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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Birthday Sparklers

It was my birthday last week!

How does one traditionally celebrate a birthday in Japan, you might ask?
I might respond with: that's a great question.  I have no idea.  But I do know how I celebrated the big 3-1.

The Mister and I have already managed to make a few great friends in our short time here so far.  Interestingly, the number of Japanese people we have befriended in Japan is fairly small compared to our expat friends.  You might see this as a waste of being here, I don't know.  But I do know it makes me more comfortable to have made friends with others with whom I can hang out and speak English and share the weirdness that is experiencing Japan as a non-Japanese person.  

I'm not that tubby-looking,
but I definitely match that dude with tan lines at the moment.
Even while we're out trying to make social connections, we're not seeing it as super common for a Japanese person to want anything to do with a gaijin (aka foreigner), other than to take a picture like Lilo takes pictures of tourists.*

What I'm saying here is that we had a celebration with a bunch of other foreigners to celebrate the (joint) birthday.  Who, in this gathering, all happened to be Australian.  

*more than once during our birthday party, we had people walk up and take pictures of our party, then walk away without really talking to us at all.

I met KP2 (I'm sure you're reading this - if you would like a different blog pseudonym, lemme know), a few weeks ago, and we've become fast friends.  She's a fellow artist here in Nagoya with her S.O. And like me, she has taken up house-wifing while here.  AND, as facebook friends have pointed out, we look a bit alike.  The cherry on top of all that?  KP2's birthday is just a few days after mine, so we had a joint birthday celebration where we both wore black dresses because why not turn up the twinnies knob to almost creepy levels?
I'm on the right, if you're not paying attention.
I wanted to celebrate by baking a cake.  She wanted to celebrate by making a paper chain (how do we not have a photo of this glorious paper chain?!) and going out to a fun bar.  When our powers combine I am Captain Planet! we made a great birthday party.
We started at KP2's house with the idea that we would eat a dinner of Pizza Hut (the 'Hut exists here, but they're a fancy splurge), eat the cake (I made funfetti!  from scratch!), and then after getting sufficiently carb-loaded, head out to the bar (to, to, the bar!**)

**shout out to my college friends who will understand this small bit from a yesteryear when we all had much more resilient livers.

We learned two things that evening:  
1.  I learned that my tiny toaster oven cannot bake a full-sized cake all the way though (so it was a funfetti cake with "cake batter filling," which no one seemed to mind). 
2.  When we headed out to the bar to capitalize on the Nomihodai (飲みほーだい), we learned that you can drink all you want, as long as you also order food.

Nomihodai is Japanese for "All you can drink."  You pay a flat fee and for two hours you can drink as much as you can fit down your gullet, assuming you are skilled in flagging down the waitress to keep the rounds coming.  And so long as every single person at your table orders at least one plate of food.

Maybe you were paying attention to the part where I mentioned we had already eaten a significant amount of cake and pizza... so we each had to waste an additional 700+ yen ($7) to order food that we either didn't eat, or ate, overfilled on, and paid the price for later.  But now we know - live and learn folks.  Moral of the story: don't eat before you go to the all you can drink, even if that logic seems real backwards.

Meaningful life lessons aside, the bar we went to for our celebration is called "American Dining Bar BJ's," where BJ stands for "Big Joy" (get your head out of the gutter).  They have American-style food with American-size portions, which is very rare for Japan.  But more importantly, they have a nightly pole-dancing show AND flair bartending!

We got to watch a few pole dancing shows, which are not what you're probably thinking, the girls all kept their clothes on and danced to such "raunchy" hits as "Popular," by Mika.

Really, the flair bartending was the bigger entertainment for the evening.  Unless you were the party behind us which contained one VERY drunk man who was determined to give the dancers a tip.

He ran up to the bar once and slammed his beer bottle down with enough force to make it fizz over onto the bar, creating a "water hazard" on the dancer's stage (definite party foul).  His friends dragged him back to their table. About 20 seconds later he ran back up and laid down on the stage with a 1000 yen ($10) note in his mouth.  Again, angry friends dragged him back.  One last time he ran up, CLIMBED ONTO THE STAGE, and held onto the pole with both hands like a child throwing a fit would while his friends pulled on each of his legs and the waitstaff yelled. 

