge. Not just beer, though it is sold with different alcohol contents which are taxed at different rates. Beers are also seasonal, but I don’t quite understand how here. There is also sake, which is as complex as French wines. To add to the complexity there is also Shochu a beverage I really like. It is distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, buckwheat or chestnuts. Generally it is a little stronger than wine, but not as strong as vodka. It is a clear liquor and comes in bottles that seem like sake if you can’t read…much more needed on this. And there are also fruit flavored drinks – like a Japanese wine cooler, grape, lemon and others.

Japanese temples are very interesting. They are complicated, so many details. What does it all mean? I have seen a bean throwing ceremony, some Shinto brides, barrels of ceremonial wine and paper lanterns. Fortunes, wishes and deities. Shinto, Buddhism, and Japanese culture come together – this is something I need to learn about.

Japanese fitness is different. Japanese gyms, at least mine are different form the American type. Even if they have the same equipment inside, they are still different. Hopefully during the time I live here I will figure out how to use the Japanese elliptical and maybe even manage some Japanese yoga. For both of us, the Asia diet is a good one, more walking and smaller portions.

And mascots? Mascots are very popular here. In fact there is a mascot book! So many creatures both real and imagined and they are everywhere. Pink, orange and green seem to be the popular colors. Some are copies of actual animals, others completely imagined. And Sanrio, don’t even get me started on it.

Pink seems to be the color of Japan. So much pink, everywhere. It is the beginning of spring, so cherry and plum blossoms are starting now – both pink. Cherry blossom watching seems to be a pastime. But pink is also acceptable for coats, shoes, all kinds of bags, cars etc. Pink is good. Embrace it.

All these things to learn about, and we haven’t even left Tokyo. In fact we haven’t even wanted to.