Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shuri Castle and Okinawa Wrestling

Konnichiwa friends! We are just finishing up another fun weekend here in Okinawa. We went to the beach on Saturday, poor Turf's legs got burnt to a crisp, and I got eaten alive by mosquitos and have ghastly bite bumps all over my arms and legs. We are also hearing weather reports about a new typhoon, Muifa, that is forecasted to hit Okinawa as a Category 4 typhoon around Thursday. I usually don't pay much attention to these reports this early on, because the storms shift and change so frequently, but if it stays on its projected path and doesn't weaken it will be as bad, if not worse, than typhoon Songda (which Turf missed, but did cause some damage on island). I will keep y'all posted as the week moves forward :)

Anyway, as promised, here's the low-down on Shuri Castle. Shuri is one of 9 World Heritage sites on Okinawa (our goal is to see them all. Nakagusuku Castle ruins was the only one we had seen so far), and Shurijo Castle Park also includes two other World Heritage sites aside from the castle.

 The entrance to the park shows this map. Clearly, the park is rather large, so we got some good walking in :)
And this, my dear friends, is one of the World Heritage sites within the park. Just a gate? No way! The Sonohyan-utaki stone gate was of super religious importance to the King. He would pray in front of it for a safe journey each time he departed the castle.

Upon entering the "courtyard" area, there was a mini show of some traditional Okinawa dance. Its amazing to me how these ladies move with such precision and grace. It doesn't look like much, but it is so incredibly fluid. And the colors....and the face makeup...wowza! SO pretty!
And then there's Shuri Castle itself. The best known details say that Shurijo Castle was built around the 14th century. It became the royal seat in 1406 for King Sho Hashi, who united the Ryukyu Kingdom. Shuri then served as the political homefront for the kingdom and epicenter for foreign diplomacy and culture for about 500 years. This reign ended when King Sho Tai abdicated the throne to the Menji Government. The castle then blossomed with a mixture of Chinese, Japanese, and South Asian trade influences that helped to shape the unique Ryukyu culture: Lacquer-ware, dyes/textiles, and ceramics and music.
The current castle is not actually the original, sadly, as Shurijo Castle was burnt to ashes in the Battle of Okinawa in the WWII, but the castle was restored in 1992.
Shuri Castle is said to be the symbol of Okinawa.
                        Standing in front of Shuri Castle
The King's seat
Standing outside of Shuri Castle. The lookout spot is a great panoramic view of the Naha Port and the city of Naha.
Bezaitendo Shrine and Enganchi Pond. This shrine was built to store precious Buddhist scriptures received from the King of Korea.
 And on to the next World Heritage site, Tama-U-Dun, which also included many gates and was south of the Castle. These were clearly built for smaller people!
 Tama-U-Dun. Now, if you are living on Okinawa, this might be a good place to visit just for the cultural aspect of it, but for visitors, I would not recommend it. The cost was about 300Y each (which was about $5 with a terrible Yen rate...on top of a separate entrance fee to Shuri Castle Park itself) and was a very short trip. We spent maybe 10 minutes walking around through the encased artifacts and the actual tombs. For the price, it wasn't worth it, but still, good to see.
 Tama-U-Dun was built in 1501 to re-tomb the remains of King Sho En by his son King Sho Shin and ended up becoming the royal Mausoleum for the second Sho dynasty.
"The tomb consists of three rooms: The center room (for placing the remains before washing the bones), the East room (for the Kings and queens), and the West room (for the rest of the royal family members)".

