January 26, 2008

Mount Rokko Ski Jo, Conveyer Belt Sushi, and a Surreal Bar Experience!

Today was just a fantastic day in so many ways. We got up early and met up with two other families from Lauren's class-to-be to head to Mt. Rokko Ski Jo for sledding and fun. We took two short train rides, and a motorcoach bus up to the Mountain. What a ride it was, complete with Colorado-style switchbacks and amazing views of Kobe Bay and Rokko Island. It was so nice to get to hang out with other people who had shared the experience of picking up and moving abroad. We learned lots of little helpful bits of information about our surroundings, but also got to share so much of the experience and idiosyncrasies we have been blogging about firsthand with other families who were going through the same thing. And we no longer feel like we necessarily have the loudest children in Japan. (OK, we do, but still...)

The ski and sled area on Mt. Rokko is an artificial snow-making facility that is relatively close-by. It was perfect for a day of fun with the kids. We rented sleds, and although we brought very little in the way of true winter-wear, we made due and everyone had a blast.

Both at lunch and in getting tickets, it became apparent how much Japan loves tickets. You have to go someplace and buy a little ticket, and then someplace else and give them the ticket. Then they stamp the little ticket, which you hang onto until the end of your day, when you bring the ticket back. Lunch was the same way. You go to a little machine, push a button for the food you want (which is identified only in Japanese characters!) and it spits out a ticket. You then bring the ticket to the counter and they give you the food.

Anyway...it was really a terrific day. On the way back, we walked through some neat traditional little shops near the station selling kimonos, meats, fish, sweets, tofu, etc.

Making this day feel like two days, we also scored a babysitter for the evening (a local High School girl from Canada, who has lived in eight different countries in the past 13 years!). On our way to dinner, we happened upon this tiny little bar called Mars Venus Shot Bar, which is about a 5 minute walk from where we live. It's extremely cozy, with room for about 10-12 people. The walls are decorated with U.S. classic rock vinyl album covers, and they had every liquor imaginable. They had live music tonight. The proprietor was extremely nice and easy to speak to, and he even gave us a free sample of sochou (a Japanese liquor made from satsuimaimo- sweet potato). He poured a great drink. It is striking how much care and attention to detail there is in the service industry here. (And you can't even tip!). Instead of tipping, we told him (in Japanese) "We are going to go to dinner. Afterwards, we will come back." (more on that later)

For dinner, we went to a conveyor belt sushi place (you sit at a bar; the plates come around on a belt; you take what you want; at the end they add up the number of plates for the bill). It was the first time we had gone out for sushi for dinner since being here! Even though conveyor belt is not supposed to be the top-of-the-line sushi, it was by far the best sushi we have had! And there are little taps, where you can pour yourself a green tea right at the bar.

When we went back to the bar, it was in full swing with a four piece band and ten people in the bar. (the place was full). The bartender was so happy to see us. We had a couple of drinks and some Pokky chocolate sticks. The band was basically a Japanese Peter, Paul, and Mary with a stand-up Bass. They were awesome, singing all American folk songs. After some songs, a drunk Japanese guy would yell (in English) "YES!" or "Encore Encore!" They finished their set with "If I Had A Hammer" (it was pretty surreal, especially since for native Japanese speakers l = r .. "I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters, alllll over this laaaaand ooooo..."). Next thing we knew, the drunk guy had a guitar and was playing Japanese folk/flamenco songs. And he was great! When he finished, Mike yelled "Encore!" He finished his "set" with a rousing rendition of Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight"

To top it all off, when we got home and flipped on the TV, we caught the end of a classic episode of the OC on one of our cable stations ("Soooooper Drama"). Quite a day!

P.S. Another great sign, this one on our block:


jmgesq said...

I never use my google account except for this and I guess I'm getting senior moments or something because I can't seem to remember the password. It's been frustrating because I've had so many comments to make about the blog and no time to figure out how to re-set my password till today! How to drive me crazy in one easy step!

Anywho...comments I've been saving up:
What do you USE the rice cooker for? Besides rice, that is?
The apt. looks terrific btw...what are you supposed to use the tatami room for?
Congrats on the babysitter. I hear tell that it really isn't part of Japanese society. It must have been great to have an adult night out. Sound like a grand time. I am getting hungry for all the food you write about. It sounds wonderful and interesting. Have you eaten non-Japanese food out?

I've been sick with a cold for the last several days and energy is low now so I'll catch up with an e-mail or more comments soon...if I remember my password, that is.

Lots of love

J & S said...

As I read your daily adventure, I marvel at your endless energy and curiosity. Each day is filled with atleast three days worth of fun and special moments. Only you would be fortunate enough to locate a babysitter so that you could enjoy a night out and some much deserved 'together' time. I am so excited to check out your new entry each day. Knowing that you are all happy and enjoying this opportunity, makes the distance between here and there shorter. Keep exploring and sharing your lives with us. Lots of love from FL. J&S

Matthew J said...

Sledding with the kids, sushi on conveyer belt, Japanese specialty drinks, I can't keep up!!! It sounds like you guys are having an absolute blast!

Question about the sushi: Have you tried any new sushi creations?

General question about eating: Have the kids taken to any Japanese foods?

...more questions later!