Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm Back!!! and ready to Blog!

Sorry folks!

I've been M.I.A. for the sake of school. I realize i haven't blogged in a couple months now, so I'm going to make up for it this winter. Please let me know if there are any specific articles you want me to write about first.

I have lined up:

  • How to survive and understand the eerie silence of a train
  • How to deal with losing your Wallet
  • How to deal with Credit Card/ Debit cardless nation
  • What is Aizuchi and why do people look like boggleheads
  • How to get a Taxi
  • How to enjoy the wonders of seperate checks
  • What is KY and why is it important
  • What is Koban and do they actually do anything
  • How to find a pay phone
  • How to find a bathroom

If you have any additional suggestions you would like to make I would be more than happy to write about them! Please e-mail me at

Please check back for posts soon to come!!!! ^_^

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How to's #12: Understand the difference between Tabehodai and Viking♦♠♦

If you have lived in Japan, you are likely to be familiar with that fact that the portions are smaller. However, that does not mean you can not have a full stomach! Believe it or not, there are quite a few of these places all around! Introducing the two forms of all-you can eat in Japan!:

The best translation for "all you can eat". What this means is that you are sitting at a table and you can place as many orders as your would like. At izakayas (drinking places), this usually goes along with nomihodai, which is all you can drink! From a select menu you can call as many plates as you want.

My personal favorites are Shakey's Pizza and Guts Soul. These are two chains, that are scattered around different stations in Tokyo. Shakey's (easily located in Harajuku and Shibuya) is all you can eat pizza! There are different set you can purchase, that allow you to have more of a selection with pizza, sides, and drink! I suggest you avoid the corn and tuna one. Sounds interesting at first...but it's really not that appetizing especially when they provide the entirety of a 12 inch pizza.o_O

Guts Soul how I love thee... This is superiorly cheap korean BBQ. During lunch hours I believe they offer a better deal, but the evening prices are not bad either! The cheapest one is 980yen and it ranges to 1500yen. The difference is only in the selection of meet. The cheapest one is limited only to pork and some lower cut beef. The more expensive ones, give you the option to eat better cuts. Personally, it all goes down good. The ones I ate at was located at yoyogi and nakano. Try to mix in some veggies...for the sake of nutrition.^_^

OH! and for the sushi connoisseur, there is a all you can eat tsukiji tabehodai place at the kinshichyou station! It's amazing! A little bit expensive, I believe it was 2500yen a head but it was worth it! You can eat all ootoro(fatty tuna) the whole night if you so choose.

Alright...this was pretty confusing to me, too. So Viking means buffet...Took me a while to figure that one out. I think its because there is a stereotype that Vikings ate a lot. Also, it is easier to pronounce that "buffet" for Japanese people.

The difference is that you must walk up to get your food. Viking is less tasty in my opinion. It is about the same price as tabehodai more or less. The less enjoyable features is that all the good stuff gets gobbled immediately and the remaining dregs is not very enjoyable. The temperatures of everything is not quite right, and new trays always take a while to come out>_<. I've had indian food Viking, which wasn't half bad. My worse experience was with a Thai Viking in shinjuku that caused me and my friends to have an upset stomach. o_O I will however recommend a place in Harajuku, across from the Daiso called "Dessert Paradise". There is a plethora of amazing cakes and pies to choose from! There is also a very enjoyable pasta/soup bar where you can fill up on actual sustenance before you hovel sweets into your face for 30 minutes.

With all this in mind, enjoy a night out with your friends and your full stomach! Be careful though, you are probably not accustomed to overeating and you will have negative effects. Full stomach = Happy points. Falling asleep from food coma/bloated stomach pains = -Happy points. So consume with caution!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How to's #11: attend University/college with English Courses

I want to begin with the fact that I went to Sophia University (上智大学 Jōchi daigaku)for a year.

Choosing a school:

With Sophia it was a good school and there is definitely some prestige to the name. In my experience, when I let Japanese people know what school I attended, it was like saying I attended Stanford or Berkeley. The FLA(faculty of the liberal arts) program is all in English. They have an decent selection of classes. Sophia is one of the top schools with the largest English program. FLA students make up about 10% of the entire Sophia school student body. It may have risen since I was there.

