Friday, July 24, 2015

Multiple Things With no Discernible Segues.

We survived the #phoon!

Which is mostly due to the fact that #phoon hit land way west of us, so mostly we just had some wind and a bit of rain.  Don't worry though, there's another one headed toward Japan as I type, and as I've been told on many occasions for many different Japan-related things: It gets worse!*
So... at least eventually that will be an interesting blog post.



At the grocery store yesterday, I was picking out some pork, when an older woman started waving in my direction.  I looked behind me, as if she was trying to get the attention of the pig meat back there.  When I determined she was, in fact, trying to get my attention, I quickly walked to her to see what was up.  The elderly are revered here, and as a member of the community it is everyone's responsibility to help them where possible.  I thought maybe, because I am a tall American, she might need help getting something off the shelf she was next to.  So I said hello, and asked if she was okay.

She motioned for me to come closer.  When I bent down, she pet my head and told me I had pretty hair.  Afterwhich she smiled, turned, and wandered away.

I... don't know how to respond to this.  I know she meant it as a compliment.  I know that.  But I can't help but feel that she treated me as one would a cute dog, patting me on the head and then moving along.  I am a human being, and no matter what culture you are a part of, invading a stranger's personal space to condescendingly pat them like a pet is flat rude.  Just because I don't speak YOUR language doesn't mean that I have the intelligence of a puppy, so I would ask not to be treated as one.

I don't know.  
What would YOU do if someone 
randomly pet you like a dog?  
Tell me in the comments!

At first I thought they aerated the ground at the park.
Then I realized each of those holes is where a cicada came up!

The cicadas have emerged!  If you aren't familiar with cicadas, they are large, loud bugs that live dormant underground for years and years and then somehow sync themselves with all the other cicadas doing the same to emerge from the ground at the same time, shed their underground skin, climb into the trees, and then sing until they find their mate and... well then they die.
they come, they mate, they die.
For as loud as they are, I find them pretty fascinating.

That video is the park near our house - the scratchy noise in the background IS THE CIDACAS, and it's deafening.  There's also the shells of the ground-stage of Cicada in that clip.  They climb up a tree then split down the back to come out and transform into these beautiful creatures:

photo from google search, though it
could be easily duplicated here.

samurai beetle.  how awesome is that!?
A: very awesome.
Something about big bugs makes me more intrigued than squicked out.  I think maybe it's because they're easy to spot and generally slower.  Cicadas don't bite, they won't harm me.  Samurai beetles are another great example - they're so COOL to me.  But if it has more than 6 legs, or it's fast (like roaches, centipedes or spiders), it's a big serving of Nope with a side of Nope-sauce.

What are your feelings on bugs?  Yay or nay? Tell me in the comments!

There is, however, a unique phenomenon that I've experienced in regard to Cicadas that I'm a bit over:  The Semi Bakugan ( 蝉爆弾 ), or "Cidaca Bomb."  That's when you find a Cicada on it's backside on the sidewalk.  You think "oh, it must have mated and died already."  And then it momentarily buzzes to life, making an almighty racket and scuttling over a few inches by flapping it's wings against the pavement.  And because you expected it was dead, it startles the hell out of you.

I was a victim when I took this photo.


Last anecdotal thing for today?
How, you may ask?
actual phonetic spelling of the noise that I made involuntarily as it happened.

I was sitting in a chair.  And I leaned forward to grab a pencil on the table in front of me, and then the spine gnomes thrust a white-hot poker into the lower left of my spine.

Okay, so more likely that small lean was just the straw that broke the camel's back, and what actually trigged it was my decision to not take a cab home from the pet store after buying a 40 pound bag of dog food.  I ended up hailing one when it started to rain on my walk, but I'd already made it half-way home.  In any case, I've never thrown my back out before, but I can tell you if you ever manage to do such a thing, you will know INSTANTLY that it is exactly what's happened to you.

Have you ever thrown out your back?  
Was it a more harrowing story than mine?  
Tell me in the comments!
(also if you have any tips for getting back on your feel that aren't already listed... hook a sister up.)

Thankfully for me, The Mister has been good with fetching me ice packs and helping me get out of chairs as if I was a broken 90 year old woman.  And the critters are, of course, are happy to practice their craft as professional cuddle aids.  So I should be back up and running soonish.
one of them is trying to mooch onto the corner of the heating pad
behind my back. the other is trying to give me enough
puppy dog eyes that I don't notice him taking over the whole mattress.

today's little language lesson

kyukyusha o yobukudasai.  watashino senaka ga totemo itaidesu.
please call an ambulance. my back hurts a lot.

