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!