Catching Up From Christmas and Into the New Years

Greetings! I’d like to start off by thanking everyone from back in the states and here in Iwakuni who sent presents for the kiddos. We’re still building legos and railroad tracks, coloring in books and discovering toys we haven’t even got to yet. The kids had a great time and it was fun to watch them enjoy Christmas morning.

So with Mo still working on her second Masters Degree, she had to go back to Auburn for a week starting on New Year’s Day. What a bummer to travel on the holiday. We didn’t do much celebrating anywho. The best part of New Years was Rudy falling asleep in my arms and me passing out at 10 PM. My old ass. Ha! But I did take the kids to Kuga Park for a little distraction.

When Mo came home, Rudy insisted on meeting her at the airport, so we decided to surprise her.

After Mo got home, she was due for a rest so while EB was at school, I took Rudy up into the hills for some hiking. We were looking for wild animals, but didn’t come across any. No biggie, we had a mini picnic n glanced over Iwakuni from a birds eye view and watched the ships in the Seto Inland Sea.

Mo took the kids to our neighborhood Tondo Matsuri. Held on the lunar new year, the Tondo Matsuri is centered around a huge bonfire where everyone offers up their good luck charms, New Years decorations and any other offerings to be burned in the ceremonial fire. This is a symbolic “Out with the old, and in with the new.”

Anywho… this is a short post but as always thank you for following our adventures here in Japan. And here’s some cute pics of the kids:

It’s Already Been A Year… Time Flies!

So, it’s official. As of December 13th, we’ve been here a full year. Crazy how time just flies by the way it does. A lot has to do with all the fun and exciting things we’ve been up to since we touched down in Iwakuni. Of course, this time last year we were still living in the on-base temporary living facility (military hotel) and had a paper Christmas tree taped to a wall. This year, we were able to get our hands on a real tree and everyone pulled together to get her all decorated up nicely.

 

Something else cool is Rudy’s yochien had a Christmas concert at the airport in town. If you haven’t checked out some of the videos that Mo posted to her Facebook, you should go and check them out. Here’s some shots of Rudy and his class during the concert. What a cute group of kids.

 

Of course, I missed it, I was up at Go! Go! Field motivating my fellow marketers to run in a 4-hour endurance race. Team Marketing! Ganbarimasho!

 

Just like last year, we made our way up to Hiroshima for their Winter Illuminations. Last year we went after Christmas, this year we were able to get up there in time to celebrate the holiday season a bit. Everyone had a pretty awesome time. But we may have kept this kids out a bit late.

 

The Japanese really know how to light shit up when it comes to Christmas. This past weekend, we crammed the kids in the Mukade Maru and headed up to the annual Flower and Light Pageant illuminations at the Hiroshima City Botanical Gardens. We got there early so we could play in the park with the kids and have some food before they hit the switches on the park.

 

They also had this killer greenhouse with venus flytraps, exotic flowers and a prehistoric tree.

 

The park was something else after the sun went down and the lights came on. Rudy was so cute, too. He was walking up to all the Japanese kids and asking them if they’d play tag with him (in Japanese, of course). He was easy to spot with his light-up shoes.

 

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year. Here’s to four more years! Thank you again to everyone who follows our adventures and thank you to all the family and friends we chat with back home. I’m glad we can all stay connected. And now, some cute pics of the kids:

 

Our First Friendsgiving in Japan, Robot Park and Meatfest Redux

Konnichiwa and gobble-gobble from the land of the rising sun. We had some friends over for Thanksgiving this year. Our gathering was a multi pronged attack on food, fun and a birthday celebration. I’ll describe the food and birthday stuff to you because for some reason we had a room full of smart devices and the only thing anyone thought would be a good idea to document was the Malort shots. I’ll have another!

We had a delish pumpkin dip dish from Scottie and Pierce. The best way to describe it would be if Jesus were a pumpkin, he would turn water into this dip and the world would be never wanting. Stanley brought a magnum of sake that came highly recommended from Sus, who brought gifts for the kiddos and a sweet desert cake. Ron and his son Micah showed up with shredded carrots with balsamic vinegar and almonds and a rather scrumptious corn dish (and spinach dip). It was also Micah’s 5th birthday, so there was a cake and merriment and the old standard, Happy Birthday.

Mo was in full food service mode, baking a ham basted in a spicy cuban mustard, carrots, smashed potatoes, crescent rolls, homemade cranberry sauce, finger foods and probably a bevy of other things I’m forgetting. My contribution was getting warm bodies in the room and picking up the turkey from Club Iwakuni. Japan is not known for their large ovens, so Club Iwakuni on base has turkeys to order. Sweet, right? The bird tasted good. All the food was amazing, and the company was great. Thank you everyone for a memorable Thanks/Friendsgiving.

