Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012


I’ve had a pretty amazing life, I have a loving family,  and wonderful friends. I have had so many opportunities in my life, which I have been clever enough to pursue, and my family has been kind enough to support.

This year has been an outstanding year, and so far the best of my life.

2012 was the year to be me.

Here’s what happened.

I graduated!

I have a degree in Chemistry! It took me 5 1/2 years to graduate from college. It really shouldn’t have taken that long, but I hit a few extra obstacles on my journey to getting a degree. I have a dairy allergy, which made me very sick, it took me about a year and a half of being completely miserable to finally figure out what was making me so sick. When I finally cut milk out of my life, my GPA was irreparably damaged, and I frankly just hated being in college. It felt so good to finally be done. Getting a degree opened my life to so many new opportunities, although I had a tough time, the little slip of paper sums up all my hard work is definitely worth it.

I moved to Japan!
I have always been adventurous, and absolutely love to travel. I’ve always wanted to spend a year in a foreign country, so this year has been a dream come true. Japan has changed my perspective on life, and added meaning. If I could live, eat, and write in different countries for a living, it would be a dream come true.

Lost 50 lbs!
It feels to pick out an outfit, look at myself in the mirror, and feel good about myself. I feel great, and am really proud of how much weight I have lost. Japanese food has made this journey much easier, but it has taken a lot of hard work.

Got Married!
The day I got married was the happiest day of my life. Ben and I met when we were in high school, I was 15, and he was 14. We dated 7 years before getting married. Ben is my best friend, and the best part of my life.  I am so happy when I am with him, and together we never have a dull moment.


My life is incredible, and 2012 was amazing.  I am excited for 2013, my life is headed in excited directions, and I’m excited to continue my adventure.

Happy New Years!

Kyoto: Silver Pavilion and Kyoto Station


Today was Ben and my first day in Kyoto, and it was a wonderful day. It was rainy, but warm, so it was a lovely day to tour the city. We made today an easy day, as we know tomorrow and the next day will be fairly exhausting.
A Zen Interpretation of Mt. Fuji

Our first destination in Kyoto was the Silver Pavilion. A temple surrounded in a profoundly beautiful zen garden. Wooded grounds have been guided by human hands to form something beyond the capabilities of either man or nature. Stepping into the grounds of the temple washed away all thoughts from the outside world, these grounds were a place to be at peace.
Kyoto as the Back drop to the Silver Pavilion

After wandering the ground for a while, Ben and I headed to Kyoto station. Kyoto station is the perfect combination of modern and classical Japanese asthetics. We spent 4 hours wandering through the station, time well spent. We started in the Porta underground mall, an upbeat mall, with interesting works of art scattered throughout. We were a bit tired from walking all day, so we treated ourselves to some Starbucks coffee. We wandered through a shopping mall called the Cube, which sold amazing looking omiyage (food souvenirs). The artistry Japanese put into their food is such a treat.

Our favorite part of Kyoto were the covered outdoor walk ways. They offered a perfect romantic area to walk and wander on a romantic date. Couples held hands in the station, which made Ben and I giddy, as we are not allowed to hold hands in Uenohara. We held hands, and let the romance of the glittering lights fill our hearts with joy. We talked about the cheesy dates we use to have, and reminded ourselves how lucky we were to be here - in love - in Japan.
A beautiful Japanese interpretation of a Christmas Tree

It was a very romantic evening, and the perfect kickoff for our Kyoto Honeymoon.

*Edit* I thought that beautiful display was a christmas tree, but it is actually a Kadomatsu, (pine gate). 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shinkansen


Queues… Unbelievable queues, the need for modern technology, credit cards, and pedestrian flow all acutely presenting themselves in the usually quite lovely Tokyo station. Tourists stumble into people, not noticing anything  behind their lonely planet guide books. Businessmen are racing around the station taking one of a hand full of days off. 

The shuffle the Japanese so eloquently dance on a daily basis has turned into a mosh pit. New guests to the country barrel through the patient locals. The locals who have never mastered pedestrian flow now suffer the consequences. The fragile ecosystem of Japanese train terminals has shattered.

Tokyo station is something to behold, 380, 000 passengers pass though this terminal daily. Japanese do not like physical contact; a gentle touch from a fellow human being will cause most of them to flinch, an embrace will illicit an awkward moan. The architect of Tokyo station clearly saw this as a fault in his culture, and sought to cure his people from the defect by creating a place were physical contact was impossible to avoid.  The shear number of collisions you can expect to endure during and hour in Tokyo station is unfathomable, the pear I carried with me looks as though I had tried to make smoothie from it, but changed my mind half way though.

