A Really Fast Few Months

- This might seem a bit strange but the three months we spent in San Diego seemed like it was very short and very long at the same time. This picture is at the house and was taken before Jim and Linda showed up to take us to the airport.
A Lot of Stuff Again

- I really envy those people who take these vacations for a couple weeks and can travel lightly. We seem to travel as if we are constantly changing our residence. We actually had six send through bags and five carry on bags.
Thanks For the Ride

- Yup there we are with our family Jim and Linda Timlin who were kind enough to take us to the airport and hang out with us for a little while. We already miss them.
She Showed Up

- We were really happy my daughter Valerie was able to get off work early enough and meet us at the San Diego Airport before flying to Los Angeles. Shai was really happy to see his sister at least one more time before leaving.
A United States Security Problem

- Totally filled up a backpack with toys we purchased in America for Shai. We went through a standard security check in San Diego International Airport and were asked to go to a separate holding area so they could inspect the contents of the backpack. It turned out this little game was a security problem.
From San Diego to Los Angeles

- This is a picture of the plane we took from San Diego to Los Angeles. A pretty quick flight of like 45 minutes.
An Interesting Pose

- Shai was wiped out from a day of packing and getting ready to leave for Japan. He actually fell asleep on the short flight from San Diego to Los Angeles. His favorite pose, thumb in the mouth and finger in the nose.
Hanging Out at LAX

- Hanging out again at Los Angeles International Airport waiting to board the plane to Korea. Shai was busy taking pictures with his "camera" and watching the planes land and take off.
Back to Korea Again

- Now seated and waiting to fly to Korea on the way to Japan. Shai is pretty excited as usual to be flying again. He likes the food and the movies and the flight attendants. lol.
Beautiful Sunrise

- Basically from the Autumnal Equinox (first day of autumn) until the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring) we can see the sunrise over the mountains. Today there were no clouds and the sun was a beautiful orange ball in the sky. Went up to the second floor veranda with Shai. A really nice morning in Japan.
Certainly Been Awhile

- Another party is coming in a couple weeks but we simply could not wait to see these guys. We spent a few hours eating, talking, and listening to rock and roll with our very good friends Takagisan....Misato, Takayuki (Gittchosan), Suzuha, and Kose. Last time we saw them was over 3 months ago. Really nice night.
Little Rug Tatami Rats

- Yeah it was really nice to see the kids together again going crazy.
Hey Not My Problem

- Yeah well sometimes you simply need to make something your problem. This adjacent vacant lot was a freaking mess over three years ago when I bought my house. Now I need to only get rid of the weeks every few months. This was the second day spent on this yard. I woulda finished except the approaching storm came a bit early. Before the storm was a wonderful strong breeze. Japanese climate is certainly not boring to say the least.
Taking Advantage of a Warm Day

- Today was a beautiful pre-Spring day in Japan. A strong breeze was blowing ahead of an approaching storm. I decided to spend a few hours getting the garden ready for Spring. Still not sure what to put in this year but definitely planning to keep it simple in order to reduce the amount of bugs in the yard.
Took the Family Out to Lunch Today

- Do you wanna know a nice place to eat in Japan. Go to a kaiten sushi restaurant. You can do this on the cheap and the kids love it. Read on to learn more.
Kurazushi....Kuru Kuru Sushi Restaurant

- Went shopping today and in between Konan (Japanese Home Depot) and Seiyu (Japanese Walmart....no kidding) we went to the Kurazushi restaurant for some sushi.
Factory Sushi

- Well it seems like factory sushi. The sushi is made, placed on a conveyor belt, and then passes all the tables and you simply pick what you want to eat.
Such a Deal

- This is a really great place to take the family. You get 2 pieces of very fresh sushi for 100 yen, the equivalent of a buck in American dollars.
Eat 5 Plates and Get a Prize

- After eating 5 plates you put the dishes in a slot which activates a chance game. If you win which is usually 1 out of every 3 tries then you win a tacky little prize like a fake piece of sushi. Fun for the kids though.
Fed the Whole Family for 22 Bucks

- We ate 20 plates, Shai ate eight lol, and the French fries (fried potatoes) were 2 bucks. Doing the math this added up to about 2200 yen, the equivalent of 22 bucks. Um and the green tea is all you can drink. These places are all over Japan.
And There it Shall Sit

- I took Japanese culture class back in college and learned Japan was a naturally beautiful country. I also learned Japanese gardens are well maintained and things are basically beautiful wherever you go. Funny thing is many people leave their trash all over the place. This picture was taken in the parking lot of Konan, a popular building supply store about 8 miles from our house. This picture shows a couple of cans of coffee which were empty and sitting in the middle of the parking lot. PICK UP YOUR TRASH AND THROW IT OUT.
Football and Frisbee

- Actually got to play football and frisbee with the neighbors the other day in the adjacent vacant lot. It was a warm and beautiful day in Japan.
Painting My Oshiire

- I decided to paint my oshiire in the middle room of the house. This space will finally be used for its intended purpose, blankets and other bedding stuff.

