Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Creeping on Critters and Kids alike - A trip to the ZOO!

We went to the ZOO this weekend!  And per the Japanese style of bright colors and bizarre mascots*, it was confusing to everyone I know on Facebook.

Monday, May 11, 2015


We stand out here.  Compared with the locals, I'm tall, I'm curvy, I've got giant feet and bushy, brown hair.  When I walk down the street, I get looks.  At crosswalks people will openly stare at me until the light changes.

Most of the time I just ignore it - standing out is part of being here, and it's not like people are being hostile, it's just the curiosity of a very homogenous culture.  But sometimes... sometimes it's nice to try and fit in a little more.  Specifically with summer coming.

Coming from suburban Michigan, my day to day wardrobe usually consists of jeans and a t-shirt year round... give or take a hoodie in the winter.  As you may expect, Japanese lady-folk don't generally ascribe to that look.  As it's warmed up, I've come to understand that, yes, the fashion is about a cultural expectation to look a little more put together than a little kid who went Thrift Shopping with Macklemore.  A lot of it is to promote other beauty expectations, like magnifying a petite, thin build by wearing clothing that is long and loose in layers, or keeping pale skin pale by wearing long sleeves and hats, or even toting an umbrella with you everywhere so your skin never sees the sun.  But then there's a good chunk of Japanese fashion that's about Japanese clothing being manufactured specifically to be light and airy, out of material that wicks away sweat and keeps you dry without clinging to your body like a constricting layer of saran wrap*.
click to embiggen.
Related note?  Japanese women do not have the boob situation that I do.  I have come to understand this is not just a difference between our ethnic body-types, but rather a distinct advantage for them in this climate.  Boob sweat y'all.  It's real, and it's gross.  And it has, on more than one occasion in just the last week, left me wondering if I could feasibly put a maxi pad in the middle of my bra without it looking weird through my shirt.  I'm pretty sure it would look weird.  I'm pretty sure I will end up trying it in a fit of desperation sometime this summer.

Moving on.  As you may remember from our time in Mexico, I very much enjoy not sticking out like a sore thumb everywhere I go, so I have picked up a few things here and there.  But now that the humidity of "early summer season!" has reared it's ugly head, I find myself wanting to go a little more full-tilt into Japanese fashion for their magic wicking technology that doesn't just look like a suit of Under-Armor.
click to embiggen.
But is any of this in style in the states?  I have no way to check but to ask you, fair readers.  Would you wear any of this stuff?  Because aside from the sleeves (I think we've established that I'm okay with tanning) I've legit debated purchasing every bit of this stuff.  Particularly the yellow pants.  Like, I dream about them.

But before the yellow pants, I've found a few things on sale in the Uniqlo (think Japanese Old Navy), and yesterday I was super geeked to go out in some of my newer finds.  Confidence, thy name is affordable straw fedora.
tre chic.
Let's break down this awesome "going for a walk" look:
Okay, layering - I get it now.  Totally necessary, at least for this example.  So I had a confident half hour quickly followed by a brisk squeak-walk home while trying to cover my -neon colored (poor underwear choices)- shame.

What's a new fashion you want to try?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson
其れ 犬 の スカートが かわいい です。
sore inu no sukaato kawaii desu.
that dog's skirt is cute.*

*One of the colleges I used to work at had an annual event where students were expected to dress up.  While there was a greater purpose an message to the type of dress expected at the event, most students took it more as an opportunity to dress as provocatively as possible, without really grasping the lesson (ahh, college).  I remember one group of girls in particular who decided to dress as Jello Shots and pulled this off by wrapping themselves in different colors of saran wrap for the evening.  This was notable because A. They wore nothing under the saran wrap, which as you might be familiar, is rather see through, regardless of how many layers you pile on, and B. One of them fell going down the stairs and because her legs were effectively saran wrapped together, she did not have the flexibility to be able to get herself back up.  So she was more a clear turtle than a jello shot.

**dog fashion is also fairly important here...

Monday, May 04, 2015

A Walk To The Park

This week I experimented, and I made a thing.  So here's that thing.

I'm too close to this to have a good perspective - would you actually watch more of these?  
Does it need to be shorter / longer / more facts / more humor?  
Tell me in the comments!

little language lesson
korewa, mizu o uru te-i-masu ka?
Does this [machine] sell water?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Anchors Away

The Mister is in the Navy Reserves.  You may know this already.  If not, you’re likely asking your computer screen a question we have heard about 525,600 times since we announced we were moving to Japan:

Wait, how does he report to his “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” commitment from Japan?

