Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hanami or Cherry Blossom Viewing



When I found out we would be moving to Japan, I was so excited for cherry blossom (sakura) season! We arrived in June so we missed it that year. This is our first year to see cherry blossoms. They have just begun to bloom and are already beautiful. DSC07240

Hanami (literally translated as flower viewing but is synonymous with cherry blossom viewing) is an age old tradition in Japan. People go out and have picnics under the sakura trees.  Of course, the most beautiful spots are coveted and people travel to places like Hirosaki Castle and other sites.


Hanami can occur wherever cherry blossoms are…which is pretty much everywhere! I think this year hanami will take a particular importance since the aftermath of the earthquake tsunami. Cherry blossoms are extremely symbolic because of the transience of the blossoms. Their extreme beauty and quick death  have often been associated with mortality. DSC07322

This year our “hanami” occurred close to home, at the Train Park in Misawa and the streets of Towada. We planned on going to Hirosaki earlier, but our tour was cancelled because the flowers are blooming late this year.


We won’t be in Japan for the rest of the cherry blossom season since we are attending a funeral overseas. It seems beautiful and poetic that we got a glimpse of beautiful sakura beforehand. After all, that is the lesson of the cherry blossom: you have to savor life while you can.

Japanese Restaurant Marumatsu




Marumatsu is a restaurant we found in Towada which offers a variety of Japanese food. It is somewhat similar to Coco’s (The seating and ordering style is similar and it has a drink bar for 294 yen) but the food is more of an izakaya style. Menu items include soba, udon, curry, sushi, tempura, beef plates and desserts.

Also, if you like tea, the drink bar has a lot of different teas to try!



DSC07335I got an udon set, which I think was great. Next time I’ll try a different side order for the set. (The tempura looked great!)DSC07336This curry was really good too!

DSC07337And of course we couldn’t leave without having dessert. The little bowl on the right has matcha tea, red bean past, mochi and whipped cream. It was only 189 yen and tasted fantastic!


Marumatsu does not have an English menu, but there are pictures of everything on the menu so you just have to point!

Directions:  from POL gate, go straight all the way to  Towada. You will pass Happy Drug. After Happy Drug is a plaza with Hard Off/Off house, K’s Denki and Homac. Marumatsu is in the same plaza across from the Men’s suit store (which is next to Homac).

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Have You Done It?


On March 11, 2011 I was correcting my student’s final exams when I started to feel dizzy. I realized we were having an earthquake, the second one in a week. I didn’t think it would be very big so I updated my Facebook status mentioning another earthquake.

I live on the seventh floor in one of the towers on base, and it started to shake pretty violently. I thought it would stop soon, but it was about 2 minutes before it stopped but it felt like an eternity. And then our power went out.

I took pictures of the “damage” mostly because I thought it was funny at the time. Drawers flung open from the shaking and my flimsy excuse for a bookshelf fell over. Surely the power would come back on in a few hours.



It was almost two days before we got our power back, but luckily we could receive phone calls and got calls from worried family members asking how we were since they knew about the earthquake. I had no idea how much damage had been done until almost 2 days later when we got our power back. The images on television were unreal. An earthquake, a tsunami and a problem with the nuclear reactor all in one blow.

When things got back to normal in Misawa (besides the massive energy conservation) I had a deep yearning to help in some way. The American Red Cross started to go out on cleanup missions in Misawa and Hachinohe. I knew I had to go help.

We went to a port in Hachinohe (a city 45 minutes away from Misawa) and the damage there was pretty bad but not like what you would see in Sendai and other areas. I spent all day shoveling dirt out from in front of a refrigeration building and cleaning out another. I knew what I did was very small but it helped heal a little part of me that was so sad to see this happen to the country I’ve called home for the past nine months. The pictures below show a small glimpse of the cleanup.




The cleanups became a very popular thing to do and the base commander encouraged everyone to go out and help in some way. We started getting commercials on AFN asking “Have You Done It?” meaning, have you gone out and helped your neighbors restore Japan.

Have You Done It? AFN commercial

216117_202278666470784_196931187005532_550179_3266106_n216151_201808599851124_196931187005532_547139_7294892_n This sign is located outside the furniture shop. This picture was taken one month after the earthquake/tsunami. The numbers are much, much higher now.

It will take Japan years to recover from these catastrophes and I hope people don’t forget that. There are many people left homeless, jobless and lost loved ones. I hope that people think of the individual lives that are affected. The Japanese have been incredibly resilient in this situation and I hope the rest of the world follows their example in how to act during a national crisis.

I am going to post a video of a song that is often played on Japanese radio. It is from a band called Inawashirokos made up of four Fukushima-born musicians from well known bands. The song is called   I love and need you Fukushima.

