Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Foreigner at a Craft Bazaar - Year 2!

First and foremost- A big old thank you to everyone who supported and came to visit me last Friday at the Nagoya YWCA Fall Bazaar.  I had a great time AND I managed to come through with a decent profit.  I hope you enjoyed your cake pops!

After wrapping on the bazaar and lugging my set-up back home, I immediately hopped on a bullet train out to the Navy Base with The Mister to attend a ball celebrating our anniversary (actually the US Navy’s 241st birthday, though we’re good at pretending)... but that might be for next post.  

Back to that Bazaar.  I had a lovely spot at the back of the main entertainment area, which meant that while peddling my wares I got to watch a few acts.  I also got a fantastic vantage point for people watching.  So in the spirit of my bazaar reporting from last year, let’s talk about 

The People Foreigners See at a Craft Bazaar Part Deaux 二

1.  Stamp Collectors
It’s not uncommon in Japan for events to promote the collection of stamps.  A person who manages to get all the stamps in any particular collection can be entered to win prizes.  At this bazaar, each selling area had a stamp which visitors could collect in order to, I believe, be awarded a free pen.  That morning, the very first people I saw enter my area (where I was sitting next to the stamp station), were two nuns in full habits, who came in, excitedly stamped their flyers, giggled, and immediately turned on their heels to find the rest of the stamps throughout the event.  Since I never saw them again, I hope they got their pens… and I hope those pens were worth the 500yen entry fee they would have paid to enter the bazaar and presumably buy and participate in nothing else. 

2.  The Children’s Entertainment
As the stage area was directly in front of my table space, I was elated to watch the children’s entertainment at the bazaar.  A fun, colorful duo lead all the little kids at the bazaar in songs about frogs and snakes (with puppets!), the Totoro theme, and my personal fave, a song about a farting cow, which featured a man in a cow costume playing a kazoo and cow bell while pretending to fart real loud.  This number was an obvious crowd pleaser.  And honestly, I really loved how easy it was to understand what was going on in their show because obviously they were using real simple baby Japanese.  

3.   The Seller of Questionable Health
The booth right next to mine was a jeweler.  Selling not just any jewelry, like, NICE jewelry.  Real Minato Pearls, precious gems, gold and silver, you get the point.  But maybe once every 15 minutes the jewler (who was super kind, if not a quiet fellow) would duck out of the room, leaving all his wares unattended.  Thankfully, because this is Japan, there is no actual concern for his wares being knicked.  I was, however, concerned that this man’s frequent potty breaks were signifiers of a real danger in his prostate.  I said as much to KP2 (who was so kind as to hang out at my booth and help peddle cupcakes), and we had a brief conversation about how to politely share with someone that they need to see a doctor for a very *ahem* personal exam.  Then he mentioned he was going out for a quick smoke and left again.  So we switched our concerns from prostate cancer to lung cancer, as clearly this man had packed a carton of cigarettes to bring along to the bazaar, and he intended to go through them all in that 5 hours.

4. The Looky-Lou of Questionable Motivation.
An older man accompanying his wife to the bazaar took a seat in the back row of the stage area to wait while his lady tried on some jewelry.  He took this fifteen minute time-frame to twist around in his seat to intently stare at me.  The entire 15 minutes.  Just staring.  I couldn’t tell if he was offended by my foreigner presence, or maybe just confused by it, but his facial expression clearly wasn’t one that gave off positive vibes.  It’s not the first time I’ve gotten “gaijin glares,” but I have come to the conclusion that I really need to work on a canned response to being oogled like a zoo animal.

5.  The Lady I Looky-Loued.
She caught me staring, so I didn’t take any pictures, because I was already admittedly being a creeper.  BUT.  There was a seller in my area who had exactly one product and it was brilliant and I watched her demo it at least two dozen times.  She had engineered an Obi belt for Kimono that was an already made bow and sash which one could position and tie themselves without any snaps or clips (if you’ve ever tried to tie an Obi yourself, you understand this is a magical invention).  I sort of wanted one, but I was too embarrassed to ask if she had one for women with a waist bigger than 15 inches, so I just kept to my cake pops.  *le sigh, the joys of being American Sized.*

6.  The Adult's Entertainment
This is a misnomer, but the second musical act which came to the stage was a musical story-teller who played the shamisen and recorder as he told stories about historical Okinawa.  He was well dressed, well spoken, and had a confident swagger that is not super common in Japanese men.  KP2, as she sat next to me, was having a hard time not swooning ad his swept back salt and pepper hair.  And judging by the event organizers needing to bring out extra chairs for the gaggle of obaasans that crowded the space, she was not the only one.  