(I looked it up last night just in case, but I'm sure now I'll be fine, no worries!)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Not so much the heat, it's the gosh darn humidity.

You know the saying "the calm before the storm?"

The aforementioned calm.
We're in the middle of that, though it would have been nice if someone had prefaced that calm includes mind-scrambling humidity along with calm skies.  People don't even wait at crosswalks here - they wait in the shadows cast by nearby trees so as not to stand in the direct sunlight and turn into human raisins.

Until that light turns green, I shall wait here in the shadows.  Like Batman.
(I'm batman.)
(no I'm not, but wouldn't that be awesome?!)
I have reached a point of being legitimately mad at the weather.  I know weather is a non-human entity without emotions or blame.  But I yell at it in the mornings when I first walk outside and my hair instantly frizzes.  I curse at it as I walk to the train station and feel buckets of sweat pooling at the small of my back from a 5 minute walk.  And earlier today when I realized I had rubbed my upper-lip raw from my "sweat towel*," I flipped the heavens a double-bird.  Much to the confusion of the Japanese folk milling about me (who seem, by the way, to be totally unaffected by the swamp-consistency-air).

no caption needed.
*sweat towels are exactly what they sound like - washcloth size towels with pretty designs that everyone here carries in their back pocket to wipe away sweat-staches during the humid-months.  Outside that season, they also double as hand towels for when you use a public restroom that does not have any paper towels to dry your hands.  Which is every public restroom.  They're very handy, is what I'm saying, and I have two that I keep in rotation.

This past Saturday we celebrated Oktoberfest at the central city park.  Yes you read that right.  The "October" part is apparently lost in translation.  So we celebrated Oktoberfest in July, and watched a whole lot of Japanese people get incredibly drunk, because, hello, in this humidity you are dehydrated the second you walk outside your home, to say nothing of standing in the sunlight for hours dancing and downing beers like it's your job because it "keeps you cool."  I stuck to water, which is not because I fancy myself better than anyone at this event, but more because I'm old now and prefer not to feel like all those people felt the following morning.  It also meant I was sober to be able to fully appreciate a legitimate German Lady Yodeler preform.  Which was immediately followed by... THE CHICKEN DANCE.

It was like being back home in Wisconsin for Polkafest.  With more "Kompai"s**

**Kompai = Cheers!

Then Sunday The Mister and I headed out to a going away party for a few of our Mexican friends.  Fun fact: after we lived in Mexico for a year, we managed to end up in Japan at the same time as some of our friends FROM Mexico!  It was an interesting start to our time in Japan by speaking Spanish.  Let's be clear that any party with the Mexicans is a good time.  This party was an afternoon cook-out though, which meant we were in a park, in the sun, standing next to a lit grill for hours.  I was a few pounds lighter when we got home, which is pretty unusual for any party where Mexicans are cooking the food, let me tell you.  But sweat weighs a bit you know.

So I say all of that to set up that I am more than ready for the humidity to break already.  I would take anything in exchange.

Anything except maybe a typhoon.

Yeah, hey, so that's a thing that's coming down the pipeline.  Typhoon Nangka, which is part of a pack of Typhoon-level storms, has been gaining strength and barreling toward the Southern coast of Japan, and is scheduled to hit Nagoya later this week.  Sounds like a party.

Um... I wont' say I'm not a little bit nervous about the 'phoon.  If there's a silver lining for us, it's that the main storm will hit much further west of us, in Osaka.  We expect significant flooding and winds, but Osaka-area is bracing for... let's just say they're bracing for a not as good an outcome.

Then there's my awesome Japanese teacher, S-san.  Because instead of a normal lesson this week, she asked what I knew about Typhoons, and took the time to calm my fears and give me good prep advice.  The two biggest things she shared:

1.  As a part of the Nagoya Community, it is important to take responsibility for the safety of others during a storm.  Specifically this means that everything on our 11th floor balcony needs to come inside, because otherwise it will become a wind-borne weapon.  Since I use our balcony more like a garden instead of the traditional Japanese use of a place to hang laundry... our living room looks like a bit of a jungle at the moment.
Our indoor jungle, complete with screen door that feel off it's tracks
which is going to double as a Bubba-guard for the next few days.
On the plus side, the lavender is going
 to make our shower smell AMAZING.

