The end of a year

So it has now been a whole year since I moved to Japan, and what a year it has been! I haven’t traveled to so many different places in such a short time before and I have been lucky enough for every trip to be a great one.

It’s probably just because of how different things are here but even everyday things for locals like visiting a shrine, even just walking past one, is still a fun experience. The food is still amazing, and also really cheap compared to back home. Less that one pound for a plate of sushi, almost any sushi. No that’s not a typo.

But I’m not just here to tell you how great Japan is, because even though it is pretty great this is more of a learning experience kind of post. 

So let’s start with things I would do differently.

1. Study a lot more Japanese. Yes you can kind of muddle through with just English and bad acting, but if you want to have a real conversation with anyone you are going to need Japanese. A big jump in success for me was being able to register my new address with the phone company by myself, but I feel this would have happened a lot sooner if I was using the apps and books I am now from day one.

Yomikata is a must use in my opinion, teaching both vocabulary and reading skills it has been invaluable in growing my understanding of that language, second only to just going out and actually speaking with people.

2. Choose my own house (sooner). Moving into a leopalace was easy, but I should have done it by myself and not relied on my work to organise it since it means it was more expensive. Now that I’ve done it by myself it’s nearly half the price and there are no hidden admin fees for moving out!

3. Watch more TV and movies in Japanese. It’s pretty fun and it’s nice to start putting words to reactions together. You will be surprised how much you learn and it’s a talking point with new Japanese friends. 

Luckily it’s only a short list of changes, because as I said before Japan is great! I also get 100 yen every time I say that.

So what is the plan for the next year?

Well I’m going to do some more traveling and certainly keep up my studying. Hopefully by this time next year I’ll be roughly conversational, which would be nice. In the meanwhile watch this space for more Japan updates!

Japan is great.


An even more magical time of year

As promised I have returned with part two of things about trees in Japan, aka the Sakura season.

Today I visited the rather lovely, if not also very rural Kawazu ‘the land of sakura!’. The advertising is actually ‘it’s always beautiful’ but I think mine is better and since it’s not always beautiful (because after the blossom is gone you just have a load of naked trees and sad tourists) if you are going to tell a lie you might as well make it sound a little exciting.

That said, it really was beautiful today with most of the trees in full bloom and there is a recommended trail that starts at the sea and runs for about four kilometers alongside a river which is full of lovely lovely trees.

This is the beach. No there are no trees here, they are behind me. Sneaky trees.

This is the trail, in case you hadn’t guessed. But now the beach is behind me. Sneaky beach.
In addition to all this lovely nature you can also buy a range of sakura themed novelty items and foods. You can also buy a tree if you want to take one home with you to save on traveling next time, but to be honest I’d recommend just traveling as you would need to buy a lot of trees to really compete with Kawazu and your neighbours probably won’t be too pleased when your forest of cherry trees starts growing through their house.

There are of course other things to do and see too, as Kawazu is also home to one of the rare hot natural springs of Japan, and provides water for many onsen (public bath) and foot spas around the area. You can also find some interesting character statues along the way, including these two whom I have named Crazy Eyed Steve and Simon respectively. 

If you do want to follow in the trail that I blazed behind thousands of other people each year, then you can get to Kawazu by train from Atami. Be careful though as there are two types of train and the fancy looking one is nearly twice the price (although also a fair bit faster). The standard train takes a little over an hour, but you get a nice costal view as you go. Also if you don’t want to spend too much on food, as the stalls can be a little pricy, then there is a Family Mart near the beach and a 7/11 by the station.
So even though it’s a little bit out of the way and for me costs about the same as a trip to Tokyo, I really would recommended it if you get the chance and have the time, it’s a very nice way to spend a day.

This has been a review about trees and things from Japan.

Things that I have been doing, and the longest title for a blog post that may or may not also be about Japan (it totally is)

Hello once again you strange, wonderful and perhaps terrifying people. I trust that you are all well and enjoying the current disaster that is the state of our world. (except Japan which I love like a tiny animated ball of fluff that’s always smiling and telling excellent jokes and can do no wrong).

As this is kind of a Japan / travel blog I’ll talk a little about some travel and Japan things too. So Shizuoka, or Silent Hill if you go by the kanji, is the prefecture I currently call home. While I have explored to a reasonable extent all the cities within this prefecture there is one thing about Japan which makes it rather hard to grow tired of, and that is that they seem to hide everything up in the sky. Well, obviously not the literal sky but in tall buildings that in the UK would be nothing more than office blocks. This means that for a dirty immigrant like me (correction, expat) it’s very easy to forget to look up and find these hidden gems. I should add here that this goes double for big cities like Tokyo and it wasn’t until my recent return that I realized just how many shops I had missed when I first arrived. And it’s not just shops, but bars and restaurants lurk in nearly every possible space within these cities. You can even find super rare places to eat where you can dine with a native Japanese family, as long as you don’t mind them shouting at you in Japanese while you eat and generally having to help yourself to food. Two thumbs up though, would recommend.

