Tokyo…Japan now a memory… Tuesday, Oct 28 2008 

I left Narita Airport yesterday afternoon.  The Narita Airport is about 60 km outside the city so it is an absolutely beautiful drive.  I took the Airport Express Bus and as I was the first one on, I got to sit right up front and could see out the front window.  It was a beautiful day with the sky clear blue and the sun shining…a great way to see the City.  Tokyo, of course, is built around water and bridges and roadways that are over the buildings.  There were times when I looked out of the bus window and saw the tops of the electrical poles so that tells you how high we were.  It is amazing to see the infrastructure to move the traffic.  It is also a beautiful City with lots of green area, parks, water, trees, and very clean.  What I notice the most about Japan is that there is no space that is not used for something…either parking or small buildings and there is never any space between the buildings…every square inch is used up.  Tamara and I went to one of the biggest markets in Tokyo and the shops are all built under the railway tracks which, of course, are built up high.  I took lots of pictures yesterday afternoon so am anxious to see how they turned out.  I have to admit that I am not a good traveller…even though it is nice to see different countries and cultures it does stress me out!  I nearly missed my flight in Narita as the Air Canada ticket attendants were extremely slow and I stood in line for about 2 hours and then had to run to catch my flight.  I am not in Vancouver Airport and Jordon will be happy with me as I hooked into the airport wireless!  I am not very savy when it comes to technology!  I am really enjoying my Macbook.  I probably have 500 pictures of Chela on my iPhoto alone.

Chela is absolutely amazing.  I looked after her yesterday while Tamara went to the American Embassy.  Tamara got her Visa and Chela’s American passport is in the works.  We were very happy about that.  It is unbelieveable the paperwork required for those kinds of transactions.  The personnel at the Embassy were very good and they asked Tamara a couple of questions and that was pretty well it.  Now Tamara had all her documentation fully detailed and completed, so there were no omissions to deal with.  They probably appreciated that alone…she has everything organized in folders.  So they are set to move to the US once Benny gets home and the movers have packed.

There is absolutely nobody around me here in the Vancouver Airport while I wait for my flight to Denver and then to Palm Springs.  Beautiful!  Love it!

Well to the sun and pool in Palm Springs.  Looking forward to some R & R with the relatives…always is fun to hang out with Dwight and Joanne.  It was hard to leave my two girls yesterday, but that is life, and I am just so glad that Benny is on his way home to be with his girls!  Chela is smiling and cooing and trying to make different sounds.  Yesterday she squealed and scared herself.  She has this funny little cough that she does which is so cute.  She is still throwing up, but we know when she starts sticking her tongue in and out of her mouth that she is going to puke…so we get the “puking cloths” ready to catch it.  After she throws up she grins from ear to ear!!  She is too funny!  Very vocal and determined little girl, so I am sure Tamara and Benny will have their work cut out for them.  She has started to stick her lower lip out and quiver it when she isn’t sure of something.  She loves her mom and whenever she sees her, Chela’s whole face just lights up!  It is so awesome to see!  Tamara’s voice can totally calm her down…unless Chela is having one of her “hissy fits”…then it is pretty difficult to calm her down!!

So Palm Springs here I come…and I even bought a new bathing suit…a coverup one!!!

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Last night in Japan…. Monday, Oct 27 2008 

Well, my two months in Japan are coming to an end.  I fly out of Narita Airport (Tokyo) at 5:20 pm tomorrow afternoon, October 28th, heading for Vancouver arriving at 9:20 am the same day I left!  I end up in Palm Springs on Tuesday evening, shortly after I left Tokyo!  I love time changes especially when you fly over the ocean and time zones.

So here are some of the experiences/observations in Sasebo, Japan that I don’t want to forget:

  1. the extreme heat and humidity in September
  2. vehicles are all small here like matchbox vehicles…no diesel trucks or semi-trailers…their little delivery trucks you could put in your pocket
  3. narrow streets
  4. roadways are built up and over the buildings or you make tunnels through the hills…amazing!
  5. infrastructure in Tokyo is absolutely mind-boggling!
  6. clothes hung on the balconies and patios to dry as they have no clothes dryers
  7. buildings can be as narrow as 6 feet
  8. water and canals everywhere
  9. Atomic Bomb Museum in Nagasaki very disconcerting!
  10. so many young women wear shoes that are a couple sizes too big and the shoes keep slipping off their feet
  11. Japanese people very thin
  12. older people very bent over and small
  13. lots of severely turned in feet and bowed legs…not sure why
  14. people are so friendly and helpful..always polite
  15. beautiful country and scenery on this island
  16. restaurants are very small and personal
  17. no malls…stores are small and unique
  18. Tamara and Benny’s unique Japanese house…old and authentic
  19. last but not least…the cockroaches, huge spiders and the lizards!!!

