Monday, April 28, 2014

Welcome to Our Humble Abode!

So I've been meaning to do a post on our apartment since we got here. I'm a world-class procrastinator, I fear. Anywho, better late than never, right? Right! Our apartment consists of a family room (or at least that's what we use it for. Many use it as a common sleeping area, I believe), kitchen, bedroom, toilet room, and washing room. 

Here's the family room. Notice the tatami flooring. Tatami is flooring that is found in traditional Japanese-style rooms. Apparently it is traditionally made of rice straw for the core, but now it is sometimes made of compressed wood chip boards or polystyrene foam, and is covered with woven "soft rush" straw. (Got my info from good ol' Wikipedia.) Our sliding closet doors are made of a type of rice paper material. They are anything but durable. We learned this the hard way, when Casey was moving some object past the closet and accidentally ran it along the door. Rrrrriiiiippp. If you look closely, you may be able to see where we taped up the damage. It's classy.

Like how Bridger's crib is out here? Casey's has fantastic snoremanship, so Bridger had to relocate in order to sleep throughout the night.

And now for the kitchen. The family room and kitchen are basically one big room, although they can be separated by sliding doors. Notice our fridge. Our friends were so kind to provide it for us while we are here! They told us it's probably the biggest fridge in all of Japan. Most seem to be about 1/4 the size of this one. 

When we first got here, we were amazed how much kitchen there...wasn't. Wasn't sure how to live without counter space at first. I'm happy to soon go back to America where there is a bit more, but I will say it has its perks. There's nowhere to set random stuff, so the clutter is limited. We solved the tiny kitchen problem by using a fold-out table for much of our chopping and preparing. It's worked great. Notice how we dry our dishes above the sink (where water can drip down) or next to the sink. 

Ha! Notice the lack of an oven. Oh man, that was difficult to get used to. Now I'm used to cooking everything stovetop, so we'll see how the tradition back to an oven will be. However, I must say I will not miss only having two burners. This little gas beauty is fun though. You press down the button for whatever burner you want to turn on. The middle area is for cooking fish. I haven't used it once. Not a fish kind of gal. 

Getting used to Japanese appliances hasn't been easy! This microwave is actually quite simple, but we have been using another one up until about a week ago when we traded with a Japanese friend who can actually read and understand our complex one. The one we had is a microwave/"oven" combo, but we could only bake limited things (and one thing at a time because of the size!) ;) 

And now down the hall from the kitchen. The first door to the left from here is the toilet room. Next on the left is the washing room. On the right is the bedroom. Before I continue this excellent tour, notice the wood ends and tile begins. When you walk into the apartment, it is culturally expected that you remove your shoes before you pass the tile. This picture doesn't really show it, but there is a shoe closet to the right where we put our shoes. 

Cute li'l toilet room. Notice how different this toilet is! When we first got here, we were terrified of it, but now we don't know how we'll live without it. Once thing's for certain: Japanese people spoil their backsides. Americans are way behind on this one. 

Here's the arm of the toilet. The knob is where you choose the water pressure for the bidet. Yep. The bidet. This is what we were most afraid of, but it turns out, they are quite convenient! There's one for women, men, and the orange is the stop button. I must say my favorite feature is the toilet-seat warmer. You can choose the temperature. This would be so fantastic in Utah in mid-January. Hate those icy-cold moments of shock. Yeah, I'm gonna miss it!


When you flush the toilet, water comes out of the sink to wash your hands. Honestly, this is one I just cannot get used to. I generally wash my hands in the kitchen or washing room because the idea of washing my hands in the toilet grosses me out. I know it's clean and unused, but....yeah. 

Here's the handle to flush the toilet. Also an ingenious invention that America should adopt, in my humble opinion. The top character means (at least roughly) "big" and the lower means "small." In other words, if you flush the handle upwards, you'll get a good amount of water, whereas, if you choose the lower, you'll get less. 

And now for the washing room. Pretty basic and straight-forward right here. 

It was fun trying to figure this baby out when we first arrived. 