7.  The Final Act
A troupe of four ladies played us out of the Bazaar.  They all had guitars and sang some very pretty traditional Japanese songs.  A lovely act, all the more endearing because they’re all women who work with the YWCA, and as such, they had a fan base at the bazaar who brought out decorated fans like one might see at a boy-band concert.  They also got a standing ovation and an encore at the end of their set, which they used as an opportunity to play Edelweiss from The Sound of Music.  It was precious.

All and all it was a great time, I’m flattered to have been asked back, and I hope I can make it a three-peat next year.  And in that vein, someone remind me my big lessons from this year’s table, K?
  1. Japanese people do not want Chocolate Chip Cookies (I sold zero! ha!) 
  2. Japanese people TOTALLY do want cake pops.  Make more of those, less of everything else.

Have you been to a Craft Fair / Artists Market like this?  
What was your favorite find?  
Are you a gaijin? 
How do you handle the Gaijin Glare?  
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson
Hakuchō wa, watashiwomite teishi shimasu

stop looking at me, swan.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Side Hustle.

Hey oh gosh hi ho there.

I am alive.  I’m struggling a bit for something worth writing a blog post about, (day to day life isn’t all that riveting, you know?) but I’m still kicking.  Mostly I’m having a hard time getting over some super funk type blues that were kicked off with a month of everyday rains and a canceled craft fair, but a big whine fest isn’t really good reading material.  [unless you’re weird, in which case, it is in fact, at my homepage blog here.]

This week I’m preparing for my NEXT craft fair, which is indoors, so rain or not by God it’s happening.  It’s the YWCA’s Fall Bazaar, which KP2 and I did last year as well, so I’m very pumped to have been invited back.  

This year will see all the same crafts that I’ve talked about in previous blog posts (since there was no previous craft fair at which to sell them due to rain), plus the famous carrot cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, and I’m thinking maaaaaaybe some cake pops.  Because those are a fun thing that are big in the states but I haven’t really seen them here… even though I have noted the Japanese culture very much enjoys food that is served on a stick.

 try to contain your drool over kushiyaki.

Anywhoozle, that’s all on Friday, October 7th, from 10am to 3pm.  If’n you’re in Nagoya it’d be cool to see ya at the YWCA in Sakae.

After that, The Mister and I will be celebrating our wedding anniversary by attending a Navy Ball out in Yokosuka.  Always nice to have an occasion to sort of gussy-up, but a sad reminder that I need to not “taste test” my goods for the fall bazaar so I can still fit in a pretty dress.  Fingers crossed on that.

And last but not least I’m working on embarking on a new avenue for online sales of my designs.  It’s called RedBubble, and it works as thus:

  1.  I can upload designs, to which I retain my ownership and rights.
  2.  Through that site I can select from a myriad of items from clothing to home accessories, which I can then tweak to alter how my design will be printed upon it.
  3. I can select my preferred markup of the item, essentially determining my profit on any sale.
  4. The site from there works to-order creating whatever was purchased.  You pick a design and an item, they will print that design on that item, handle the transaction, pay me and ship you your new stuff.

Sometimes to keep your head above water, you just gotta find a side hustle.*

Do YOU have a side hustle?  
I want to know about it.  Tell me in the comments! 
(and gimme a url link if you’ve got it!)

*thank you to blogger helloalissa for such a very apt term to define all the little projects in my life.*

today’s little language lesson
Mai-nichi watashiwa hasuru o shimasu.

Every day I’m hustlin.

Friday, September 23, 2016

In the Doodle Dumps.

I’ve been trying to write a blog post all week with no real headway happening.  My week isn’t one I’m too keen to write about, because it is a whole lot of me just being down in the dumps over what most people would see as insignificant blips on the radar of life.

I don’t write for pity, or unsolicited advice on how to “get over it.”  I write because this little blog has been an open diary to the world since before we did our first international move to Mexico back in 2011, and to not write my weekly entry would more likely just add “guilty" to the general apathetic malaise I’ve got going on.  I do believe, down the road I’ll be happy to be able to go back and see where I was and that it all got better.  