Moving on to something more light and definitely more comical: Okinawa Wrestling. I have few words to describe this because I was so appalled at the idiocricy of it. Think American, Hulk Hogan, type wrestling, with a bit of MMA, with a bit of that terrible Japanese fighting/action scenes from movies, and you've got yourself Okinawa Wrestling. Don't forget to add some "traditional" and "culturally inspired" costumes to the mix!
 Here we are waiting for things to start. I had a feeling it would be bad, but I wasn't too sure what to expect. Perhaps this would be more like a crazy, Mexican knife brawl? Or maybe, since we're in JAPAN, which is a huge influence in martial arts, it will be more like that?
 There was an opening performance that set the stage for the rest of the "fighting". 4 guys in crazy costumes and masks, SINGING, playing a banjo, and apparently telling jokes (we couldn't understand a word they said). The boys were not jazzed.
 The first fight was lame, to say the least. Some random guy with a tail attached to his leotard and "Orion Man" (which is a beer here in Okinawa), who is either pretending to be or really is 3 sheets to the wind, slapping each other's chests and pinning each other for 2 seconds before making an amazing recovery and come back. Orion Man won in the end.
Next came a sort of group fight, where they tag people in. There are all kinds of personalities at play here. Yanburu Queena (say it like an Asian!) and Mango (pronounced maaaaaaango) were my faves.
 Again, picture elbows being thrown and *not quite* making contact with the body, but still hearing the "umphhh" sound coming out of the opponnent. They were throwing each other on the floor, kicking, and slapping each other, the whole shebang. I will give them credit, they had some great aerobatics that you don't see with this type of American wrestling.
 Overall, I wouldn't waste the money again. The fights are supposed to last 2 hours, and we only stayed for 1. It was about $50 for the both of us to get in and definitely not anything spectacular. At least we got a good story out of it :)
 We ended the night at a friend's party. This party had a shake weight, random jelly bellies from Thanksgiving, and a gorilla mask. No idea how this guy acquires such crazy items, but they made for a good laugh.

And we got to try these, another Japanese treat. Remember the purple Beni-imo I told you about (Japanese sweet potato), these were little Beni-imo...cakes? Not very sweet and not my favorite. I probably wouldn't eat them again, but they definitely were not as terrible as the octopus balls from last weekend. When in Japan, right?!

More adventures to come next week, I'm so proud of my blogging lately! Sayounara!

PS: Here's a video of the Okinawa Wrestling for full effect :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cooking Local

I promise, promise, I will get pictures and info of Shuri Castle up soon! I want to make sure I am able to include some of the history of the castle as well, so its going to be more time consuming!

One of my *many* goals of living in Japan was to learn how to cook some local cuisine. Some of my favorites are sushi, yakisoba, ramen, and miso soup, so I thought I'd start there.

Yakisoba was on the menu for dinner last night and was so simple it should be branded with an EASY button. It literally means "Yaki" (Fried) + "Soba" (Noodles). Unbeknownst to me, there are a few varieties of Yakisoba. The first is a sauce yakisoba, which is made by pan frying the noodles and goodies together with yakisoba sauce. Kata-yakisoba are crunchy, deep fried noodles, and shio-yakisoba is a dish seasoned mostly with salt. I opted for the sauce yakisoba.

Here is the final product. This was SO delicious and yummy, I highly encourage anyone who likes yakisoba to try it out at home! This is Turf's favorite meal in Japan and he has been craving it for weeks! Here's a quick rundown of the recipe:

Add 2 Tbs. Sesame Oil (or vegetable oil) and 2 cloves minced garlic to a wok/large pan. 
Add the meat (I bought beef that was pre-cut for stir fry into strips. Pork, chicken, and shrimp would be good too) and cook until no longer pink or until done. 
Drain the meat and return to pan with additional 2 Tbs. Sesame Oil and 2 cloves minced garlic.
Add in desired vegetables (I added in a frozen bag of mixed stir-fry veggies) and pan fry to desired texture (I like mine a bit crunchy). 
Break apart Soba noodles and add directly to pan with meat and veggies. The noodles look like this: 

Then, add in Yakisoba Sauce. I used a little less than half a bottle.
Some places sell packaged soba noodles with the sauce in packets (powder). Add in one packet of seasoning for each pack of soba noodles, and in this case you'd need to add in about a 1-1/2 cups of water with the noodles and seasoning packet. 
Pan fry everything together for another 5 minutes and serve while hot!

Beware: I tasted a bit of this stuff on its own and almost gagged. It smells terrible and tastes very strong on its own, but takes on a COMPLETELY different flavor with the noodles, meat, and veggies. DELISH!

And finally, there is the sushi dilemma. Most of you know what happened last time I attempted sushi, but if you somehow missed it, just know that it didn't end well. I ended up with a bunch of rice with nori and all the other goodies mixed in and eating it with a fork. It tasted great, but was obviously missing the "roll" and melding of flavors that sushi rolls are supposed to have.

This second attempt was a bit better (I was at least able to roll it), but I have come to discover that sushi is an art, and I'm not very good with new challenges! So here's what I did differently this time:
I used this sushi rice recipe. The texture of the rice is very important to the rolling of the sushi- it needs to stick together. A few people said that there was too much rice vinegar in this recipe, but I made it as it was and thought it was great. I'd say this sushi rice was much better than the rice I made last time. 

