A Great Day To Be An American 1

Team USA with Ex-Prime Minister Taro Aso and US Ambassador John Roos

The day began with gale force winds at 4am, waking myself and my family.  As I burrowed my way into Tom’s chest, fearful that the windows of my 18th floor apartment would blow in, I questioned the gods who once again would keep my in-laws from watching their grandsons play a football game together in Japan.  In October, 2009, they flew to Tokyo to watch them play only to have the game cancelled due to swine flu.  Another opportunity presented itself when the All-Stars from the Kanto Plains Football League were invited to take on the U-19 Japanese Football team in a friendship match strangely named the Camillia Bowl.  Back they flew to Tokyo, this time bringing Tom’s sister Nancy as well.  The day before the game was sunny and 70 degrees and the boys had their final practice at the Atsugi Naval Facility.  The team was comprised of all-star players from the American School in Japan,  Zama, Kinnick and Yokosuka (the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force facilities based around Tokyo).  The boys had practiced only four Saturdays prior to taking on the Japanese.  At 5am, the winds died down and the sun came out.  The game would be played after all.  The stadium was in Kawasaki, about 1/2 hour outside of Tokyo.  The boys left earlier by train and we followed later in a mini-bus, rented for the occasion.  We got there a bit early and were able to take over the stands at the 50 yard line.  We brought our family flag with us, the one that was flown at the capital building in Providence Rhode Island and we hung it with pride in front of the stands.  Exactly at 2pm, the anthems of both countries were sung.  Afterwards, the ex Prime Minister of Japan Taro Aso, the US Ambassador of Japan, John Roos, and Admiral Kevin Donegan from Yokosuka came onto the field for the coin toss.  Thomas was the head captain and joined the dignitaries on the field.  Japan won the toss and elected to receive.  After the end of the first drive, Japan failed to score and it was Team USA’s ball.  Hayden stepped onto the field as the starting QB and it felt as thought I stepped onto the field with him.  He bent down behind the center, called the cadence and my heart beat wildly.   Things were moving in slow motion.  The ball snapped and it was in Hayden’s hands and then time sped up. It wasn’t long before we had scored the first touchdown and then the points began to rack up on the US side.  In the first quarter Hayden threw the ball to his big brother Thomas for a touchdown.  The US fans were screaming; many of which had Jardine on the back of their sweatshirts.  Deep into the third quarter the Ambassador came down out of the VIP booth and we got to chat about the game and the boys and how well they were doing.  He asked if maybe they could tone it down a bit – it was getting a bit uncomfortable in the booth!  And then the prime minister handed down a box of frosted Costco donuts for the Jardine boys.  We sat in the stadium surrounded by the parents of the players, the moms and dads who were in the armed services, proudly wearing their son’s team jerseys, screaming every time they made a great play.  When the game ended, it was 61 -0 and Thomas went onto the field to accept the team trophy from the Prime Minister.  Thankfully he remembered to bow when receiving it.  And Hayden was on the field too, accepting the award for Best Offensive Player of the game.  We packed up our blankets, sweatshirts and empty beer cans and ran onto the field for photos with the boys.  Thomas was asked for his first autograph!  Midway through the game, my mother in-law whispered to me that it was the most important game of her life (and as a coach’s wife, she’s seen her fair share of games).  It was a great day to be an American and an even better day to be a Jardine.

