Monday, September 29, 2014

Tokyo and Back

This weekend has been bitter sweet. On one hand, I was able to visit the city I love most, Tokyo. On the other hand, I'm now sitting on the bullet train, bummed to be returning to the countryside. 

Don't get me wrong. I love my cheap rent, cheap groceries, my work place and students. I just have to face the facts. The countryside is not for me. Something about giant spiders and the city closing down by 8 pm that turns me off to it I think. 

Either that or I just got spoiled living in Tokyo for a year. 

Regardless. Tokyo is the place I love most in this country. Maybe even the world (except during summer). So I was extremely excited to go back for the weekend. 

         (I love finding houses like this in Tokyo.)

This trip was full of a lot of my old haunts. Gaming with my D&D group, the Shibuya Hub, Pepper Lunch, Takadanobaba (Crouching Tiger Hidden Eagle was undergoing renovations sadly) as well as a new stop. 

My friend and I visited the Okunitaima Shrine chestnut festival and feasted on the wonderful festival food and delightful performances. 

There were also a ton of adorable lanterns lighting the path. 

My friend Rika even joined us for the evening and we had a blast catching up and trying hookah for the first time. Who'd have known I'd end up trying that?

Tokyo, I miss you. I'll be back before long. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

I just wanted a TV...

I just wanted a TV.

Why then, do you ask, did I leave the store today with a TV, fridge AND a microwave oven? Well. First. I needed them. Second, I figured it would be easier to pay off a bill $200 at a time rather than $400 in one go, $200 in another and $500 in another. The TV, I'll admit, was purely for selfish (and hopefully hanging out) reasons. The fridge and microwave oven were necessities. When your toaster oven sets things on fire and your microwave looks like it's been around since the 80's, they need to go. My fridge has been leaking water for the past month and is only suitable for keeping food around if you're five years old. It's that small. So yeah. I unfortunately finally bought these things.

So. Big deal. I got my TV. Right?

Well yes. I did. And it looks FANTASTIC in my living room.

40" of spectacular. Now I'm afraid of the NHK guy.

However. Paying was an issue. I walked into this store with enough money to buy a TV. Just that. A TV. I JUST wanted a TV. I clearly walked out with more than I bargained for. So, after my JTE's husband haggled the price down by about $100 (Really, you can do that???) I went to the register to pay. I'm paying part cash, part card. Okay. No problems there. Using a Mastercard. Not a problem in Japan. Japan loves Visa and Mastercard. Okay. How many months will it take you want to pay off this purchase?

Um. Excuse me. Why do you need to know that? That's between me and my bank, isn't it? Isn't it?

Well. The Japanese system works like this. You use a credit card to pay at the store and the company gives them the money. So far, so good. However, in Japan, you "credit card" is more like a debit card with options to have the money automatically withdrawn every month. In doing so, you can break it down into payments (i.e. 12 monthly payments, 24 monthly payments, etc.). Then, every month, it's automatically taken from your bank account by the credit card company who you've agreed to pay. So. If you spend $100 and choose a 10 month repayment plan, $10 a month comes directly out of your bank and to your credit company. 1 payment, $100 the next month, you get the idea.

Well. This all makes sense. But I just want to put the whole remainder on my card. My credit card has the system where you pay X% of your total balance each month. Which I always assumed was normal.

"Put it all on my card." "Okay. How many months repayment would you like?" "Excuse me? No. You just, put it all on my card and my credit card company decides these things." "No. You don't understand how the Japanese system works." "No. I don't. But this is an American credit card." Proceed to an hours explanation of the Japanese system, I finally tell them, just try telling it twelve months, but the American company won't accept it, because they won't understand. "No. It'll work. Definitely." "........" "It was declined. Why was it declined? I did it right?" Proceed to wait another 20 minutes while they call to figure out that, because it's an American card, they just need to put the order through all at once.