Now, I realize that a California Roll is not traditional Japanese sushi. Actually, it originated guessed it... California. I also read that the "inside out"roll- Uramaki- also originated in the States. Americans didn't like seeing or eating the nori on the outside, so the sushi chefs began making the rolls inside out to accommodate the tastes of the region. This was in the 70's and eventually the goodness of the California roll spread throughout the world. :)
Anyway, I guess I'm just not very Japanese, because this is my favorite. The roll went a lot easier this time, and I think its because I had a good sushi rice. It actually stuck together when I rolled it up this time!
*Note: I did make the sushi rice last night, so I refrigerated it overnight and when I went to start making my sushi the rice was all crumbly- not the tender, sticky texture it was last night- so I popped it in the microwave for a few minutes to "wake it up" and let it cool down again completely before I started. This definitely helped the rice regain its original texture. 

Here are my rolls with some hot chili sauce on top (love the spice, HATE wasabi)"

Unfortunately, these friends did not make the cut....literally! I guess my next step is to work on my cutting technique. I made sure I had a wet knife before I started cutting, but the end pieces just squished and crumpled into a big mess. I still ate them, in the same way I ate the sushi I made on my first attempt :)

What are your favorite Japanese recipes?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tedako Festival

I told y'all I'd be experiencing more culture! Jess, Amber, and I (missing Kendall, Boo!) ventured off to the Tedako Festival this weekend, without the husbands because they were party poopers. Their loss.
The Tedako Festival is a three day festival that happens annually in Okinawa. Tedako means "children of the sun" and the festival pays respects to the king of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom. The festival boasts all that an American festival would (think FAIR!): music, entertainment, dance, and of course, food. It also includes some things that three little blonde girls would NOT typically get at an American festival.
For example, for the first hour or so upon entering the festival we spotted maybe a handful of Americans. Yes, I realize this is a Japanese festival, but we definitely stuck out like sore thumbs. Many of the people were dressed in their cute little outfits (see the photo of the sweet little friends we made), Blonde is a strange thing in Japan, so we had several stares, waves, and people saying "hello" in their best English. A group of boys approached us with what could only be described as the English they had learned at school: "Hello. I am hungry. I have money. Beautiful! Goodbye!". HOW sweet, of course we always talk to people we meet, and are probably more fascinated with them- they are all so cute and nice. SOOO nice! I really have never met nicer people than I have in Japan!
Anyway, enough jabbering, here some pictures.

This was our view upon entering the festival. Who can spot the KFC vendor?! Very strange considering I'm pretty sure there is no Kentucky in Japan, but it works :) There was also traditional food, like the food I tried, and including Yakisoba, fried rice, sushi, chicken on a stick, and other strictly Japanese food that I couldn't decribe if I wanted to. There were also more recognizeable options: corn on the cob, hot dog on a stick, snow cones, cotton candy, etc.
 Eisa Dancers! Here is a cool little exerpt I found to describe what Eisa is all about:
"Simply put, it is a Buddhist prayer dance to send off the ancestors to the afterlife, which is performed on the last day of the lunar Obon festival (July 15th on the lunar calendar). Okinawa's Obon follows a three day period from July 13th to the 15th according to the lunar calendar. In Okinawa where ancestor worship is strong, Obon is a very important event carried out on a grand scale and with much enthusiasm."
Read more about the roles that each performer plays here.
 How sweet are these little cuties?! We noticed them staring and smiling and saying "kawaii", which is cute. We waved to them and they started frantically waving back and grinning. Then, of course, we took their picture with the trademark peace sign right before they performed. I believe these are Yukatas, which I think are casual traditional dress. Definitely not as formal as a Kimono. They were also wearing Obi's, which are the wide belts with bows in the back.
 More Eisa Dancers toting an iconic Japanese Dragon (tatsu). The Dragon also carries spiritual significance.
 Jess had a "snowcone". A man shaved this ice into a bowl and drizzled cherry syrup on top.. Yum! And so refreshing in the hot, hot heat!
 I wanted to try something 'traditional'...which to me meant walking up to one of the food vendors, sweating my hiney off from waiting so long next to the grills and cooking, and ordering whatever I saw first that looked completely foreign.
 The closest things to me were these little ball things, and chicken on a stick. How traditional could chicken on a stick be? There was also some mess of veggies with fish on top formed into a sort of a fishy, veggie hashbrown with sauce squirted on top. Scary. Clearly, this is what awaited me. They looked doughy, had some sort of brownish sauce drizzled on top (I tasted sesame, soy, ginger, and something worchestershire-y), and I think it was thyme or parsley sprinkled on top.
 I could not have eaten another of those little balls of death if I tried. It was very dough-y, "savory", and the kicker--it had octopus inside of it. I should have known since fish is very common in Japanese dishes. I love calamari, but this was chucks of rubbery, chewy, not so cooked octopus. I struggled to eat and swallow the whole ball, not wanting to be rude and spit it out (although I'm not sure how polite my face was while eating it). I tried.
This little group of boys was sitting across from us, so Jess tried to ask what was in it. Confirming my thoughts they said "very little English...Oct....o.....pus!". We gave the rest of the balls to them so they wouldn't go to waste. They thanked us and proceeded to gobble those suckers up like Thanksgiving Dinner.

