Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hachioji Hard Off

After coming home from my volunteering gig, Zack surprised me by taking me to lunch at the same place we had our first dinner off base, Ootoya. Again Sawyer ate all of his Udon Noodles and some of my rice. The soba noodles sure did hit the spot on the cloudy dreary day.  After lunch Zack told me it was time to explore and direct him to a Hard Off-- he is on the hunt for Anime stuff. Hard Off is a chain of secondhand stores. These stores have EVERYTHING and its all affordable, although the collectibles can get expensive if they are rare! After checking out the Hard Off close to base that there was a huge one in Hachioji. We decided to go find it and check it out and we are soooooo glad we did!!!

My navigation skills were decent, especially since the map I had was not the best. Parking as usual was a little nerve racking because there isn't a big parking lot instead there are many little parking areas in between houses. The Hard Off stores are split up by Off House, Hobby Off, Mode Off, Hard Off, and Book Off. Off House has clothes, household items, baby items, shoes, accessories, and outdoor recreation items. Hobby Off is your collectibles, games, DVD's, and toys. Mode Off is the name brand and expensive! Hard Off is the electronics portion with musical instruments, video games, gaming systems, cameras, computers and some DVD's. Book Off is just books and movies.
In Hachioji they are not all in one big store and building its split up and HUGE! Our first stop was the Off House. Two separate buildings both two stories, I cannot wait to go back and clothes shop, they even had Kimono's! Also once baby Smith #2 decides to come I will be getting a lot of items from these stores as there stuff is like new with very decent prices!
Hard to get it all in the picture!
The small toy section in the Off House
Zack was itching to get over to the Hobby Off to start looking at "the cool stuff". The remaining four "Off's" were spread out round the department store across the street.
We had no clue where we were going but we saw signs!
Words and pictures cannot begin to describe how AWESOME and AMAZING Hobby Off is! When we walked in we were speechless, it was everything that Zack was wanting in a store. We were able to find Sawyer a plush Elmo for 100Yen(that he hasn't let go and took to bed with him) and Zack found a CD and two Super Famicom games (Japanese version of Super Nintendo). Next payday we are buying the Super Famicom system! Pictures will better explain the store:
1 of 4 car aisles.

"Junk" Games most 100Yen
Zack picked up two Final Fantasy Games

Rows and rows of Pokemon cards!!!
Final Fantasy Section
We are finding that the anime stuff that is in the stores isn't too much of what Zack is familiar with. We haven't seen any Classic Sailor Moon, Clannad, or Witchblade. Our next stop was the Hard Off to look at game systems and more games, oh and you cant forget the music equipment. Again these stores can just be overwhelming when you step in!
In awe of all the games (maybe 1/3 of the store)

Yes these are all game systems!
Some only 3000Y but would sell for $1000 on Ebay!

1 of 4 aisles of guitars
Then we checked out Mode Off. Very high class secondhand stuff. There was a sweatshirt that had holes and stains that was still 45000Yen ($576)!!! We also found old US Armed Forces field jackets, Coach purses, and name brand shoes. We decided to skip the Book Off today because Sawyer was ready to head out as he had already been a trooper the whole day.
We will be making this trip often! Can't wait to see what kind of treasures we will obtain!
Until the next adventure, XOXO.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tachikawa Tour Results in Black Eye

The Airmen and Family Readiness Center does a few free tours, luckily someone was able to set up a trip where they allowed strollers! Kind of strange they are supposed to help families but wont allow strollers on their tours. Our tour was to Tachikawa, seven stops from Fussa. This was our second train ride and I'm not to scared to ride the trains anymore!
Train Ticket

On the tour we visited 2 of the major department stores right by the station as well as BIC Camera, which has 2 floors that are a craft store.
One of the Department Stores