2.  Go grocery shopping.  Sooner than Immediately.
I went to the grocery store straight after my lesson, didn't even stop back home to drop off books (that part was maybe a mistake in the hauling-everything-home department... but I "Hulked" it out).  The store was quickly filling with people intent on getting to the best produce before things were picked over and the storm took away options.  I ended up walking back past the grocery store later in the day with Mac, and witnessed people stuffing their cars full of dry goods and canned food like they had just left a Costco.  Let's remember this is usually a population that does daily grocery trips and keeps purchases in that department frequent, but small.

So now we've got a fridge stocked to its gills with foods (we don't really have a pantry, but what space is available on non-refrigerated shelves is also full).  Our living room is a recreation of the amazon, give or take a basil plant.  The Typhoon, if it decides to stay on schedule, will reach us Thursday night, and be gone by Friday afternoon.  Hopefully that'll be enough time to finish prepping for the house party that I was planning on prepping for ALL WEEK.  Woo!

How do YOU deal with humidity?  
Have you ever experiences a Typhoon?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson
私の汗タオルはどこすか? 私の顔が殺到しています。
watashino ase taoru wa, doko desuka?  watashino kao ga sattó shitteimasu.
Where is my sweat towel?  My face has flooded.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Doing American-type things, American Style.

We went to the Navy Base for the 4th of July!
Sort of proof.  Sort of because this is a Japanese boat, but we share the base with Japan.

You know what that means?
During an American holiday, we were surrounded by Americans.  Who spoke American English.  (I mean, just English is amazing, I'm not picky on dialect.)

It was a great time.  Our first overnight stay together somewhere other than our apartment since arriving in Japan.  It took us so long because we had to find a pet care solution that was okay with big dogs.  Pets here are so small that even the few pet "hotels" I found that would agree to take Mac were not anywhere near equipped to care for him.  Aka tiny tiny crate that they would stuff him into for the entire time we were away.  No thank you.

We ended up finding a pet sitter.  Which is a great solution for 1 or 2 night stays, but we'll have to figure something else out down the line for longer vacations.


The Mister has been to the base a few times now for Reserve weekends, but this was to be my first time on the base.  Packing had to be done carefully, as we took trains out there, so we weren't about to lug suitcases.  Backpacks it is.  And since we're only going for one night, we shouldn't pack too much... leave enough space and we could check out the commissary... As predicted I overdid all and everything so I looked a bit like I was going on a 4 month hiking expedition on the train back, but I overall I'd give that a thumbs up.  Because I came back with a whole bunch of new pants and underwear that fit my curvy American frame.  Score.

We learned a few fun things this past weekend.  Would you like to know about them?  Of course you would, that's why you click on these blog posts.

1.  I, KpMcD, get horridly motion-sick on bullet trains.
Which is, you know, not good news when bullet trains are literally the #1 best way to get around this country.  Related interesting news, I have broken my streak of refusing to use Eastern Style toilets because I was out of options and time... but I have still not actually used one for their intended purpose...

2.  Japanese people use forks and knives as poorly as they believe all Americans use chopsticks.  And it was real fun to watch.
We went to a steak house for a meal, because 'Murica, that's why.  The Japanese folks also eating there gripped their utensils like cavemen, and it made us giggle.

3.  The Mascot for Cosmo World - home of Japan's tallest ferris wheel - is named Cosumo.  It took us a couple tries asking folks to get that information.  But now I own a Cosumo key chain.  So that's a win.
Also we totally rode the ferris wheel, which did not make me more sick.  

4.  If you are married to the Mister, you can jokingly point at a big stuffed animal at a carnival booth and say "win me that!" and then before you know it, you have to lug a giant stuffed Tanuki around with you the rest of the weekend.  I am not complaining.  He is an adorable Tanuki.  And he was won on a Skee-ball machine, so we named him Dai-Skee.  Daisuki, pronounced the same way, means love in Japanese.  We're that adorable couple that makes people vomit, I know.  But I had already vomited that day, so I figure me and karma are even.
Dai-Skee, with Bubba for scale.

