Sunday, November 30, 2008

Back it Up

People almost always back into parking spaces here. I think it's more difficult just because I'm not used to it, but it is good for conserving fuel.

Peri, our Toyota Auris, is featured in the center of the pack.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Home Tour Part 6

As shown previously, the toilet gets its own room, so the bathroom has a sink and our washing machine, and then this room with the shower and tub. Notice how low the mirror is? It isn't for checking how your knees are looking - traditionally, Japanese people would wash themselves first while sitting on a stool (so you would actually be able to see in the mirror), and then get into the bath for soaking after getting clean. The tub is small and deep, and some of the apartments we looked at came with folding tub covers. These would be used to keep the water warm for the other family members that would be getting in after you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Subway Sights

A lot of regular sights on the subway packed into one picture. It is considered rude to talk on the phone while on the subway, but a lot of people have their phones out and are either texting or playing games on them to pass the time. People frequently sleep on the subway too, and seem to wake up just as they get to their stop - they'll often drift off with their cell phone or a book in hand. And finally, masks to prevent spreading your sickness to those around you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Just For Men - I hope...

Can't get your facial hair to fill in? Not a problem!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Home Tour Part 5 - do you have a sink on your toilet?

While we're on the subject of toilets, let's continue our apartment tour. "Toire" is the Japanese word (taken from English) for both the toilet itself and the room it is in. This is considered an 'unclean' area of the house, so there will be slippers at the door for your use. If you already have slippers on, you slip those off and step into the bathroom slippers, and then reverse the process when you're done - thus avoiding your clean slippers being in an 'unclean' area. When you flush, the faucet turns on, letting the user wash their hands in the water going to refill the bowl - smart water conservation!

Friday, November 21, 2008


After arriving in Japan for our preview trip, I had to make a pit stop in the airport bathroom, and oh was I surprised to see this:

It looks like someone got confused and stuck a urinal in the ground, right?! This is a traditional Japanese squat toilet. The bar at the front helps beginners (and foreigners) maintain their balance. According to Wikipedia, it is known as a "grunt bar."

I had a flashback to a conversation I'd had with M & D after M's first trip to Japan. D said that she'd heard that there were holes in the ground in the bathroom, and M said that there certainly weren't.

I stomped out of the airport bathroom and over to a surprised and very caught off-guard M, and exclaimed, "They do so have holes in the ground," while wondering what I'd gotten myself into.

That was four months ago, so I've seen a lot more of them since then, but they won't go down as my favorite thing about Japan. Did I mention that some public bathrooms don't have toilet paper, so it's common practice to carry your own pack of tissues...?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Stovetop Cooking 1.3

Thanks to a great find of mini-trays by A & K, our cooking options might go up a notch - here are bean enchiladas done in the fish broiler!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bedazzling the Streets

Public art is all over the place - from large pieces down to small ones underfoot.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Raining, Men.

One of the buildings in our neighborhood was getting renovated awhile ago, and while walking by, we happened to spot these workers protecting themselves and any passersby from falling debris with their umbrellas.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Home Tour Part 4

Off of our LDK (that's Living, Dining, Kitchen for those of you who haven't be perusing any Japanese apartment classifieds lately - we live in a 2LDK +tatami room) we have 2 porches. One of which is too small to get any use by anything other than our burnable trash. The other porch is used for drying laundry. When the laundry is dry, the poles slide out, and the side arms bend in and out of the way, creating more space.

Even with the poles out of the way, porches aren't used as an entertaining space here, they are mainly a functional space - like for the daily airing out of your sleeping futon!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Skyscraper Shopping

On Friday K and I shopped in and around Nagoya station (the world's largest train station in terms of floor area!). One of our stops was at Midland Square - it is the fifth tallest building in Japan and it has the highest open air observatory in the country. Inside are offices and lots of shopping - similar to Somerset level - the type of shopping that I feel like I need to dress up for. Prices were too high to be purchasing anything, so the highlight for me was seeing the unusual double-floored elevators!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Shoe Zoo - Home Tour Part 3

It is mandatory to take your shoes off before entering a Japanese home - you are symbolically and literally leaving the dirt of outside behind as you step up into the house. Guests shoes stay in the entryway - the genkan - which is slightly lower than the rest of the home. But where do the occupants shoes go? In the shoe closet!

