Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Closing Thoughts

On September 2nd, 2014, Anna went home via Hawaii, which was an adventure all on its own. She ended up spending 24 hours awake, taking care of three children and a newborn. There was lots of help from the Korean Air staff, and she was able to meet her mom and sister there and spend a week enjoying the sun and surf.
I didn't include any pictures of people, because they are all women in bikinis, and this is a family blog.

I, on the other hand, stayed for another month, visited the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, had a farewell dinner with the companymen, and then on Wednesday, October first, took the train to the airport and flew to LAX (via Narita in Tokyo). And that was the end of our visit to Japan!

Looking back on our time there, we didn't end up doing many tourist things. We never visited an Onsen. We never even went to a Japanese restaurant on our own (the couple times were all as guests of others). We never stayed in a capsule hotel. We never saw a ninja or a samurai. We didn't end up going to Studio Ghibli, even though that's the one thing that Anna really wanted to do while we were there.

We haven't been back yet, but maybe we'll visit again some time. It certainly was an adventure!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

Night was falling, and I was lost on the streets of an unknown city, thousands of miles from a familiar face. No GPS, no phone, and all out of food and water. All I had was one critical bit of information.
My car was parked by a white and red radio tower.

If it hadn't been towed already.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Crazy Trip to Kyoto

I decided I was going to make a day trip to Kyoto. Its just a 40 minute ride on the bullet train and is very tourist and English friendly. It turned out to be a harder trip then I thought it would be.

Leah woke up with a leg pain. She complains of leg pain quite often, especially when she is asked to clean her room. So I just figured that she slept on it funny and that when we started going that her pain would go away. We walked slowly and stopped when she needed to. The pain never went away, it did lessen as the day went on, but she walked slowly all day.

Friday, August 1, 2014

World Cosplay Summit

August 2nd in Sakae, I took my 4 children and ventured around Oasis 21 looking at all the people in cosplay. There was a parade and a karaoke competition, but I wasn't able to figure out the time of the parade and didn't stick around for the karaoke. There is a large competition aspect to this event, and you can find more info on the official website.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Nagoya Ward Office -VS- US Consulate in Osaka: Battle of the Birth Certificate

The week after I got out of the hospital, Paul was gone to Singapore. The up side was I had access to the car without having to take Paul to work. The down side was I needed to take care of the paperwork for the new baby, as we need his passport before we can return to the States.

We already had some birth papers from the hospital (which Paul filled out in English), but we need the "official" birth certificate... thing... from the ward office. I got up early, got the kids dressed, and everyone packed into the car. Megan and Suzi had stayed up late the night before and only Megan came with me; Suzi slept in.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Singapore: First Two Days

So, I'm in Singapore right now for a vacation and VISA renewal. I didn't take many pictures so far, since I hadn't looked up the local photography laws, so this will be mostly text.

The flight was nice. Mostly watched movies the whole time. "Her" (emotionally touching, philosophically bankrupt), "Captain America: Winter Soldier" (absurd but entertaining), and "Rob the Mob" (Didn't finish, no redeeming quality).

Arrived at airport, no trouble getting money, buying train ticket, walking to the room I'm renting. Really warm and humid, I sweat a lot. Now with videos!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Birthing in Japan

This past week I gave birth to my forth baby, second son, Barnabas Spooner. It was a... less than perfect experience.

As a pregnant mother, I hoped that my baby would be born just a little early. The last stages of pregnancy are hard and even harder when it is hot and humid.

But my baby didn't come early.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Newborn Kidnapped by Japan.

My wife, Anna Spooner, just went though the most painful labor experience of her life (and she's already had three kids) and now the doctors won't let her hold her new baby. They are at Nagoya City University Hospital. I'd appreciate your intercession on our behalf, especially if you can speak Japanese.

