Rob’s schedule really sucks. He works swing & typically starts work at 3:30pm and works until either midnight or 2am so that has really messed with our sleep patterns. We’re actually up many of the same hours as all of our friends & family back home, which has its benefits, even though we have a 16 hour time difference. At first, I was forcing myself to stay up so I could spend time with him after he’s home from work, and we were gradually staying up later and later. We often end up in bed at like 3 or 4 am, but sometimes, we’re up until 6 or 7 am. It’s tough for him to come home and immediately goes to bed, and he needs some time to wind down. As a result, we’ve both spent many days sleeping late into the afternoon. However, I’m regretting this because now I feel like I’ve slept away some of the days here in Japan that I could have been out doing stuff so I’m working hard to get my sleep schedule back on track. This is easier said than done, & it’s been really challenging but I’ve been waking up at 9 am the last few mornings so I’m getting there. We have over two months left here & I want to do a better job of making it count. It makes me sad that Rob doesn’t have all the free time with me to check out the things we want to see, so I just have to save the super awesome things for his days off. I know he wants to see stuff too but the only downside is, that means he’s busy all the time. Most weeks, he’s working six days so then we try to go do something on the 7th day so he can experience something too so he pretty much never rests. I know he thinks it’s cool to be in Japan but I also know he’s looking forward to the end of this trip just so he isn’t forced to work six 10 hour days every week. His supervisor did tell him he has too much overtime right now so hopefully that means he’ll get a weekend off soon but we’ll see.
So, it’s kinda neat because this is the closest we’ve ever been to real city living. This is a place where you really don’t need a car because most things can be found within walking distance. At first, I compared Yokosuka to a clean Bremerton but then we explored more, and it’s way bigger than Bremerton. I wouldn’t say it’s as big as Seattle but it’s definitely the city.
I’ve done quite a bit of cooking since we’ve been here. I bought a big, red Rachael Ray stock pot (I have an orange one just like it at home) that I got on sale at the NEX store so that’s been helpful, plus the dishes I told you about in the early blog about where we’re living, & I’ve gotten a little creative in figuring out ways to utilize the toaster oven. That’s actually been eye opening because we received a toaster oven as a wedding gift and it’s totally still in the box but now we have a new appreciation for the appliance! We might actually open it when we get home… well, I guess, when we find a home. Anyway, cooking has been very necessary here so that we don’t have to eat out every day. Also, with Rob working evenings, I need to have stuff to send with him. I’ve made a few Asian things but I’ve still made a lot of our normal stuff for Rob. Today, he has chicken & mashed potatoes with chicken gravy… all American. Yesterday, I gave him an Asian chicken dish with rice and he really liked that. I eat out a little more often than he does since I have the time to get dinner and because I’m more open to a lot of the foods around here. I have to say that I never realized how often I used Worcestershire sauce until I came here and didn’t have it in my kitchen. The grocery store also offers some seasoned & marinated meats that I buy occasionally and Rob has really liked those so far.
The above picture is beef I purchased that actually came already prepared in some kind of Japanese style sauce, it almost tasted like a BBQ sauce. Anyway, I just cook it, make some rice and make a sauce for the rice & Rob is a happy guy!
I am still working on transferring all my blogs about Japan from my old blogging platform to wordpress, and finishing up the new blog posts about my more recent trips to Japan as well. However, sometimes, it gets a little overwhelming because of the amount I have to do still, and I need a break to talk about something else. So here we go.
To build or not to build, that is the question.
I’ve asked friends for recommendations for realtors and builders, and we started out looking at homes for sale but have transitioned into researching what goes into building a home. Is it an option for us? Hopefully. Our progress hasn’t much surpassed that of research & contacting agents, but I am a planner so I’ll figure it out. It’s a fairly new idea but the more we think about it, the more the idea appeals to us. I decided to see what I could figure out at the Seattle Home Show.
Walking into the Seattle Home Show last weekend was a little bit overwhelming, to be honest. We are brand new to the thought of home building, and I felt like the home show might offer a little bit of information that would help us in the process. One of the issues I noticed immediately was the pictures displayed by some of the custom home builders were of VERY expensive homes that were well out of our budget. It made them unapproachable because I didn’t see anything we would be willing to pay for, which was okay, because I expected some of this. We are unwilling to be “house poor,” meaning that we refuse to have so much mortgage, that we can’t afford much else so we WANT cost to be a factor and don’t want to go overboard. Something else I noticed was that a lot of the vendors offered remodeling services, and only handful offered home building and construction services. If we opt to go ahead and buy, remodeling services could certainly come in handy so I took some business cards and brochures in case we go that route. As I spent a couple hours walking through the Century Link Fields Events Center, drinking my $8 latte (gotta love those stadium prices), I definitely had building on the brain.
Being so inexperienced with all of this, I was reluctant to spend much time chatting with vendors. Being the introvert that I am, I would walk up and grab brochures and business cards from businesses who’s representatives were occupied by other people so I wouldn’t have to listen to a pitch I’m not yet ready for. If I wasn’t able to approach to gather more information, I simply saved the business name into my phone to scope out later. I realize that this isn’t the most efficient way to collect information but I also knew I had no answers to any questions yet.
On an unrelated note, I spent the rest of the day in Pioneer Square, which I always enjoy. Although, the area seems to have more homelessness than I remember? Maybe I just wasn’t as aware. Anyway, that’s a blog for another time.
