Back in the States!

It’s been a couple of weeks since we returned from Japan, as I’m sure you know.  My return regimen seems to follow a six step process that works something like this:

Step 1:  Be happy you are home and have access to all your stuff/things (i.e. clothes, lotions, books, electronic devices).

Step 2:  Tell everyone you know about how awesome Japan was, but still be glad you are back with your people/stuff.

Step 3:  Look at and distribute all the stuff you got while in Japan, begin to feel sad that trip is over, continue to tell others how amazing Japan is.

Step 4:  Watch anime/look at pictures from trip and feel depressed you don’t live in Japan, because it is so awesome.

Step 5:  Begin to think about moving to Japan to fulfill your lifelong dream.

Step 6:  Start taking Japanese classes more seriously.

Now, in the past, this last step is pretty much where the process ended, and eventually I would give up on my dream believing it was impossible after Japanese classes got so hard that I was totally lost and hopelessly behind.  However, now that I’m older, wiser and more determined, Step 6 has lead to a new step:

Step 7:  Actually make a plan for how you’re going to move to Japan. 

Of course, this plan is still in its infancy, but it’s coming together.  I’m enrolling in language classes at Seattle Central this fall and I’ve tentatively scheduled Odyssey: Move to Japan for two years from now because that’s how long I think it’s gonna take for me to become fluent, find a job, and save up enough money that this plan might actually work. 

Now, you may be asking yourself, “But, Heidi, what about Jermaine?  How does he figure into your plans?  You certainly haven’t mentioned him up until this point?”  Never fear!  Jermaine is doing his thing, too.  We’d both like to live in Japan, I just don’t like to speak for him (“But, Heidi, you’ve been speaking for him this whole time.” No, I haven’t it just might seem that way to you.  He had full creative control over what was said about him in the journal, but I’m at work now and I’ll publish this before he has a chance to read it.)

So, it’s back to school for me (you didn’t honestly think I’d just stop going after all this time, did you?) and time to start studying up on Visa applications and all that nonsense.  I just hope the Dollar continues to be stronger than the Yen.


Thursday, Friday, Saturday

So, like I said, Thursday we moved out of our apartment and into our hotel room. The move out process was surprisingly easy. The representative from Sakura House turned up on time, she was French and basically just checked things off of a list before handing us our deposit in cash. The cash was handy since, as I mentioned before, Jermaine and I were running out of money.

When we got downstairs we called Kai on the phone and let her know we were heading out for Shinjuku. She said she’d meet us at the train station and we took off. Finding Kai turned into more of a problem than we’d thought it would be with all of our stuff. We ended up calling her on from a pay phone and having her meet us where we were instead of trying to find her, which is kinda like finding a needle in a needle stack.

Kai found us and escorted us to the Nishi Shinjuku Hotel which would be our home for the next two days. The hotel was NICE! Our room was small by American standards, but after spending nearly a month in a room that was around the same size as the entrance to our apartment in Seattle, it seemed spacious. The bathroom was totally luxurious, with a full sized tub! So amazing. Plus, the bed was actually sort of comfortable. We were very excited to spend all our time there.

After we got ourselves settled made sure Kayoko understood how much we appreciated all her help, we set out for lunch at an Indian restaurant around the corner from our hotel. The food was good, but Jermaine and I were mesmerized by the huge flat screen monitor they had playing non-stop Indian music videos. Indian cinema is so much more over the top than American cinema.

Once we left the restaurant, we decided to set out for Tokyu Hands, which is sort of like Japan’s version of Target, but much cooler, because Kai needed to buy a new bike lock. Tokyu Hands was located inside a large department store, and after we’d purchased the bike lock, on our way out of the mall we passed by the bag section and ran into where the LeSportsacs were located. I love LeSportsac. I’ve wanted one for a long time. They are so cute and sporty. The store had the new designs out, some of which were only available in Japan. Now, I may have been able to resist a bag that I could get at home, but there was no way I was going to be able to pass up a bag no one at home could get. I love having things no one else does. Love it. I bought a small purse and wallet/keychain in grey with pink octopuses on it. It’s adorable.

