Thursday, April 30, 2015

気分転換~A change of pace.

Let's learn some Japanese.
A change of pace/mood/environment.
I stress... a lot. Like to the point were I get sick and end up screwing up my hormonal track and get into this horrid depressed state of mind that's terribly negative and makes me miss home like crazy and I wanna quit my job and give up on everything I've worked for.
Lately, this has been happening a lot more recently for reasons I don't really want to discuss.
My love life is going perfectly well, we argue semi-often because of my mood to go in a horrid turn for the worst at really bad times. But I am lucky that Ryosuke has pretty much gotten used to this and supports me and loves me either way.
I spoke with a woman who is like a mother figure and she told me that to be honest, there was nothing to be done about my situation and that it was basically 'しょうがない' (shou ga nai) which means that it can't be helped. I knew that there probably wouldn't be much she or I could do but, at least a bit of confirmation was helpful.
She did tell me what I would need was a bit of 気分転換 which means a change of pace/mood.
In a country where people can take sick leave specifically related to clinical depression, I feel like this is something most Japanese people not only understand completely, but seriously endorse and this is a good hint at why there is usually at least one national holiday during every month (except June and August, which I heard in the month of August they were trying to add in a day). I must admit, I am lucky to work in a public school as I get all of these holiday days off (but of course with no pay). This also explains why most Japanese really take advantage of these and go out and crowd up the tourist spots. There is a real need to get out of your daily routine and change things up every so often so as not to become a complete nut as I have been.
I am a bit to blame for this, as I try to avoid actually leaving too far because I can't handle crowds and lines and I would rather save up my money (since I plan to move into a nice big apartment which will need all new appliances) and recluse in my house most of the time.
My change of pace/mood/environment provided by Ryosuke★
Either way, Ryosuke understood my need to get the heck out of our town and go adventure a bit on our mutual day off (Showa Day) so he took me into the mountains!
I'd just found a really yummy black forest ham type ham in the nearby grocery store and decided it would be the perfect time to have a picnic! But the place we decided on wasn't really a place to lay out a blue sheet and relax in the grass, so the bench nearby had to do.
It was a beautiful view on a day that could have been clearer, but probably best it wasn't or I'd be a lobster today.

We had a simple sandwich picnic/lunch and due to my overheating decided to move on to another location. This time, super confused, we picked a place we both had never been to but always saw a sign for and finally took the trip up the mountain! To 名犬牧場, or PUPPY FARM!
It's a puppy mill or something wild, it's literally a big open space where people can bring their dogs (for a small entry fee, same as children and adults pay a bit more) and there are plenty of other dogs that you can see and pet and even take for walks or give treats! They also have a separate area for puppies to buy/adopt which were born there!

There were a bit too many children roughly holding the dogs which upset me a bit, and a woman who was training a dog to fetch a frisbee was a bit rough so we decided the next time we go will be when we finally plan to get a puppy of our own! It was still a really nice time to play with dogs which made me really, really happy and I must say I do honestly feel like I was able to be more positive today as a result!
Any time you feel too stressed or over worked or even just a bit down.
Take the time to change up your pace/mood/environment.
Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Getting over the counter medication in Japan