I always thought I had our buyers agent chosen, and figured this would make it so easy to buy a home! We kept reading not to settle on the first agent you come across or even meet, & Rob read that you should meet with at least three people. I’ve spoken a little with a woman from one company, and met up with a team from another company. There were a couple more who came highly recommended from some friends, which says a lot but these friends didn’t deal directly with the buying or selling, and simply knowing a real estate agent and recommending them to me isn’t enough for us! One gentleman actually was referred to us by two or three people, which is very impressive, so we may still talk to him but I’m not sure. He & I both from the same area and we have quite a few mutual friends and I’m weird about that stuff. Some things are just too close to comfort! The team I met with was recommended to us by a friend who bought his house a couple years back using their services, and will actually be using them again to sell his house soon. This is a friend who has lived the real estate experience, and who is a fairly blunt guy, so I’m confident he would let us know if he wasn’t impressed! I got in touch, and the recommended agent, Carey was prompt to reply to email, and brought her partner, Julie, into it. They were instantly involved and happy to help & so far, any time I’ve reached out to them, they’ve always gotten back to me within a day, usually within the hour! I met with them yesterday at Kimball Coffeehouse in Gig Harbor, my first experience in this coffee shop! I enjoyed it. Anyway, I walked in and was warmly greeted by each of them and we sat down and got right to business. Julie is the land expert and I told them I was pretty clueless about the entire thing, but it didn’t matter because she was well prepared and full of information to give! She asked for the details of what we were looking for, narrowing it down to things/companies that would work, and some that wouldn’t. I’ve read some articles and watched some videos where people chose to cut home building costs by omitting the buyers agent and after talking to them, I believe hiring one will be money well spent, should we choose to go this route. After a single meeting, I felt better than I did beforehand and like maybe we are finally making progress on this. We aren’t 100% committed, we haven’t signed any paperwork or anything, but so far I’m impressed with them. One of the selling points is how well Julie & I connected! She recently built a home on 5 acres, she just planted her seedlings for the garden she is working on, she has chickens and cats, too! I love the idea of working with someone who completely understands my list of priorities because her priorities were the same, and who just build a house on acreage in the area, because she has been through the process first hand and has a great idea of what we’re doing. Plus, she is a professional, after all!
We aren’t poor but we aren’t rich and budget is going to be a real thing through this process. How much we choose to allow ourselves to spend & how we use that money will obviously be determined on which road we take in this process. Our #1 priority is SPACE. Rob has a ton of stuff, including guitars that line the walls, a drum set he wants to set up, football memorabilia that needs a place to go, and so much more. He really is a prime candidate for someone who needs a man cave! Something we’ve noticed is there are a lot of split level homes who have that second living room downstairs. While having that extra living room in nice, especially for someone with dreams of a man cave, the square footage on some of these homes isn’t much more than the other homes on the market. It seems like there are just more rooms in the same number of square feet, making for tiny rooms. I wouldn’t say this is a hard no for us but it’s pretty far from what we want. We would rather wait & continue our search while we save more, and actually end up in the home we want. We’ve watched our friends settle and buy houses that we would never be willing to purchase. We are willing to compromise but we aren’t willing to settle, if that makes sense. In addition the man cave goal, I need room for all of my things! I NEED a decent sized kitchen and am hopeful that I can have a spacious pantry. The majority of our food is made from scratch in our kitchen, because I love to cook & bake, but also, it’s important to me know what’s in our food & where it came from & how it was prepared. I’ve worked in kitchens of all sizes and kitchen counter space is a must for me. I can’t even tell you how many cookbooks I have and I have more kitchen appliances and utensils than I have room for! Property is also high on the list of priorities, which is where buying an already built home gets tricky. In our price range, you can usually find a good house with no yard OR you can find acreage with a very unimpressive house on it. It’s challenging to find both without going way over budget. The more land we can get, the better, within reason, so something like 5 acres would be a dream come true. I can compromise a little on this but I need at least a couple of acres. I told Julie a minimum of 2 acres is a must but more would be great so we’ll see what we can find. I have had a little taste of gardening but I really, really want a large garden, fruit trees and chickens. Rob knows how much this means to me and therefore, it’s important to him also, because he wants me to have the things I want. With that, comes making sure we have a place that gets plenty of sun for our gardens and trees. Additionally, I’m hoping we can have some kind of nook where all of our cat toys and beds can go. We have three cats and they have a ton of stuff, too, so they would benefit from a little space to call their own.
Obviously, space is key, both indoor and outdoor. In this day & age, we are asking for quite a bit, for not an excessive amount of cost, which is pretty challenging because we live on the West Coast, just outside of Seattle, which is one of the most expensive housing markets in America. It’s possible we are asking for the impossible! Someone told me that they live on the outskirts of the city, and are saving to have their home built, and are anticipating to spend $200-$400 per sq ft. $200… yes, that seems realistic but there is no way we are going to build a home for $400 per sq ft. That doesn’t even begin to interest us.
We understand that with getting the space we want, we will have to compromise elsewhere. Location is open to discussion. Poulsbo, Kingston and the areas a little ways north of us are our first picks, but those areas are also in high demand, have high property taxes and may not be realistic and that’s okay. Olalla appealed to us but the property values have gone up there because you can get acreage and the land is filled with legitimate pre-owned farmhouses, which are all the rage right now. Olalla used to be very affordable but times have changed. While we would still be open to living there if the right opportunity came along, it might be just a tad further South than we were hoping for anyway, much like Gig Harbor. Mason County is an option, assuming it isn’t too far out. Belfair, in Mason County, gets deep and goes on for days and I don’t want to have an excessive commute home every day after work. Belfair is kind of like Olalla used to be, where it’s just far enough out that you can get affordable property, and it’s just close enough to Kitsap County that getting to and from work isn’t a huge hassle. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the heart of Belfair. There’s one main drag with one main grocery store, but it would worth it for the right piece of property. Anyway, back on point, we are flexible on location.
We haven’t ruled out buying an existing home. It was a topic of conversation when I met with Carey and Julie yesterday, and we will be receiving emails for both land and homes. Carey mentioned that some of the things we want could be out of our budget by $100k or more, but Julie mentioned our budget is tight but doable so we’ll see what happens. I shoud receive an email from Julie in the next day or so with links to more information to get a better idea of a direction. Should we decide to buy, we will probably look for something that has land & space, but needs cosmetic work. I know myself, and no matter what we buy, I will want to change it to make it more my style, so I may start with something that’s due for an update anyway and save a few bucks. We’re willing to shell out the money, along with our own time and effort, to work on the house. It’s worth it for the space!
I would love to do as much green building as possible. I know there can be great savings in this at times, but there can also be significant costs added on. This is something I will need to ask about! While at the Seattle Home Show, I watched a 45 seminar about green building from the founder of Lasting Nest Inc., and some of the things these people have done and their knowledge is all pretty awesome!!
