Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kindly Don't Panic The Horses

Yabusame (horseback archery) is a Shinto ritual that dates back to 794. A mounted archer must hit three targets while galloping full speed. Yoritomo Minamoto the first (and my favorite) shogun of Kamakura made his warriors train in this ritual and they began performing the rite at the Hachimangu shrine in 1186. It was the proudest thing in a warrior's life to be selected as an archer in Yabusame. Mike and I had ringside seats as guests of JANAFA (Japanese American Naval Friendship Association)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Puppy Mill Rescue

Poodle Rescue of New England has recently taken in 24 poodles from a puppy mill. Many of the rescues are blind, deaf, toothless and infected. The cost of veterinary care for each dog has been about $800. For the first time ever Poodle Rescue has had to put a freeze on medical care except for emergencies. Poodle Rescue is an all volunteer agency that gave us Lucky. The website is linked on this blog. If you can spare any amount of money or you can be a foster home for these poodles please contact them via the website.

Monday, September 8, 2008

1 Hoa Lo Street, Hanoi one of the addresses that Evil uses. This street name is interesting; Hoa Lo means "Hell Hole" or "Fiery Furnace" in Vietnamese because it is the street where stoves were sold. I am sure I have never visited any of the other truly evil spots in the world because the feeling when you are in one is unmistakable.
The French built "Maison Centrale" in the 1880's during the French occupation of Indochina. It was used for political prisoners who were freedom fighters for Viet Nam, many were women and they were forced to bring their children into the jail with them. They were able to communicate with each other and it is said that this is where the Vietnamese communist party was born. Conditions are as bad as you are able to imagine. A well used guillotine is a centerpiece, prisoners were shackled to benches at an angle that force blood into their heads. Rooms are dark and narrow. But really, nothing I can write can describe the atmosphere of this evil, sinister place.
In 1964 the first American POW's were interred there, nicknamed it the "Hanoi Hilton" and that's when things got really bad. A woman missionary named Monika Schwinn was a prisoner and on display is a letter from her to Ho Chi Min asking to please release her cat from the prison and send it home. We were told that prisoners could hear the city noises right outside the prison, a brutal reminder that life went on. John McCain was shot down in a very small lake right in the middle of the city and brought to Maison Centrale. There is a statue of his capture at the site on which it occurred and we were told that the North Vietnamese erected this as a symbol of their victory.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

They Won

Our niece,Leah, accompanied me on a trip to Hanoi. We stepped off the plane and into a world that I would describe as 'third'. Water buffalo compete with trucks for space on the highway. Viet Nam is an agricultural society and people are cultivating rice everywhere. Hanoi is a crowded, noisy city. There are few traffic signals and even when they are present they are ignored by the tens of thousands of motor bikes. Crossing the street is an art we mastered. The French occupied Viet Nam for about 100 years and that is evident in the architecture and the food. We bought french bread on the highway.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

4 Acres and Some Turkeys

This is the house Mike owns, he has never seen it so if you talk to him tell him you think it is very nice. These are views of a bedroom, living room, the view from the front door and the dining room. I had the bedroom painted in 'Hyacinth'. When I took my brother's family to see it there was a family of turkeys in the yard


The past month was spent experiencing the glory of Maine in the summer.
Mel Stobbs turned 60 which means that a theme had to be identified by the Kittery Point gang so we could plan costumes . Since Mel likes home improvement projects the theme was 'Home Depot' and all the guests had to dress in orange. Maureen and I went to Home Depot to try to buy a Home Depot apron. We were told that they do not sell them because people would buy them and attempt to impersonate a Home Depot associate. Maureen and I win the incredulous award for keeping straight faces while the store manager told us this. I will leave it to you to guess why impersonating a Home Depot associate is not a good idea.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mushi Atsui

......Means hot and humid. For my first ever public musical performance it was hotter and more humid than I have ever experienced. This wasn't MY koto and the sun was beating down on us so I just looked at this block of wood and thought "I have no idea what to do with this". I regained some of my composure and played OK, not perfectly. I also crossed my legs, YIKES!
We had a Fourth of July party and here is a photo of Mike with Nozomi san's daughter Unity who loves ice cream and Lucky.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Oh, And One More Thing

Last week Mike bought us this.
It comes with 4 acres on Gerrish Island in Kittery Point, Maine

I Got A Gig!!!!!

