Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words...


Cherry Blossoms!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What about White or Mexican Love?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Black Love scented candle:

I found Black Love at a local department store among the Plumeria and Lavender scented candles. Needless to say, I was immediately intrigued. Why Black Love? Why Japan? Of course I had to buy it.

In case you're wondering, Black Love smells pretty good. Kind of like incense.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cell Phones! Food Theme Parks!

Well, it wasn't easy, but my husband and I finally managed to get cell phones yesterday. We'd been asking around at our branches for weeks, trying to figure out how the other teachers found service, and got such helpful answers as "I don't remember." Seriously, at least three people told us that. How do you not remember getting cellular service in a country where you don't speak the language? What a ridiculous answer. In any case, the two of us simply had to get phones, so yesterday we decided to visit various cell phone dealers until we found one where someone could speak English. There are literally dozens of cell phone stores on any given city block, but we had to visit at least six before we could find anyone that could help us/was willing to help us. I have suspicions that at least a few of the employees could speak a little English, but didn't want to deal with the hassle of translation. One guy said "I don't speak English" with such perfect pronunciation that I would be very surprised if he wasn't at least semi-fluent. The store that finally did help us called someone from another branch to translate over the phone, and while we are uncertain what plans we purchased, we are now the proud owners of two hi-tech Japanese cell phones.

The instruction manuals are all in Japanese of course, but both phones have GPS, Internet, picture, video, music and god knows what else. The trend in Japan is to attach chain things to one's cell phone, so I bought a Kuromi chain to attach to mine. Kuromi is an evil Hello Kitty character for those of you not in the know. Here is a photo of our two phones. Mine is the pink one of course.

If you're wondering what character my husband has attached to his phone, it's the monocle cat of Namjatown. And what is Namjatown you ask? Why, it's a food theme park of course. And just what is a food theme park? According to, a food theme park is a magical place specializing "in one type of food or dish, giving visitors the opportunity to taste various versions of that dish in one place. Unlike conventional theme parks, food theme parks are located indoors, and many are atmospherically decorated according to a specific epoch or fantasy theme." My husband and I stumbled upon Namjatown while waiting for the cellular people to set up our phones and decided to check it out. Here is a photo of me outside the main entrance.

The theme of Namjatown, apparently, is evil cats. One wears a monocle and the other looks like this.

Upon first entering Namjatown, my husband and I followed a path into what can only be described as some sort of evil cat haunted house. The lighting was ominous, the noises spooky and the cats malevolent. There was also a variety of bizarre games, television screens and weird displays, but as we don't understand Japanese, my husband and I had no clue what was going on. My husband, however, is enamored by evil cats for some reason, and chuckled with glee the entire time.

I wish I could better describe the experience of Namjatown, but it's difficult because I'm still not sure exactly what I saw. There was a boy band performing with a dancing cat on the main stage near the entrance. We were bedazzled by fake jungle paths, fake war zones, fake European chapels, all complete with evil cats and the occasional worm looking thing. It was a strange, strange place.

However, one doesn't visit Namjatown for the evil cat shows. The best part of Namjatown is the giant food courts. The park features three giant courts, one dedicated to ice cream, one to desserts and another to gyoza, a sort of meat pocket thing. Of course, my husband I had to visit Ice cream City and sample some of the goods. We each tried a cup of gelato and found it mighty tasty. In addition, we strolled through Gyoza City and the Tokyo Dessert Stadium, but didn't eat anything from either court. By then our cell phones were ready, so we sadly left Namjatown with promises of returning again.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

It's the Little Things...

Little Things in Japan That Take Some Getting Used To


While many places have regular Western toilets, a few do not, and I've had to use a squat toilet on at least four occasions. I can't say I fancy them. I always forget to grab a handful of tissue before I sit, or rather squat, and I then find myself flailing awkwardly for the dispenser which is always just out of reach. Plus, they're smelly and the linoleum floor is always suspiciously wet and slimy. Not to mention the discomfort squatting causes my legs. I only use squat toilets when I've had two or three beers and simply must go.

On the other end of the spectrum, are fancy toilets with seat warmers, music, bidets and fake flushing sounds to cover embarrassing noises. The controls look something like this:

I've used these at various department stores and restaurants, and I must say that the seat warmer is rather nice. However, I haven't tried the bidet or shower option. I read on Wikipedia that some of the toilets have glow in the dark seats and air conditioning. That would be something!

The toilet at our apartment is just a regular Western toilet with no fancy features. However, it does have a spigot at the top in case we'd like to wash our hands with toilet water. It's clean and it saves water, but I wash my hands in the regular bathroom sink by habit.


I like recycling as much as the next person, but the Japanese are hardcore about it. It's mandatory that everyone extensively sort and separate their garbage and put it out for collection on the designated day. Burnable garbage goes out on one day, plastics on another. Aluminum cans have their own days, as do bottles and newspapers/magazines. On the second Wednesday of the month or something, the city collects random things like batteries and large household items. All of these things go in their own bags of course, and we're supposed to clean everything before we toss it. My husband and I still have no idea what goes out when, and we have to stare into the garbage bin to figure out what trash we can bring down. Our employer left us strict warnings to follow the rules, claiming that mistakes will draw complaints from other residents or cause them to bring erroneously placed trash back to our door. We haven't had any problems yet, but then we haven't really been taking at our trash regularly. Also, the trash truck plays a little tune like the ice cream man's. And that brings me to....