Japanese Language Note: In Japanese,

oshiire means storage space.
oshiri means your butt.
Cool Temperatures and House Projects

- With high temperatures in the 40's today it seemed like a good move to stay in and work on house projects.

I finished up a bit more work in the kitchen today. I poured a bit of quick set concrete in the spot where the second stove will sit. The kitchen should be ready for videos within the next couple weeks. My wife Akiko will be making videos for her cooking and recipe site.
How Much Can You Pack Into A Kei Car?

- Answer: a lot.

Yup doing the math.

20 concrete blocks at 10 kg each = 200 kg
2 2x4x8 pieces of wood
8 2x4x6 pieces of wood
18 2x2x8 pieces of wood

Last year was even crazier transporting lots of 25 kg bags of concrete, bags of rock and sand, and sheets of plywood.
Mega Shopping Today

- Today we went to Konan (building supply store) and Seiyu (Japan version of Walmart) to stock up on things we needed after being in California for three months. We also purchased a lot of building supplies for a couple of upcoming house projects.
Mega Shopping Today

- Today we went to Konan (building supply store) and Seiyu (Japan version of Walmart) to stock up on things we needed after being in California for three months. We also purchased a lot of building supplies for a couple of upcoming house projects.
Te Maki Zushi

- Last night my wife made te maki zushi for us and her parents who came to the house for dinner and to relax for a few hours. This is one of my favorite Japanese meals and is basically sushi rice and pretty much anything you can think of to eat with it. You take a piece of nori (seaweed) and put on some sushi rice and then whatever toppings you like such as: fish, chicken, natto (fermented soy beans), cucumbers, avocados, etc. Then you roll it all up and dip it in soy sauce and wasabi if you like it a little spicier. Drank too much and fell asleep before taking a picture of everyone. Next week will be the next house party and plan to take many picture as usual.
Finished Staining

- I finished staining all the wood we bought the other day in preparation for building the new roof over the outside laundry room. The old roof, which was constructed from shoji doors was too weak to withstand this climate. Seemed like a good idea at the time but now we need a new roof before the rainy season comes again.
Before Pouring the Concrete

- This is a picture of the concrete blocks in place which will serve as the perimeter for the new deck in the front yard.
After Pouring the Concrete

- This picture is of the same concrete blocks with the holes now filled with concrete. The next step will be to pour concrete again in order to smooth and finish off the tops of the concrete blocks.
Before Staining the Concrete Between the Bricks

- This is a picture of the walkway bricks before staining.
Staining in Progress

- This is a picture of the walkway bricks during staining. The next step will be to stain the actual bricks. The main reason for doing this is to reduce the amount of mold and algae on the bricks which accumulates during the cooler months. I actually tried this stain, albeit a different color, on the property walls and the concrete in the parking area. We went to California for three months and when we returned on March 6, 2013, there was almost no mold or algae on the walls and the parking lot concrete. This is a really good thing to do if you own property in a humid climate.
After Staining the Concrete Between the Bricks

- This is a picture of the walkway bricks after staining.
Like a Kid With a New Toy

- I bought a new bread making machine for Akiko the other day. This is a picture of her initial attempt at making bread. She was really happy with her new kitchen tool. Talk about messing up the Feng Shui of the house though. This thing is pretty quiet when the bread is rising but every once in awhile it makes a sound similar to a rock tumbler. lol.
Another Japanese Closet Transformed

- This picture is actually of the original middle room on the first floor of the house. Shai is using this room as his room. Since there was really no need for this extra storage space, the closet was turned into an entertainment center. This is where I work on my sites and where we all play music during the house parties. The entire first floor is wired for sound from this closet.
Classroom Ready Now

- I spent today working on the second floor classroom. This room is actually the largest in the house (8 tatami mats or 8畳) and was previously used for teaching English to kids and adults. With the kids classes now permanently closed, this room will now be used for teaching adults and for making videos for this site and for my FunEasyEnglish.com site. I decided to convert the closet (oshiire) into a shelving and storage area for my Japanese stuff and my educational supplies. This room has a nice view of the surrounding countryside and beautiful sunset views during the Summer months.
FunEasyEnglish.com Video Studio

