August 24, 2008

Stay At Home Weekend

After our recent vacation week and with the start of school for Jacob and Lauren this week, we opted for a stay-at-home weekend on Rokko Island. With school starting up again, the summer is officially winding down. Being back in school is a great thing for Jacob and Lauren - and especially for Ilena! New classes, new teachers, new friends, new Spiderman backpack, you know how it is . . . .

On Friday night, after a family dinner out at An-ke-ru Be-ru (aka Uncle Bell's) Italian restaurant, we wandered out near the River Mall. There was that nice summer-time evening feel, with clusters or people and kids, just hanging out everywhere. We ran into a number of new and old friends. It seems that there is a big end-of-summer/Obon festival next week on Rokko Island, and they have set up bunches of cool Japanese lanterns all over the place. Here are some of them (sorry - camera-phone quality, this time):
On Saturday, Jacob's soccer team had a game against another team on big club soccer field. Usually, he just practices and scrimages with his own team on a playground field, so this was a big deal. Jacob is the token gaijin on a local Japanese soccer club, and handles it really well. In fact he loves it. The coaches are great with him, and some of the kids on his team (1st to 3rd graders) are really talented. This tournament lasted for most of the afternoon. Groups of Japanese "soccer moms" and dads devotedly cheered on their kids. We cheered too - "Go Jacob," until we realized that in Japanese this just sounds like "Five Jacob" (Go is the number five). Ironically, Jacob was wearing number five. So it all worked out alright.

After the kids played, they made a call for parents and handed out new colored jerseys. Mike thought it might be some time to play with the kids, or a parents vs. kids game. In fact, it was a 20 minute soccer game between the parents of our team and the parents of the other team. So Mike donned the (way way too small) jersey and got a taste of what Jacob has to deal with, as the token gaijin. Jacob was on the sidelines, in a role reversal, shouting "Go" and "Run faster!" Total fun! After the day's tournament was over, each squad of kids crossed the field over to where the opposing team's parents were sitting, lined up, bowed, and thanked them. Pretty classy stuff!

Saturday evening, Mike and Ilena got a babysitter for the kids and went out to dinner at the super-swank Kobe Grill, a restaurant on top of the Sheraton Hotel on Rokko Island, which has awesome views of the surrounding area and great food and service. Great steaks. The highlight was when we ordered "Large Prawn Cocktail"; with the small portions we have become used to in Japan, Ilena commented that we would probably get two shrimp. In fact, we got one. But it was literally the size of a small lobster, and was de-shelled and prepared table side. Wow.

Sunday morning, we did some biking. Back home in Maplewood, on weekend mornings, we often joined a great group of families who used to do a 6 mile bike loop around Maplewood and South Orange. Last week, we had seen a sign outside a local bike shop for a weekend biking group here, and we decided to check it out. With Jacob on his own bike and Lauren on the back of Ilena's bike (in her new safer bike seat), we decided to check it out.

As when Mike joined a local group for mountain biking, we were again the most casual bikers in the bunch. Once again, the body-glove lycra outfits and high-end bikes were in full effect! This group of hard-core bikers does two loops of street biking around Rokko Island (each loop in 13 km) at a fairly blistering pace. Two or three of them are professional bikers and one owns the bike store. It was a great group of people, and we held our own for one loop (with Jacob trying to race anyone who came close to him, until even he finally petered out). While not as casual as our bike loop back home, we would love to join this group again!

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Sounds like a GREAT weekend! call you