The air buzzed with frustration. Everyone quietly dragged their way to what ever gate they needed, each collision increasing their internal pressure. There is no swearing in Japanese language, thus no mutterings under the breath, or hissing pots who have boiled over into language so colorful mothers cover their children’s ears and glower. This is not the country for that. Internalize your frustration, it’s your choice of whether you let it eat at your soul, or just flow through you as you embody your most idyllic Zen master.

Keep telling yourself that the reward for your patience is the iconic Shinkansen, better known in English as the bullet train. A rapid train that slides though landscapes like a silvery snake. A train that levitates as it travels across the country. It will all be worth it you tell yourself. It’s legendary you think to yourself, in and already unconvincing lie.

Your ticket has cost a pretty penny, for the same price in this country you could have gorged yourself on sushi every night for a week, gone to two Noh Theater performances, or spent the night in a lovely ryokan. In a cry for justification you tell your self that it is legendary, a marvel of engineering.

As you look through the gates into the Shinkansen terminal you see defeated people slumped against the walls. Your heart sinks a little, but you are resolved in your last ounce of excitement.
Photo Source

Finally your time slot nears, and you make your way towards your track. A train waits for you, dreary, worn, and familiar to anyone who has stayed in Japan for more than a week. It could easily be mistaken for any other train in Japan.  You board the train, and sit in seats wrapped in the same blue fabric as half of the other trains in the country. As the train leaves the station, you will yourself to feel its power, notice the beauty of its movements. You pass through the first, second, and third tunnels, by the fourth, your ears have given into a dull ache, the rapid pressure changes are too much to handle.

Two and a half hours later you arrive in Kyoto, after an absolutely unremarkable journey. You wearily step of the train, and drag yourself through the station.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cold

I use to go to North Dakota every Christmas. My parents are from there, and we still have lots of family in the state. Christmas in North Dakota is cold, but not nearly as cold as Japan.

In North Dakota when you walk outside sometimes it is so cold that it hurts to breath, your skin hurts, and your boogers instantly freeze. Why do I say that despite the fact the temperature rarely goes below freezing here that it is colder than North Dakota? Because it is cold inside. Our house has no insulation,  if we sleep without the heater on we can wake up -3 degree house. In our small house, 400 sq. feet, we have no way of heating the whole place, we have one electric heater, and one kerosine heater. The electric heater can't heat the room above 20 degrees, the kerosine heater works great, but smells terrible.

A house feels more like a home when it is a place to come in from the cold. I miss the warms homes back in The States.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hospital Bills

Ben and I  have the national health insurance here in Japan. Ben's insurance costs 75 dollars a month, and mine costs 60 dollars a month. Especially for Japan this is very cheap, and unlike in the states, health insurance here doesn't feel like a scam.

My shoulder has been hurting for a while, and it has been getting worse lately. In the states I just ignored the pain, but here in Japan we have national health insurance, which Ben and I have been using to our benefit while we can. A couple of weeks ago Ben and I went to the clinic to get our flu shots, and to have a brief examination. We weren't sure where to start medically for both of us, and we thought a physical was in order for both of us. Doctors at doctors' offices here see each patient for about 5-10 minutes, and are more like what we would call nurse practitioners. They can prescriber medicine, and give shots, but for difficult diagnoses, or examinations that require special equipment (ultrasounds, x-rays...) a trip to the hospital is necessary. Our trip to the doctor, including the examination, and flu shots cost $30 dollars a person.

Ben and I made our trips to the hospital, our local hospital is open 8:00-6:00 weekdays, 8:00-11:30  Saturday, and is closed on Sunday. I'm still not clear what to do in case of emergencies beyond those hours, though the locals tell me that I should just call 119 (the equivalent of 911 in Japan). The doctor I needed (a orthopedic specialist) only worked at our hospital on Mondays, Wednesdays  and Fridays. When we got to the hospital I checked in, they gave me a number, and directed me to the waiting area for the doctor I needed to see. Nurses asked me what the problem was, and had me fill out some charts (Ben really impressed me with his Japanese), before the doctor asked me into the office he looked at my charts, and determined he would not be able to help me without an x-ray of my shoulder, so the sent me to the queue for the x-ray. After my x-ray I saw the doctor. I really hate seeing doctors, for nearly 2 years I felt miserable, and so I would go to the doctor, they would pretty much tell me that I was either depressed, or just fat, and send me on my way, I continued to feel more and more miserable,  until I finally found out what was wrong, which incidentally was after thousands of dollars in medical bills. I really came to resent doctors, and lost all faith in the American medical system. When I saw the doctor here, he was refreshingly honest and not condescending. He complimented my very nice straight spine.  He told me that he wasn't sure. There were many possibilities, and he wanted to take it one step at a time. I told him that I had trouble sleeping because when I moved the pain would wake me up, he said he was sorry, and that it was very unfortunate. He said he thought it was muscle pain, and he would like me to try these muscle relief patches for the next month, but if I was still in pain, I should come back.