And then… Malort. The product of a gypsy curse. A taste so jarring to the tastebuds you’d think there was chemical warfare going off in your mouth. A drink so ridiculously putrid it gives bad taste a bad taste in its mouth. We all drank an entire bottle. Thank you to Mo’s brother for smuggling it into the country. We won’t talk about how it got here… wink.

The next day Rudy and EB were off from school, so we ventured up to Otake and hung out at the Robot Park (as Rudy likes to call it). EB was a bit sleepy but by the time we go there she woke up and the kiddos spent three hours running around and burning off steam. I’d like to take a moment to let my friends and family back home in Chicago and Upstate New York to know that its sunny and usually 60 here during the daytime. Sending warm thoughts your way. Kissy face emoji.

Yesterday we had went to the Shuto Meat Fair. All joking aside about the weather. It will eventually get down near freezing here, so we’re doing as much as we can to enjoy the great weather whilst it sticks around. There was a redonkulous amount of food vendors at the meat fair. We had some pork and chicken on a stick, yummy soba, some rice cake that tasted like it was wrapped in some kind of meat or something (best description ever), and fried chicken that a drunk vendor tried to pass off as fried carp. There was some live J Pop and a half cow on a spit. They also had a market there and were selling $20 steaks. I’m telling you, there’s some seriously tasty beef here in Japan. Some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I gotta find a place somewhere that cuts a 16 oz. ribeye, though.

Well, we hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, or however you celebrated. I’m thankful to have the friends and family that I do have both here and back home. Thank you again to everyone keeping up with our Journey. December 13 will be a year for us living here in Japan. Time flies. では、またね.

October – Matsuri, Miyajima, Family, Fun

October came and went and before we knew it, we were smack dab in the middle of November planning for a Thanksgiving party with new friends. Let’s back it up a bit to the beginning of October for Rudy’s Sports Day celebration at his yochien. Sports Day is something of a big deal with the schools around here. Each class participates in a myriad of sporting events, marching and group activities. I ran the crab relay with Rudy and his class also did the parachute display (you know, the one where the kids flap the parachute up and down… kawaii).

The air base observes fire safety week every year. At the end of the year, the fire house on base has an open house. We decided to come by and give it a look. The kids got to dress up, Rudy got to shoot the fire hose, sit in the tacti-cool fire vehicles and rode a four-wheeler with one of the chiefs. Good times.

Something else our air station has that is pretty cool is Information Tours & Travel. The staff is predominantly Japanese and they take folks around different places in Japan to experience the culture. We went on their apple picking and steam locomotive trip near Tsuwano (my favorite mountain town so far). Everyone had a blast and Rudy ate his weight in apples. And naturally, the Rudy boy and EB had a great time riding along on a real steam locomotive. Bonus fun was some of the folks on the trip with us were people from Mo’s work and Rudy’s school. Good times.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Mo’s cousin Markie came down to visit. I’m glad we got to hang out with him. He’s a pretty cool dude.

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I’d have to say hands down the coolest thing we did last month was the Otomouma Matsuri (horse festival) in Kikuma on the island of Shikoku. That was a mouthful… We did this festival as a part of a tour group. The cool thing is it was only us and another couple. It’s nice to have that intimate setting for something so cool. Once a year in the fall horses run up the slope at the Kamo Shrine by young boys. Before the horse races, each temple in the town goes around to the residents and businesses to ask for donations to contribute to the temple and the festival. The whole family got to participate. It was awesome to dress up and walk around with the rest of the men, women and children from the temple.

It was the next day that had the horses and the clash of the titan god boxes. But, before that, we got to eat diner in a fancy seaside restaurant and enjoy the three different onsen in our hotel room. We were spoiled this weekend.

There is another part of the festival which includes carrying omikoshi god boxes in a face-off against other rival temples. Each box is carried by men from their corresponding temples. I was able to actually participate. These boxes are not light by any stretch of the imagination. All things considered, the men I was carrying this thing with had been drinking for three days straight, so I had nothing to complain about.

We hopped a ferry back to Honshu and met up with Granpa Rick and Uncle Rick.

With the Ricks here, we traveled out to the Sea of Japan for camping and hiking. We started off at the Motonosumi Inari Shrine and then made our way to the campground near Nagato on Omi Island facing the sea. We stayed in some pretty cool cabins that were on stilts. There was some cool hiking there, too.