Regardless of what we end up doing, our other important priorities are structure. Anything cosmetic can be changed over time, but the structure of the house needs to be solid. Things that would take a lot of work to change would be the top priorities, for example, windows. I want the windows that I want from the start. Floors, while still a big job, are a little more doable down the road. We understand that style & details AND a lot of indoor/outdoor space is just getting ourselves up for a massive mortgage, so patience and prioritizing.
Time. Time is something else we need to consider. First of all, a lot can change over time. For example, mortgage rates are amazing right now, like, super low. We could buy & lock in one of these amazing rates! With time, the rates could increase … is it worth locking in these great rates if we don’t find what we want and love our home? If we build, and roll our loan into a traditional mortgage after construction is complete, we lock ourselves into THOSE future home rates, good or bad. Of course, we could always buy now, build equity, and then sell again in a couple of years and upgrade for our next home. However, we don’t really want to do that. I don’t know if this will be our forever home or not because life is unpredictable but it could be. We plan to put a lot blood, sweat, tears, time, work, effort, thought, research, discussion (I’m aware of the redundancy here), both inside and outside. After all that, I can’t see us wanting to sell it and start over. I also worry about the “buy then sell in a couple years” plan, because I watched some friends buy a home in the early 2000’s and then want to sell it… just in time for the housing crisis. They HAD to keep a house they no longer wanted to live in unless they wanted to take a significant, which no one wants to do. I know the housing crisis was extreme but you never know what’s going to happen. We want to end up in something that makes up happy so that no housing market issues will impact us anymore. At the same time, building could take up to two years. Julie’s guess was the our home would not be move in ready until 2022! That’s so far away, but we estimated a year anyway, so what’s one more year if we get what we want? This allows a tiny bit more flexibility in the budget because there’s a lot of paychecks between now and then to use as things come up or as we work on things ourselves.
The meeting with Carey & Julie was so beneficial and informative, but we still don’t have the answer to our question about building. Rob wasn’t able to go with me for he meeting, since he is still in Japan, so this means I’m having to get this ball rolling on my own, & then relay the information to him so we can go from there. I am so looking forward to him return so he can participate and be hearing the information as I do so we can then go home and discuss it. I’m fully capable of making decisions but I want to be sure he is happy too. I want him to be a part of it alongside me.
At the beginning of our first trip to Japan at the start of 2019, I hadn’t been exposed to much authentic Japanese cuisine. Combining that with my not knowing my way around Yokosuka yet, & being in an area that has a heavy American influence right outside the US Naval base, we tried several options around town besides Japanese food.
Lotus Indian Curry House
My first meal in Japan wasn’t even Japanese but Indian, and I was alone while Rob was at work, which was disappointing for me. My first ever meal in Japan… alone. I wandered the local streets until I found a place that worked for me, a little hole in the wall Indian spot at the end of the Honch, called Lotus Indian Curry House. The place consists of only a couple of empoyees and only four or five tables. The waiter didn’t speak much English so there was some pointing to menu options but we got through it pretty easily. I had the coconut chicken curry because I love that stuff, and it came with a small salad & naan bread. The portions were smaller than what I’m used to back home but it was still more than enough food. I truly love Indian food & was so happy I found this place, and a bonus is that they do to go orders, which can be tough to find in Japan! The second time I ate here, I ordered the chicken tikka masala with turmeric rice, and it was delicious. While I waited for my food, they gave me a complimetary mango lassi, which was nice. A lassi is just basically a yogurt based smoothie.
Curry has that deliciously strong scent and there are quite a few places around here that serve it, so we’re smelling it all the time, and I crave it pretty much constantly. I ate chicken tikka, buriyani, butter chicken… that list goes on. I ate at Lotus at least once a week the entire time we were in Japan.
Coconut Chicken Curry. I didn’t take a picture of my naan or salad. There just wasn’t any way to make the coconut curry look appealing but, trust me, it was so good.
Chicken tikka masala with turmeric rice. They make you pay for the rice separately but it was so worth it.
Red Door Ramen
We were in Yokosuka for a few days before we got to go out for a meal together. This was disappointing for me, because my plan had been to get some authentic Japanese food as soon as possible, but it just didn’t play out that way. Our first Japanese lunch was at Red Door Ramen, which has it’s own blog, “Eat the Ramen,” they said. We chose this place because it’s near the hotel, and is well known to the Americans in town and people had good things to say about it. It was also helpful that they had an English menu… I’m just not sure that ramen is for me.
I always find the presentation of ramen dishes to be pretty. I also ordered these little curry filled pastries but I can’t remember what they were called.
Rob enjoys that fried rice. He tried my ramen and wasn’t into it either. He’s also really enjoying how often I make him pose for a picture during a meal.
Our second trip into Red Door Ramen just for their amazing fried rice. We also ordered some spring rolls which I enjoyed but Rob wasn’t a big fan. I was successful in eating my ramen and my fried rice with chopsticks so I was pretty happy with myself.
Rob’s beef fried rice was so good that we went back a couple days later to have pork fried rice for dinner. I don’t prefer to eat much pork but this was so good. This place served decent sized portions (maybe because they’re usually feeding American soldiers? idk) and I asked for the half order which was a good call. They were our first experience with a cash only policy. Rob really likes this place so I think we’ll end up here a lot.
Arabella’s is a little Meditteranean/Middle Eastern restaurant that I’ve been to twice, but unfortunately, didn’t take any pictures of the food either time. My first experience was on my own and I just really needed some hummus and it was so satisfying. The second time, Rob went with me, and he ordered two kebabs, one with chicken and one with a mixture of grounf beef & lamb. He enjoyed the chicken, but I don’t think lamb is for him & he didn’t even finish that one. I had a falafel wrap, which was okay but wasn’t my favorite. I’m sure I’ll end up there again when I get another hummus craving! We both ordered strawberry chu-hi’s, which are definitely the drink of choice for Americans in this area. Arabella’s is kind’ve a small spot, like so many of the other restaurants, and next time I’ll take pictures. They have a friendly staff, and there is a woman who stands outside in the evenings, trying to invite people into the restaurant. I walk by all the time but it took me a while to finally decide to go in and I think she was thrilled when I did.
