Christmas!

SMS and I had a great first Christmas together!   I woke up early like a little kid- I was excited to open my presents!  We made coffee and exchanged gifts.  SMS was super-thoughtful.  I got Jerusalem (the cook book), special ear plugs (to hear voices while protecting my ears from the otologic drill!) and some clothes.  I got him some clothes from Outdoor Research, some shoes that don’t really fit (whah), a photography book and a chocolate orange.  Mom and Dad “surprised” me with an awesome convection oven that I used today!  I made a clementine cake from Smitten Kitchen (gluten-free) with a chocolate ganache adapted from my new cookbook!  During the course of this, I tripped the kitchen circuit AND transformer since I was trying to extract 3 times the electric limit while running the convection oven and George Foreman with the waffle maker plates at the same time.  While this was a little ridiculous, I did impress SMS by rattling off the formula that Watts = Voltage x Amps.  How do I remember these things?!?!  And why don’t I apply them?

I also got to talk with my whole family today!  I was so happy!  We almost missed each other because their dinner went long (a Messmer dinner long?  Shocking!!!) and SMS and I had a Japanese lesson today at 1:30 (nerd alert!).  I missed the first half of the lesson to talk with them but it was well worth it.  Everyone has had a great time in the Bahamas and while it has been so amazing to be in Japan with SMS, I still am a little sad and miss my family.  Emotions- complex little guys!

We also got to talk to Stacy and Michael which was great.  I’m so happy that I get to connect with family and friends even though we’re so far away.  It may sound trite but it’s profoundly true.

After the Japanese lesson, we headed to the XO and Beth Weber’s house for a great Christmas party.  SMS and I had a wonderful time and talked to a really delightful group of people.  Work talk was at a minimum and both of us had a really nice time.  It’s great to go to a party accompanied by my husband!

Then we headed home where I updated the blog and SMS worked on his kanji.   No wonder his Japanese is so much better than mine.

(The picture above is from our paperculture.com Christmas card proof.  I heard about the site on the internet and was super happy with our cards, especially that they were delivered so quickly!)

Rock Climbing and Hiking at Mt. Joyama, Numazu

As the sign says, rock climbing to the right, hiking to the left (yeah, yeah, the pictures are reversed!).  Christmas Eve was an outdoorsy day!  Chris, SMS and I drove about 2 hours and change to get to Mt. Joyama, a great south-facing rock climbing wall with multi-pitch routes in addition to single pitch.  Although we drove, Ohito Station is the closest station with about a 20 minute walk to the trailhead.    

Mt. Joyama is part of a chain of several small mountains.  The translation is that they are “volcanic neck mountains,” created by solidified magma in the central vent of the volcano.  The outer layers of the volcano erode away leaving only the solid core as a small mountain.  I think a better translation would be a volcanic plug mountain, just like the “Nine Sisters of San Luis Obispo County” that Morro Rock is a part of.  The descriptions of how each of the hills/mountains formed is pretty similar.  The other two mountains that are part of the hiking trail are Mt. Katsuragiyama and Mt Hottanjoyama.  The mountains are outside Izunokuni City.

Below, I’ve included the two cartoon-y maps that show the hiking trails.  

It was a great hike.  I started at the trailhead at the bottom right of the two photos, where there are three kanji symbols in a red, conversation-bubble shape.  The time estimates on the map were pretty generous.  The first split in the trail is to branch off to the right to the base of most of the rock climbing routes.  I heard the climbers from the main trail.  I stopped by to say hi to SMS and Chris, but there’s nothing particularly scenic here and there is a small amount of falling rock, so I don’t recommend sticking around here too long sans helmet.  
The next split is to head to the right to get to the summit of Mt Joyama.  I went to the top, where on the right is a little sign in English welcoming people to Wild Boar Gorge.  This is mainly for the climbers who want to get to a few of the routes not accessible from the main route starting point.  There’s nothing super scenic here apart from my awesome sunny spot vantage point where I read my book for an hour.
Follow the lights from top left: Go left for hiking/right for rock climbing, this is the sign you will see when you pop out onto the road taken looking left towards the next sign. Here is a closer view of the sign across the street at the continuation of the trail.  Finally, here’s the sign at the trail division for the peaks of Hottanjoyama and Katsuragiyama (I think!)
Then I was off to the real part of the hike.  I went back to the main trail and headed to the left.  There weren’t a lot of trail markers that I noticed but the path is very well-maintained.  That said, I only ran into six other hikers that day.  It was a great solo hike.  I got to a road and looked to my left.  I could see a white sign on the right and a cut-in staircase.  This is the trail!  Do not ignore the sign and decide to walk on the road for 10 minutes before doubling back…boring!  
The next sign I came across was confusing.  My best interpretation is that it is pointing the way to two different summits.  Since I took the left way and ended up on Mt. Hottanjoyama, I’m assuming that the rightward way would have led me to Mt. Katsuragiyama.  This interpretation is just a guess, but I’m fairly confident that it’s true-ish.  
Clockwise from top right: Gorgeous south-facing view from my sonny rock, view during my hike, flat observation point with grass and minimal tree obstruction, incredible water view (Mt Fuji is out of the frame to the right)

