Monday, October 05, 2015

5 Fall Flavors that are Foreign to Foreigners

Alternate title: That time I bought 5 different drinks, took approximately 1 sip of each for the purpose of this post, then put them in the fridge so they could become flat while waiting for my husband to come home and drink them.  (...but that wouldn't all fit in the url.)

First up - welcome to anyone who may have wandered over here from my comic in NagMag this month.  If you're in the city and you haven't seen the October issue yet - go pick up a copy!  (or if you want to see it without leaving the warm safe glow of your computer screen, [click here] to download the issue - I'm on page 9), They featured a 1 panel piece of mine on a page highlighting some tips for new foreigners to the area, and now I'm clearly famous.

You might remember a few weeks back when I talked about fall flavors, and how while in the US it's ALL about pumpkin spice, here there's a whole lot of sweet potato love.

I've noticed a few more seasonal flavors pop up in our local stores since then.  Specifically in the drink aisle.  And since today I was thinking "oh god, I don't have a good topic for this week's blog post - I have failed as a writer and a person," I decided to pick up a few of these special beverages to taste test for my loyal audience.

So, under the careful supervision of the ever faithful Mac-dog, here are our contenders:

Fanta (Coke) Soda - Asian Pear flavor
Lipton Tea - Sweet Pumpkin Tea Latte
Asahi Soda - PaPaPaPa Party! Energy Juice (...jack-o-lantern orange flavor?)
Mets (Kirin) Soda - Lemon Squash Soda Water
Pepsi Soda - Pepsi Ghost, MYSTERY FLAVOR!  (why yes I am most excited about this one)

I've decided to rank each of these items on the following:
A.  Taste accuracy:  1-5 on how close it tastes to what it claims to taste like
B.  Chug-a-bility: 1-5 on how well I feel like I could chug* it, aka, this is refreshing enough that I want to keep drinking it instead of meekly sipping it and hoping I can discreetly ditch it on an end table at a party before it gets too unbearably warm.
*I have been informed that if you are not American, you may call this "Skull-a-bility"
C.  Repeat Customer-ability:  1-5 on my own personal excitement regarding the experience and whether or not I would give more money to keep drinking each of these things.
D.  Bonus Round: 1-5 on any extra thoughts I have that didn't fit into the above.
So.  In the immortal words of Mario, Ah-here-we-go!

Fanta Asian Pear Soda
The Mister and I have enjoyed Asian Pear season here - they're a very refreshing fruit, not too sweet, but juicy and crisp.  And an easy grab and go snack.  I have high hopes for this taste in my mouth.
A:  4  It does indeed taste like Asian Pears, if those pears were sweet and bubbly.  Since I like that actual pears are not that sweet, I had to take a point away.
B:  2.5  I couldn't chug this, it's too sophisticated a flavor.  Maybe if I kept my pinky out... herm no.
C:  2  I think if I was jonesing for something in this vein, I'd just go with apple.  Which is probably because I'm an American and more used to apple flavored things, but this is just enough off of that taste to be something for which I'd really need to have a unique and focused mind-set.
D:  1  The first sip was good, the second sip was like "ah no."  
Total:  9.5/20

Lipton Sweet Pumpkin Tea Latte
I wouldn't be surprised to see this sold in the states as well.
A:  5 YES.  Yes this is fall to my basic American white girl brain.
B:  4 Chug is maybe a strong word, but where I was gently sipping the Pear soda, I was taking big swigs of this.  There will be none left to share with The Mister.
C:  4 I can totally see myself buying this again, but I don't know that I would make a bee line for it when I busted into the supermarket.
D:  5 If I'm honest, this is the drink that sort of started the idea for this post because my inner basic b*tch needed justification for buying a pumpkin spiced beverage.
Total:  18/20

Asahi's PaPaPaPa Party! Energy Juice
Fair warning, I'm not real big on energy drinks (I drink multiple pots of coffee like the good lord intended), but since this was in a big halloween-style display I felt it needed a chance.
A: 1 Okay I checked, it is supposed to be citrus/ orange flavored.  It tastes not like those things enough that I had to check the bottle despite being familiar with citrus/ orange flavor.  It is instead like crushed smarties in seltzer water.  It is unpleasant.  Maybe if I was at a party I could put enough booze in there to make it not taste like crushed smarty?  But then it would just taste like booze.  Yeah no.
B: 4?  I am trying to be nice.  I would chug this simply because it would get it finished so I could drink something else quicker.  But I could chug it.  I would burp like a champ after that.  And also I would probably reenact the video of the little cupcake girl, because energy drink.