Rob loves to make jokes about me and Alibaba, an Egyptian restaurant directly across the street from the hotel. At first, I was skeptical about eating there, because they open for the bar crowd in the evenings and they’re one of a few hookah lounges in the neighborhood, but I was curious about them. They offer the option to go in and sit down, or they have a window in the front of their restaurant where people can do to-go options. I was standing across the street, checking out their menu from a distance when the guy working noticed me and starting waving and talking to me so I figured, I might as well just try them out. So, I went over and ordered Egytpian shrimp curry, and the guy was very nice and chatty so we talked for a several minutes while he got my food together. Apparently, he’s been here for a little over four years and says he still doesn’t speak great Japanese. The owner and chef was there, too, and he was also a chatty guy. I’ve eaten there a couple more times since, and each time, it’s been good. I’ve only tried the shrimp curry and beef curry so far. Anyway, the reason Rob likes to make jokes is because of how I became fast friends with the people who work there, because they wave when they see me out & about, they’re very friendly when I order from them, and the owner hollered across the street to me to let me know they have new menu items. Hey, they are very conveniently located, they do to go orders so I can just take it right back to our room, they offer great service and I love curry so how can you blame me for wanting to keep going?? They also have chicken kebabs that are a lot better than some of the other places around here and Rob enjoyed those. They’re maybe like the “fast food” version of curry around here. I don’t say this because of the quality of their food, because they offer good food, which they take a lot of pride in, and I assure you, they’re cooking it… none of it’s from a box or frozen, and none of it is “fake.” I say this because they have a very small menu so it’s easy to just have everything ready to go so they can serve meals without a wait.
They also have some Egyptian shrimp tacos and a couple other things on their menu I’m interested in trying.
The owner is, in fact, from Egypt, and the employee I see there most is from Algeria.
Socially speaking, I think I enjoy these guys the most.
As I write this blog post, I am realizing that I’m probably eating too much curry and should expand my horizons a little more. As I say that, I am currently eating a pork curry from Coco Ichibanya, a Japanese curry restaurant. Pork is far from my favorite meat but I’ve never tried it in a curry so I decided to give it a go. Many of the restaurants who make curry ask how spicy they should make it, generally on a scale of 1-5. Sometimes, a 3 is really kickin’! I say that because the food I’m eating right now is especially spicy and I’m wishing I’d said 2. The cool thing about this restaurant is that they have a food truck that regularly parks right in front of the hotel. I can even see them from our balcony! The annoying thing about that is they seem to only park there when I have no intention of ordering from them, so I had to walk to their restaurant tonight. The curry I’m eating is pretty alright although next time, I will order the chicken cutlet variety. This place has good reviews online and was actually full of Americans who are curry lovers!
I’m trying to think of where else I might have eaten curry. Rob hasn’t joined me on any of my curry excursions, because I generally get it while he’s at work. If you ask him, he’ll say he’s not interested and doesn’t like curry, but I’ve made a couple of different curry dishes, and he liked them both so I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about! I’ve had Japanese, Egytpian and Indian curry and I imagine the base of the recipes are all similar to one another, but I love Indian food so Lotus makes me happy and, as of right now, they’re probably my favorite of the places I’ve eaten.
One day, just before I fell ill, we were wandering around the Honch, trying to pick a place to eat. Already realizing that I might be coming down with something, I wasn’t in the mood to play the “Where do you want to eat…?” game and we weren’t really agreeing on anything. We finally decided to stop in this tiny place, with no real tables, only a bar with a few stools. They’re just a little food stand where you can get things to go and take shots while standing outside their to go window. You can also choose to stay and eat at the bar, which is what we opted for. They’re going for that Southern California surfer vibe, calling themselves Surf Taco. I actually really like their name and think it would be perfect for a food truck down on Venice Beach or something. Anyway, we went at a good time because no one else was in there. Sometimes that place is empty but other days, I walk by and it’s packed. Rob ordered chili cheese fries and hot wings, I ordered a fish taco and a chicken taco. There’s really nothing authentic about this place, with a menu that also featured burritos, burgers and several more “Mexican” and non-Mexican options. Rob’s fries came with a cheese sauce, my tacos had pre-shredded cheese, but we knew what we were getting into so it was okay. It was like a cute version of Taco Time that also serves burgers & alcohol. For some reason, that fish taco was extremely satisfying, and I’m not sure if I was just that hungry or if it was just that good but we had an enjoyable experience at the un-authentic Mexican taco stand in Japan. It’s a cool little place if you want something simple and low key. I didn’t take pictures of the tacos… because they were tacos… with pre-shredded cheese… I can’ remember what kind of chu-hi Rob ordered but I got the Blue Hawaiian. They’re definitely appealing to the people who need a break from the local cuisine.
Being new to Japan, we thought all the shrines were so cool and we wanted to see them all! It didn’t take us long to realize that these shrines were literally everywhere throughout Japan and seeing them all is impossible. We also soon realized that visiting the famous, touristy ones was worthwhile, and occasionally checking out the small ones you come across can be neat, but a lot of them are pretty much the same in appearance, although it can be interesting to learn about the different God’s each one is devoted to. When we first arrived, we wanted to see some of Japan’s ancient history so the first tourist thing we did was take the train to Kamakura for the Great Buddha and Hase-dera. One day while Rob was at work, I decided to see what Yokosuka had to offer. Yokosuka doesn’t have anything quite as grand as what Kamakura has to offer, but I was able to map a shrine that was just up the hill from our room. We could almost see it from our balcony, and it’s a historical, free, nearby option.
Suwadai Shrine is located just outside the Honch, up a small hill, on the left side. When you reach the bottom of the high stone walls below the shrine, you have to climb quite the flight of stairs to reach the top. In the Spring, like so many other places, you can find trees full of cherry blossoms. The shrine takes up a small space and you could easily explore it and take everything in within 30 minutes of your arrival, probably less. Once at the top, it’s tranquil and nothing like the bustle of Yokosuka below!
