The Simpson Journey

Four Simpsons on a journey through life and locations

Month: August 2016

Tokyo Festivals 8/27


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


Meeting Caroline Kennedy


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.


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Here’s a video of the color guard. It was great to see the US represented in Japan.


Kindness of strangers


We recently became proud owners of bicycles.  It turns out it is a bit more difficult obtain a car.  We walk lots of places and take subways a lot.  Buying bikes has allowed us to get to and from places much quicker.  We all got the proper gear: helmets. lights, and a bell.  Tokyo is a bike tolerant city.  There are not very many “bike lanes or bike paths” but drivers are very aware of bicycles. The left lane (they drive on the left here) is mostly for left turns or parked taxis.  Often times bikes are also allowed on sidewalks.   We have our preferred riding order. Caleb leads, followed bu Anna, Zeke and I.

Last night we decided to ride our bikes to a restaurant to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary! Since we weren’t sure exactly how to get there, we ended up going a bit out of our way to cross streets safely.  We were almost to our destination when we needed to ride our bikes up on to the sidewalk from the street.  What  we didn’t know is that there was a sizable lip on the driveway entrance.  Caleb managed the transition just fine but Anna tried to turn into the driveway and her bike slipped out from under her.  I will let you know she is just fine. As her bike tipped over she  fell into the sidewalk. Caleb, Zeke and I  pulled our bikes aside to help her but even faster than we could help, several pedestrians stepped in to help. We were overwhelmed with the fact that 3 or 4 strangers  immediately rushed over picked up her bike and made sure we were all safe.  One kind lady also brought her band-aids and a small package of kleenex!   Annabelle recovered AMAZINGLY.  After some hugs, and wiping her tears we rode off to dinner.  She has a scrape on one elbow, a small bruise on her leg, and said today her back and neck were a little stiff.  Praise God for protection and for the kindness of strangers.


(We didn’t stop to take pictures of our injured girl, but here are some pictures of us on our bikes from the other day!)



Zeke is proud to pose in front of the Ferrari car dealership with his Ferrari bike!


Hong Kong Day 1 (of 4)


We are barely feeling settled into our home and our routines but we took a vacation anyway. Caleb had a work event in Hong Kong that would require him to be gone over the weekend. With one flight and 2 nights hotel paid for we decided it was a good opportunity to have a little vacation. Caleb took a couple days off of work so we could spend some time together  and explore Hong Kong.

Day 1: Our trip from our apartment in Japan to the airport ended up being quite crazy. We got up and ready to leave the house for our 9:25 am flight. Of course we had a couple last things  to throw in the suitcases but we headed out the door in what we felt was plenty of time. Instead of riding multiple trains, or one taxi the whole way, our plan was to take a taxi from our apartment to a station that ran a train that went directly to the airport. It seemed like a great plan until…….

As you may know Japan subway system is extensive. It really makes it possible to get just about anywhere without a car. We got to the subway station just fine, looked at the maps, followed the signs, went to the right platform but we got onto the wrong train. We found out later that one train would  turn into an airport express train. We were NOT on THAT train! After some time checking the subway maps on our phone, reading the scrolling announcements that are displayed in the subway cars (mostly in Japanese, with occasional English) , and having a fair amount of panic we decided it would be best to get off the train and get onto another one. At the station we determined we  indeed had been on the wrong train and needed to wait another 10 minutes to get on the correct one.

We finally got to the airport and knew we were cutting it really close for our flight. We tried to check in on-line, at home before we left but no luck, we tried to check in at the kiosk at the airport, no luck. We followed to signs to the ticket booth for Japan Airlines only to be directed to another counter for their partner airline. As we finally got to the correct desk we told the receptionist we were in a big hurry and needed to get our tickets right away. We got to cut in line and we got our tickets but our seats were spread throughout the plane. At this point I think we had 20 minutes before the plane was scheduled to take off. The kids had been doing really good with our chaotic morning but Zeke was REALLY starting to panic now. We rushed to security and were able to get through fairly quickly! Next, we headed to immigration. The line was pretty short and we were feeling like everything may work just fine. When we got to the counter we were turned away because we had not filled out the proper paperwork. We exited the line and began to fill out the papers. I had so much adrenaline pumping through my veins that my hand was shaking while I was attempting to fill out the papers and needed to start a new form because I switched the kids birth years. Sometimes having 2 kids with birthdays in the same moth is hard!   Once we got the paperwork filled out correctly we had to reenter the line. Soon after, someone asked us if she could cut in line because her flight was about to leave. We found out she was on the same flight as we were. I guess we weren’t the only ones running late. After getting through immigration we ran, fast,   all 4  of us carrying backpacks and rolling our carry on roller bags, down the 5 moving walkways to the gate. You should take a minute to visualize this.  It is quite hilarious!  I am sure we turned lots of heads! As we arrived at the gate out of breath we told the attendant our flight number and she informed us OUR FLIGHT HAD BEEN DELAYED! It was only then that I noticed the hundred people waiting next to the gate, all staring at us! We caught our breath and waited in line for an additional 15 minutes before boarding. The flight went fine and the kids did great even though our seats were spread throughout the plane. So happy to have older kids! There is no way this would have worked if they were younger!