C: 1 The only reason this isn't a 0 or negative number is because the name would make it a perfect drink to serve at a "Parappa the Rapper" themed party.  But outside that very dated 90's reference?  No.  Just... No.
D:  2 I kinda wanna throw a 90's video game themed party now.
there are wings. and horns. and take my money already.

Total: 11 (8)/20 
...I am sad this horrible drink got a higher score than the Fanta soda, but rules is rules, and Spyro is my jam.

Mets Lemon Squash Soda Water
Mets puts out soda waters in a similar fashion to LaCroix.  I make this comparison specifically because LaCroix to Jenna Marbles (that link has swears, but is true to my life at the moment) is Mets to KpMcD.  A month ago they put out a new grapefruit flavor and it consumed my life for multiple weeks.  I finally had to quit cold turkey when I found myself going multiple blocks out of my way on walks because it would bring me past a Kirin (the beer company that owns Mets) vending machine on the street and I could get my fix.  Now they have this Squash Lemon flavor.  Let's fall off the wagon together.
A:  3 I taste the lemon, I don't taste the squash.  But golly it's tasty.
B:  5  I opened the bottle as I started typing the above paragraph.  The bottle is already empty.
C:  5 I need it to not be 5.  I need to not get into buying these, but I would drink every drop of this that entered my home.
D:  1 Because I already know I'm going to end up spiraling back out of control on my Mets needs, so I am punishing the drink with a poor score in this section to make up for it.
Total:  14/20

I really only like 1 kind of pepsi, and that's Wild Cherry Pepsi.  In all other respects, Coke is where it's at.  So while I'm excited about this, mystery flavored pepsi has the potential to go real wrong, real fast... plus what if Japan has weird Japan flavors for pepsi.  Oh gosh.
B:  5  We all know soda is the ultimate non-alcoholic beverage to chug.  Yes.  I can and will chug this. (Once my stomach is not completely full of Lemon Squash Soda Water.)
C:  3?  I love that I got the one pepsi product that I totally enjoy.  I am nervous that it is an absolute fluke and next time I'll get tuna flavored pepsi or something.
D:  3 I haven't had a legit cola in possibly 6 months.  INSTANT SUGAR HIGH.  Sugar High.  SUGAR. HIIIIIIIIGH.
click the picture. get the reference.
Total:  16/20

In conclusion, it would seem congratulations are in order for Lipton's Sweet Pumpkin Tea Latte, and I... drank a lot of liquid and really need to pee.  Okay byeeeeeee!

What was the weirdest drink you've ever tried?
Tell me in the comments!

Today's little language lesson
papapapa pa-tea nomimono wa, dai-ki-rai desu yo.
I greatly dislike the PaPaPaPa Party Drink.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Walking in Japan is great exercise.  A little fresh air and sunshine does a body good.  It can be perilous, however, when the bikes come to play.

Bikers (the peddling kind, not the motor kind), almost immediately enraged me when we arrived in Japan - they zoom around with no concern for the pedestrians with which they share the sidewalk, frequently ignore the traffic lights, and have no regard for the LAWS OF BIKES.  This says nothing of the number of times where I'll be walking with Mac and bikes will zoom past him with less than inches between bike and puppy - I wish I knew how to scream "You're lucky he didn't bite you, jerk!"  in Japanese.  We've figured out a system now where Mac will sit at a cross walk, but he'll sit 2 feet directly in front of me, so I can protect his tail from bike tires.  

Long story short, my reaction to all this was to get SUPER bitter about bikes real quick.

Yeah.  So then a few weeks ago KP2 invited me out to a painting class and when I agreed to join her she gleefully replied "Great!  You can borrow my extra bike and we'll just zip over there!"

I was... less than excited about my first Japanese bike ride.
Except then, I LOVED it.