In UNI QLO- US College Sweats for kids
Florida Gators, Michigan, and CAL was all they had.
We just looked around and tried to keep up with the tour guide, who seemed to not really know what to do with people with strollers. After exploring UNI QLO we went to the next department store to ear and look around. I didn't get a picture of my lunch but it was Tempura Shrimp and Soba Noodles, again another delicious meal! Afterwards we went to a kids play area. Sawyer takes after his Mom in the accident prone area, got pushed by another little kid trying to go up the slide, and his face met the slide stairs. Thankfully he didn't start bleeding but he screamed and there was a lot of tears! Our tour guide was translating with store employees who were trying to tell me I needed to take him to a doctor but I just wanted an ice pack! After about 30min and 4 employees later we finally got some ice packs and decided to move to BIC camera!
Sawyers Start to his First Black Eye!
BIC camera was neat the top two floors were a craft store a lot like a Michael's. I didn't get too many pictures since I kept checking on Sawyer and just taking everything in, going somewhere new can be very overwhelming here but I'm trying to get better about taking more pictures, I also know we will be here for four years so I can go back and take more pictures later :)
On our way back to the train station we found a few familiar places:
Krispy Kreme!
On the train ride back I came to the conclusion that I need to carry the Kindle with Sawyer-friendly apps or get some apps on the iPhone because he doesn't like not being able to be up on the seats. In Japan they view shoes as dirty objects so kids feet aren't supposed to touch anything but the ground (no standing on the seats). Keeping him in his stroller is a little easier when the train isn't crowded but can still lead to kicking so we will be working on that! Hopefully next time I head to Tachikawa I will have more pics and find more fun stuff to share with everyone!!!
Until the next adventure, XOXO.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Out for a Saturday Drive!

This last weekend Zack decided we'd venture off base on his day off.

We chose to revisit Joyful Honda and the Diamond City Mall. He wanted to get some off base driving experience and those were the two places we knew how to get to already!

First Stop was Joyful Honda! The best way to explain this store is well they have EVERYTHING. Its like a Super WalMart, Home Depot, Ikea combined! We decided to try the food court again but this time try something new! I couldn't take a picture of the place we tried as they ask no photography in the food area but I got a picture of what we ate :)

The black portion of the bowl is sizzling hot! It was rice with I think pork, bean sprouts, and kale. I thought I was trying lemonade but it turned out to be some Lemon Pop that tasted a little weird. Another amazing meal! Sawyer enjoyed his KFC Kids Meal, which was 1 chicken strip, very small fries, and a biscuit with Maple Syrup(guess that's their honey alternative):

After lunch we walked around the store as I was looking for wreath making materials, our door needs a little something! Came out empty handed but snapped a few pics inside the store:
 Wooden Temples to build!
 Umbrella Wall!
Bike in the Antique Section
After roaming around Joyful Honda checking stuff out we went across the street to Toys R Us
Doesn't look any different on the outside but inside it is 98% Japanese toys! Way cool to see. I have a video up on my facebook of Japanese Woody from Toy Story. The thing I found the most interesting was the sideways car seat:
Guess with their small cars this helps take up less space!
After checking things out in Toys R Us we headed to the mall. The Diamond City Aeon Mall is three stories of awesomeness! They even have GAP and H&M.
We walked around the mall checking out all the stores until Sawyer got fussy. No naps for the kid makes a rough afternoon!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Old Navy Flip Flops are NOT a Good Choice of Exploring Shoes!

There where two good reason to leave the house today:
  1. I've been needing wanting a pair of white walking shoes, I know they wont stay clean but they look good the first time you wear them! I already have a blister from my black wanna be vans so my only shoe choice is my flip flops.
  2. Meet up with someone off our base yard sale page for a $5 stroller :)
We have walked the wheels off the umbrella stroller and its not tall enough for Zack or I to push comfortably, so I've been on the hunt for a compact stroller suitable for the streets and trains here as our American Graco travel system wont be leaving base! One night I saw a compact Jeep stroller for $7 and thought it would work good. Today I met with the gal and its perfect! Its just as light as our umbrella stroller, has a basket under his seat so now I don't have to hang bags from the handles, it folds up in half so I can stow it away easy on the trains or in the trunk, its got a sun shade for Sawyer and its tall enough it doesn't hurt my back to push! Best part of it I bought it for $5!
Sawyers New Ride