Recently, tucked away in a reasonably public corner of Shizuoka city (okay so in this case I just walked past it a few times and didn’t really pay any attention to what it was) we discovered a honest real ale bar. Even better, it’s only 1200 yen for a pint which is like ¬£8.50… Yea, maybe don’t convert the prices. Compared to regular beer at 800 yen a pint, the extra 400 is completely worth it because the beer is great and they have ten on tap, including an 8% one called Jubilation. It’s also the first place I’ve found cider in Japan, again good cider, which also makes me very happy. If you happen to be in the area you can find more about them here

In addition to all this beer drinking we had a day jaunt back to Tokyo, this time to enjoy the trains. Not in a strange nerd kind of way though (because we all know that having unusual hobbies makes you strange and an easy target for people to gauge their visualized self worth, but I digress) but because there is a yearly event called Tokyo Metro Mysteries . As the name kind of suggests you get to solve mysteries around the different train stations and nearby areas in Tokyo. The puzzles are fun, and solvable for both Japanese and English speakers and require a nice range of puzzle solving skills and processes. You also get to see some interesting places in Tokyo that you might not have gone to on a normal tour of the city, which is a nice plus.

That’s all from me this time, hopefully see you all again soon assuming a certain orange racist hasn’t blown up the world by then.

Another day in Japan

Another month in Japan has brought some new experiences, from new foods to art exhibits. Actually it’s just new foods and art exhibits. If all goes well I’ll be able to add snowboarding to this list too! (But that’s a story for another day)

Recently I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Ghibly art exhibition and as anyone who has seen one of their movies can probably guess, it was amazing.

Not only did it show off hundreds of original sketches and scene layouts, but included some step by step demonstrations of how the movies go from being a rough drawing to a fully hand painted animated masterpiece. It was both educational and enjoyable to see, which was nice. 

On top of this I tried something called omochi, which is a traditional Japanese sweet made from rice. Apparently if you hit rice for long enough it becomes sweet and chewy. There might also be some additional processes to this, and/ or magic. Either way it’s a little strange to eat as the texture is unlike anything we really get back in the UK, the closest I can think of is marzipan but even that doesn’t really quite compare. That said the taste is pretty good and you can get a few different flavours, so it’s well worth a try if you can. It’s also traditional to eat it on new years day.

That’s all from me this time, hope you are all having a good year and haven’t been snowed in somewhere!

The Good and the Bad

Today has proven to be something of a mixed bag in terms of productivity and reward. After my phone broke last week and my internet connection started to prove more than a little temperamental (It’s currently free so I can’t really complain about that) I decided I would finally ‘splash out’ and gt a pocket WiFi. Things were going rather well, I had bought a friend who spoke enough Japanese to get though the transaction and had enough documentation with me to start the contact. Unfortunately it turns out that the bank had decided to use a different spelling for my middle name on my bank card compared to my health insurance card. This being Japan meant that rather than looking at the more official ID, or even calling the bank to check that I am who I am, one little character difference stopped the whole process and now I have to go to the bank tomorrow to change it.

On the plus side after watching some friends fail to win an ice cream at a horrendously rigged claw machine I decided to try my luck on a different machine and won some anime statue thing on my first try. I don’t quite understand what this anime is all about. My best guess from what I have seen is that there are battleships, but these ships are also girls who fight other battleships, who are of course also girls. See why I’m confused yet?

Other than this slight name problem, everything else is still going pretty well. We are now on the third summer of the year as every time it gets a little bit colder two days later it shoots right back up. I’m starting to think that winter may actually never happen here and the land of the rising and permanent sun might be a better name for this place.

Things what I did in Japan 

This week I’ve been back up to my usual shenanigans of traveling around bits of Japan and taking pictures, because apparently that’s what I do now.

Once again I managed to find another volcano to climb, because that’s also what I do now. This one was a much easier climb, mostly because I could use a ski lift instead. It’s amazing really how much easier walking is when you don’t have to do any real movement.

At the top of this particular volcano was a rather interesting sight. Now I don’t know about you but when I think volcano I think rocky, maybe lava in the crater if it’s active. I do not usually think ‘this would be a great spot for some archery.’ Well apparently someone did think this and that’s exactly what you can do here.

This week has also seen a return to eating more delicious raw fish, and generally amazing Japanese food. This pleases me.

It was also the week of the lucky moon, although I failed to cash in on this luck by eating a dumpling while staring at the moon. I assume this is some sort of threat, that the dumpling represents the moon and on this clearest of nights the moon can see that if it does not give you luck you will come up there and bite it.

Until proven otherwise I will assume this is basically a fact.