Monday, April 30, 2012


Thanks to Jess, Chris, Eric and Alicia, we knocked another item off our bucket list on Saturday - a last night of karaoke.  There is just nothing quite like the way the Japanese do karaoke with the individual rooms, really bad videos and high tech karaoke machines.  It is one good time!

Going into our room.

Alicia and Steve

Eric really concentrating on his vocals!

The gals

Jess and Chris

Alicia and Eric

Thanks for a great time, guys!

What happens when... let Emmy pick out her own pajamas!

We'll keep working on her fashion style.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rainy Sunday adventure

Man, I'm really beginning to feel the pressure that our last few weeks in Okinawa is ticking away and for some reason, the weather is just not cooperating.  It's been the rainiest, grayish winter I've known in Okinawa and we can't seem to catch a break so we can enjoy the warmth, sun and beaches before we leave.

But by Sunday I'd had enough of waiting around to see if the sun will poke through.  I announced we were going on an adventure, and the kids hopped to and were in the car before I'd finished packing snacks.  I guess they were tired of waiting too.

We pointed the van north and drove past Nago to see some new sights.  Yes, there are actually things on this island that we haven't seen yet and Sunday proved to be a day full of them.  My original plan was to catch a ferry to Ie Island to see the Easter lilies blooming, but when the weather was still being temperamental, I opted for plan B - explore two small islands connected to Okinawa via bridge.

Our first stop was Yagaji island which consisted mainly of farmer's fields and a small town.  Driving straight through that island, we hit the bridge connecting us to Kouri island.  We also hit the rain, can you tell from the photo?

What a shame too, because I just knew that if the sun poked out that water would turn the most spectacular shade of Gatorade blue you've ever seen.  We headed on down the road until we saw a sign for Turtoise, which peaked our interest.

Following the sign we eventually found what looked to be someone's home that doubled as a restaurant.  But better than that, Turtoise was surrounded by farmer's fields with pock-marked roads - usually the best indication of an awesome beach close by.  I don't know why it is, but the best beaches here are the ones at the end of the dirt roads through sugar cane fields.

Stevie did a mean navigation of some pretty wicked ruts and parked us in front of a view of the ocean for our "in-van picnic".  We had stopped at Family Mart for our favorite on the road snack - onigiri (rice balls stuffed with fish).

Ruts big enough to get us permanently stuck.

Say "picnic"!

Reminded me of an English picnic...

After fueling our bodies, we drove a little further on down the road and found a beautiful remote beach.  The rain was on again, off again so we at least were able to walk the beach without getting soaked.

We found a new use for our "beach umbrella"!

London was the only one with a jacket in the car.

Findings on the beach.
 I was trying to capture the color variations in the water due to the coral underneath.

The weather cleared a little as we came around the far side of this island and allowed for some beautiful photos.  Still not the intense color I know could have been there, but the contrast with the dark sky was beautiful in itself.

Taken as we're driving over the bridge.

Was our adventure over here?  No, not for the trooper family!  I had one more stop in mind - a begonia garden I had read an article about a year ago.

This begonia garden is at a private house and was begun 30 years ago by one man.  He has tended it and grown it by dividing the original two begonia roots every year.  Now there are over 100,000 red begonias and it's a wonder to be seen.  It was not easy to find, tucked in the mountains of the Motobu peninsula, but we were persistent and lucky and found it.  Of course, the rain also found us again, and this time with a vengeance!

I released the kids and Stevie of any obligations to walk around the garden with me, but Stevie was kind enough to join me.  As the torrential downpour soaked our pants, we oohed and ahhed at the beautiful gardens.  They really were spectacular, even in the pouring rain so I can only imagine how stunning this place might be in the sunshine.  This one wasn't on my bucket list, but it should have been.  It was a little pink jewel tucked in the wilds of Motobu.

I don't know what these were but they are some freaky looking flowers!

After our tour of the gardens, we were done.  We headed home under clear skies (of course), happy to have had yet another wonderful Okinawan adventure.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday fun

Friday was a beautiful day (finally!) and Steve and two of our neighbors just happen to have the day off for a department picnic.

On our way to the picnic we drove past the koi nobori (carp flags) displayed for Golden Week.

So in the afternoon, after mowing the yards with Eric and Chris's new riding mower, Chris decided to break out the slip 'n slide!

The kids and some of the adults had an awesome time in the afternoon sun.

Eric giving Emmy a ride down on his back.

Eric and Chris broke out the soap liquid to make them slide faster and further.

London and Joey

The afternoon's events were capped off by a neighborhood fire pit.

The only marshmallows we had were some Peeps from Easter.  Turns out Peeps are really good when toasted - the extra sugar on the outside caramelizes.  Yum!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dump Trucks

There are a couple of really Japanese-y things that I have failed to write about yet on my blog, so with just over 5 weeks remaining, I'm making the mad dash to make my blog complete.  Here goes with post one of the long overdue...

Dump trucks.  Big, ugly, dirty and not usually anything you take much notice of, right?  Ahh, but you're thinking of American dump trucks.  Here in Japan it's a whole different story.

Here they're big (probably the biggest things on the road), beautiful, colorful, clean and full of bling.  No.  I'm serious.  They're blingy.

My theory is that Japanese dump truck drivers have lots of personality because it comes through in their trucks.  These are not red-necked boys who failed out of semi-truck driving school, but guys who shout "Look at me!"  Why do I say this?  Because they have the biggest, badest, blingy-est (if that's a word) decorations on their trucks.  Dump trucks here are a piece of art.

My favorite are the side, wingy-thingies that protrude from the sides of the windshields.  Silver, shiny and detailed is the only way to describe them.  They look like they belong in a Mexican cathedral rather than on a dump truck.

Among the decorations are fancy taillights, fancy wheels, and of course fancy seat covers.  There are also the windshield wiper blades that are edgy silver things and look like some wicked medieval weapon going across the windshields on rainy days.

But my all time favorite are the ones with the art work on the large protruding metal sheet that rises from the roof of the cab or along the side.

I run into the "Kamikaze Cats" truck all the time and it always makes me smile.

And then there are the tricked out mini dump trucks that just must have "little man syndrome".  They've got to compensate somehow so they get super decorated.

Words simply cannot describe the dump trucks here.  Perhaps it is best left to Tim Allen when he said "Arhh, arhh, arhh!"