Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dining Ninja-Style

By Jennifer Yan


Last night a group of us made the hour and a half trek into downtown Tokyo to dine at the infamous Ninja Restaurant in Akasaka.

Upon arrival, we were ushered into a cave-like foyer where our host confirmed our dinner reservations. As were we standing there waiting, a ninja jumped out the side door and asked us to follow her as she led us through a secret entrance using only a lamp to guide us through the dark, damp and winding passageway. Along the way, she pointed out the ninja waterfall and we all had to watch our heads and crouch through the narrow path as she summoned the secret bridge to be lowered so that we could cross over to the tunnel leading into the actual dining area. (I wish that I had taken pictures along our route but sadly I was more worried about getting to our seats without a ninja jumping out at me)

We started off with drinks. Ninja shots (champagne with raspberry sorbet) for the ladies and ninja sake and beer for the heartier drinkers in the group. Our first dish to arrive was hummus shaped into ninja stars. It took our table a few minutes to realize that the black ninja stars were edible chips to be eaten with the dip. (yes, we ate the hummus at first thinking it was missing the accompaniment) Next to arrive was some sort of lobster pudding. Followed by an angel hair pasta topped with Japanese cilantro and plum paste. After that was some sort of sushi roll filled with raw fish, onion, avocado and some other things that I was unable to discern. (the lighting was dim too) The main course was a choice between salmon and pork. My husband and I both chose salmon and I didn't think about taking a picture of someone's pork dish. (although it looked scrumptious with it's fresh vegetables) I failed to mention the spicy chicken wings and tom yum style soup that was served too. Our meal was made complete with a mango ninja dessert and choice of tea, coffee or Japanese green tea.

The evening ended with our ninja server performing a few card and coin tricks. I must say, a couple of his tricks were quite impressive. I tried to take a video but was a little slow at getting my camera out.


When all was said and done, this wonderful dining experience came to a grand total of $1700 with a yen rate of Y74 to the $1.

Nonetheless, the food was delicious, the ambience spectacular and the gaijin smash, priceless!

Ninja Akasaka

Location: Akasaka Tokyu Plaza (1st Floor, on the street)

Telephone: 03-5157-3963

(Reservations suggested)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekend Recap

By Jennifer Yan

This weekend was filled to the rim with non-stop activities. (and LOTS of photos)

On Friday night, we went to the local climbing gym to do some rock climbing. (Matt is an avid rock climber so we are all learning to rock climb) Unfortunately, Friday was a Japanese holiday so the gym hours were different than normal and we only had about 30 mins before closing time so we decided to just let Myles work on his bouldering skills instead.

Matt is showing Myles which color to climb.

Myles testing his strength on the angular wall.

On Saturday, Megan and Madden had a Cross Country and Swim Meet at a Naval Base 1 1/2 hours south of us so we took Myles to his soccer game which was held here. Myles' team won with a score of 7-0.

After the game, we took Myles and his friend to eat donuts and to watch the C-130's do some air drops. This was a rare treat because the planes usually fly during the weekday while the kids are in school.

Here we are sitting on the rooftop of Matt's work watching the C-130's.

The C-130 coming in for a 'touch and go'.

In the afternoon, Matt and I went for a 10 mile run while Myles rode his bike along side of us. It was nice to have Myles accompany us. We found that he was a great drink and GU carrier. After our run, we all rode our bikes up the street to 'Big Hairy Donkey' where we enjoyed dinner. (I have never seen Myles eat so much food!) Later that evening, Matt and I took the train to Tachikawa where we met up with friends at an Irish Pub called County Clare.

On Sunday, we drove to Mt Mito, an hour and a half west of Tokyo, to enjoy some outdoor hiking with a group of 9 friends and hiked up to the summit. The view was breathtaking.

The gorgeous waterfall about 20 mins into our hike.

That about wraps up our weekend. Hope you enjoyed all the pics!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Typhoon Roke

By Jennifer Yan

Typhoon Roke was the 15th typhoon of the season. It was a pretty good size storm and luckily it caused little damage even though we were a direct hit here in the outskirts of Tokyo. Because of the heavy rain, we did have a lot of downed trees.

As the typhoon approaches, the military base will typically evacuate the airplanes so that the planes do not suffer any type of damages. (which means my husband is either flying them out of the country or is on standby so that he can fly them out) Thankfully, for this particular storm, he was able to hunker down and stay at home with us so we were able to spend the day at home listening to the sound of wind and rain.

