The view from our deluxe cabin. Posted by Picasa

The girls on the porch of our deluxe cabin. Posted by Picasa

L enjoyed the obstacle course. Posted by Picasa

M was the minimum height for the go-karts and she was an excellent driver. Posted by Picasa

J was just the right size for these go-karts. Posted by Picasa

L was too short to drive so S gave him a tour. Posted by Picasa

Kanpai! N really enjoys grilled food. Posted by Picasa

Craft time at camp. Why is everybody looking at J? Even the girl behind them... Posted by Picasa

Family Trip

S gave me some pamphlets early in the summer with lists of hotels with swimming pools and said we should take the kids somewhere for 2 nights and take it easy. He pointed to the great prices advertised and told me to find someplace, giving me the dates of our English school's summer vacation: August 14-24. I circled all the cheapest places but, of course, none were at the advertised prices S expected because we weren't planning a mid-June or early September holiday. Still, 10,000 yen a night per person wasn't too bad for hot springs, a pool, proximity to the beach (in Izu) smorgasbord (all you can eat) dinner and breakfast.

S rejected the places I had circled saying that it would be too tiring and expensive getting all the way to Izu and back and not wanting to spend even more money on daytime entertainment (amusement parks, alligator zoo etc.) when the kids got bored of swimming. He asked me to find out if our Co-op (a delivery shopping club we belong to ) had any discount tickets for the camping place we visited last year, Sagamiko Picnicland.

This place is a city slicker campsite with 4-person dome tents already set up on wooden platforms (with 2 blankets per occupant and a flashlight) or small 4-person cabins, simple (futons, a light, running water, no toilet) or deluxe (futons, a toilet, A/C, a sink, and a TV), a pool, a petting farm, an amusement park and other attractions all rolled into one. For one price, dinner (all you can eat grilled vegetables, meat and fried noodles), overnight facilities, unlimited one day use of the amusement park rides, unlimited use of the pool, petting farm rabbits, sheep, goats, ponies and other animals), buffet breakfast, a campfire service (with sexy guys leading the songs and activities), a pack of fireworks for each child, a craft project for everyone and hot showers are rolled into one package deal.

I was able to find discount prices (5,200 yen per night per child, 5,600 yen per night per adult) in our Co-op leaflet and make internet reservations for a tent and a cabin. S said he needed a futon and that 2000 yen extra for 2 of us in a DELUXE cabin and 4 people at the tent price wouldn't break the bank. Unfortunately, the deluxe cabins were all reserved and S had to accept the cheaper (only 1,000 yen extra) cabin with no toilet. We made reservations, received confirmation by mail with a bill and remitted our money directly to Sagamiko Picnicland's account.

The tents and cabins are in different sites so I immediately sent an e-mail explaining that I had made 2 separate reservations for 2 and for 4 people as we wanted a cabin for my husband and young son but that the girls wanted to sleep in a tent and that I hoped they would try to find a tent as close as possible to the cabin. I got a reply saying that it might be difficult but that they would try, so I sent a gushing thank you e-mail, not forgetting to say how much we enjoyed our stay the previous year and that whatever they could come up with would be fine.

You can see more details at http://www.picnicland.co.jp . It is one stop past Takao on the Chuo Line and then a 10 minute bus ride so we took our train line to Takao and transferred to the Chuo Line. Most people pack all sorts of cooler boxes and other gear in their cars and just drive there but some folks do take the train with a bare minimum of luggage. It only took us about an hour to get there.

Each person in our family had a medium sized daypack with two changes of clothes, a swimsuit, a small and a large towel, a pack of instant ramen (bulky but light) and an amusement to share with siblings in case of rain (a pack of cards, a pack of hanafuda cards (traditional Japanese game), a book about bugs and a small rubber ball respectively from top to bottom). I had a tote back with a big box of onigiri (rice packed into balls and wrapped in nori seaweed sheets) and a Tupperware box with tamagoyaki (a sliced square soy flavored omelet to use up the eggs in the fridge), sweet potato chunks, cherry tomatoes and leftover yakitori (grilled bite-sized pieces of chicken and leeks on skewers with sweet soy flavored sauce) for lunch the first day and lots of snacks for all 3 days. S had the video and digital cameras and a small electric hotpot so we wouldn't have to spend extra money renting the fireplace area and pots and pans to heat water for our ramen lunch the 2nd day.

We arrived safely and were micro-bus chauffeured halfway to the top of the "mountain" where the camp facilities are located. When I checked in, they gave me a map to locate the cabin, but no tent...UH OH! But wait, I have another confirmation number...The receptionist looked relieved, punched the second number into her computer and came up with a map to our tent as well. It was right across a small path from the cabin. Hurray! And what do we find when we arrive at our cabin/tent site? They've upgraded us to DELUXE! S was ever so pleased at the free upgrade and the air-conditioning. L and N were
happy about the private toilet which was even a WASHLET type (Check out the TOTO website at http://www.washlet.com/default.asp , L enjoyed that more than the mini-roller coaster!).

It was cool enough for 3 of us to stay in the tent the first night, but we all opted for the cabin the second night, 2 of us on blankets on the floor, the other 4 in the bunk beds with futons.

The place is set up on a ridge and we did a lot of walking up and down hills to do anything. The rides are a little tame; just right for L and N. J and M would probably enjoy a little more excitement next year. Everybody seemed to have a good time so I think it was a success. City slicker camping worked well for us as we don't own any camping gear or a car.

We arrived home just before a typhoon headed toward Tokyo and it began to rain last night. After 2 nights of grilled veggies and meat, we were ready for sushi for dinner last night and the girls had fun playing sushi chef and assembling nigiri sushi and maki (rolled) sushi for us at the table at home.

