Autumn Matsuri

Yesterday, our nearby Shinto shrine held their annual autumn matsuri.  Of course, Haru LOVES these things because of the little candy treats and toys that they sell there, not to mention it gives her an opportunity to play with all of the neighborhood kids.  Initially, I thought this would be the first year that Haru would be going to the matsuri with her once best friend Yuka Y., but I was wrong.   Haru had met up with you and played together as if there was never any ill-feelings between her and Yuka Y., or the feud between the mothers.  Of course, we treated Yuka Y. as we normally do, which is the same as we treat any other Haru’s friends.

Yuka Y. seemed to in good spirits as normal.  She wasn’t acting like a she-devil like did in the recent past, probably because the older neighborhood kids were there and they tend tell parents everything that the kids do, so the younger kids are usually on their best behavior around them.  Yuka Y. didn’t stay too long; her father came by and left the matsuri fairly early, which indicated to me that they continue to baby and overprotect her as usual.  I guess some things won’t ever change.

Haru has been eating A LOT lately.  I suspect its due to her very active schedule.  She now takes cheerleading, tumbling, gymnastics, and swimming.  During the matsuri, Haru her and friends approached and told me that Haru was feeling very  hungry despite being before dinner time and having a fairly large snack.  So I took her over to the Yakisoba stand to get her some Yakisoba.


The lady running the stand was in a somewhat generous mood.  For 500 yen she would fill a plastic container with as much yakisoba as we wanted.  When the lady asked Haru how much she wanted to eat, Haru responded “a lot”, and the lady scooped up several spatulas-full of Yakisoba and began it pile it into the plastic container.  Yakisoba overfilled the container to the point where she would  have a hard time closing the lid, yet she still asked Haru if she wanted more, and Haru responded “yes! A lot more!”.  The lady then scooped up about 4 or  5 more spatula-fulls of Yakisoba and piled into the already overfilled container.  Millions of strands of yakisoba was sticking out all over, and the lid wouldn’t shut all now.  The yakisoba lady had wrap the container with several rubber bands to keep the lid closed just enough so that the Yakisoba wouldn’t fall out.  But even so, yakisoba spewed out everywhere.  There was no way that Haru would be able to finish the Yakisoba.  There was no way I could even eat that much yakisoba.  There must have been several plates full crammed and compressed into that little disposable container.  Clearly the lady was being way too generous, but even for 500 yen, she was still pulling in a nice little profit because Yakisoba is pretty cheap.

With the Yakisoba pouring out everywhere, the lady placed overstuffed and ready explode container into a plastic bag so that the Yakisoba wouldn’t fall out everywhere and make a huge mess.  I paid the Yakisoba lady her 500 yen and Haru and I both walked over to the giant blue plastic sheet that was spread in front of the temporary stage so that spectators (mostly little kids) could sit down and watch the show that “Lucky” the clown was putting on for us on stage.  Haru immediately dug into the huge pile of Yakusoba and scarfed it down like a starving child in a third world country.  She ate it as if she had never been fed, and all of the other kids were amazed at how much she ate.  15 minutes later, what had been a humongous pile of never ending strings of Yakisoba was a completely empty plastic dish.  I was amazed.  Were you hungry? I asked, to which she nodded yes.  Do you want more?  I asked half jokingly, fully expecting her to say no.  She responded, Not now...maybe later though.  Haru’s friends show up with their own containers of Yakisoba, but it wasn’t as nearly as much as Haru had gotten from the Yakisoba lady.  Some of her friends even shared a container.

Lucky the clown performed his usual balloon animal act as everyone looked on.  Haru’s friends encouraged Haru to go one stage to make balloon animals with Lucky, but she didn’t want to go up unless someone went with her.  Momo reluctantly volunteered to escort Haru up to the stage and  both twisted and pulled the balloons into animals.