"Why?" I'll be glad to tell you... The short version is that Japan has kidnapped my new-born son.
Newborn Barnabas. At the time of this writing, this was the last time they let me hold him.
The long version... well...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

26th Handcraft Fair - Art & Heart 2014

This was a fun craft fair. It was also very popular and as a result very crowed. Both days (Friday and Saturday) were super busy. I ventured to the fair on Friday with my three little ones, two walking and one in the stroller. We too the subway to Fukiage station, and stopped to eat lunch at the Fukiage Park which is just next to... you guessed it... Fukiage Hall where the event was held. We sat on a park bench next to a water fountain. Teddy played and looked at the water fountain more then he ate. After finishing we headed next door to look for a restroom.
Teddy, approaching the fascinating water fountain.
There are only 2 available restrooms that I found in the whole exhibit hall.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Nagoya Creators Market

Today we visited the Nagoya Creators Market. It's kind of half-way between a craft fair and an art exhibit. High quality creations of all kinds, from clothes to paintings. Lots of ceramics, wood carving, jewelry, etc. We could have spent days wandering the aisles looking at stuff. We definitely recommend this to anyone with an interest in high quality hand-made goods, for inspiration if nothing else.
We didn't get any pictures of the inside, so here's a park nearby.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Feeling Blah

Since our return from Korea, I have been feeling more tired and sore. We are into the last stage of pregnancy. I feel like a ticking bomb just waiting to go off. I feel lucky that I only wake up once or twice to pee in the night. Though I wake feeling sore, because a small person inside of me has been battering on my insides all night.

So I have turned into a hermit of sorts. I have had no desire to go anywhere.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sewing with a Machine

Now I have been able to make more things quickly. I love Pintrest and if you want to follow me there too, here's my page Here are some of the things I have made with my new sewing machine.

I followed this website tutorial for these dresses that I made. They are fun and easy to make. I didn't put any pockets on mine because I didn't want to have to sew up an extra seam on the skirt of the dress for pockets. I might put pockets onto the outside of the dresses later. I got the buttons off

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Crazy Weekend in Korea: Coda

So, we've finally gotten out of Japan. Now all we need to do is get back.
The view from our hotel room. Seoul is on the horizon.
It's Saturday afternoon. I've just checked my e-mail and found that, although things are as good as could be expected at work, there's trouble with our flights.

Namely, we might not have flights.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Crazy Weekend in Korea: Saturday

So, we get up early Saturday, and set off once more for the train station. Anna has been (with good justification) giving me a hard time about getting on the wrong train yesterday. She has checked and double-checked the station info, and written everything down. We're prepared this time!

We stop by the Starbucks in the station and have some breakfast, feeling like champions for planning ahead with enough time left over to stop and eat. We ended up sitting next to a group of three young women, who were entirely too pleased with our daughters.
The middle one doesn't seem pleased that I'm photographing them.
Sorry Japanese Girls!
We arrive at the platform and are immediately confused again. But this time, instead of jumping on whatever train is closest at the time, we wait for a few minutes. Anna figures out which train to catch, and I ask a platform attendant who gets us in the right place to catch said train. We get on, and everything seems to be going well.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Crazy Weekend in Korea: Friday

It's Friday, the big day! We're going to Korea! Anna has a few things left to do before we leave, but I convince her to come to work with me and spend the morning with the kids at the park near the factory.

This is my first mistake of the day.

My Japanese Sewing Machine

So after getting very sucked into sewing things, I decided that I didn't like that all my projects were taking hours and hours to finish. I went on to and looked at sewing machines. I found one that looked like it was okay, the reviews seemed good, hard to understand, being originally in Japanese and then Google Translated into English. It also happened to have originally cost 56500 yen and was on sale for 9100 on Amazon Prime, free next day shipping. So I got it.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Crazy Weekend in Korea: Backstory

The plan was to leave after work on Friday, spend a couple of nights in Korea doing sight-seeing, and then fly back Sunday afternoon... Things didn't go by the plan.

Here is our story!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hand Sewing in Japan

Something that the Japanese do that I find very odd is they throw their old clothes away. And by "old" I mean "practically brand new". There are a few thrift stores, but they are not common and they don't have the big trucks around that pick up old stuff and deliver it to the thrift store. I like to make new things from old things, "up-cycle" as it's called. Making dresses for my girls from old shirts and bags from old jeans.
I have had a fun time raiding the trash pile for bags of "old" clothes.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Hawaiian Festival in Sakae at Oasis 21

I went to the Hawaiian Festival! It was great.

