Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Finally able to tour the Kintai Bridge area...

I know I've been living in Iwakuni about 7 months, but it's taken me this long to tour the Kintai Bridge area, the bridge being the one that is in the back of our Christmas card picture. The photo looked something like the one below, only had my family's pictured in it, not my mother-in-law, Peggy., and sister-in-law Jill.

For 930 yen, roughly $10, we were going to buy  package that allowed us the cross the bridge twice and then take a ropeway up the mountain to tour Kintai Castle. Unfortunately, the ropeway is closed until Feb. 1, so we toured the area below the castle, where the lords and ladies who ruled the area lived until the 1800's. After walking through a series of greenbelts, moats and fountains that make up Kikko Park, we toured the White Snake Observatory, which Jill wasn't too sure of. She is not a fan of snakes, even rare white ones.

This small building was the entire "observatory," which cost 100 yen each to visit. The White Snake Shrine facility I toured last month was much more impressive.

Being winter, the gardens were not at all beautiful, but there was still a calm serenity about them. This was the koi pond in the Japanese Garden, and it had string strung across it. We contemplated what it might be fore, from tarp support, to a barrier against birds of prey to a net to catch large tree limbs and other debris that might fall in the water. We decided it was probably to keep birds of prey from hunting the koi.

I am not sure who this statue is of, but there is a motion sensor that plays music as you walk by. I assume it is the music written on the stone.

There is a Shinto shrine here, as well, called Kikko Shrine, and Peggy and Jill are pictured in the walkway in front of the shrine. We did not go in.

My father is a big fan of touring cemeteries and reading the headstones, Odd, I know, unless you know my history major and military antique collecting father. Then you begin to understand. So, as we toured the Kikkawa Clan cemetery, where Kikkawa lords and their "legal wives" (that is what it said on the English interpretation of the gravestones... I want to know where the illegal wives are buried), as well as their children, were put to rest from the 1600's to the 1800's, I thought of my father. So, Dad, these pictures are for you.

As with many societies back then, many children died before the age of 4.This was a daughter's grave.

The much larger grave markers of a lord and his legal wife. The translated grave marker is below.

After we toured Kikko Park and the Kikawa Clan Cemetery, we headed off to our reservations at the Wataboshi restaurant. This is a sort of ladies' luncheon place where a single menu is served, and it changes every day. We tried about 14 different things and liked all but a few. We had no idea what we were eating since the menu was in Japanese, but our waitress spoke English and was able to help us out. The most interesting thing: When I peered into a pretty blue bowl and found small tentacles staring at me. Yes, I ate them, they were chewy, but tasted mainly of the tangy dressing that was on them. Jill and I gave the dish a thumbs up. Peggy tried it but couldn't get past the tentacles, so thumbs down for her.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Janglish at the Daiso...

Let me preface this post by saying that I admire the Japanese for their knowledge of the English language. Many of them speak and wrote it better than many Americans. However, there are often products at the Daiso (100-yen store) that seem to miss the mark when it comes to slogans and descriptions. During today's trip to the Daiso with my visiting relatives I found some of these delights...

"Take a bit out of life"

"This green apple is fresh and very popular"

"It makes you unlifting and yammy."

And this closet sheet is hard to sip, so be careful when drinking it.

And, in an unrelated note, here is my mother-in-law, Peggy's first attempt at eating sushi - ever. How many Americans say that their first taste of sushi was in Japan?

She liked everything but the shrimp roll with wasabi... not that I blame her. I am not a fan of that spicy stuff, either.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The family's first visit to Miyajima...

... was chilly. It was in the 30's, but, fortunately, none of the gusty winds we experienced in Hiroshima on Friday. But we bundled up like we were going sledding and weathered the weather just fine, even on the ferry ride over to the Island.

The top priority for the children was to pet the free-roaming deer that Miyajima is known for. Xan started naming them, and then gave up, because there were so many. He started naming them with numbers and wished we could tag them in the ear like his great-grandpa and great-uncles do with their cattle in Illinois. Poor kid has the Type A organizational skills of his mother! We are warned to not feed the deer, even by accident. They love fabric and paper, as my mother-in-law, Peggy quickly found out.

 Peggy had her Miyajima map tucked in to the side pocket of her purse... a deer was able to sniff that out quite quickly and decided it was lunch time. Peggy didn't agree and got in to a tug-of-war match with the deer. I'm not sure who won because the sheet was pretty much torn in half.

Once the deer wrestling match was over, we were able to enjoy the rest of the island. As I always do, we ate our way through the shopping arcade as we made our way to the Shinto shrine. We tried fried fish on a stick and a steaming beef roll.

Of course we had to have the traditional portrait in front of the Torii gate.

Trying the famous Miyajima oysters
Rodney requested that I take a picture of this Miyajima buck. I think he was itching for his bow.

The 5-story pagoda
Japanese of all ages were avoiding Rodney like crazy. He's 6-feet, 3-inches and decided to dress all in black with clunky black boots. I told him to smile more so he didn't give any little Japanese kids nightmares....

Family trip to Iwakuni Junior College...

While I was displaying albums at the MCAS Iwakuni Baby Expo this morning...

... the rest of the family went on a cultural trip to the Iwakuni Junior College, where the early childhood development students organized activities for kids, both Japanese and the handful of Americans bused in from base, accompanied by their families. Will was the oldest child there, since it was a program designed for kids ages 3-6, but he didn't seem to mind. Neither did anyone else...