Time to Get Cooking

Our furniture finally got delivered (yay!) last week and the first room I began to unpack was the kitchen. James and I had “remodeled” our kitchen cabinets a couple months ago, meaning we covered them in contact paper, and once I put a few things on the counter and got things set up it went from looking like this:

Do these cupboards look familiar? It’s because you have probably seen them in every hospital or school you have ever been in… 

To this:

What a difference contact paper and a rug makes!
Reunited and it feels so good…

Not only was it nice to be with my beloved kitchen goods again, it was nice to not have to rely on eating out or grabbing food at the base food court for all of my meals. After living out of a suitcase all summer I was really looking forward to being able to cook! I made a few simple meals the first few days (paninis, scrambled eggs) but when I saw that Sunday night we were in for some bad weather, I decided that was a good opportunity to stay in and try some Japanese cooking.

Umm, this was not part of the deal…

There is a Commissary on base where you can get American dry goods and pantry staples, but it is not the best for meat or produce. Fortunately, there are lots of markets in town, many of them within walking distance of the base gate. I saw a recipe in my Facebook feed for shrimp fried rice, so I decided that would be the meal I would try to make. Now I just needed to go find the needed ingredients at the market.

The market I went to happens to be next to my favorite sushi-go-round, so I stopped in to have a little snack. 

The grocery stores I have seen here (so far) are very well organized and products are displayed beautifully. You know how you walk into Whole Foods and the produce is usually very appealing looking? Well Japan is like that but even more so. Produce also tends to be very expensive.

Want a gift wrapped cantaloupe for $38? 
How about some grapes for $10?
Or apples for $3 each? I hope I don’t develop scurvy while I live here…

This market also has lots of prepared food, which is nice because take-out isn’t very common from restaurants here.

Multiple types of fried chicken with samples? Yes please!
Nom nom nom

As you would imagine for a port city in Japan, there is obviously a big fish counter. I needed shrimp but there were so many to choose from!

Which one to choose? I was feeling lazy so opted for deveined shrimp ready to cook. 

I did have trouble finding some of the ingredients, but lucky for me I had Google translate on my phone and everyone that works there is super friendly, so I was able to find what I wanted.

How do you find things you need when they are written in another language? Google it and try to match up the characters. When all else fails just say “sumimasen (excuse me)” and show a store worker what you are looking for on your phone. 

Finally I had gathered all the things I needed and I checked out.

Time for dinner!

The recipe I followed went together very quickly and my meal was ready within about 20 minutes. It made enough for leftovers and would have been even better next to some sort of grilled meat.

Now the meal is complete!

If you are curious about the recipe I used, I based it on this recipe from Just One CookbookI added a few other things that I like, and a bit more seasoning as I went, but it was tasty and I suggest checking out this food blogger if you enjoy Asian cooking.

Moving a Dog to Japan

James and I were back on the East Coast during the past month while he went to a school for his upcoming job. While there we were visiting some friends when someone asked us whether it was very difficult for us to move. We thought about it and realized that no, it actually was not too hard. The military provides you with a checklist of things to do and they move all your stuff. So as long as you are on top of things then you are fine. Getting a pet to Japan though… that was quite the obstacle.

Awww, I would do anything for our little dog to be with us!

Pets, especially small dog breeds, are extremely popular in Japan. In fact, there are actually more registered family pets (dogs and cats) than children under the age of 16 in this country (a shrinking Japanese population is very interesting to read about, but that is a topic for another time). So, the difficulty in bringing a dog to this country is not due to a general dislike for small, cute wiener dogs. Rather, it is due to preventing rabies. Japan, has been rabies free since 1957 largely due to compulsory vaccination of family pets as well as elimination of stray dogs. There is a multi step process that must be followed exactly or else you risk a 180 day quarantine upon trying to enter the country.

We had to prepare for our trip starting last winter while we were still living in Newport. Our dog, Lily, loved living in Newport. She liked that we were home so much, I was working from home, and she loved sitting in front of the fireplace when it was cold out and soaking up the warmth. She also had a nice backyard with lots of little places to stick her nose into and lots of good smells.

Monitoring the neighborhood in Newport. Little old ladies and children are (in Lily’s opinion) the most suspect people.
Lily was also a member of the anti-seagull enforcement team and enjoyed walking on the beach Saturday mornings doing her job.

The first step to get her ready to move was to get an international microchip put in. Dogs in the US usually have a nine digit chip, but to enter Japan you need a fifteen digit chip. After getting the microchip we had to get a series of two rabies shots, thirty days apart. After the second shot dogs have to get a blood sample that is sent to a lab that then reports the results to the Japanese government. All of this must be done at least 180 days before attempting to bring the pet in, so we had to get this all done by the end of February.

Once you have the results of the blood test you must contact the Japanese quarantine service for import permission. This must be done at least 40 days prior to entering the country. I went back and forth with them a few times sending all of our paperwork and ensuring that we had, so far, done things correctly. We were just about ready to go!

Traveling makes Lily a little anxious. She just sat in her dog carrier for about three days as we packed up in Newport, nervous she would be left behind. And yes, she is obsessed with blankets and gets upset when she doesn’t have one. Good thing we don’t spoil her too much…

While we were in Japan during June and July Lily stayed with both sets of her grandparents (our parents). At the end of August I stopped in California to pick her up and take her to our new house! The final thing you have to do before you travel is to get a health certificate. This must be done within ten days of travel. If you are a civilian you must also get the health certificate endorsed by the USDA, but since we are military we were allowed to skip this step and just use a military veterinarian to get the final health exam. We were ready to go!

My second time in one summer flying to Japan with too much stuff!

Although Lily has criss crossed the US numerous times on airplanes, she had always been able to travel in the cabin with us. This would be her first time traveling as checked baggage, and her first time on an eleven hour flight. We were all a little nervous about the upcoming trip.

Lily thought if she just didn’t look directly at her carrier then it would just disappear.

Time to say goodbye!

Ahh my heart is breaking!
Get on the plane, Lily. NO, not without you!

I swear I heard a dog barking right before takeoff (might have been my imagination), but upon landing Lily was still alive, albeit pretty mad and doing her angry barks. Dogs must still pass through customs after landing and there was a quarantine office at Narita Airport that gave her an exam. This took about half an hour to do, and even though there was a minor mistake on her health exam, she passed and we were allowed to leave the airport! Hooray!

Checking out the sunrise over Tokyo Bay. We both had jet lag the first few days so we had some early morning walks!

Lily is still getting used to her new home and isn’t too crazy about our house right now. We just got out furniture delivered so everything is all over the place, and our backyard is kind of small and doesn’t have many interesting smells for her. But she will adjust and be fine soon. We still have to get final confirmation from the Yokosuka base veterinarian that we have completed all of the requirements, but once we have that we will be allowed to leave the base and go for walks out in town. Just like us, Lily is eager to explore her new hometown more and experience Japan!