I packed up and 3 kids and we headed out just before ten. Walked to the subway and got on the train. When the train stopped at Nagoya a ton of people got on. They had the employees on the platforms to make sure that the doors would close. Most people got off at Sakae, which was where we were going as well. Its hard to be on a packed train with 3 small children and a stroller, but we made it there without too much trouble.

First thing we did

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Getting a Ride at the Doctor's

Went to my third prenatal appointment today. Everything went great. We left the house and got there without a problem. I got my paper and number and took care of "business" and got to the waiting area. Leah and Charlette were great and didn't cry of fuss when I left them in the waiting area and finished measuring my weight and taking my blood pressure. Teddy stayed with me when the doctor saw me and was pretty good. He got a bit worried when I put him down and laid down for my ultrasound, but it wasn't a problem.

Then came the fun part.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nagoya Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens

So much excitement! Teddy can't handle it.
Today, I took my children to the zoo. The "Nagoya Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens" in fact.

It is a great place to take your children. There is lots to see and do. We took the subway all the way there. There is a "Food Trek" right outside the main entrance to the zoo, which is where we stopped and picked up some rolls, chips, and drinks for lunch at the zoo. Then we cross the street and buy our tickets. You don't have to buy tickets for anyone under junior high, so I just paid for my ticket and my 3 kids were free.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Nagoya Podcast Post

I'm putting up a series of audio rambles about stuff I think of when driving to and from work in Nagoya.
I would upload them directly on this site, but there's no convenient way to host audio files. Get on that Blogger!

First podcast: Cute Trucks with associated transcript.
Second podcast: Floods, Convenience, and English with associated transcript.

At least one more is on its way.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Trip to Yoro

Today, we went to the town of Yoro, at the foot of the Yoro mountains, right next to Mount Yoro, and saw the Yoro Waterfall. In Japanese, the consonants "r" and "l" are combined, so I amused myself by internally substituting "YOLO" for all of these instances.

The trip to Yoro is about 45 minutes in good traffic, or just over 80 minutes by train. There are tradeoffs both ways. In the car we can be loud and go at our own pace. On the train, I can look around at the scenery instead of paying attention to the road. We took the train this time, but we may go back by car at some point. It was good for the soul to get out of the city.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Drive to Work

So, every week day, I drive to work. It takes about 45 minutes, more or less depending on traffic. Here are some pictures from along the way.
Here's the first bridge over the road. This is where the trains pass over, just North of Nagoya Station. We walk this way on the way to the nearest subway station as well.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pregnant in Japan without Japanese Insurance

I didn't have any idea of where I was going to give birth or seek prenatal care when I left America. I am also not in a place where I could go back to America to have the baby and be able to return to Japan, so if I was going to have the baby State side I would have to stay there with all my children, leaving my husband in Japan for the remainder of his business trip. So we decided to give birth here in Japan. I thought that "I can figure it out when I get there". Which you can, but its a hard, since most people don't speak English. Its going to be hard even if you do research before you come, even more so if your not going to qualify for Japanese Health Insurance (which is the case for us since we are on a visitor's visa).

But, if you think about it before hand, here are some things you should do before you arrive:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Second Visit to the Hospital

First thing was to remember to have my vial of "morning urine" sample (Vial? More like vile!) and my mother's handbook with me when I left the house. I got myself ready and the children and stepped out the door to find that the trash we had left out had been gotten into by a bird. It was a huge mess and was terrible. I had not put time in my day to clean up a mess before leaving for the hospital. I run back in the house and grab my broom and a new trash bag. I clean up the mess and take the trash down to the curb-side drop-off.

Now finally on my way to the train to get to the hospital, nothing else unexpected happened. YAY.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Getting your Mother's Handbook from your Ward Office

One of the things that your care provider will want you to have, whether you have Japanese insurance or not, is the Japanese Mother's Handbook. This is important because it's where the doctors record your information. It's basically a log-book for your baby's development, so the doctors need it to keep their notes... except that they put everything in the computer, so I don't even know why this is a thing.

