Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Geisha of Kyoto

One of the high points of our trip was finding the Geisha in Kyoto. I think everyone has heard of a "geisha" but little is known about this traditional artform of the Japanese culture. I would give you a history lesson, but I am definately not qualified. What I know, is what most of the world knows and that comes from the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha. Thanks Hollywood! :)

The night we arrived at our Kyoto hotel, I asked the front desk clerk where would be the best place to see a geisha. He looked troubled. In his words, they were rare and I would be lucky to see just one. This is not at all the answer I was hoping to hear. The clerk gave us a map and pointed out a few locations that would be more favorable for a quick sighting.

So, one evening we took a taxi down into the Gion district and took to the streets. This district is where many of the traditions geisha houses are and where they perform. Our taxi dropped us of and we took off. It was a very hot and muggy night, but tourists were everywhere. For those of you planning to go to Kyoto, you want to take a taxi to Gion Corner. This is a huge theatre for traditional geisha performances. In the parking lot, you will see black sedans with dark tinted windows and stern looking drivers. From what we could tell, these are the geisha's drivers.

I have to tell you that I am not a "star struck" person. I can't think of a Hollywood actor that I really care to meet; they are just people that are paid waaay too much for what they do. BUT, my heart was pounding with excitement when the first (yes, we saw MORE than one!) geisha jumped out of her chauffeured car and swiftly walked to the Gion Corner. I can tell you that they are FAST in their clog like shoes. They are not there to stop and pose for a picture, (though, I did get one to do just that!) they are one their way to work.

So, we saw our first beautiful geisha and I was thrilled. We walked down the road just a bit and noticed that many tourists were standing at this particular corner with cameras in hand. We walked up that little alley and on a quiet side road another geisha stepped out of her home. I think she and I were both quite suprised to see each other. She was kind enough to let me snap a few pictures of her and then she quickly went on her way. This happened with another as well, but I think her clogs must have had jet packs on them because she was gone in a flash.

All in all, we were able to spot 5 geisha in a 2 hour time frame. Yay! I was excited and thrilled to see for myself these mysterious cultural women. Here are a few pictures. Please keep in mind when looking at these pictures that:
1. It was very dark, so the lighting was not great.
2. I am still a novice in taking decent pictures and have much to learn.
3. I was so excited with each sighting that my camera was less than steady. I was not born to be paparazzi.

This is a picture of the one geisha that took a moment to stop and let me snap a picture.

This is the Obi from the back. I love the white paint and how it is perfectly done on her neck.

This is the first one that we saw at Gion Corner. She was only out of her car and then into the building for less than 1 minute and probably had her picture taken at least 2 dozen times by several bystanders (myself included!).

This is the geisha with jet packs in the shoes...she was fast!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I can't believe we have been home from our fun trip for two weeks already and I haven't been able to get many pictures up. It has been so fun to give mom a tour of Okinawa; time is flying by!

Anyway, Kyoto was awesome. From Seoul, we took a bus, a plane, a train and then a taxi to finally make it to our hotel in Kyoto. It was a long, loooong day. We stayed in a quaint little hotel called the PalaceSide Hotel and really enjoyed it. It was right at the front gate of the old Imperial Palace and easy access to taxi's and food. The only downside were the two twin futon beds that we had to sleep was like sleeping on a slab of cement. We piled all the extra blankets, comforters and anything else we could find to soften the bed but it was a little rough. Beyond that, it was great! We walked and took taxis' from each destination. It was a little pricey but quick and easy.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

These first gardens were at the Imperial Palace, absolutely beautiful.

Another garden for the Emperor to enjoy.

The castles/palaces of Kyoto often had different gates for various classes of people. This gate at the Nijo Castle had gorgeous carvings over the top of the Emperor's gate as well as the entrance to the castle.

I love this bright orange! We learned, that the reason for using such vibrant color was to give the illusion of "light" even in the night hours as too frighten away any bad spirits.

I love to see the rooftops here in Asia. The sharp angles are so perfect!

There are so many castles and shrines in Kyoto. In fact I think one of our taxi driver mentioned somewhere around 2,000 in all. Amazing! This is one of them. It is a shrine of 10,000 torii gates. The gates are spread all through and up a mountainside that you can walk through. We did go up the path for a while as the forest was so serene but the mosquitos are aggresive out here and in the end they won..and we turned and went back towards the safety of a taxi. Mean mosquitos.

These are lotus flowers. They are beautiful but now everytime I see them I am reminded of the many many generations of chinese girls that had their feet bound to be as "beautiful as a lotus flower." Disturbing.

This is the Toji Pagoda. It is the tallest pagoda in all of Japan. It is also 400 years old. This pagoda has been struck by lightening 4 times in the last 1,500 years and burned to the ground each time. The odds are definately not in favor of the pagoda...I think its' days are numbered.