Personal highlights:

  1. Seeing our daughter Tamara pregnant!
  2. Meeting our new son-in-law Rodrigo Benavides known to us as “Benny”, for the first time.
  3. Being here for the birth of our granddaughter Isabel Louise “Chela” Benavides!
  4. Spending 2 months in Japan with this amazing family!!!

I am so grateful that I was able to be here for this time in my life.  All the days weren’t perfect and easy, but they were living life together.  I leave with a glad heart that I was here to experience life with our daughter, son-in-law and new granddaughter  Benny is coming home from the USS Essex on November 1st so this new family will have some days together in Sasebo, Japan, where they met and started out life together, before heading off to El Centro, California, to start anew!

Oura Catholic Church in Nagasaki – oldest church in Japan Thursday, Oct 23 2008 

I did not get to the Shrine to the 26 Martyrs, but Oura Catholic Church is closely related to the event of the 26 martyrs… so here is a little background history…

“Christianity was officially banned in 1587 by the shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi who feared that conversions would lead to political intrigues and the undermining of the state by foreign powers.  In that year, to emphasize the point, 26 defiant Christians (Japanese and foreigners) were rounded up and crucified on Nishizaka Hill, the first of over 600 documented martyrdoms in the Nagasaki area alone.  Without a clergy and without a single chapel to worship in, Christianity, astonishingly, managed to survive covertly for 200 years after the martyrdom until the end of Japan’s isolationist policy.”

Oura Catholic Church – This white church was built in 1864 uder the direction of Bernard Petitjean, a French priest who became the first Bishop of Nagasaki.  The church, which boasts some impressive stained-glass windows, was erected in order to serve the foreign community that settled in Nagasaki after the new trade treaties were signed.  It was also intended to honor the city’s 26 martyred saints  Shortly after its foundation, Father Petitjean was approached by members of a group of Japanese Christians who had practiced their faith in secret and at risk for over 200 years.  Classed as a National Treasure, Oura is one of the oldest churches in Japan and the country’s earliest Gothic wooden structure.”

I was able to experience walking through this amazing old church and pondering over the history of what had gone on before…it was amazing.

Nagasaki… Friday, Oct 17 2008 

We drove to Nagasaki yesterday to pick up Tamara’s police check which she needs for her Visa interview with the American Embassy in Tokyo.  It was a beautiful day and it was my second trip to Nagasaki.  The first time we went we toured the World Peace Symbol Park, which was erected to commerate the bombing on Nagasaki at the end of WW2.  I loved this park with its beautiful Peace Statue and Water park.  There are also many different statues erected by many different countries around the world looking for peace to reign globally.  I loved the symbolism of this park and each of the statues were so unique to each country that contributed them.  I loved that diversity!  When we were there yesterday, the park was full of students from many different schools touring the park with different guides.  The majority of the students wear uniforms from the school they are attending.  Also the students wear different coloured caps, each yellow represents the different grades they are in…so when you see students walking home from school, you know what grade they are in by the colour of the cap they wear.

We also toured the Atomic Bomb Museum the first time in Nagasaki.  I found this quite disturbing as it showed the horrific affect the bomb had on the people and the city.  Most of the victims were children, women and seniors, and the pictures of how they burned and the devastation that was left behind, is almost impossible to comprehend.  What is so amazing, as you look around the City has been completely rebuilt and it absolutely beautiful.  It is like beauty came from the ashes of the destruction.  The Japanese people are very resilient and they just start over again.

There is so much history here!  You could spend alot of time just taking in all the changes that have happened over the 100s of years.  The drive to Nagasaki is absolutely beautiful as you follow the edge of the water.  There are canals everywhere and lots of bridges.  When you are on the bridges you don’t realize how high you are until you drive down to ground level and look up from where you just drove.  Like I have said before, you are either above the water and buildings, or driving through tunnels and are underneath…quite amazing!

Another minority government for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives! Wednesday, Oct 15 2008 

Thank the Lord for internet service in Sasebo, Japan, or there would be no news whatsoever from over yonder in far away Canada.  Tamara’s TV is satellite provided by the US Navy with no advertising except for the recruitment of personnel…hence only USA TV available…can hardly bear to watch any of it anymore…so keeping watch over the Canadian election was done purely by using my new laptop Macbook…which by the way is amazing!

I am not terribly disappointed in another minority government…beyond the fact we didn’t have to spend all this money to get exactly what we already had…but I believe minority governments can work for the betterment of the people.  With huge majorities, a Party can do exclusively what it wants without having to listen to work with any other perspectives from other parties.  With a minority, it is a necessity to work together to bring governance that is palletable to more than your own party line.  Lester B. Pearson was a pro at this and brought in some of the most enterprising directives during his tenure as Prime Minister of Canada, both terms with a minority government.  Anyway, it will be interesting to see what Steve Harper’s new agenda will be for this next term…if in fact he has an agenda that is known outside of his little circle of confidants!!  We will see!