I've been in lots of pain this past week.
So I finally decided that since my other pain meds had run out, I would have to cave to Japanese prices (which are coincidentally approximately the same as back home, but I'm a spoiled mama's girl and she always bought it for me). Basically I've been trying to save money and anything more than five dollars that isn't food I usually try to put off.
My pain was that from the lower regions of my body, thus I was not only in pain but also dealing with my emotions being all over the place. Thank goodness for Ryosuke being with me on the weekends to save me from myself and help me with everything like the small child that I am.
At about nine PM on saturday I finally had enough of the pain and decided I would just buy the stupid medicine to be able to live a more normal life for the weekend. He looked up the strongest meds to treat my specific pain and we came up with this: Loxinin S! It's always on commercials and so I figured it would be simple enough to attain.
First of all, in Japan, as of two years ago there was a law passed that there needs to be a pharmacist on duty to prescribe certain kinds of medications. Secondly, there is apparently a shortage of pharmacists. I personally wasn't aware how 'strong' these meds are since I'm used to getting extra strength Advil over the counter at Target back home. But as Loxonin S is an Anti-Inflammatory, it's not even available over the counter back home and so it's actually 'obvious' that a pharmacist be on duty to allow me to purchase it.
So my first mistake was forgetting Japan closes anything truly necessary, early--big chain drug stores don't sell meds after about 7pm. Secondly, Sunday is a national holiday--day, so most pharmacists are not at work these days making it very difficult to find certain medications.
LUCKILY, the people at the drug store I went to kindly told Ryosuke and I that there was one drug store and one medical supplies store that would possibly be able to rid me of my pain. Ryosuke, being the life-saver that he is, called ahead for me to confirm that I could infact buy it there and we made our way over to the store.
Once we got there, a quick wave of panic rushed over me when I checked the wall to not see the brand I wanted, but we went to the counter where a very nice older lady took one out from the glass counter and asked me a couple of questions:
1. Is this your first time taking it?
2. Do you have any medicinal allergys?
No, and no.
She then informed me not to exceed two pills in one day, and to be sure to take it after eating.
I'm so happy she was so nice and even gave us some salty rice crackers. I plan to return if I ever need out of the ordinary medication, and maybe even when I need a prescription filled for something.
To be honest, I should have known it would have been a pain to get anything involving actual medication in this country as even when I get eye drops the person at the register asks me if I need an explanation on the product and has to press a special button on the computer.
I was able to get the medicine and I've been pain free for the past two days!!! Always be sure to ask questions and be aware if you know you might need something like a pain killer, or something of that sort.
Thanks for reading. :)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sakura Matsuri + Sunday Date

I love festivals!
The food, the nature, the culture, the food, and THE FOOD!
Japanese festival food is probably everybody's favorite part and the main reason that people even go in the first place, haha! I am very picky, duh, and since yakisoba is my favorite food EVER, I must admit--Kanto area's yakisoba sucks. Give me my saucy, wild yakisoba from Kansai area ANYDAY.
My town's cherry blossom festival holds a very special place in my heart, it's was thanks to this festival last year that Ryosuke and I were able to realize our mutual feelings for each other and started dating a fews day later! Ever since then, I have vowed that I will without a doubt go and make sure that I can enjoy the cherry blossoms with him.

I just happened to get a sweet selfie stick for less than ten bucks the day before and was just getting used to how to use it with the crowding.
So Ryosuke lives about twenty minutes away from the park, which is up on the main part of the town..up a huge steep hill! Considering everyone in Gunma drives, it would only be obvious that we should walk instead of using one of our cars to attempt to find a parking and drive around in circles. I am trying to get into some sort of shape since I do absolutely nothing active apart from going up and down stairs at work--at the very least a hike-like walk is completely necessary. On the brightest side, it was a beautiful day and breezy enough to not be super hot. It really only takes from 15-20 minutes and with a bottle of water, I survied!
We arrived at the festival about an hour after it had begun, and typical Japanese style it was already getting quite crowded and fully underway. The first thing that I was super craving more than anything was grilled steak on a stick! ハラミ/harami (tender meat from the middle)!! I used to think that カルビ/karubi(short rib) meat was the best, but the amount of fat makes it a bit--not as appetizing for me but the ハラミ is were the thick, delicious meat is at. Ryosuke got it last year and I followed in my drunk suit, for it to soon become my favorite and most looked forward to snack.
UNFORTUNATELY, for Ryosuke, his カルビ was...under cooked and we were a bit too far and scared of the man who served it to really say anything. Fortunately for me, mine was perfect, perfect, but I didn't want to go back to get more since I felt bad Ryosuke had such a bad experience. :(
After that sad bit, we passed through the other side of the park and I bought the most delicious chocolate filled--pastry and attempted to buy yakisoba from a stand which I thought would give me saucy noodles... Only to be disappointed some more by a simple mistake on my part. I decided to get in line too late, I turned around and another woman with her kids got right in front of me--and swiped the last noodles... The woman behind the counter proceeded to very rudely tell us to go somewhere else and that there were plenty of other yakisoba stands... I rarely deal with rude people in Japan, and Ryosuke made a good point of telling her how patiently we waited as we walked away. I finished eating my chocolate filled delicacy and stared at the trees to calm down from a possible blow up on the rude lady...
We made our way back to the main festival side of the park and made our way to a booth that was selling Grilled Chicken, Herb Sausage and claimed DELICIOUS Yakisoba. The booth next to it was selling 小籠包(Chinese soup buns) and pretty flower ice cream. The grilled chicken, was--a bit on the simple side with a good spicy sauce, but the sausage was a bit TOO herb filled and the yakisoba was--not so great. I really wish that I can go back to Kansai area during a festival and get my hands on that saucy deliciousness I have been craving soon...
Either way, it was a really nice time, and for a festival in my little town the food was pretty good. As with the way to the festival, the way from the festival was also involving the hill. But I feel like the way down was not only a hellova lot easier, but we took a nice long break on some stairs to take pictures of the beautiful view with my selfie stick!