Moral of the story. If you're paying for a purchase using your American credit card and they ask how many months? Tell them one. One month. "But that's a lot of money!!??!!" Don't care. One month. Tell them one month and avoid ALLLL the hassles. :)

There we go. Boring, but useful. So now you all know what to do. Tell them "one month" when they ask.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Spidey senses

Hello everyone! I'm sorry for the delay! I've been quite busy setting up house, going to work, figuring out where things are (and that it really wasn't my fault the bath isn't working properly) and fending off giant spiders (no, really. MASSIVE ones).

This picture is slightly misleading as I have a GIANT sink. This thing is the size of a dinner plate.

Oh. Also. I've been trying to figure out what exactly I AM and AM NOT allowed to put on here. You see. I signed this work contract and in it's very vague about not posting identifying stuff online. No big. No faces = okay. Wrong. even if faces are covered with smileys, student names omitted from work, etc. I'm not allowed to post ANY student work or students (again, even with identifying info omitted) due to this whole online privacy thing. As much as that sucks, I can't even put any pictures I take on Facebook for my family to see. Bummer. So. While I'm still figuring out a lot of what I can and can't write, generally, if it has to do with a student in any way shape or form, I can't post it. Sorry guys, I have to figure out what else to talk about.

For now, I'll keep you updated on daily life things (living in Japan, what my bills look like, etc.) and once I'm more comfortable with what I am and am not allowed to post online, I'll let you know. It may be for events that I can get permission to post photos, but in that case, I'll need student parent permission. So please. Sit back and enjoy what updates I can give you.

"Increase the soup."

The first thing I can give you though, is no matter how desperate (or depressed as you are at a low point in your homesickness cycle) you are. Please, don't try to wing making cookies in your ancient toaster oven. It just makes you depressed when the end result is this.

Watching your cookies burn is the most depressing thing ever.
Also, the internet has just been set up at my house, so hopefully I'll be able to update you all more frequently. I'm also planning on learning to make Japanese food, so maybe I can share some recipes.

In the meantime, I have a RECIPE for those of you living in Japan. Maybe some of you back home can use it as well. The recipe is for sour cream. I like sour cream, but can never find it anywhere. So here is a simple recipe. Two ingredients. 10 minutes. Really.

Sour Cream Recipe

Put 1 cup of cream (heavy cream works too) in a bowl. Add to it 1-2 tsp of lemon juice (fresh or otherwise). Mix with a whisk or blender until it thickens a bit. 

If you're using normal cream it probably won't thicken quite as much at first, but just put it in the fridge for a few minutes and voila! Sour cream! If you like it thicker I think you just add more lemon. If you like it thinner, add more cream! 

Simple. Easy peasy. Not as much flavor as the stuff back home, but it'll do in a pinch.

*Note: The "dessert" cream they sell at the store works just fine. It's generally half the price of heavy cream too. 

Also, another note, I've had a problem with my silver talisman tarnishing within a matter of a couple days since arriving. I hate scrubbing the tarnish off because it ruins the charm and takes away a little bit every time I do it. So. After researching, I've found a cheap, easy way for all of us living on a budget with no idea where the jewelery store is.

Take a piece of aluminum foil and make a little boat large enough to fit your tarnished item. Place it in a pot and add water to the the pan and boat. Bring water to a boil and remove the boat carefully from the pan. Place it in your sink and add baking soda. It will boil up (I was surprised). Make sure that your silver object remains touching the aluminum foil and that it is covered with baking soda. Once the boiling over is settled replace your boat (backing soda and all) back into the pan of water. Turn the heat up and let it boil for a few minutes. I boiled my St. Christopher talisman (which was completely black) for bout 5 minutes and 90% of the tarnish came off. A few more minutes removed the heavier tarnish on the back. 

Simple. Cheap. Easy. Just watch out. After boiling the baking soda water you'll start to notice white gunk getting all over the place. It's easy enough to clean up (I recommend use a dry rag to wipe it down, otherwise it just smears) and be prepared to wash your pan a few times if the baking soda water gets out of it's "boat". 

So. That's all I have to say today. Hopefully it's useful. I know it's not my normal style of posting, but as I live in the country side, which is far less interesting than living in Tokyo was, I'm going to make the best of it and tell you all I can about living in Japan.