Hong Kong Geography

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Hong Kong International airport is on Lantau Island and since this was 30-45 minutes from our hotel.  We decided to do some sightseeing on Lanau Island right away. I had done some research ahead of time to see which things we should see and do. On the top of the list was visiting Tian Tan “Big Buddha” From the airport we to took a taxi to the cable car station. Luckily we were able to put our luggage in storage there. We bought tickets for the cable car. It was an amazing experience. We got in the gondola type cable car and off we went on our 3.7 km journey through the mountainous Island. At one point they stopped us because it was windy. That was a bit freaky. Our car didn’t move much but we just sat there for a couple minutes dangling in the sky watching as clouds rolled over the hill in front of us! The cable car ride took about 25 minutes for us to get the Ngong Ping village which hosts the Tian Tan Buddha.
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Ngong Ping Cable Car is a visually spectacular 5.7km bi-cable ropeway. As the first of its kind Hong Kong tourist destination, the cable car journey begins from Tung Chung, crossing Tung Chung Bay to reach the angle station on Airport Island and turning about 60 degrees in the air towards North Lantau. Visitors looking for something to complete their Hong Kong tourist attractions list will enjoy some of the best views during their joyful 25-minute ride: the vistas of the distant and vast South China Sea and the rolling grassland slopes of North Lantau Country Park from the cable car slowly take over from the hustle and bustle of the city. The journey also offers a breathtaking panorama of the Hong Kong International Airport, verdant, mountainous terrain of Lantau Island, Tian Tan Buddha and the 360-degree view of Ngong Ping Plateau.

The village was cute and filled with shops, a tea house, theater, restaurants, cultural demonstrations, shrines and statues. We even saw cows! They were resting in the grass near some of the statues. It was funny to watch tourists cautiously walk up to pose with the cows that were very tame and used to people  So of course we followed along and took pictures of the cows too 😉IMG_1021 After walking around the village a bit and looking at the shrines we headed up the 262 stairs to get a better look at the huge statue. It was pretty incredible to see this piece of culture. To find out more visit this site:

Here we are at the entrance!





The climate in Hong Kong is quite tropical.  We were all quite tired and warm after our busy afternoon.  We decided it would be best to head towards the hotel to unwind a bit.  From Npong Village we took the cable car back to the station and then figured out how to get train tickets. We bought a pre-paid sim card for my phone and used the change to purchase subway tickets to our hotel. It was only a 30 minute train ride and the station was in the basement of our hotel / mall so that was super convenient! Caleb’s work event was in Kowloon at the W Hong Kong,  a luxury hotel with an outdoor swimming pool on the 76th floor!

Instead of switching hotels midway through our trip to save some money we decided to make things easier and enjoy the extra comforts!  It was a nice hotel with lots of little extras. We discovered the basement levels of the hotel connected to a large shopping mall complete with ice rink, movie theater and grocery store.  We picked up some snacks and headed to our room .  The kids were impressed with the glass elevators  that had lights in the floor!  Most of the time there was a concierge waiting to push the elevator buttons for you.  The room was nice and we were happy they were able to find us a room with 2 beds.  (Although the beds felt quite small.  I think they were somewhere between a full and queen size)    The kids got changed right away because they wanted to check out the pool!    They insisted on wearing the fancy robes. 🙂  They are such silly kids.  I think they kind of looks like scientists on their way to the lab!  The kids spent an hour or so in the pool while Caleb and I sat poolside with a drink!  We were all we were all ready for bed soon after.


People Matter part 2


As promised I wanted to finish up my people matter post! (but of course it’s later than I hoped to be posting this)   I mentioned in our last post being in a new city, away from all things familiar makes you have a new respect and gratitude for friendly, kind, and familiar people.

In our last weeks in Minnesota we were so happy to spend some time with family!  Caleb’s parents (Loren and Colleen) came to visit.  We were in over our heads with things that needed to happen prior to moving.  They pitched right in and helped with everything from putting the kids to bed, to  repairing water or insect damage on a window ledge using a sticky bondo substance, and painting walls.  Thank you Loren and Colleen for your help, prayers, and support.  We made sure to add a little fun and went to Valley Fair with the Boston Scientific Family Fun day!