And then they actually pulled him off the bar from his tantrum leg first which - you guessed it - meant his head hit the ground with a pretty decent thud.  Drunky McDrunkerson bounced right back up like a tennis ball, as if nothing happened, and then his (understandably, at this point) angry friend punched him in the neck.
he's lucky Japanese ladies are so demure.  Were I the dancer I'd have kicked him in the snoot.
All of this took maybe three minutes total to transpire, and I was unable to look away from such a train wreck.  Particularly because in Japanese culture, if you are drunk, you are forgiven all your misconduct by the time you sober up.  It is a culture that believes "oh, he didn't know what he was doing, he was drunk, it's not his fault."

...that's a hard idea to swallow for my previous life as a college administrator who handed out consequences for drinking.  Or really, it's just a hard idea to swallow for any person who believes your choices are your own.  There are too many applications of that idea that lead to horrible, life altering events - sexual assault, injury/ violence (see above), accidentally stepping in front of a train... you see where I'm going with this.  But Drunky seemed fine, they ordered him another round, and I went back to sipping my tea eating my complimentary pile of whipped cream with a sparkler stuck on top.

What, you thought I was kidding about the sparkler?  I'm on the Left this time.
Do you remember the movie Cocktail with a young Tom Cruise?  Where he was a bartender and learned to make cocktails while juggling bottles of vodka, rum, and whiskey?  If not, good job being young.  It fades, cherish your youth while you can.  
Flair!  Also pictured: Forest Gump running on loop
on the CCTV.  Run forest, run.
I got the blue one.

*ahem*  Sorry.

Point is, the juggling and stuff is what's called flair bartending.  And it's SUPER fun to watch it first hand.  Even more so when it's your birthday so they sit you front and center at the bar to watch the main flair show close up... where they make you your very own birthday cocktail, then invite you behind the bar to chug that cocktail in one gulp while the crowd cheers.
we win!  'Murica / Strail-ya!
(good lord how do I spell that?)
I'd say the American and the Aussie were proud to represent their respective homelands by schooling the two Japanese folk in the bar in their own drinking contest, though the next morning did not feel like a proud moment for either of us.

How did you celebrate your last birthday?  
Tell me in the comments!

Slightly related tangent - Today I finished putting together my birthday present; two floor-to-ceiling shelving units to help me organize the craft/ office room we have previously been using as a "oh, we have some crap that needs to go somewhere?  Just throw it in that room somewhere.  On the floor is fine because who needs to walk in or use that space anyway?"
Top L: Before. Top R: Bubba, king of the shelf boxes.
Bottom: After, plus some debris because I started crafting immediately and only later remembered pictures.
So now I can use it for crafting, and have already managed to christen it with blood.  How?  I was sawing a trash can in half***.  You know, like you do
What a nice straight line I cut into my thumb.
(also pictured: Mac Tax)
***halloween is coming, prepare yourselves.

today's little language lesson
O-tan-joe-bi o-me-de-toe go-zai-mas
happy birthday! 
(literally: birthday congratulations)

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Cosplay Parade!

Alternate title for this blog post:
Let's lay out all of KpMcD's geek cards, because she knows WAY more of these references than she probably should as a grown woman.

This weekend the city of Nagoya hosted the World Cosplay Summit.  If you are unfamiliar with Cosplay, it is summed up best as such:
People crafting costumes that pay tribute to their favorite fictional characters from films, games, cartoons and comics.  Traditionally associated with Japanese Anime, but it's branching out and VERY popular world-wide.  (For proof look no further than the expo floor of SanDiego's annual ComicCon).

