Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Winter Sports

Well, they say that this is the least snow they have had in years here in Misawa. It's still the most snow that we've seen in our life. We're learning to adapt I guess...we're getting a little more comfortable driving. Both our cars are 4wd, so that helps. The giddiness that comes with a blanket of fresh snowfall is still there, but we really don't have to shovel our driveway.
We've also learned with snow comes a new world of possibilities in the outdoor rec department. We've already been to three different ski resorts and have joined a club on base that goes skiing every weekend (so you know where we are when you can't contact us). It is a little different going into the lodge and ordering a bowl of ramen instead of a hamburger or pizza. As far as fashion on the slopes, anything goes. Some of the Japanese aren't afraid to wear circa 1983 ski-wear. Two words psychadelic.

As you can see in the pictures, we've also acquired ($2 apiece) what we like to call the "buttboard." We call it that because that's about all you can fit on it (I think they're made for kids). It's a thin piece of plastic with a handle protruding out the front. After I bought them Amy had her doubts on whether or not they would carry us. Let me tell you, just lay back, grab the handle, and lift your legs (sounds like what you do in the bathroom)...we were even passing skiers on the slopes last weekend on these bad boys. To get off, you simply do what Amy is here in the picture...roll or slide...and it's usually not by choice.
I must add that Amy got a little out of control once and slammed into a plastic barrier fence at about 15 mph. Don't worry, the fence is okay. Everyone on the lift did seem to enjoy watching the two Americans darting down the hill with nothing between them and the ground but a piece of plastic.
The other winter sport that we've tried out is snowshoeing. We rented some from our local outdoor store on base and went hiking on the base golf course. We even found a couple of balls. We have a trip with some of the docs in our clinic to snowshoe up Mt Hakkoda later this winter. I volunteered to bring the hot cocoa.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Over Thanksgiving Amy and I ventured about 2 hours south of Misawa to the capital of the Iwate prefecture, Morioka. About 30 minutes out of town the horizon is dominated by the extinct volcano (at least we hope so) Mt Iwate-san. With three rivers running through town and the volcano in the background, the city was quite picturesque. The city also has the closest GAP and Starbuck's, so that pretty much made Amy a happy camper.
There was also a pretty large temple/shrine district which we roamed through as well. There was a rock that supposedly had a demon's hand prints on it, but we couldn't see them. There was also this Buddhist temple which housed 500 mini-Buddha's (about 2 1/2 feet tall) all with different facial expressions and poses.
The highlight of this trip, however, was our wanko soba dining experience at the Azumaya Soba Shop. Soba is a wheat based noodle and "wanko" simply means "wooden cup." So in case you have addition problems it translates into a wooden cup of noodles. Now that you know what it is, here's how you eat it.

First, you are seated at a Japanese style table and given an apron to put on. Next, a group of side dishes is brought out (sashimi, chicken, spices, etc.) along with your bowl (with lid) and a wooden bucket. The waitress then comes out with a tray full of wanko soba (the orange cups in the picture). At this point, the game is on.

The waitress begins by pouring a cup (wanko soba) into your bowl. After you finish your soba (which you can adorn with the side dishes), you can then pour the soup portion into the wooden bucket. The waitress immediately pours you another cup when the soba is gone from your bowl. Keep in mind we're doing this with chop sticks and a Japanese waitress looking over our shoulders. When you have had enough, you simply slip the lid on top of your bowl...did I say "simply?"....because that is far from the truth. As soon as the last soba has slipped through your lips another cup is being poured in your bowl (supposedly this goes back to way back when you used to eat more, even though you're full, so not to make the cook think it's not good). If you put your lid on and there is still soba in it (even a piece 1/8 inch in length) the waitress will swiftly remove the lid, politely point it out to you, and pour you another cup.

Even though we were ready to stop in the 30's (15 wanko soba = 1 cup) we just weren't quick enough. Amy ended up eating 43, and Heath 71. Although this seems like a lot, the record is 345. Needless to say, we won't be eating any wanko soba anytime soon.

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