- This is a picture of the other side of the classroom where I am going to be making videos for my FunEasyEnglish.com site. This will also be used for live streaming English classes via Google Hangouts.
Beginning of the Gazebo

- My house is pretty typical for Japan with the house set way back on the property and most of the available land in the front yard. I really like privacy and built the surrounding wall with the pots on top and the gate. The gazebo, at the very least a shaded patio, should be finished this month.
New Laundry Room Roof

- Yup there was even a few extra hours in the afternoon to put in the new roof in the outside laundry room. The old roof made from shoji simply could not hold up to this climate.
Another Home Improvement Day

- Yup spent another home improvement day in between storms. It rained like crazy yesterday and more coming tomorrow. The main project for today was to finish and smooth off the concrete blocks with an additional layer of concrete.
Japanese Toilet Decoration

- Actually this picture is of the hand washing thing at the top of the toilet. Now decorated with a few rocks picked up from camping in Japan last year. Really nice way to make the unit a little warmer instead of the usual boring porcelain. Hey do you like this?
Different Than American Toilets for Sure

- Yeah those crazy Japanese toilets. Thought it might be interesting to show the way these things work. Basically same principle as most toilets but this is the separate hand washing thing which fills up and then drains into the toilet, AKA the porcelain hole in the floor.
Posts for Gazebo

- Was able to work on and finish the posts for the gazebo today before the storm came.
Ready for a New Deck

- Yup finally gave up on the garden. Wanted to avoid using chemicals and way too many bugs last few years. Going to make garden area into a deck with a kind of gazebo. Ready for deck tiles now.
Really Good Worker

- How much can you pack into a small Japanese kei car? A lot. Do the math.

This was one trip to Konan (building supply store) for brick pavers and wood for the front yard deck and gazebo.

41 brick pavers at 5 kg each = 205 kg = 451 lb
2 x 4 x 6 = 10 lb x 8 = 80 lb
2 x 2 x 8 x 2 = 80 lb
1 x 2 x 8 x 2 = 40 lb

Total weight approximately 651 lb = 295 kg

This kei car is a Suzuki Alto which weighs from 630-800 kg, 1400-1800 lb. Since this is a smaller model it is probably closer to 630 kg. This load was about 47% of the total weight of the car not including a child and two adult passengers.
Famous Daiso Hyakin

- This is the famous Daiso which is a hyakin (100 yen) store. Unlike the 99 cent stores in America, 100 yen stores are huge and stock an incredible amount of pretty decent quality items. Actually you can find almost anything you need for the equivalent of a buck. A trip to this store can often take hours if you really look at everything in detail.
Mega Shopping Today

- We went shopping for about ten hours today. This included the usual set of stores including Konan (building supplies), Daiso (hyakin, 100 yen store), Seiyu (Walmart) and another trip to the Kurazushi restaurant for some sushi.
Eat 5 Sushi Plates and Receive a Prize

- This is the slot where you put your finished plates of sushi. For every 5 plates inserted you get one chance to win a tacky little prize. A pretty good marketing gimmick which pushes people to eat more to get to an even five plates for another chance. Maybe only me, lol.
Ready For Projects

- Wood for the gazebo is in the background and the brick paver tiles are to the right in this picture. I am hoping to wrap up all these yard projects this month in time to enjoy hanami (flower viewing) next month.
New Concrete Around Brick Walkway

- Yup finally got tired of everyone walking on and loosening the brick on the walkway to the entry. I put a few concrete blocks on a piece of plywood and let it sit out in the rain until it was slightly curved. I was then able to use it as a form for pouring the concrete around the bricks.
Smoothing Out the Wall

- I used some really fast drying concrete to smooth out the perimeter concrete wall for the new deck.
A Closer Look

- This is a bit of a closer look at the smoothed out concrete on the wall.
Hisashiburi Party

- What does hisashiburi mean in Japanese? Means is has been awhile. This was the theme for the party today which was the first party since returning from our three month vacation at my home in San Diego, California. Actually the last house party in Japan was the Halloween party back on November 3-4, 2012. This picture is of the first wave of friends some of whom came and went.
Party Animals

- This picture is of the second wave of friends....party animals. Actually I was able to hang in there until about 1 am on the 24th and then found my way to the floor and went to sleep for the night. Some friends stayed until 3 am though. Akiko kept drinking and was totally hungover the next morning.
Hey Girls

- This picture actually should be first. This is a picture of us in our izakaya (Japanese bar) looking kitchen. These two usually come early and hang out for a few hours and then go home.
Japanese Piano Moving Company?