Although the doctor did end up taking 3 hours of Ben and my day, and it was very confusing, and a little stressful, I didn't walk out of the doctors office feeling like a complete waste of space. I was worried when I walked to the pay counter, a trip like that in the states would cost a fortune, and I did not want to go broke, but the grand total came out $37 dollars, including the medicated patches for the next month.

Affordable healthcare is a beautiful thing. Despite all the things I love about America, the simple fact that healthcare is not affordable does test my desire to move back. The idea that someone who is sick in the United States would not only have to deal with their medical issues, but would also likely be financially devastated  seems barbaric to me. Americans are also very unwell, and have so little access to health information, it's sad to watch a country of intelligent and ambitious people be dampened by poor health.

For now I will appreciate national health insurance, but I hope in my future America will be a nation that supports good health.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Haul

Ben and I had a lovely Christmas. It was a great way to spend our first Christmas together. We saw the Ballet, ate sushi at our favorite restaurant, and had a beautiful dinner.

Although presents aren't the most important part of Christmas, they do add to the festivities. Ben's grandma sent us a box of gifts, they were wrapped in the comic section of newspaper, which was a wonderful treat for Ben and I. My favorite of the gifts she sent us was the Chocolate, I miss chocolate so much here, and Ben's grandma sent us some delicious orange jelly filled chocolates. Ben's favorite was the Merry Christmas Bean (the beans are branded, so when they grow the leaves read a special christmas message).


Ben got me an adorable necklace with a chipmunk watch face. It masterfully bridges the gab between cute and classy.

Santa got me a Rilakkuma pencil case, it's adorable, and my students are going to be really jealous (Ben told me he had made sure to give santa our forwarding address).












The ultimate gift this year was from my friend Nicole. She said that she had trouble thinking of a gift that she could get to us, so she made a donation in our honor. It is a beautiful gift, I am so glad she thought to give generously as a gift to us.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Dinner

I pulled off a magnificent Christmas Dinner. Ben had to work today, but I got the day off. I started cooking at about 1 pm, and timed it so that every dish was ready and hot at 5:15, about 15 minutes after Ben got home.

I am really proud of how well this Christmas dinner turned out. There were a lot of obstacles to overcome. I wanted it all to taste completely authentic, but there are a lot of ingredients not available here in Japan, I also have a dairy allergy, but mashed potatoes are an absolutely necessary part of any american feast. We also only have 2 pans, 1 pot, and 2 baking pans, which is very limiting when putting together a feast.

Everything was hot when Ben sat down for dinner, everything was ready at the same time, this was really hard for me, but was the most important thing for me to accomplish.

Here is our Christmas dinner menu.
Mashed potatoes-made with homemade chicken broth and garlic
Herbed Bread
Baked Kabocha Pumpkin
Gravy- I have never made gravy before, and this was probably the hardest dish to make with all the limitations
Salad-The salad was laden with rare ingredients here, and was only possible due to the generous gifts of people in town, it had asian pear, tangerine, and walnuts
Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette
Ham covered chicken breast-I herbed the chicen before wrapping it, and then baked the chicken
Plum Jelly- The plum jelly was a present from my dad, it was delicious on the chicken.
All of this was paired with a Yellow Tail Chardonnay

If we had been home for the holidays, we would have had many more dishes, but I am proud of what I pulled together. I tasted authentic, and was really delicious. We felt like we were whisked back home it was wonderful.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cinderella - National Ballet of Japan

For Christmas Eve, Ben and I saw Cinderella performed by National Ballet of Japan. It was a magical experience, and for me a perfect way to celebrate the holiday season. Cinderella ballet carries the sentiments of the season without devoting itself to christmas like The Nutcracker. 

