Oliver’s Soccer Season Coming to an End

Oliver’s middle school soccer team is preparing for this weekend’s Western Japan Athletics Association tournament taking place on Rokko Island over in Kobe. Oliver is in sixth grade and a starting member of the “B” squad. They will be playing in the “B” tournament.

A couple of weeks ago our school hosted a futsal, which is played with smaller goals on a smaller field with less players, tournament. The semifinal game against Canadian Academy of Kobe finished in penalty kicks. As you can see in the video, Oliver had an opportunity to take a shot in the penalty kicks.

I hope to make it the second day of the tournament on Saturday.


Oliver’s team wins!


Last Saturday Oliver’s team, the Osaka International School Sabers defeated Canadian Academy of Kobe, 4-3 in an exciting comeback win. They were down 1-3 at half, and fought hard to score 3 goals in the second half to win.

Oliver played midfield this game. He was playing center back on defense. I like him better as a midfielder because he is more active and gets some shots on goal. He is a really solid player and it was so fun to watch. As you can see in the videos in this post, he had a lot of touches.


They are free this weekend due to a national holiday. The Sabers return to action in a futsal (5-aside) tournament.

Skiing Over Lake Biwa

Ocean (blue) Owen (black and white checkered jacket) on the slopes

It was an exhilarating day of skiing today at the Biwako Valley Ski Resort. Lake Biwa is a large freshwater lake north of Kyoto. The Hira Mountains abut against the lake. It makes for a breathtaking backdrop as you can see from the photos. It only took 1 hour and 15 minutes to arrive at the parking lot of the resort, which makes it an easy day trip.

kids skiing

I love spending a day outdoors with my children. I wish Nadia liked skiing, but she stayed in the lodge for the afternoon. It took a couple of runs for me and Oliver to get comfortable, but we did have fun going down the main run at the top of the mountain.


The resort is small but picturesque. A gondola takes groups up the steep cliff to the start of the ski area. You cannot see the ski runs from the parking lots. There are only six different trails that are fun to ski. There were a lot of people, but the majority were beginners on the bunny run. Once away from them, there were really no wait times. There are two longer runs which were our favorites. It is not a resort to spend a week, but for a day of skiing, and being so close to our home, it is perfect.



Family Journal: January 27, 2018

Oliver clears the ball in defense against Marist Brothers International School

I am catching up on my family journal while on the shinkansen back from Hiroshima.

Last weekend was great because we had snow! Oliver’s soccer game against Marist Brothers International School was played on a snowy field. As the sun hit more of the field, most of the field was clear, but it was still slippery conditions. Oliver played sweeper (gunta in Japanese) which is a position that suits his body type. I had to laugh when the star of the opposing team tried to dribble past him. He leaned into Ollie and got knocked flat to the ground. Oliver is a stocky boy and to afraid of physical contact. I love watching him play. He also has an eye for the goal, and has a strong leg and is very accurate. His left heel is bothering him when he plays too much and we should get that checked out after the season.

ollie stops a goal

Ocean has been begging for a puppy. I really want to get one, but they are expensive and a lot of work so we are not sure if we are going to get one. Especially with our lifestyle of travel, it is difficult to travel with or find care for the dog when we are away. She read a lot about hamsters so we did get her a Dzungarian Dwarf Hamster named “Eduardo”. It is very cute and we are enjoying watching him and taking care of the little guy. He has a habit of biting so we are training him not too. He is a big eater and it is fun to hand him cheese, blueberries or standard hamster food chips. Eduardo grabs it in his front feet and nibbles like crazy.

Ollie holds Eduardo

It was Nadia’s birthday on Friday. We surprised her with flowers and strawberries in the morning. Owen baked her a small cake and Ocean made a nice card. We went to dinner at her favorite restaurant on Saturday, the Lei Can Tin. They have many delicious Asian dishes.

Nadia, Amy and Mariah

Owen and I like to throw the football around. We usually go to park #4 in our neighborhood. Having snow on the ground reminded me of playing football with my brother and the neighborhood friends on the first snowfall. We loved slipping and sliding around and diving into the snow.