Typhoon Roke weakened as it made landfall but moved through at a relatively fast pace as it made its way through the rest of Japan.

Unfortunately, I am sure that we will see atleast one or two more typhoons in the next month before the official end of typhoon season.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Matt and Jenn's Culinary Adventure

By Jennifer Yan

I am thankful that my husband and I can enjoy many things in this life together. However, one of the greatest things we both derive extreme pleasure from is in the form of food. We enjoy venturing out and scoping out new restaurants to explore. We squeal at the opportunity to try new and exotic foods. And we both are a glutton for punishment when it comes to spicy food because we will eat until we burn a hole right through the lining of our stomachs.

But more importantly, my husband and I are learning to cook together. (Hello, my name is Jennifer Yan and I am a kitchen nazi. I would much rather do everything all by myself than to allow anyone other than myself to make a mess in my kitchen) And yes, my husband is also helping me to extend this exciting new adventure on to my children so that they, too, can learn and try their hand at cooking.

My friend, Sara Short, inspires me with so many of her recipes that she shares and photographs over on her Blog. I have tried many of her dishes and can attest to the fact that each and every one of her recipes are sure to be ones that you will go to again and again. And I hope that the same can be said with the recipes that I plan to post over here on my Blog as well.

So, I hope that you follow along on mine and Matt's culinary adventure as we share the dishes that we try and create here in our home.

Here's the first recipe: Yam Nua (Spicy Thai Beef Salad)
* slightly adapted from

8 oz lean beef
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion (we used a purple onion)
2 tomatoes, wedged (we used 1/2 container cherry tomatoes cut in half)
1/2 c sliced cucumbers
1/4 head of cabbage, cut up salad style
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, cut up salad style
1/4 c thinly sliced Thai chili peppers (red or green, mild or spicy, based on your preference, other chilies can be substituted----luckily my husband, the pilot, can bring us back a nice stash from Thailand. However, the PakNam International grocery store off of Bar Row also carries Thai peppers)

Ingredients for the sauce:
1/4 c fish sauce
1/4 c lime juice
1 tablespoon sweet soysauce (we just added @ 1 ts of sugar to it)
3 tbs minced garlic
3 tbs minced fresh ginger (we didn't have this so we did without)
1/4 c chopped green onion
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs chili oil (we didn't have this either though I think this would add a nice kick)

Grill the beef and slice into very think slices (we used the leftover meat from steaks that we had grilled for dinner 2 nights prior)
Combine the salad ingredients
Mix the sauce separately, then pour over the salad
Toss the salad.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Falling Short

By Jennifer Yan

Expectations. I think we all have them. I know I do. I expect my children to defecate in the toilet and for my husband to brush his teeth. Those are reasonable expectations and I would venture to say that most of you would agree with me.

And then there are these other expectations that we all carry but never verbalize. These are the expectations that wage war within us and cause us to distance ourselves from the very people we feel did not measure up and/or meet our expectations.

I have learned that my life would go better if I didn't have huge expectations of people in my life. Antinomies are tricky little things though. You must have expectations (see example above about using the bathroom and brushing teeth) and yet sometimes, you just have to let go of them.

Recently I found myself hurt and angry about a party that I had not been invited to. I had determined that there must have been a very logical reason for this oversight since surely no one could dislike me and thus, I gave this person the benefit of the doubt about the lack of invite. However, my feelings would not let go of the situation so I found myself asking this person whether or not I had done something to hurt or offend them. Thankfully, the answer wasn't painful and it was just an innocent mistake when all was said and done in the end.

This situation revealed a fundamental flaw in how I often approach relationships-----that it ought to be an even exchange, and if it's not, the balance should weigh in my favor. Yet, aren't we glad when God does not treat us like we treat each other?

The people we love (including those we should love) are not commodities that can be traded for better ones but sinners in need of grace.

Can I, even after the dust settles and words are exchanged, be okay with the relationship being just what it is? I find that relatively easy to do with casual friends and/or aquaintances but even harder to do when it comes to family. Somewhere muddled in that mystery is coming to terms with who you are yourself and certain that your worth is not dependent on another person's acceptance or rejection of you.

We are so broken. Viewing each other through this lens shouldn't give us a feeling of superiority but one of humbleness----knowing that God reached out to us when we did not deserve nor earn it.