Of all the dance companies I have seen, the National Ballet of Japan is the most suited to a Christmas Celebration. Throughout the entire performance there was an air of comedy. Cinderella's stepsisters (Yamamoto Ryuji, and Takahashi Kazuki), and the Jester (Yahata Akimitsu) were written a comedic parts, and were masterfully performed  The stepsisters were spot on in their roles as blundering, naive fools. Unlike some dancers who cannot give up grace for character, these girls swayed, crashed, and blundered so amusingly that it gave what could have been stuffy choreography a joyful and amusing edge.
Jester (Fukuda Keigo) Photographer: Seto Hidemi

The companies style had a constant undertone of comedy, which did not detract from more serious scenes, but gave their company a personality, and ballet viewers a reason to choose this particular group for a performance. I would not be interested in seeing any of Stravinsky's works performed by the Tokyo ballet, but more joyful works would be phenomenal.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ballet, but was frankly disappointed by Ms. Ono Ayako who played the role of Cinderella. Her dancing was perfect, and I never once detected a mistake, but she absolutely and completely lacked emotion. Her performance was completely dry, and unfortunately the accompanying orchestra was completely forgettable, so her solo performances were somewhat tedious. Either the role of Cinderella or the orchestra could have easily been filled by well programmed robots.
Cinderella (Nagata Kayo) and Prince (Fukuoka Yudai) Photographer: Seto Hidemi

While I was disappointed int the pit's performance as well as the Cinderella's, my takeaway from the performance is quite positive. Japanese dancers are not as svelte as dancers from many other nationalities  which gives them a more youthful, and healthy appearance. Their physical appearance matched with their incredible gift for comedy in Ballet gave the Tokyo Ballet an interesting and refreshing performance style. The spring fairies first solo performance was everything I could have dreamed of. Ms. Soutome Haruka was bubbling, adorable, yet elegant, she embodied the feeling of spring. Yahata Akimitsu, the jester could not have been cast better, physically he was particularly small for a male dancer, he lacked some of the muscle definition of many of the other males, but the way he could bounce about the stage was sensational. He was not only an incredible dancer, he was a wonderful actor. The jester tied the whole performance together, he was a joy to watch.

So many ballets have a prince in them, but none have ever been played so convincingly as by Mr. Fukuoka Yudai. Not only was he a marvel of human architecture, his presence was commanding  and stoic,  from his first moment on stage, you bought that he was the prince. He was unforgettable as a solo dancer, and as a supportive dancer to his female counterparts. Every moment he occupied the stage he added to its atmosphere. He embodied the prince in love so well, that the cold and unreciprocated emotions from the princess made you take pity on him.

A Christmas Eve performance of Cinderella was the perfect way for me to spend my day. I had such a wonderful time, and was so happy to be at the ballet. I love ballet, and am excited for my next chance to go. Japan has something to offer in the world of Ballet, and I really enjoy their joyful and comedic spirit.

Wonderful Christmas Eve.

Ben and I had a magical Christmas Eve!
Check out the adorable chipmunk clock necklace he bought me.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What the Dickens?

Tonight Ben and I met up with a group of people in Shibuya at an English pub called What the Dickens? The group was a good mix of Japanese people, and people from all over the world. Everyone spoke English, so for me it was really refreshing to be able communicate.

The pub served a Turkey Christmas Dinner, and had good (but pricey) beers. All the decorations looked English, the primary menu was written entirely in English. The servers and staff all spoke English. It felt like we had stepped out of Japan for a couple of hours. It felt really good to speak English, make small talk with a man at the bar, and use foul language.

I'm glad there are these little Oasis's of foreign culture sprinkled throughout Tokyo. I love Japan, but sometimes I just want to leave. Christmas time has made Ben and I a bit homesick, so a night of not Japan was just what we needed.

Cheers!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A rose by any other name....

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet."
-William Shakespeare



Frankly Mr. Shakespeare, I could not disagree with you more. A rose called a shploppy would not smell as sweet.
Chips and dip
Labels are very important. Children are the masters of labels, You could call it an umbrella .... or you could call it a rain force field. A blanket becomes a protector, a teddy bear becomes a friend. These labels make children happier.
Ben and I have remastered the art of labeling things to make us happier. 
...Party!
Ben and I have very little money, but we have endless amounts of imagination, so are rich.

