Will Life Slow Down?

October 28th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

Sometimes I feel as if I enter this phase in my life in which I am constantly looking forward to a specific day or time, thinking to myself that once that day or time arrives, things will clear up, another thing will be taken off my plate, and life will slow down.

But then, inevitably, that day or time comes, and things don’t slow down as I had anticipated. I never quite understand why or how this is. It just doesn’t always add up.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not meaning to complain. I feel incredibly lucky right now. My personal, professional and social lives are all doing well. It is just that they are a bit, well, overactive.

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Scammed in Japan

October 26th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

Japan is certainly a much safer place on a whole then the US. I tend to be very trusting when getting change when I pay for something with large bills, or when I am quoted a price. Something I could not have said living in Chicago. However, scams do exist here, and on occasion you may meet the odd bad egg.

During Rachel’s visit we had our first (known) experience of being scammed in Japan. It was an odd night following our trip to the Seki sword and knife festival, and the Mino lantern festival. We arrived to gifu station to find that all of the trains from Nagoya had been stopped due to a “collision with a person”. It was looking like it could be a very long wait or a very long walk home. Neither of which appealed to us. So we decided to grab a cab with another couple we know lived near Nishi Gifu. This couple was Japanese man, and a fluent half japanese/french woman, we, three white american foreigners.
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More Noticing

October 9th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living, Food | No Comments »

Last week Friday, I went to Takayama with all my first-year students and teachers on a one-day school “excursion.” For some reason, that is how it always gets translated. It makes me laugh.

Anyways, while in Takayama, I went out to eat Hida beef (a local, delicious, speciality) at a Western-style steak restaurant. I always love the way the Japanese imitate the western-style. Mostly they do ok, they have seen tons of western movies and tv shows, but it is always a little strange and awkward.

At this restaurant, what ended up being the most amusing, was watching my co-workers try to fumble through an entire meal with only a fork and steak knife. Most restaurants you go to, especially those that have meals which are intended to be eaten with fork/knife/spoon (Italian, Steak, etc), also offer chopsticks. And, in my experience, the Japanese usually opt for using the chopsticks, especially if they are eating salad.

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A Favor

October 1st, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | 5 Comments »

This favor goes out to all of our United States based readers.

A few months before we came back to America I had a student come up to me to ask a favor. He lived in the U.S. for about 7 years and while he was there he started collecting the quarters with the States on them. He managed to get twenty quarters, as they were released, but once he moved back to Japan he couldn’t get them anymore and his collection stopped.

When he found out that I was going to the U.S., he asked me if I would mind trying to pick up some of the states he was missing. He is a wonderful student, speaks great English, and I decided that it was well worth it to try to help this guy out. I asked my Dad to dig through his jar of change and we managed to find most of the quarters he needed but we are still missing a few.

I would really love to help this guy complete his quarter collection, if at all possible, so I was wondering if you, my fabulous and loyal readers, would mind digging through your own pockets and change jars to see if you have any of the ones he needs.

He needs Missouri, California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Alaska and Hawaii.

And, tell you what, I will make it worth your while. Anyone to find one of the quarters and send it my way will get a little bit of Japan sent back to you. I can’t make any promises about what it might be, but I assure you it will make you smile.

So, dig through your stashes. Check the change that you get at the register and let me know what you find. Just shout out in the comments if you find what I’m looking for and I will give you my address, in case you don’t have it already.

Thanks a bunch my friends!

Annual Health Check

August 18th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living, School Life | 2 Comments »

As Aaron mentioned in a post about a week ago, each person in Japan is subject to an annual health check. Since he just posted about it, and I just got the results from my check, I thought now would be a good time to show you what it was all about (before we start posting about our vacation).

Well, first of all, the health check is much like he described. I opted for the cheaper, and more convenient, check performed at my school. A van (with an x-ray machine, exam rooms and other equipment) pulled up in front of the school at about noon. The employees got out and proceeded to set-up other stations inside a large classroom (scale, height station, hearing/eyesight, etc). I, along with many of my co-workers and employees from other area schools, showed up at 1:00pm and formed a single file line.

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Insiders Look Into An Onsen

July 31st, 2008 Posted in Daily Living, Tokyo, Travel | 1 Comment »

We always are mentioning onsen around here (in Tokyo and at Oku-Hida) and we have tried our best to explain the concept. But, it is a bit difficult for most foreigners to wrap their heads around it. You simply have to come to Japan sometime and see for yourself, the Japanese really are on to something with the whole onsen idea.

To help you understand a little bit more, we decided to sneak a few pictures when we were on our anniversary get-away. Now, don’t get too excited, there aren’t any people in any of the pictures you are about to see. We took pictures of our private onsen in order to show you how the whole onsen process goes.

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One Year in Photos

July 29th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living, Photo Gallery | 1 Comment »

Rather than get all wordy, or overly sentimental, about finishing our first year in Japan, I just thought that I would share the year in photos. A few from each month. Looking back on the year, and all the photos we took, it is hard to believe that we have done so much and come so far! It has been a great year and I hope that I will be saying the same thing next year as well.

July 29, 2007 – Arriving on Japanese Soil

First Picture in Japan

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Japan Can Be Strange

July 24th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living, Just for Fun | 4 Comments »

Looking Up

Not very modest now, is she?

Reason Number 3

July 10th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living | No Comments »

When we moved to Chicago, fresh out of college and newly married, we had a bit of a rough time making friends and connections. We found that was difficult once we entered the adult, working world to find people that shared our interests and hobbies. Unlike undergrad when a huge group of students all moved into the same building without any friends of their own, the working world was quite different. We really didn’t feel like we made any solid friends until our last few years living there, and then it was a shame to leave.

But, what I like about being in Japan is how there is an instant social network upon arriving. Basically what happens when you move here is that it is easy to pick out people that you might have something potentially in common with (foreigners), here it is simple to spot just about any foreigner and strike up a conversation. Those first few minutes are easy, talking about where you are from, how long you have been here, places you’ve traveled, how long you intend to stay, etc. Once the initial ice-breaking takes place, it is easy to move into a more in-depth conversation or friendship.

Also, like in university, everyone moves here and most people don’t have any friends. Given that situation, everyone is willing to be a bit more outgoing, take a few more risks, and friendships develop at warp-speed. I really like that about Japan. We have been here only a year and some of the friendships we have developed are strong and solid. Sure, many of those friends will be leaving in the next few weeks (and I hope that we are able to maintain the friendships at a distance), but I also know that a whole group of new people will be coming.

Those new people will be looking for friendship and support, just like we were last year, and I know that new connections and bonds will form just as quickly as they did then. Except, this time, I might get to be the one doing a bit more of the supporting since I am sure that most of the new folks will look to those of us that have been here for awhile for some tips about living in Japan. I really hope that I have some nuggets to share with them. . .

Reason Number 2

July 8th, 2008 Posted in Daily Living, Engrish | No Comments »

Reason 2 – I love that I still walk around and spot things and signs that make me laugh and chuckle to myself. I love that I have not become annoyed by the stupid English I find everywhere (like many foreigners), instead I find it amusing. I love that something so simple still brings me joy almost everyday.

On that note, here is some good Engrish that we found at a new restaurant we were introduced to. It is a pretty flash place, but the highlight is the all you can eat bread that is brought to the table throughout the meal. And it is pretty good bread, not the overly sweet fluffy stuff we have grown accustomed to.

Saint Marks

Cream Puff