Monday, September 29, 2008

Ryukyu Mura

While Mom was here, we went to a fun historical park called Ryukyu Mura. They have many traditional buildings, crafts, dancing and food to enjoy as well as having all the employees in traditional dress. Lots of fun! Sadly, I only took a few pictures because my brain stopped functioning due to it being a million degrees outside. Me and excessive heat just don't get along.

This was the most fun performance of the day. I just can't get enough of the Shisa dogs here! This man was in traditional costume and was hilarious. Of course, my boys didn't know what to think of him or his face paint so they kept their distance.

I LOVE these colors! Right when I took this picture I thought poor little Joshy was going to go into cardiac arrest due to being so close to the "monster." I was trying to shield him (and take a good pic) but apparently didn't do it well enough.

Group shot of us with the "scary man". Notice that the two little boys are keeping their distance while Andrew would only have his back to him. :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Okinawa Memory Quilt

When I first arrived on the island, there was a church group that was creating a "memory quilt." Now, for any of you that know me very well, you know that I am not a seamstress of any kind (I made Dana promise to NEVER buy me a sewing machine). But more than anything I wanted "in" on that quilt. Unfortunately for me, I had missed the opportunity and could only watch from the sidelines while trying to curb my envy of such a great souvenir to take home from this island.

So, about 6 months later I decided to take matters in my own hand (always scary) and head up another group so that I could get a quilt. Selfish, no? Well, everyone else would get a quilt as well, I just really really wanted one!

After a few months I had compiled 20 willing and committed girls to take on this task. We each committed to making 20 of the best squares we could with each of us choosing a different theme. Let me tell you, this was no walk in the park. We all had to each figure out what theme we wanted for our Okinawa Memory Quilt and then create a pattern as well as then find great fabrics and then (gulp) take on the project of actually sewing (we did an applique' method...don't ask me how, I really have no idea what I am talking about). We all met together several times to claim our theme and then help each other with a pattern.

After 6 months of blood, sweat and tears (ok, maybe not too much sweat but definately blood (sharp needles, ouch!) and tears) we finally arrived to our agreed upon deadline and had a swapping of the squares night. It was such a celebration! Everyone did a fantastic job. I am so proud of the girls in my group. Not only did each of us learn some basic sewing skills, but I think we all made new friends as well.

We now each have 20 different and beautifully done squares to create a quilt with (again, don't ask me how...that is part 2 and I can't even fathom on where to begin).

So, here are the squares:
This one is mine. It is a sanshin and is a local instrument. When we first arrived on the island, I would every so often hear this "twangy" banjo/guitar sound floating around. The moment you hear it, you think of "Japan." I love it! It has such a calming sound.

Taiko Drum. Again, a local instrument that you hear and see at every festival. In fact, they have arcade games for the kids with two big drums and drum sticks that you can play and do your best at following the beat on the screen.

Map of Okinawa. The kanji on it says "Okinawa."

Goya. The green bitter melon is a staple of the local people. It is as bitter as anything I have ever tasted. But, the locals swear by it and its "fountain of youth" properties.

The lucky cat. This cat carries two responsibilites: to grant wealth and/or good health. You see it in many businesses around town.

The clown fish, a.k.a. Nemo. The clown fish is a "regular" for divers and snorkelers to see while exploring the fantastic coral reef that we have surrounding the island.

Whale Shark. These gentle giants do roam the warm waters surrounding the island. There is also a fantastic aquarium here on the island that houses three of them in the most enormous tank I have ever seen.

Hermit crabs are everywhere here on the beaches. It is so fun to watch the kids chase them and scoop them up to take a closer look.

Geta Shoes. Geta are the sandles that are worn when dressing up in a fancy kimono for a celebration of some sort. I love them, but I have no idea how a person could walk in them without breaking an ankle.

Cherry Blossoms. Of course they are everywhere here in the spring and a very big deal to the Japanese people. Festivals galore dot the island while the blossoms are in full bloom.

Torii Gate. There are only a few torii gates here on the island but many more on mainland Japan. They symbolize an entrance to a sacred place.

Kokeshi Dolls. These are collectible wooden dolls made here on the island as well as mainland. Many years ago, these were toys for children, but now they have become a work of art.

Cocok's Feet! I think just about every woman here on the island will visit Cocok's (pronounced Coco's) at least once while here for a pedicure and amazing toe nail art.

Lotus Flower Hat. There is a traditional dance unique to the island that includes the costume of a lotus flower hat and bingata clothing.

Bamboo. Yes, it grows here and is mesmerizing to look at and watch (sway in the wind, not grow). :)

Flags. The kanji says "friendship."

Kimono. I love love seeing people wear their kimono. Often at festivals we are able to catch a glimpse of many of the women and young girls wearing these ornate gowns.

Sushi! How could you have a quilt of Japan and not have sushi? It is on every corner and in every convienence store.
Hibiscus Flower. These are all over and in every color. They are beautiful and smell wonderful.

This is our group minus a few girls. Thank you so much to all of you for your hard work!

P.s. I bought a darn sewing machine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Baseball ~n~ Boys

The boys had a great season of baseball. They both had fantastic coaches and we were excited to see how they each progressed in just 10 weeks. Andrew was a bit sad when the season was over but I think Logan was grateful. It was a busy schedule of 3 nights a week of games and practices.
Here are a few (ok, a lot) of pictures of the kids playing this season.

Logan is looking so serious here. Everytime I see this picture, it reminds me of how my brother David looked as a young kid. Which amazes me as Logan is 100% Jensen and Zero Green.