We went over by the city of Mine to check out some caves, but we met with an unfortunate turn of events involving birds, a ditch and mis-timed foot placement. So, we headed back to the house (by way of the chicken shack) and took up shop to have fun with the family locally.

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We went to the Kintai Castle and headed to Miyajima to show off the floating torii gate and the natural beauty of the island.

Cool thing was, EB had her Sports Day so Granpa got to witness something really kawaii.

Wish we could’ve had the Ricks here for a little longer, but they had to get back to Chicago. Thanks, guys for the visit. Being true to not staying still too long, I went of a field trip with Rudy and his school to the Tokuyama Zoo. We saw lotsa interesting wild creatures, to include the capybara, the Japanese Black Bear and the sun bear. Rudy had a blast as always. It was good to see him playing around with his friends.

After we got back from the zoo we had some time to kill, so Rudy and I went to the local cat cafe for some feline fun.

Miyajima seems to be our go-to when we don’t have anything solid planned. it’s a quick enough get away and there’s always something fun to do. We ended up going there for a fire walking ritual. Yep, fire walking monks. It was pretty cool and there was a line damn near a mile long to go over the coals. I think next year I’m definitely game.

Since the weather is still nice n sunny here (sorry all you cats starting to get snow), we took a trip to Yamaguchi Flower Land. This place is pretty cool and next to nothing to get in to. They had a huge ferris wheel for flowers, lots of different varieties of flowers and a really cool playground with the prototypical Japanese roller slide that you just can’t get away with back in the states.

Yesterday we went back to Miyajima to see the changing leaves. Japanese Maples are a pretty tree and their leaves are radiant this time of year. We might’ve got to the island a week too late, but the place was pretty nonetheless. Like I said, it’s such a beautiful and quick little getaway. Can’t wait to show it off to more family when they start to trickle in.

Today, Rudy’s school had an art festival. Since the end of last month, his school has been asking for empty milk containers, paper towel rolls and stuff like that to make crafts. They used this stuff to convert an entire classroom into a really sweet art gallery. I was blown away. Outside of Sports Day, this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen at Rudy’s school.

Aight, so that’s pretty much everything to date. We’ve got Thanksgiving coming up and then Christmas, prolly like five or six more trips to Miyajima (ha!), the holiday lights in Hiroshima and who knows what else. I know next year we’re going to start venturing off into other parts of Asia. Watch out world! Here’s some pics of the kddos. Thanks again for reading our adventures!

Greetings from Planet Japan

It’s been well over a month and a half that a blog post has gone out. Apologies to all, seems like we’re on another planet sometimes with all that’s going on and just keeping communication with everyone back home. We’re damn near into October here and we’re creeping up on a year already having lived in Japan. Wow! Anywho, let’s dive right in…

Mo went back to the states for a week to start work on her second Masters. She had the illustrious privilege of matriculating at Auburn University in Alabama. War Eagle! Whilst she was away, I took the kiddos up to Hiroshima to this super cool indoor cardboard playground. Rudy put together a paper T-Rex and they both enjoyed the slides, rides and cardboard maze.

When mommy got back from Alabama, I was off to Tokyo with the Single Marine Program to cover their Tokyo/Mt. Fuji trip. To keep the kiddos busy while I was away, Mo took them to the Pixar Adventure in Hiroshima. I think you can tell by everyone’s expressions there was fun times had by all.

On the drive up to Tokyo, we stopped at various rest stops and in true Japanese fashion, there was no shortage of kitschy statues and gas station food. When we got to Tokyo, we stopped off at a huge mall with this crazy tall Gundam and there was a street fest going on. Then we go to the New Sanno Hotel.

We spent a couple of days in Tokyo before tackling Mt. Fuji. I cruised through a few neighborhoods taking in the sights. I visited the Kappa Dera Temple, dedicated to old Japanese folklore that tells the story of the Kappa which is an aquatic goblin who would grab unsuspecting humans who would walk over bridges and drown them. I found a pretty good description at this website.

After visiting the Kappa Dera, I went to the Snso-ji temple and then had a Melon Fanta at an owl cafe. True Story. Then I was off to the Tokyo Sky Tree to get a birds eye view of the city. Wow! Glad there was some J Pop at the top.

The next day I climbed Fuji. Mo n I climbed it waaaaaay back in 2007 and we started from the bottom, walked through the haunted forest, slept in a hostel at Station 5 and then finished to the top the next day. This time, I started at Station 5 right before the sun made its presence known. I can honestly say, climbing Mt. Fuji is one of my favorite parts of Japan so far. I’d be happy to climb it every year, just for the challenge and the views. And that weird feeling in your chest from the low oxygen.