5.  If you are from the Midwest US, the attraction at Cosmo World named "Aisu-worudo" (Ice World) is really just like walking around in the fall if you forgot your jacket.  You will be amused instantly by the Japanese people who go through this attraction acting as if they will die of hypothermia at any second.
1st: the decor inside Ice World.  
2nd: after we exited the attraction, we immediately got icecream, which came with these little doughnut bears on top.

6.  Taco Bell is not Mexican food (we didn't learn that, we knew that), it is 100% Americana.  And when you've been traveling all day and are tired but hungry, a run for the border is satisfying in an almost carnal way.  We could have cried with joy over grade J beef.

7.  Terminator Genisys is a supremely stupid movie.  But it was in English?  No.  No it's still super stupid.  But we understood all the very convoluted words to describe why Arnold looks so old as an invincible robot, so that's a bit of a plus I guess.

8.  There are some amazingly beautiful Temples all over Japan.  We got to see two before returning to Nagoya Sunday, and they were awe inspiring.
We we able to witness a Shinto wedding ceremony while we were at this temple,
though I didn't take pictures out of respect for the couple.

These three little buddahs... I can't.  they're too cute,
and just hanging out on the side of a path.

9.  You can pay $.20 (20 yen) to go inside the Daibutsu (Giant Buddah).
The Mister said it was a bit claustrophobic inside.  I was happy to just witness the grandeur from the outside.

10.  If you pay extra, you can get into the reserved car on the bullet train with a seat that reclines and personal space that keeps one KpMcD from horking.  So we will do that all the time always now.  The More You Know.

All in all, 10 out of 10 gold stars, would travel again.
What would you do if you got 1 weekend of Americana 
(or your home-country) goodness after a 6 month stint without?
  Tell me in the comments!

In unrelated news, Mac earned himself a submission to DogShaming yesterday by murdering a bag of flour.  This is noteable because it is a 30 minute walk to the place that sells large bags of flour, and bags of flour are heavy, and I had literally JUST lugged that bag to the house then left for 10 minutes to buy carrots.  Thankfully I had purchased two bags, so my mission to bake was not thwarted today*
"The kitchen door didn't properly latch.  ...mmm, flour. (note his nose.)

Still- success!

*fun fact: The Mister and I just now have discovered that if you have made more cream cheese frosting than is needed for your carrot cupcakes, you can dip walnuts in there and chow down.  and we needed you to know, because it's amazing.

today's little language lesson
Shinkansen wa watashi ga byōki ni narimasu
The bullet train makes me sick.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Doodle Dump (3)

Happy Friday!

Sorry for the late post, I lived life like a normal person this past week, so I was struggling to find something particularly noteworthy to discuss here.  And so instead I leave you with the side-by-side stories of the TWO high fives I received from Japanese folk this week.  High-Fives are not a Japanese thing, so these were both magical gifts, and they both made my day(s) in their own special ways.

Also mad apologies that I either need to invest in a larger scanner or a smaller sketchbook.  I will work on this.

HIGH FIVES: Grocery Store Vs. Evening Mac-Walkie
click to embiggen.
Quick Context for the left side:
when you grocery shop in Japan, you carry a basket, and after your make your purchases you take that basket to the tables set up past the register so you can pack your groceries into a bag.  Then you place the emptied basket in a collection stack so they can be recirculated.  This little girl is clearly in the "I wanna help!" development stage, so though I didn't draw her, rest assured I didn't just approach a little girl who was all alone.  She was pumped to be able to help her mom put away the basket, so after I smiled and got smiled back at by mom (so I knew she wasn't going to be alarmed at a foreigner interacting with her child as some Japanese folks are), I offered my basket to the kiddo so she could do it all again.  The high-five was more because I completely forgot what country I was in for a second, but she was all about it.

Quick Context for the right side: 
These three guys were all walking together, but Shiro was just being a butt, and deserved to be shamed a bit.  Everyone had a good laugh at his expense.  :)

Have you ever walked into something 
(or witnessed someone else walking into something) 
because you were too busy on your phone?  
Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson

i-tei rutokoro o mite kudasai!
Watch where you're going!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Useless Lesson.

I have to get the most important item out of the way:

Tah Dah!  or, alternatively, Shyan! (シャ ン!)
Check out my new distinguished soap dispenser.
Last week I was listening to some stand up comedy mix while I worked on a few things for FINvites, and one of the bits I heard was talking about how you can tell poor people from not poor people.  I don't have a better way to phrase that, stand up is generally a blunt art form.  But the observation the comic made was that if you go to someone's house and they have their plastic bottle of dish soap on the edge of their kitchen sink, they're poor.  At the time I giggled a bit.  Except then every time I've done dishes after that I've had this inner monologue of "People will think we're poor if we keep this jank bottle of ¥100 dish soap out on the counter.  I need a proper dispenser."