The views from the top of Hottanjoyama were spectacular.  It was a gorgeous day and the view contained water and mountains, my two favorites.  The two bottom pictures in the collage above are from the grassy, flat summit that is perfect for a picnic.  I was given a delicious mochi-wrapped azuki ball from a nice older man who was part of a threesome hiking group.  It was very oishi!

Then I headed back and met SMS and Chris at the wall.  I climbed one pitch, which felt great.  I’m glad I got on the rock for a little bit.  I love climbing with SMS but I was happy hiking while he got to climb more on his level with a good partner.  I’m hopeful that he and I can go back one day although I have to work on maintaining the rock climbing skills I’ve learned over the past year!

Rock Climbing at Takatori-yama (Hawk Peak)

Sandstone buddha 10 minutes from the wall

Yesterday, SMS and I went rock-climbing.  He had signed up for a beginner trip to a local rock climbing spot near Ikego.  SMS is definitely not a beginner but he thought it would be a nice way to meet some local climbers.

Trees, not in the best lighting but you get the idea.
There were trees.

It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful spot.  I met up with them shortly after lunch.  I had spent the morning waiting for our new dining room table.  Our new table is from IDC and looks great.  It matches our step-tonsen and is the perfect size for the room.  Both of us really like it!

I also started A Prayer for Owen Meany, which has already sucked me in. It’s set in a small town and centers a lot on faith- the meaning of faith, religion, belief.  It is totally up my alley.  I’ve been wanting to read a John Irving novel for awhile.  My main, mostly subconscious, reason for not reading one is the unfortunate name similarity to John Grishim.  Anyway, I’ll let you know how I like it.

SMS!

Rock-climbing was fun even though I’m pretty rusty and not as strong as a few months ago.  SMS looked great and may go climbing with the guide at some point.  We’re also going out to a Southern spot on Tuesday.  SMS and a guy from my work are climbing.  I think I’ll go hiking.  The weather is supposed to be similarly perfect and it is so gorgeous here!

The climbing spot was further back then where I had gone on my first hike.  The reason why I had stopped on my first hike was one, I hadn’t meant to be out so long (I had already run about three miles) and two, I saw an expressway and thought that the expressway must divide the hill and prevent a hiking trail from crossing.  Well, I think the expressway must go through a tunnel because there was no problem.  I parked near the school, passed the old people’s home and then turned right at the three way crossing over the stone bridge.  Then I walked up the stone steps to the temple, crossed the grounds and then took the stone stairs to the left.  I passed an arrowhead-like monument on my right and kept walking.  The trail flattened out here and I kept going.  About 15 minutes after the temple, I came around the curve to the open space where the rock was.  Part of the trail is a little narrow and there are ropes and chains to use, although they’re not completely necessary.  The funny thing is there is a parking-lot type open area with tables right on the other side of the rock.  There are two vending machines too.  There are bathrooms at the open area and at the temple, although there’s not much privacy for the guys at the temple restroom since SMS said the urinal is basically at the door.

Sunset at Zushi beach

 After climbing, SMS and I split from the group and headed to Zushi beach.  I had heard there was a Neapolitan pizza place between Zushi and Enoshima.  Well, we found one right on Zushi beach so that’s where we went.  We were hungry!