- This truck pulled up to the house today to take the piano out of the living room. This is the same company who moved our piano back in Buffalo many years ago. Was a really funny coincidence.
Finally Out Now

- Akiko tried to find someone who wanted this piano but nobody was interested. This thing was very old and dirty inside and needed tuning. In addition, it is now difficult to find repair items for this model. This thing took up a lot of space in our living room, toys were often getting stuck behind, and it was a mega dust collector. Now there is a lot more space in the living room, it is a lot brighter, and the entire feng shui of the room is better now.
Gazebo Roof

- This was the beginning of the day getting ready to install the roof on the new gazebo in the front yard.
Gazebo Roof Finished

- Actually finished the gazebo roof today. Came out pretty good, you think? During the last few years in Japan this whole area was a garden. I grew a lot of cucumber and kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) both of which are vines. They provided a pretty good yield and shaded a good portion of the yard. The problem was needing to put up rope or twine every season which would get trashed towards the end of the year. Putting up a wood frame is something which should last for many years.
Pond Half Finished

- Quite a long story associated with this pond. Anyway, going to give it a try again this year but this time with no fish and nothing which produces algae.
Gazebo Now Finished

- I installed all of the side pieces of wood on the west side of the gazebo today. Almost ready to put in vine vegetables to grow up the sides and on the roof of the gazebo.
Another View

- I was trying to take a picture of the yard from a different angle but this tree kind of got in the way.
Grapes Relocated

- These grape vines were growing in the brick perimeter garden in front of the parking area. The idea was to provide shade for the car during the hot and humid Japanese Summer. The located turned out to be not good for growing grapes and I decided to move the vines to the garden to grow up the side of the gazebo.
Deck Over Half Finished

- The brick paver deck is now half finished in the front yard. I really wanted to finish today but it began to rain a little and I was really wiped out from a couple weeks of home improvement projects.
A Closer View

- This is another view of the partially finished deck.
Tying up the Grapes and Hoping

- These are the grape vines which were moved from the brick parking area garden. Now tied up and hopefully they will make be okay.
Finished Deck

- This is the finished version of the brick paver deck in the front yard. Next step is to fill in the perimeter with concrete to make it pretty.
A Busy Day

- Today the septic company came out to do their annual sucking of our septic system. Then the insurance representative came to the house to set up our car insurance for the next year. The deck was finished today and then we went shopping for more building supplies. Then we went shopping for food at Seiyu as usual.
Japanese Septic Truck

- Yeah guess you could say today kinda sucked. The septic company came out for the annual poo sucking. It costs about 320,000 yen (about 320 dollars) for them to come out and suck out everything once a year and to change the chemicals another three times per year.
Where Does All This Stuff Go?

- According to this company dude it all goes to the river eventually. Somewhere there must be leech lines but mostly it goes into a waste line along with all the other kitchen and shower waste and then to the local river. Combine this with all the chemicals used in the farms and the result is the Yamatogawa River which incidentally is one of the most polluted rivers in Japan.
Joining the Gazebo with the Carport

- I decided to use the same wood used on the roof of the gazebo to connect it with the old carport. I used some twine every year to support the vines and decided this year to put something more permanent.
Perimeter Concrete Finished

- Today was another busy home improvement day in Japan. I was able to finish the concrete perimeter around the new brick paver deck.
A Slope Needed

- I needed to put more concrete in this spot which used to drain into the garden.
More Concrete and Staining the Wall

- Yup another busy day outside. I put in and smoothed out more concrete on the deck which is basically finished now except for a good washing. Plenty of extra stain and decided to put another coat on the walls which were looking a bit old.
Pond Now Finished

- The concrete for this pond is basically finished. Next week planning to do the finishing touches.
Why Stain the Walls?

- Japan has a really difficult climate for many things. Every year it goes from really cold to almost unbearably hot and humid. The result is a lot of mold and algae growing on pretty much everything, especially on the North side of anything. My garden and front yard are on the North side of my house. The stain used on the walls is resistant to both mold and algae. Most Japanese keeps their walls filled with mold and algae since removal is very difficult and expensive if you get someone to do it for you. In addition, the mold and algae work together to promote a much older look to the walls which is very fit for the culture.
Brick Staining

- These bricks, same as the walls in the post for the previous day, are porous and therefore mold and algae collectors. At least a couple times a year these bricks need to be scrubbed and washed, not an easy task. To avoid this in the future, I decided to stain the bricks. Was about a quarter of the way through and it decided to pour rain.
A Closer Look

- I was trying to show the color contrast between the natural brick color and the stain color but thanks to the rain it was not possible.

- These are the tsubomi (buds) and soon to be leaves of the kiwi vines growing on the old carport which I converted to a make shift gazebo a few years ago.

- xxxx.