Here are a couple of videos of the cool Eisa dancers :)

We also visited Shurijo Castle, which I will blog about later on.
Until then, Sayounara!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CommisSCARY Alternatives

If you are not familiar with military life you probably have NO idea what people are talking about when they mention things like LES, commissary, BX (or PX), BAH, COLA, etc. Well, friends, here's a quick rundown before getting into the heart of my lovely little post:
LES: Leave and Earnings Statement> Basically a pay stub.
Commissary: Better known as the CommisSCARY! This is our grocery store on base. I say commisscary because it is not uncommon to see mothers frantically chasing after and yelling at their children among the hustle and bustle of aisles.
BX or PX: Base Exchange, where we can by anything from *terrible variety of * clothes, shoes, household things, etc.
BAH: Base Allowance for Housing (in Japan you get OHA, Overseas Housing Allowance, if you live off base) this is what the government pays you to cover the cost of your housing. Since we live on base, we never see this, our housing is just free.
COLA: Cost of Living Allowance. What the government pays us to offset the cost of living (i.e. the purchases we make out in town/for utilities at the yen rate, etc.)

So anyway, the commisSCARY sounds like a great option, and in the states it usually is. In Okinawa, however, the produce is TERRIBLE because of a few reasons: the time it takes to ship here, usually from off island, and the high price. Green bananas are brown within two days, I found a bag of salad mix the other day that was set to expire the NEXT day, 4 apples can cost around $8, I have seen strawberries as high as $12....very discouraging for people who are trying to eat fresh produce! I had been so frustrated that I started buying all my fruit and veggies frozen. What was my other option?

Behold, the local produce. Why didn't I think of it sooner? The locals buy fruit and veggies from a variety of places, including Suupa's (Super Markets, duh!) and fruit stands. Frustrated with our choice of produce on base, Jess and I went in search of a fruit stand nearest us.

Bear in mind, I have no idea what this place was called, but it was a cute little fruit stand off a back road. They had everything from onions (tamanegi), tomatoes, potatoes (Jagaimo), green onions (Negi), carrots (Ninjin, which are HUGE over here), lettuce, and all kinds of fruit. The cost is marked in Yen (which right now is about 80Y/1USD, so those tomatoes on the back left hand side which were 100Y were actually only about $2-3. Not molding, for a big bunch of them.
Everything was fresh and looked yummy! They also had some Japanese staples like Goya, a bitter melon that I'm NOT fond of, as well as some fruit that I still don't know the name of.

I walked away with a big bunch of bananas, tomatoes, 4 kiwi, and a bag of these tiny round, maroon-ish colored fruits that have the texture of....a nectarine on the outside and bright red flesh on the inside.....All for 847Y...which is about $11. Not too Shabby! I will definitely be frequenting the fruit stands more.

This is the fruit I was a bit confused about....Any ideas?

We also ventured into Jimmy's, a restaurant/bakery. The breads and croissants and muffins looked DELICIOUS, but since I'm trying to watch the calories a bit I decided not to get anything....this time :) There was also a grocery store and I found THIS:
Ochazuke! My grandma used to make this for us when we'd go visit her and it was my faaaav! I remember eating it for lunch AND breakfast! This ochazuke came in a big package with 8 packets of ochazuke, enough for about one bowl/meal. The ochazuke packet contains dry nori (seaweed), J-Crackers, tea, and some seasoning. Empty the packet over cooked, cooled rice (perfect with leftover rice!), and add boiling water. It is a delicious soup!

