The Beef and Garlic Festival: Takko Town

Today I went to the Beef and Garlic Festival in Takko Town with a friend and my daughter. Nick is out of town for a few weeks and he was super bummed he was going to miss this one. Everyone I talked to raved about this particular festival. People claim it is their favorite festival. And trust me-there are A LOT of festivals around here! 

We bought tickets from the travel place on base. Your tickets gets you 7 oz of meat, vegetables, and a small container of sauce. They explained to us that once you get your meat there are grills set up that you then take your food to and cook on. 


We were told it would be about 1.5-2 hour drive and it seemed to go fast until we got close and we were stuck in traffic. The road leading up to the festival did have light poles that looked like garlic bulbs and that was pretty funny.


Sorry for by awful photo. I took it through the car window while we were waiting in traffic. 😂😂. 

As we wait in traffic the suspense was just building. I was so excited about this festival. I think that was probably the reason it bummed us out. We had heard SO many amazing things about this festival. And I just was not that impressed, unfortunately. I will say, the beef was very delicious. I just didn’t think the 7 oz of meat was worth the $19 for the ticket. There is also a bus that drives people there from the base and I can see how that might make it a little more fun because that would allow you to enjoy a large quantity of alcoholic beverages while you were at the festival. 


I did get to finally use Scarlett’s wagon for the purpose we bought it! 


These were the indoor grills out of the sun. 


These were all the outdoor grills and the white covering in the back was a pavilion that had a live band playing. 


We always see these chocolate covered bananas and I finally got one for Scarlett. She only wanted to play with the sprinkles on them! Once you cooked your food there was some limited seating but we brought a blanket to do it picnic style. 


One odd thing was everyone wanted to take a picture of Scarlett. She is a very shy kiddo so this was a little uncomfortable for her and she did not enjoy everyone staring at her. Below is how we cooked the meat. Overall, I just did not think it was worth the 4 hours in the car but I am so glad we went and experienced it. And I know I will continue going to these things because it is just a part of the whole living in Japan life! 

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Traveling Japan: Sendai Edition 

For Labor Day we went on our first “big” trip since we have been in Japan. By “big” I mean overnighter, haha. We spent three days there. I don’t really know how to describe what Sendai would be. For my Indiana friends, it has a larger population than Indianapolis. California friends, it has a larger population than San Francisco. 

We had a lot of things “planned” to do. I looked up a lot of stuff. Let me start from the beginning though. This was the longest Scarlett had been in a car since we got here and she did awesome! We were curious about the toll roads and if there would be travel plazas like in the US. We stayed on the same road pretty much the entire time so the trip was quite easy. The tolls…oh man the tolls. This place is crazy. We paid about $75 one way for a 3.5 hour drive. It really racks up the cost of a trip fast if you don’t plan for it. And the travel plazas were awesome! Some even have children’s bathrooms. Adorable! 

One of the things we had heard about was the small hotel rooms and man they weren’t kidding. There was zero extra room once we set up Scarlett’s pack-n-play.


Notice the robes at the foot of the bed? Those are for the onsen in the hotel. However, this particular place had a no tattoo policy so we were not allowed to utilize it. 

Another very shocking thing (for us) was that for such a large city nothing opened early. Even Starbucks didn’t open until 8am. I have noticed this a lot. Most stores don’t open until 10am with a few opening at 9am. For early risers like us this was a bit awful. Even before we had our daughter we were 6-7am risers. Also, for a city this size there was nothing to do for small children to just burn off energy. We would look up parks and walk to them and the “park” would just be a dirt patch that may or may not have been grass at one time with a few benches. We found about 4 of those! And with the size of the hotel room it wasn’t like we could just go relax in the room between venturing out. 

We learned quickly we need to learn more Japanese, and quickly! In Misawa where the base is most places have menus in English. This was not the case. We honestly felt like we were being idiot tourists by not knowing more! 

We did go to an aquarium, did some shopping, saw some historic sites, and wrapped up the trip with some Japanese style pizza! I didn’t care for the pizza here at first but it is really starting to grow on me. One of the nice things (and one of the selling points on the visit for me) was the outlet malls with American size clothing. However I did notice an abundance of size XS and 0 pants. 


Train station map. Yikes! 


Aquarium.


Noodles!


Very small clothing…everywhere.


Anpanman Children’s Museum 


Oh the translations sometimes. Weird shirt! 


Pizza! 


Sendai Castle. 