Do you ever get an idea stuck in your head that YOU know, logically, is REAL dumb?  
But it sticks anyway?  
Tell me about it in the comments!

I let that weirdly eat at me for about a week.  Today I realized it had festered too long.  Just go GET a dispenser already if it bugs you, Kp.  So I did.  I walked 3 miles to the big mall and bought the pretty dispenser you see.  Also I bought the bottle brush, but that's irrelevant to the story.

Moving on.

This is more or less a continuation of the last post about coffee.  As you may recall, I make a point to grab a Venti drip-coffee on my way to my weekly Japanese class with S-San, because
A.  It's a nice treat
B.  My lesson is in the morning
C.  I need coffee to be a decent, functioning human being in the morning
D.  All of the above and more.

Except yesterday I was running late.  Just a conglomeration of little things all piling up as I was trying to get out the door to get on the train, and I realized if I had any hope of making it to class on time, I was not going to be able to stop at the Starbucks for the 3 seconds it now takes for me to get my order (Side note: perk of being a foreigner in Japan?  If you stand out like I do, and go to the same Starbucks and order the same thing enough times in a row at the same time each week... they'll start making it for you when you round the corner in front of the store so you just have to give them money).  So I went to class completely un-caffeinated.  It was predictably a train wreck:

(I borrowed a tactic from another Japanese Expat's comic: from here on, assume that if I've used Japanese quotation marks:  「」that the words are actually in Japanese.)
I need you all to appreciate how awesome S-San is for her confidence here.
Japanese women are so traditionally demure, and she just laughs in the face of
that expectation to pantomime an explosion so that I can understand
Smokey the Bear does NOT need to get on a flight over here ASAP.
And then when my brain completely crapped out, she switched gears and just started practicing her English a bit.  Which is much easier for me to process:

Thankfully S-San is an insanely patient person, so even though I was completely unable to focus on anything long enough to understand her, her questions, or what she was trying to teach me yesterday, she didn't chastise me at all until I was packing up after the lesson, whereupon she just smiled and said "don't forget your coffee next time, Kristin-San!"

today's tiny language lesson
ko-en ni doubutsu ga imasu.  Shima-uma no tonari ga imasu.  Kirin wa asoko desu.
The animals are in the park. The elephant is next to the zebra.  The giraffe is over there.
(aka the grammar I was supposed to be practicing yesterday)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A quick note on coffee.

We have a coffee maker in the house here.  But every Tuesday morning I have my Japanese Lesson.  To make sure I'm coherent and alert for my lesson,  I use Tuesday lessons as an excuse to treat myself to Starbucks.

I'm fairly convinced there are as many Starbucks in Nagoya as there are in the entire US.  It's a two minute walk from where I get off the train, to the building where I have lessons, and I pass not one, not two, but THREE STARBUCKS on my way.  

Now, I know there are coffee snobs who might see I'm patronizing Starbucks and give me some kind of grief about corporate monopolies destroying the American Dream, or just pout that S-Bucks coffee isn't the best coffee that's ever occurred because it's not made by a hipster with a french press, topped artfully with artisanal whip-cream into an artful design, while a ukulele plays in the background.  I don't care.  I will continue to give Starbucks my money on a regular basis here for two very important reasons:

1.  Smoking in restaurants is allowed in Japan.  Nowhere is this more obvious than a small cafe, where getting a cup of coffee involves wading  your way through a wall of smoke so thick they should install a light house above the cash register so you can properly navigate inside the store.  But Starbucks is an American company, and they have banned smoking in their stores WORLD-WIDE.  So it's a coffee store that smells. like. coffee.

2.  A tiny country full of tiny people serves equally tiny portions of coffee in their cafes.  But Starbucks continues to have GIANT, Venti (20oz) cups of drip coffee (hot, no ice because ice is not caffeinated and it just takes up space in the cup!) which I can buy to get a reasonable amount of caffeine into my blood stream without twelve refills.

That said, Starbucks did take on Japanese customs in a few ways.  Like the to-go bag.