Anyway, it's important, and here's how I got it.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Science Museum

It's Golden Week, a holiday season in Japan, and we're sitting around being lazy. Finally, on Saturday, we pack up the kids, pack up ourselves, and head to the Nagoya Science Museum. We've been hearing a ton of praise for this place ever since we got here, so this had better be good!

We take the subway, and walk the three blocks to the museum. The approach on the museum grounds proper is through a park-like area with trees and some artificial water features. The water channels, stepping stones, and fountains strongly remind me of similar elements at the Getty museum in Los Angeles. Very pretty.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Being disabled in Nagoya

Something that I have found amazing and wonderful is how adapted to the disabled Nagoya is. I have seen maybe 20 disabled persons in the month that I have been here, say my first autistic boy on Saturday at the flea market, he was side skip-running down the rows of vendors.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mammoth Flea Market

This past Saturday Paul had to work and so I went alone (with the children) to the largest flea market in Japan. I wish I had taken more pictures, but no one else was taking them, so I figured that it was not allowed.

So I got the children ready and left the apartment. Our first stop was the Family Mart on the corner on our way to the train. I wanted to get somethings to drink for our trip. After we left the Family Mart we headed down the road toward the Nagoya train station, only to discover that I had left the directions at home. We turned around and walked the short bit back to the apartment and retrieved the directions. Then we hit the road again.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Toyota Museum of Industry

Visited the "TOYOTA Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology" in Nagoya today. Really neat place! It's a combined showcase for the "old" Toyota that manufactured textile equipment, and the "new" Toyota that manufactures automobiles. They have a lot of beautiful old equipment that still runs, from both stages of the company's life. I think the most impressive to me was the 120T flywheel press that forges complete piston rods out of red-hot steel blanks... about three meters away from an audience of children! In the next room is a fully functional industrial tapestry loom, also running a scant couple meters from the audience.

It goes on and on like this. Everything is beautifully appointed and well staffed. I feel like I had more fun than the girls did, but even then it kept them engaged for a solid three hours. Really cool stuff for anyone both curious and technically inclined. We'll probably be back at least once during our stay.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Friendly Lunch

This past Sunday we were invited out to lunch by Hara-san, the very friendly president of Ryoki Tool Company.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tired in Japan

If your planning on coming to Japan, and your going to live in the city be prepared to walk everywhere.

Before coming to Japan, it was winter in the NW, cold and wet. I didn't do much walking before I came to Japan and I feel out of shape. After getting here, I went on a long walk with my three children, my two girls walked and I carried my son in a front pack. We left at about 9am and got back at noon. I was tired and sore when I got home. It was the first time I had carried my son in the front pack for months and he is much heavier now then he was then. It was a nice walk. Japan has lots of interesting buildings, is very clean, and the cherry trees are in bloom.
When your walking around in spring, its easy to tell when you pass a shrine. Most shrines have large, beautiful cherry trees that have lovely blossoms. They are noticeable over the shrine walls. There are some that are in between buildings and are just a small shrine with their traditional entry.

We have come across many little playgrounds when we go out for walks around town. The kids get to run around and play for half hour and then we head home. Lots of times we will stop and grab a bento or two for lunch.

We are having lots of fun walking around Japan!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Nagoya Castle

Saturday, 2014-04-12:
Rode bicycle to the supermarket with Teddy in the front pack and Charlette sitting on the handlebars. Stopped at a 7-11 on the way; Charlette picked out a pack of bean rolls (bread on the outside, some kind of bean paste on the inside). Got to the grocers a half hour before they opened. Walked around the block a few times. Saw a couple of dogs, which Charlette was excited about. She also scraped her knee from falling off the curb. Ate all four bean rolls before the market opened.  Brought back two large bags of groceries, including some sushi rolls for lunch.

Got home. Ate pancakes that Anna made. Packed everyone up and took the subway to Nagoya Castle Park. Walked around the park a bit.
Beautiful flowers

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Getting Around

Saturday April 5th, First day out without Thomas.
Took the subway to Motoyama station, walked to Heiwa park. On the way, stopped at a 7-11 and bought some rice balls, yogurt, and bean balls (mochi on the outside, some kind of bean paste on the inside). It was a pretty long walk uphill to get to the park, and we were all pretty worn. Walked around for a bit and ate what we bought at the store under the cherry blossoms. The Japanese apparently call this "picknick under the cherry blossoms" by the name "hanami". There were a lot more people all around when we were there. We may go back to Haiwa Park some other time, just to compare it to a normal crowd.