  We split a small Caesar salad, which made two nice appetizer portions.  Then we split a half/half pizza of Margherita/Sardine pizza (I wanted quattro formaggi, whah!  I pointed to the wrong thing!) and a delicious pizza with crab, hard-boiled egg and garlic. I usually look for the Japanese mixture pizzas since they’re always so good, or at the very least, an adventure!

Then we went home and I continued my book.  It was an awesome day!

Furniture shopping in Yokohama

SMS and I had our first successful road trip!  We went up to Yokohama to go furniture shopping! We headed out with a destination in mind- IDC in the Minatomirai LEAF building.  There are six floors of furniture and we were looking for a dining room table.  Well, maybe not that fancy but we needed a table for our main room and I waited for him to get here before picking one out.

We ended up with a really nice, fairly inexpensive table.  While I would love a reclaimed wood table in the future, we were shopping for our Japanese apartment which is on the small side.  We figured that our next places would likely be bigger so we’ll buy a more permanent piece of furniture at that point.

The table is being delivered today, which is awesome since it would be nice to sit down and eat all the fantastic meals SMS is preparing!  Last night was an awesome dinner of mackerel, rice, cauliflower, salad and miso soup.  Yum!

After IDC, I was sort of worn out but revived with curry and a shu-cream puff, a pastry that SMS has been borderline obsessed with finding.  It was found and delicious!  After some needed calories, we headed to IKEA to get a dresser for SMS.  It wasn’t as much of a sensory overload as when I went back in 2007, but we were more directed this time.  Therefore, the melange of Japanese, English and Swedish words did not overwhelm me as much!

So, driving went fairly smoothly apart from when the phone was dying and I had a severe mistrust of both iMaps and SMS as a navigator.  But I did the equivalent of a trust fall and once again, SMS was an excellent navigator!

This week was a pretty good one.  We went out with Aaron to the Family Garden sushi restaurant, which is a step up from the 100Y sushi place we had gone to earlier in the week.  I like both of them though!  We went out to a delicious ramen restaurant in Yokosuka.  We also met up for lunch twice at the SRF cafeteria on base.  I love their udon!

Finally, I heard on Wednesday that I got accepted by the Navy to pursue a spot in the civilian neurotology match.  It’s crazy competitive to get a neuroto spot so I’m going to have to put a fair bit of money, time and studying in to the application process but I’m really excited for the next step of my career!

SMS is here!

SMS is here! Hooray!  I have missed him so much and even though I’m super proud of him in wanting to complete his MBA program, he is highly miss-able so I’m glad he’s here for 6 weeks.

Near the New Sanno

He arrived on Thursday the 12th.  I made a bright green, Christmas-themed poster board sign so that he’d be sure to see me.  Ha, ha.  I just think signs are a nice way to make people feel welcome.  I haven’t always thought this since I was really embarrassed to hold the sign for Katrin our au pair when I was 7 so I held it by my legs.  That was super helpful since it hid the sign completely.  But that was a long time ago and now I’m fully on board with “embarrassing” myself by holding up ridiculous signs.  I bet everyone was super jeals except for the people who had drivers holding boring signs.  The signs may be boring but they translate to, “Peace out suckers, I’m off to my limo!”

ANY-way, SMS arrived and we were so happy!  We took the KEISEI Skyliner to Nippori.  There we transferred to the Yamanote line, which is sort of the railroad beltway around Tokyo. We got off at Nishi-Nippori and then took the Chiyoda subway line to Nogizaka.  We were staying at Hardy Barracks for the first night.  We went out exit 5, hooked a left then crossed at the first intersection.  There was a large cemetery on our right and a park on our left.  Then we saw the barbed wire fence and the U.S. Army sign and knew we had arrived.

Hardy Barracks is cheap ($55/night for two!) but the Winter is not the best time to stay.  It was cold!  And the sheets and blankets were super basic.  Whah, whah, first-world problems.  But I would prefer not to stay there in Winter again.