Other schools you may want to consider is Temple, ICU, and Waseda. and Keio University. Tokyo University, aka Todai, I believe only has specialty courses and graduate programs in english. All these schools are all in Tokyo area.

Applying and getting into these schools as a degree student is not difficult. The requirements for a foreigner are not NEARLY as strict as they are for Japanese.

Things you sho
uld know before choosing a school in Tokyo:

Tokyo people are notorious for being a little distant, so you may not be able to make as many super japanese friends. Instead, you'll meet a lot of quasi-americanized japanese that are friendly, and chill but likely speak a lot of english. I went to Tokyo with determination to make Japanese friends. I joined clubs, and tried really hard(more than I should have really...) I tried to speak completely in Japanese, be more japanese...but in the end...I didn't succeed to the extent I wanted to.(This was a consensus among many of the exchange students)

You will however be able to meet a lot of other students around the world, which was great experience for making multicultural friendships. European, Australian, name it... it's all good.^_^ I made a lot of everlasting friendships and I wouldn't trade them for the world.

More Information about My Sophia experience:

Sophia is one stop away from Shinjuku, and is in central tokyo. Extremely convenient location, but if you live out in the sticks, the commute can be rough.

Sophia has contracts with many schools, so you might consider a year long study abroad, instead of signing on as a degree student. That is what I did, My home school is University of San Francisco.

My personal opinions of the Sophia are not that great. I loved the people at th school, but I honestly wasn't that impressed. It could be possible I maybe more accustomed to American style of teaching, thus giving me a biased opinion. I like the more challenging ,"hit the ground running" kind of learning in American schools. School in Japan are by FAR much more laid back than American Universities.

In the end, 1 year was enough for me... it also didn't help that I was paying 17k+ of my schools tuition per semester. (Note: directly applying to Sophia is a much better idea, tuition is significantly cheaper) Even with the direct contract, many of my units couldn't transfer...that could be faulted on my own homeschool though.

I wasn't impressed, however, I met a few people who decided to transfer to Sophia. Their reasoning still evades me, since a Japanese Degree isn't worth diddly in the states. So not only have you squandered your "education", but you are completely ill fit to go beyond office grunt in the American world. Only those with severe ambitions can really take a lot more out of their Japanese experience outside of school. I maybe being a little critical, but I feel that many of the exchange students squander their experience more than cherish it. So I see no point in wasting your time,money, and energy if you aren't bettering yourself or the world with it. Alright..cathartic apologies...

Anywho... Sophia is one of the better programs you can choose from.

My Personal Suggestions:

If it is more about learning Japanese, I would recommend a place closer to the outskirts like ICU. Where people are more friendly and likely to chat it up with you. If you are severely determined about japanese...skip the program and opt for language school. I attended Naganuma my last 4 months in Tokyo. I learned more in those 4 months thanthe 12 months before.

If you want to pursue your desired major, than your best plan is to go to an American university, and spend some time abroad. Because many of the programs don't have as wide of a selection in your major and an American school would. So be sure to find a school that is contracted, and just try to take your general requirement courses at the Japanese University.(Literature, History, English, that kinda thing) Sophia's FLA website isnt be sure to go to . They have a class catalog you can look at also.

Additional options: You can also do the CIEE program to Sophia, but I think it's ridiculously expensive. The benefit are the liaisons, and cultural field trips. In my 15 months in Tokyo I have met many students in CIEE, trust me when I say you would prefer to go outside of the program, and keep your freedom.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How To's #10: Find a Doctor

If you can't read Kanji, finding a doctor maybe difficult. However, they are absolutely everywhere.

In Japan, they have large general hospitals and small clinics. There are specialized clinics all over the place. Your don't really need to make and appointment most the time, and you can show up day's quite convenient.

And to my female readers, the OBGYN is referred to as "Ladies Clinics". Also,oddly enough they automatically use curtains so you can't see the doctor...Personally, I think that just makes me more uncomfortable...(sorry guys...if that was too much information)

Your best resource is the Himawari Clinic Hotline: 03-5285-8181

This is there website

The operator will ask you what language you speak and find a proper translator. So this is a good resources to give to your non-english speaking friends,too. You tell them what you need, and which stations you are willing to travel to.