Another Presidential Debate Thursday evening in the USA.  I listened to part of all of the other debates, but have to admit my interest did wane after awhile.  The rhetoric of American politics can be nauseating sometimes…especially some of the reporters who are supposed to be doing the interviewing but all the time give their own views and don’t let the people they are interviewing speak their piece.  I have to admit I am missing THE NATIONAL which has been my steady news source for a long time.  I hope Peter is still around when I head back to Canada.

We are heading to Nagasaki again tomorrow as Tamara needs to pick up her police check which she needs for her interview in Tokyo on Monday, October 27th.  I still haven’t posted on our last trip to Nagasaki, which was very interesting and informative.  Will hopefully do that i the next few days.  Our days have been full with our little Chela, who I believe, is beginning to respond to her mom and grandma more and more.  We laughed so hard at her tonight as Tamara put this little cap on her head for the night, and Chela reminded us of the people who worked in the chocolate factory we toured in New Zealand…it was quite funny.  I have posted some pictures and a couple of videos on Facebook of Chela.

Still beautiful weather here in Sasebo.  In the 70’s during the day and high 60’s at night…sunny and blue skies.  I hear there is snow in Saskatchewan.  Haven’t worn a sweater here yet and read a book yesterday on the patio in the sun…awesome!

Eating burgers in Sasebo! Saturday, Oct 4 2008 

Tamara took us to “Log Kit” for hamburgers.  We had gone by the place on the weekend and their were lineups to get in and get their hamburgers.  A quaint little restaurant again, with very good burgers and fries.  Chela cooperated by sleeping in her carseat under the counter!  We were trying to keep her away from the other patrons who were smoking!  Anyway, it was fun.  We could see where Tamara can lived in her apartment from the parking lot of the restaurant.  They are building a huge new roadway system which is right outside her old apartment…quite an amazing road system…they build up and over the buildings or through the hills and under the buildings…quite something to see.  They also use every nook and cranny for their buildings…some of the buildings are only 6 feet wide and fit into some pretty small spaces.  Everything is small here…you go into the stores and all the furniture is low to the floor…the legs of the chairs and couches are all very short and low.  My back hurts just looking at them.  Tamara’s counters are very low in her place, so it really hurts your back to wash dishes and prepare meals.  Jerry particularly found it hard to do anything in the kitchen….much to his chagrin…however, he didn’t miss giving Chela her bath every morning.

To Fukuoka to drop Benny off at the airport on Monday, Sept 22 Saturday, Oct 4 2008 

We rented a car to take Benny to the airport in Fukuoka.  You can rent a car cheaper for the day than driving your own car, as the roads are all toll roads, and the cost of driving back and forth from Sasebo to Fukuoka is a little over $80.00.  When you rent a car at the Base you receive toll coupons covering the cost of the toll roads.  If you drive on the roads, you pay for them…that is the way it works in Japan.  Very expensive here to get your license, own a car and to drive the roads.  We went out for lunch before dropping Benny off at the airport.  In the afternoon Jerry, Tamara, Chela and I went through a Japanese Garden, walked downtown Fukuoka, which is a City of 1.3 million people, stopped at Starbucks for something to drink to cool off, and then headed back to Sasebo.  Chela was not a happy camper heading home, and had a screaming fit in her carseat.  In the end, I took her out of her seat, fed her and held her all the way home.  Here people do not use carseats for their children…they hold them.  I did not feel comfortable doing this, but it was either hold her or watch her choke as she was screaming until she was literally gasping and turning all red…what do you do…you do what you can!  We had to make a few detours to get home as the roads can be quite confusing here…from the shear number of them…to the way the signage is.  We were glad to get back home safe and sound.

Sorry to see Benny leave.  He is done in Sasebo and everything will be packed up and Tamara will have moved out of their house by the time he gets back on November 11th.  On November 13th they head out to Los Angeles and then to El Centro, where they will be living.  The two years in Sasebo, Japan, are nearly over…Tamara arrived here the end of November 2006 with Benny arriving here about the same time.  The rest is history!

Eating out in Sasebo on Sunday, September 21st Saturday, Oct 4 2008 

After hanging out for most of the day, we headed out to enjoy one of Benny’s favorite Japanese restaurants.  We sat in true Japanese style and enjoyed some great drinks, sushi, Sake (Rice Wine…very good)…Benny ordered his favorite items and we had just a great time.  We were given an appetizer of pickled fish, much like the pickled herring I grew up with.  I tried a bit, but Jerry loved it.  I didn’t try the sushi as I am not much of a sushi lover…but again Benny and Jerry took care of the sushi for us.  The Sake was very good…was surprised at how good it tasted.  We had alot of fun and Chela cooperated very well and slept through the whole time.  The Japanese are intrigued by this little baby, and they all want to look at her…of course we think she is amazing!

