Thursday, November 27, 2008


Despite being in Japan, Thanksgiving did NOT disappoint this year (besides the fact that Jacob had to work) as we headed down to our favorite American ex-pat bar.  The owner, Phred, had quite the spread (extra-worthy of a rhyme)!  Turkey, oyster stuffing, rolls, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, steamed veggies, cheesecake (because of an apparent pumpkin pie drought at Costco), and a marathon of Jennifer Lopez music videos on the tvs made us feel right at home!

Along with a plethora of Japanese, we had quite a few "Thanksgiving-First-Timers!"  Our fun Aussie friend, Sam, and the wonder that is root beer (also a first for many):

And Krystle and Adele, two lovelies from Trinidad and Tobaggo (who had to be coached in the fine arts of going back for seconds and thirds,  eating beyond one's limits, and NEVER saying "no" to dessert):

I'm so thankful for this opportunity to be in Japan, the chance meet such a diverse group of friends from all over the world, the ability to travel and explore new places, my family...oh yeah, and I suppose Costco in this case!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The Secret Society of the Mystic Cherry Blossom

On Wednesday of this week I, after being here for four months already, had another welcome party for my school!  This time, the party was for women only--seeing as there are only 15 women working in the place (out of about 120 faculty and staff), it was a welcomed outing!

As soon as the party began, I was promptly informed, "Now, Crystal...this is a seeeeecret society.  This is the Secret Society of the Mystic Cherry Brossom!  It is because we are all strong, beautiful women.  We are most beautiful at night.  And also that's when there's beer."  An underground society of fabulous, beer-drinking, Japanese  women from my school!?!?!  Sweet!  It was seriously all I could do to keep from immediately planning the next year of monthly Blossom Gatherings!

I now introduce to you Prez, Sunshine, Calling-Cat, Miss Yoko, Bambi, akkeyTay, Princess, Snow-Sugar, and its newest member (me, duh!):  Mango Tango:

And, of course, what's a secret society anyway without some fabulous food!!!  A few of our entrees (because after-all a flower needs nourishment):

My welcome parties just keep getting better and better!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Stayin' On

For those of you saving up moolah and convincing yourselves that yes, you do NEED to come to Japan for a visit to us, well you officially have another year towards your goal.  Jacob and I did some discussing and have decided to stay on in Japan for another year after this one.  My school gave me my re-contracting papers a couple of weeks ago and they are now signed and filed! 

The guest-room is filled with blankets and the tatami mats are calling... 

Friday, November 21, 2008

First Snow and an Eskimo

So I'm cheating a bit.  This week was actually our second snowfall, but the first one didn't stick and, therefore, gets booted out of the title!  I love waking up and opening the door to a white blanket of muffled sound...everything just seems so clean and peaceful!

The snowy mountain vista from our window (you can't actually see the mountain, but I assure you it's still there):

This is when I'm ESPECIALLY grateful for my 40 second commute to work:

Functional AND design-worthy:

It's hard to imagine that the schoolyard looked like this only a few months ago!  I feel bad for the two students who actually still had to bike to school!

"Let's enjoying snow!"  

Yup, winter is here in good 'ol Hokkaido and it's gonna be a long one!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obligatory Karaoke Post

It's no use avoiding the inevitable.  Especially not in Japan, where the number one inevitability is waiting for you deep inside long corridors of neon and within private rooms-o-fun.

I'm talking karaoke here, folks.

Up until this past weekend, I had been avoiding my destiny with karaoke.  I mean, don't get me wrong...I absolutely LOVED a great night of belting tunes out on the town back in the States.  But it just made me wonder:  what's a fabulous night of karaoke without a bar full of mullets, $2 Miller Lights, and plenty of strangers to croon Tina and Ike's version of "Proud Mary" along with you?

Here in Japan, the birthplace of the pastime, things aren't quite as "rustic."  First of all, you and your group are led to your own private room, themed if you so choose.  After ordering food and choosing your drink options, you can get down to business.

 If you're old school, you can choose your song from one of the three phonebook-sized song lists.  Otherwise, you can scroll through the computerized version and then enter your song numbers onto this:

The coveted karaoke remote can adjust volume, add background vocals, "help" your voice with a voice mask, and even "gong" someone off and onto the next song if you so choose!

You need more beers?  Out of food?  Just pick up the phone and song-pausing necessary!

All-in-all, I have to give Japanese karaoke an "A" for cultural experience and potential future-fun!  However, in my mind, nothing will ever compare to "Bohemian Rapsody" in a dark, lively bar accompanied by raspy, smoke-stained, NASCAR-shirt-wearing, local-yokel, good 'ol Amer-i-can barsters.

I've entered a whole new realm. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mr. November (aka Colonel Sanders of the Month)

Shouting loud and proud for Hokkaido's own Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball team, Mr. November originally made his appearance in back in September.  We're concerned that the Colonel hasn't been indulging in his extra-crispy greasy-goodness lately as he's had quite a time keeping his pants up.

In case you missed him, you can check out Mr. October here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No Longer Funemployed!

Jacob started work last week at an Australian-run bar and restaurant in downtown Sapporo!  No more funemployment...he's now a working man once again a little over a month since coming to Japan!  The best part is that this place was the first and only place he applied to!  Thank god for impressive resumes and years in the restaurant and management biz!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

オバマ!!!!!!! (OBAMA!!!!!!!)

Nice, nice job, America:

Yesterday was quite possibly the most nerve-wracking and butterfly-infested-stomach days I've ever had (well, outside of the disappointing great "Homecoming Queen 1999" candidate announcement back in high school...)!  As we're 14 hours ahead, I spent most of the day at work hitting "refresh" on the poll results and "invading" my co-workers desks with little American flags (in true "Amer-I-CAN spirit)!

Last night was a great Obama party down at one of the gaijin (foreigner) bars downtown run by an American ex-pat.  We watched the local Japanese news coverage of the election, as well as the taped version of Obama's acceptance speech from CNN (I don't think I've EVER had goose bumps from a presidential speech)!

The party's presumed sponsor:

And, on top of it all, we made the newspaper!!   I was interviewed about my opinions on the election, Obama, and Japan-American relations, and gave a pretty riveting session if I do say so myself!  The caption states that Americans living in Sapporo celebrate Obama's win, although we told the reporter that the guy and the gal on the left are our current Couchsurfers from Ireland and Spain!  I guess those who don't look Japanese are...duh, duh, duh...American!   I'm, of course, in the white shirt in back (notice the dramatic power arm reserved for historic moments and tree-swinging)!

There were photocopies of this on everyone's desk when I arrived to work this morning!

So I thought I would treat all of you Obama-lovers with some Japanese-Obama-goodness.  This little video is about a town in Japan that loves, I mean LOVES, our new pres...I introduce to you, Obama City, Japan!!!  The first minute or so is typical newsroom jabber, but if you hang on, you will be rewarded with views of Japanese people so obsessed with Barack, that they've invented everything from Obama foods (Obama Burgers and Obama Mochi--Japanese rice sweet), to Obama-logo-infused kimonos, to opening the new Obama Onsen (hot springs).  It's pretty much amazing:

Thank you, America.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Halloween this year was a blast!!  Jacob and I went as enlarged replicas of our Japanese Alien Registration Cards (also known as Gaijin Cards) and headed down to TK6, a foreigner bar in downtown Sapporo!

Our Gaijin Cards did enjoy a bit of celebrity status throughout the night...mama was proud of her creations indeed!!!

I absolutely love not being too "grown up" (or too far away from the U.S.) to celebrate my favorite holiday!!!