They will ask you to call back in 15 minutes. In that time they will have prepared a lovely list of doctor's that meet your criteria. Rather it be English-speaking...male...female... you name it...they'll help you find one.

They will even give you details instructions on how to get there. So if you are living in Tokyo, I highly recommend that you have this plugged into your phone.

Information worth noting: my personal opinion...Japanese doctors are not that great. I am not saying Japan is not a great country....but... my American body needs stronger and more thorough meds. Your appointment consists of you listing out your bodily discomforts...and them giving a prescription for everything you just listed...

There is no taking of temperatures...checking of heart rate...and everything else your use to with an American doctor(that is if you are American...)

I had a horribly case of bronchitis throughout the winter. It was so bad that I pulled a muscle in my side. I was in a great deal of pain, and could barely walk. All they gave me was a minor cough suppressant, and nothing for the pain. In situations like these...I wanted my Codeine and Ibuprofen!

I was also like to note that this is a nation that would not tell you if your dying. They'll tell your family but not you directly. I guess I'm too appreciate that it's more of a polite gesture than them denying my right to know...

And since it is relevant, I will dabble a little bit in the Wonderful Japanese National Health Insurance. Something that as an American, a mythical concept, is a godsend as an alien in Japan. The health insurance covers up to 70% on everything! From the appointment cost to the lesser drugs they give you (it's better than nothing), it will only cost you 30%.

All foreigners in Japan have an alien registration(toryoukushou). Depending on your location, you will register with an assigned ward. At the time you do that, you can apply for your Hokkenshou, which is your national health insurance card. It is as simple as that.

Note: It is cheaper to get your wisdom teeth pulled in Japan. However, it is ill advise...since they give you weaker pain reliever 0_O

my list to bring from my own country includes: Ibuprofen, nyquil, dayquil, Vitamin C tablets, and Allergy medicine

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How To's #9: Enjoy the Wonders of Suica / Pasmo and Commuter Passes

How do you manage to have millions of people traveling via train in a crowded city like Tokyo?

The answer: Suica/Pasmo

These are cards that cost about 500yen($5) and can work as prepaid tickets. You scan it over the ticketing sensor and it automatically deducts yours fare amount from your card. The sensors can go through wallets and even small purses. You can use these for all ticketing booths that have a scanner.(Metro, JR, Keio, Odakyu)

Be careful not to go too quickly otherwise it won't scan and than at the next station you will have to speak with the counter person to fix your card.

I would like to state that SUICA is better than PASMO. Suica is with the JR system and Pasmo is with Keio and Metro. Suica is more than just prepaid tickets for trains and buses.

Suica can be used at vending machines, convenient stores and electronic stores. For example, at Akihabara, you can pay for many of your purchases using Suica. Thinking about buying a new laptop? got two grand on your Suica?... why not...

Granted thats an excessive example...It is still pretty convenient. In fact, many cellphones have allow you to use your cellphone as a Suica. However adding money is kind of a pain, and it might scratch up your ridiculously aesthetic j-phone.

TEIKI (定期) - Commuter Pass

The commuter pass is a must for anybody living in Japan for longer than a month. You pay a set amount for a pass that lets you unlimitedly travel between one station and another. Students gets discounts, and companies will sponsor work passes(Note: for student discount you must show your school ID). If you are neither, you should buy one anyways if you find yourself traveling to one big station all the time.

Good ones to have are ones going to Shinjuku. Since that is a big station, you will likely depart from there all the time. Having one of these allows you to freely travel back and forth between your home and wherever. So you don't have to worry about the cost if you forget your cell or something.

You can buy your commuter pass and have it as a card or you can have it directly printed onto your Suica. You can do it via machines, or speak with and attendant and "midorimadoguichi" (Translation: Green Window). You may purchase it for 1,3, or 6 months. The costs of the commuter pass will vary on distance and time frame.

It's rare... but I've heard of people getting commuter passes with the Shinkansen!(bullet trains) 0_O

What to do if you lose your Suica and thus your Commuter Pass?

I love the Japanese system! So this has happened to me once, but I was fortunate enough to have someone explain to me the system before I spent a hundred dollars on another commuter pass.

If you lose your Suica or Pasmo, go to the train office. Tell them that you dropped it (suica/pasmo wo Otoshita)... than ask what should you do..(dou sureba ii desuka?)... They should hear your accented Japanese, and proceed to help you by speaking bad English or extremely slow Japanese.

