Monday, April 18, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Forgot to mention

I ATE PUFFER FISH...And lived to tell about it...

Kumamoto almost at the end...

Here's a few photos from our day yesterday. We went to Amakusa on the western coast of Japan and took a boat ride around the many islands and 5 bridges there. Amazingly Amakusa was once a stronghold for Christian ministry and remains today one of the most undeveloped and natural parts of Japan. We saw many eagles, some other birds and lots of fishermen. They harvest seaweed, shrimp clams, oysters and other fish there. The area is famous for pearls, so we bought some :)

We also stopped on the way back at a local fishery where we bought yellow tail, sea bass and squid for a wonderful sashimi dinner that night at Takako's uncle's house. We celebrated, from what I am told, a very rare occasion - a formal invite from a Japanese family for dinner. Unlike American dinners, Japanese culture dictates that people are not usually invited to other people's homes as the home is considered sacred and a temple for the family. Especially for an outsider, an invitation to meet the family and relatives is a high honor and we treated it as such. We were also introduced to to Takako's ancient relatives, when we visited their gravesite. I didn't take any photos, out of respect, but the site is in Takako's uncle's village and houses remains from several relatives. We cleaned the site, lit candles and incense and added flowers, saying a brief prayer as we did. It was very nice.

Dinner was wonderful, you can see the photos of the event, sushi everywhere, many relatives and lots of sake and beer (uncle has a penchant for sho-cha, a strong sake that will knock your socks off and clear the sinuses.) Every 10 minutes or so we were greeted to a robust "konpai!" We met too many relatives to count, including a VERY shy two-year-old Hami, who, like another kodomo we know, loves the train "Thomas." We ate too much, drank too much and rolled our way home in a be greeted by a huge watermelon at our doorstep. Takako's mom bought a specialty from Kumamoto - local watermelon that was delicious. Takako's aunt came over to tell us the latest about her other uncle in the hospital and soon after we went to be content.

Today we host our reception and get dressed up in kimono's...looking forward to these photos. Flying back tomorrow :( Already booked the tix and now we somehow have to fit 10 suitcases worth of stuff into 5 bags. We'll see how it goes...gotta run. See y'all in a few...


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Only 3 Days Left

and we return to アメリカ(America.) Takako has been rejuvinated, she's been so happy to be back home and visit with her relatives. So far, she's had a chance to visit with her mom, her aunt, her uncle and several others. The vacation all culminates on Sunday when we will celebrate our wedding and have a small traditional Japanese reception. This will include photos with kimonos. We decided, however, to visit the reception wearing the kimonos are VERY heavy and quite cumbersome. Plus, one kimono may cost upwards of $10,000, so we'd hate to get food on it :)

Tonight we'll be going with Takako's aunt Aiko to a revolving sushi to come

Tomorrow, we'll be going to the beaches of kumamoto to try their famous shellfood (although we did have traditional Japanese breakfast that included miso, rice and Kumamoto clams...mmm).

Then Sunday the reception at 3. Looking forward to it. but sad the vacation will be coming to an end soon.

So for now, I hope you enjoy the photos and video, will try getting up to the Internet cafe at least once more...

The Search for Beer

What with the tragic events unfolding in the past days and weeks, we've turned to the more mundane...the search for craft beer in Kummamoto. Unfortunately, we've not had much luck. Kirin and Asahi are typically on tap, Sapporo is available via can, but unlike Kyoto, craft beer does not seem to have caught on here. I'm seeing a chance to bring a new market to the south of Japan...

7.4 Magnitude Quake

Woke up to the news of another large aftershock that hit the Sendai region. Although I did not feel it here in the south of Kumamoto, I've been told that at least 2 people have been killed. I'm sure many at home are wondering how we are, but, as I said, in the southern island of Kyushu we did not feel it. It's amazing that life continues to move on here. We see the damage on TV, and even though we're here when it is happening, we feel very removed from it. I will say, though, that it is on everyone's mind, people are discussing it and wishing the best for those who are suffering...

Have LOTS of video, but need to edit it down a bit. Here's a short 1 minute vid of the crazy vending machines that are all over Japan