I’m very bummed that the craft fair was rescheduled last week due to typhoon/rain.  And I’m bummed that the weather has continued to be dreary all week, which has succeeded in trapping me indoors while blocking out the sunshine from my life.  For lack of better term; it all sucks.

Instead of continuing to whine, I have doodled this week, and I’d rather just share those and let them speak for themselves.  I’m due for another “Doodle Dump” anyway, eh?

dozens of baked goods suddenly without a fair to attend.  so that's how the week started.

Mac lucked out in that I had also baked a few dozen dob biscuits for this cancelled fair as well.
My Japanese teacher is determined.  Which is good, because I'm regularly in the "OMFG I can't do this" camp.

dramatic reenactment of actual events regarding the dog bed.

Thankful for a patient Mister while I work the blargh out of my system

And so. I hope you all have a lovely week, I’ll be okay, promise.

today's little language lesson:
literally, "subtle" but colloquially, "meh."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What'cha doin' this weekend?

EDIT:  I'm gonna let my original words stand, but this event has been postponed to rain... to a date that I cannot participate.  The only one who's okay with this is Mac.  Because he gets all the dog biscuits

Remember in my last post when I mentioned some upcoming craft fairs?  The first one is this weekend.  If you’re in Nagoya, I’d be pleased as punch to see you out at Tsurumai Park on Sunday afternoon for the Aichi Vision event.  There will be live music and family-friendly activities, but most importantly, there will be ME and KP2 selling all sorts of fun things including (but not limited to):

-screeen printed tea towels and canvas bags
-dog and cat toys.
-hand-knitted scarves
-carrot cupcakes
-*for the first time at an event here* old fashioned chocolate chip cookies.

(there was a small test batch of cookies.  I was supposed to take pictures to post here.  you may notice they did not survive long enough for a picture to exist.  that’s how good those cookies are.)

click to embiggen

Since I’ve been hunkered down at the apartment prepping for all that, I haven’t been out and about much for too much in the way of blog-worthy adventures.  

So come on out - be a part of the adventure 
I’ll blog about next week!

today’s little language lesson
watashi wa subete no kukki o tabemasen

I will not eat all the cookies

Friday, September 09, 2016

Sewing for my Sanity

Every once in a while I meet a non-Japanese person who has lived in Japan for eons and intends to continue on living here, but by and large, the Expat population of Japan has three categories:  
  1.  Those here to teach English for a few years
  2.  Those here from their home company on a short term assignment, and 
  3.  The supporting partners/ spouses/ families of category number two.
In case you have not been paying attention, I fall squarely into category #3.  Here in Nagoya, I am in charge of the household.  Making sure there’s dinner on the table, ironing work shirts, basically being a Stepford Wife.  Which is a sentence I type while fully acknowledging I thoroughly enjoy and am totally grateful for the freedom this role affords me in terms of experiencing Japan on The Mister’s company dime.  For the time being, I am happy being a housewife.  

Being an American housewife in Japan is a full-time job with no vacation.  It’s not that I don’t have enough to do here just in the name of keeping The Mister, Mac, Bubba and I alive and well - but, I do need a little more creative enrichment in my life.  There’s a sense of uselessness that’ll creep up on me if *all* I focus on is the monotony of laundry, cooking, cleaning, and grocery runs. 

And so - in the spare minutes between laundry loads, I MAKE stuff.  Fall is a particularly good time for this because Halloween is my fave holiday, AND it’s big in Nagoya.  Plus there are loads of little Fall craft fairs, and with Kp2’s help, I’ve been invited to participate in a few of them.  So the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of creating.  


I’ve got scarves knitted, bracelets woven, magnet sets painted, and cat toys stuffed with catnip ready to sell.  
(I’ll be at the Aichi Vision Festival on the 18th at Tsuruma Park from noon - 8pm.  Then on October 7th I’ll be at the YWCA for their Fall Bazaar from 10am - 3pm  And along with the above I’ll have CUPCAKESsSsSS)

I’ve painted a "Kanto League" baseball hat and stitched together a Bulbasaur hoodie for The Mister and Mac’s Halloween Costumes.  

And then yesterday, for no fall related reason, I decided to teach myself flash animation.
of COURSE the first one is Mac.  come on.
I based this one off of actual Bubba, and this tumblr post, which made The Mister and I cackle:

This is one of those skills I’ve long envied and wanted to learn, but was under the impression that it was super complicated and I would need a college level course and a text book.  Turns out I needed an afternoon, a ton of patience and youtube tutorials.  And now also I need to convince The Mister that I need a proper tablet because the super cheap and cruddy one I’ve been using since college finally bit the dust halfway through these quick projects.  