Is Thanksgiving Really Two Weeks Away? 2

CIMG1550It’s been way too long since I wrote an entry and I have plenty excuses that I will not bore you with.  I seriously can’t believe Thanksgiving is a week from Thursday.  When we last left off, the girls and I had arrived home from Hawaii and the boys had won their first championship in 26 years.  We didn’t waste any time getting back into the groove after vacation and a few days after getting back I went on an all day hike up and down Mt. Mitake.  It took us a few hours, three trains and a funicular to get to the point on the mountain where we would begin our climb (actually descent).  We spent almost 45 minutes going down at least a thousand root-like steps but were rewarded with a magnificent rock garden path that wound around the mountain for at least another hour.  At the top, there is a beautiful shrine and small ryokans (japanese inns with onsen hot spring baths) that were initially built to house the Japanese who came to the shrine on a religious pilgrimage.  It seemed like a wonderful place to stay but we hiked back down and returned to Tokyo by 7:30 at night.  It was a perfect day.  The girls and I had an opportunity to make our own personal chopsticks out of old baseball bats used by professional players in the Japanese league.  First we were tested on our use of chopsticks (which we were all using incorrectly) and then we cut and sanded our wood and painted our designs.  The ohashi as they are called were taken back to the factory where they will be dipped in lacquer and then returned to us.  I am very excited to carry them around and impress the Japanese when I whip them out when we go for ramen and soba.  Halloween came to Tokyo in a big way in Minato-Ku (the gaigin ghetto and basically the only place to trick or treat) and the girls dressed up and went trick or treating with friends in the neighborhood.  Annie wanted to be an M&M and the costume didn’t exist in Tokyo so I made it from felt with velcro and I sewed the thing myself!  After four kids, it was the first costume I actually made myself.  Pathetic?  Maybe just a little.   Our friends Mona and Gordon threw an over the top Halloween party that caused the police to come twice.  The house was decorated like a movie set and the food was beyond good.  I dressed up as Amy Winehouse and won best costume.  I got a really cute blow up doll as my prize.  For Tom’s birthday I made reservations at the Hyatt Resort in Hakone for a quick overnight.  We left the kids in Tokyo (by themselves!) and took off.  Hakone is a hot springs area where you can see smoke rising around every curve of the mountainous region.  The hotel was what you would envision a Japanese hotel to look like; very zen, very beautiful and very simple (but it was luxurious too).  There was a large fire pit in the lobby with comfy chairs and we got to wear our yukata (robes) with an over yukata (not sure what these are called) in the lobby, at dinner, basically everywhere we went.  It was fabulous.  When we checked in, it was dark and we couldn’t see the view but in the morning we pulled the shades back and the mountains were in our bedroom.  The day was amazing.  We started at the open air museum (the picture above was taken there) and then went to the ropeway which took us to the top of the rim of a volcano where the views of Mt. Fuji and lake Ashi were stunning.  We made the mandatory shrine stop at Hakone Shrine  – there is a beautiful red torii gate in the lake and then had an excellent Italian lunch by the lake.  We made it back in time to have dinner with the kids.  They survived without us and we are going to make sure to do more overnight trips.  They are so invigorating.  The Friday night before the last home football game, my friend Libby and I cooked a ton of food and invited the entire Varsity Football Team over for pasta night.  We went through three huge lasagnas, 6 pounds of ziti, 55 meatballs, 6 garlic breads, 2 huge caesar salads, 60 cupcakes and at least as many oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  We were able to sit everyone around one big long table and it was a really fun night.  It was nice to finally meet the boys without their helmets on!  After the dinner, Tom referred many many boxing matches (of course Hayden has two sets of gloves he bought in Thailand) and the place got pretty rowdy as you can imagine but no one called the police so that was good.  I’ve been busy leading tours for the American club too.  The first tour I led was to the Mashiko Pottery festival about a 2.5 hour bus trip outside of Tokyo.  There were over 100 potters – totally cool, hip, Japanese women and men who would have been at home in a surf shop if they weren’t potting.  I bought a few treasures and thoroughly enjoyed the day.  The next trip was an overnight to Mikimoto Pearl Island, the wedded rocks and Ise Shrine.  This area is several hours away from Tokyo and is reached via bullet train and local train.  We went to the pearl island where Mikimoto started his cultured pearl business with the amah divers.  These are old women dressed in white linen dresses and hats who dive for pearls and collect them in wooden buckets that float on the water.  Its a pretty crazy thing to watch (check it out on youtube).  We then went to see the Wedded Rocks which are a pair of rocks located by the shore (one is large, the other small) that the Japanese believe represent husband and wife and were the birth of all the islands of Japan.  They are tied together with a thick rope and there is a shrine on land called the Frog Shrine.  We stayed at a Thalasso Therapy resort right on the ocean and had a fabulous french meal.  The next day we had a menu of treatments to choose from, all involving water in some way.  It was so relaxing.  A train ride away in Ise we visited Ise Shrine – the most sacred of all Shinto Shrines in Japan.  Every 20 years, they take down the old shrine and build an identical one right next to it.  People say it is to keep the skill set of the craftsman alive.  We came at a great time as the new one was almost finished and the old one was yet to be destroyed.  It was a lot of see and do in 36 hours but it was fantastic.  Last night I led a yakatabune tour (the japanese junk boat I rented last spring with my friends).  It was a great night – 65 and no wind in Tokyo on November 14th.  You can’t ask for better weather than that.  And then today, to finish off the blog, Tom and I spent the day at Meiji Shrine to watch the 3-5-7 festival.  Each year on this day, the Japanese dress up their children in formal kimono who have turned three, five and seven during the year and bring them to their local shrine to pray for a good life.  Meiji is a very famous shrine and it just happens to be very close to where we live.  We got some great photos and enjoyed another balmy 65 degree fall day.  We’ll be 24 in total for Thanksgiving on the 26th.  I am so happy to have my family all together this year.