We flew through the streets and made great time, got a good workout, and I immediately realized just how much MORE exploring I could do with a set of wheels.  I heavily suspect this was all part of KP2's devious plan, because as you may note from above, she had an extra bike.  An extra bike, which is now my bike.

in case you wondered, crow tastes just like chicken, but a little gamey.
And so I present to you, Ms. Pippolotta Delicatessa Windowshade Ephram's Daughter Longspoking.  Or Pippi Longspoking*, for short.  She is my noble bicycle, and I am jazzed to feel the wind in my hair on a daily basis as she and I (and of course KP2) cycle to the far corners of this city and back.

Note to self though, make sure if you're using a train track as a navigation beacon on your ride, that you're following the CORRECT train track.  Check out today's "quick" ride out to a larger mall:

Blue: where I should have gone.  Red:  Where I did go.  My thighs are... less than pleased.

What are your feelings on bikes?  
How would you pimp your ride?  
(you may notice I already purchased a cute bike seat cover for Pippi, but I have yet more plans.)  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson:
あなたはラッキーです 彼はあなたを噛みませんでした![馬鹿!**]
Anata wa rakkīdesu kare wa anata o kamimasendeshita! Baka!
You are lucky he did not bite you!  Jerk!

*if you do not understand that name reference or why I would use that name for an orange bike, get thee to a youth literature section of a library post-haste!

**seriously though?  don't call anyone that.  It's considered a swear, and it's more or less the only swear word Japanese has... and I've never heard it uttered.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Basic B*tches

Hey, so there's a little bit of sweary-ness in this blog post (see title for example).  I'm a grown-a$$-lady though, so sometimes a little sweary-ness is okay.  Unless you're my family.  Sorry, family.  Time to bust out the earmuffs.

You may have come here and said to yourself (if you're from my generation or older) - what, exactly, is a "basic bitch?"  I give you this video starring Patrick Warburton for reference:

For the record, I am 100% a basic bitch, and if that's wrong then I don't want to be right.  I heart yoga pants and leggings.  I make use of unnecessary hashtags in social media.  I wear scarves with every outfit from September 1 through March 31 without fail.  Whaeva, I'll do what I want.

In the fall, B.B.'s are famous for their scent/beverage/food of choice; Pumpkin Spice (fun fact, while writing this post I discovered that the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte has it's own *VERIFIED* twitter and instagram account... and I find that very amusing).  Normally, I would be no exception to this rule.  But we're in Japan now, and a new competitor has entered the ring:

I would equate them more with yams actually.  Dark purple skins, yellow inside.  Very sweet.  And usually the Japanese top them with a thin maple syrup.  They're super delicious.  And they are the kings of fall here. Two weeks ago the advertisements in the mall switch over to signal "autumn is here!" and it's been nothing but celebrating this tuber's existence ever since.

As I write this post and look up supplementary information about satsumaimo (the Japanese name for them), there's a bunch of articles about how they're great for helping you loose weight.  And yet, after a week of eating almost nothing except the wonderful array of autumn-themed, satsumaimo-flavored products...

Of course, my problem is probably that I'm not eating *just* the satsumaimo. 

sold in every corner convenience store from the same type of heaters in which
Americans might expect to see hot dogs rolling.

I'm eating the satsumaimo chips.  (of which Bubba is also a fan)

and the sweet breads, stuffed with mashed sweet potato.

and the mini-breads.

and the kit-kats.

And just to be fair, I also sampled the Maple and Hazlenut flavored sweets, because I wanted to be able to tell you with confidence that the sweet potato is the best fall flavor here.  
(featuring me in a tiny clip in witch hat I bought from the ¥100 store because it's hilarious, and also fake eyelashes, which I am trying out before I wear them with my halloween* costume.)

the hazlenut bread was shaped like a hazlenut but stuffed with sweet potato!  the cake is a lie! 
and the maple bread was stuffed with sweet red beans.  because Japan. (still yummy)
Not only is Satsumaimo hands down the best fall flavor, but the hazlenut sweet bread cheated and was STUFFED WITH SWEET POTATO.
So now in theory, because I have shared my findings with you all, I can go back to eating a normal diet that is not 90% sweet potato themed foods.  Sure, we'll say that.  

In conclusion - if you can find Satsumaimo in a store near you, give 'em a try.  And then light a pumpkin spice candle for me, because they don't sell those here and I miss them.

Are you a basic bitch?  
What's is the thing that makes you the most basic?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's tiny language lesson

zenbu satsumaimo o, tabetai desu.
I want to eat all the sweet potatoes.