Next stop was the BX because my friend tipped me off that they had some Nike's on clearance. Lucky for me and my small feet I was able to grab a pair for $20 since I fit into kids shoes!
My New Kicks

I have been wanting to do this walking tour of Fussa I found on a website, but everyday it seems to be too hot to go anywhere. When leaving the BX that's when the wild hair got me. It was already 2:30pm and starting to get cloudy with a breeze and since I was right by the Main Gate I should just start walking. Sawyer had a full water bottle and with the breeze I figured we would be fine, so off we went!

With my camera and phone only halfway charged I figured I would walk until one of them started to die or the sky started to look like rain. From our first adventure off base I remembered our friends driving by this little park. Letting my photographic memory take over I maneuvered the stroller through the streets and on the small sidewalks with ease, very proud of my purchase! Walking through the streets was really fun. They have informative maps on major roads and paths when you are closer to the train station and base. I noticed as I got farther from base stuff was not in English as much!

Map near the Train Station

The architecture and way they utilize all spaces amazes me. I had not thought about where they had cemeteries until I ran across one today. It wasn't in the middle of down town but nestled away by one of the creeks. I would have walked right passed it and not noticed had I been on the other side of the road. Of course I couldn't just walk by and not peek around. I plan on doing a little research to see the significance of what gets placed at the burial sites.

Once we did a quick walk through of the Cemetery I knew the park was just around the bend that I had remembered. Its a cute little park with a fountain and small play structure which I figured would be perfect for Sawyer. There were many adults at the park sitting there meditating and relaxing as well as children fishing in the small pond. I will be taking Sawyer back there!
Park #1

There was a small picnic area by the pond so I might take a lunch out there one of these days as it starts cooling down! Sawyer set the tone here and instead of wanting to play he starting walking back towards the road so I put him back in the stroller and continued on. My new goal was to find a temple. I knew my phone didn't have enough battery to keep the map up so I started walking towards the river! We eventually came to the river and found another playground! Sawyer was excited to get out and run around. This park had a jungle gym that looked like a rocket ship, a zip line, and teeter totter! Sawyer also found a Whale to rock on :)
The river from park #2
Rocking away!

I knew we had to be getting close to the temple, since I kept sneaking a peek at the map on my phone, and since it was already 4 o'clock we continued on. Not long after leaving the park we found this:

Not quite sure what it was, but it was very cool to look at. Then the clouds over in the direction of the base starting looking a little too dark for my liking especially since the umbrella was sitting in the apartment! I made our way to the nearest main road and once I saw signs for Fussa Station I knew we weren't lost!

Sawyer and I started a decent pace back and my feet were already screaming at me! I wandered back through main street Fussa and contemplated a Mister Donut treat but decided that a stop at 7-Eleven for a Pacori Sweat was a better decision! With the Main Gate in sight, I decided that since it was only a little after 5 walking to the supply gate and past all the shops you can see from base would be more fun than the same base scenery we see daily.

Not 3 blocks away was yet another playground, which prompted "play, play, play" to be coming from inside the stroller. So being the coolest Mom around, we stopped to play some more!
Playing at Park #3
One thing is for sure, they have some awesome play equipment around here! After two and a half hours of exploring, and three playgrounds later we made it safely back to base!

According to my phone we are about 1.8km from the park by the river but that is the shortest distance and I know we didn't go that way!!! Boy did I learn a lesson today.... when you buy walking shoes put them on!!! My feet are screaming at me and I have blisters to show that rubber flip flops are not a good choice when adventuring through Japan (no wonder I didn't see anyone else wearing sandals)!!!