The Golden Pavillion. This is a tourist hotspot. It is gorgeous but smaller than I expected.

Another fantastic shrine...I cannot for the life of me remember what it is called but it was right by the Kyoto Handicraft Center.

So, we really loved Kyoto; but Nara we loved even more. So, I have another post to come soon on our Nara excursion. Also soon to come are Geisha pictures (!!!) and the story of a samurai sword. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Andrew's Baptism

So, Andrew's special day had finally arrived. He turned 8 a month ago, but we waited until Grandma Green was able to fly half way around the world to be here for him.

Dana was proud of his oldest son in Choosing the Right and being baptized.

The beach that Andrew was baptized at is called Toguchi Beach. It is a beautiful little beach not far from our home. It is considered a "sacred place" by the Okinawans. There is a small inlet protected from the elements and away from the general public that baptisms take place.

Andrew said after the baptism was over and the refreshments were being cleaned up that "I am so happy today that my heart is full of love."

I love this son of mine.

He is obiedient, loving and eager to please. He loves his family and strives to Choose the Right. We feel so blessed to have him as our oldest son.

Mom and Dad are so proud of you Andrew! We love you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Goya Champroo by Naomi

Here are the yummy ingredients: Goya (bitter melon), firm tofu and spam (yes, spam again!).

Slice open the goya and then with a spoon strip the seeds and pulp from the goya. If the seeds look any darker red or orange then don't use the goya, it will have gone bad.

Ok, so if you have never eaten goya, let me warn is BITTER! YIKES! So, to remedy this just a bit, slice the goya and put it in a large dish and cover the goya with water, then salt it generously. Let the goya soak in the salt water for a good 15 to 20 minutes.

Then, rinse the goya well and with your hands squeeze handfuls of goya to get the water out of the vegetable. If you don't do this, your goya will be "wet" and sloppy in the pan.

Ok, so get your pan out and give it a drizzle of about a Tbsp of olive oil. Turn your heat to medium and then toss in some large chunks of firm tofu. Cook the tofu until it is golden brown. Then remove the tofu to a dish.

Add in another drizzle of olive oil and toss in your goya and spam that you have sliced into some nice strips. Cook for a few minutes until the goya is not crunchy and spam in browned.

Add the tofu back into the pan with the goya and spam and then add two eggs that you have beaten well.

Stir until the eggs are thoroughly cooked.

You then can sprinkle in some seaweed strips if you like. You can buy these at the 100Y store or a local grocery store.

Also, you can add a sprinkling of fish broth granules if you like. These can be found in the commissary in a smaller box with the same cover.

Now, ideally it would have been great to take a picture of the finished product. But, it was eaten SO FAST that I didn't have a chance. Let me tell you though, it was good! The Okinawan's LOVE goya and swear by its medicinal and restorative properties. Apparently it is so packed with vitamins that it is practically a fountain of youth! Who can argue with that?!

So, yes it is a bit bitter but give it a try. You can buy the goya at the commissary or any local grocery store.

Thanks Naomi!

Oh, and these? These are delicious flavor packets for rice. You make the rice according to its directions and then when you serve this just add a sprinkle to the top. Go light on it though, they are packed with flavor!

The purple one is plum, the orange is salmon and the red is tuna. I had the salmon flavored one and it was excellent.

Now, head on down to the commissary, buy some goya (don't forget the spam and tofu!) and try out this authentic and unique to Okinawan dish. You will be glad you did!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Naomi's Yakisoba

Here is Naomi's delicious recipe for her yakisoba. It seems that each yakisoba that we have tried tastes just a little bit unique, but we seem to love each one of them.

First add a Tbsp or so of olive oil to your fry pan and then throw in at least 3 large carrots and one medium onion that have been chopped. Let them cook until the carrots are crisp-tender.

Then add in as much cabbage as you desire. This is almost a full head of napa cabbage; I love this stuff! It is my favorite part of yakisoba. Also in the picture you can see strips of meat; the meat is spam. Yes, you read right...spam. Slice it up and add it in either early on or at the end of the cooking time. I prefer (ok, so I have only done this once but it seemed to work!) to slice it, and then cook it in the olive oil until just a bit browned, remove it and then add them back in once I have the cabbage cooked down a bit.

Now be brave and try the spam at least once in your life! I have to admit that I had NEVER bought spam in my life until 2 days ago after tasting Naomi's yummy yakisoba. News flash people, it was good! So, live on the wild side and try some! In case you are not sure (as I was not) the spam is usually located near the tuna fish. :)

Ok, now it is time to add in the soba noodles and seasoning packets. The noodles are in the refrigerated display table in front of the deli. Grab the soba package that has the seasoning packet in the picture below.