*halloween.  another basic bitch thing to be excited about.  
I freaking love halloween.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Thinking in Katakana

Oh hey there neighbors.  How’s it going?  I’d pretend something awe-inspiring happened which prevented me from remembering to blog last week, but if I’m honest, I started playing Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD for the Wii U and… well you know me.  I must save the Triforce from Gannon's evil grips! (…I told myself I could play for an hour tonight if I blog first.)
any game with an Elvis impersonator is right up my alley.
Let’s talk a bit about language today.  When you learn a secondary language, many people will say that you know you have reached a milestone in your proficiency when you begin to THINK in that language, instead of thinking in your native tongue and then translating it as you speak (which always sounds a little clunky).  Don’t get ahead of me here, readers, I’m not anywhere near that point (it took me about 6 months to get there when we were in Mexico, and that’s after I’d already taken years of college-credit Spanish!)  

The Japanese language is written using three different “alphabets” if you will.
  1. Hiragana.  A set of 46 letters which represent all the possible sounds in the language.  Used for native Japanese words.  (eg- big:おおき  Sunday: にちようび cat: ねこ  )  Used to teach kids how to read, and written next to Kanji to clarify pronunciation.
  2. Katakana.  A set of 46 letters which represent all the possible sounds in the language.  Used only for words borrowed from other languages. (eg- t-shirt: tーシヤツ pronounced “Tee-shya-tsu” doberman:ドベルマン pronounced “do-be-ru-man" )
  3. Kanji.  What most Enlish-speaking people think of when they think of Japanese writing.  Symbols which represent entire words.  They can be combined in an infinite amount of ways to create different words and phrases.   Most frustratingly, pairing different kanji together can completely change the pronunciation of said kanji.  (eg- big: pronounced “ooki” 大き Sunday: pronounced “nichiyoobi” even though ni and bi are the same kanji, 日曜日  Cat: pronounced “neko” 猫).  

Okay, you have some context now.
Last week, The Mister took some time off from civilian work so we could go out to the base for Navy work.  The Friday before we left, we WENT TO A MOVIE.
let's all go to the moviesss
You can mock my excitement if you want, but first I want you to think about the last time you went to the theater.  Talking to the people at the ticket counter to indicate what movie you want to see, which showing you’re interested in, and if you’re going to a fancy theatre, which seats you want.  Good thing you know ALL those words in the language you share with the ticket clerk, eh?  

Mad props to The Mister, who had asked in one of his Japanese lessons about how to properly set up a movie date-night.  So not only did he navigate the ordering process, he got us into an English movie that’s been subtitles in Japanese*.  We saw the Avengers 2: Age of Ultron in all it’s glory.
SO gooooood.  except this part which legit gave me nightmaresssss.
*the only three options for getting out to see a popular American movie in Japan:
  1.  See it with Japanese subtitles where the Actors are all still speaking English.
  2. See it with English subtitles but the actors have all been dubbed over in Japanese.  The quality of this experience is on par with every cheesy kung-fu movie you saw when you were a kid, where the actors would talk for like three minutes and then the dubbing and subtitle translation would say “...yes."
  3. Go to the base and hope it’s playing there.

(cue the soundtrack!)

Then we move onto the concessions - the point of this post.  When we walked in, I smelled the popcorn, and having not eaten popcorn for… well when was the last time I went to a movie?  Couple months?  I got a big ole case of the drools is what I’m saying here folks.  Even better, as we approached the counter, I smelled not just any popcorn, but CARMEL CORN, the holy grail of all popcorns.  It wasn’t listed on the menu, but I knew what I smelled (I’m like a popcorn bloodhound), and I wanted it.  What’s the word for caramel corn in Japanese.  DO YOU KNOW IT?

I do.

What I realized a little over a week ago, that I’m not thinking in actual Japanese.  Yet.  I am, however, thinking in Katakana - meaning that if I can’t think of the word I need in Japanese during conversation, that I’m able to spell the English word for whatever it is, in Katakana, in my head, which helps me pronounce it in a way that a Japanese person might know what I’m talking about.  Because if there’s any God-send in how difficult Japanese is to learn, it’s that they borrow a LOT of words from English, some because they don’t have an equivalent, and some because they find it trendy and hip.  