Next to the washing machine is the "shower" area. It's like its own room! The tub is quite deep. From what I've gathered, people here take showers quite differently from what I'm used to. They begin by showering themselves off, washing their hair and body before ever getting in the bath. They then enter the bath to relax (which has been drawn and covered by a roll-out cover to keep it warm, as all family members use the same bath water.) When they get out of the bath, they rinse themselves off again. 

As for us? We just shower like we've always done. ;) Shhh...don't tell.

The bathtubs are incredibly short in length and deep. Honestly, I'm not a fan. It's not all that conducive to relaxing, at least not for this girl!

Here's our bedroom. Nice, comfy. Notice the wood. I sure do miss carpet between my toesies! We have two closets. Interestingly, our windows have bars on them! For how safe Japan seems to be, this really surprised me. But it does create a sense of greater safety. 

Now back to the balcony, which is off the kitchen/family room area. This is where I hang out all of our clothes. Like our nifty set-up? I really enjoy hanging out clothes, which totally surprised me when we arrived. It's actually really relaxing. I will say I'll be happy to get the clothes done just a bit more quickly at home though. 

And a view from the balcony. The houses are SO close together! No such thing as a yard here, at least not how Americans know it. Homes here have gardens, where they plant a lot of flowers and have sculpted bushes. They are quite small, and sometimes, they are simply along the walkway. 

Wowza, didn't realize this was going to be such a whopper of a post...hope you made it through safely. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Boating Down Takachiho Gorge

A month or two after we arrived here in Japan, we took a trip to Takachiho Gorge with our friends (see previous post for all the rockin' details...) We knew it was a beautiful area that was perfect for lots of pics and, even better, we could take a boat ride down the gorge! Not too familiar with the whole technical term for it. Don't think it was a canoe. But rowing is involved, so perhaps it qualifies? Anywho, we were excited for the awesomeness.

But we got there too late and couldn't boat. Drrrrr...

Ever since, Casey and I have wanted to get back there. This last weekend, we took the three-hour journey, Bridge-Boy in tow, back to good ol' Takachiho. We were determined to boat, dang it! ;)

The trip didn't disappoint. We got some fun pics along the way, like those of the carp "flying" in the sky. There is a big holiday going on right now in celebration of boys becoming men. From what we gather (having not done all that much research on the matter) there is a holiday for boys and a holiday for girls. The girls' holiday, Hinamatsuri, comes two months before on March 3 and is celebrating good luck in marriage for them, which is when all of the amazing Hina doll displays are out. I believe I posted pics of those earlier, but I'll check to make sure. Now is the holiday Koinobori. It is called "Children's Day," but it is in celebration of sons, wishing them a good future and to grow up healthy and strong.  

Aaaannndddd....back to the gorge! We finally made it to Takachiho (which is what the bushes are carved to say below.)

We had about a half an hour to kill before our turn on the rowboats (Casey just informed me this is what they are called. Yes, that makes sense...) We walked around and took some pics. Isn't that beautiful?!

We also fed some fish. Bridger loved it. 

Visited an old hut. 

More fish feeding...

And the boating begins! It was quite a little adventure, complete with running into three or four other boats (I must admit that I was a horrible navigator. Good thing those things are sturdy!) and Casey splashing water on a poor, unsuspecting woman in a nearby boat with his paddle. The best part? She didn't smile, laugh, or say it was okay as he apologized profusely. She just glared away. And I got quite a good laugh out of the whole thing while Casey rowed away as quickly as possible.


After the ride, Bridger found some ducks and couldn't have been happier. I believe he's squealing with joy in this particular photo. He kept chasing them back and forth, waving, and yelling until we dragged him away. 

On our way home, we took pics of both ends of this tunnel. Seriously awesome.

On our last excursion to Takachiho, our friends Hailey and Patrick introduced us to Joyfull. It's a super inexpensive restaurant that has food we're familiar with like french fries (yep, we're fatty-fat Americans!) We decided to stop by and get a little food to hold us over until we got back to Miyazaki. 

Took a pic from the Joyfull parking lot. Great landscaping. Such an interesting place!

Finally, we made it back to Miyazaki and got our favorite food out here...Indian food! Haha! Sorry, but I'd take Indian food over Japanese food any day of the week! :) I could pretty much live on Naan and this chicken curry.