Traditional Japanese breakfast room service at the New Sanno and some pictures from Hiro-o

The next day, we headed out to the New Sanno.  We took a cab since SMS had so many bags.  It was about 1,100 yen and totally worth it.  The New Sanno is really nice and had great comforters!  We walked around the Hiro-o neighborhood and had lunch at the Pizzeria Sole & Luna.  It’s a Neapolitan Pizza place with a large brick oven.  We had the lunch set and ordered the gorgonzola and a more classic pizza with some veggies.  It was so good!  I’m still a fan of Blue Ribbon in Encinitas because of the slightly fermented, sourdough taste to the crust so maybe this is my second-place favorite!

That day, we walked around Roppongi Hills.  Then we went to the Meiji shrine followed by walking up Harajuku and Ometesando-dori.  We went to the awesome French food court in Ometasando-eki (train station) but we weren’t hungry so we just thought about the food we’d order if we were.  Ha, ha.

Illuminations and SMS’ new friends

Then we went out to Tokyo midtown to check out a yakitori place SMS had heard about.  From an article in the NYTimes that was dated from 1993. So old-school, so SMS.  (Oooo, as I was making fun of him, I found another great article focusing on New Year’s.  Awesome!  I guess when newspapers had money, they had bureau chiefs who really got into the city life!).

At Nanbantei, we got two dinner sets which equaled a LOT of yakitori.  It was a multiple course meal in a super warm, cozy restaurant.  The staff was really nice and the head guy spoke really good English. We had a really nice, leisurely time.  We got there around 6 and were able to get in without reservations, although it looked like reservations were a good idea since a group of 4 people were turned away later in the evening.  How did I know four people got turned away?  Because the otherwise nice head waiter loudly shouted, “No room, no reservations!” about three times before the guys left.  A little weird but also kind of funny.

(BTW, you know what else is really funny?  Watching Lost in Translation after being here for awhile.  I get the movie so much better now.)

After dinner, we went to Tokyo Midtown to check out the Christmas illumination.  It was really beautiful and SMS got some really nice pictures of the two of us.

The next day, we went to the Imperial Palace where we were disappointed to find out that it appeared the emperor had forgotten his brunch date with us.  Maybe next time.

Then we headed to Yokosuka so I could show off the apartment.  SMS loves it!

Home at last!

Honeymoon- Part 2!

As nice as Kauai was, Waikiki was wonderful.  Yes, it’s touristy and built-up but everything is just so easy.  It’s like the perfect vacation where nothing has to be thought about but there’s still plenty to do apart from lying on the beach, turning into a bored leather bag.  We both loved it and it was such a mellow, awesome time.

We arrived in Oahu and rented a car for $15/day.  Srsly.  I couldn’t believe it.  Parking was more expensive or at least it was until SMS got us a military discount!  We got up to our room that had the most amazing view and got ready for dinner.  We went to Marukame Udon for dinner.  It was delicious and nice to walk around Waikiki.  We had tried to go to Duke’s (I know, SO touristy) but it was packed so we decided to go the soup route to help SMS get over his cold.

The next day was so much fun!  We met up with Marissa and Blake for an Oahu adventure.  We met at Boots N Kimo for breakfast where SMS and I split macadamia pancakes and a yummy egg dish.  Then we went on a hike that SMS really wanted to do.  It was the Olo’hana hike and the views were awesome.  It was a bit of a scramble at the top and there were some spots that had ropes tied in for assistance.  It was awesome!  Afterwards, we went to the Kalapawai Cafe, which was the cutest cottage cafe.  SMS split a sandwich and we had delicious coffee.  We hung out for a bit then headed towards Waikiki.  We hadn’t eaten a lot at lunch because we were saving room for poke at Fresh Catch, which was absolutely delicious.  Then we grabbed mochi ice cream at Bubbies.  We relaxed in Waikiki for a bit before heading out to a late dinner at 12th Ave Grill.  The food was good but there was a lilikoi mochi cake for dessert that was unbelievable.

The next morning, we headed to the Moana Surfrider Hotel to have delicious Kona coffee in a French press at the Honolulu Coffee company.  We also had an acai bowl.  I’ve had two in my life and this was definitely not my favorite but the coffee was absolutely amazing.  Then we went surfing for an hour and a half.  SMS was really good.  I wasn’t as good but I blame my le tired shoulders.  It’s a lot of paddling to get out to the Waikiki break!  Then we lay in the sun and napped.  It was awesome.  For lunch and dinner, we went to House Without a Key for both.  The food there is so good and I had my obligatory pina colada!