Overall it was a great trip. We learned a lot and will definitely do better planning the next time we go somewhere. 

Keep an eye out for my next blog. Tomorrow I’m going to a beef and garlic festival! Yum! 

Cultural Tour of Japan…Part I

So today the base sent us on a free little tour of the local area here in Japan. I really had no idea what to expect but it was actually really awesome and informative. It was so informative that I am going to split it up into two blogs!

We started with a short briefing. During the briefing we were told about a lot of the common courtesies of the area. We were told about not tipping wait staff.  The one thing that was discussed was an Onsen. A Japanese Onsen is a hot bath. It seems weird at first. Why in the world would you go to a public place to get undressed in front of strangers to take a bath? I can do this privately at home! After they described it, it made more sense. The way I interpreted it was more like what we would call a sauna or spa in America. It is meant to just be a relaxing and soothing soak in hot water. Prior to entering an Onsen you wash yourself off (you take your own soap and towels). The one thing that kind of surprised me was the briefer said before going always ask if they allow tattoos. The reason for this is because the Japanese often associate tattoos with members who have been in jail or in the mafia. Tattoos are not considered a popular fashion trend like they are in other parts of the world.

The next place we went was to the Misawa International Center. I am a little uncertain about this particular stop. We honestly did not cover anything there that we did not already know. One thing that we did go over was that the center offers a lot of classes. A few that I am particularly interested in are the language classes and cooking classes. I would LOVE to cook some Yakisoba and Beef and Noodle Bowls.

After the center we went to the Misawa Train Station to learn about purchasing tickets. The reason this is important is because one of the places people want to often visit from where we are located is Tokyo. I asked the question about other options (outside of the train) and was very surprised at the answer. To drive on your own from where we are located is over 8 hours and about $250 in tolls (that’s excluding gas). A plane ticket can range anywhere from $300-600. The “bullet train” known as the Shinkansen, goes about 200 MPH and will get you to Tokyo in under 3 hours. A round trip ticket, per person, on the Shinkansen is around $300. We do not have direct access to the Shinkansen from Misawa but we can take the train from Misawa to Hachinoe and get on the Shinkansen from there. The cheaper option is the “midnight” bus. This is a nighttime bus ride that takes about 12 hours but only cost $50. One thing that hit me while at the train station is the whole country uses a 24 hour clock.

The last place we stopped at in Misawa was the Veedol. To me this was a cross between a flea market, a farmers market, and an indoor strip mall. We had lunch here and bought some DELICIOUS pastries. Again, the sweets in Japan are very different from America. They are not as sweet. Many times the “foundation” of the sweets remind me of a shortbread or butter cookie. Very simple but not super sweet.

For lunch we ordered a value deal of Yakisoba and fried chicken and it was very delicious!

At this point we left Misawa and headed to Hachinohe to the temple and fish market. I’m going to end this particular post here. Keep an eye out for part II more tomorrow!

Week One, down!

In a few hours we will have been in Japan for a whole week! I think we are pretty adjusted on sleep. Last night I went to bed around 10pm and was awake around 545am. We never sleep much past 6am since the baby was born so that seems pretty good!

We went to a Yen store yesterday and it was pretty much the greatest thing ever! The one we went to was called Daiso. The American equivalent to this is a Dollar store, so think Dollar General or Family Dollar. So family, be ready for tons of goodies from there! We loaded up on junk food to see what types of Japanese goodies are our favorite! The one thing I noticed right away is the “sweets” here are nothing like the sweets in America. Although I still consider them “junk” food, the sugar content is nothing like I am used to.

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One thing that struck me as comical was in the parking lot of the Yen store was a lottery machine. When we were parking I could here something and I was thinking “what is that?” Well I look up and it is a little lottery machine in a vestibule with speakers on the outside blaring a voice!

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I have talked a lot about driving so far. Below is a picture of the first little intersection off the base. The red triangle is the stop sign. You can see on the pavement the white diamonds. In the states those indicate a carpool lane. Here those mean that a pedestrian crosswalk is coming up.

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Another thing (I don’t have a picture…yet!) that is very common here are vending machines in the middle of nowhere. There could be absolutely NOTHING but there is a drink machine! There is one right outside our door in our building…they have this coffee I LOVE. It is called Georgia. The vending machines seem similarly priced as American, I think. We did not really have iced coffee in cans in vending machines there! But the ones here cost the equivalent of $1.30.