We wound up staying pretty late; well past Haru’s 9 o’clock bedtime, but she enjoyed herself so it was well worth it.  She did get hungry again (or so she said) right before we put her to bed,  but we knew she wasn’t really hungry, so we just let go to sleep.




Return to the Onsen

Its been two and half years since our last overnight trip Mikazuki Onsen.   Although we went there last November for Haru’s sixth birthday, we weren’t able to stay overnight because Jenna was still ill and unable to walk.  But fortunately, she made a miraculous recovery and is pretty much back to normal. Princess is still the same.  She is still suffering from hypoglycemia or diabetes, so we have to make sure to regulate her blood sugar level, otherwise she’ll have a seizure.

Monitoring her sugar level isn’t that difficult.  We just feed her foods that are have a high GI like bread, rice, cereal, or cake once or twice a day.  Or, if it looks like a seizure in immanent,which we can tell when she starts twitching or loses her balance, we might give her a few spoonfuls of vanilla ice cream laced with powdered sugar a sugar that is easily converted to glucose -which seems to work the quickest.  We also found that when she is excited or over exerts herself, her sugar level dips pretty quickly, so she needs to be monitored more closely when we take her out of the house.
It was a three day weekend in Japan, which means crowds..BIG CROWDS.  This is why I don’t like traveling during national holidays in Japan.  You are guaranteed to either be stuck in traffic, stuck in long lines, stuck in a sea full of people, or all of the above, and unfortunately this holiday is no different.  And now that Haru is in elementary school, we can no longer skip class on normal schooldays to take trips, so we are forever doomed to travel with the rest of the country whenever we want to go somewhere, which is one thing I really hate about living in Japan.

We left the house on Sunday morning just before noon in the “attempt” to avoid traffic.  But of course, being the second day of a three day weekend, being stuck in traffic was inevitable.  At first, traffic was flowing pretty smoothly and it looked as if we got out early enough to have avoided the holiday gridlock, but as soon as we got near the Aqua-Line, traffic slowed down to a crawl.  We noticed that there was a long line in the far left lane that seemed to stretch on for several kilometers, as we continued to wiz passed it in the far right lane.  As we got closer to the entrance to the Aqua-Line, it dawned on all of us that the very long line that we were looking at and passing was for the entrance to the Aqua-line.  As I approached the on ramp for the Aqua-Line, I managed to cut in front of a car towards the front of the line, that had opened up a big enough  gap for me to shoe horn myself into.  I felt REALLY bad about doing this, because we must have passed at least a hundred cars that will probably will be waiting another couple of hours just to get to the point where we managed selfishly and shamelessly squeezed ourselves into.  Even from that point, it took us another 30 to 40 minutes just to get to the Aqua-Line, so I can’t even began to imagine how long the car at the back of that long line had to wait.
Once we got onto the Aqua-Line, traffic opened up but only slightly.  We went from a crawling pace to a walking pace.  As a matter of fact, if someone were to walk across the Aqua-Line, they would probably would have a pretty fair chance at beating us to the other side.  I think all of our patience were being tested at this point -especially Haru, who has no patience for traffic jams.   But fortunately, by the time we reached the midway point of the 11 kilometer long bridge/tunnel, we were back up to a good expressway pace. An hour and half after we left the house, we finally made it to our destination.  Haru was eager to jump right into the pool.  I needed a bed because the traffic jam exhausted me, but there was no chance that Haru was going to allow me to rest up before going to the pool.  After we checked our bags in, we headed to the pool area.