My limited Japanese combined with my koto no sensei's (Koto teacher) limited English has brought me to this conclusion; on Sunday evening in Yokohama they are celebrating the 150th anniversary of something, my koto no sensei is giving a concert and she has asked me to play a duet with her. Of course, I could be delusional.


This week we attended a Kaiseki dinner hosted at the Tadodai House by the Admirals from the Japanese Maritime Defense force. This was a sobetsukai (farewell party) for Mike and Kathy Krentz. Kaiseki is a multi course meal of small dishes that is the ultimate in Japanese dining. The term "kaiseki" means hot stone in a kimono fold, the term "kai" means a fold in a kimono and "seki" means stone. Probably derived from Zen monks putting hot stones in their kimono next to their stomachs to allay hunger.
A typical Kaiseki meal:
"shiizakana" (appetizers served with Japanese sake)
"mukouzuke" (sashimi - slices of raw fish)
"kuchitori" (a small side dish)
"suimono" (a soup)
"nimono" (simmered vegetables)
"aemono" (food dressed with sauce)
"kounomono" (Japanese pickles)
"sunomono" (food marinated in vinegar)
"yakimono" (grilled fish)
"mushimono" (steamed food)
"nabemono" (Japanese hot pot)
miso soup

Even more remarkable was the house; the Tadodai House was built in 1913 and was the official residence of the Japanese Imperial Navy (what is now the Yokosuka base was the largest JIN base). As I sat in the dining room across the table from the elegant Japanese Admirals it occurred to me that Pearl Harbor had most likely been discussed in this room, if I squinted my eyes I could pretend I was a fly on the wall in November 1941.
The first resident of the house was Vice Admiral Prince Higashifushimi Yorihito in 1913. Vice Admiral Hirata Noboru lived there from Oct 1941 until November 1942. From May 1945- August 1945 Vice Admiral Totsuka Michitaro lived there and then the next resident was Captain Benny Decker in 1946. I live at 6 Edwina Hill, Mrs. Decker was named Edwina and was pivotal in making this base a "little America" and forging a relationship with the Japanese community.

Friday, June 27, 2008


A Sumo Stable is comparable to a monastery. Young men enter right after high school and renounce the modern world. A stable is run by a former Sumo wrestler and his wife, they become the young men's parents and consider themselves a family. In order to become a Sumo you must have a sponsor, you are not evaluated on your size or strength but on your spirit and mind. There are no weight classifications in Sumo and I was assured that size doesn't matter. Mike and I got to experience a little in the daily life of a Sumo. We went to a stable run by a man and his wife, they have nine wrestlers living there. Despite the sand ring on the first floor the house was immaculate. A Sumo cannot wear western clothes again until he retires, when out in public they wear kimono. Daily practice runs from 7-11 AM, then they eat a delicious stew called chunko nabe and many bowls of rice, they eat only twice a day and sleep right after eating. Young men want to be Sumo but their parents often object because of the unusual and demanding lifestyle. Lately there have been several foreign Sumo, from Mongolia and Bulgaria, this has Japanese Sumo fans concerned about the focus of the sport as Sumo is the National Japanese sport and is supposed to be more spiritual than athletic I think. Sumo retire in their early to mid thirties and go on to open chunko nabe restaurants or run their own stable.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


That is the name of this instrument which is made of mulberry wood. This particular instrument has been handed down from teacher to student for 150 years. There are four kinds of Biwa, this is the 'blind monk' kind. The Biwa came to Japan from Persia along the silk road, it's a dying art. This sensei played some Santana on it to demonstrate how nicely it lends itself to modern music. Then a bunch of very proper middle aged Japanese women jumped up and yelled "Freebird". OK, maybe it was just, "Thank you most sincerely, national treasure- san".
After the performance I ate yet another meal that looked back at me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ga-jin Geisha

Q: What's the difference between an Ikebana sensei and a 1960's Irish nun?
A: There isn't any.