Ochazuke is a comfort food for a lot of Japanese people and mother's often make it for their children. I did a little research and found that Ochazuke is commonly eaten for breakfast, though a lot of people make it before they go to bed.

BONUS: Ochazuke is available in the states in many Asian specialty stores. I found it in Salem and Portland at various times as well as in Pensacola! See if you can find it yourself :) If anyone tries it let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Only in Japan...mostly!

I've really been slacking on the cultural experience well as the traveling. I'm the kind of person who wants to see it all and do it all, and in the 5 months that we've been here I have done quite a lot, but not as much as I would have liked to. I feel like 3 years is slipping away and I'm running out of time! A bit dramatic, yes. So I have emailed a lady about taking Japanese language classes, I'm making it a goal to get my hiney into some of the local shops, try random places to eat that I didn't read about on OkinawaHai, and go to some historic sites and festivals. First on the list is a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, an island Battle Sites Tour, and a festival. Good luck to me :)
However, I have been able to see and experience a few things unique to Japan/Okinawa and thought I'd share, with pictures of course (another goal to amp up this blog. Total side note-how can I become famous just for blogging? I'd really like to! Bahaha!)

Dr. Fish: Okay, so maybe this is done in the states, but I had never heard of it and its a big thing over here! These little fishies eat the dead skin off your footsies and its quite the strange experience!

Coco's. I LOVE Coco's. If you've ever heard me talk about it you've heard me say that is has some sort of addictive substance it is made with. The first time I had it I thought it was alright, and now I'm hooked! I get the chicken cutlett curry, spice level 2 (I'm working my way up on the spice levels, which go up to a 10. To eat a 10 you have to have successfully made it through at least a 5), and cheese naan bread. How I will miss this when we leave! I have heard there is a Coco's in Hawaii...

Habu Sake: Yep, with the snake in it. Now, the snake in the sake varies in size. Turf is petrified of the stuff, but my friend Kendall and I took a shot of it at lunch one day just to try it out. It wasn't bad, but the waitor was laughing at us :)
Blue Seal: Okay, so apparently this was "Born in America, Grown up in Okinawa". Again, never have I seen a Blue Seal in the states, although I'm sure they exist. BUT, the greatest thing apart from Coco's is Ube Ice cream! It is a delicious purple ice cream that I also find myself craving. Now, to be honest, I had no idea what Ube actually was (my guess was it is some kind of potato? Beni-imo is popular here, also purple, and it is a potato), so I googled it!
Ube is a purple yam and is used to make all kinds of foods: ice cream, cakes, breads, pies, etc. Cooked, it is supposed to taste just like any other yam. I have yet to try this, as I prefer the ice cream version. It is not overly sweet, but to me it does not taste like a yam. YUM!

Ramen: (This particular picture is from a place called Ten Ten Man) Soy based, noodles, bean sprouts, sometimes pork. The real thing is SO much better than stove top! In Japanese culture, it is impolite to leave food uneaten (another side note: good thing I teach kiddos about the importance of editing and grammar. I just corrected this word; I had originally typed "uneated" OY!), so slurping is encouraged, as is bringing the bowl directly to your mouth to drink the broth.
My dear American husband, becoming proficient at the use of chop sticks!

Pineapple Park: There is a pineapple park on the Northern part of the island. You can take a trip on a little pineapple cart and find out all there is to know about pineapple. For example, did you know that "pineapple" means "pine and apple"? Yeah, so some of the information and the general cartoon presentation was silly, but you wouldn't believe how many Japanese tours come to this place! Its also Jess' favorite :)
At the end of the tour through the pineapple field there are all sorts of pineapple treats and wine to taste!

Karaoke: BIG deal! There are karaoke bars here, but the Japanese actually have these karaoke places where your group can rent a room, order food, and sing your hearts out. The first time was a bit awkward, but still enjoyable.

Japanese Veterinarians: The base vet is not ideal in that its difficult to get an appointment. When Boomer had a yeast infection in his ears (the first of many, I'm told to expect), I had to venture off base to find help. Animal Hospital 22 was very helpful, had English translators, excellent hours (365 days a year, and open until almost 10pm!), and was very clean. They may be a bit pricier, but once I find a place I like I tend to stick with it. Even the veterinarians use cute little cartoon characters! This is the bag they gave me to carry his medicine, along with written instructions on the front.