Since it only took a few hours out of the day, Ryosuke wanted to help me and make my shelf that I want for underneath my desk to put stuff and leave at school instead of crowd up my tiny apartment. I had no idea that in the main home store in the area you could actually build whatever it was you needed using the supplies you just bought and renting the equiptment. So long as you bring your own materials, just fill out a form and it's free to use as you please.

I tend to forget that Japan doesn't have big houses with garages, and that a place like this would be most definitely necessary for those who need/want to build something of your own but don't have the space. We are both pretty new to the build-it-yourself world and were a bit sheepish to the whole experience. Funnily enough, I bought the wrong size of screw and the available driver was crap. But thankfully for us, an experienced builder was in the room as well and lent us his driver as well as gave us better screws (so we gave him our too big ones).

Like I said we aren't the handiest it came out a bit lopsided...woops. I'll take a picture once I've figured out how to fix that problem. Either way we enjoyed the experience and like with the other shelf, we did it together and had fun, so the outcome can be a bit--not perfect.
After an hour of hard labor, we were starving and luckily for us only about ten minutes away was the delicious hamburg restaurent 'びっくりドンキー', it's a 'Western' style restaurant, probably supposed to be modeled after hamburger places--with a Japanese twist as per hamburg. A great place for just meat and rice at a fairly reasonable price. Then to my happy suprise, the current campaign menu included Hokkaido ice cream! I chose for the fanciest plate including rare cheesecake and A SUPER DELICIOUS waffle! I'm not a fan of cheesecake so Ryosuke ate that for me and I enjoyed the strawberrys and waffle.

Another lovely date weekend!
Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Kill 'em with Kindness pt2

I'm a picky eater.
I don't like Japanese food*.
*Not ALL Japanese food, just like 50% of it.

Can you believeable? I know right, I live in Japan by choice and thus am limiting myself to the food I can eat. Wild, no?

Now before you bite my head off, I have tried pretty much everything I don't like and thus can say I don't like it.
I do not eat fish--except that time my mom tricked me into eating fish tricks under the false pretense that they were chicken fingers; I was like five...

I don't like the smell, I don't like the taste, I don't like the texture--all of it.
I DO LIKE SHRIMP, but only raw with cocktail sauce (the texture and flavor profile change) or grilled and slathered in a sauce (again, texture changed and flavor profile change).
Anything that comes from the sea--pretty much not consumed.

I like to believe that I am a mermaid who just chooses not to eat her friends. ;D
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So what does this have to do with kindness?

Well, in a country where having likes/dislikes is looked  down upon--this is how I, as a picky eater, have won over the people who matter most, and my tip to anyone who thinks they might have a problem living anywhere especially Japan that could make the process a bit easier.

I am a fairly kind person, and not the fake 'temae,' kindness that involves a horrid sense of resentment behind it all. 
I have learned how beneficial it is to be kind, rude people are not tolerated, but for the most part I am a very kind person to most people. For this reason, the people who matter the most--my co-workers, have come to really like me and can actually playfully tease me about my like/dislike (i.e. picky) habits.
I know that I can't be reborn into a Japanese person, but I can for damn sure try to do more than what is expected of me as a foreigner.

Gender roles in Japan: a topic I am so enthralled with and could talk like on and on passionately about the subject. 
I am not claiming that Japan is wrong, in ANY WAY, in fact, good job Japan on keeping it real and everyone realizing that there will always be a 'their place' no matter what society likes to pretend to spew. 

