Unexpected things about Japan – Part 1

So you may have seen something similar to this, but I’d like to share some unexpected things I found out from Japan after moving here.  I’ll write more parts as I think of them.

  1. Tom and Jerry cartoons have voice actors – Weird, huh?  I kinda enjoy it though since you already understand what is happening.  It’s like a really simple Japanese lesson.
  2. People use their emergency blinkers to park anywhere – This still irks me a little, but not so much since I realized that I could do it too.  Basically, since parking is limited in a lot of areas, people will pull over, use their blinkers and hop out to do whatever they need to do.
  3. Japanese kitchens rarely have ovens – If you’re a hobbyist chef like me, this may be a shocker.  The best thing I could get by with is a microwave/toaster oven that I was able to get at a recycle shop.  The only place I’ve seen full-size ovens at were some of the community kitchens where they have cooking classes/clubs.
  4. Amazon.co.jp shopping =/= Amazon.com shopping – When I first got here, I made it a mission to figure out how to use Amazon.co.jp to shop.  Back home, I used Amazon.com not only because of the convenience of online shopping, but because the prices were usually better, paired with Amazon’s great customer service.  Since Amazon has a barcode scanner built into their app, I would frequently check prices online in stores to see if it’s worth buying now or ordering it on the Internet.  In many cases, I’ve found that the prices usually don’t vary that much.  I’m not really sure why this is the case.
  5. Beer in Japan is taxed by its malt content – Malt is the partially broken down starches of the grains used in beer brewing.  It gives beer its alcohol content and body of flavor.  Bitterness and other scents are caused by the addition of hops and spices.  So as you would expect, all-malt beer in Japan, even if it is terribly made, is expensive.  This has pushed breweries to produce a cheap beer called “Happoshu”.  It’s an extremely low malt beer with other grain alcohol mixed in after fermentation is complete.  Sometimes the brewers will get fancy and add some interesting hops to the beers, but in general, they usually have an extremely light, bitter taste with some kind of odd “bite” (maybe it’s the liquor or funky hops).  In short, these beers make a Bud Light taste delicious by comparison.

So I’ll try to make a recurring series of these.  Leave me a comment if you have any questions!

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Real facts about living in Japan

All too often, I get updates in my news feeds about the latest crazy thing going on in Japan.  The latest being that young Japanese adults have stopped having sex.  Actually, since a lot of bloggers have been calling those news stories out (and rightfully so being borderline racist), I haven’t seen anything as of late, but I imagine it’s only a matter of time before a journalist decides to get another story about Japan brewing for more page clicks.  To sum up these articles, they essentially extrapolate that since a very small subset of Japanese people act a certain way, then a larger super-sect of those people must be doing the same.  For example, let’s take something popular in American news right now… The Knockout Game.  Would it be alright if a Japanese person came up to someone and said (mind you, in perfect English, of course), “Oh, I don’t think I want to visit New York City or Chicago, I heard that random teenagers play a game where they try and punch someone in the face as hard as they can.”
Well, yea, that would be incredibly offensive, but that’s exactly what these news articles about Japan say to Japanese people.  Also, as it turns out, the Knockout Game is a phony threat as well!
So next time you see one of these “crazy” Japan stories, take them with a grain of salt.  There’s probably a lot more to it than what the story leads on.  After living in Japan, you learn that Japan isn’t crazy, but rather, has a different way of doing things.

Keeping warm in winter

If I can recommend one thing for aspiring teachers in Japan, when winter comes close, get some HeatTek from your local home center. It’s fairly cheap (mine cost about 780¥ per shirt/pants) and it works really well when you are active. It’s like Spandex, but a little less stretchy and you wear it under your business clothes. If you have a sedentary job, then it doesn’t work as well (but if you’re too hot, then just relax and it lets you cook off). Just casually moving around the teacher’s room gets me nice and warmed up! Love this stuff. If you don’t have access to a home center, then it is also available on Amazon.co.jp.

Open Letter to Gearbox Software

Hopefully, this doesn’t fall on entirely deaf ears…

Good Evening Gearbox crew,
I am writing in concerns to a recent purchase my brother and I made with Borderlands 2. We teamed up and prepurchased the Steam Four-pack with two other friends. I am an English teacher in Japan currently. I was a bit disturbed to find out that Borderlands is getting released in Japan on October 26th, despite most the advertisements for the game that I’ve seen say that the game will release internationally on September 21st. I understand that Borderlands 2 in Japan is a new market and there may be more needed adjustments to the game code for it like language-related things, but I don’t need any of that. I just want to play the English version of the game with my brother in America as soon as it gets released. I know this may come off as a little lame, but my brother and I have really been looking forward to playing this game together since we would consistently play Borderlands CoOp split-screen whenever we had the chance during my college breaks. Also, playing games online with my family has been a great remedy for homesickness (while also quirky, my family has a tendency to come range of my brother’s laptop mic and talk directly to me while in gameplay).
All I’m asking is if there is any possible way that I can get around the October 26th release date and play the game when it gets released in America on September 19th? We bought the American version of the game and if I had bought/preordered the physical copy of the game, I could have legally brought it with me to Japan, so why should the digital distribution of the game be any different? (albeit, there is some flaw with this idea). Please, any advice or suggestions you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Please don’t tell me I have to wait over a month to play the game with my brother and the rest of my Internet friends online. Thank you.

New goal…

So this is a bit of a rant, so I’ll apologize in advance.
When I first came to Japan, I really wanted to trust everyone. My first trip to Japan instilled such an awe-inspiring trust in Japan with how helpful everyone was, I had no other expectation.
But after getting here and getting “ripped off” at some snack bars and some surprise charges here and there, I’ve sadly restricted how much trust I’ve been giving people. One person that kind of bothered me lately was my old senpai.

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Takakanuma Greenland is no more…

So my friend messaged me about two weeks ago saying, “How do you feel about abandoned amusement parks?”. I was hooked immediately and inquired about it more. My friend showed me a page on Atlas Obscura for Takakanonuma Greenland, an old Japanese amusement park.
http://atlasobscura.com/place/takakonuma
Per Atlas Obscura’s reference, the park was shut down in 1999 and left behind to rust. Many intrepid urban explorers has dared to venture into this place and see this eerily creepy place in person to take some wonderful pictures. Immediately, plans went into action with my friend to plan a road trip here since we both easily lived close enough to make a small road trip out of it. We knew somewhat about where it was located, but not exactly. In fact, even AO mentions that the park has become so obscure that people don’t know where it is located. So I began the great Internet search to find out where this park is located.

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Sticker Shock

Since I’ve came to Japan, I’ve had to get used to buying things in yen instead of dollars. Unfortunately, it’s been a little hard for me adjust. Mostly because I’ll look at a pair of sandals that are 3000¥ and think ‘Ahh, that’s so expensive!’ when they’re really only about $40. Haha

Japan Earthquakes 2011

Alright, so if you didn’t know already… Japan still gets a lot of  earthquakes.  Being in a mountain basin somewhat cushions you from the effects, but that doesn’t protect us from all of them.  This is a pretty awesome YouTube video visualizing the earthquakes in Japan over the past year.  If you’re one for stats, this is *your* video.