Carp and Koi fish: Okay, so there were a few Koi in here among mostly Carp. These again are a big deal in Japan. I didn't know a lot about the fish either, aside from what I had experienced with my grandmother's koi pond growing up and these little guys who tried to take my arm off for some food! Here's what I found out:
1. Koi are omnivorous, and will even eat peas, lettuce and watermelon.
2. The oldest koi was named "Hanako" and reportedely lived to 226 years (they removed her scales to determine her lifespan). Read about her here.
3. Koi will produce thousands of "unacceptable" and genetically deficient offspring in one single spawning.
4. Koi actually means "carp" in Japanese, and the homophone "koi" means love and affection.
5. You can breed a goldfish and a carp, but their offspring are sterile. Why you would try that is simply put, awkward.
6. Koi were first bred in Japan in the 1720's.
7. Koi have interesting barbel on their lips.
8. There are no Koi fish in Antartica. Lucky for Koi, no Koi-sicles.
9. Good places for Koi feeding frenzies are the Okinawa Zoo, Fukushu-en garden ,and the Comprehensive Park .
10. Buying pirated Koi is a criminal act.

So that's it friends! Until next time, Sayounara!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Take Me There!!

Well, Turf was sick all weekend and I've been home nursing him back to health....which essentially means feeding him Theraflu, watching him sleep, fixing him something to eat when he wakes up, followed by more Theraflu and more sleeping. The good news is there as an Indiana Jones marathon on today and that is just right up my alley!
Also, I had time to sit down and make an "Asia Bucket List" for all the places I want to visit in Asia while we are here (I also have an "Okinawa Bucket list" but for suspense I will save that for another post!). I even decided to dress this post up with some pictures in hopes that maybe someone *anyone* will come visit :) This is also in no particular order, but I've mentioned some places that I am not counting on visiting but still hoping to! Pictures are below the captions :)

1. China
The Great Wall of China, who hasn't heard of it? Its probably one of the most iconic places inChina and stretches much farther than we will ever go. Already in amazement.

The Forbidden City- The Chinese imperial palace from the Ming through Qing Dynasties

Temple of Heaven

                                          *Xi'an-Terracotta Soldiers


                                        *Hong Kong- this may become one of my favorite cities!

2. Tibet

 3. Nepal

4. Vietnam
                                          *Ho Chi Minh City

5. Guam

6. Indonesia
                                               *Bali- 2nd Honeymoon I think?!

7. Japan (Mainland, Obviously!)
                                           *Tokyo- Food. Shopping. GLORY!
                                          *Kyoto- my mom says this is where our ancestry is

                *Nikko- Toshogu Shrine is Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine!

           *Hiroshima-for the history aspect. Probably will be a humbling trip.

        *Osaka- Functions as one of the command centers for the Japanese economy.

    *Mt. Fuji- how can you live in Japan and NOT climb Mt. Fuji? This is on the list within the next year!

            *Himeji- Himeji Castle is the most visited in Japan


8. South Korea

9. Singapore- where we will depart for our cruise in December!

10. Tawain

11. Thailand

                                        *Phuket- One of the stops on our cruise

 *Chiang Mai- The largest and most culturally significant city in Northern Thailand

12. Cambodia

13. Malaysia
                                      *Kuala Lumpur- Also on our cruise

                                    *Langkawi- Again, on our cruise :)

14. India. This is one of those that I might not get to because of how expensive it will be. But LORD do I want to!

15. The Philippines-Not as high priority as most of these other places!

       Well, that about wraps it up! Probably the Philipines and South Korea are at the bottom of my priority list, followed by Guam, Nepal, and Tipet. India is high priority but probably not cost effective; same with Bali, and everywhere else I'm bound and determined to get to before we rotate back to the states. I found a tour through one of the travel agencies for China that tours through Bejing, Shanghai, and Xi'an that looks affordable, and the same agency offers a tour through Cambodia and Vietnam :)
My dad has also booked his tickets to come see us next July (YAY!) and he and Tami will be making a detour in Thailand through Bangkok, Chaing Mai, and Phuket before coming to Okinawa. If all goes well Turf and I will meet them there for 2 weeks before coming back here.
Mt. Fuji is a must-do and will probably take place next summer as well. I plan to visit mainland several times, but Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima are probably the places we'll see first.
We've been here for almost 6 months already (can you believe it!?) and I feel like time's-a-wastin'! I've got the travel bug bad and am hoping to squeeze in a short trip this summer still...maybe Labor Day weekend? We shall see!