Anyway, the noodles are already cooked, just break them up a little bit and add them into the pan; sprinkle the seasoning on top. You may need to add just a Tbsp or two of water to help distribute the seasoning.

Yep, here is the seasoning packet.

The finished product! Delicious! The only additions I made to this recipe when I made it at home tonight was a bit of garlic powder and freshly ground black pepper to the onions and carrots...yum!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Miso Soup by Naomi

We had a mini enrichment class at the church this week to learn how to cook a few local favorites. This first dish is miso soup...yum! Naomi, an Okinawan woman in our branch demonstrated how to make miso and other delicious dishes; we were in for a treat! Thank you Naomi!

Miso soup in all its glory.

First bring your water to a boil. Naomi was doing this cooking demonstration at our church building so she didn't have exact measurements; she just used the pots and pans available at the church. So for 5 -6 cups of water that was brought to a boil she used about 2 Tbsp of miso base. This can be bought at the commissary and also locally. I did see this paste at the small grocery store inside the Home Store at Navel Kadena.

Just put the base into the boiling water and stir to disolve.

Naomi then added a couple of pinches of dried seaweed strips to the soup. These can be found at the 100Yen stores or at local grocery stores.

She then added about a tsp of these fish broth granules to let disolve in the boiling water. These granules can be found in a smaller box at the commissary (the box looks the same).

Firm tofu was then sliced into cubes and added to the broth.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Seoul, Korea

Ok, so Seoul was lots of fun. We were able to meet up with my dear sister in law, Suzette, and her family; it was so much fun! Suzette is originally from Korea so we had a built in tour guide and translator all at once. We drove around her old stomping grounds in many a crazy taxi, ate LOTS of delicious food, walked until our feet were swollen and took many great pictures.
This is the Seoul Tower. We had a wonderful view of it from our room at the Dragon Hill Lodge (very nice if anyone decides to go there).

We saw a lot of great sights including an awesome temple. I have no idea who is belonged too though because we took a Korean tour. Suz translated for us, but the name of the guy that lived there is just not coming back to me. :) This doorway was along the stone wall that surrounded the temple/palace.

The colors were amazing!

Let's stop and talk food for a minute. Wow, Korean food is just...spicy...fresh...and amazing. Whenever we would order our main dish out would come several smaller dishes to go along with it. YUM! The dish in the middle is Kimchi. At first, it was barely tolerant to my taste but after a day or two it wasn't so bad. The water kimchi was even better!

This was a bowl of rice, and edible flowers, vegetables and fish eggs. You then would add in as much red pepper paste as you would like; it was delicious!

Dana and our sweet niece Kierra.

Here was a neato dragon tile on one of the buildings of the temple.

Again, the colors were just vibrant!

I just LOVED this door. It was so...what is the word for it...perfect. I think I need one just like it in a garden someday. That is, if we stop moving. :)

A close up shot of the door...LOVE IT.

A sun dial at the entrance to the throne room of the temple.

We had a wonderful trip. It was so fun to spend time with Suz and her family. We love them!

More posts to come in a day or two of Kyoto!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

We have just walked in the door...

And I have so much to tell you! We had a wonderful and amazing trip to Seoul, Korea and Kyoto, Japan. It is going to take some time for me to edit some pictures to put up here, but I will soon!

We ate lots of yummy food, walked everywhere and back again, saw REAL geisha and were awed by the ancient history we were taught. I will get it up here asap! Thanks Mom for allowing us such a wonderful trip!

Friday, August 1, 2008


Tell me, how do they do this? The colors on these roses are just unreal; I love them!

So, July has been rough. I have had sick kids (two with pneumonia), it is so hot here that you can melt right into a puddle in minutes, my boys are stuck inside our not so big apartment trying to avoid becoming puddles, I am homesick and I miss Target, and signs I can understand, and Arby's Chicken Cordon Bleu WITH fry sauce, and clearance shopping, and basically anything familiar. Don't get me started on how much I miss family.

Don't get me wrong, I do love it here. It is amazing and beautiful and downright outstanding 95% of the time. But sometimes that other 5% can seem a bit lofty. It was lofty in July.

On the bright side, I just picked up my mom from the airport! YAY! And guess what else? She is allowing Dana and I to LEAVE THE COUNTRY and go to Korea and Kyoto (think Memoirs of a Geisha); she's the best. Afterwards we have a couple more weeks to give her the tour of the island. This makes me happy.

But, back to the flowers. July was not so nice to me and so Dana brought me these amazing roses to help my heart heal; they helped. The planets realigned, calmness came back to my soul...and then my mom flew in. August is looking better and better.