Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Stalker

My husband found a Nova Usagi cell phone charm when he was taking out the trash today. The Usagi is a cross between a pink rabbit and a bird and was Nova's mascot for years. Every branch had dozens of Usagi items for sale, although no one ever seemed to buy them when I was there.

I've only seen the Usagi in Japan. I searched Ebay to see if there are underground Usagi collectors in America, but only one user listed anything and he or she lives in Japan. So how in the hell did a Nova Usagi cell phone charm (I assume it's a charm) find its way to a Tampa, FL parking lot? And what are the odds a former Nova employee would find it? Very mysterious.

It's stalking us.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Traveling License Plates

In Japan, my husband and I used to visit an American hamburger joint called Oatman's whenever we got a craving for familiar food. Named after a Route 66 tourist attraction, Oatman's serves great burgers not unlike ones you'd find in the States. This is unusual for Japan, as many other restaurants serving foreign food often destroy it by putting raw eggs, mayonnaise or other strange ingredients on top. For example, this is what they've done to Pizza Hunt pizza.....

To create a vintage American feel, the owners of Oatman's have decorated the entire restaurant with old advertisements, products and license plates from the United States. There are plastic Hamburglar toys, old concert posters and license plates from the '80s. The license plates are fake, there is a sticker from a novelty shop where the annual registration one should be, and this gave my husband and I an idea. We had a stack of our own old license plates at home, (I often had to forbid my husband from hanging them on the walls in our apartment) why not send them to Japan for display at one of our favorite hangouts? That way Oatman's would have authentic license plates from former customers and we'd be able to leave our mark in Japan, in a small, humorous way. So that is what we did. We had to wait until we moved back to the United States to find the plates, but we eventually located them and I sent them to an old student of mine who lives near the restaurant. She delivered the plates a few days ago. Thanks Tomomi! This is the picture she sent back as photographic evidence...

She says the owner wasn't in when she delivered the plates, but that the staff assured her they'd put them up soon. I'm not sure why, but my husband and I find the idea of our old license plates hanging in a restaurant near Tokyo wildly amusing. It doesn't take much.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Back in Black

We're back. And my lord that was a long trip! 26 hours from our Japanese apartment to my brother-in-law's condo in Greenville, SC. On the last leg of our trip our flight was delayed two hours because the toilet wouldn't flush. This following a five hour layover following a ten hour flight. You gotta love air travel sometimes.

But we're back and it's good. I've enjoyed several little things that most Americans wouldn't think twice about. For example, a Route 44 Vanilla Dr. Pepper from Sonic, Judge Judy and Cops on TV, children speaking English. Even the obnoxious car commercials on the radio give me warm, fuzzy feelings (NO PAYMENTS UNTIL 2008!!!) I guess I missed America more than I thought.

So now is when we start to get our lives back together, i.e. jobs, cars, our own place. Right now we're staying at my in-laws' sweet beach house, which is nice, and they're giving us a car which is even nicer, so our main objective now is to find jobs. We're planning to live in either Charleston, SC or Tampa, FL, depending on where we can find the best jobs. Which means we'll probably end up in Tampa because unless one wants to work in hospitality the job market in Charleston leaves much to be desired. Anybody have any connections?

Monday, November 12, 2007


Well, it's over. We've attended our farewell parties, said our goodbyes and packed (most of) our things. Tonight is our last night in Japan and this will be the last blog entry I write in the country. We've made some great friends from around the world and have had many unforgettable experiences. My husband and I will never forget our time here.

Goodbye Japan.