*Random Things That Talk

Lots of random objects talk here. Ambulances talk. Crosswalks talk. Restaurants talk. Products at the grocery store talk. Of course, my husband and I can't understand a word of it. The first time we heard an ambulance talk, it was 3 in the morning and we were worried that it was some sort of emergency announcement. Another instructor later told us that the ambulance is basically saying "Get out of the way. This is an emergency." The crosswalk near our building talks and I can often hear it in our apartment. It goes, BEEP, BEEP (Japanese gibberish), BEEP, BEEP (Japanese gibberish). It talks when it's safe to walk, I think. It's very loud at the grocery store sometimes because the speakers placed around various products babble advertisements. A restaurant down the street from our apartment does the same.

*Surgical Masks

Many people in Japan wear surgical masks wherever they go. I've heard it's because of allergies or a fear of getting sick, but I couldn't say for sure. My guess is that it's to fend off germs because, in my opinion, Japanese people are overly concerned with germs. Many businesses also have a little tray for customers to put money in so the clerk doesn't have to take it directly from the customer (which makes no sense because the clerk takes it from the tray not even one second after the customer puts it there). Most Japanese people don't wear masks, but enough do to make it worth pondering.

I'm sure there's more things to share, but that's all I can think of right now. Tune in for more at a later date.
Also, if any of you have questions you'd like to ask, please do! I'd be delighted to answer them.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Weird Stuff I Found in Japan

Before I even thought of moving to Japan, I loved to visit sites like to see photos of humorous English mistakes or just plain weird sentences. Little did I know that I'd one day be in Japan to see examples for myself! Some of the stuff on that site is hilarious! I can't wait to amass a large collection of wacky Engrish clothing to wear back in the States. As of yet, I've only found one funny thing myself and that is the children's fork below. Take a look at the company name.

Apparently, Lube Sheep is a company in Japan that produces children's eating utensils. I've seen other forks by the same company, but this is the only one I've found with the name on the instrument itself. I can't help but wonder why they chose the name. I mean, Lube Sheep?! What the hell? And don't ask me what Putifresh means. A friend of mine in Oklahoma is having a baby girl soon, and she will be the proud owner of this Lube Sheep fork.

Although the product below is not an example of Engrish, it's just as strange. Maybe stranger. Behold, the Afro Boy 2way Door Stopper!

Yes, that's right, 2 way! One can simply remove the afro and use it to prevent the door from closing...

Or, place the little man under the door so that he prevents it from opening. How wacky and whimsical and utterly un-pc!

I can hardly imagine the uproar this product would cause in the United States or other countries. I've heard that the Japanese can be very racist, especially against black people, although I'm not black myself so I couldn't say for sure. I don't know what I'm going to do with the Afro Boy 2way Door Stopper.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Japanese Memaws

Although I spent the last two years in South Carolina, I grew up in Oklahoma and consider it my homestate. A surprising number of my Japanese students have heard of Oklahoma. Well, at least I think they have. When I ask students if they've heard of it, many smile and nod, but it's hard to tell if they understand what I'm asking or if they're just pretending to. I have my suspicions. In any case, I've been making Oklahoma sound like it has nothing more than cowboys, country music and rodeos, which was my pet peeve when I lived there, but for some reason I always find myself saying yee-haw and making lasso movements when I talk about the state. I just can't help myself.

Yesterday I taught a lesson about family members, and in it we discussed different names for grandmothers. For example, granny, nana, grandma, etc. I went a step further and taught them the word mewaw, which is quite hilarious in my opinion. My third cousins call their grandma memaw and I've heard one or two other Oklahomans do the same, but obviously my students had never heard of it. I told them it's a country thing, and as far as they know everyone in Oklahoma uses the word memaw and listens to country music. Good times. I've also manged to incorporate werewolves, ghosts and other paranormal things into my lessons (it's easier than you think), so who knows what other gems I'll be able to teach the Japanese. If just one Japanese student calls his or her grandmother memaw or is able to speak freely about werewolves and haunted places, then all the hours of lessons are worth it! :-)

Has anyone else heard or used the word memaw?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Green Eye Goo, Izakayas, A Park

For the last six days or so, my husband and I have had a terrible cold. We've spent our first few days of work hacking up phlegm and leaking snot, and I haven't a normal speaking voice in about five days. It's a wonder my students can understand me well enough to complete the listening comprehension exercises. We've purchased some medicine, but it doesn't seem to work very well. Oh, how grand it would be to have some NighQuil…. If I weren't worried about Japanese laws, I'd ask someone to ship me some. Oh well, we'll get better eventually. In addition, my eyes have become seriously bloodshot, and one morning I awoke with dried green goo around my eyes. Sounds healthy doesn't it?

Anyway, my significant other and I were off work on Tuesday and Wednesday, so we spent our free time wandering around parts of Tokyo. Yesterday we went to Ikebukoro and ate an izakaya. An izakaya is a bar/restaurant in which patrons go in, remove their shoes, sit at lowered table and order a variety of dishes to share with friends. Sort of like tapas I guess. We went to an izakaya on Saturday night with another American instructor and three Japanese staff members, and that's when I saw all the gross food. Those girls ate chicken hearts, squid guts, raw horse meat sushi, and skin from the backside of a chicken, among other things. My husband and I stuck with regular old chicken skewers and sushi, both Saturday night and Tuesday afternoon. I used to be grossed out by sushi with large chunks of raw fish on top, but it turns out I like it and can eat it just fine. After seeing some of the other food here, raw fish is nothing.

On Wednesday we wandered around a park near Tokyo Dome and took a few photos.

My husband calls this his fish whisperer photo.

Here's a tree that looks Japan-y. A bonzai tree, perhaps? Is that right?

A quaint old bridge. Fascinating, huh?

The park also had a fake temple, a waterfall, a rice paddy and some cherry blossom trees. We didn't spend much time there because we had planned to go to the amusement park beside Tokyo Dome, but alas, it was closed. Today it was back to work teaching English. Tomorrow is our (da da dum) one week review. We shall see how it goes.

Until later...