11 May, 2013

Six Saturday (Sizeable) Snippets

1. Excitement at a new shopping centre

When we lived in Sapporo, we had one of these large shopping
centres (same company: Aeon) close to us. After dropping
our eldest off at the kindy bus, I used to spend some
time sitting in my car in its large car park reading my Bible.
This day, back in 2003/4 I got to see them clearing
the car park of a bit of snow.
A new large shopping centre has been built in our city (our "city" equates more to a large suburb in an Australian city), only about 2.5km from here. We've been hearing talk about it and decided it definitely needed checking out. It would have been a nice bike ride, but the rain came tumbling down not long before we were going to leave this  morning, so it became a car trip.

After only 10 minutes by car through tiny back streets, we arrived, at the very large (by Japanese standards) shopping centre (Americans would call it a mall) with a five storey car park! The excitement is basically because Japan doesn't really have shopping centres, not in the way that Australia does. In the seven years we've lived in Tokyo, we've basically lived without shopping centres, rather utilising small local shops most of the time.

The time I really miss shopping centres is when I'm not sure what I want to buy, like when I'm shopping for presents. Then, a shopping centre is so valuable. Today, when walking from the car park into the shopping centre, the comment was, "Feels like an airport!" I guess that is where we most often experience that much internal space!

This shopping centre brings Subway to within easy distance of our place. That's also a first for us! And there are a number of other shops there I'd like to explore at my leisure sometime, but today, with all the boys in tow, wasn't the day. It was mostly a scouting trip, with a few small purchases.

2. Word of mouth is important in a foreign country. 

In your own country, you figure out where to buy most things over time, either from advertising, or by looking things up in the Yellow Pages, or just by experience. In a foreign country it is much harder to figure things out. We often rely on word-of-mouth from our foreign colleagues and friends. In the early days after someone's arrival it is common to hear conversations including, "Such and such is a great place to buy XYZ." Even better is if someone actually takes you there.

We'd been in this city for some time before someone actually told me were a certain meat store was. I wish I'd known earlier, but no one could ever describe it (most roads don't have names, which makes it hard to give directions in Japan).

So, after hearing many good things about this shopping centre, like the number of food stores (our hungry teenager relayed this one to us), it was definitely time to check it out. We were particularly looking for things that we find hard to get. Things like a craft store, large-sized shoes, and foreign food stuffs like ice cream cones, and golden syrup.

3. It has a music store!

That was one thing we'd heard. We don't have one of those in our city. This has especially become important because our teenager has shown an interest in learning the guitar recently. We've managed to borrow a guitar, but it needs some strings. This was the nearest and cheapest place to get them, along with some picks. Otherwise one of us would have probably had to travel to an inner-city store, that would have cost about AU$9 in train fares alone.

Some of us had these onigiri (rice "sandwiches" for
lunch. They are our staple when we eat take-away
lunches from supermarkets or convenience stores here.
The shop had ukeleles too (for those of my friends who are into ukes). I was tempted to buy the Les Miserables CD that was for sale...They had some cute music merchandise too: bags, stationary, etc.

4.  Liver

Two of our sons tried liver today. We didn't anticipate being still at the shopping centre at lunch time, but time ran away from us and we found that we needed to eat before going home. The boys begged for Subway, but, being the missionaries we are, we decided to go for a cheaper and easier lunch (ordering Subway in Japanese for the five of us is quite a task).

Japanese supermarkets are great places for a cheap take away lunch. Today we spent 1,170 yen for a small Japanese-style lunch for the five of us, including a small drink. That's about AU$11.50! The boys know the drill and we let them loose to find some things they wanted. They chose some BBQ meat on sticks called Yakitori, unfortunately one of those was liver.

It led to an interesting discussion, however, about how buying foods that you've never tried and don't know if you'll like isn't necessarily a waste of money, it is the way to learn about what you like. It is also something that you need to be prepared to do if you decide to travel to another country.

5. Japanese sports clubs

One of our son's wrestling victories earlier in the year.
This is the year for joining Japanese sports clubs! The latest one is a Japanese wrestling club. Earlier this year during a wrestling meet I chatted with another parent. He mentioned that his high school aged son had joined a Japanese wrestling club during the long CAJ summer break.

It sounded like a good idea, especially considering that our teenager was so disappointed at the end of his first season of wrestling, disappointed that the "fun" had ended so soon. At the end of this year he sighed, "It's sooo long until I can wrestle someone my own size again." Wrestling through the summer seemed like a perfect use of the summer. Especially as the level of competition will shift up to a whole new level in December as he'll be in the High school league! Getting more strength, moves, and experience is definitely a good thing.

So this week, with the recommendation of one of the wrestling coaches, our nearly 14 y.o. has checked out, and joined a wrestling club called FFC (Figure Four Club). Unfortunately it is a 45 minute train journey away and meets until 9/9.30 in the evening, but it will provide a much needed physical outlet for our wrestling-crazy son.

6. Yep, it's spring

It's still very much spring here. Yesterday I made a "Welcome to Summer BBQ" dinner (cooking on our stove inside, not outside), including beetroot (pickled beets
for those of your who know them as this). Yesterday it was in the mid to high 20s and it seemed just perfect.

Today with the rain the temperature has dipped down again and the rare roast dinner I'd planned seemed all too appropriate.

Ah well, all too soon all our temperatures, day and night, will be above 25 degrees. I'll do my best to be content with this topsy-turvy weather.

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