I start to drink my coffee as I walk to class, which is seen as fairly strange here.  In fact, my Japanese teacher called me out for it this week.  She didn't have a real good explanation for me besides taking the time to enjoy your coffee once you can sit down and relax.  So yes, Starbucks will put your to-go cup of coffee in a paper bag for you so that you might carry it to work before you enjoy it.  In any case, this conversation between us involved a great game of charades where I messed up my hair and put my glasses on askew to convey how badly and quickly I need coffee in my morning.

So this is another one of those areas where I will happily take the "weird American" card and just hold it high.  Which I can do, because I have enough caffeinated energy in my system to keep my arm up in the air.

How do you take your coffee?  Tell me in the comments!

today's little language lesson
benti, hotto, duripu ko-hi, onegaishimasu.
venti, hot, drip-coffee, please.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Assimilate (1)

I put a (1) up there in the title because I’m sure there  will be more of these post types.  Let’s be real, folks.

Cultural differences is sort of the name of the game here at the KpQuePasa blog, yes?  I’ve had a few areas where I’m failing to fit in with said cultural differences, and I want to talk about ‘em today.  But I’m feeling a little lazy in the segue department, so you’ll excuse me if this ends up as a numbered list (spoiler alert - it’s a numbered list)

Have you ever gone somewhere you didn’t fit in?  
Were there points that you were OKAY about not fitting in?  
Tell me about it in the comments!

1.  Americans are (aka THIS particular American is) hairy.
Not all Americans.  Specifically, I’m speaking of those members of the “Melting Pot” who have a few chips in the Northern European pot (also, as The Mister would chime in, the Italian pot).  I would like to excuse this through the rationalization that Swedes, Germans, Brits and Bohemians had rough winters, and a little extra fur could only help.  It was an evolutionary perk.  One that’s unnoticeable in the States, I might add.  

But I HAVE noticed that when it’s humid all day every day,* extra body hair not only keeps the humidity trapped next to your skin for that extra un-sure feeling, but compared with the hairless-wonders that are Japanese people, it makes you an unsightly yeti.
I think, if I’ve learned anything from my travels, it’s that deep down, I am actually a VERY vain person.  Hey, we all have character flaws, right?  At least I know one of mine.  The long and short of that vanity is that I managed to make it to month 4 of living here before I got really embarrassed about the amount of dark hair on my arms.  This is particularly funny because I remember back when I was taking Japanese lessons in the states, there was a day when my instructor told me I might want to think about shaving my arms to avoid ridicule.  And I thought she was out of her mind. I dismissed her so quickly.  “HA!  No, not necessary.  I’m not that hairy.  This is normal.”

A week ago I took a no-no!™ to my arms.

Have you heard of no-no!™?  It’s supposed to be a pain-free hair-removal that stunts future regrowth.  What it actually does is burn your hairs off so they’re really short and stubby, plus blackened because you essentially lit them on fire (this smells really good too, by the way).  The part about inhibiting growth has proven to be a serious misnomer on all fronts.  Also it does all of the "hair removal" in a really uneven manner.  So I no longer have gorilla arms, but I do have arms with “stubble” and patches of longer hair that resisted being burned at the stake.  It’s a great look.  I’m totally not more self-conscious about patchy arms than I was about gorilla arms (I’m TOTALLY more self-conscious).

And now it’s a waiting game to grow that hair back so I at least look natural.  *eye roll*  Moral of this story?  no-no!™s are a no-no!™