The next morning, our (Hawaiian) honeymoon was drawing to a close.  We had Kona coffee in the room and then I  dropped SMS off.  I went back to the hotel and took a nap.  Then I went and lay out on the beach- sometimes the draw of turning into a handbag is too strong!  I checked out of the hotel and then had lunch at House Without a Key.  My cheeseburger was delicious!  I went stand-up paddleboarding and then showered at the Hale Koa.  I went to the airport where I had more of the delicious USO cookies before heading off to my flight.  Although I made it one last action-packed day, I really missed SMS!

Honeymoon- part 1!

I was so excited about our honeymoon!  I was unsure whether to call it a “vacation” or a “honeymoon” since it was a few months after our wedding but we were celebrating our marriage so honeymoon it was!

We had the best time.  We initially booked our tickets to/from Honolulu based on SMS’ class schedule. Then, once things settled down after boards, we started planning what we wanted to do.  There were definitely a few things we wanted to do on Oahu, but we decided to go inter-island.  Maui was briefly mentioned but ultimately, we decided on Kauai.

I arrived in Honolulu first, several hours ahead of SMS.  So, I went and got my nails done so that my feet looked good in flip-flops!  I took a cab there, a bus back and got to the airport right when SMS got there.  He was waiting in the USO (my favorite place!).  This USO in particular had AMAZING cookies, although I learned that SMS is not a fan of shredded coconut.  Yum, more for me!  We headed over to the local air terminal and caught our flight for Hawaii.

We ate at Mark’s Place for lunch that had local plate specials.  The salmon was amazing!

Beautiful Nepali Coast!

We stayed at a great apartment that I found through VRBO.  It was in Hane’a, just a little west of Hanalei.  I had really wanted to stay on the North Shore.  It was beautiful and a short walk from Tunnels Beach.  That night, we went to BARacuda and had a Spanish tapas themed meal.

Our hike.  Top right shows SMS near the death tally sign for people who
drowned at the beach.  He is very attune to safety and things one can die from!

The next day, we walked on Tunnels Beach, had pulled pork for lunch and went to Ke’e Park to watch the sunset over Napali Coast.  It was a very mellow paced day.  We had a totally opposite day the next day when we did an 8 mile hike along the Napali Coast and inland a bit to the gorgeous Hanakap-ai waterfall.  It was a great hike, but we were starting to feel the effects of not enough food by the end!  That night, we had a huge meal at Chicken in the Barrel to make up for it.  Yes, the place is as classy as it sounds but had great BBQ!

The next day, we took a driving tour around Kauai.  We stopped at Old Time Coffee and I had the most delicious maple cinnamon latte.  We saw Waimea canyon.  It’s so awesome and beautiful.  SMS said that it does look like a “Little Grand Canyon” as all the Kauai literature says.  We got shave ice in town and then headed to barking sands for some beach time with snacks (very important).  We also went to a coffee farm and chocolate stand.  We got puka dogs for a late lunch (delicious!) and had leftovers for dinner once we got back to the apartment.

SMS was feeling a little under the weather so the next day, we headed to Oahu earlier in the afternoon than we originally planned.  We had a quick beach visit after eating at the Sunrise Cafe for brekkie.  Then I had a second delicious coffee at Old Time coffee and SMS had really good el pescador tacos from a food truck across the street.    Then is was back to Oahu for a Waikiki vacation, coming up in Part II!

San Diego, Part 2

On Friday, SMS and I headed out to Idylwild/Tahquitz for a day of climbing. It was so much fun. The weather was perfect and the area was gorgeous. I definitely see why it’s SMS’ favorite area. I really liked the climbs and rock quality. We started with a 5.9 single pitch, followed by a four pitch route. Both were awesome and we had so much fun.

 That night for dinner, we went to Aroma Café in town. I had their delicious bread, followed by spaghetti and meatballs. It was so good, plus I was really hungry! SMS had the sausage lasagna that was incredible. Overall, it was a really great day and I got introduced to a few more of SMS’s things. He’s always talked about Idylwild but the 2 hour drive kept us away until now! 