As we passed through the jewelry section we also saw jewelry made of plastic and jewels to look like cakes and danishes. Japan is so full of the adorable, it’s hard not to feel like I’m going to explode all the time. When we finally managed to make it out of there, we headed to an electronics store to try to find a digital picture frame. However, though they are popular in the US, they’re not in Japan. We found some, but they weren’t the kind we were looking for so we headed back to Tokyu Hands to see if they had some, but they didn’t so instead, we just shopped for more souvenirs.

After we finished all that business, it was time to eat again, so we headed to the Yoyogi park area to visit the Italian restaurant Kai used to work at, Il Chianti. This was an intimate, candle light restaurant with a low ceiling and a bar that offered a view of the kitchen area. There was a wine fridge that looked like it was very well stocked in the bar section. The instant we entered the restaurant, Jermaine and I were excited to try the food, it looked really good. We’d been planning to meet up with Yutaka again and Kai had called him to invite him to dinner with us. While we waited for Yutaka, we ordered beers.

Yutaka showed up with another messenger he worked with, Ako. She was nice, and reminded me and Jermaine of someone we know here in Seattle. She’s a vegetarian, which surprised all of us (besides Yutaka). I’ve never met a Japanese vegetarian. At least, not a native Japanese, living in Japan. Vegetables and fruit is so expensive, plus meat is such a way of life in Japan, it’s really unusual. She talked to us about how hard it can be, that she now eats some fish because it is so hard. She’s been vegetarian for 10 years, ever since she worked on a farm and couldn’t kill her own meat. She decided, if she couldn’t kill it, she couldn’t eat it. I liked her reasoning. We were pretty good about ordering things that she could eat, sort of. We didn’t know she was vegetarian when we ordered, and Kai ended up ordering some vegetable pasta dish that wasn’t on the menu for her.

We started with salad that had prosciutto on it which was excellent. It came with the house dressing that is made fresh from scratch every day at the restaurant. If I could have, I would’ve smuggled some home with me. It was totally excellent.

Salad and salad dressing:

Jermaine and Yutaka:

Me, Kai and Ako:

The wine we ordered to go with our food was really good and we ended up ordering two bottles of it by the time dinner was over.

After the salad, we had basil pasta:

Next, we had Cheesy Pasta!:

This is the Garlic Chicken, or what was left of it:

After that came the vegetarian pasta, but no picture of that or the pizza we had after the salad. Oh well.

Here’s the berry sorbet:

And, the tiramisu:

We sat and talked for a while after we were done eating. When we left, Kai walked us back to the train station and we found our way home, fat and happy.

Friday we spent the whole day inside our hotel room, only leaving to eat lunch and dinner. For breakfast, I went out by myself and picked up some bread and drinks.

When I got home, I found Jermaine in the robe provided to us by the hotel:

For lunch, we went out for curry at CoCo, predictable. Dinner, we went out for yaki niku for the last time at the same place we’d had it for the first time. The food was alright, but it wasn’t as good as the first time we went there. Oh well, the bed was nice when we got home.

Saturday we gathered up all our stuff and checked out of our hotel room by 11am. We had the hotel staff watch our luggage while we went to breakfast together. Then, we picked up our bags and met Kai at Shinjuku station. We mixed up our information and Kai thought we were eating with her, and we wanted to hang out with her for as long as we could before taking off for the airport, so we actually ended up eating spaghetti lunch right after breakfast.

Lunch took a little longer than we’d thought it would and we had to rush to make it to the platform on time for our train. As we pulled away from the station, Kai waved goodbye to us. I hope to see her again soon. She’s planning a trip to Seattle next March, and she’s staying at our place.

The airport was efficient and we made it to our gate on time. Once again, Jermaine had trouble sleeping even though he’d taken a Zannax. He even had a couple of drinks this time and still nothing! Still, we made it home and through customs. Jermaine’s dad picked us up at the airport and took us home so we could drop off our stuff before heading over to Jermaine’s parent’s house for breakfast.

Jamal, Sarah and Eisley (their brand new baby girl) came to eat with us. This was the second time we met Eisley, who turned 1 month that day! She’s such a cute baby.

Here is Eisley with her grandma:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

So, since I’m not sure we’ll have internet at the hotel, I thought I’d make a quick post about the last two days, plus today.

Tuesday, we lazed around the apartment until the afternoon and then we went to eat curry at a curry shop.