2.  I tried and tried and tried and tried, but I cannot magically will myself to be petite-sized.
Wouldn’t that be great though?  Meh.  Though I am a normally-sized American person, I am by all accounts, very tall for a lady in Japan.  So I’ve been able to find clothes which physically fit on my body… but said fit can be a bit awkward.
In some cases, this is fixable through the magic of owning a sewing machine.
Had to get a 'XXXL-size' in order to get it over my American (M) sized boobs.
Length is supposed to be a dress but on me is a bit of a mid-thigh scandal.
Minus some fabric, plus some elastic in the back to take in the sides... now it's a shirt.
In other cases, specifically pants, it means I’m thankful for “high waters” being a trendy fashion this season.  And also thankful for people who are willing to go on a witch-hunt at American Old Navy stores to find me the proper pair of pants in non-petite sizing.  Hopefully within a timeframe that I receive pants in the mail before I manage to walk through the crotch of my current last pair of jeans.  Fingers crossed there.
non petite, straight, boyfriend-cut,
dark blue old navy jeans continue
to mock me by being perfect.
and perfectly out of stock online.
3.  People don’t feed the birds here.
We’ve had a few birds sit on our balcony here, and Bubba’s enjoyed the “cat TV.”  Thus I wanted to put out a bird feeder and “amplify the signal,” so to speak.  You’d think I’d figure out people don’t really feed the birds by my utter inability to find a bird-feeder for sale after searching in hardware and pet-stores alike over the course of multiple weeks.  Alas, this realization didn't come to me until after I bought a water bottle and some flower-pots, then spent a day cutting and gluing them back together into a very adorable bird feeder.  …A bird feeder which two weeks later still has yet to have a single avian visitor.  Because if the people of Japan don’t feed the birds (and they don’t), then the birds have NO concept that this bird feeder holds bird food. So though we have had other birds on the balcony, not a single one has touched the feeder.  hmm.
*shrug* oh well.

2. Toilets both spoil and terrify me.
There’s two kinds of toilets here in Japan:  
  • Bidet style toilets, which are like American toilets except they have a control panel on the side which allows the user to do any/ all of the following:

-Warm his/her butt while sitting to a temperature of your liking (or if you’re The Mister and I, this feature turns more into a war-like scenario where he accuses me of trying to burn his butt hair off while I accuse him of trying to give my butt frostbite)
-Issue forth a cleansing spray of water onto your nether regions (front or back)
-Warm that cleansing spray to a temperature of your liking
-Adjust the force of said cleansing spray of water to make sure you achieve your desired level of cleanliness
-Play a musical / flushing / tinkling noise (depending on the bidet) to hide the sounds your body is ACTUALLY making from those within ear shot because modesty is no joke here.
Bidet control panel.  Because if I wasn't me I would think I was kidding.
You know what?  I LOVE BIDETS.  I, KpMcD, LOVE BIDETS, and I will shout it from the mountain-tops (or at least from the 11th floor of this apartment complex)!  I want one in every house I ever live in ever again for the rest of all time.  Forever.
I was skeptical on my first use - but it really only takes one use to make a convert for a bidet-afficionado, I believe.  And I can’t really type that amazingness into words.  You’ll just have to visit us and try our bidet.  There’s a reason for a 12 hour flight.

But wait!  You say.  KpMcD said there are TWO kinds of toilets in Japan!  What’s the other kind?
  • The “Eastern Style Toilet,” as it’s called in polite company.  Or as I like to call it:

               A dirty hole in the ground.
how do you go from a bidet to this and be okay with the situation?!
Sure, there are attempts to make these holes look nicer - they’re framed with porcelain so they echo the sentiment of a toilet.  But the fact remains that I’m somehow expected to squat-hover over that hole and also somehow expected to not pee directly into my pants.  I have no idea how someone would do that without taking their pants all the way off?  Or alternately, I have no idea how someone would do that without accidentally falling backwards, bare-ass first, into the hole in the ground where hundreds of other people have *ahem* squatted.
I didn't draw this one, but it made me
laugh too hard not to share.
Check out the rest of this artist's American in
Japan adventures at!

If you’ve experienced an Eastern Toilet, 
feel free to tell me about it in the comments, 
but I’m telling you right here and now that 
I am too stubborn to want any advice about how to use them.

That’s right.  I refuse to use an Eastern toilet.  And maybe it makes me a snobby American, but I think in this one area, I just… I totally don’t care.  I’ll take the snobby American card.  And I’ll hold it proudly.  Just like I’m holding my bladder because I’ve still got a half-hour train ride home before I have access to a toilet I can comfortably use while simultaneously checking my Facebook account from my phone.  Because that’s what freedom is all about.   'Murica.

today’s little language lesson:
ないゴリラ - 私はアメリカ人です。
nai gorira - watashi-wa america-jin desu.
I am American - not a gorilla.

*My Japanese teacher taught me a new word**:  むしあしい(mushiashii):  For the season of constant high heat and high humidity.  It literally means "steamed legs".  She also taught me that we’re in the middle of said season right now (I could have guessed), and it’s gonna last another month or so.  God help us for whatever season is next.  I’m betting something along the lines of “Devil’s armpit” 

**She also taught me the word for a onesie:  着ぐるみ (kigurumi)!  
it will be mine.  oh yes. it will be mine.