Goodbye young, Japanese guys with big hair.
Goodbye wild, all-you-can-drink karaoke nights.
Goodbye green haired old ladies.
Goodbye to the phrase "go to shopping."
Goodbye ridiculous television.
Goodbye bathroom slippers in public restrooms.
Goodbye street beers.
Goodbye fish head, raw sea urchin, fried cartilage, raw horse meat sushi and other terrifying foods.
Goodbye balcony view of Mt. Fuji.
Goodbye sushi carousels.
Goodbye singing songs about triangles to uninterested two-year-olds.
Goodbye server summoning buttons.
Goodbye not having to tip for everything. Or anything.
Goodbye to instantly standing out in a crowd.
Goodbye random earthquakes.
Goodbye blatant stares from children, old people and other random people.
Goodbye to living thirty minutes from one of the world's largest and most exciting cities.
Goodbye polite government office workers.
Goodbye beer and cigarette vending machines.
Goodbye crazy students who say bizarre things.
Goodbye to not being able to say, understand or read anything.
Goodbye school girls and young women with shockingly short skirts.
Goodbye foreign guys who think they are far better better looking than they are because they are able to get attractive, Japanese girlfriends.
Goodbye deafening pachinko venues.
Goodbye to riding the train everywhere.
Goodbye signs and clothing with ridiculous English words and phrases.
Goodbye 1984ish, city-wide announcements and songs blaring from community speakers.
Goodbye cutesy mascots for everything from English schools to tourist attractions to butter.
Goodbye creepy train perverts.
Goodbye creepy train suicides.
Goodbye to being a professional English speaker (and entertainer).
Goodbye food theme park based around monocle sporting cats.
Goodbye high-tech cell phones.
Goodbye futons, to not having central heating or air and a nationwide absence of clothes dryers.
Goodbye corn, mayonnaise, raw egg, potato, sausage, little wiener and seaweed pizza.
Goodbye astonishing politeness.
Goodbye Dancing Days song on educational TV.
Goodbye surprisingly low crime rate.

Goodbye students.
Goodbye friends.
Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.

I will continue this blog once I'm back in the States, for those who've asked. Thanks for reading! I like comments too!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Japan: A Nine Month Review in Photos

Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil

Eating at Big

Temple in Nikko


Safety First

One of My Least Favorite Lessons

I React to a Gift From Eriko, My Husband's Branch Manager

Making a New Friend

Fun at the River


A Temple Somewhere in Tokyo

View of Mt Fuji From Our Balcony

I'll Miss This Karaoke Place

My Husband and I With Random Japanese Guys Who Dragged Us Into Their Karaoke Room

If Only Nova Had Hired My Husband to Do PR...

Cherry Blossoms!

My Husband Poses in Asakusa

Side View of Our Apartment Building, or Mansion, as the Japanese Say



Karoake Hijinx

Waiting for First Train

Young Love

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Five days until we go back home. I wish I could say my husband and I are living it up, doing everything we always meant to do before leaving Japan, but that's simply not true. We have absolutely no money and have spent most of our days going to bed at 3, sleeping in until 12:30 and sitting in our apartment doing nothing. My husband took out a credit card advance today and we used some of that money to buy food, drink beer in the park and sing karaoke one last time. Pathetic I know. PS: doing nothing is not nearly as appealing as it sounds.

Nova found a new sponsor yesterday and that sponsor plans to reopen 30 (out of 600+) schools. Eventually the sponsor hopes to open up to 200 branches, but they have said they will not honor student credits or pay unpaid teachers' salaries. My husband called Nova's former Head Office today and the representative told him that if we officially resign we forgo our chances of claiming our unpaid wages (2 months worth!) from the government, yet we cannot currently pursue those wages because Nova has not officially declared bankruptcy. What the hell?! I am thoroughly sick of this situation.

I'm sure I'll miss Japan when we're back in the States, but right now I want nothing more than to go back home and get on with my life. I am ready to move on.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I'm Officially Coming Home

We've purchased our plane tickets and will be back in the States on Tuesday, November 13th. I am excited to see my cats and my friends and family again, but bummed that I won't be able to do much my last week in Japan due to a serious lack of funds. Rumors are still flying around that Nova has found a sponsor and that a few branches will be opening again, but I'm over all of the speculation. Time to find a 'real' job in the States again and time to start drinking less...