My yasai (vegetable) curry from CoCo Curry!:

Jermaine and his more involved, hotter curry at CoCo!:

After curry, we went to shop for stuff at this traditional Japanese arts and crafts store called Bingoya, sort of near Shinjuku.

Traditional Japanese Crafts:

When we left that store, we had a rather large sack of goods we had to go back to Komagome and drop that stuff off before heading to dinner with Kayoko and her parents at Japanese/French restaurant, Ahill, where the chef Kai used to work with at an Italian Restaurant in Yoyogi now worked. Kai’s parent’s train was delayed because someone got hit by it (eek!), so we headed to the restaurant and ordered a couple of drinks while we waited for them.


My Place Setting:


Once Kai’s parent’s arrived our food started to arrive.

First, we got a plate with three little “salads” on it, there was one with a crab, one with bonito and one with some kind of a squid, or something like that:

After the first course, the chef (Kai’s friend) came out to ask us how we were doing:

Okasan choses this time to give me a gift she’d bought for me:

It was a lovely pearl necklace on a gold chain:

I thanked Mom and Dad for their generous gift:

Next, we were served the second course, spaghetti with crab and sea urchin and tiny tomatoes:

Then, we got the next course, I think it was crab meat, in a clear glaze:

For our fourth course we had a choice about what we got, so I had like a crab cake thing, with cheese potatoes:

Kai got foi gras, or however that’s spelled, you know, goose liver pate:

Jermaine got some kind of fish, I think, with a carrot on top:

After this course, we took a group photo:

Our fifth course was a gazpacho soup with tomato and watermelon with cilantro:

The main course came next.

Mom got abalone:

Jermaine got pork with a grape glaze:

Dad and I got Fillet Mignon, medium rare, which came with dried apricot, freeze dried soy sauce (which is the most awesome-est thing ever) and sea salt, and was garnished with a cactus frond:

This might have been the best meat I’ve ever eaten, lets get a little closer:

Kai got the Sirloin Steak:

After the main course came the curry course, but after the meat I was so full, I couldn’t really eat much:

Next was what the menu described as a “cheese amusement,” a blue cheese with a honey, a milky goat cheese on a parsnip, and a mascarpone with some of the freeze dried soy sauce, it was excellent:

Finally, we had dessert.

Dad got a pudding, I think it was mango:

I had creme brule with an orange sorbet on top:

Jermaine got what I think was a raspberry tart:

Kai got a melting chocolate pot, rad:

Mom got sorbet, kiwi (for sure), vanilla (maybe) and some kind of red berry:

We finished with coffee. The food was really nice. On the way home, I was SO FULL, I felt sick. That kinda sucked.

Wednesday was dedicated to getting Jermaine out to Ashikaga to get his tattoo on. Pretty much I spent the whole day reading Shogun, and Jermaine spent the whole day in pain. It was awesome.

When we arrived, Horimasa showed Jermaine the design and they agreed on placement and size before he applied the design to Jermaine’s leg:

Initial design placed on Jermaine’s leg:


Initial outlining:

Masa kept going back over the outline and reworking the lines to be sure that the design was correct:

Here it is right before Masa did the final work on the dots:

Line work and initial shading of the hair was done with a gun, and it’s done!:

You know what the comes after the gun! IREZUMI!

Here’s a good look at the tattoo with a good amount of the irezumi work done:


Of course, this wouldn’t be a post about being stabbed repeatedly with a serrated tool without some pictures of blood!:

Getting very close to being done:


Here’s another look:

How does Jermaine feel about it?:

His tattoo is the best I’ve ever seen, everyone will be jealous. I can hear him right now in the shower, it sounds like the tattoo isn’t feeling too good when wet. Jermaine made an appointment to see Horimasa when he’s in San Jose and SF, to complete his lower leg sleeve. Horimasa seemed to like Jermaine’s idea for the remainder of the tattoo. Again, I’ll post pictures when they’re not on the camera.

Thursday, that’s today. We’re cleaning our apartment in anticipation of our inspection at 2pm today and then meeting Kai in Shinjuku to check into our hotel. Jermaine and I are running out of money, so the next two days will be spent inside, watching tv, which sounds awesome.