Who am I to feel hurt when someone has not met my expectations? I fail in so many ways each and every day. My love is not everlasting. My love is conditional and intermittent at best.

W.F. Adeney says,

It is, indeed, a marvel that, through these long ages of the world's wild wanderings, God should still follow his unworthy children with ceaseless love, never refusing to bless them, always entreating them to return to is the nature of true and perfect love to be eternal.

God loves us when we turn away, God loves us when we forget Him, and God still loves us when we don't think we need His love. Let us learn from His example. If I belong to Christ, is there someone better for whom I am striving to belong to?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weekend Recap

By Jennifer Yan

Fall sports have started up so our weekends have been pretty busy with Cross Country (Madden), Swim Team (Megan and Madden), and soccer (Madden and Myles).

On Saturday we went to cheer for Myles. Unfortunately, it was raining off and on so I left my camera in the car. Myles is really enjoying soccer again this year. He would much rather play offense than defense. I'll be sure to post some pics soon.

Matt and I got a chance to get all dressed up and attend the Air Force Ball on Saturday night too. I LOVED seeing him in his mess dress. :) Other than that, our weekend was pretty low key. Enjoy the pic!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Power of Love

By Jennifer Yan

My husband flies C-130's. I don't presume to know all there is to know about his airplane nor his profession in the Air Force. All I know is that the type of plane he flies are big and that they can carry big cargo in it.

Another thing that I know about his airplane is that they break a lot. Why do they break? I dunno. Maybe they break because they're old and that's what happens when things get old. But, I do know that when they do break, my husband's return home is delayed. When they break in the middle of nowhere it's not so much fun but sometimes they break in a place where you and I dream of going on a vacation. That's when the lines begin to blur and you find yourself asking should I be jealous that he's elephant riding and enjoying the ocean breeze? Or should I feel sorry for him because he's sleeping in an empty hotel room longing to be with me?

I have (at times) asked my husband why he wants to fly such an old and unreliable airplane. Aren't you scared every time you fly it? What if it craps out over the middle of the ocean? Or don't you get frustrated when you plan for a 3 day trip and that same trip turns into a 10 day trip because the stupid plane breaks? On and on, I have repeatedly asked questions such as these.

I, too, am a lot like my husband's plane. Old (and prone to breaks). The only difference is that I just want to be tossed into the junkyard. I don't find myself worth fixing and keeping up in the air.

And for the first time in my life, I found myself broken (and divorced) in a place I had never wanted to be. At first, I tried to mask my pain and was often very successful at it. Afterall, I had many years of practice hiding what was really going on underneath the surface of my life.

And then there was a lot of pain, pain that I tried to numb and/or sleep away. The problem with pain though is that it keeps coming back until you can pinpoint its source. And once you have figured out the root cause, you then have to decide whether or not you want to remove it and/or live with it.

And emotionally that's where I have been for the last year and a half. In my own strength, I just wanted to drown in my pain and rust away at the junkyard. I had flown some great missions in my life and now my time was finished. I could no longer be depended upon. I was now unreliable and no longer prone to just breaks but now I was completely broken and unflyable (is that a word?).

This emotional turmoil manifested itself physically too. 20+pounds of weight, my first grey hair with a few added wrinkles on to my face.

Spiritually, I was emaciated. All that was left was some skin and bones. N-O-T-H-I-N-G about me was pretty.

God in His good grace does not leave us where we are and He certainly does not leave us where we deserve to be. He has picked me up, has wiped the mud off of my face and has begun to fix the broken pieces of my life.

I wish that I could say that part of my healing process has been due to the unconditional love and support of family and friends. But sadly, that has not entirely been the case. In my greatest time of need, I was afflicted, judged and abandoned. Those that were closest to me, hurt me the most and had broken what little I had left to break. (I'm sorry mom for thinking you would love me any less. I should have known that a mother would always be their for their child. I wish I had gone to talk to you in the very beginning)

And this is where you find me today, broken in a place I don't want to be. Maintenance (the Lord) wanted to fix the broken airplane (me). I just couldn't see my worth nor my beauty until I could come to a place of repentance and a desire to live and worship again.

I no longer have to wonder why my husband would want to fly such an old and unreliable plane that tends to break because the answer is simple. He sees the plane's beauty and her worth.

But more importantly, he loves her. That's why he does what he does.

(This was my first song of prayerful worship to my Father. No pictures, no videos. Only words. Enjoy!)