They will ask you for 500yen to buy a new card, and print the new commuter pass on it at no additional charge! How great is that!

And when you go back to your country or whatever, you can sell your Suica back to the station and return your 500yen!

Additional Information: Suica works in the Kansai area. However, it goes by ICOcard. So use any of the JR machines to add money. However, these do not work on the Hankyu line.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tokyo How To's #8: Start Teaching English(Earn far more than Money than Minimum Wage!)

This entry is not how to get into a English teaching program like JET. This is for individuals already in Japan who want to some pocket money.

There are two ways:

1. Get a work permit and work for a company

  • PRO: legitimate, back to back students, set schedule, and company provides materials
  • CON: Pay is less, hours aren't flexible, and teaching method is restricted
2. Find your own students through networking websites

  • PRO: flexible schedule, casual, over coffee or food, and much better pay
  • CON: Higher chance of encountering "creepies", commute time is costly, and inconsistent

Getting a Permit and work for a company

From what I know, you can get this only as a student. With the school, you can apply for up to 28 hours part-time. After you attain the permit, you can apply to various English teaching schools. Large companies like Gaba are very popular. However, one should only expect to see only a little over 1000yen ($10)

Finding your own student through networking websites

There are many websites that can be found for this specific purpose. I used both and I personally liked more, simply because I got better responses.

There are some necessary notes that need to be taken when making a profile:
  • blood type O is best (its like horoscopes in Japan)
  • Scorpios have a bad image
  • You will get much better responses if you are a girl
  • If you are a girl, be sure to use really cute pictures of yourself
  • The first lesson should never be free(fishes out the wierdos, and covers train cost)
  • Always meet in public areas (like Cafe's, there are LOTS)
  • Students that want to meet you outside of lessons should be immediately dropped
  • Prepare a inquiry response. This was mine (in Romaji):
"Watashi wa Claudia Desu.Eigo o benkyoushitai desune. itsu ni aimashouka? doko de iideshouka? watashi no keitai meiru wa ******* henji suru toki ni kono meiru tsukatte kudasai. yoroshiku -Claudia"


It depends on your Japanese skill level, and if you are male or female. I started off with a sample lesson of 500yen($5) and regular lesson of 2500yen($25). After a few month, I had regular students at 3500yen($35) an hour. I wasn't strict on overtime, because I was receiving a good amount of money. I also often time received meals,too. Many of my student could only have the lessons after work on weekdays.

How to teach

You definitely need to get some learning material. Do not bother explaining to them grammar. Just start practicing how to say things. Try to teach 6 year old and above, and individually.(Otherwise, they go nuts)

Adults: I tailored my lesson to each student. The first lesson is getting to know them, their level, and what they would like to achieve. I emphasized conversational ability and pronunciation. A useful learning material was the free magazine Metropolis. You can get it in any Tower records. They had interesting summarized news. That would be discussion topic. Very easy, light hearted, and just all around good time. Many of them have studied English before, they just are not confident with it.


How to get rid of creepos?
It's easy! just say " I am sorry, but I have to go back to my country. Best of Luck"

It is kind of bad, but it is the best way.

You can make a lot of money, and learn quite a lot about Japanese culture. Be safe and Good luck!

Monday, June 30, 2008

How To's #7: Lose weight in Japan

It is a pretty commonly known that many people lose weight whilst in Japan. If you were raised in a fat country such America, you will spend the first 3 months or so hungry. ALL THE TIME! I shall elaborate.

Before, Due to a couple of Judo related injuries I was on crutches for a total of 13 months over a course of 2 years. What does that result in? Massive weight gain! Especially when your staple food in Lengua Super burritos....::drool:: (by the way; Lengua is beef tongue). My heaviest point was 162lbs, and I am 5'6". I was noticeably fatter, since my body likes to store all of it in my face. (good bye jawline)

Now that I have lived in Japan for approximately 15 months, I have lost approximately 24lbs total. This is not counting the 10 lbs I lost before I came to Japan. I set a goal for myself, and had a lifestyle change. For those looking for a quick cheat to lose weight, I'm sorry you won't find the answer here. When it comes right down to it, its healthy eating, exercise, and building good habits. The following is small changes I have made, that can be implemented to those not in Japan. They are in order of what I believe really was most effective.