Mahalo Hawaii 1

Sophie and Annie with their surfing instructor

Sophie and Annie with their surfing instructor

This is a picture of a Sophie and Annie with Billy, their surfing instructor.  Annie said his hands looked webbed and she was sure he was breathing through gills on the sides of his body.  They spent a morning with him this past week surfing the waters of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu Hawaii.  It was their school’s annual Fall Break, a chance to get away when everyone else in Asia was still in school – namely their brothers who stayed behind with their Dad.  The girls and I left Tokyo, hours after Tom and Hayden won their homecoming football game.  The flight left Saturday night at 9pm and arrived Saturday morning at 9am – yes, we went back in time to start Saturday all over again.  Its tiring living one day twice.  We checked into the Hilton Hawaiian Village which lives up to its name with its 25 restaurants, 5 pools and a ridiculous amount of shopping opportunities.  We spent most of the first day lying on lounges at the beach trying to adapt to the new time zone.  It was the first time ever that I went away with Sophie and Annie with no other adults.  We mapped out our week together, letting them make the decisions about how they wanted to spend their days.  The next day, the girls took their surfing lesson and managed to actually get up a few times.  They really enjoyed their time out in the waves and would definitely do it again.  On Monday, we rented a car and drove across the island to the north side stopping at Kailua, an absolutely beautiful beach that was empty due to the off season and the fact that is was during the week. Back in the car, we spent a little bit of time trying to find the Kamehameha Highway, but once we did we cruised along with the ocean on our left.  We pulled into the parking lot at Sandy Beach marveling at the size and strength of the waves.  As soon as we hit the beach, the lifeguard jumped down off his post, came right up to us and told us not to go into the ocean.  I didn’t need to hear it from him – we were not going anywhere near the water.  We sat and watched as locals body surfed in the biggest waves I’ve ever seen.  Next, we drove up the cliff to stop and watch the blow hole in the coral.  To the right was the beach they filmed the famous rolling in the waves scene in From Here to Eternity.  I tried to explain it to the girls but they had no idea what I was talking about.  Back at the hotel, I showed them the clip on You Tube but they said they never saw it before.  We ended our trip in the parking lot of Diamond Head.  Annie remarked about man’s impact on the land – there was a bathroom facility and a truck selling hot dogs in the middle of the crater.  Something must be sinking in from school! We ate a late lunch at Cheeseburger Waikiki, watching the pre-game Monday Night Football on the multiple flat screens.  It was an amazing cheeseburger.  We went from there to the Ala Moana Mall and spent a few hours shopping and getting manicures and pedicures.  This was a huge treat as these are so expensive in Japan, its not an option for the girls.  We visited friends from Tokyo who were staying at Kahala, a secluded resort outside of Waikiki.  We went to a laua where Annie won a pineapple in the pineapple ring toss.  Annie paddle surfed, mom had a lomi lomi massage, we ate at the New York Deli at least 8 times and then the last day we woke up at 5:45 am to get to the USS Arizona.  This visit was non-negotiable.  The girls were not too thrilled to visit a sunken boat where most of the soldiers went down with the ship but I forced the issue and off we went.  The tour starts out with a 1/2 hour movie explaining the actions that led up to the morning of December 7th.  It’s even more interesting for us due to the fact that we live in Japan.  It’s hard to fathom how it’s only been 60+ years since that day.  We took a public bus back to the hotel (a first for the girls) and after an hour finally arrived back home.  Annie and Sophie agreed that they thought buses, and the people who ride them, were weird.  They have been exposed to so much and yet had never ridden a public bus!  How bizarre.  We eeked out every last minute by the pool and the ocean – the girls swam in the ocean until 6:30 and the sun had set.  We went to a late dinner down the beach at the Shore Bird restaurant, satisfied that we had done everything we set out to do at the beginning of our trip.  We landed at Narita airport at 2:30pm on Friday afternoon, got in our car and floored it to Camp Zama just in time to see Thomas and Hayden play under the lights and win to clinch the Kanto Plains title for the first time in 26 years.  What  a week!!!