To help in the relief efforts for Japan, please donate to the American Red Cross and ask that your donation goes to the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief efforts. You can also donate online at

Edit: 9/11/2011 Misawa 6 months later

Misawa Air Base 6 Months Later

Café Omiya (Pizza and Curry Grill)


Café Omiya (also known as ‘Pizza Curry’) is a little hole in the wall restaurant located at the end of white pole road.  The food here is great and filling! I had the pork cutlet curry and pizza toast.


Café Omiya’s menu consists (naturally) of pizza and curry. You can also get donburi, salads and sandwiches. You can choose how hot you would like your curry and they also have a few sets that include curry with pizza toast, beer or a soft drink.


You can see Café Omiya across from Max Value Supermarket at the end of White Pole road. The restaurant is on the second floor above Le Monde. Also, a fair warning to those of you who are afraid of heights or have leg problems… you must climb some steep steps to get to the end of this pizza curry rainbow!

Café Omiya hours

Closed Tuesdays and Japanese Holidays

normal hours: 1100-2100

Sundays: 1100-2000

Telephone: 0176-53-4777

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Yabusame Matsuri



Yabusame Matsuri is held twice a year in Towada City by the main city hall. The festival in April is especially revered because of the beautiful cherry blossoms. This year, the cherry blossoms are blooming late but the festival was held regardless.

Yabusame is basically a horse and archery festival. Riders trot down a path and try to hit targets as they rush by. There are two classes, the amateurs and the professionals. (whom were all women… how cool is that!?)


The festival also had a few horse rides (which I gladly took advantage of) a carriage ride, and pictures with a  man dressed as a Samurai.


It may have been a serendipitous thing that the weather was gloomy today because we got a great parking spot and a great spot to take pictures. We had to pay 500 yen to stay in that area and also got tags to pin to ourselves so we could go look around at the festival and come back later without paying again.


Lucky for us, the rain held out so we could watch one amateur and one professional event. We will gladly return next year and hope for sunny skies, blooming cherry blossoms and maybe even pay the 2,000 yen for prime seating!

One of the riders

Directions to Yabusame:

Go out POL gate and continue straight for about 25 mins, you will come to a Y in Towada City, Go left at this Y. You will come to a light after hardoff on your right - turn left at this light. I think it may be the third light you turn right not 100 percent for sure I know there is an aomori bank and softbank sign at the this turn, and just drive straight and you will come to it on the left a little bit down the road.

Steakhouse Yoshino




If you’ve been to Misawa for more than a day you’ve probably heard of Steakhouse Yoshino which is more commonly referred to as “Yoshino’s” by the Americans.

Yoshino’s is a hibachi style restaurant located in Misawa. You must make a reservation before coming and children are not allowed.  There is also a fee of 1,000 yen for each person that doesn’t show up.

This is a popular place for a “special evening out.” The prices are about the same as hibachi style in the states. (About 2500 yen for a dinner set).


Dinner sets include an appetizer



a salad



your main dish, which may be either steak, steak and seafood or chicken:


and spring roll ice cream for dessert





If you would like to try Yoshino’s please call 0176-53-5649 for reservations.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Takumiya Misawa



We decided this weekend that it is time to try out some new restaurants again! So look forward to more posts!

Sunday night we tried Takumiya, a ramen shop in Misawa. We heard good things about it from some friends so decided to try it out.




Takumiya’s specialty is this “spicy” pork ramen with cartilage pictured above. I forget what the exact name is for this dish, but the menu claims they have limited quantities. It didn’t exactly taste spicy though, just a little salty.

209548_1975925200494_1314019772_2306972_7005500_o And here is my dish, basic salt ramen with sesame seeds. It was a little heavier than other ramen shops.


220568_1975924520477_1314019772_2306970_7098099_o My favorite part of the meal was their shrimp gyoza! I thought it was fantastic!


Directions: From POL gate, go straight passing three lights. After the third light, Takumiya ramen is on the right after Workman.

Uotami Misawa


Uotami Misawa opened up a few months ago outside the main gate in American Park. I first thought it was a sushi restaurant, but it is actually an izakaya style.

We had a big party so the menu was basically decided for us by some of our friends. We had everything from nabe to hot dogs and French fries.




Uotami has a great atmosphere. There are sliding doors to individual rooms which can be expanded for parties. The seats are Japanese style, but instead of crossing your legs or kneeling, there is a space under the table so you can sit upright. (My favorite dining style, really.)  I felt the food was decent but a little pricey. Then again, we didn’t order a la carte since we just let our native friends do the planning.

Izakaya style dining is really great with beer! So grab some friends and try out Uotami!