I was looking back at pictures of our first months here in Japan, we had a cardboard box we called our table. We did upgrade our box, because one of us (Katie) spilled ketchup all over it, which made it really gross. We have a short coffee table, in our house, which aside from our bed is our only furniture. I am glad we have something better to eat on then a cardboard box, but I am also glad we stopped furnishing our apartment after that.

We have so much less stuff in our lives then we did back home, but we do not feel less fulfilled. We've spent most of our money here on experiences, and we've had a remarkable year.

My life tip:
Live below your means when it comes to objects so that you can live above your means in experiences.








Hiatus

I am back.
Please excuse the short hiatus, it was due to computer issues, and a very busy week.
Please look foreword to my upcoming posts.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Koto

Tonight I got to learn to play the koto.
The koto is a traditional instrument in Japan. It has many strings, most traditionally 13 strings. The instrument is large and rests on the ground when you play. You use 3 finger picks strapped to the pads of your finger to play. Under each string is a separate bridge which can be moved for tuning.

One area to the right of the bridge is played in a sort of plucking motion. The other area is used to bend the pitches by pressing the excess strings. The instrument is not tuned in a Do Re Me fashion, which to me actively fights my musical instincts, but in a refreshing and exotic way.

The song Sakura Sakura is probably the most recognizable song on the koto.
Here is a beautiful version played by Kimio Eto

Here is a girl playing the koto watch how she plucks, and bends the strings.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Election Day

Today is election day. I haven't kept up with the issues, and I can't actually tell you the names of any of the candidates, but I am really happy it's here. The campaign season officially started December 3rd, and what that meant was daily cars driving around and blaring campaign promises. Cars with loud speakers are incredibly annoying, so Ben and I are happy that we will not have to hear that any more.

Japanese do not often openly discuss politics, it's very taboo, and with such a short campaign season things don't get as out of hand as the election back home. Aside from the blaring trucks, the election in Japan was almost eerily quiet.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

UnBurgers

So over the weekend Ben and I experienced curry mayonnaise, which is genius! I don’t know how I never thought of it before. We had it on meatballs in bell peppers, and decided to copy (and improve) the dish. We also recently acquired a huge amount of beef, and were really excited to eat it.

Ben and I don’t have much in our kitchen, but our friend Wendy let us borrow her George Forman Grill, which is a great tool for quick meals.

Curry Mayo UnBurgers
Total cooking and prep time 10 min.
Ingredients
Ground beef
Bell Peppers
Mayonnaise
Curry Powder
BBQ Sauce (We used okonomiyaki sauce, but any sweet style BBQ sauce would be fine as long as the flavors don’t clash with Curry, you really want the sweetness, and could probably use ketchup in a pinch)
Optional:
Kabocha Pumpkin
Onion
Tomato
Any other vegetables you can think of
Preparations
Mix 1/2 Tbsp curry powder with 6 tbsp Mayo.
Cut up your veggies, and put any that you want cooked on the grill now (do not cut up your bell peppers yet)
Cut the bell peppers in half, and scoop out all the seeds.
Smear the BBQ sauce inside the bell peppers
Shove enough meat in the bell pepper to fill your half pepper, and then put it meat side down on the grill/pan.
When the meat is done serve onto a plate, with whatever veggies you want to eat.
While eating dip into the curry mayo and enjoy!

Katie’s secret… Food tastes better if it’s in the shape of a smiley face! Even when you’re 25.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mochi Pounding


On Sunday, Ben and I made mochi.
Mochi is delicious, it’s a sort of sweet sticky mass thatgoes well with dozens of toppings/fillings. My favorite mochi is topped withmiso paste and Nori, Ben’s favorite is kinako a sweet powder made from soybean flour.
For anyone who has not had mochi before, it has the consistencyof uncooked bread dough, and is slightly sweet, though otherwise mostlyflavorless.
We made mochi the old fashioned way. The glutinous stickyrice (mochi rice) was steamed, and then added to a hollowed out stump (mortar).We took a giant hammer (pestal), and smashed up the rice the rice quicklybecame crushed, and started to form a homogonous mass. One person would hammerthe mochi, another would fold the mass in a neading fashion.
Food tastes better when you’ve made it yourself, and ittastes way better when cooking it involves using a giant hammer.
Check out this website if you are interested in making your own mochi.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fantastic Weekend

SUPER AWESOMETASTIC DATE!

Last night Ben and I went on a ridiculously fun date. Sometimes the best thing to do in life is look into the eyes of the person you love, and then challenge yourself to do everything in your power to make them happy. Last night when I looked into Ben's eyes I saw our favorite restaurant, karaoke, and an arcade. Luckily for me, it was apparently exactly what I wanted to do as well.