It’s All Relative Reply

Gonpachi - all of us together - a rare event

Gonpachi - all of us together - a rare event

My mom and my step-father came to town last week.  It was their first time in Japan.  I mapped out some favorite spots to take them, keeping in mind that they would be spending two days alone in Kyoto.  I eliminated all visits to shrines and temples while we were together in Tokyo which was a nice opportunity to visit some of the less frequented places.  We managed to fit a lot in.  The first full day it rained and I made a few adjustments to the itinerary and we spent the day at the Odaiba Onsen.  My mom didn’t want to go in the baths but we managed to fill most of the day with other Japanese inspired treats (the flesh eating doctor fish, shiatsu massage, foot baths) while the men enjoyed their time in the bath – Thomas Jr. went for the first time too.  I think he liked it.  We had drinks at the Roppongi Hills Club courtesy of our mutual friends Cliff and Isa and ate a very so-so dinner at Two Rooms in Aoyama.  I think that place looks better than it actually is.  We finished the night up at Bauhaus, a small live music club where supposedly three generations of rockers play together – the grandfather is by far the best.  We hit all the hot spots like the neighborhood ramen shop and the conveyor belt sushi restaurant, we even got to go for our weekly fix of La Jolla Mexican on Sunday night.  Lucky for them, they happened to be here during one of the two Grand Sumo tournaments held in Tokyo each year and we went with all the kids to see the opening day.  I think the adults enjoyed it the most.  Hayden is still convinced that sumo wrestlers are not athletes.  They visited both of the kids schools and were there to cheer on the Mustangs in their first Friday Night Lights of the Varsity Football season.  Tom Sr. was in the booth announcing and Hayden threw a touchdown pass to Thomas and won the game.  We spent a day at Tsukiji, the fish market coupled with Ginza and the Mitsukoshi Department Store food halls.  Even though I warned my mom, she tried the gooey omochi ball and spent a good deal of time dislodging it from her mouth and searching for a garbage can (impossible in Tokyo).  While in the area, we met up with Tom for lunch in Marounouchi on his lunch break.  We shopped and ate and walked in Shimokitazawa, a hip urban part of Tokyo where many college students live.  They have the most interesting little stores.  We visited Ningyocho to buy antique kimono and obis – I bought the most fantastic white wedding kimono.  When the box arrived a few days later Tom gave it a strange look.  Then I explained it was going to be hung on a wall.  I think he thought I was going to wear it.  The thing weighs about ten pounds.  After a busy few days, I put my parents on a bullet train to Kyoto where they celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.  They overdosed on temples and shrines and Japanese food and were spent by the time they arrived back in Tokyo.  We ended the week eating pizza at Savoy, going to the top of the Mori tower, shopping at Tokyo Hands, “climbing”  Mt. Takao via the funicular to watch the monkeys pick bugs out of each other and then we ate at Ukai Toriyama – an absolute must restaurant stop with visitors.  On their very last night in Japan, we ate at T.Y. Harbor, outside on the water watching the Yakatabune boats cruise by.  Then it was off to late night Karaoke with the Hopkins and the Halls.  Could it get any better than that?