I will put more pictures up on my facebook since it takes forever to upload them to my blog!

Until the next adventure!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Train Excursion

One of the first items we got when we arrived was this:
Train System Map!

Now just looking at the map gives me a headache so needless to say we were nervous to take the trains without someone showing us how! Zack's co-worker came through again, and took us out for a short day trip and taught us the ropes of the train!

I have one word for the first experience: Overwhelming! We walked up to the large train map, like the one above but only its in Japanese and has numbers by all the stations, and our guide showed us our destination. The number on the larger map (ill need to get a picture to show how crazy it is!) tells you the amount of Yen it costs to get to that station. Once you insert your Yen into the machine it spits out a very small ticket, this is when the real fun begins. You enter the train platform by getting your ticket punched in the machine and then wait on the correct platform. Since the trains criss-cross at so many locations you have to pay attention to the screens as they show English and Japanese. The first ride was nice and the cars were empty until we got to where we had to get on another line to get to our destination. We made the switch at the Tachikawa station, a pretty busy station!, and then we boarded an already packed train! Zack held Sawyer while I held the stroller, standing on a fast moving train is no joke so we switched off and on holding Sawyer until a seat freed up. We were seated next to an older lady who fanned us, our guide snapped this picture under the radar because you are not supposed to take pictures on the train!

Finally after a 20 min ride we reached our destination, Nakano. To get out of the station you must re-insert your ticket into the machine. If the doors stay open you paid enough, if they close you owe Yen and have to go to the counter to pay more. Since Zack loves Anime his co-worker knew just the place to take us that would give us train experience and some enjoyable shops to walk around, the Nakano Broadway mall!

Just the small shops before the mall starts
I found this blog that explains where we went and has a lot of pictures that I wasn't able to capture since there are a lot of no photography signs: http://www.dannychoo.com/post/en/523/Nakano+Broadway.html

After a few hours of enjoying all the collectible shops it was time to head back.
Heading to buy our tickets

This proved to be another interesting ride as the train was PACKED!!! It was more holding of a tired, sweaty kid. They really do have no personal space issues here as we were armpit to armpit standing up on the way back. Finally we were able to stick Sawyer in his stroller and pulled into the corner of the train car to ride back after the Tachikawa stop.

It was a great day and I know how to use the trains now, yet I am still nervous to go out with just me and Sawyer as navigating the trains with a little one is not easy!

Friday, September 7, 2012

First Dinner Off Base!

Just walked in the door and barely got our shoes off but I have to share our amazing adventure we had this evening! One of Zack's coworkers has immersed himself in the language and area. He is taking us under his wing to teach us his ways!

We went to dinner in a restaurant above Seiyu (I don't know the name of it) that had delicious noodles! Zack and I ordered the Tempura Chicken Steak over rice with a side of noodles (Zack got Udon and I got Soba).

My Meal
We ordered Sawyer a kids meal, since sharing food in Japan is rude you always order something for everyone at the table, he devoured almost all of it and ate the noodles like a pro!

Sawyer slurping noodles

Our meal was uber filling and cost us 2080Yen, which is about $26 and we couldn't even finish all of our food! Plus Sawyer got a toy with his meal :) Then after dinner since we didn't save room for their desserts we headed down stairs to Mister Donut to indulge in a rice donut. I have found the best way to spend 126Yen:
Mister Donut Rice Eclair

Before dinner we venture to the local Aeon Mall, 3 stories of awesomeness. It is very Americanized and even has stores like H&M, GAP, LL Bean and KFC. They are supposed to have a cool play area that we might check out on the next rainy day. The free stroller carts were really cool and Sawyer enjoyed driving around the mall!
Little Man driving around the mall
I was very proud of Zack's driving skills off base today, some of those roads get pretty tight! Our plan is to head into Downtown Tokyo tomorrow and learn how to navigate the train system!