To learn a little more about it, here is a link. It’s obviously translated and I didn’t want to pass along any inaccurate information.
Fingernails are a work of art in Japan. They take it very seriously here, however, I tend to keep my nail designs a little on the simple side. First of all, I think those incredibly fancy & intricate nail designs can get pretty pricey, but also, you don’t see those often in America so I think I woud have a difficult time finding a person who could maintain them for me.
I meant to get my very outgrown nails done before I came to visit Rob but… life. Anyway, I googled places here in Yokosuka and came across Jelly Nails, who received rave reviews. It was nearby and people had awesome things to say about them so it was an easy choice. On top of that, they were prompt in getting back to me to set an appointment. All huge wins!
My appointment was with nail tech and salon owner, Angela, who spent quite a bit of time living in America and is fluent in perfect English. While my design request was a simple one I pulled off Google, I walked away a happy customer! Angela’s customer service was great and she was pleasant to talk to. Usually, I prefer it if people just do their job so we can get through the appointment and I can go on my way, but I actually enjoyed talking to her. We chatted about our husbands and where we’re from, time she’s spent in Washington, why I’m in Japan, and American vs Japanese nail salons, education, laws, etc. My experience at Jelly Nails was way better than that of any of the nail salons I’ve used back home (and I’ve used quite a few over the years) & I wish this place was near my home because I wouldn’t go anywhere else! I’m sure there are some wonderful nail techs back home and I probably just haven’t found them yet but this experience has inspired me to do some research and find someone awesome. I don’t know when or even if we will be back to Yokosuka after this trip, but if we ever are, I would love to pay another visit to Jelly Nails and have Angela do a new design for me! Angela wasn’t nearly as rough as some of the nail techs I’ve worked with before, she took her time and paid perfect attention to detail & my nails are flawless! She has an instgram & a Facebook page, featuring the hands of yours truly, but also, all the other works of art she and her employee have created. Some of them are pretty but not over the top, much like mine, but some of them showcase those amazing, wild nails that are so popular in Japan. There is one specific set on there that is ocean themed, with blue nails and little gold starfish that I especially like.
Bonus: I asked her if she likes ramen. Naturally, like so many others here, she loves it. I told her about my ramen experiences and where I’ve gone, and told her, “If that was ramen, I don’t like it.” She looked at me and laughed, and said, “We don’t even call that ramen!” She said she’s pretty sure people only go to these places because of the convenience and because they don’t know better. Thank goodness! I told her I thought I was the only person on the planet who must not like ramen but this makes me a little less scared to try it again. I always plan to give it another try but always back out. Good to know!
Before our first trip to Japan, Rob & I kept hearing how great the convenient store’s are. Anyone who has ever been to Japan already knows this and raves about them but we were still skeptical. I mean, how great can a 7-11 really be? Before arriving, we couldn’t grasp that they would be that much better than what we were used to… but they are pretty great. There was a 7-11 across the street from our hotel, although it was called the 7-i (7-11 International? I’m not really sure) and I admit, over our four months living in the New Hotel Yokosuka, we spent a lot of time and money at the 7-i but they aren’t the only option. You also have Lawson’s, Family Mart’s and more. They still live up to being a convenient store, but they are probably even more convenient that the ones back home! First of all, they are everywhere, and if you’re somewhere that doesn’t have a convenient store, that place could easily have a convenient stand. For example, if you walk anywhere, you will pass the convenient store, but if you go near the train stations, you will find a mini version of one of these convenient stores, OR if you’re catching a train, there’s good chance you’ll see a convenient “stand” right there on the platform, featuring snacks & sodas from these same convenient companies.
Back to the actual stores– they still sell the basics you would find in any convenient store, like chips, cookies, candy, soda, even Cup Noodles. There are still warmers at the front of the store to buy your ready to go fried food, but the quality of these options is a little better, so they sell quicky and I think it’s rare you would purchase something that’s been sitting for any length of time. I’ve seen some options that might appeal to American taste buds, such as hash browns, corn dogs & pizza buns, but a lot of the options are better than that! You can buy karaage (Japanese fried chicken, Rob loves it), yakitori, pork buns and more.
The option for prepared salads, curries, pastas, rice dishes, egg dishes, udon, sandwiches, etc., was like a small grocery store. They offered shelves and shelves of these. You can buy little bags of fruit, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, raw eggs, ramen, packages of already cooked & seasoned chicken, a variety of cakes, puddings, pies, liquor, frozen french fries, frozen produce… it was impressive. I still tried to go to the grocery store for the majority of our food but there were definitely days where I just wanted to buy some already cooked rice, or a quick dessert to throw in Rob’s lunch, and would just run down to the 7-i. Our next trip to Japan didn’t have one of these as close to our hotel and it was definitely something we missed!
Vending machines in Japan are something to be marveled at. Some vending machines offer beer and cigarettes. Most vending machines offer you a variety of hot & cold choices. Do you want to grab some hot coffee on your way to work in the morning? Swing by a vending machine. It’s summer and you want cold coffee now? Done. Are you starving?? Grab some already hot soup from the vending machine. Ice cream? Some of them have it. Soda? Juice? Hot tea? Cold tea? Water?
The beginning of 2019 was our first trip to Japan and even though Rob was there for work, it was new and exciting for both of us. Even though we were a 45 minute train ride from Yokohama or Kamakura, and in most cases, an hour+ from the fun attractions in Tokyo, it was so neat just walking around the streets of Yokosuka, exploring our new but temporary home. Rob was able to do some of the exploring with me but while he was at work, I did quite a bit of it on my own, which allowed me to see some things I might not have seen otherwise. In comparison to someplace like Tokyo, Yokosuka isn’t a very big place but there are some nice spots. It was also great to get all my steps in while checking out the town!
Verny Park is named for French engineer Francois Verny, and is a waterfront park that sits on the water with a view of the Yokosuka Naval Shipyard. It is well landscaped and full of a wide variety of trees, plants & flowers in french style flower beds, french fountains and park benches, and consists of a cafe and small museum. My first trip to Verny Park was in February, so it was still cold and not much was in bloom yet but it was still a nice spot. I went a second time because the first time I went, the little museum was closed and I wanted to check that out. I made a point to go back a third time, in Spring before we left because I wanted to see that place at its peak. The third trip was the best because Rob went with me! This visit took place just a day or two befor we returned home so it was a little bittersweet.