Ben and I had so much fun that we forgot to take almost any pictures, the dinner was amazing, our favorite dish was bell peppers stuffed with meat, with okonomiyaki sauce, and curry mayonaise. It fantastic.

Karaoke was fun! Instead of singing infront of a room full of strangers, each group gets their own nearly sound proof room. You can pull up your own songs, and make a queue. There were lights that flashed and changed colors to the music, and ridiculous music videos played in the background. It would have been almost romantic, if either Ben or I could sing. 

The arcade was probably the most fun part, Ben and I couldn't understand the games very well, they are so much more elaborate than back home. There were games where were half Magic the Gathering and half arcade game. You slid cards around on a sort of touch screen to choose your battles, and power ups. Some of the people in the arcade had dozens of cards, and almost, nearly looked cool while playing it. There were cool dancing games, and a game I thought was a dancing game, I danced infront of the machine until a guy watching me couldn't help himself and started laughing, he made a patty-cake gesture, at which point I realized there were very large buttons on the machine, and was suppose to be hitting them. It really fun once I figured out how to play. My favorite game was the taiko drumming game, it was sort of like guitar hero, but with giant taiko drums that you could really wollop. 

We had so much fun!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

How to Use Train

If you are planning a trip to Japan, you will use the trains. Here is my how-to guide for trains in Japan.

I will assume that you already know your destination and local nearest station. If you have internet availability, pull up Hyperdia.comto find the best route, and print that out or write it down, the important things to note are  1. The line name 2. The direction of the trains 3. Transfer stations. If you don’t have internet, or access to internet, there are information desks in all train stations, as long as you have the station you want to get to, they can help you out.



Next make your way to the nearest train station, look for a large map on the wall, under it will be ticket machines, there is a handy English button on all of them, so for the most part they are really easy to use. There will be a large range of ticket prices, I recommend paying the smallest amount, and then paying the difference at your destination, otherwise you run the risk of over paying.








Once you have your ticket head to the gate,  there will be a slot for you to grab your ticket at the other end, make sure you grab your ticket, otherwise you can get in a lot of trouble, and sometimes will have to pay a large fine.


Next find the direction you are going, today we are headed to Hachioji, which is listed on the sign (if we were headed to Sagamiko, which is in the same direction, we would have needed to have known to catch the train in the direction of Hachioji and Shinjuku, which is in the same direction).


Wait for your train…


When the train arrives be sure to stand to the side of the door so that passengers can exit first. If you are in a really rural area there may be buttons to the side of the door that you have to push to open the door.


On the train listen for your stop, usually the train will inform you in both English and Japanese what the next station is. If you couldn’t understand, look out the window for a sign that has in big letters, the station you are at, and the name of the next station and previous station written in appropriate directions.

If you have to transfer, you do not need to get a new ticket, just go to your new track, and continue on your journey. If your transfer requires that you change train companies (example: a JR line, to a Keio Line) then you will have to pay, and get a new ticket.

Once you have arrived at your station, take your ticket to the Fare Adjustment machines (usually near the exit gates, and well labeled). Select English language, and then insert your ticket. Pay the extra amount, and then take your ticket to the exit gate. Insert your ticket into the machine, and then leave, you will not get your ticket back.









It sounds more complicated than it is, good luck! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Don’t Buy Cameras in Japan


Japan has a law that requires cameras to make a beeping noise, shutter noise when a picture is taken. This is to protect people from perverts, or any other unwanted pictures taken. Camera phones, DS’s anything with a camera is required to make some sort of noise to let people know a picture has been taken.

The law was intended to help prevent criminals, unfortunately anyone who is motivated could either buy a foreign camera, or in the case of phones, download an app that disables the feature. The law is very easily bypassed, and only leads to really annoying sounds on the cameras.

There are many great camera companies, Sony, Canon, Olympus, Fuji, Nikon, Panasonic, and Pentax. The finest cameras in the world come from Japanese companies, it might seem logical that buying from Japan would save you money, and ensure the best products, this is not true. The cameras are the same, almost anything they sell they sell in the states, you will however not get your instruction manual in English, and your camera will make annoying noises. Japan tries whenever it can to make the prices the same in Japan and in the U.S. so it will not save you money to buy cameras here. Japanese cameras usually have pretty good warranties, but they will be based on the country of origin.