More later!

Today, Monday, Day 22

It was raining when we woke up today. We had thought about going to this craft store, but eh. We were still tired from last week and this is a vacation, right? Besides, I didn’t have any underwear. So, we did laundry and lazed around the apartment. I’ve been writing this, and Jermaine has fluctuated between awake and asleep. Right now, there appears to be anime on the tv, which neither of us can understand, but feel compelled to watch. We ate curry for lunch, that’s about the most exciting thing we did, besides buy ibuprofen which considerably helped my shoulder. Tomorrow, we’re meeting Kai and her parents for dinner (we’re hoping for French) and maybe going shopping for stuff during the day. Wednesday is Jermaine’s tattoo day, Thursday we have to be out of our apartment and into our hotel (which Kai already helped us reserve), plus we’re thinking of going back to Cal, with Kai (she took Thursday off from work to help us into our hotel, she’s awesome), Friday we’re planning to just stay in the hotel and order room service and Saturday we leave for home at 4:55pm Tokyo time and arrive back at home at 9:30am Seattle time on the same day. We’re hoping that Jermaine’s mom makes us breakfast when we get home.

So, we’ll see how close to the plan we stick. Until then, I’m out.

Sunday, Day 21, THE BEACH!

Kai took us to the beach in Zushi on Sunday. We had to get up early and meet her at the train station in Shibuya. Then, we caught the train to Zushi together. It took about an hour for us to reach Zushi. It’s a smaller town, and it felt like a beach town.

We walked from the train station down to the beach, and were surprised by how foggy it was, and how many wind surfers there were riding in the water. I didn’t take any pictures, but it was a nice day at the beach. I played in the water a little, but I couldn’t get all the way in the water because of my fresh tattoo. Jermaine spent the majority of the time under the beach umbrella Kai rented, sleeping. It was cute. For breakfast we had food from one of the many stands lining the beach. Jermaine had a hot dog, I got a chicken pita sandwich and Kai got the curry.

For lunch we ate at another restaurant on the beach. By this time Kayoko’s friends had arrived, so we all ate lunch together. We had a variety of things, shirmp, beans and rice, croquettes, French fries and yakisoba. Then, we bought a WHOLE CHICKEN, it had been roasted on a rotating grill and tasted awesome. The 7 of us easily ate all the food, plus beers.

We had traveled to the beach in order to see one of Kai’s friends perform as a backup dancer for a singer who was doing a show at this club on the beach, so after we ate we went to that. It was interesting. The singer was like an R&B act, with backup dancers and a rapper. You don’t see shows like that in America. It was like a small, indie rock show, but with R&B, instead. Plus, unlike in America, the crowd really seemed to get into the act, waving their hands and dancing. In Seattle, we make fun of people who move at shows, in Japan, Jermaine and I were the odd men out.

After the show, Kai needed to get on the train to make it back to Tokyo in time for her Hula dance class, and we left with her. By the time we got back, my swimsuit hadn’t dried yet, so I had a huge wet spot on the back of my dress, it looked like I’d wet myself. It was very embarrassing having to walk through the train station like that, so Jermaine very sweetly offered to walk behind me and guided me from behind to be sure he’d always be there. Aww.

Once we got home, we showered and had a little bit of down time before heading back out for Ebisu to meet Kai for dinner. We had invited Yutaka, but his phone was dead, so I don’t think he ever got the message telling him about dinner. After walking around for a minute (we’d wanted to eat at a Mexican place, but it was closed, boo) we settled on eating at a Chinese restaurant.

What we ate:
I missed the picture of the Shrimp in Chili Sauce, but here’s the Cashew Chicken:


Beef and Bell Peppers:

The Chili Tofu that made Kai and Jermaine’s tongues feel weird, and that I didn’t eat because it was hot and I was full:

We finished with tea, which made us all even more sleepy. We headed out and went to bed.

Saturday, Day Whatever…Oh yeah, Day 20

We didn’t do a lot the day after I got my tattoo. I felt alright, but I couldn’t (and still can’t) move my left arm very much. We revisited Blue Lug, Sexon and Kalavinka with no luck on finding a frame for Jermaine. Boo. Jermaine did decide that he will have Kalavinka build his bike and is on an extensive waiting list.