The US has naval bases world-wide, and in fact, we (yes, I am using the royal 'we' to imply the US of A) have served as Japan’s naval forces since WWII.  I'll let you guess why.  
When The Mister accepted his assignment with his company to send us here, the navy was awesomely easy-going to say he could just complete his weekends at the nearest base in Japan -Yokosuka- which is just a short bullet-train ride away.  So all is well.

The Mister has already completed one of these trips, and was successful, not just in getting to and from the Yokosuka base, but also in bringing me back American Cereal.  Random tangent: Japan doesn’t really do breakfast-specific foods.  They certainly don’t do frosted, flavored, marshmallow infused breakfast in a way that the Kellogg’s corporation would recommend.  What I’m saying is after The Mister’s return I spent a week in a sugar-high courtesy of Froot Loops.  Additional random tangent:  every morning I have finished my bowl of what is essentially soggy skittles in milk and immediately regretted eating them.  Apparently in the few months we’ve been here I managed to *sort of* wean myself off of crappy cereal now?  Only sort of, because every morning I look at what’s left in the box of cereal and pour myself a bowl even though I know it’ll make me feel crappy in about an hour.  That’s probably something I should see someone about.

But back to that “how does an expat assignment work with Reservist commitments” question.  A longer answer comes with the "two weeks" portion (once a year  Reservists go to a base for full two weeks to receive training).  The base here doesn’t usually work with reservists, so there is no training available in Japan.  Thus, The Mister must go to the states for that time.  A time which is… now.

Yes folks.  I am currently hanging out in Japan all by my lonesome.
Which is a really silly sentence to type while I sit in a city of millions.  

Had a bit to calm down.  No worries, I'm okay now.
Partly, it’s disconcerting to not have my daily-dose of an English speaking-partner at the end of every day.  But it’s temporary, and I’m glad we finally got him out the door on this journey.  He had some hiccups with a Japanese zip code having more numbers than an American zip code - the automated system that generates travel orders was not having it.  So it took a few tries to actually get what the Mister needed to be able to shove off on his journey.  He’s excited, and I’m excited for him.  

What will I get up to while he’s away?  That’s a great question.  I don’t have actual plans.  I’ve been trying to make some friends of other expats around here, but unfortunately The Mister’s training schedule is over what the Japanese refer to as “Golden Week.”  Golden week is a national holiday, and almost everyone goes on a vacation.  Everyone, it turns out, includes all of my current acquaintances.  

I’M not going anywhere because since Golden Week is a BFD (big flipping deal), plans would have needed to be made literally months ago.  But that’s okay because I also would have had to find something to do with Mac and Bub months ago, and I am honestly sort of looking forward to wandering around this city while it’s a little bit emptier.  Subway rides where my face is not smashed into someone else’s armpit is -honestly, no sarcasm- a fabulously sufficient celebration of Golden Week for this gal.

Also mangoes.  Mangoes are a GREAT way to celebrate everything.  But maybe in moderation.
yay poop joke!
What would you do on your own, in a foreign country, for 2 whole weeks?

today's little language lesson

Watashi no otto wa watashi nashi budō ha o tabeta
my husband ate grape leaves without me.
And then he sent a picture of them from the states to taunt me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Doodle Dump (2)

Another doodle dump this week friends!
Click a pic to make it bigger!

yay self-esteem.

I don't know why, but literally every time i have a headache, I will put off taking an excedrin as long as possible.  I will suffer for hours and when I finally give in it will take mere moments for the pill to crush the exploding ant feeling.

I'm proud of the Badgers - they did so well.  I wish I could have actually watched it.  Stupid wi-fi.

today's little language lesson.
Anata no enjin o shidō
Start your engines!

Are you watching RPDR?  
Who are you rooting for?  
(I haven't decided yet)  
Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Marketing & Earthquakes.

It’s election season in Nagoya.  We know this because: speaker cars.

A speaker car is exactly what it sounds like - a car or van plastered with promotional stickers which is rigged with an external loudspeaker.  This van drives around the major streets while a person in the backseat (almost always a woman with a 'pleasant' voice) reads a two to three sentence statement over and over again into a microphone while politely waving a white-gloved hand out the window  at street-level pedestrians.  

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

All of these vans we’ve seen have people’s names and faces plastered all over them, so The Mister and I have decided they must be toting political “vote for me!” type messages.  Really though, it’s a best guess, because when we hear them, between the garbled-ness of the speaker quality, and the fact that we don’t know enough Japanese… it’s a lot like being kids stuck in a Live-Action production of Peanuts during a scene with a bunch of adults.  

