A Trip to the Aquarium

Yesterday I went with a group of people to the Nagoya Aquarium. It was really cool! I really like fish, and though the ticket was $18, I think that it was worth it. I only wish that we had had more time to spend there.

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Some Good Cooking

This picture is a little late in coming, about a month late to be precise. But here’s a picture of one of the many awesome dinners that Jen made for us last month when she was feeling adventurous in her experimental cooking. Not to say that she hasn’t made any good dinners since, but they have tampered down a bit. And looking at the photo, it should be obvious that we’ve gone vegetarian at home. No meat eating unless we go out or eat at someone’s house. It’s actually been a good thing and you don’t really miss meat as much as you think you’re going to.

But the dinner itself is composed of a cold corn salad and toasted eggplant over wheat toast and topped with melted cheese. It was delicious! We should have it again sometime.

A Walking Thing

Last week Jen bought a pedometer in her continued efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Well, I thought it was a grand idea, so I decided to get one for myself. So, on Thursday, I made my way into town and went to Tokyu Hands, this 5 floor department store that has everything known to mankind. I had asked Jen what floor the pedometers were on, but she couldn’t remember. The only thing she could remember was that they were near the heart rate machines. Now, that didn’t do me a lot of good because I had no idea where the heart rate machines were either.

I arrived at Tokyu Hands, checked out the floor guide, and made my way to what I presumed would be the correct floor. Japan is infamous for having about 500 employees per store to help you with your every need. I found an employee just standing by the floor guide on the 5th floor where I was, so I decided to ask where the pedometers were. But the problem was that I had absolutely no idea what the word for pedometer was. Here was our conversation in Japanese, conveniently translated into English for your reading enjoyment.

Rachael: Excuse me. Do you have walking thing?

Employee: stares blankly at me

Rachael: makes a small box on her waist and mimes walking: One, two, three, four, five

Employee: fjoeiwjfio;wefjkhvwriwoejfw,nvfkjdfkfwe ka?

Rachael: has absolutely no idea what she has just said, but knows that it was a question: Yes, yes. What floor is it?

Employee: makes a really big number five with her hand as though I were a small child: fifth floor

Rachael: Thank you very much.

Then the lady just proceeded to let me wander around and try to find it on my own. No joke after nearly a half hour and two trips to different floors just to be safe, and many repeated times of asking, “Do you have walking thing?” I finally found the heart rate machines. At that point, I wanted to jump up in joy. I think that I walked 10,000 steps just trying to find the dumb thing. But when I looked around, the pedometers were nowhere in sight. I was a little frustrated to say the least, but at least I learned that the Japanese for pedometer is manboke. So, I asked an employee one more time about the pedometers. He smiled and pointed to a spot that was three feet away totally in my sight…for real. I just laughed a lot and said thank you. He laughed as well, but in a very polite Japanese employee sort of way.

I started to browse, realized that all of the cool features for the various pedometers were in Japanese, so I went first by price range. I figured that more expensive ones probably had a lot more functions and were of a higher quality. Then I just chose what I thought to be the cutest looking pedometer.

And I tell you what, it was definitely a very good purchase because my pedometer is awesome and it’s definitely made me much more aware and conscious of how much I’m walking and how much I’m just sitting on my butt during the course of the day. Jen and I have set a 10,000 step goal for each day, and so far, we’ve done pretty well. Today I’m up to 13,500 steps. I definitely recommend everyone to buy a pedometer. Hopefully, you’ll have an easier time of it than I did!

A Few of my Favorite Things

They say life is all about the simple pleasures, so I thought I’d share a few of my simple joys in Japan.

1. Tatami mats. My bedroom is made up of tatami mats, woven mats that are laid over hardwood floors. They make my floor that much softer and when the sun warms my room all day, it smells like tatami wood.

2. The rainy season at night. I love falling asleep with my balcony door open, listening to the sound of the rain falling. It’s really soothing.

3. Cat Walk. No, I’m not talking about the runway here. On the walk to the station, there’s a stretch of neighborhood that’s extremely kitty-friendly. Currently, there are two houses with kittens. They’re all still little babies with fluffy fur and tails that stick straight up. It makes me happy when I see cats when I’m walking.

4. My humongous bathtub. This is seriously a man-sized bathtub! I am not kidding. I think that three people could successfully take a bath at the same time, not that I think three people should be taking a bath at the same time, that would probably be really awkward. But I love to take a long bubble bath and relax with a glass of wine after a rough week at work.