We then head out to a restaurant called “The Steak Salon”.  It is a very tiny restaurant with about 18 – 20 seating places, at the most.  We have heard that the food there is amazing and Tamara wanted to see if that was true.  I must say that it truly was one of the best meals I have ever had.  From the salad, which was extraordinary, the soup, the main course, and the dessert, were all incredibly delicious.  I ate every morsel and delighted in every bite.  I am not really one who relishes eating, but this was indeed one of the best treats for us.  Again, Chela was amazing, as we fed her and she promptly went back to sleep.  The one thing we can’t get used to here, is that smoking is still allowed everywhere here, including the restaurants.  Very unappetizing as you are eating your delicious food and someone is smoking right beside you.  What we love about many of the Japanese eating places, is that they are mostly very small and intimate settings.  At The Steak Salon we sat right in front of the person cooking our meal and it was all very informal and intimate…very enjoyable.  A great memory for us.  We then headed home as we had to get up early the next morning to drive to Fukuoka to drop Benny off at the airport to head back to the ship.

Hanging out in Sasebo on Saturday, Sept 20th Saturday, Oct 4 2008 

We were a little tired from all the driving the day before so decided to just stick around Sasebo and do some casual shopping, go out to eat, Benny and Jerry got haircuts…Benny getting ready to return to the ship and Jerry who was too hot with all the hair on his head…both cuts turned out well…I guess!  Benny is getting ready to return to work and we are still adjusting to our new addition, little Chela![gallery]

Hirado Island – September 19th Saturday, Oct 4 2008 

On Friday, September 19th, we drove ro Hirado Island, which is about 35 km, but which took us about an hour to get to because of the narrow roads and slow traffic.  It was a beautiful day and Tamara had packed a picnic lunch for us to enjoy on the grounds of Hirado Castle.  This was Chela’s first picnic!  We arrived and Chela promptly needed attention as she had taken care of some business which we needed to clean.  We put her on the picnic blanket on a change mat we had brought along to change her.  We had scarcely begun the process when an older Japanese grandma came out of one of the stores and kept indicating to us to come in and change Chela there.  We finally figured out when she wanted, so we picked Chela up and took her inside where the grandma had us put her down on their tatomi mats to change her.  She also brought us a warm cloth to clean Chela up and she stood over her and fanned her with her fan.  The Japanese people are just so warm and helpful and they love babies.  She talked to Chela and kept fanning her.  It was an awesome experience.  Jerry and Benny then figured they should repay her so they bought some ice cream for themselves to enjoy.  We had an awesome picnic, although Chela was fussy and we took turns carrying her.  Tamara had made papaya salad which was really hot, so good think we had brought lots of water and drinks along.

The Hirado Castle grounds is also where Tamara and Benny came in the Spring to enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival.  The grounds of full of cherry trees which blossom really early in the spring and is a Japanese tradition to have Cherry Blossom festivals.  These cherry trees had already lost their leaves as they are the first trees to bloom in the spring.

We toured the Hirado Castle and its grounds which included a stable for sumo wrestling.  The history of Hirado Castle is as follows:

“Lord matsura of Hirado became a 63,200-koku daimyo in 1587 under the power of Shogun Hideyosi.  He took part in various battles on the Korean peninsula, leading about 6,000 troops at the Battle of Bunroku Keichou.  After returning home, he built “Hinotake castle” here in 1599, but it was destroyed in a big fire in 1613.  In 1704, about 100 years later, reconstruction of Kameoka castle (Hirado Castle) was strated with the permission of the Tokugawa shongunate. It was completed in 1718 taking 15 years, 555,000 laborers and more than 1,180-kan in silver.  The totalarea was about 18 hectres and the uppermost main enclosure was approximately 50 m above sea level.  The castle walls consist of four layers:  the outer walls including Shirahamakaku, secondary and tertiary enclosures, and the main enclosure.

The view from Hirado Tower shows Hirado Port which was a base for trade with China and Korea thoughout Japan’s history.  A Portuguese ship entered the port in 1550, and Dutch and English people established trading houses by the port soon after.”  Absolutely beautiful view from the top of Hirado Castle!

We then went to see St. Franacis Xavier Memorial Church, a beautiful church built by the Catholics and completed in 1931.  We then took a walk down past the Church and some beautiful Buddhist Temples and ended up down at the Saiwai-bashi Bridge (Dutch Bridge) built in 1702 and walked on the Hirado harbor exchange open space and enjoyed a great ice cream cone.  Then it was back home, including the hour drive, which covered some beautiful bridges, hills and valleys, covered with luscious greenery.  All in all a great day.

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