The pool was PACKED.  It wasn’t quite Chinese swimming pool packed (if it had been, I would have left -by the way, look how filthy  that pool is…YUK!), but it was more crowded than it was the last two times we were there.  The water slide that we were all looking forward to just wasn’t going happen.  I actually timed how long it took for the last person in line to get to the front, and it turned out to be around a 30 minute wait, which was plain ridiculous and stupid.  There was no wait the last time we were there, so we were able to go down the water slide over and over again up to the point where we were sick of the water slide.  Had we waited in line this time around, we would been in line for the majority of the day. Without the water slide, it just wasn’t the same, but since it was warm outside, we were able to use the outdoor swimming pool.  One thing that we didn’t account for is that the outdoor swimming pool wasn’t heated.  It wasn’t quite ice cold, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable either.  The outdoor swimming was a lot less crowded, and somewhat cleaner.  I say this because every time we tried to open our eyes underwater in the indoor swimming, our eyes would burn.  Many believe that a high content of chlorine in the water causes the eyes to burn.  But in reality, its not the chlorine but a high concentration of ammonia that does it.  Ammonia is one of the main components of urine, so if your eyes hurt from being in a swimming pool, it’s because there is a lot of pee in it, and it was pretty obvious given the  number of small kids in the pool, and the murkiness of the water that this pool had a lot of pee in it. We had planned to spend the majority of the afternoon in the pool, then head to the baths to wash the urine off of our bodies before going to dinner.  But given the fact that the water slide was too crowded, we were pretty bored by mid afternoon, so we packed it up and headed to the onsens early.

Again, I am not particularly big on taking a bath with a bunch of other naked men.  It always makes me uncomfortable to be in the same room with a bunch of naked men.  So I cleaned up quickly and headed up to the lounge where I just kicked back and relaxed until Haru and my wife finished taking a bath -which seemed like hours.  Afterwards, we got our room keys and headed up to our room (unfortunately not in that order) and rested up before dinner. Our room was a bit bigger than the last time stayed.  It was kind of like a suite room, where the bedroom was separate from the living room.  We even had a nice view of the ocean and the outdoor swimming pools.  We had choice of having dinner at 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm, or 7:30 pm.  Rumor had it that if we went to the 5:30 dinner, and we got their early enough, they would serve opilio crabs -something we missed out on the last time we were there.  Apparently, because it’s an all you can eat style buffet, they run out of the crabs before the second dinner hour, so we made sure to get there as early as possible. The dinner menu was pretty much exactly the same as as the last time, except for the crabs.  The crabs were “okay” at best, but not particularly great.  They tasted really bland and kind of dry. One helping of it was enough, which begs the question why they run out of it before the second dinner hour.  I suppose to some people thought the crabs were the best thing since sliced bread, but none of us thought so.  Nothing that they served was that great, but it wasn’t bad either…just “okay.”

After dinner, we went to the arcade area and let Haru play some games for a while, then headed to check on the dogs.  No expensive $40 candles this time.  Both Princess and Jenna were perfectly fine.  Princess showed no signs of hypoglycemia, but we gave her a few spoonfuls of ice cream just in case.  It was a bit too early to give them dinner so the ice cream was just to keep her sugar level up.  We then headed to the pool once again to watch this so called “laser light show” that they held in the evenings.  Suffice it to say, although the lights were “pretty”, it wasn’t particularly  captivating nor was it a must see event.  It lasted like 10 minutes at the most and comprised of a silly laser show with repetitive music from the hotel’s TV commercial playing in the background.  We then headed back to walk the dogs and feed them.

Although relatively early, I think we were all pretty tired and ready to call it the day.  I immediately headed to the bedroom and I was asleep within minutes.  The last thing I remember was Haru asking me if I was going to sleep already and me mumbling something incoherently back at her.

We all woke up pretty early next morning to catch the early morning breakfast hour in the hopes that we might get something special and elusive like the opilio crabs.  Unfortunately, no such luck.  Just the same old stuff we got the last time, not to say that the same old stuff is bad, just not particularly special nor was it elusive, unless you consider the little tiny bottles of Yakult special or elusive.  We basically repeated what the previous night.