5. Slippers. There’s an unspoken rule in Japan- no shoes in the house, EVER. But carpet is a bit unusual to find, so in winter, everyone wears house slippers. It’s fun to swish around in my slippers and to feel like I actually need them. My feet get cold in winter without them.

A Sunday in Tajimi

On Sunday, Tajimi school planned to have a BBQ party as their way of ushering in the new school year, never mind the fact that the new school year started in April. But with the rainy season being what it is, the BBQ was rained out. So, plans changed, times changed, and we ended up making plans to go to an Italian buffet instead. Now, keep in mind that this was supposed to be a welcome party for students.

We all meet up and go to the restaurant, and I come to find that it’s only teachers and staff who came. I have to tell you that this was a huge relief to me for several reasons. The most important being that, as much as I enjoy talking to my students, parties like this most often become work for me because I have to teach English and really temper my speech for understanding. It’s a bit tiring for my day off when I had already had a busy, tiring week.

After enjoying a delicious Italian buffet for 90 minutes, we all decided to go to purikura, which is really popular in Japan. Purikura is taking group photos in photo booths, but it’s a step up from normal photo booths because you take a lot more pictures than just four, and then you have the chance to edit your pictures, write on them, and add all kinds of cutesy cute decorations. It’s totally Japanese, and some people do this once a month. I don’t know where you put all the stickers you get. I mean, there are only so many places to stick stickers. But it was my first time and it was quite an adventure. The pictures all ended up being pretty cute, but we had way too many people trying to fit in the booth, so some of the pictures are only of parts of people. After we spent about an hour taking photos and editing, part of our group of nine decided that it was time to head home.

The other five, myself included, decided that karaoke was in order. We headed to a local karaoke shop, only to discover that it was part of a rental car business! I mean, are you kidding me?? We pulled into the parking lot, and the other foreigner who was there, Will, and I were both really confused at first. But when we learned that Japan-Rent-a-Car was also a karaoke shop and the rental clerk talked to us about the karaoke rooms, we couldn’t stop laughing. I mean, Japan has some crazy stuff to offer, but you can become a little immune to it after a while, but this was completely surprising. I would’ve never guessed that that place had karaoke. It seems just completely random! And they had rooms complete with massage chairs, places for the kids to play while you sang. It was seriously hardcore karaoke. Unfortunately, all the rooms were booked all day, so we had to go somewhere else. And I was seriously disappointed! How many times in your life can you say that you sang karaoke at a rental car business? Thus, we went elsewhere, where we had to wait for an hour and a half to get a room. Apparently, karaoke is extremely popular on rainy Sunday afternoons. But it was worth it because we got to sing for three hours at the low low price of 700 yen ($7). We sang an interesting medley of songs, and it got me motivated to learn some Japanese songs well enough for karaoke, especially considering all my Japanese coworkers sang songs mostly in English. I was definitely jealous of their skills!

After three successful hours in karaoke, the group split again, and I found myself enjoying dessert with my boss and another Japanese teacher who is actually leaving Japan today to study abroad for a year in Australia. It made me further realize just how awesome my boss at Tajimi is, and also motivated me to learn Japanese. They would talk for a while in Japanese, then pause to translate. Of course, they did have regular conversation in English, but after a whole day speaking English and even singing in English, I can’t blame them for wanting to relax and switch back to Japanese.

And that’s the end of my eventful, nine hour day in Tajimi. It really is a fun place once you get away from the station!

A Rex Short

Jen and Rex had a great phone conversation this evening. Rex was in the middle of driving to the onsen (public naked bathing) in Kasugai, but knowing Rex as we do, he tends to get lost…even with his GPS. And actually, he called Jen several times in the space of an hour for directions and confirmation. And every time he called, Jen of course had a witty opening line for him, usually dealing with declaration of her love for him and the request for the confirmation of his own feelings.

During their final conversation, Jen gave Rex the phone number for the onsen in case he got lost. She repeated the number twice to make sure he got it, and before he hung up, he asked Jen if she could mail him the phone number because “I didn’t write down the number because I didn’t have a pen.” So classically Rex. And he signed off by saying “I see the promised land. Bye.”

These are just a few of the reasons why Jen and I are friends with Rex. He says and does the most random things ever.