On the way back to the station we were hungry, so we stopped for more YAKI NIKU!!


This, plus the meat above, comprises what the Japanese consider to be two orders of meat. We ended up ordering 4 orders of meat. We are fat Americans.

Veggies and Meat:


If you look close, you can see the smoke from the food being sucked up into those slots by a fan. Pretty neat!

This is Jermaine, trying to remember the name of the band that’s playing on the radio in the restaurant:

This is me, remembering that it is the GooGoo Dolls. Who wins? I think we might both lose, actually:

The end.

Day 19, Friday, Irezumi

Ok, now that that monster of a post is out of the way, let’s talk about tattoos!

We woke up and met Yutaka, who looked as though he hadn’t slept, at the Kita Senju station, ready to head out to where Horimasa lives in Ashikaga. The train took about an hour to get out there, and it was moving, so like I said, Ashikaga is far from Tokyo. It’s kinda in the countryside, by a lot of rice paddies and hills covered in awesome-looking trees.

We waited for Horimasa, or just Masa, to pick us up at the convenience store across the street from the station and while we waited we bought snacks and beer. Masa arrived in a really nice SUV, picked us up and carried us to his apartment, inside a large, pink building.

We sat down and he handed me a baby! His baby! She was three months old, and named Macha!


Masa brought over some botan designs for me to choose from, I picked one out and he ran to the store to photocopy it. While I waited, I held the baby and Jermaine and I looked through some books of tattoo work that Masa had done. All of it was amazing.

Yutaka found the design that Masa’s working on for Jermaine’s leg, it looked really great! Jermaine got very excited, but too bad, today is my turn!

When Masa got back, we talked a bit more about what we were going to do and decided on the size and placement of the botan, and then he started working on me.





And, once the outline was done, we moved to the irezumi portion of the tattoo process. Now, for those of you who haven’t already wikipedia/google searched “irezumi” that’s the process of tattooing that originated in woodblock printing, and takes its name from the original tool that was used to carve woodblocks. Basically, you take a short, sharp blade attached to a long, narrow shaft (in this case it was medical taped to the shaft), dip it into some ink and jab the blade into the flesh, like, a million times to apply the color. So, I’ve got a couple of tattoos, right? Sure, I knew going into it that the process would likely take 4 to 4.5 hours total, and that this would be the longest time, to date that I had sat for a tattoo. But, I thought, you know, “I’ve done something like this before. It will be an experience! Maybe it will hurt, but I’ll be ok.” Hahahahahahahaha! About 30 minutes into the process of him jabbing me with the knife, I was really starting to think that this was probably not a good idea anymore. Not just the pain, but the sound, a “Tsss, tsss, tsss,” was almost making me sick. I had to take a break. We continued, and Horimasa finished the white outline of all the petals. It was not fun. He told me we were going to take a break, and he went to pick up a friend, another Masa, to hang out with us.

Jermaine and I talked while he was gone. I told him that it was different than tattooing, it hurt differently, but that I was going to try to make it. When Masa got back, he prepped me for more irezumi work, part of which involved spreading a clear, yellow liquid over my tattoo. I asked him what it was, “Lidacane.” Oh my god, I was saved! It burned for a second, but then it totally took the edge off the irezumi work he was doing. It still hurt, but not nearly as much as before. I was going to make it.

Preparing the tool:

The colors:

Starting to work:


Pink is done!

Tattoo done!

Even with the lidacane, by the end I was SO READY for him to be done. Jermaine asked me later if I thought I’d do irezumi again, “No, I don’t think so.” We’ll see, though, maybe I will forget? I have tremendous respect for people who have sat for whole body irezumi work, done without any numbing solutions. It took about 3.5 hours, which is a long time to sit around and let someone poke you. Horimasa looked tired, too. I know everyone else was.


After all that, we were hungry, so we headed to an udon/soba restaurant for a late lunch.

Masa 2’s Udon, he got 2 stacks. Sorry it’s sideways:

Horimasa/Jermaine’s Udon:

Yutaka’s food:

My Ten Zaru Soba:

Jermaine made and appointment to meet with Horimasa next Wednesday to have his irezumi baku done. We paid, and left for the train station. When we got back, we ate more curry and rice.