  1. Walking: believe it or not, it makes a huge difference! In Japan, you walk EVERYWHERE. In order to do anything you must walk. My legs were sore for the first month. Ever heard of "10,000 steps a day"? Use a pedometer to keep track. It's great because it feels like a video game. You want to get a higher score so you opt to take the stairs. In fact, small options like that burn a good amount of calories compared to walking. In Japan, when I felt my score was low, I wandered in a nearby shopping street for about 15 minutes. 15 minutes there and than 15 minutes back equals about a third of how much I need for the day. After a while I didn't need it anymore.
  2. Portion Size: It is noticeably different in Japan. I would say about 20% to 40% less, depending on the type of meal. Everyone jokes about it, but after 15 months...I realize that how much I overate in the past. Like I said before, I was hungry ALL THE TIME for the first 3 months. What changed? stomach size. It shrank by half within 8 months. My unit of measurement was a burrito. I use to be able to finish an enormous 11 inch super burrito. Now, if I attempt to eat half, I am on the verge of death. It doesn't matter what you eat as long as you control your portions!
  3. Calorie Counting: It depends on each person, but we all burn about 1600 to 2200 calories per day. You can go here to find yours. There are forms of dieting where you keep a log of your daily intake. It is very effective I hear, but I was too lazy. However, I did keep a mental log. Japan makes calorie counting so much easier! Many of the restaurants let you know the amount of calories, as well as grams of fat, in your meal. You'd be surprised to find that some salads have almost the same calories as sandwiches. In either case, keep concisous and make healthier choices.

There are many other contributers, such as: green tea, less greasy methods of cooking, and no fridge or cupboard to raid. When comes right down it is a LIFESTYLE CHANGE. I just used my stay in Japan to push off of. I plan to continue my healthy habits upon my return, and maintain the my weight. I am now at my normal weight, absent of injuries and crutches.

Also, I have decided to only eat burritos once a month. And opt for the "sourcream, guacaomole, and excess everything" -less options.(this is just a personal choice, burritos are my weakness)


Good luck to all
. Additionally, I will post before and after photos of my weightloss journey.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guitar Hero...Eat You Heart Out!

The anticipated Guitar hero on tour is seems pretty impressive, but come July 28th, Japan is selling their mega awesome rhythm/ synthesizer/ karaoke/ interactive rock band game.


Daigasso! Band Brothers DX

It’s bigger and better than the first Daigasso in 2004!

The video is in Japanese, but here is a run down of it’s AWESOMENESS!

The first feature starts with implementing the mic. You sing into your DS mic, whilst the lyrics scroll on the bottom. It counts your accuracy, and you get ranking and scores. However, for the Japanese gamers, I guess playing this part of the game in train is out of the question.

Second, we have the normal rhythm based game using the D-pad and the ‘a’ ‘b’ buttons. Once the song is chosen, you can pick from various instruments. The examples given in the commercial are the: Flute, Guitar, Percussions, Shamisen, and Electric Guitar. Of course, it would not be complete, if you can’t stroke the strings of your digital guitar.

Third feature is the vast collection of songs. Built into the game you can choose anything from classics to J-pop. What the Japanese consider “classics”?...I have no idea. However, you can use your wifi connection and download and store up to 100 songs of your liking!

Fourth is that synthesizer! You can use the digital piano to create notes on your music sheet, or you can move them around yourself. This is midi-based composing, so you can choose the instruments and create your own songs.

Fourth is my personal favorite, you have many ways of interacting with your friends! All the music that you have, rather downloaded or personally composed can be shared with friends. And for the rhythm game, you can link up to 8 people and have your own digital rock out! Best part, is you only need one copy of the game.

Lastly, you can connect via Nintendo wifi to your wii and have all the music played on your TV Stereo,instead of you dinky DS Speakers. House party via DS? Uh…yes!

If we are to compare, Guitar hero has completely different game play and an enormous cult following. Moreover, this game is at the moment only playable by those who understand Japanese. If and when will be introduced in the states? Unknown.

But all in all, you have to admit….Daigasso! Band Brothers DX is pretty awesome!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How To's #6: Survive a Rush Hour Train(((((>_<))))!!!