After breakfast, we went to walk and feed the dogs (again, both dogs in good healthy spirits), we went to the arcade once again and visited the “Trick Art” museum, which is something we had been meaning to do since our first trip to Mikazuki, but never got around to doing.  The museum was pretty interesting.  It was basically big room full of paintings of optical illusions.  It seems to work well if you take pictures of your subject (in my case, Haru) standing next to or near the optical illusions, so I got to excessive my photography skills. Lastly, we bought her little souvenir, which I still have no idea what to call that thing.  It looks like a block of sand with rocks hidden inside.  As long as it costs less than the $40 candle, I am fine with.  We then picked up the dogs and headed home.


Luckily, the trip home was a lot easier than the trip there, and took less than an hour to get back, which was a big win for me.  I initially thought that Haru was unimpressed by this trip given that the water slide was too crowded to slide down, the outdoor pool was too cold to stay in for a long period time, the food was so-so, and laser show was just one big commercial for the hotel, but when I asked if she was given the choice to come back, or go to Disneyland, she chose the onsen.  Maybe she was just saying that because the excitement still hadn’t worn off yet, but I guess the trip was a success.


Fall is Here Again

September is here…finally.  But having said this, summer seemed unusually short this year.  This is in part due to the usually long monsoon season that lasted until mid July.  Things started cooling off by the last week of August, and now it pretty much rains everyday so the weather has been quite cool.  I’m not too keen on hot weather, especially hot and humid weather which is common in Japan, so this for me is a welcomed change.

Around this time last year, we had planned to take a trip to Mikazuki onsen, because Haru had been wanting to take an overnight trip somewhere.  But unfortunately, with both Princess and Jenna (our beloved but aging westies) had both fallen ill, we had to cancel our trips which had deeply disappointed Haru to the point where she was wishing away their existence.

Although we kind of found a work around to Princess’s ailment, and that was to basically keep her GI (glucose index) in check by feeding her high glucose foods (which we still do to this day), Jenna was another story.  She had lost her ability to walk, and eventually she was no longer able stand or even move at all.  The vets told us it would be a minor miracle is she even survives until the end of the year, let alone ever walk again.

Fast forward one year, and $3000 in vet bills later, and not only is Jenna still alive despite the death sentence our vets handed down to her last year, she is alive and walking again.  As a matter of fact she is even running again.  She isn’t in perfect condition of course, she still walks with a slight limp, and she is still unable to walk up steps, but she is able to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom by herself which is far more important.   This “minor miracle” baffled all of the vets at the animal hospital.  They told us that if they hadn’t seen it for themselves -if they hadn’t seen the condition she was in last year, and the condition she is in now, they would not have believed it was possible. She had a slipped vertebrae which takes a very long time to heal even for younger healthier dogs -and sometimes they don’t heal at all, so owners often put their dogs to sleep.  She has Cushing Syndrome caused by a possible inoperable tumor in her brain.  And she has arthritis in her hind quarters, which the vets said was probably causing her a lot of pain.  She had a long laundry list of health issues, none of which was going to get better because she was too old to recover -so said the vets.

Despite the vets advising us to seriously consider putting her to sleep, I made the very difficult decision not to listen.  I decided that the line would be drawn if one of two things happened:  1. She loses her appetite and no longer has the desire to eat, or 2. She is in so much pain that its not worth keeping her alive.  Jenna never lost her appetite.  As a matter of fact, if anything her appetite was bigger than ever, often out eating Princess.  She never seemed to be in pain either.  We would pick her up and move her about pretty freely and she never yelped or tried to bite us, or do anything that indicted she was in any sort of pain.  So as long as she had the will and the strength to live, and as long as  we could afford to keep her alive, I was willing to keep her alive.  And less than six months later, she was walking again.

So, one year later, we are going to try to take our trip again.  We are confident that both dogs are healthy enough to travel, although we’ll need to monitor Princess’s diet carefully to make sure that she doesn’t go into a hypoglycemic seizure.  we’ve been pretty good at being able to catch her before she goes into a full seizure, and the quick fix is to give her some vanilla ice cream coated with powdered sugar which has a very high glucose index.  We’re not even worried about Jenna.  She is pretty healthy and a trip away from the house would do her good.