I had my second Ikebana class today. I have read stories about how demanding these people are. I survived grade 4 with Mother Columba so I am thinking I can survive this. Today's lesson was about angles but most importantly creating and framing empty space.
This is my finished arrangement from today. Sensei said 'good for a second class' and she is encouraged by the fact that I am not afraid to prune. New students usually leave too many leaves on the Shin and Soe.
I had a Koto lesson tonight too. My koto teacher is delightful, she says I am sugoii!! A natural! Today we played duets and it was music to my ears.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Caption This

Tired of the slow pace of Women's Liberation in Japan, Eeko- san decided to take matters into her own hands

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

This Poor Guy

This weekend the Blue Ridge, Mike's office, had a Family Day Cruise. I took along my Japanese Gang. The photo of the ship with Mt. Fuji in the background was taken by one of the helicopters on the ship. My friends and I traveled by train to Shimizu, about three hours south of Tokyo where we spent the night. Mike met us for dinner and we had an authentic Japanese evening of food, sake and Karaoke. We sang Beatles, Elvis and Elton John songs. Painful.

Does This Taste Funny To You?

Does anyone know what this fruit is? We got them in Borneo. I ate three of them, not because they tasted that good but because they were there.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


I saw an ad for a special on the National Geographic channel that went something like "join us as we follow an indigenous tribe in remote Sarawak, Borneo." Mike and I just took a taxi.
It is remote from Main St. USA and maybe I have gotten too accustomed to these exotic places but you know, if you can get there by taxi does it merit a National Geographic special? I am going to watch these programs with a jaded eye.
Walking along the rain forest canopy on these swinging bridges was fun, they were quite extensive. When we finally came down one of the tribesmen asked us if we had seen the area where a tree had fallen and taken out the bridge.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I Heard the Native Drums in Borneo

....and then Jamie Oliver stepped out of the jungle. No kidding, he was a guest at the hotel I was at.
I paid 50 Ringit ($.20) to use this bathroom so I am going to step on the toilet if I want to. I should have taken a photo of the toilet and the hose running into it.
Don't get me wrong, Borneo isn't all overgrown, monkey infested jungle. I had a spa day at our hotel where I had my own cabana, a volcanic mud wrap, I bathed in coconut milk strewn with orchids and had a facial and massage. Maybe that's what Amelia Earhart has been doing all these years.
It is so humid in Borneo I couldn't take too many photos, my lens kept fogging up. I would have to convert to Islam just so I could keep my hair covered every time I left the house. Do you think that last statement will bring a fatwa down on me?

I'm Sorry Too

I attended a luncheon the other day where a Japanese Admiral was the guest speaker. He was very candid about military matters that I won't go into here since this is a light hearted tale of this hairdresser's adventures. He did talk about the time he spent living in America and the things that confused him. They don't have checking accounts here in Japan so he wondered why people were writing notes to the check out clerks in grocery stores. And then someone asked him to 'car pool'..........
OK, so one potentially incendiary tale;
My Japanese friends came over for lunch the other day and after we sat down they said "Kathleen san our hearts are heavy, we are very sorry about Pearl Harbor" and I said "My heart is heavy too and I am sorry about Hiroshima". Isn't it nice that they brought it up?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ground Zero

A big part of Mike's job is planning for pandemic influenza. We saw this yesterday and he was talking in his sleep last night. Everyone in Asia wears masks when they have a cold, I read that it started during the SARS epidemic.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Japanese Hang

Japan has many seasons, one being Cherry Blossom and it's making an appearance. Mature, affluent women will tell you they like plum blossoms more because cherry blossoms are too showy. The close up photo is of a plum blossom. Today Mike and I did the true Japanese thing and went to Ueno Park to view cherry blossoms. The traditional way to do this is to lay out a blue tarp under a cherry tree, eat and get drunk on sake. We were non conformists and went to the National Museum which is on the Ueno Park grounds. Durning Sakura (cherry blossom) season they light red paper lanterns in Ueno Park from 5 until 8 PM.
We got to witness another Japanese tradition in the park today. On Sundays people dress up like Elvis and dance in public parks. Afterwards we had our Easter Dinner, sushi. It is against the law for women to be sushi chefs here, they say our hands are too warm to handle the fish while making the nigiri.