On Sunday, we (aka myself, The Mister, and two Australian comrades) went to the parade that wrapped up the Summit's weekend.

the champions.
What I didn't realize at the time was the main competitors of the weekend's cosplay events don't attend the parade in costume (which is a bummer because apparently team Mexico won with a phenominal Majora's Mask cosplay I would have enjoyed seeing), but we still saw a great number of great (and a few not so great, but funny) costumes.  I took 1,800 pictures.  That's not an exaggeration.  That's the real number, rounded down to be a nice even hundred for your sake.  Thus, I spent so much time narrowing which photos would make the cut for the blog this week, you'll excuse me if I just present them here for you to look at and keep the words to the minimum.

I did, however, put a reference picture next to some of the costumes that Americans might not recognize so you can fully appreciate how much detail went into capturing the characters / can marvel at how nerdy I must be to have been able to pinpoint this many comics.

The parade started with a local high school marching band.
They played The Mario Theme.

Mario - of course Mario!  The Koopa Troopa was my favorite of this group.

Big Hero 6!  The Mister gave a fist bump to one of the 6 and did the
"ba-la-da-la-da-la" thing Baymax did in the movie and everyone got a good chuckle.

Frozen?  Well, they tried.

Winnie the Pooh.  He didn't really try.
Yokai Watch - a VERY popular Japanese video game that's sort of like Pokemon I think?


Sailor Moon - There were not as many sailor scouts as I would have predicted....

Our Host Club - The Mister and I tried to watch this because it was on Netflix with English subtitles and we thought it'd be good listening practice.  But it's about a highschool with an escort service, and so we stopped watching after the first episode.

One Piece!  Sooooooo many adorable little kids dressed in that straw hat bopping around.

Lupin the Third - I honestly saw zero Lupins, but his side kick guy was well represented

Dragon Ball Z - the old man with the turtle shell was probably my favorite all day.

Doraemon - I... this guy's costume is great, but I hate Doraemon.

Naruto - there were a TON of Naruto cosplayers... Homeboy with the giant sword and the ice blue contacts?
He was by far their best representative.

Bayonetta - I don't know much about her, but she's from a video game where even though her heels are guns... her deadliest weapon is her hair. 
Bleach - this guy's scars were on point.

This woman legitimately dressed up as an eraser.  I... I don't know.

Studio Ghibli has a surprising amount of Kiki's Delivery Service representation,
but also a bit from Princess Mononoke (her mask was baller) and Spirited Away
(I wanted to see a Totoro so badly but left unfulfilled...)

A dude from Kingdom Hearts video game.

Navy!  Naval uniforms were VERY popular, and every one of them cracked me up because obviously they are not to ay actual Naval standard.  And obviously, this drove my Naval Officer husband up the wall every time one went by.  So I made him a collection of Navy uniform pictures!  Enjoy husband!  haha.  (*the top L corner there though, their costumes were a bit... well their props were cartoonish atom bombs... I felt a bit weird standing next to them.)
An Underwhelming Batman.   He really put in 110% effort.
Splatoon!  - This is a new Nintendo video game that I've heard really great things about, but wasn't expecting to see it SO throughly represented at the parade, because it's only been around a few months now I think.  Anyway, you play a squid/human hybrid that meets objectives by painting things with your ink color.  Which made for some cool costume props.

We weren't sure what this was from.
Our Aussie friends decided it was Big Brother from 1984.

I thought maybe this guy was from Guacamelee,
but pretty sure now that I'm wrong.  Anyone know?
Chuckie.  Who held a knife up and smiled menacingly just after I took this picture.
Straight, undiluted nightmares right there.

Cleopatra I think?  Gorgeous for sure.

A dog in a buggy.  Because Japan.

A guy in a full Gilly suit.
Which I present right before my phone screen shot of that day's weather report.

I need you to see that it was actually 93 degrees.  It, according to the weather app, FELT like 108 degrees (in real life it felt like I had been lit on fire).  And then it was muggy.  And we were all smooshed into a small alley with thousands of other people.  I have no idea how Gilly suit man survived is what I'm saying.

Have you every been to a cosplay event?
Who would you cosplay as?  Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson
Sumimasen, shya-shin o toritai desu. daijiobu duseuka?  Sugoi!
Excuse me, I'd like to take a picture.  Is that alright?  Awesome!