Hugh and the Two (brothers that is) 4

the brothers on the sideline

the brothers on the sideline

A few weeks ago, Sophie had come across an ad for the premiere of X-Men Zero, Wolverine in the Stars and Stripes newspaper I picked up at the US Embassy.  “Can we go, Mom?” she asked.  We’ll see I told her.  A few days later, “Can we go Mom?  I really want to go, please,” she asked again.  We’ll see I said.  The day before the event, I started to google to find out when it would take place.  I knew all the movie premieres were at Roppongi Hills but I wasn’t sure when it started and where exactly they were held.  I couldn’t find a single mention on google.  Strange.  I decided my last ditch effort would be to post something on Facebook.  “Anyone know when the X-Men premiere starts tonight at Roppongi Hills?”  Within a half hour, my best friend from High School, Jenny sent me a message telling me that her friend was Hugh’s hair stylist and that she just spoke to him this morning in Tokyo and that he was with Hugh going to the premiere.  Would I like her to call him back and get us on the guest list?  YES PLEASE!  Within a few hours, our names were on the guest list and I couldn’t wait for the girls to come home from school so I could tell them that not only were we going to the premiere, we were actually going to get to see Hugh and watch the movie.  You can imagine the jumping that ensued.  They scrambled to finish their homework so they could figure out what they were going to wear.  At 5pm, we left the apartment and went up to Roppongi Hills to check it out.  After a few Japanese moments (enough said) they found the person who knew we were supposed to be there and we were in possession of 4 20th Century Fox Staff Stickers and were personally escorted to a fabulous spot on the red carpet.  We watched Hugh ride in on the Harley from the movie and then laughed as he tried to speak Japanese and then Annie got to talk to him!  We had brought our DVD copy of Australia and a big fat red sharpie and as he came down the red carpet Tom yelled Hugh really loudly.  He turned around and saw Annie waiting with the DVD and he asked her where she was from and if she was on vacation or if she lived in Japan.  She was pretty cool and answered all his questions.  After the red carpet, we went into the theater and got to see the movie which we all really liked.  It was a magical night.  On the subject of magical nights, we had another one last night.  It was the season opener for ASIJ Varsity Football.  Hayden was starting as QB and Thomas was playing both ways, tight end and defensive end.  Even though they have both played football since 4th grade, they’ve NEVER been on the same team.  But now that Thomas repeated junior year and Hayden is playing up, they are together for the first time.  And to add to the excitement, Tom Sr was announcing.  On Thursday afternoon, the coach said that no one had volunteered to announce and they were in desperate need for someone to do it.  Tom usually films the games but stepped up to announce.  Picture it; Saturday night, 5pm, both of the boys playing together, Tom announcing, full moon.  Had to have been one of the best nights of Tom Sr’s life.  And Hayden’s.  And maybe even Tom Jr’s.  When the game was over, the brothers connected for two TD passes and Hayden ran in one of his own.  We won 42-16.  Tom had a blast working the mike.  One of the touchdowns Thomas made, was one handed and ended up breaking a finger. It was our first experience in the Emergency Room in Tokyo and we had heard horror stories about finding an ER that would take you and would have the right doctor and one that spoke English.  I called the American Club and they pointed us in the right direction:  Go to the Red Cross Hospital and look for the red ramp right.  Huh???  The red ramp right.  Its the only area of the hospital that is open.  Hmmm… we drove around the hospital in search of this mysterious clue.  And then we found it.  A small flashing red lamp light.  Father and son spent the remainder of the night in the hospital while Hayden went out to celebrate.  Magic.