Thus, instead of just smelling heaven and weeping that I did not know the Japanese words for how to get that delightfullness into my grubby little hands, I marched up to the concessions counter and proudly proclaimed:

“Sumimasen, KA-RA-ME-RU PO-PU-KON ga, arimasuka?”
(go ahead, read it out loud.  good job, now you know how to say caramel popcorn in Japanese, and sound like you're mocking Japanese language if you're around anyone who isn't Japanese!)

And then concessions lady got super pumped that she didn’t have to help this foreigner wade through the whole menu as she exclaimed that they did, in fact, have caramel popcorn, and what size would I like?

Um, The biggest you have.  Obi.  (‘Murica.)

Does your movie theater sell caramel popcorn?  
Is this also a thing in the states now that 
I‘ve just missed out on somehow? 
Tell me in the comments!  Because it’s amazing.  

today’s little language lesson:

すみません、カルメル ポプコン が、ありますか?  大き サイズ、おながいします!
Sumimasen, KA-RA-ME-RU PO-PU-KON, arimasuka? Ooki sai-zu, onegaishimasu!
Excuse me, do you have caramel popcorn?  BIG size please!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bath Bomb Bath Bomb, I love Bath Bombs.

The Mister splurged last time he went out to the Navy base, and *somehow* we ended up with a Wii U.  I’ve been telling myself that once I have a day where I know there is nothing timely or important I need to do, I’m allowed to set up said Wii U, because I know once it’s set up I won’t get off the couch for the remainder of said day/ week/ month.

I decided that today is that day.

So I got up and had my coffee, then went on my errand run, because I knew I was home for the day once that box was opened.   A quick trip to the mall to grab cat food and, me food, then back to the apartment for fun.  I was disgustingly sweaty, so first I took a shower.

I got the system mostly set up when I realized that because we have so many gaming systems/ stuff plugged into our TV (we’re just big children, The Mister and I), we were going to need an HDMI splitter in order to finish this project.  This would have been less annoying if I hadn’t already been out, or if we had an electronics store in the mall that is actually near-ish to our house.  We don’t, so I walked to the train station, got on a train and went out to a bigger mall a few stops away.  I found the splitter (seriously though? gold star to me, that’s a tough one in another language), purchased it, paused briefly at the pet store to coo at the puppies in the window, and then caught the train back home.  Once there, I was disgustingly sweaty, so I took a shower.

I took the splitter out of the box, and realized it didn’t come with an output cable.  So I can plug my multiple HDMI cables INTO it, but then there isn’t a cable to go from splitter to the TV.  Here is about when I got SUPER cranky and debated not finishing my project.  But we have plans to go to the base this weekend, and since it’s an American Wii U (Japanese Wii U’s are not compatible with American -aka English language- games and vise-versa), if we had any issues with it I wanted to know ahead of time so we could address them while we’re at the Navy commissary where it was originally purchased.  Thus, I put on my big girl panties and walked the couple miles to another smaller electronics store to buy an HDMI output cable.  It has a little face on it, because Japan.  I believe it is mocking me.

"haha, you had to walk 5,000 miles for me, and
you will walk 5,000 more."

Once I got back to my building, I shared the elevator up with a nice little old lady (we call them Oba-sans -basically “grannies"- here), and she said… something to me in Japanese.  I didn’t know exactly what, both because I didn’t understand the words and also because I had my headphones on.  Still, I got the gist that she was saying something about me specifically, assumed that because she is a nice-looking little lady that she was saying something kind, and so I bowed and told her thank you.  

Once inside the apartment, I realized that this time not only was I disgustingly sweaty, but I’d forgotten deodorant the last time around, so I stunk like a bad Peppy Le Pew reenactment.  I’ve been wondering all afternoon if the Oba-san was trying to tell me I was an unholy level of ripe.  So.  I took a shower.

And then, because I’d finally come to the end of a day spent toiling over something so silly as setting up a singular electronic gaming system, I treated myself to a bath.

Baths in Japan are really something else, and truth be told, I wasn’t a convert until just a few weeks ago.  Actually, let’s back that up; Japanese bathROOMS are really something else.

