This weekend we walked around 15 minutes from our apartment and attended the Belgium Beer Festival. With 113 different beers, live music, and food it was was a fun night for the whole family. This was held in the very trendy and popular Roppongi Hills shopping area and despite all the people there we randomly met up with two different expat families that we knew through our kids school! It was a lot of fun to hang out with some other expats and enjoy the event. Zeke was especially a free spirit, dancing like crazy. At one point he danced with a Japanese young person who thought he was a blast and then he lead the conga line that went around the whole venue during one of songs.
So everyone had a great time and the kids loved the chocolate waffles that were made from something like brownie batter. Yum! I guess we should have at least taken a selfie.
It has been raining so much lately that we were very happy to get out of the house and enjoy the night. We have finally experienced a few cooler days but in general it still feels super hot to me.
So this last weekend we did not have any big plans so Saturday we decided to check out some of the happenings around Tokyo. We all rode our bikes for the whole day and probably saved $50 versus riding the bus. There was rain off and on during the day but we were able to avoid it for the most part. The first event we went to was the Super Yosakoi dancing competition with over 100 groups competing. Here is the description from the event:
The original yosakoi dance started life in Kochi in 1954, where it was intended to help revitalise the struggling post-war economy, and Tokyo’s own Super Yosakoi festival has been going for over a decade now. The event sees 100-odd teams of brightly attired dancers trying to outdo each other as they strut their stuff to the rhythm of the naruko – a type of clapper that the people of Kochi originally used to scare birds away from their fields.
Anna bought a naruko that she decorated herself. The dances were very different from one group to the next, sometimes very traditional feeling, others very contemporary with moves stolen from hip hop and other styles. Here are some of the pictures and videos from the event. Continue reading
I should’ve posted this a while ago but better late than never. As we were packing for our relocation I received an email from the Japan BSC office saying that our Japan BSC president was invited to the US Independence Day celebration at the US Ambassador’s residence but as he was unable to attend would I like to attend in his place. This was a big surprise but also a big opportunity so I accepted and 8 days after our plane landed I was to attend the party and meet Caroline Kennedy, the US Ambassador to Japan. The funny part was that during the frantic packing in our final days in the US we did not strategically allocate belongings that should be in our carry-on luggage versus our air shipment. The air shipment would take 1-2 weeks to arrive so it wasn’t a huge gap except that all of my dress shoes were in the air shipment!
We were monitoring the progress of the air shipment day by day and hour by hour towards the end to see if we would get it before my event at the Ambassador’s residence. The air shipment arrived at like 3 pm and I eventually found my shoes and left the apartment around 4:30. That was cutting it very close!
The party was so much bigger than I expected and it was so very hot. The reception line to meet Mrs. Kennedy was quite long for a 5-second greeting and photo. It was a very short interaction but I was still quite nervous. It felt so surreal; her father is JFK (she was 5 when he was assassinated) and she has a very high approval rating by the Japanese. This was my first event like this and I wasn’t sure of protocol or anything. Overall it went just fine and it was a short walk from our house so it all worked out.
They had all sorts of food and drink, a live band, and color guard presenting the US flag, etc. It was a cool event and I feel very privileged that I was able to attend but being so new to the area and Japan market, I did not know a single person there and we did not have any source for childcare yet so Jenny stayed home. So it was pretty lonely but a very cool party. It would have been super awesome and 10,000 times better if she was there with me.
Here’s a video of the color guard. It was great to see the US represented in Japan.
So I was home this weekend and decided we should get out and find a new place to visit. We ended up going to Yoyogi Park and it was AWESOME. Jenny thought she went there a few days prior but she actually went to the park right next door. We’ve got a bunch of pictures on this adventure so mostly I’m just going to narrate them but I found a bunch of MY PEOPLE.
So here we are on our way out of the park but it shows the large entrance area. It was crazy how many people were there glued to their phones. It must be because Pokemon GO just launched in Japan this weekend. However, Tokyo people are much more addicted to their phones than anywhere else we have been.
There was lots of walking pathways that were wooded and peaceful. It was nice to get away from the busy city and enjoy nature right in the middle of Tokyo for a bit. The cicadas were super loud as it was a warm day but I kinda liked it.
We saw lots of groups filming random videos. I gather that this is a popular thing to do at the park. Our first pit stop was the dog park as Anna is hopelessly in love with all dogs. This was her highlight and it was fun to watch the cute dogs running around. They had a separate area for little dogs and for big dogs.
After the dog park, we wandered further into the big open area and there were people doing cool things all over! Of course there were people doing art and playing music or just catching some sun with friends but the first thing that grabbed our attention was GIANT BUBBLES! There were a couple guys there that had the equipment and bubble solution and they would let others give it a go. These bubble wands were at the next level, made from light-weight plastic chain so that every look and every link of the chain made bubbles. It was awesome and I loved it. I’m already planning my bubble wand…
So while the bubble fun was going on, I spotted some guys playing ultimate-style catch. Even guarding each other a little during the throws to practice throwing around the mark. I stood just a little ways off and tried to catch their eye but they were not interested. I crept a little closer and it was pretty obvious I was interested but still no invite. I nearly chickened out (yes, it is so uncomfortable and takes way too much courage to just say “can I play?” to total strangers in a strange place. Especially when you don’t speak the language) but I figured I didn’t have much to lose and I was desperate for some Ultimate so I caught one of their eyes and motioned that I would like to throw in their circle. I could tell they were super surprised but nodded affirmation and proceeded to throw me the disc. They were doubly as surprised when this 30-something white guy threw a (nearly) perfect flick to the next guy in the circle. So I had fun playing catch with them and one of the guys tried to mark me during my throws and kept asking for advice on how to defend my throws better. He spoke some English but mostly it was sign language. That was my highlight. When I decided to get back to the family before they left without me, I used my phone to have them find their facebook group so I could try and find out when they played ultimate. Hopefully something comes of that but at least I got to play catch!