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My parents (Tom and Julie) are helping us maintain long term valuables.  They are  tremendous help by fostering our sweet dog Shadow and storing our van wile we are gone.    3 days before our move I drove with the kids to Madison to drop off the van.  It was a great time to visit with my family.  My brother Nick even came to see us for a bit and help with the transport of the van back to Illinois.  We got to stay in a great hotel with pool and had a great visit.  Thanks Tom and Julie for the prayers, support, hotel stay, storing our van, and caring for our dog! 

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Sadly Caleb was stuck with the dirty work of spraying the ceiling, and multiple other moving tasks.   Thanks Caleb for letting us go to Madison and spend time with my parents!


Caleb has loved the Ultimate Frisbee community in Minnesota.  He has played on leagues and at pick up games.  It was always a great source of joy for him. Thanks to Plaid Pickup Ultimate “Game to 100” for giving him something fun to do in the weekend we were gone in Madison.


We also had some dear friends invite us over on our last nights in Minnesota.  Thanks to Scott and Amy Whitmore for sharing your new home, a delicious meal, and your wonderful friendship.

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In our last year in Minnesota we discovered we had fun friends just across the street.  Thanks Pete and Lesley for the evenings of friendship, laughter, hot tubbing, and for feeding us one of our last MN meals! Totes! (twice).


We are beginning to make connections in Tokyo.  The kids attended one week of suIMG_0807mmer school at Tokyo International School (TIS).  It was a wonderful opportunity for them to be around other kids, get familiar with their school, and have fun learning.  Anna made quick friends with a girl named Ashley.  Since she also got on the bus at the same stop I got to know her mom Emma as well.   Emma and her kids were in Tokyo visiting from Taiwan.  I was so happy to meet a friendly mom who spoke English!  We spent a couple afternoons with the kids at the American club and at a kids gym place.  Sadly, they returned home to Taiwan just days after we met them. When they left Emma shared a box of Traditional Taiwanese Pineapple cake with us.  Such a sweet and tasty gift!

IMG_0773 IMG_0912Emma told us about this cool gym place, I think it’s called Nandemo; its like a community center that is all free for Manato-ku residents.  We filled out the registration card and got to use the whole center. They had a craft room, a toddler kids room, a gym (with unicycles, soccer, small kids climbing structures, and other equipment you could check out).  You can also check out video games to be used on their system.  In the video game room their is one play station.  The check out a game from the front desk, then need to set the timer on the basket for 15 minutes. When


the timer goes off its the next kid’s turn.  What a cool idea! While we were there Zeke spent A LOT of time trying to ride a unicycle.  There were lots of smaller kids zooming around this gym.  Zeke’s determination paid off and eventually he was able to ride a short distance!!!! Way to go Zeke!!!!

We have attended two churches in Tokyo so far.  We have not settled in to a “home” church yet but are  we are encouraged to know God is here and people who love him are here too.  The kids also attended a week of VBS at Tokyo Baptist Church.  I was a week full of fun songs, snacks, crafts, and more. I spent a couple mornings volunteering in the craft station.  We made friends with another nice family who was in Tokyo for 6 months from Texas.  Elizabeth Clark and her husband are both professors and have spent time in Tokyo 10 years ago. They returned this January with their 3 children to stay for 6 months.   The kids and I made quick friends with them and spent a couple afternoons after VBS hanging out.  Sadly they are leaving in a couple weeks as well.

We are hopeful that we will continue to make connections and hope to keep in touch  with many of you from the US.


People Matter… part 1


One of the hardest things to leave in Minnesota was our friends and  support network. We have now been in Tokyo for a little over a month and it is safe to say we miss our people.  We are thankful for technology and have been able to keep in touch with some people via google hangout video, facebook messenger and facetime!  We even have gotten a piece of personal mail, which is incredible also for the fact that most mail we get is in Japanese!?!!

As we were busy packing and preparing for our big move I continually reminded myself “PEOPLE MATTER.”  Our to-do-lists were never ending and we were stressed out but we knew people were more important than things.  We tried to prioritize people as much as we could.

We felt so blessed our small group and some folks from Mercy’s Care team were willing to help us prepare our house for rental. Thank you small group!
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Our dear friends Annetta  and Barnabas Howard offered to host a going away party for us.  When Jess Carlson also offered the help I knew they would get the job done!   Life was chaotic for us but  they handled it all beautifully.  We are so blessed by all the hard work they put in.  We had so much delicious food left over I didn’t even have to cook for a week! Thank you Annetta, Barnabas, Jess, Brett, and everyone who came to our party! I know there are some pictures that we missed 🙁  But we are thankful for everyone who came out!

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There are also a couple people who stopped by in the last couple days before we left…. notice Caleb and I are looking pretty tired and sweaty from working on all the house stuff. Thanks friends!

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I have so much more to write, more people to thank but I am going to post now with the goal of posting “People Mattter Part 2” within one week!  Stay tuned.  As always THANKS FOR READING!




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