Tokyo is THE most populated city on the Planet. With a population over 12 million people, they have designed one of the world's most efficient train systems. Thus, creating a society where commuting via train is better than by car. So what happens when everybody travels at the same time to school and work?


After experiencing it first hand, you feel a closer understanding as to why the suicide rate is three times higher in Japan than in America. You truly want to kill yourself.
Some would describe it as sardines in a can. However, I believe it's much closer to trying to close your luggage, after you've over packed. You have to sit on it and have a friend hold the edges together as you move the zipper inch by inch...and you are the travel size tooth paste.

Yes, I think that would be a much more accurate description. Especially since there are platform workers who's only job is to push you into the train, so that the doors can shut.

Being inside of a rush hour Tokyo train can truly be dangerous. It is not unheard of to dislocate something, or break a rib(or two).

If you are traveling at the hours of 7:00-9:00, both AM and PM, it is unavoidable. The last train is as bad as rush hour, if not worse. People are pissed drunk and reek of various foul odors.

Thus I provide you with tips on how to survive...

SCENARIO 1: You are first in the train

Highlighted are the desired positions. You want the corner between the door and seats, and the center isle. You are less likely to get squished...these are prime locations. Avoid walls, if the train makes and abrupt stop or turn, you will be in a serious amount of pain.

Note: If you are not getting of at a big station or transfer platform, be ready to push for you life. If you are commuting, try to memorize, which side the doors open on to help you strategically move to these locations.

SCENARIO 2:You are the last to get in.

If you are last in, getting a strategic position is not possible(you are screwed). The train will be packed...and I mean...scary packed. But remember... "IF THERE IS NO ROOM, MAKE ROOM". Only on occasion will you encounter a situation where it is physically impossible to get in.

Since there are no strategic points, I will provide tips.

Go in Backwards--------Watch your Foot----------Use you arm as leverage


Diagram 1-----------------------Diagram 2

Diagram 1:
You will encounter people resisting your efforts to get into the train. SCREW THEM! They are being assholes and they should know better. Tuck in our elbows and Push HARDER!

Diagram 2:
For those individual with a low tolerance for pain, AVOID OPEN TOE SHOES! Opt for steel toe combat boots.

*be wary of the enormous gaps between the train and the platform*
(people fall in between all the time!)

Saikyou, Chuo and Yamanote line are notoriously the worst.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tokyo How To's #5: How to read a Train Map

Japan is famous for efficient railway system. You can travel almost the entirety of Japan by train.

It's unfortunate that they couldn't come up with an easier way to read train maps...

In the big stations they may have two maps; one in Japanese, one in English. However, most of the time you will not be that fortunate. For those traveling short term and long term in Tokyo, I highly advise having the following train maps printed out and with you at all times.(Especially if you cannot read Kanji)

Listed are the 4 rail systems used in Tokyo:(the link goes to the English train maps)

  • JR: Japan Railways is the oldest of all. And has rails going up and down all of Japan
  • Keio: Travels from central Tokyo to the far West of Tokyo prefecture.
  • Odakyu: Famous for it "romance" series of cars...(Whatever that means)
  • Metro: The subway, it's so easy to get lost...and the map is the worst...

If you are riding anything other than the Metro, you need to know what train you are about to ride on. You need to know if it's Local, Rapid, Special Express, or whatever. You follow that line on the map, and wherever there is a white dot, it stops. On the JR and Keio map, the big stations have highlighted names, the trains definitely stop there no matter what.

For the Metro, since they are underground they don't really have a rapid. The map looks absolutely insane, but if you just look at it for a little longer, it will begin to make sense. Every station list which line also runs through there. Fortunately, you can ride the JR instead to the more popular places, except for roppongi.

The new F line(fukotoshin)that just opened will not be in many guidebooks. It hits Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Shibuya it appears extremely convenient, however I do not have first hand knowledge.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tokyo How To's #4: Japanese Toilets (Modern and Squatters)

The Infamous Japanese Toilet....

Daily stops to do your 'business' has never been more complicated. There are a few variations; some familiar and some unfamiliar.

We start with the butt spraying water jet, which is number one for strange experiences. You can control the heat, and strength of the steam to suit your preference. Some also have a hot air button, to dry off your bum after thorough wash.