This is one thing I will definitely miss about our apartment! It is so convenient - no more rooting around in the bottom of your closet, trying to see your shoe options - they are all on display!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Stovetop Cooking 1.2 and Home Tour Part 2

I neglected to explain that the food posts are titled "Stovetop Cooking," because that's really all we can do here. We have a gas stovetop and a drawer for broiling fish, which we use as a toaster/broiler. We do have a small convection microwave, but we generally use it just as a microwave rather than as an oven. My attempt to bake a persimmon pudding in a cereal bowl didn't turn out exactly as I'd hoped it would...

Sunday brunch on the other hand turned out deliciously. I made french toast with a batter of soy milk, banana, and tahini, and I am really wishing that there were leftovers for me to devour right now!

Happy Birthday to our fur-child!! Hana and her 'sister' Journey both turn 4 today!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pitch Piles - Home Tour Part 1

This is our recycling/trash station in our kitchen.

The short one is for non-recyclable materials (not very much falls into the actual trash category - we've only emptied this twice since we've been here). The four compartments in the taller bins hold paper containers and cartons, glass bottles, cans, and plastic. PET bottles are another category, separate from all other plastic, but we don't ever have many of them, so we didn't add in another bin to the mix!

Everything has its own specific bag too. Non-recyclable material goes in the green bag, recycling goes into blue bags (each category into their bag - no mixing!) And burnable materials go into the red bags. That bin lives out on our porch, because as I mentioned here - food scraps in plastic bags get really stinky!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Autumn Daze

It's hard to believe that it is November already, when most of the leaves on the trees are still green and flowers are still blooming.

This is at a nearby outdoor mall, and during our last trip there we noticed that part of it has a green roof!

Monday, November 3, 2008


Convenience stores are more than just the place to pick up a snack and a beverage. They are also the place to go to pay bills. That's right, you can just stroll in with your electric bill, the clerk will scan it, and then you fork over the cash. We tried using a credit card once, and that was a mistake we didn't repeat again. Cash is required for almost everything here. Of course some companies will let you do an automatic deduction from your bank account, but for the ones that don't, the convenience stores always have an ATM too, so you can take cash out on the spot to pay your bill. I personally prefer paying bills on-line, but this method does encourage impulse purchases, like trying the latest seasonal flavor of KitKat bars.

Happy Birthday E-Money!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Which Way?

A's recent post made me realize that I need to do a better job of documenting unique things that are already seeming very normal to me.

It's a bit difficult to see, but if you look to the left of the red traffic light, and then a little above the "blue" traffic light, you see signs that appear to be street signs. Except that they both read Issha S. (Issha South in the kanji). I was very confused by all of the intersections where these duplicate street signs appeared until I asked a Japanese speaking friend who said that these aren't the names of the streets at all, but rather are letting you know of a nearby destination, in this case it's the nearby Issha subway/bus station.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Italia Mura

Yesterday A, M & I went to the aquarium, it was a fun afternoon, and we enjoyed walking around the Port of Nagoya too. They even had an "international" Red Lobster!

We saw signs for an Italian Village, and decided to wander in that direction, only to discover a large boarded up complex, complete with canals and a lonely abandoned gondola.

After we got home, A discovered that it was "Italia Mura," a mall that closed in May of this year. I'm no fan of faux towns (as my father can attest to from all of my griping during his days living in Texas - I would often complain about the uncontrolled sprawl and the fake town centers that would pop up all over the place) - but in this case I was a little disappointed. As I told A, having it close just a couple of months before we moved here makes me feel like I just missed out on some delightful kitschy experience!