Living in the countryside, women are still expected to pour tea and serve to their higher ups who--are male. I know how to properly pour tea to the point where my Tea Ceremony Certified school secretary praised me with earnestly and always looked forward to the tea I poured. So I have learned that there are times when tea needs to be poured, I should offer tea to my higher ups BEFORE they ask and be sure to help with washing the dishes whenever possible. Same goes with drinking parties, I am the youngest female in the group and I should be the one to serve plates to the older males first, make sure the sake is poured when glasses seem empty, and be on top of things (usually in smaller venues, as opposed to bigger ones people tend to walk around more). I have taken my role with such pride that I really enjoy doing it.

My school has teachers eating with children during lunch. But I don't eat school lunch. I tried for the first couple of months, but due to the small amount of food I can eat at once, I was ever only able to eat rice and soup and maybe vegetables. Fish day was depressing and natto day almost made me throw up by the AMOUNT of smell (I have tried it and almost threw up with like 3 beans). Needless to say, I ended up going to the hospital needing an IV because I was to malnourished and dehydrated. From that day I am allowed to bring my own 'bento' and eat in the staff room. I really enjoy these times to unwind and just enjoy some me time. I really want to get good at making these bentos but, my cooking skill can only go so far as my ingredients, which are lacking in this small town. 

As you can see, my bentos are far from the typical ones you see accomplished mothers making:

I really enjoy cooking so thankfully I have the benefit of actually making my lunch and enjoying it. One of the teachers I work with periodically asks what I am eating, and she always gives me leftover rice balls! One of the other school principals always teases me to eat Japanese food and has claimed that this is our ongoing joke forever but she has never been rude.

My boyfriend is an absolute gift from above. He is one of the few Japanese people I have met, who shares me distaste for fish and most Japanese food!!! The only fish he has ever claimed to honestly liking is some fish drenched in miso paste--but then it only really tastes like miso. We never go out to eat sushi, and his family has also accepted my eating habits joking that he has finally met his match! What could two young people possibly eat on dates and get-togethers in a little Japanese town you ask? Well, I am lucky to have a McDonalds near by and I can cook. Although for us, pretty much any kind of meat goes--so usually that's the basis. And with both of us driving, it makes traveling for our food a common date destination.

I don't hate ALL Japanese food, I love udon and yakisoba and ramen as well as anything with pork, or chicken, or meat! (As long as it's not cold, can't handle cold food.) So to be honest there is a lot of Japanese food I CAN eat, and going to any eating establishment means there will no doubt be something for me to eat. But as for the typical Japanese stable foods--sushi, sashimi, most tempura, most cooked veggies or pickles ones--just doesn't happen for me...

I'm also really bad at spicy food, so Indian Curry Places and Korean food are usually not much of an option--though yakinuki all day long. ;D
I am very sad to not be able to eat more food and am thus forced to cook it myself, to which some people say it should turn out better--but in my tiny ass kitchen...I'm not so happy to be forced to tiny spaces. But once I move into a bigger apartment, and I have my lovely sous chef to help me out with things my tiny frail arms can't always accomplish--I will most likely start posting recipes on here too!

Never fear if you are picky like me, we are not living in the stone age, and people understand that everyone won't like everything. Be kind in the way you present your argument as to why, but don't be afraid to try something first to properly say WHY you don't like it.

So as always, kindness is key. <3

Friday, April 3, 2015

Hanami + Walmart + New Furniture

I finally got a Costco card!

So the plan for Wednesday was to go to Costco!!!! I really wanted to go to the Youtube Hanami Meet thing, but I really hate going to Tokyo by myself--the anxiety alone convinces me to not go. I hate travelling--period. Plus the three hours (due to being cheap and going on normal trains) on a train always kills my phone battery which is no fun and I can't ever manage to sleep on trains...yada yada yada I gave up on going.

So instead! I decided to put that money I would have used to something I've been wanting for along while now--A COSTCO CARD!

Ryosuke's mom used to have one, but realized they didn't go enough for the expenditure, and I would never ask her to ree-up on that when I could just get it as I was missing my home massive amounts of foods and THAT PIZZA THO.