Back when I was taking my language lessons in the states, our tutor was amazing enough to throw in a few culture lessons as well.  One of those revolved around bathrooms, and more specifically, how bathrooms and toilet rooms are 2 separate things here.  Our tutor was originally from Japan and had married an American man, and in one of her more adorable moments in our lessons she explained how she missed the separation of these spaces:
“I hate when I am in the shower, and my husband must come in and use the toilet!  Then I am showering in the fumes from his pee!  I cannot be clean when I have washed in pee fumes!”  
You see, in Japan, homes have a room that houses JUST the toilet, which, as we’ve already covered, is usually a very fancy bidet and is amazing in it’s own right.  Then there is a vanity space that has a sink and is generally where people get themselves gussied up for the day.  And next to that is the room for the bath.  This room is an amazing space, set up with a space for showering, a bathtub for once you’re clean,* and the fancy ones (like ours) include a little control panel which can be used for the following (and more):

  • Heat the room with warm air - which we use for drying our laundry instead of hanging it outside and having the wind take my undergarments three doors down.
  • Circulate the air with a “breeze”
  • Defog.
  • Run yourself a bath, at the temperature of your choosing. (seriously.  One button.  it fills the bathtub, and then a little voice resonates throughout the apartment to tell you it’s ready)
  • Reheat the bathwater
  • Add more water to the bath, or drain it.
  • “Page” your spouse if you’re in the tub and you need something and you’re too lazy to get out.

I love that I no longer have to shower in “pee fumes.”  I love how fancy I feel in the super deep tub that I can keep warm for hours.  And I love the amazing range of stuff that Japanese stores sell for you baths.  
Specifically: Bath Bombs.  And I'll be honest, I might have a bit of a problem.
The dollar stores here sell Bath Bombs by the truck load.  To me, the best part about them is that many of them have TINY TOYS INSIDE.  Like Pokémon, I have to catch them all.  Hence, my overflowing basket of bath bombs with everything from Hello Kitty summer toys, to tiny dinosaurs, Snoopy characters, sea creatures, hamsters, and more!
How is that not the cutest thing you've ever seen?
Or at least the cutest thing you've ever bought for a dollar.

How about this one?  It's PINEAPPLE scented!
And I got a tiny Lucy from Snoopy!  I mean, it turned my bath water pee-yellow, but guys, tiny Lucy!
And lookit how many more Snoopy characters I can collect!
An excessive amount of bath-bomb toys?  I think not!
Plus guys, check out the "Dolphin Boat" I recently purchased, which runs on... you guessed it, the fizzes of bath bombs.

Are you an adult who acts like a child?  
In what way?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson
Watashi no furo oke wa painappuru no yōna nioi.
My bathtub smells like pineapple.

*Baths are not part of getting clean in Japan - they’re a way to relax, an activity.  Many families will share the same bath water one after another, and or they’ll reuse the bathwater to clean their laundry (our washing machine has a separate hose to accommodate this should we be so inclined).  What I’m saying is you don’t get in the bath and scrub off a bunch of dirt into the water, or shave your legs.  You get in once you’re already primped and polished.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Vroom Vroom.

We have a car in Japan now.
It’s a bright blue Toyota Fielder, which is sort of like a station wagon?  It’s got a hatch back and it’s longer and it fits me, The Mister, Mac-dog, and luggage.  So we can take trips now, which is fairly liberating I guess.

But… I don’t want it?  I used to say *we* don’t want it, but it appears The Mister has warmed to this vehicle faster than I have.  Which I guess is good, we’re going to use it this weekend to bring Mac for an introduction at a boarding kennel.  Only $20 in toll fares apparently.  What a steal. Woo.

I know, because I once was one such person, that if you’re reading this from the states, a place where I know families who own more than 2 cars per person... the thought of not even wanting one car our whole family seems impractical.  


Japan is ridiculously good at public transportation.  It’s cheap, it’s fast, it’s reliable.  I’ve seen trains be delayed no more than 10 minutes from a freaking earthquake.  

When you’re on a train, you don’t have to worry about the transit part of your trip.  You just get on, and when you stop, you get off, and you’re where you need to be, on time.

We’ve figured out if you have a ton of luggage that you’re bringing on a trip, you can ship it from the nearest convenience store to the hotel where you plan to stay.  It’s cheap, safe, and you don’t have to carry your bags with you when you travel.  

There are even pet taxis.  As well as, you know, regular taxis.

Plus walking is, in fact, good for you.