The normal,one directional silver knob we are use to, puts the user in a predicament when encountering a Japaneses flusher;which can be absurdly confusing.

To begin, there is a (big) and (small) flush. Further explanations about appropriate usage, in unnecessary I think. Usually the flusher is in an obvious position. However, sometimes it is a panel on the wall with a variety of buttons, differing in size and color. If you can't read, it is usually safe to just push the biggest button(no guarantees). I've personally been confused on a number of occasions. I don't know if you ever truly get use to it.

The Sensor Flusher is blackish red box flesh against the wall. You have to cover your hand over the sensor in order to flush.

The Dreaded SQUATTER!

It takes getting use to, but it's not that bad. At least, you don't have to worry about having a clean toilet seat...

So the appropriate way to use it is to face the flusher, in the direction of the dome...i guess it's to prevent splatter...? *shivers*

It's confusing because in other part of Asia with squatters, it's the opposite.

Don't worry, unless you are horribly drunk, you will not get anything on your shoes or pants...(again, no guarantees) Think about it this way...."What did people do before inventing sitting toilets?". It works, don't worry.

Additional Notes:

When visiting a Japanese person's home, and looking for the bathroom, be sure to say "TOIRE"(phonetically: Toy-reh) instead. You will avoid a lot of confusion.

Upon entering, you will soon realize why they call it a water closet, emphasis on CLOSET. Like all sanitary people, we wash our hands after we're done. The Japanese have created a wonderful way of conserving water, by having the faucet above the tank... so please use that...and not the kitchen sink...

My personal favorite oddity is the Otohime... translated into "sounds princess". It is as ridiculous as it sounds. It is a used to mask urinating noises, by having a repeated flushing sound go off. It's more widely used in toilets in Tokyo than in other parts of Japan. Additionally, many of the Sensor Flusher have this feature. Simply wave your hand across the sensor and it will trigger the "sound princess".

This concludes the Japanese toilet info blog.

Tokyo How To's #3: Getting a Cellphone (J-Phone!)

Everybody knows the Japan is the nation of cellphones. The coolest and latest. You can watch TV, surf the web, send e-mails and stalk your friends. Every non-Japanese person yearns for these gorgeous phones. Believe it or not, it is NOT THAT EASY!

Short trips: Pick up a pre-paid cellphone at the Airport. IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO FIND A PREPAID OUTSIDE OF THE AIRPORT.

Longer stays:

Let us start by stating that all cellphone companies require a 1 year contract at minimum. If you are staying less, you are subject to cancellation costs. The longer you keep it the less it will cost to cancel.

Many of these phones will NOT work abroad, unless unlocked(which is a pain in the butt). Many of the nifty features will not work also. So you will be left with a extremely pretty phone. I emphasize that it is JUST a phone, outside of the states. So make consider that when buying a phone.

Important info worth knowing:

You will also be unpleasantly surprised that Cellphone minutes are outrageously expensive compared to the states. The plans also have absurdly few minutes. So get use to talking like an auctioneer.

They have SMS, it is called c-mail. However, very few people use it. E-mail is the most popular form of communication. DO BUY a e-mail plan. Keep in mind that because of bad communication, they will tell you that its 1000yen for 10,000 e-mails. That is a lie. It is up too 10,000,and your e-mail fee can be as high as 3500. It only starts at 1000yen...

Also, you should also know that minutes are only incurred onto the caller. It cost you nothing to receive calls. I also believe that messages consume you minutes only for the length of the message, so checking it over and and over again makes no difference.

Lets do a brief overview of the main Japanese carriers:


This was my carrier. They have one of the better student discount plans, more minutes for a about 40% less.

*Free train schedule checker, weather, and news (EZweb)


They have, in my opinion, a better phone selection. Will be the new carriers of Iphones. They also carry more phones that can be used over seas(If unlocked)

* Unlimited calls with other Softbank users, good if you have friends with Softbank.


I don't know too much information about the, beside them being one of the oldest carriers in Japan. They carry many of the the typical looking J-phones.

* many different types of discounts


They are one of the newer carriers within the last year. There phone selection is mostly that of the PDA Smartphone and portable internet type devices. Don't know too much

*best for internet at your fingertips
*many Flat rate plans.