Anywho, I came back to Iwakuni the next day and stopped at a cool rest stop that had a Ferris wheel and this cool little museum with these samurai floats.

Once we got the fam back together we went up to Miyajima for another crack at the Public Aquarium. We walked through the covered streets, got some oysters and some street beers. The kids as always had a blast.

A couple weeks later, I competed in my first triathlon. I was happy to not come in last and not die. It was a great experience and got me very much wanting to train and compete in a 50k ultra marathon. Luckily there’s a pretty cool one next year I’m going to do. More to come on that one. After the triathlon, we rustled up the fam and played at the Robo Park up in Otake. The kids love it so much. It’s a super rad park.

Wouldn’t you know it, Rudy turned 5 during all this, too! Yep, the kid’s getting older. Pretty soon he’ll be driving and going to the corner store to buy us cigarettes. Ha! Anywho, thank you to everyone who sent gifts and well-wishes. He was super stoked. I decoder the downstairs with origami. He loved it.

Last weekend we had our first Japanese camping experience. We went to Katazoe Beach on the island of Oshima with some folks from the Corps of Engineers. We were able to sign out some cots and a big tent from Outdoor Rec for free. It was a great camping trip. I can’t wait to do it more!

Thanks again to everyone for keeping up with our adventures. We’ve got Granpa Rick and Uncle Rick coming near the end of October. That should be an awesome time! Aight, I’m gonna sit here and watch this typhoon come through and see what happens. In the meantime, here’s some cute pics of the kids:

 

Mikawa Summer Festival and the Studio Ghibli Exhibit in Hiroshima

Saturday was a pretty awesome time. We went up into the mountains snaking along the Nishiki River up to the Mikawa Mu Valley. We didn’t do the underground kingdom, not yet, nope we were there for the Mikawa Summer Festival. First of all, any time we head west into the mountains, I just lose myself in the tranquil beauty that is Japan. The steep mountain cliffs covered in lush green jungle follow along each side of crystal clear river water as it cuts its way further up into the grand beauty of the Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Alright, there’s your bit of poetic romanticism for the day. At the Mikawa Summer Festival its pretty much a Japanese fish fry. The best part is you catch the fish yourself in a shallow bedrock portion of the river where there are schools of scared shitless Japanese Cherry Salmon, or Amago, hiding under rocks and in holes from screaming kids and excited dads. Think noodling, Japan-style.

Rudy and I were able to grab three fish. Honestly, I could’ve done it all day. It was a lot of fun. After we caught the fish, festival workers skewered them for us, covered them in salt and we grilled them near the riverside.

Afterward we found ourselves a quiet spot on the opposite side of all the fun and tasted the fruits of our labor. This is how it really went down: Rudy wanted to give the fish back to their mommies in the river (something I tell him we have to do every time we catch crabs in the river), Mo and I had a couple of bites and EB devoured most of all three fish. The kid is a bottomless pit. You gotta eat to grow, right? Right. Rudy explored the river, we finished our fish and headed out to the Chicken Shack for some actual food and a couple of beers.

It was the kids first time and as always, they find ways to enjoy themselves wherever we go. I really enjoy the food at the Chicken Shack. And the beers are pretty tall and cold. There are still the Tanabata decorations up, so the place is still quite flash.

Afterward we got the kiddos home and in bed. Another great Saturday in the books and our eyes focused sharply on the horizon ready for what Sunday had to bear.

Sunday, we hopped the JR north to Hiroshima to see the Studio Ghibli exhibit at the Hiroshima Prefecture Art Museum. We’ve run into a few Ghibli icons on our travels so far, most notably when we ran into Our Neighbor Totoro and the Cat Bus on our first beach trip. Totoro is awesome, Rudy really loves Ponyo and EB loves anything she can hug. Kawaii!

Anywho, we weren’t supposed to snap any pics in the exhibit minus at the cat bus, but Mo managed some guerrilla photography whilst we were in there. Don’t tell anyone… It was really cool to walk through the creative world of Studio Ghibli. I still have a bunch of their movies to watch. I’m something of a virgin in that respect. I found this pretty cool site that showcases the mastery of Ghibli.

Alright, great weekend. We had a lot of fun, wowed and wore out the kiddos and added a few more interesting memories to our family story. Thank you all again for following. Here’s a couple of cute pics of the kids and a neat kids bathroom we saw at a mall in Hiroshima.