Francois Verny came to Yokosuka in 1865 to oversee the construction of the Yokosuka Naval arsenal. Verny participated in the negotiations for the start of foreign training missions in Japan, helping to train the Tokugawa army. Under Verny’s management, he hired 65 Japanese technicians, 2500 workers, constructed & built up the shipyard, established schools for training workers and built four lighthouses (including the Kannonzaki lighthouse). In 1876, the Japanese were able to take over and Verny returned to France where he had great success working for a major mining company. He was also awarded the Legion of Honour before passing away in 1908.
Visit to Verny Park, trip 1: winter
Visit to Verny Park, trip 2: The Museum
Visit to Verny Park, trip 3: Spring! One last day to wander around Yokosuka before returning to Seattle.
Update: Kinda cool — for my third trip to Japan, while visiting Rob for another of his work trips, we stayed at Libery Cove House, which overlooks Verny Park. We had a great view of the park and the water!
We took the train and then the Subway to Yokohama and the commute was a little under an hour from Yokosuka. It wasn’t a hard commute, leaving Yokosuka-chuo station, going to a station… somewhere… and then hopping on the Subway which then took us to Yokohama. It was super convenient because after we got off the Subway, we just had to go upstairs and around the corner to get to Chinatown.
I was really excited to finally get to Chinatown, since we made plans to go the last two weekends but didn’t due to illness. Rob was tired, working a 12 hour shift the night before, but he’s sweet and knew I really wanted to go (plus I think he needed some fun… he’s been working six 10-12 hour shifts the last couple weeks so I don’t think he’s having much fun in Japan) so he powered through.
Chinatown in Yokohama is the biggest Chinatown in Asia, and one of the biggest in the world, so that had us pretty stoked. Before going, I did some research, just to see what was around, and I already know we saw a lot but I’m sure we missed lot, too! There were specific things we had hoped to see but didn’t and we’re still not even sure where they were! Every time we went down a street, there were side streets off that street. The majority of the what we saw was food, with endless restaurants and food carts. Before we got there, I told Rob I was about to eat so much Chinese food. There were also a lot of cool souvenir shops but unfortunately, most of them have signs saying photography is prohibited. This is probably because people would do exactly what I wanted to do, which is to take pictures of the cool expensive things but not buy them, so I get it.
On the way home, we discussed what we took away from the day and Rob said he took away “pandas and chocolate.” Pandas play a significant role in the Chinese culture so they’re everywhere, from stuffed animals to coin purses to candy to panda shaped pork buns (I wish we’d taken a pic) to chop sticks and everything else you can possibly imagine. There are stores devoted entirely to pandas, who sympolize strength, friendship & peace because of their gentle nature. As for chocolate, they just have a lot of candy stores. Rob bought something he thought would be the equivalent to fancy kit kats but when we got home and tried them, neither of us liked them and Rob took them into work for his coworkers. We can’t pinpoint what the flavor was but we weren’t impressed. However, we tried a sample of the strawberry version of that same candy and that one was very good! We should have purchased that one!
As for what I took away from the day, one thing of many would be – shark is quite the popular food item in the Chinese cuisine.
I’ve recently watched some wildlife documentaries, some of which revolved around sharks. The one with the best footage was Tales of Light, which features photographers on adventures while discussing and taking pictures of animals, topics and causes they’re passionate about. Two episodes featured photographers discussing their love of sharks and what people are doing to them. As Shawn Heinrichs & Sylvia Earle shared…
I think the thing that surprises me about shark fin dishes being served in these restaurants is the cruelty that goes into it. Many sharks have been pulled from the water to have their fins cut right off of their bodies before being thrown back into the water to drown. I’ve read that there has been an attempt to end this cruelty, decreasing the number of animals who endure this suffering, but I’ve also read it continues for some. We tried to make a point to have dinner at a restaurant that didn’t serve any shark products but it was everywhere. That, combined with the fact that we couldn’t read some of the menu’s outside the doors, resulted in us eating in a restaurant that we THOUGHT wouldn’t serve shark. We were wrong. I know some would probably say this is part of ther culture but that just isn’t enough for me.
While we sat in this restaurant eating our noodles and fried chicken, a couple came in and sat at the table right next to us and ordered their shark fin soup. I’ve read that shark fins have a mild flavor and don’t contribute much to the taste of a dish, but it is expensive and a way for people to show off their status.
The good news is that there’s been a great deal of work put into educating people on how these sharks are hunted and the impact this is having on shark populations, and gradually, more and more people are choosing not to eat them anymore. So there’s hope!
In spite of that focus on shark fins, I took away more good than bad from Chinatown! At some point, I would love to go back, especially if we could go during the Chinese New Year’s celebration. We just missed it this year but one of Rob’s co-workers went and said it was awesome. Maybe someday we’ll make it back!
Chinatown is so pretty. They have those red lanterns lining the streets and if you wait until it’s dark, it’s seriously so cool, and all the lights lining the streets, the decor on stores and restaurants, all the cultural items seen through windows, the stone dragons, the buildings… amazing. Rob said one of his favorite parts of the day was the architexture because you don’t see anything like this where we come from. Dim sum, pork buns and bubble tea seem to be the popular food items around there. Chinatown wasn’t bad during the day but once dinnertime hit, that place was busy! I’m not surprised though because the dinner options are endless and the cuisine is authentic. We came across a “SEGA” sign, which was the same logo as the video game company, but it was all arcade games when you go inside and not really video game themed at all. Still cool though! It just wasn’t what we expected.
I love street food (who doesn’t?). Restaurants are all well and good but I would prefer to bypass the restaurant in a situation like this, and instead, try little portions of a variety of foods. We were able to try several new things and it was awesome, & I have to give Rob a little credit! I admit I was like, “Seriously??” when he ordered fried chicken for dinner but he had tried quite a few new things throughout the day. For a guy who’s all about meat and potatoes, and pretty unadventurous in the ways of food, he did well. I think he tried three new foods today along with two new candies.