Today and tomorrow are definitely indoor days with all the wind and rain. The second term of school starts a week from today.


Summer Vacation

Town Life

A large box from Grandma and Grandpa arrived the morning of the 11th, right on N's birthday, making her feel extra special. Presents for the summer birthday children (J, L and N respectively) were enclosed and much appreciated. We went out for a lunch of Korean BBQ per N's request and had an ice cream cake for snack later at home.

We closed the English school from the 14th to the 24th to relax around home and enjoy summer a little. We've been going to the local public pool a few times a week and singing karaoke a few times to enjoy the airconditioning at one of the many local karaoke studios. The children all sing very well and enjoy listening to their parents sing a few oldies from time to time. S has a lovely, deep voice, good tone and rhythm. The children seem to take after him, fortunately.

We're off camping at the same place we stayed last summer soon.


Batting Center Posted by Picasa

Sleeping sisters Posted by Picasa

N's birthday lunch out. Posted by Picasa

What a gentle guy! Posted by Picasa

M is having fun too. Posted by Picasa

This is how L is enjoying his summer vacation. Posted by Picasa


Busy Weekend

Saturday was L's birthday and he requested a chocolate and ice cream cake shaped like a cartoon character, Doraemon. I managed to do most of the preparations the day before, as I was downstairs at the monthly building committee meeting all morning and we went out to the "family" restaurant a few blocks away for lunch. We were grateful for the arctic blast of air-conditioning in the restaurant and managed to stretch lunch into two comfortable hours before returning to our sweltering apartment for the Doraemon cake. We made sure to set the table and get the video and camera out before removing the cake from the freezer, hurriedly sticking six candles on and singing a rush job of "Happy Birthday" before the face melted. Halfway through eating the cake, we realized we'd forgotten to take a photo of the masterpiece.

Saturday evening was the building's annual summer party. I cycled around late in the afternoon picking up food we'd ordered (sandwiches from the bakery and 100 sticks of yakitori from a poultry specialty shop halfway to the next station) while the less mobile committee members boiled and salted edamame (green soy beans) and waited for the sushi, beer and chilled watermelon to be delivered by the respective neighborhood vendors. The men from our new building management company helped set up the desks from our meeting room in the entrance lobby and about 40 of us enjoyed dinner and beer from 6 to 8 p.m. Promptly at 8, the chairman announced that the beer was gone and thanked everyone for attending. I sent the kids upstairs so I could help clean up, but there were enough people helping that I didn't have to do too much. We divided the leftovers so S had a few extra dishes with his beer when he returned from classes after 10.

Sunday was an elementary school parents' association softball tournament. S was asked to join our school's team and he agreed to play if they couldn't find enough players. He had assumed that he had sounded non-committal enough to be left off the team, but it seems that they needed him. A neighbor who organizes our school team each year called him last week with details and told him that they really needed him. He said it was a casual competition among 5 schools and that no special equipment would be necessary but to please wear long pants and a hat and bring a glove if we had one. S decided that his judo pants would be acceptable and easier for him to move around in, but he did get serious about other gear. He borrowed a bat and some gloves from the construction company laboratory where he does consulting work and he went shopping for a few extra knee and elbow supporters. The kids were having fun trying them on and walking around like robots. S looked a little embarrassed when L appeared with a jock strap over his head like a professional wrestler's mask.

I mentioned a batting center not far from here and S went a few times to get some practice swinging at baseballs pitched by a machine for a couple of dollars a bucket. He also had the kids throw balls to him in the park to practice chasing and retrieving. I think the practice helped him acclimate, he wasn't in terrible condition after pitching morning game, umpiring another game and then playing second base and catcher in an afternoon game while we and two other families braved the heat and cheered the team on. I was responsible for buying the team lunches; onigiri (rice balls), pumpkin, square omelets, pickles and cherry tomatoes.

The principal watched the morning game and the vice principal stopped by for the afternoon game. The team played well for never having practiced together and managed to maintain leads through the top of the last inning. Unfortunately, the opposing teams managed to get a home run with bases loaded in the bottom of the last inning and our team lost both games. S was preparing to decline the team invitation to go out with some of the wives and children to a bar for dinner and cold beer and 6:00 but when I told him I'd take his Sunday evening classes, he was happy to accept and told me to come to the bar after the last student left at 8:30. He and the children were enjoying themselves when I arrived just in time for a few beers and a brilliant green cocktail which had chunks of kiwi fruit floating in it. J said that they had to order lots of squid because the children (mostly ours) kept eating the platters of grilled whole squid as they arrived and the food never made it to the adult table. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the day and evening out in spite of the heat and humidity.

I washed the orange school team uniform T-shirt that S borrowed and the aforementioned supporters and have them ready for the next half of the tournament on Sept. 19, a holiday.



A pain in my left calf Saturday morning developed into a swollen calf by that evening and I could feel two hard veins under the tender pink swelling. I thought it might be some kind of blood clotting so I rested with my leg up for a while and kept it cooled by soaking it in a tub full of cold water from time to time. The swelling went down and left only two reddish lines over the veins instead of a pink calf.

Monday morning I went to the clinic down the street to see if I'd done the right thing and the doctor confirmed superficial phlebitis. I was worried that it might be a side effect of the Tamoxifen that I've been taking once a day since December and the doctor thought that it might be possible. He asked me to speak with my breast doctor before deciding whether or not to discontinue the medication and to take it easy, elevate and cool the calf.

This morning the veins look much better and are just a little tender. My breast doctor advised me to keep elevating and cooling per the local clinic instructions and continue with the Tamoxifen. Sounds like it isn't too serious.