Cherry blossoms!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Don Quijote

Wednesday night we made our first visit to a Don Quijote store, which went fairly well. Imagine one of those crazy book stores where it's just a maze of shelves. An impenetrable maze of shelves where you can easily loose yourself or your children. Then, instead of filling those shelves with books, fill them with miscellaneous and mostly unrelated items. It's like a highly concentrated high quality yard sale. Really crazy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


After arriving in Nagoya, I think we were all more jet-lagged than I was aware. Kind of dazed and dis-oriented. Here's an overview of how our first weekend went.

Saturday 2014-03-29: Got up before dawn, probably around four in the morning. Thomas was taking the subway and then a train to a sports practice session, and I tagged along for the subway bit. The plan was to ride the subway back, but after I got out and looked around, I decided to walk back to the Freebell instead. Here are a couple things I saw on the way back.
A funny little cobbled stone path between a brand new parking lot and a bridge undergoing maintenance.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Work Environment

Most of the day, I'm expected to stay in the "office", a double wide iso-container building. It's snug, and air conditioned, but poorly insulated. The whole place whistles when the wind picks up. My new desk is pretty sweet though. It is situated right in front of a big window, and has a lovely view, including such sights as:

  • Industrial lawn, with standard grass, clover, dandilions, and ad-hoc dirt pathways

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Travel Day 3

Slept fitfully, woke several times during the night. Humid and clammy. Woke at 4:15, packed, walked to the curb. Found a couple of geckos on the outside of the building. The girls try to catch them, but meet no success. There are glass panes mounted flush in the pavement, overgrown with fern on the inside. Perhaps they used to be floodlights for the outside of the building? More spoiled splendor.

The taxi didn't show up at 5. Called, he was still asleep apparently? Different guy showed up about ten minutes later, took us to the airport.

Travel Day 2

After making it back to the Hawaii International Airport, I went down to the luggage office. Our car seat was still missing. Fortunately, after some struggling with the computer system, the clerk got the rest of our luggage checked all the way through to Nagoya, so we won't have to haul all that stuff around Guam.
The lobby is a lovely place to wait while the paperwork gets done.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Travel Day 1

A few observations from the first day of travel.

Lots of these flowers fallen on the sidewalk. They smell lovely. We brought a few back to the hotel room.
It turns out that, when they say "50 pounds maximum" they don't mean "87 pounds is okay too". Also, United sells cardboard boxes for $15, but charges $200 if you don't want to re-pack your bags. Also, all of the in-flight entertainment is locked behind a pay-wall. Blech.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Waypoint Camarillo

My wife and kids have been here for a couple weeks now, so they have already asked and answered most of the important questions. When I arrived they were eager to inform me of the particulars of our stay. Where we were sleeping, and the local sources of food were their primary concerns. All good things to think about in the middle of an upheaval.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Leaving Mukilteo

You know the feeling when you're about to jump off of something very tall? Where you want to, but your body is telling you that you really shouldn't?
Very much that feeling right now.

Also, I didn't pack a toothbrush... classic.

The Sprint at the End

So, Anna did a marvelous job of packing up the house. I've been living in a nearly empty building for the past two weeks. Of importance to this post, a "nearly empty building" still contains a surprising amount of stuff.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Getting to Japan

Choosing a flight to Japan from the US isn't too difficult. Basically you have to weigh travel time and layovers against departure date and cost. Our scenario brings an additional factor, that of three children under the age of five years old.

Monday, March 17, 2014

How did this happen?

Here's a bit of background as to the how and why of our extended stay in Japan. It basically comes down to the well worn maxim, "Be careful what you ask for."

We're Going to Live in Japan

Hi there!
We are Paul and Anna Spooner, and we're about to be living in Japan from April through September of 2014. We're taking our three kids, and we'll be staying for six months (0.5 children/month). We're looking forward to having our fourth child while we're there. Here is where we'll be posting our status, insights, photos, and whatever else seems worth sharing.