1 Week Down, 207 To Go

As an Air Force wife where you will live is not really up to you. Back in March Zack called me from his deployed location to let me know we had orders. Those orders happened to be sending us over 5000 miles away to Yokota Air Base, Japan! We will be stationed here until August 2016!
Our arrival at Yokota was not the easiest thing by any means, we left Sacramento 22 August to fly to Seattle. From Seattle we were supposed to leave 23 August and fly straight into Yokota. Well we made it to Seattle with no hiccups but Typhoon Bolaven had other plans for our departure out of Seattle! We ended up being stuck in Seattle for 4 extra days. It did allow us to get some site seeing in and gave Zack to time to catch up with an old friend!
Zack and Sawyer in front of the Space Needle

Sawyer and Mommy on the observation deck of the Space Needle
Finally on Monday the 27th we were able to make the 10.5 hour flight from Seattle to Yokota AB, of which we landed on Tuesday the 28th because of the time difference (16hrs ahead of Beale). The first hours on the ground were miserable, it was the most humid weather I have ever been in. You were instantly drenched in sweat and we were extremely jet-lagged, but there was no time to mess around we had to get signed up for housing and figure out where things were! Luckily housing was able to offer us a 3 bedroom tower apartment that we could move into 2 days later!
Since we couldn't drive anywhere we walked or I met an amazing family who was able to give me rides and a great tour of the base! Zack attended his right start briefings and got his license 2 days after we got here. We live on the fourth floor and have great views off of our patio's! I will do a post with pictures of the inside once our stuff gets here! Since none of our stuff has made the journey over yet our apartment as the minimal furnishings that are borrowed from FMO. And I am so thankful for the AFRC and their Loan Locker!
Just one amazing view from our bedroom patio
 The car search was hard because we had to find something that not only accommodated Sawyers seat but also another infant carrier as we want to have a second child while we are here. After Zack's dreams of a Skyline or Silvia were crushed we found a nice Subaru Legacy B4 RSK Twin Turbo:
Smith Family Car

Needless to say our first weekend here the weather was miserable, it was a constant downpour and made being stuck in the apartment even worse! Thankfully our friends took us to check out two of the larger "box" stores around here: Joyful Honda and Seiyu. We also had our first Japanese McDonald's experience which was AMAZING!!!
First Seiyu (WalMart) Experience
Zack has started work and we are all trying to find our routine. Sawyer has adjusted VERY well. He is already sleeping on his usual schedule and loves having so much space to run around the apartment (I feel bad for who ever lives under us)! Since I don't have my drivers license yet Sawyer and I still walk places, heat permitting, and so far he has given me a few heart attacks! We have had 2 elevator incidents. The first one happened as I was locking to door, he ran and pushed the down button then got on the elevator and shut the door before I could get on!!! I had to run down the stairs, stop at each floor to see if the door would open. Finally he stopped on the first floor and when the door opened he smiled and said Hi all cute. Lesson learned: Make sure he doesn't push the button until I am there with him! Second incident happened on the way back from running errands, his obsession with buttons and opening/closing things has made him very busy. We all got on the elevator this time but he insisted on helping the door open but instead his hand got caught in between where the door closes and the elevator. In a split second I yanked his hand out, he was not hurt just scared (so was I!) and after 30min of screaming I think he learned his lesson!!!
With the craziness of the first week winding down, I'm realizing that I need to start getting involved and being proactive in finding things for Sawyer and I to do. The feeling of being home sick started. Its hard being thousands of miles from family and friends, its hard not knowing anyone, its hard to start a new normal, but I'm strong and have no doubt I will enjoy my time here! I plan on attending MOPS next week, possibly joining a babysitting co-op and just getting off base and getting familiar with the local area!
This whirlwind of a first week which is what pushed me to start a blog. So many new things are about to be experienced and I wanted a way to share them with Friends and Family as well as be able to look back at the end of our tour and remember what went on! I can't wait to see what the next 207 weeks have in store for the Smith Family!
Home Sweet Home for 208 Weeks!