Did you notice that his eyes are closed? This was NOT a one time occurance. We need to work on that. :)

Best Buddies.

Adorable Josh. He brought his transformer guys to every night and was just as happy as could be.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Samurai Sword

When we came to Japan their was only one true souvenir for Dana; a samurai sword. Not just any samurai sword, but an old one. One that had seen battle would be even better.

Well, we get here to Okinawa and we find out that it is VERY difficult to get one; next to impossible really. The Japanese people honor their ancestors and parting with a family heirloom sword doesn't happen very often and when it does they don't want to sell them to foreigners. Dana still wanted one, but had resigned himself to the fact that he was likely NOT going to get one.

Well, then we went to Kyoto. On our last day of sightseeing there just happened to be a martial arts shop around the corner. It stocked all kinds of clothing, practice weapons and decorative swords. We looked around and then were about to leave when the shop owner indicated in limited english that he had a selection of much older swords upstairs. We just needed to remove our shoes and go on up and take a peek. Well, take a peek we did. It was unreal. There were locked glass cases surrounding the room with old, really old, swords inside. Each one had a description of the time period it came from as well as the region.

Dana was impressed. I had sticker shock, but was also excited. I LOVE history. Ancient cultures and artifacts are facinating to me. I think I was an archeologist in a former life (kiding, but you know what I mean).

After gazing at these impressive relics for some time, Dana found one he liked...a lot. It was old. It was in wonderful condition and it was the least expensive of the lot. The owner of the shop put on a pair of white cotton gloves and gently handed to sword to Dana. It was a wakizashi. The samurai typically carried two swords with them. The katana which was long and the most identifiable as a "samurai sword" and then the wakizashi which is smaller. The tradition of the wakizashi was that it was often kept on the warriors person at all times, even while sleeping. In fact, the samurai would often hide his wakizashi up the sleeve of his kimono so as to not be without a weapon at any time.

Dana looked it over and I could see he was in love. So, we did what any cautious buyer would do and promtply left the store, walked across the street and sat on a park bench inside of another store for 2 hours to talk about this purchase. After going back and forth several times, we finally came to the conclusion that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and Dana would always regret it if we didn't, so we bought it. Dana was happy. :)

Sadly, we will never have the sword to display here in Okinawa. Buying an authentic sword here in Japan is the same as buying a gun in the states. You have to get a permit and the government needs to know about it. So, we did all the paper work and it is promptly being sent to my parents for safe keeping until we come back to the states. Had we had it sent to us in Okinawa we would have had to do the paper work again once we moved but this time without the help of a versed shopkeeper to help us.

Buying the sword was a memory in itself. Again, the shopkeeper spoke limited english and Dana and I know about 5 japanese words between us so there was a lot of bowing and some pictures being drawn in trying to explain details and information.

So without further adieu...

The blade itself is about 500 years old and the handle around 250 years old (handles wear out and need to be replaced). The handle is covered in manta ray skin and then wrapped in silk.

As you can see, the blade of this wakisashi is quite thin and that is from its repeated need to be sharpened in preparation for battle. Of course, this only enhances the swords perfection for Dana.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


This kid is so much fun. Ok, sure he has days that I just can't wait until it is nap time but for the most part he is just plain great.

He is also my new best friend as we are both spending our days together now with Andrew and Logan in school all day. We both like this arrangement.

So, Josh needs a pet. I thought that Logan was an animal lover (and he is) but Josh is even more so. It took a lot of talking to finally "put down the turtle" so we could move on in the zoo.

He is also a ham. Which is great since I love to take his picture.

See? No fear. He thought he was hilarious after seeing himself on the screen of my camera.

I love this kid.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Nara, Mainland Japan

When Dana and I took our trip to Kyoto we debated whether or not we should take a side excursion to Nara; we are so glad we did. It was our most favorite site of all of the places that we saw. It was just beautiful, quaint and well...perfect. So, if you go to Kyoto then don't pass up the opportunity to go to Nara. I highly suggest going on a paid tour as the transportation and narrative provided are well worth the money.

One of the distinguishing traits of Nara are its' live in residents, and I don't mean people. They have herds of deer that live in the city year round. They have been there for centuries. They are so unafraid of people that it is like walking into a storybook.

They are always looking for little treats and snacks.

The temple that we went to had these wonderfully ornate incense burners. They were mesmerizing to watch.

This Buddha was so huge. I don't think any picture could ever do it justice. It was awe-inspiring. It was the size of the temple picture below. The Buddha was sitting down on the floor and the top of his head was at the ceiling. This room was very dark except for the candles burning, so the picture quality is poor.

Not a great picture of the temple, but gives you a bit of a size reference. Look at how small the people are standing at the entrance; this temple was huge!

Also inside the temple were guardian statues that were hundreds of years old. The statues were there to protect from evil spirits.

Outside we found this water cleansing area. You were to fill your little cup with the water an then drink it as well as rinse your hands with it.

Here is Dana playing with another deer. They were so fun!

We then went to another tourist site (sorry, I cannot remember the name) that is known for its' THOUSANDS of stone lamps. It was so incredible. These stone lanterns were HUGE! Apparently, years ago, the lamps would be lit every night. But now, they are only lit 3 evenings a year. I can only imagine how neat it would be to walk through a forest full of these lanterns. Ok, maybe a little spooky but I wouldn't be scared, honest!

A row of lanterns hanging on a beam at the shinto shrine. I love the age, the color and the simplicity of it.