On Saturday, we went to Rip and Linda’s house and hung out by the pool. Then we went to Starlite and had a delicious dinner. We had mules, cheese board, arugula/ricotta flatbread, kale salad and polenta fritters. It was all so delicious. We finished up the meal with an ice cream sandwich- yum! 

Then, unfortunately, it was time to go. But really, the weekend was so perfect I wasn’t even that sad. The whole time felt like a bonus vacation since it was fairly impromptu and we had the best time. One month until Hawaii!

San Diego mini-trip

Mid-September, SMS and I decided we didn’t want to wait until the end of October to see each other. So…I saw clinic Monday and Tuesday so I could head home to San Diego for the rest of the week!  It is SO nice to see SMS- he is very missable and although Skype is wonderful, it’s great to be home!

We’ve also seen a few other people since being here. I think the highlight was going out to dinner last night (Thursday) with Linda and Rip. We arrived at the restaurant first and they were shocked when they saw me.  We wanted to surprise them and we definitely did!  It was pretty awesome and we had a great yakitori meal together. 
On Wednesday, I went out to dinner at Stone with several of my friends. No pictures, unfortunately, but I have lots of mental snapshots and memories from dinner. I feel very lucky that 7 of us could get together. There was the added bonus that SMS actually got out of class early and hung out with us. It sounds silly, but I love when our lives become more intertwined and when we hang out with great people together. 
Wednesday was actually the longest Wednesday ever since I left at 4 pm Wednesday and arrived in San Diego at noon on the same date. Since I left later in the afternoon, I actually got a fair bit done in Japan.  I finalized my car purchase and obtained base stickers. I also turned in my paperwork to arrange my “signing paperwork appointment” at the housing office. In the spirit of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” I have nothing to say about the Yokosuka housing office. 
It ends up that I/we will live off-base. I found a great apartment in Miharucho. It’s a 2 bedroom apartment on the second story of a five story apartment building right on Tokyo Bay. We have a full ocean view!  We also have covered parking and are only 1.7 miles from base. It’s an incredible find and I’m really happy!  Pictures will definitely follow!  I am signing the contract on Wednesday, getting gas turned on Thursday and I’m going to have appliances and my express shipment delivered on Friday. I’ll have a home by the end of next week!
As for the rest of my San Diego trip, SMS and I are going climbing at Tahquitz today and going to Starlite for dinner tomorrow before I go. We’re going to use the birthday gift card I got from Brady.  I can’t wait!

San Diego mini-trip!

Mid-September, SMS and I decided we didn’t want to wait until the end of October to see each other. So…I saw clinic Monday and Tuesday so I could head home to San Diego for the rest of the week!  It is SO nice to see SMS- he is very missable and although Skype is wonderful, it’s great to be home!

We’ve also seen a few other people since being here. I think the highlight was going out to dinner last night (Thursday) with Linda and Rip. We arrived at the restaurant first and they were shocked when they saw me.  We wanted to surprise them and we definitely did!  It was pretty awesome and we had a great yakitori meal together. 
On Wednesday, I went out to dinner at Stone with several of my friends. No pictures, unfortunately, but I have lots of mental snapshots and memories from dinner. I feel very lucky that 7 of us could get together. There was the added bonus that SMS actually got out of class early and hung out with us. It sounds silly, but I love when our lives become more intertwined and when we hang out with great people together. 
Wednesday was actually the longest Wednesday ever since I left at 4 pm Wednesday and arrived in San Diego at noon on the same date. Since I left later in the afternoon, I actually got a fair bit done in Japan.  I finalized my car purchase and obtained base stickers. I also turned in my paperwork to arrange my “signing paperwork appointment” at the housing office. In the spirit of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” I have nothing to say about the Yokosuka housing office. 
It ends up that I will live off-base. I found a great apartment in Miharucho. It’s a 2 bedroom apartment on the second story of a five story apartment building right on Tokyo Bay. We have a full ocean view!  We also have covered parking and are only 1.7 miles from base. It’s an incredible find and I’m really happy!  Pictures will definitely follow!  I am signing the contract on Wednesday, getting gas turned on Thursday and I’m going to have appliances and my express shipment delivered on Friday. I’ll have a home by the end of next week!