Summer in Hayama

It must be summer in Hayama machi, because it is taking me longer to get everywhere, by car or by foot. It now takes about 5 minutes to cross the road to get to the grocery store, whereas I am usually able just dash across (not making eye contact with anyone, because jaywalking is seen as a major threat to the social order). The cars are smaller, but so are the streets so I think it all averages out to American beach town congestion levels.

Other signs that it is summer include:

They are building bars on our beach! Is there anything better than drinking on a beach on a summer’s night and then just stumbling back to your house? They’re so close that I think the baby monitor would still be in range.

Building bars by the beach.

I had to buy a Japanese lawn mower to take care of our little weed patch. It’s red and makes a pleasant whirring noise and I love it. It’s my favorite thing I’ve bought in Japan.

When can babies start doing lawn work?

I also bought a little Japanese grill. I had my first major grilling failure last night when I couldn’t light it. Humiliating–I think this might be the first time in my life that my father will be really disappointed in me. My chimney starter is either in storage in Virginia, in storage in Rhode Island, or still in the basement of the house in Newport. The Japanese only use hardwood charcoal and I could not get those suckers lit with an entire book of matches. Rob even went and bought more matches, but no dice. Not finding a chimney anywhere, today I bought something called “lighter cubes.” We’ll see how those work.

Chip has an inflatable pool. While it is not as awesome, thrifty, and green as Alex’s pool, it does exhort “Let’s Enjoy Summer.”

I think you forgot something.

Yes, let’s!


Waiting by the Phone

On Saturday I started down the slippery slope towards something I thought that I would never do: exploit my child. The Navy base sponsors a modeling fair a couple of times a year so that the Tokyo talent agencies can recruit 1.) cute American children for their Combi catalogs, and 2.) large American adults for comedic roles in commercials and sitcoms (I’m sure they’re laughing with us). Since I am not putting my degrees to good use here, I thought the maybe I could dabble in talent management and start Chip a career instead. Like E from Entourage, only with my son instead of my childhood friend, and the Duet instead of the Maserati. Chip, being the extraordinarily well-documented child that he is, did great in front of the cameras and now we just wait for Tokyo to call. For some reason, one of the people from a talent agency who looked over Chip’s little stats sheet (72 cm, 9 kilos, brown hair, blue eyes, 6 teeth) kept giggling at the name Chip. Now I am nervous about what his name means in Japan.

Million-yen baby. (That's only about $10,000)

With Rob home, more of the house got unpacked, and looks a lot better. Let me take you on a tour:

Dozo! Please to leave your shoes.

On your left, the galley kitchen.

Here is the Dining Room and Office

And here is the living room. Rob organized the books.

Chip would like to show you his room:

Of all the things to chew on, I choose the diaper pail.

Hello ladies. Welcome to the crib.

I won’t show you my room because it’s a mess. And as a final blow from Ikea, they neglected to include a key component of Rob’s dresser, so it is still unattractively unassembled at the side of the room.

Yesterday I got my first haircut in Japan, which was a mistake. I went to a lady on base and asked for a trim. I came out looking a lot like a J-Pop star, with the accompanying bouffant-y layers. All that’s missing are auburn highlights.

Approximation of my hair cut.

I’m not coming home until it grows out.

And Fuji Makes Three

He'll hold this against me someday.

The sailor has finally left for the sea, so it’s just me, Chip, and (thanks to an unbelievably clear day yesterday) Fuji-san. While I was taking out the day’s trash, the neighbors let me know that the mountain was out, so Chip and I rushed down in our pajamas for a photo session. I think Chip would have preferred breakfast, but he did get to see a couple of dogs and some pigeons which threw him into spasms of excitement.

I miss Rob. This is the first time since we’ve been married that he’s gone to sea on me. It’s like he’s in the Navy or something. There’s no one here to leave newspapers lying about, or to fill up the poor trash bin with Coke cans, or to answer my questions about Japanese military history. It is a sadder (though tidier) house without him.

Chip and I have stayed busy, however. Yesterday we explored around Hayama and hiked up a hill not too far from us. It had rained the night before, and the last of the cherry blossoms were wafting down onto the petal-strewn trail. It was also really steep. The view from the top was lovely; very conducive to deep thoughts. As you can see, Hayama is nestled snugly between the “leafy mountains” and Sagami Bay, with Fuji just beyond:

Our hamlet.

Chip endured another photo session, this time perched precariously on a picnic table. (He didn’t fall under this one, fortunately).

Today I had my first Japanese class. The classes are sponsored by the Yokosuka International Association and, bonus, includes child care for the bargain price of 500 yen. The classes are taught by lovely retired ladies, all of whom had trouble transcribing and pronouncing both “Chip” and “Alden,” which came out as “Sheep-oo” and “Al-oo-den-ah.” Together with Rob (“Doh-bat-o”), we might be the most difficult to pronounce family in Japan.  Today we learned classroom vocabulary, greetings, and one of the three alphabets, none of which I remember. I had flashbacks of being fourteen and in French I again with Madame Pluchinsky. I think Chip got the real immersion lesson though, with, his Japanese babysitters.

The movers are supposed to come tomorrow–Rob plans well, doesn’t he? I look forward to a long snuggle with our couch, but I will kind of miss the severe minimalism in which I’ve lived for the past couple of weeks. There’s so much wood floor to slide around on in my new Japanese house slippers.

Pictures as Promised

Good old Rob–got the pictures uploaded! Here is a sampling of out most recent endeavors:

Our house is on the right--it's difficult to photograph.

Just because--Chip at the Navy Lodge

Small cute thing in my arms: Chip. Small cute thing next to me:The Duet!

Mt. Fuji from Morito Beach, near our house.

On the right, Mr. Fuji. On the left, the sun.

Japanese ladies, boot-scooting their little hearts out at the "Spring Festa" on base.

Immigration and Customs

We have arrived in Japan! After two flights to get across the Pacific (I can now confirm firsthand that it must be the world’s biggest ocean) we have made it, and are enjoying the coziness that only sharing one room in the Navy Lodge can bring.

But first, a note on Hawaii. Wow. It’s just wonderful to know that there really are places like that on earth. It was hard to imagine that it was still winter anywhere in the world.  I think I saw four rainbows in the course of a week. The mountains look so green and velvety I just wanted to reach out and run my hands over them. The sun was warm, the trade winds cool, the water turquoise, the shave ice sweet. Architecturally speaking,  Honolulu has some mid-century masterpieces, although they are  in varying states of repair. Staying at the Marine Base at Kaneohe Bay was perfect (although the helicopter training runs over our beach were hardly soothing. Rob really enjoyed them, though). We could trot down to our little beach at anytime and watch the waves break far out at the mouth of Kaneohe Bay. There were several gentle and loving hints dropped to Rob all week along the lines of “Gee, wouldn’t it be swell to live here someday?” I would post pictures, but the Navy Lodge computer won’t let me.

Which brings me back to Japan. We have had a very busy few days including, in true Alden and Rob style, rushing in to renting a house! Ignoring all the wise advice from the housing office, we decided to rent the first house we looked at. It was that lovely. The house is in the little town of Hayama (which means leafy mountain–very apt) and right across the street from a big grey sandy beach. It is about 1100 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, 1 outdoor shower, 1 indoor fish grill, 0 ovens, and infinitely charming. Pictures forthcoming!

So now we just need to get a car (or two), attend our “Area Orientation Brief” where the Navy will teach us all sorts of useful things about living in Japan, and watch all the NCAA tournament games we can while still on base.

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