Oliver Begins Soccer Season


Oliver Soccer

Nadia and I watched Oliver’s first game of the middle school season. He is such a character with his big smile and red cheeks! He is so funny to watch. As you can see he enjoys the sport and we are happy that he is making friends, exercising and experiencing winning and losing in pressure situations.

They played a small school, the Sons of the Light International School. The format of the day was futsal or 5-on-5 soccer with small goals and a smaller field. The idea is to get players to help with skills.

I will be posting more updates this season.

Book Review: Falling Leaves – The True Story of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter


falling leaves book cover
courtesy of Amazon.com


(contains spoiler alerts)

I am reading a lot about China lately, in preparation for my trip to Beijing in March. Adeline Yen Mah’s memoir tells the story of her growing up in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Her mother died in giving birth to her, the fifth child. Adeline’s father remarried to a stereotypical wicked, petty and domineering stepmother. Her stepmother had two more children that were favored. Adeline was neglected and barely tolerated, spending years in a Catholic boarding school, before being sent to England. She made a successful life for herself and finished medical school there and eventually having a successful practice in California. The stories of the relationships with her four siblings, parents, aunts, nephews, etc. over the years was engrossing. Now that I have reached an age that I can look back on the choices I have made, I see consequences of choices. The members of her family are very cruel and cold-hearted to each other often. She suffered a lot of abuse and you can see the effects on her as she goes through her life. Having a safe and happy start in life is so important for children.

The setting of the book is pre-World War II in China. The slow takeover of the country by the communists was devastating for millions of people. Many escaped to Hong Kong, like her family, but other stayed, thinking that things would be OK. How wrong they were! The book ends in the 1990s, so it is truly an epic tale of a family. Adeline overcame a lot in her life. Besides a tough childhood, she went experienced racism, sexism and a tough divorce. Through it all, she remained dignified and true to herself. I also was touched by her relationship with her aunt and the strong nostalgia of childhood. I get that feeling when I return my home village of Caspian, Michigan. She felt the same in the streets of Shanghai. A childhood that seems so far away from where I am today. Mine was so much happier than hers of course, but she had good moments too.

If you want to get a better sense of China and a good family generational story, I highly recommend this book.

Pounding Mochi


Yesterday we made mochi, a traditional Japanese New Year’s rice cake. Nadia and I love the dessert of a strawberry wrapped in sweet bean paste and mochi. It was interesting to see the entire process of rice to the finished cake.

The Latter Day Saints congregation of Toyonaka annually holds a mochi-making day and since we have friends in the church, we went along. Making mochi as a family is a traditional activity at New Years and it is consumed in great quantities in Japan. I guess an equivalent in the west would be the Christmas fruitcake. Different types of mochi desserts are also featured during sakura (cherry blossom) season and Children’s Day (May 5) and Girl’s Day (March 3).

As with most things in Japan, the process is labor-intensive! A short-grained, sweet and sticky rice variety soaked overnight. It is then steamed and pounded with large wooden mallets (kine) in a huge mortar (usu). As you can see in the video above, it is a two-person operation, with one person wetting and shaping the mochi between strikes of the mallet. Timing is key here! There were no accidents, although I learned that you need to hit the roll of mochi and not the mortar as splinters from the wooden mallet may get into the finished mochi. If you don’t want the exercise and risk of a smashed finger, there is a modern appliance to do the same, and it produces a more homogenous smooth mochi. I prefer the old-fashioned method!


Shaping the mochi into rolls, ready to be used for assembling the final cake


Since it has a bland taste, anything can be added to mochi, either sweet (chocolate, bean paste, fruit) or savory (shrimp). The Japanese have been making mochi for over 2,000 years! For a long time it was a holy food and reserved only for nobility, but over time, it became a common food.


modern mochi appliance


It is quite healthy food, being basically water and rice and is free of gluten and cholesterol. It does pack some calories, however, as a typical serving is the same as a bowl of rice. Samurai used to take it on expeditions because it was easy to carry and prepare and was packed with calories. It is something like an ancient Clif Bar or energy bar that modern hikers carry on the trail.


wrapping strawberries


Thanks to the Toyonaka group for allowing us to share this cultural experience!