So after the Ultimate and bubbles, we found an awesome guy that made paper airplanes with rubber band launchers for kids. They were amazing and went super high and far. I hope the video works because it was super impressive. We got like 3 stuck in trees but I used Zeke’s shoe to get all but one down. And the shoe came down too. You can tell by the picture that I studied his technique closely so I have another trick in my bag now for the future. 🙂
Ok, it’s getting super late and Jenny just told me that we need to get to bed if we are going to CrossFit at 6:15 AM tomorrow. So i’m just going to publish and figure that having some update out there is worth it!
Quick recap: Packers came on Thursday 6/16, Movers on 6/17, Jenny and my parents left on Saturday 6/18, we left on 6/20. Wow. Pictures and more below the break. Continue reading
Here is me with the Japan EP Marketing Team. I’ll be working closely with these guys going forward, eventually they might report to me but not for now. Good group of guys and glad they all speak decent English. 🙂
I know a number of you are probably curious about what we are doing with all our MN considerations. Here are the current plans in brief. We will do a separate post on Japan plans.
- Timing – We will be moving in late June (June 21st is the current target)
- We are renting our home. Current price is $2,250 for the entire thing so spread the word!
- Will leave the riding mower, snow blower, weed wacker, and wheel barrow for the tenants
- We will drain the hot tub and prohibit its use by tenants
- Projects – we have a bunch left to do and would love help (Jenny’s going to post more on this later)
- We will continue to rent our old property on Norton St.
- Work – Jenny is quitting daycare and not working in Japan (she already quit!)
- We are selling all the daycare stuff. If she does daycare when we come back we will acquire the materials to support it
- Selling my 2004 Audi TT turbo (let me know if you want to buy it!)
- Storing the Odyssey (that we JUST paid off) at Jenny’s parents (THANKS!)
- Selling the Bayliner boat ;-(
- Pets – since Tokyo is rabies-free and has very little space for dogs…
- We are giving Shadow to Jenny’s parents to keep him in the family. This will be a tough one for us but a Tokyo apartment is no place for a 75 lb golden-doodle that love people. I know he will LOVE saying hi to all the visitors at the Saathoff’s
- We are bringing our cat, Sawyer, with us. The company will pay for his transport but not all the immunizations or testing. He will not be able to come until 3-4 months after we move and will be staying with a foster family (Thanks Luke and Sara!)
- We will be shipping a good portion of our furniture to Japan. It will arrive 3-6 weeks after us so we will rent temporary furniture when there or do without
- We will be selling or donating a good chunk
- The company will pack and store the rest here
- Other belongings
- We will be shipping some, selling some, and storing some. We have gone through room-by-room and done the initial triage.
- Small group – we are transitioning our small group to new leaders and they will continue to meet and pray for us. 🙂
- Alcohol – we will be drinking all of it before we move since they won’t ship it (and we’ll for sure need a couple drinks before all this is said and done)
So in general, it’s true that Japanese stuff is smaller. Smaller portions, smaller people, smaller clothes sized, smaller packaging. So here are some images and memories from my latest trip of food-related things that were interesting. First off, their M&M’s are not flat. They have tiny packages of them that are closed opposite directions from each other. The M&M’s were still yummy but it was a funny package.
One of the first nights on this last trip we walked down the street to a traditional Japanese restaurant. It had an on-demand grill and food arranged around it that we would request cooked for us. I think we had chicken, pork, asparagus, beer (of course), and some of the group got some grilled fish. Since it was the cherry blossom bloom, we had some seasonal beer with pink cherry labels. It was nice hanging out with the group and the food was quite good. I especially liked the asparagus, which is comical considering how much I abhorred it during my childhood.
So the coffee in my room was also something that I had never seen before. They have little packs of single-brew coffee and an electric kettle that boils water in a hurry to use for coffee or tea. One thing I love about Japan alreay is that they love their coffee STRONG! Seriously, we’ll have to water this stuff down double if Jenny’s parents come visit (which we will gladly do of course!). 😉
Overall the food was fine on the trip although my gut took a little while to agree with me. There was not much fruit with the meals and portions were really small, which is why I lost 3 pounds in 2 weeks while I was there. Often I had a bunch of flavors that I had not acclimated to yet so I didn’t always finish my food and eventually started craving the normal foods from home. I’ve already had a “normal” salad, PBJ, and cereal.
On Sunday 4/10, I spent some time in Roppongi. Lifehouse international church is located there and Jenny was hoping that I could check it out since I was here over a weekend. So I planned my day around that objective. Since I had extra time in the morning, I decided to try and figure out the subway and train system on my own. Continue reading
Since I got the flickr account all linked up, I thought I would share some of the scenic pictures from my trip. It’s so nice to be back home!
First of all, it was the most popular time in the entire year to be in Japan. The cherry blossoms were at their peak and they were beautiful! So many large blooming trees and roads and streams lined with them. Continue reading