Real Chinese food isn’t anything like what we see in most American “Chinese” restaurants. There’s no orange chicken or General Tso’s or Egg Foo Young (although I did something SIMILAR to Egg Foo Young at one restaurant) and the menu’s are a little intimidating. When we go back, we’ll be a little more prepared for what we’re in for. It’s interesting how different the authentic foods are from the Americanized versions.
As we walked through Chinatown, we saw gold pigs EVERYWHERE. Pandas and gold pigs… Apparently, that’s what’s up! We both commented on this and I think we both guessed at the same time that it must be the year of the Pig. I googled it and it is, starting on the 5th of this month. People born in the year of the pig are supposed to experience great fortune. Chinatown was full of neat shops selling all kinds of crystals, stones, Hindu gods (they love Ganesh), souvenirs, panda items, candy and more.
Palm reading and tarot cards are popular and there is just shop after shop for them. Some of them have curtains or beads hanging to give the customer privacy but some of them are just out in the open. Fortune telling is so popular that it even had it’s own link to check out on the Chinatown website.
Technically we can check this off the list but since we just barely missed their Chinese New Year’s Celebration but heard it was awesome, I would love to make it back to Chinatown for that! I’m not sure how much Rob cares about it, and for me, it would be cool but there are other Chinatown’s in the world and I don’t know how many more opportunities in our lives we’ll be back in Yokohama. We’ll see where life takes us!
The nice thing thing about arriving in Yokosuka this time around is that I know the place pretty dang well after spennding four months there. I already know where I prefer to frequent & where to go for our needs. The downside to this is that there isn’t much left for me to explore in town! Last time, our joint goal was to put away some money but my own goal was to take full advantage of four months in Japan and see as much as I could in that time. I didn’t see everything I hoped to but I spent quite a bit of time in Tokyo!
This time, it was all about the money. It was a significantly shorter trip for me, lasting only three weeks, while Rob still has to power through until mid-April 2020.
Right now, I’m sitting in the Tully’s cafe at Tokyo Narita, with quite a bit of time to kill before my flight. Once again, I’m flying Japan Airlines. My flight out here was a pleasant one so I’m optimistic about tonight’s flight also. I went back & forth on checking my bag, and decided against it, much to my regret. Last time was a learning experience after we way over packed, and now we pack on the lighter side, so it isn’t a big bag but it’s inconvenient to have to lug around the airport. My logic was that it would save me the extra step of stopping at the baggage claim after I arrive back home. I showed up far too early with big plans on how I was going to entertain myself at the airport but I’m always too nervous about running into a problem so instead of doing all the fun stuff I wanted to do, I went straight through security and then found my gate. I probably need to worry less. So, rather than shopping and getting one last Japanese meal before boarding the plane, I sit here, drinking my mocha, eating my mousse cake and waiting for the time to pass.
I don’t mind plane rides but my flights to and from Japan this time were on my own and I don’t like that. I get a little nervous when Rob or I have to fly without the other one. I know nothing is going to happen but it still makes me feel uneasy.
Leaving Rob this morning was no easier than it was back in November when I dropped him off at Sea Tac. When I originally planned this trip, some things were different with my job so I had a specific plan regarding my work schedule. Now, I’ll be working in a different location which changes that specific plan and NOW, I fly back to Seattle, work one day and then have two more days off. Had I known, I would have taken that one work day off and had three more in Japan with Rob. I guess the bright side is that I won’t be able to spend a bunch of money on Tokyo like I’ve been doing all week and within the next 10-12 hours, I’ll be back in my own home with our cats. I hope they’re happy at my return rather than angry over the length of time I was gone! Additionally, I’ll have some time to rest this weekend.
Rob & I have had different thoughts on whether I should visit Japan one or two more times between now and April. He initially said one more should do, because he wanted to save the air fare that a second trip would cost us. I wanted to make two happen but that will also depend on work. If I can work it out with my boss, I think Rob might feel a little more inclined to have me out twice now, because he enjoys life in Japan much more when I’m here with him. He was a little bummed this morning when he left for work, knowing I wouldn’t be in the hotel room when he returns.
I can’t believe our three weeks together is up and I’m waiting for my plane back to Sea-Tac.
I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be able to return. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Next time, I’m going to change my focus from Tokyo to some of the other ancient, small areas around Yokosuka. I want to visit Enoshima Island, there’s one or two more things I’d like to see in Kamakura, and I’d like to look up what else might be worth seeing so we can check those things off our bucket list. Down the road, we’d like to take one long vacation to Japan. When I say vacation, I mean vacation for both of us, not just me. We want to spend part of it in Tokyo, checking off a few more things for me and giving Rob the opportunity to see anything he hasn’t had a chance to visit yet but would like to. Then we want to travel down to Osaka and Kyoto, which are a few hours away from Tokyo by train or a little over an hour by plane. Osaka is known as “Japan’s Kitchen,” and they are renowned for their street food, although I’ve heard there isn’t as much of it as there used to be. I’ve read Kyoto is what you’d expect to see when you think of ancient Japan, and is the main hub for the old geisha culture. I’ve read there’s tons to see there. We talked about maybe just going down there for a weekend if Rob can get the time off but that never happens. Plus, I want to see everything without being rushed or having to choose and miss out on anything.
We wouldn’t mind coming back to Japan for work but we aren’t going to do another one of these long trips. Now that we have pets, it isn’t practical to leave them for months on end, plus it’s hard on them and hard on us! I’m allowed to take time off of up to six months at a time per 12 months, which is pretty great, but only so much of that can be done before it has a negative impact on my professional development. Rob’s job sometimes has month long trips, which would be ideal. We would probably just have him work for the month, and I would meet up with him at the end, and we would take a week and then be able to do the fun stuff! We have no intention of ever being apart like this again.
I can’t wait to plan my next trip out here. As of right now, I’m not sure when I’ll see my husband again and I am really not into it, and neither is he.