What do you do to keep your soul feeling well-fed?  
Is there a cool skill you’ve taught yourself?  
(and did you immediately feel like you needed to invest deeply into supplies for said skill?)
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson
Watashi wa maatarashī taburetto o musabo~tsu

I covet a brand new tablet.

Friday, September 02, 2016


Alrighty.  I need some silly.  Let’s do this.

Roughly once a month I make the bold statement: “THIS.  This is the best gatchapon that could possibly exist.  I no longer need to buy gatchapons once I have bought this particular gatchapon.”  It’s my version of when you were in college and you had a rough night and were all “I’m DONE drinking forever… until Amber manages to smuggle another brick of Milwaukee’s Beast into the dorm.”

Amber was SUCH an enabler.
(Did you have a Amber in university?  
Or were YOU the Amber of your friends?  
Tell me in the comments!)

What’s a 'Gatchapon' you ask?
Toys, Trinkets, Small Accessories, Chachkies*.  The type of “high quality choking hazard” items you might have gotten in a McDonald’s Happy Meal, or pulled out of a prize chest at the end of your Dentist visit because -unlike myself as a sugar-sucking child-monster- you sometimes flossed. 

Mac likes gatchapon capsules (minus the gatchapon inside) as a fun puzzle.
I stick cookies inside and hide them in the house.  He gets a brain teaser, I get a toy.  Everyone wins.
They’re sold in little capsules from magical little contraptions similar to gumball machines.  And one can find those machines in collections by the dozen, stacked together in large banks in the middle of the mall, next to the cash register in most restaurants, in any arcade, literally just randomly out on the street while you’re walking around

Rows and rows of Gatchasssss
Gatchapon machines are everywhere, they usually travel in packs (as I type that I realize that I’ve never seen just a single Gatchapon machine out by itself.  If there’s one Gatchapon, there’s at least a dozen more nearby.  Gathapons: the cockroaches Japanese retail.)  and each Gatchapon machine has a theme.  There will be up to a dozen different items in the machine that all fit the theme, and when you put in your 100¥ coins and turn the dial, you’re rolling the proverbial dice to see which of those items you will get to further enrich your life. 

As you might remember, I happen to be a adult woman.  And as such, you might be asking yourself; Why, KpMcD, would you purchase what are clearly toys meant for small children?  And why would you keep doing that?

How DARE you.  I would argue they’re not all for children.  Non-kiddie-centric themes I’ve encountered (I say that while fully acknowledging that I buy the ones for kids too.  A wind-up walking pikachu toy?  I mean, come on.):

  • enamel pins that commemorate that one time you visited any number of Japanese tourist hot spots (I collect these)
  • tiny underwears for your water bottle (to catch condensation sweat)
  • business card holders shaped like anthropomorphized world landmarks (like lady liberty)
  • suction cup shaped like a Mario™ Chain Chomp that props up your cell phone
  • stickers featuring holographic pictures of “attractive” Japanese Pop Boy Band members
  • small plastic women posed to best show off their cleavage and their panties, which are made to perch on the rim of a beer mug
  • hats for your pets
(haha they haaaaaate me.)

What’s the weirdest Gatchapon YOU’ve seen?  
Tell me in the comments!  (bonus internet points for pictures)

Long story short, I’ve amassed quite a collection of Gatchapons.  And while I put on a good dramatic show about it; just like Amber’s not done tricking you into one more frat party, I’m not done sheepishly explaining to the cashier at the nearest store that I need my change back in 100¥ coins so I can buy more little plastic trinkets.

my precioussssesss.

today's little language lesson
Watashi wa betsu no chīsana inu no bōshi ga hoshīdesu
I want another tiny dog's hat.

*I maaaaaaybe used the word "Chachki" just because it reminded me of Violet Chachki, which in turn reminds me of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which makes me excited to catch up on All Stars season 2** after I post this***

***Can someone explain to me why World of Wonder has put regional restrictions on their videos?  If you’re going to post the whole episode online but only for people in the states, then A. You should be called US of Wonder, and B. You should just know straight away that it will only take about 20 minutes for someone to rip that from your site, where you get viewing numbers and stats, and repost it on youtube. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Road Trip!

Whah ho hey I’m back.

Thanks for your patience, all.  I enjoyed a lovely birthday blog break. 