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Rolling up July

It’s hard to think that it is already July, but this year has been flying by for sure. There’s still plenty more of summer weather to be had. It’s great that we live where we do and have this near endless summer laid out before us. We still have so many different fireworks festivals and beaches in August, camping in September and who knows what past that.

Anywho, we jam packed quite a bit into July, so lets go back and see what the Pylinski fam did for the month. It all started back on the Fourth of July… Mo n I had the day off, but since we’re in Japan, the kids still had school, so we decided to make a day of it. We started off at the Yu Cafe where we had coffee n french toast. Later, we headed out to Sanzoku, aka the Chicken Shack for food n fun. The place was decked out for Tanabata, which is a festival celebrating the Star Crossed Lovers. Here’s a great link that explains Tanabata in detail. Anywho, we had the Sanzoku Yaki (teriyaki chicken on a stick), the Sanzoku Musibi (a giant rice ball wrapped in seaweed and filled with salmon and pickled plum) and a couple of beers. It’s such a cool place to check out.

Once we were done with our food, we decided to trek up into the mountains behind the restaurant for a bit and see where the trail led us. We happened upon a shrine and a couple of waterfalls. Pretty peaceful.

Not more than a few days later, there was heavy rain and flooding caused by Typhoon Prapiroon. Hiroshima, Okayama and outlying parts of Iwakuni were hit the hardest, but we came out unscathed. After the rain passed, we hopped on the cargo bike a took a ride down to the Kintai Bridge to see what came of the flooding. The waters were high, but it seemed the damage was minimal. The streets were flooded in some parts, and there were carp swimming along the streets. Crazy. We got twice the amount of rain in a few days that normally falls in the entire month of July. Talk about a send off for the rainy season.

Interestingly enough, with all the rain and everything, the city of Iwakuni held a track meet up at the newly opened Atago Sports Complex and yours truly competed in the 1500m race. I managed a 5:09 mile and came in second place in the 30-up age group. Not bad considering I thought the meet would be canceled due to all of the rain. Nope. Either way, I’m training for a Triathlon in September. We shall see…

With the subsiding of the rainy season comes the heat and humidity. I’m really enjoying this heat. It feels like summer here and the great weather is pretty predictable. Great thing is, if you’re in the shade you actually get a break from the heat. Anywho, Rudy’s new yochien had a Tanabata dance recital in the afternoon. We all got decked out in our summer wear and partook. Rudy was a little put off by the heat, but I can understand. Mo n EB looked great in their summer kimonos. Also, I just want to note that Rudy’s wish that he wrote on his Tanabata decoration is: “I Want To Be Black Panther.” Love it!

That Sunday, we packed up the Mukade Maru and headed out to Suo Oshima island where we spent the day at the beach at the Katazoegahama Seaside Park. Talk about a sunny and beautiful day. The beach was pretty nice, the weather was perfect and the water was so refreshing. Mo got this really awesome sun shelter from Subaru and we set up shop n hit the surf the entire day. Suo Oshima is a pretty rad island and we haven’t even scratched the surface of exploring that place yet.

When we’re not out tooling around the inland sea, we have a nice little oasis right around the corner from the house where the Nishiki River splits into the Imazu and Monzen Rivers. There’s a weir there that pools the water and provides a sweet little hang out for when there’s just enough time to get away from the house and cool off when the weather is crazy hot. Rudy loves it. He takes his green bug net and a bucket and catches fish. He’s a quick lil bugger, too. He can snatch up a crab or tadpole with his bare hands. I’m impressed. It’s a pretty popular hangout for the locals, too.

We did manage to get some front row seats to a fireworks display down at the harbor, too. Mo braved the heat of the day, hauled down to pick a spot at 3 pm on her bike just so we’d have a great spot when the show started. Something you couldn’t do anywhere in the states. You leave a blanket out to save a spot so you can come back four hours later n that thing would be gone. Anywho, the display was pretty awesome. I’m told the Kintai Fireworks display in August is a lot bigger. Not sure if it compares to the Fourth of July or New Years neighborhood fireworks shows back in Chicago, though… I mean, Beirut.

This past Friday, Rudy had the day off from school, so we went up to Otake to check out the newly-built playground at Harumirinkai Park. Even though it was pushing 100 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, we climbed all over the place, slid down all the slides and asked the giant robot if it would be cool if we played inside of him. Having a four-year-old keeps me young at heart (even if he drives me crazy on the regular). We finished off the day with ice cream at the near by YouMe Town and headed back to Iwakuni so mommy could drop off the van to get the A/C fixed. Just in time for the rest of the summer.