Even though this is my last couple of hours in Japan before returning home and I’m typing this up, there is still plenty I have to write about. I have to update my previous blog posts as I move them over from the other blogging platform I was using, and I actually have a couple that I never posted from our last trip but will be doing soon. I also have several from this trip of days in Tokyo so there’s plenty more coming soon.
Usually, when I go to Tokyo, I like to get somewhat of an early start towards the train station but I just could not get moving this particular morning, and then I was distracted by all the miliary activity taking place just across Tokyo Bay. Things to do in Tokyo open a little later than what I’m used to back home and it’s kind’ve a trek to get there so somewhat early is best.
Our room has a perfect view of the water! First, the submarine popped up, then a short time later, I watched an aircraft carrier arrive. Even though I’m from a military area, it’s still really cool to see, especially since I can watch from our balcony!
Anyway, for this trip to Tokyo, I was on my own. If I was going to run late on a trip into the city, this was the day to do it because Rob was working late. I missed the train I wanted to take but no big deal. One of the great things about the trains in Japan is that they run constantly so if you miss your train, another one will arrive in just a short time so we never rush or stress about catching them. It actually worked out nicely, because I missed the train rush hour, which ends around 9 am. Usually, it takes well over an hour to get to Shinjuku but I found a train that was going to get me there in less time with only one transfer in Yokohama so I was pretty excited about that.
Naturally, that would have bene too easy… so there was a delay with the route and I ended up having to transfer at Yokohama AND Shinagawa. It’s not hard… just an extra step and a little extra time.
I was going for a day trip to Shinjuku. The sun was shining and the temperature was pretty alright. This is the warmest December I have ever experienced! I was wearing a blouse and light sweater, and was totally fine. It feels like an October day back home, before the temperature drops with the change of the seasons. Maybe even warmer, like a nice September day.
One of the day’s goals was ramen. Shinjuku and Shibuya are both well known for their competitive ramen restaurants. I put a lot of time into researching the perfect ramen place for me, but I just couldn’t decide… I’m not familiar enough with ramen recipes to know what I’ll like and I haven’t enjoyed either of the ramen dishes I tried last time I visited Japan so I went to he who knows best: Paolo from Tokyo, who’s favorite ramen restaurant in all of Tokyo is Fuunji. I walked by several ramen restaurants getting from the train station to Fuunj, and it seems common for the good ones to have lines, and Fuunji is no exception. They say you can tell a good restaurant by the number of locals inside or in line, so even though I don’t prefer to wait, I always keep this in mind. After wandering around the streets of Shinjuku for a while, I decided to take Paolo’s advice. Fuunji is was.
I’m sure I’m one of like a million people who have come here after watching Paolo’s video. I wanted to try my own ramen experience because I don’t just want to copy others all the time but this just seemed the safest course of action in this situation. So, here I was, waiting in line for a dish I’m unsure of, to eat noodles & broth fairly quickly with chopsticks. That’s another thing… you’re not supposed to take your sweet time at places like this. You eat then move along so the next patron can enter.
Long lines full of locals are a good thing. They have a lot of options to choose from so if you see quite a few of them choosing a specific spot, that’s a positive sign. Fuunji is a famous, highly regarded tsukemen shop who also serves a delicious ramen option. Those are their specialties and I’m not even sure if you can get much else, if anything else, on the menu…? I coud be wrong. I can’t read the Japanese language so sometimes I miss things. Anyway, tsukemen uses thicker noodles than ramen and they’re served cold with a warm, rich dipping sauce. I’ve read that ramen tends to be more popular in the cooler months, while the more hearty tsukemen is the preference in the colder months. To me, the tsukemen sounded so much more appealing! I don’t know… I might never try ramen again!! One article described tsukemen as “revolutionary ramen,” like an revamped, updated version of it.
As I neared the entrance to Fuunji, I looked behind me and the line wasn’t getting any shorter. For every person who went in to eat, at least one more person lined up. When it was my turn to go inside, I selected what I wanted from their ticket kiosk, and continued to wait. The staff has everyone line up against the wall, standing about a food from the people eating. It sounds awful & awkward but it’s actually not a big deal to anyone eating or standing. It’s just how it’s done, as seen in the picture below…
I lucked out and was able to cut in front of several people, per the directions of the staff. They won’t seat you until the necessary number of seats become available to seat your entire party. I was party of one so it was easy!
Okay, so I kinda messed up and starting eating before I took the picture of my food. My bad. So I went with tsukemen, with the thick broth and dipping noodles. I am no master at chop sticks so it was a little messy for me. My chop sticks efforts weren’t horrible but I’m sure everyone around me could tell I’m not from around these parts and let’s just say I’m happy I have stain remover in the closet at home. Some things are pretty easy to eat with chopsticks but I don’t find noodles to be one of them.
Tsukemen is incredible. Oh my goodness. It was so good.
Like I said before, this place is famous for their tsukemen, plus when I was inside, I looked at all 15 people seated, eating their lunch, and all 15 were eating tsukemen. As they left and were replaced with other customers, the next person also ordered tsukemen. I figured this stuff had to be too good not to try and it was a great decision. This stuff is so delicious, I think even super picky eater Rob might like it. They only serve regular and large sizes and I ordered the regular, which was enough. I wasn’t terribly full but I didn’t leave hungry.
If you ever have a chance to eat tsukemen, do it.
After I finished my tsukemen at Fuunji, I just wandered the shopping areas near the train station. Shinjuku, like so much of Tokyo, is famous for it’s designer brands but they have a lot of other cool stuff. I went into Tokyo Hands, a department store that’s well known and sells everything from make up to tools. I rarely buy any of it because I don’t feel like I need the stuff and then there’s the hassle of carrying it on the train and then getting it home. It’s a whole thing but it’s still fun to wander the streets of Tokyo. Sometimes, it’s still surreal to walk around and say, “I’m in Tokyo!”
I decided it was time to go home around 3pm, because I wanted to be back when Rob came home from work but also, my phone battery died. Knowing I was in Shinjuku, Rob was less than thrilled when he couldn’t get ahold of me for several hours while I rode the trains back to Yokosuka, via Yokohama and Sinagawa, and then stopped at the market below the train station. Poor guy! At least I know I can find my way from Tokyo with no assisitance from my phone.