With baby girl about to turn 1 (AHHHH) I will be leaning more towards posts on mommy hood here soon. I also have a few other things I want to blog about. One is I am doing Scarlett’s one year photos and smash cake myself so I will be writing about that and showing you how simple it is to do some of these things on your own. I know getting pictures taken and ordering cakes can be an expensive cost…that we do not always have! Stay tuned on how to save some of that money!

Our First Eating Adventures in Japan

I will start by saying…for those of you who do not know me well…I hate not knowing what is going on. I also do not like feeling like I am offending someone. I have definitely felt both of those ways within the last two days! By saying it is overwhelming to be in a country that you do not know the language or the common courtesies is an understatement. For this, I am thankful for my husband. He is not gun shy and will jump right in and figure things out. I am so scared of accidentally offending someone that I just freeze and would rather leave than feel awkward.

The first place we went to yesterday was one of those sushi places where it goes around the room and you just grab what you want off of the conveyer belt as it goes by you. The excitement in my husbands eyes was so hilarious. He had been talking about one of these places since we found out we were coming to Japan. Me-I was terrified. Haha. Thankfully he figured out how to change our electronic menu to English. He took over and just ordered us a bunch of stuff. When you order from the menu it comes out to you on a little alligator. It was adorable. The picture below shows the fries we ordered for Scarlett on the alligator.

We ordered a kids meal for Scarlett and it came with real (raw) sushi, one chicken nugget, a few french fries and some juice.

Today the place we went I enjoyed MUCH more. I was still a little overwhelmed and this was because Scarlett was due a bottle and trying to ask for hot water when no one speaks English is not fun! They had an English menu, also. From the very few places I have seen, it looks like most of the places that are right here around the base in Misawa City have English as well. Which is very helpful! The place we went is called Sukiya. It is a Japanese “fast food” place and it was so delicious! We both had a beef bowl. They also have curry, eel, and a dish called gyudon-which is beef and onions. I want to try that the next time we go. Although we have not went to a “real” restaurant yet, the one thing I have noticed is there were buttons at both places at the individual tables to “call” when we were ready to order/pay/needed assistance.

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The one thing that has been told to us repeatedly is that it is considered rude to tip here. It is an insult to the service they have provided you. This will save Nick and I SO much money. We were already very good at tipping and had become even better since having a child. That kid destroys the table everywhere we go!

I am not only excited to keep visiting the local places but also very excited to learn how to cook a few Japanese dishes!

First Days in Japan

Oh boy…what a whirlwind of days! I wanted to cover a few of the immediate questions I have been asked!

Time difference…for my California peeps: we are 16 hours ahead of you.The best way I remember this. 12 hours plus 4. So if it is 8am there, immediately say 8pm, plus 4 hours. It is midnight here. Indiana peeps: we are 13 hours ahead of you.

Weather. It is very typical fall weather currently. It reminds me of Indiana fall. Yesterday it was a high of 59 F and sunny. This has been a wonderful break. It was still in the 90’s in California when we left! Winter comes in the middle of November. We get a lot of snow but it does not get super cold…just cold enough to snow-if that makes since!

Driving. Oh, driving! Yes, we drive on the left side of the road. I have adjusted pretty well so far but Nick has been the one driving when we have went off base. So obviously, it is weird driving on the “wrong” side of the road. And hilarious! The turn signal handle is on the right side of the steering wheel so the windshield wiper gets accidentally hit a lot. Apparently this has a name here…the Misawa Wave. Haha. I have also noticed I NEVER use my rearview mirror. It took me a minute to figure out why. Well in the US you obviously look up and to the right to check your mirror. So I automatically look at my right side mirror here to check the traffic. I find myself veering to the left a lot because I’m scared to cross the center lane. This is tricky because there are not shoulders on the roadsides so if you aren’t careful you just go in the ditch!

Another thing…we have literally messed up which was is left and which way is right. You can turn left on red here (on base) because you do not have to cross lanes of traffic. It gives us a good laugh trying to comprehend it.

Our house is on base so it is very American. We were forewarned that we would have a very small house…we do not. It is 1400 sq ft! A few things that are different in the house: the thermostats. There is a a thermostat in each room! Having a baby this is pretty nice, actually! There are storage units in the floor. We are instructed not to use them though (picture below). The sliding glass doors also have dual panes with locks on them (also picture below). These things confuse me every. single. time. You have to move so many doors! They are there to help with the cold weather.

I will have several more blogs coming up about our first outings. Stay tuned for our adventure of getting lost on our first trip out on our own! It was hilarious!