EM Mobile

The newest carrier. Not to much information. They have a VERY small selection, and carry mostly portable internet type devices. They carry the best models in their class. Sells Internet PC-cards.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tokyo How to's #2: Moving

Save yourself the trouble of hating life. Bring your Luggage to the convenience stores(I used Lawsons), you can have your luggage delivered as early as the next morning. You can choose at what time you want it to be delivered, to make sure that you will be there. It is quite nifty. Prices can range from 500yen to 1500yen, depending on the size of your luggage. Weight is not an issue.

If you have appliances that you don't have boxes for, contact companies like "kuroneko"(translated: Black Cat). They will provide boxes and deliver it. Price of this service varies. The amount of money you save by self delivering(train cost included) is not worth your time and mental health.

If you are lucky and have a Japanese friend with a drivers license renting a van is a possibility.


I lived in Japan for 15 months. And after my initial settling, I moved twice. I must say that moving has been one of my worst experiences in Japan, and one of the most taxing ordeal I've endured. You are not just physically tired, your mentally beaten down into mush. By the time your done, you feel like a shell of a human being.
I never appreciated living in the states more.

The U.S. is a lovely country in which everyone drives a car, and nice fit lifting capable friends are not hard to reach.

When it come to moving by yourself as Gaijin, it straight sucks in Japan. Oh...and by the matter how small you are..or how big your luggage is...NOBODY WILL HELP YOU! This is no joke, when you see someone struggling up the stairs with large luggage, normal instinct is to help. Not in Japan though, the luggage can be 1 to 1 ratio in weight and mass to the person carrying it, and no one will even bother to help. They just walk past you...watching your sweat pour into your eyes. (by the way: elevators are not as well placed as you may hope. And they only exit in the larger stations)

Tokyo How to's #1: Finding a Place to Live

To begin, I must say that finding a place to live in Tokyo is a chore. I am not exactly sure how it is in other countries, but compared to the US, it is really troublesome.

There are many different options to live in as a foreigner in Japan, here is a list:

  • Dorms: Some are mixed, some are not. It is always all boys or all girls. Some you will have prepared meals, shared facilities, and a nice public bath. There are also ones that are like individual studio, with kitchenette and bathroom. Cons: Usually have a curfew(and they WILL lock you out), need to report whenever you are not coming home, hit or miss when it comes to the managers.
  • Guesthouse: In short, it is a room in a house with shared facilities. There are guesthouses with only Gaijin and ones that are mixed with Japanese people. In general though, majority seem to be Gaijin only. Pro: cheap, big kitchen, possibility of having interesting housemates, and most of the time it is furnished
  • Apartments:AKA Usagigoya(rabbit hutch). These range in size and in price. In Japan apartments are referred only to buildings with 2 floors. There are furnished and unfurnished
  • Mansions: Unfortunately, it isn't what you think...the Japanese refer to it as apartment buildings that are taller than 2 floors. Often they have secured front doors so it's safer. Nicer facilities, and are usually newer buildings. Cons: usually very very expensive
Biggest problem incoming foreigners will find is that in order to get an apartment of a mansion you need to have a guarantor. The guarantor cannot just be a resident of Japan but needs to have full Japanese citizenship.

If you manage to get that in order. Not only are you obligated to contract for a year or two,you have to pay a ridiculous amount of move in fees. Which can add up anywhere between 3-6 months worth of rent in advance. There is the deposit, commission, managerial , and gift fee(which is absolutely preposterous, it's money you give to the owner...i guess to thank them for letting you stay there?)

The deposit you never really get it all back, they will always find a reason to keep most of it. One is the cleaning fee which about $200-$300. No matter how much you clean it(which you need to) they will send in professionals to clean it after you anyways.

I've lived in a dorm and apartment personally. I pay more for my apartment in total, but I lived in a new well lit apartment.


My personal recommendations for people staying less than a year, and wants to not worry about additional costs is to look at furnished room on these sites:
Others websites can be found by googling for "monthly mansion", "guesthouse", or " short-term apartments"

If you are currently located in Tokyo, there are free magazines that you can get at HMV and Tower Records called METROPOLIS and BULLETIN BOARDS. These both have classifieds as well as addition useful information.

Good luck house hunting. You are welcome to questions and comments!