Kp2 and I had a silly birthday party, complete with piñata, tabehoudai*, and CAKE.  Mostly it was a nice chance to catch up with our friends.  I also made Kp2 and I birthday sashes, which are popular here in the same way that a fake veil would be popular for a bachelorette party in the states.  Before the party, I brought the blank sashes to my Japanese lesson and asked my teacher what would be the most appropriate thing to write on them.  I assumed she would direct me to write something prim and proper like “best birthday wises” but instead, with a devilish glint in her eye, my teacher instructed me to scrawl “Omedetou Obaasan, Banzai!” on each sash.  Which effectively translates to “Congrats Old Lady!”  Ha.  Good job, Sensei.

*tabehoudai: a style of Japanese restaurant where you pay a flat fee upon entry and then have 2 hours to eat and drink as much as you can.  (aka: “All you can eat.”)  Sometimes also referred to as a nomihoudai, or “all you can drink.”  We did both, no worries.

After that The Mister and I packed up and went out to the Navy Base in Yokosuka for a bit.  He had some work to take care of out there (and a promotion, what what!).  I just wanted to get out of the Nagoya Humidity (and buy a bunch of American strength cleaning supplies at the commissary).
Ocean Sunset from the pier.  I'll take it.
Usually we take the Shinkansen (bullet train) out to Yokosuka when there is navy business to attend, but this time The Mister decided he wanted to drive.  Notable as it is about an hour and a half to take a train out to the base… but a SIX (6!) hour drive!  Still, it wasn’t like, the most unpleasant thing I’ve ever done, guys.  Japan does road travel in style.

I’m used to road trips where you buckle in and you start driving and you don’t stop until you get there or you run out of gas.  If someone in your driving party is stupid enough to have had a glass of water at some point, and insists that the car make an additional stop (UGH), then you will be treated to a rest area that might *look* nice, but the smell of old urine that hits you as soon as you get out of the car lets you know you’re really making a throw of the dice at when it’s been last cleaned.  

In Japan, it is strongly recommended that drivers take a break once every two hours at least.  And when I say “strongly recommended,” I mean that our car’s navigational system actually chimed in at two hours and said “It’s been about two hours since you started driving.  Why don’t you take a break?”  Obviously, this isn’t something we were expecting to happen, so gold star to The Mister for not panicking at the strange voice in the car and swerving off the side of the highway into oblivion the first time it happened.

Because the entire drive out there was through Japan’s mountain ranges… beautiful, but a lot of real high up bridgeways to drive across.  Panic-swerving would not end well.

The first time we pulled over, we chose a rest stop near Mt. Fuji.  Unfortunately Fuji-sama (how Japanese folk address the mountain) was hiding in the fog this particular day… sorry for the crap picture.  But there were these little fuji-shaped cakes at the store there, so we can pretend.

Okay but the rest stops?  Amazing.  We ended up stopping multiple times on the way out and the way back from the base, and every single rest stop put American rest areas to horrible shame.  

The rest stops were all incredibly spacious and well organized.  Each stop had a row of restaurants, small gift shop(s), gas station, all the vending machines ever, immense parking, and giant rest rooms.  Most of them even had a well maintained dog-run area.  So… we all know what happens next time we have reason to drive out to the base.
Road trip with Capt'n Mac*!
*yes, I did buy him a tiny navy officer cap. how could I not?
The organization of these rest areas was awesome.  As we pulled in, we were directed by maps of the parking areas that had lights to indicate which lots had available parking spaces.  This is fairly common in Japan, so not surprising.  But what if I told you they also had maps like that… for the restrooms?

Yes.  Little green lights on the sign indicated which toilets were open, what kind of toilets they were (squat toilet vs. BIDET… who picks the squat when bidet is an option!?), and which sinks were available.  Every time we stopped there was at least one restroom attendant keeping everything clean and toilet paper stocked, while scented diffusers and fresh flowers (I mean, seriously) that kept the place smelling pleasant even though there were literally 100+ toilets all smashed into the same area.  

Really the moral of the story is that you think you’re going to go on a wonderful adventure and see such awe inspiring things but then Mt. Fuji decided to hide behind a bank of clouds and so you find yourself gushing about public toilets on the internet instead.

What was the coolest thing about your last road trip? 
Can YOU beat a bidet map?  
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson
omedetou obaasan (ojiisan), banzai!

congrats old lady (man)!