I present all this as evidence that a personal vehicle is not a requirement for successful and happy living in Japan.  Though I suppose I could also just say “hey we’ve been here for 7 months without a car and we’ve done just fine so that’s probably proof enough, eh?

And yet, if you’ve been paying attention, you might remember that The Mister works as an engineer in the automobile industry, and as such, we were never given a choice on the matter of whether or not we would get a car here.  In fact, the company provided the darn thing.  It’s a nice perk I suppose, and if I’m honest, I’m writing this whole post as an opportunity to feel like I'm not looking so far down the throat of our gift horse.

Why am I so opposed to having a car here?  A lot of reasons I guess.

Nagoya is a big city.  It’s full of crazy multi-lane streets, one way streets, intersections where 6 or 7 large roads all convene, and you know, that whole thing where you drive on the opposite side of the street bit.  Who WANTS to throw themselves into trying to figure out how all that works?  Not to mention, of all the prefectures (areas sort of like states), the Aichi prefecture of which Nagoya is part has the worst rate of driving accidents.  I am profoundly terrified that, were I to get in an accident while driving a car here, that my lack of Japanese language skills would result in 100% of the blame for the accident being placed on my shoulders, whether or not that is actually the case.

But not to get too far off track with the “worst driving” rating for the prefecture:  that is what sticks in our craw the most.  Because it affects the driving conversion test, which to our understanding seems to be less about proving you are a good driver, and more than you can follow the courses routine perfectly; turn left here, stop there, check your mirrors at this intersection - as if you and the car are testing for your black belt.
Aaaaand.... right blinker.
Americans in Japan must convert their driving license to a Japanese license if they wish to drive* in Japan.  To convert your license, you must take a brief written test.  Then you must take a driving test on a closed course.  NO ONE passes this physical test on the first try.  How many people DO eventually pass, however, is directly affected by the accident rates for the prefecture in which you test.  Apparently the thinking is that if you have too many accidents in your area, you must fail more drivers at your testing centers so they must practice more before actually joining the roads and are better mannered out there.  You’re following along, you get it:  our prefecture is the worst, so they fail the most drivers on a daily basis in order to ensure the "more lesson time" theory.  

Let’s also pair this with the xenophobia that is still prevalent in Japan.  
thanks, wikipedia.
It’s easy for Japanese citizens to figure out who among them are not Japanese - for the most part it’s visual.  We’re different looking so we’re easy to pick out.  Now, to be clear, this isn’t an issue that has drastically negatively impacted our lives in most aspects, but it is easy to give examples:  Hair dressers that won’t touch my brown, bushy hair.  Other tenants of our apartment building who have taught their children that “American’s are scary, don’t talk to them!” Taxi drivers without fares, who breeze by us as we wave them down.  

And of course, there’s when The Mister takes his fourth driving test, gets a perfect score, and is then told “well, you’re American, you don’t expect to pass, do you? ha.(yes. that happened.)

It’s infuriating for me, so I can only imagine what The Mister feels like.  It’s not just emotional frustrations, either: it costs money to take the test, we have to hire an interpreter every time he takes the test, AND he has to take a vacation day, which is now at the point of threatening to eat into our Christmas vacation home with family.  Watching him go through this process has amped up my anxiety to the point of wanting to lock myself in a hidden cave in the mountains somewhere at the thought of having to actually take this stupid test myself.
as the kids say: "me af."
Adding on to the frustration, is that Australia has a closer relationship with Japan, so their conversion is literally just paperwork.  So we have "fun" conversations out at bars like this one:

So the car. I don’t want it.  But we have it.  
So I suppose, as with it’s predecessors “Dora the Ford Explorer” and “Subaru Forester Gump,” this car will need a proper name.  
I’m open to suggestions in the comments folks, let’s hear it.

Silver lining?
Our apartment doesn’t have space for a big parking garage, so we park on a conveyor belt.  Here’s how we get our car:

A video posted by Kristin KpMcD McDermott (@kpquepasa) on

*International Drivers Licenses are also an option, which we both have and merely require you to have 15 dollars, a picture of your face, and access to a AAA.  We got them before we left the states, but they are only valid for one year, and if you remember, we will be here for 3.  Plus, it is sort of at the discretion of the prefecture you’re driving around whether or not they consider that license valid.

today’s little language lesson:
Watashi wa densha ni noru koto o konomimasu

I prefer to ride the train.