To anyone who reads my blog, I apologize once again for the hiatus. I was working on a post related to travel, but I decided to write about an unfortunate event that occurred to me last week instead. If you’ve glanced at the title of this post, then I’m sure you can guess what happened.
Last Wednesday, after a long day of helping students prepare their speeches, I went to an ATM to pay some bills via furikomi (I’ll have a separate post up on paying bills in Japan soon). The darned machine wouldn’t accept my phone number. After a few minutes of drawing kanji on Google Translate, I finally realized I needed to enter my area code. To be honest, I use my phone number so infrequently that I completely forgot about the area code. It’s a poor excuse, but most of my communication happens through the popular Line app. Fortunately, it was an error easy enough to fix, and I successfully entered the number and paid the bill. Hurray for keeping the lights and gas on another month—now I could get out of there. But in my rush to leave so the other customers queued in line could withdraw their cash and stop gawking at the silly foreigner unable to use an ATM, I failed to zip my bag properly.
You’re planning to move to Japan and starting a new life and job overseas. Now what? The process of uprooting everything and settling down somewhere unfamiliar can feel overwhelming. Unless your Japanese is already fluent or conversational, there’s a good chance you’re lacking some key grammar and vocabulary. Even if you speak zero Japanese, learning a few basics can make all the difference in your first weeks of work. I use these phrases frequently in my role as an assistant language teacher, but they can be used by anyone.
If you’ve managed to survive the sweltering, sticky, 蒸し暑い (mushi-atsui) Japanese summer, you’re in for a great reward. Depending on your region, the arrival of October and November means you’ll soon enjoy cooler temperatures, delicious foods, traditional festivals, and changing leaves. Seasonal treats and sweater-weather aside, the bright hues of Japan’s trees during autumn are magical enough to rival the beloved springtime cherry blossoms. Green landscapes slowly transform into rolling hills of bright yellows, burnt oranges, and crimson reds. It’s a fitting last hurrah before the leaves finally fall and the first snow touches the ground. Locals and tourists alike flock to the best spots to see nature’s limited-time performance. This tradition is known as Momiji-gari (紅葉狩り) or autumn-leaf viewing. If you’re in Japan, you don’t want to miss out!
Japan is one of the healthiest nations in the world, and moving here will almost certainly alter your lifestyle for the better. The food is also incredible. Japan offers a wide range of cuisine to sample, but just like anywhere else, the nation has its fair share of unhealthy foods. Fast-food chains are increasing in popularity for their taste and convenience, and many beloved dishes like ramen and okonomiyaki are loaded with sodium and high in calories. Contrary to popular belief, it’s naïve to think while living in Japan you can eat anything you want and still be healthy. I’m not saying you can’t indulge in ice cream or kaarage (Japanese fried chicken) but take care to get all the nutrients you need from various fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats.
You’ve been in Japan for a few months or years now, and the novelty of everything is slowly wearing away. You’re growing tired of eating traditional Japanese food known as 和食 (washōku) and just want the taste of something familiar to comfort your palate. But to your disappointment, the import store nearest to you seems to only sell small amounts of your favorite foods at an exorbitant price—I’m talking the tiniest jar of peanut butter for nearly 12 US dollars. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, now is the perfect time to either order Dominos, which is good but not quite the same, or plan a trip to the nearest Costco: a warehouse style big-box chainstore famous for selling bulk items at a reasonable price. I didn’t know this until recently, but the true beauty of having a Costco membership besides all the amazing deals is that you can use your member card to shop at any store location in the world. The chain has locations in the US, Mexico, Korea, Canada, and even Japan. There are 26 store locations scattered across the main island of 本州 (Honshū) and the smaller island of 九州 (Kyūshū). So hop onto Google Maps, or your navigation app of choice, and determine which store is easiest for you to access.
Living alone for the first time is an often overlooked but important milestone for many young people. Up until this point, you’ve most likely shared a home or apartment with family members, roommates, or even a significant other. If you went to college, even if you were lucky enough to have a private dorm room, there were still plenty of people on your floor with their doors wide open looking to make new friends. But now you find yourself in a house or apartment all to yourself—no boyfriend or girlfriend, no siblings or parents, and no housemates. Now what?
It’s no secret that the people of Japan live longer and healthier lives than the citizens of many other developed nations, and there are reasons for this that go beyond genetics. If you’ve ever wanted to change your lifestyle or shed a few pounds, moving to Japan is the perfect opportunity to focus on self improvement. Since coming here, I have lost around 6.5 kilos in three months. The best part is, I’ve accomplished this without going on a traditional diet or severely restricting my calories. I’ve simply altered my lifestyle and resumed intermittent fasting. (I’ve included a link that explains what this is if you’re interested.) However, even if you aren’t living in the Land of the Rising Sun, you can still adopt and use these ten simple tricks to your benefit.
During one of two long weekends in September, I visited Hakuba (白馬) a popular ski resort area nestled in the Northern Alps of Nagano Prefecture. If the name sounds familiar, you may remember the town received international recognition for hosting several events during the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Although famous for its pristine, snowy landscapes, Hakuba offers an undeniable charm even in the offseason.
Wow, I can’t believe you’re glancing through or even possibly reading my blog. Thank you! It means quite a lot to me, actually. My name is Margaret, as you probably inferred, and I work and live in Niigata City, Japan. I am employed by my local Board of Education through the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program. My home away from home is the capital of Niigata Prefecture (think the capital of a state in the U.S.) Niigata is kind of in the middle of nowhere, but it’s only 2 hours away from Tokyo by bullet train and there are lots of places to shop, so I’m not complaining at all. It’s honestly great.
To answer this question, I’ll start with the most cliche quote that comes to mind.
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” — Fred DeVito.
I know we’ve all heard this saying before. But hey, at least I’m not quoting Ghandi. In all seriousness though, these words have stuck with me and helped me get through a lot of tough times. Whenever a challenge seems impossible to overcome, I ground myself in this quote. Sure, it’s hard and downright frustrating when you’re gasping for breath on the treadmill sandwiched between a five-star athlete and an Instagram model or struggling to bench just the bar with no added weight at the gym, but if you don’t push your limits, you’ll never see progress. You won’t change. It’s true, to become stronger, we have to break down our muscles. It’s hard and painful, but that’s the point.