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a speaker car in the US - they might exist in larger cities, but honestly I don’t see Americans being too cool with them, so maybe not.  I don’t think they’d fly in the states because they are SUPER loud.  I know they are allowed to start their driving loops at precisely 9:30AM, because I can hear them from blocks away as I sit on the couch in my 11th floor apartment every day.  They go until about 7PM.  All day.  I can hear two of them going while I type this.  I feel like most Americans would be pretty firmly in the camp of “this infringes on my constitutional right to peace and quiet! ‘Murica!”  In fact, I did a brief survey of the Americans that are readily available to me:  100% of the 2 Americans surveyed were totally over the idea of speaker cars.

Pictured: the sampling from my survey. 
So.  We’ve now established that I’m not cool with the speaker cars. Let’s talk about something else I’m not cool with:  Earthquakes. (how’s THAT for a segue?)

Also I look great in blue gingham.
They're so cute
when they're little.
Growing up in the midwest/ having never lived outside the center-line of North America, I have been brought up to be prepared to deal with exactly one natural disaster:  Tornadoes.  I’m not saying this to insinuate that I would 100% survive a tornado were it to happen, but I feel like I’ve had the time in my 30 years on this earth to amass enough information to take a pretty good crack at said survival.  Great.  

Does Japan have tornadoes?  
No, so that knowledge is useless.  They have GODZILLA* Earthquakes, and occasionally earthquake related tsunamis.  Two things about which I, KpMcD, have zero knowledge.

(quick note to my parents: I make an effort to write these posts in a humorous fashion.  I have slightly exaggerated here. I am in no immediate danger, calm down.)

We were provided some information upon our arrival regarding Earthquake preparedness, and because I’m a paranoid yutz, I have done some of my own research.  Let me share some highlights:

  • Japan is situated directly over the seam of two major tectonic plates:  the Philippine Sea Plate, and the Eurasian Plate.  Specifically this meeting is found at Suruga Bay.  The tension at this seam has proven to create a large (level 8+) Earthquake every 100-150 years.  
click to embiggen.  We're at the fancy cross.  Plate seam is at the diamond.
  • We are currently within that time window, so this tea-kettle is set to blow anytime now.
  • Because they know it’s coming, Japan has named this Earthquake already.  It is named the Tokai Earthquake, and true to Japan and it’s need for everything to be adorable, it has a “Smokey the Bear”-type cartoon catfish mascot.
  • I want to hug this mascot because he will keep me safe with his survival tips.  Also he’s pretty cute for a catfish.

  • Here’s what the Tokai Expert Fish has taught me: If I am in the house, I need to take cover away from windows.  I’ve timed it - I need 10-12 seconds to grab both Mac and Bubba and run to the toilet room.
  • If I’m outside, move away from buildings.  So I hope I’m not outside if it hits, because I’m in the middle of a major metropolitan area, thus there is no “away from buildings.”  Though the Expert-fish informs me that I shouldn’t worry too much, because the buildings here are all built specifically to withstand Earthquakes, so my biggest worry should be avoiding flower pots and other rando crap from apartment balconies.
  • It’s pretty safe to say that we’re far enough away from the ocean to not worry too terribly hard about Earthquake resultant Tsunamis.  But also I’m not going to worry about them because they tend to come with a decent amount of warning, and you better believe I’m not going to be one of those idiots who’s all “oh they issued an evacuation order for this area.  I’m going to just wait out the whole thing here anyway.”  OH NO.  Our butts will be E-VAC-U-ATE-ED, thank you very much.
  • Because they know it’s coming, Japan monitors the snot out of that tectonic seam and everything it does.  They believe they will be able to predict this beast of an earthquake in order to warn the people of Japan properly.  That monitoring agency also reports that while I’ve been here, there have already been two Earthquakes in this region.  They were "baby Earthquakes."  I didn’t know they happened until I read that on the page.  I didn’t freak out about that at all.  Nope.

Alright, so I’m feeling informed and reasonably prepared.  How does the monitoring agency and the Tokai-Expert Fish alert people to an impending Earthquake Emergency?

Which by sometime next week I will be perfectly conditioned to ignore in a “Boy who cried wolf” fashion.  Perfect.

What type of natural disaster do you prep for in your home-area?  
Are you in an Earthquake region?  
Did the adorable catfish miss a tip?  
Tell me in the comments!

today’s little language lesson:

watashiwa namazu desu.  jishin ga aru.

I am a catfish.  There is an earthquake.

*Godzilla is actually called Gojira (ゴジラ)here.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Bubba Drops the Bass

We're back in the Tsurumai apartment, and I'm feverishly unpacking things.  While I work on that, have a fun video of Bubba doing one of those weird things that cats do.

Love Peace and Chicken Grease,