Anyway, so thankfully Ryosuke's schedule was open on Wednesday, and thanks to my moms genius week plan (lazy monday, make a list tuesday, go to costco wednesday), we made the hour and a half trek to the Amerika-land! We are quite lucky in Gunma actually because there even IS a Costco within the prefecture. Nagano and Saitama people usually have to come here to get Amerika goods so in that aspect we're good. :D

Ryosuke is usually a very late starter in the mornings, were I am awake (for example, now at 7am on a day off) super early, and he likes to sleep...till midday.
So thankfully his switch for 'I MUST GET UP' was on and he got up early enough for us to leave a couple hours prior to Costco opening. Both of us had yet to eat breakfast, so obviously a quick conbi trip was needed so none other than--Family Mart! Fried Chicken and Monster for breakfast--greasy food and energy drinks, what more could this girl ask for. (^_^)

We started our journey with tummy's just full enough and trees dead like it was still Autumn. The weather was cloudy but enough sun to not kill my eyes which turned out to be better and better the closer we got to Maebashi! The closer we got the more we started seeing the cherry trees! 

The cherry blossoms were just starting to bloom and some trees were already crying petals. I, like everyone in the world, must take pictures of this once a year event. We passed a couple parks and I mumbled how nice it would be to take pictures--and finally we decided to just stop in the main, big park and walk around for a bit and take some pictures. Since it was mid-morning on a weekday, luckily there were very few people.

I've always wanted to see the cherry blossom festival in this park, but it get super crowded and my anxiety flares up a bit, so I enjoyed the time to ourselves. The sun even came out to say hello!!! I'm not sure how much time we spent there, but we took a whole bunch of photos, many of which look really similar to any other picture--so I'll post the nice ones and a little collage.


After I felt I had walked enough for the day, and didn't want to be too late to my Costco festivities--we headed back out and made it there shortly after they'd opened. One thing I must say for the Japanese that I could never say for Miami people is how early and on-time they are (for the most part). I always liked to go to the mall or a store early, early because virtually nobody was ever there. In Japan, there are ALWAYS people waiting for places to open and bum-rush the store!! We got there literally half an hour after it opened and there were already enough people to make Ryosuke's anxiety flare up. (I consider Cc I was used to that much.)

 I was so-so-so happy to find massive fruits in big bags/bunches and be finally reunited with my precious bagels. Those simple things we take advantage of in the states--I am drinking a smoothie full of my America fruits now and will be gorging on a bagel shortly. I spent the most money I have in a long time shopping for just food, but good lord did it feel good. I've only ever gone with my parents or friends who had a card, so for me to finally have one of my own--I felt so adult!

There are obviously two reasons to go to Costco, the food--to buy and the food--to eat. I love pizza, and although in Japan the selection is quite poor, (also living in the mountains, all we have is a damn Pizza-la..and it's not my favorite) so when I can have a normal sized, sauce-loaded, cheesey pizza--I realized later I SHOULD have bought the second slice for Thursday morning--but it's ok I had bagels. I am very used to the obscene size and taste, Ryosuke on the other-hand barely finished his slice, I would've tried to finish his--but thankfully I didn't.

I felt to happy to share this moment with him. I am sure we will do this many, many more times--and at the very least, once a month. :)

On our way home, I started to think--there's no way in hell my purchase will fit in my house. I barely have space to fit anything as it is (tiny LeoPalace), how the f___. So I did some quick thinking, I would need to but a shelf! Problem was that I didn't know the measurements and first I had to drop off my food because I had a massive bag of frozen strawberry's that needed to see my freezer ASAP. So we hit up a nicely sized Daiso (100yen store) and got  mini screwdriver set and a measuring tape thing and we were back on track to go home.

Long story short, I got a wooden shelf as opposed to a metal one due to price and the aesthetic being much nicer, and good thing I bought that screwdriver set because even though the box says it was included--it was not.

It really was a team effort, Ryosuke got it started half way and I helped with my little hands in my tight hallway space and quick thinking skills from watching my dad put stuff together all my life. We succeeded and my new shelf proudly houses my purchases beautifully.

As if a great day would just not want to end, as a bit of a break from the usual--Ryosuke and I decided to get a bit expensive on dinner and had yakiniku! We both love-love meat and eating out of something we do often, but eating on this side of the pricier end is not done much and we both decided we worked hard enough today that it was well deserved.

I swear that was such an amazing day, spent with the most amazing man, doing my favorite things!

Have a great rest of the week, thanks for reading!