It’s weird how dreams stick with you. It’s even weirder how your subconscious blends in with the real stuff and leaves you feeling things; confusion especially. I also really wanna go find the bird that I found in my sleep. That was freaky time slip disco right there.
What did I dream about, you’re probably wondering? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is a large veranda. It was wide, like a rooftop, surrounded by a wrought iron fence, and white. Think hospital or office. And yet… as dreams are often wont to do, the fence became bushes and flowers with a creaky gate hanging open off to the side.
Before I knew what I was about, there was a group of faceless junior high school students to my left, blurred by my peripheral, lined up, and being addressed by a teacher who looked eerily like my old English teacher, Mr. Archibald. (If you ever happen to read this, Archi, you’re the best! Tell everyone I said hi!) To my right, a string of sweaty teenagers were dumping their rank, yellowed T-shirts in a pile at my feet. I’m concerned now with how saturated they were with sweat. Never in my life do I hope to experience this firsthand.
Now, when I was a teenager and young adult, I didn’t understand why laundry was such
a big deal. It was a chore! It was a pain sorting out the colors from the blacks and making sure nothing red ended up in the whites. Boy, has my tune changed! I enjoy doing laundry now. And that’s exactly what I did in my dream.
Cue environmental change and I’m back in the crowded garage of my family home. The amount of laundry I personally generate wouldn’t even be adequate enough to fill the humongous Samsung Autobot my folks have, but I digress. In the dream, I threw all the nasty shirts into the barrel and set them to go. In the meantime, I hear this chirping.
Mind you, birds flying in and getting stuck in the garage isn’t unheard of. Sometimes hummingbirds will chill on the junk my dad has hanging from the ceiling or sit on his tool boxes, watching everything. But the noise I was hearing belonged to a cockatiel and I found him! On the floor! With a bum wing! Now, this is where things get strange.
Apparently, this little guy was missing but, in my dream mind’s eye, I see a breaking news story that the bird was reunited with its owner as it happens in real time. The woman was crying and was so ecstatic over being with her pet once more but… it was right there with me as well…? How could I possibly be experiencing something, while at the same time, also living it in my head? Yeah, I dunno but that bird stuck with me after I woke up.
Do you ever have strange dreams that hang around in your head?
What do you think about when you’re reminded of these words? For me, they put what it feels like to be standing on the precipice of change into context. Lo’ how the mind can so easily waver.
Who knew emotions could be so damning? Who knew that deciding to adult at 28-years-old would result in mental turmoil? Much has happened to me mentally in the past month or two and unfortunately, I can’t attribute the frenzy to that one crazy aunt.
In order to clear my head of all of its thoughts, I sat down to making a web chart. It had been so long since creating one, I was stumped on how to start for the first few minutes. Technicalities aside, my pen eventually went flying across the paper. What started the mess in the first place? What triggered me to get so wrapped up in my own mind that it has convinced me to set aside my dream, if only for a little while?
Let’s take a gander at the gist of it all:
On the Japan side
more travel opportunities
more time off than in the US
job security as an ALT but no career advancement
get certified in as many things possible
not being close to family -> failure to complete self-imposed duty -> going through belongings after death = panic -> fear of going home for too long would result in job termination
fear of responsibility?
high demand for skilled labor (i.e. nurses, engineers, scientists)
On the US side
family is nearby
not being tied to family frees me -> the fear of being alone is stifling
can work towards becoming skilled
Even now, I’m thinking to myself that if wanting to be free to do as I please with no responsibility, why is it that I go looking for it? Certainly, I would be saving myself a lot of trouble by staying in Japan, right? Why drop the reputation I’ve started here and make a new one back home? Anxiety, probably. I’m a full-fledged worrywart, after all.
The optimistic side of me says that it’s never too late to buckle down and be serious for awhile before taking off again. Hell, there’s people out there who make such a thing a career. Most of the advice I’ve received is “You can always go back.”
Again, why think about going back home in the first place? The biggest reason is because my parents are aging and I feel it’s my responsibility to be there for them. I can’t explain this duty properly because it’s unclear when it got started.
Friends have accused me of living my life for the two of them, though, when that isn’t the complete truth. My original plan was to come to Japan, satisfy my curiosity and then leave. The only dependent factor was how long would it take for me to be satisfied? I always believed there was a Higher Purpose for me in this country.
Should I go home, the best-case scenario in coming back would be to land a decent job using the Japanese I’ve accumulated. A glance at Indeed.com showed me that speaking another language will be invaluable to businesses downtown, especially hotels.
Second, being an ALT and skating by on minimum wage is not the greatest way to live. For those curious, I make about $22,000/year. Because I was a dummy and didn’t listen to those same friends regarding Japanese study and saving, I’m paying for it now. I have nothing to show for the sweat, blood and tears I’ve poured into this whole endeavor other than gray hair and a sad bank account.
I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. I just wish I hadn’t been so corrupted by the freedom having a decent job and an actual paycheck afforded me.
A few pieces of advice to anyone wanting to do this ALT thing: save up as much money as you can in your first year because you’ll basically be tax-free. The next piece lies in the realm of qualifications. Have them before you come or work your ass off towards them while you’re here in that precious virgin year because Japan doesn’t want you long-term otherwise. Do you want to remain in education? Get a TESOL/TEFL. Not too interested in education? Go back to school and get your Master’s or PhD in the field of your choice – and make sure it has a job outlook and it’s not something fancy to decorate your wall or bookshelf with.
You can relax if marriage is your goal, though. Most of the red tape disappears if it’s to a Japanese national. Also, too if you’re that golden HSP, you’ve got the digs coming to you on a silver platter.
Basically, after all is said and done, I want job security (because I feel guilty) with the chance to safeguard my parents (because I feel guilty) and the way I’m choosing to do that is to do a total 180 and wrestle my way into the hotel industry. Lord knows Vegas is full of them. That way, I can continue to use Japanese (because I’ll feel guilty) and get a nice benefits package. Not to mention I can pay off my pesky credit card in the blink of an eye (because I feel guilty). Let’s just hope that whatever company I double-down on has transfer capabilities. With Japan wanting to build casinos, I’ll be on the first plane to spearhead the project.
The local community college has certifications related to the hotel industry, too. When I hit the ground running, everyone better watch out. I’m determined to make it back to Japan in any capacity possible… even if that means I’ve got to once more don the ALT guise.
Good morning, everyone. I stumbled across this file on my computer and cannot, for the life of me, remember why and when I wrote it. It’s a great introduction to the moodiness I feel the majority of the time. Enjoy!
While many people are waking up with fuzzy eyes, lost wallets and misplaced cars, I thought I would use some time for reflection. I have seen on the Internet an Anonymous compare the number of years accrued in life to the levels of a video game. It makes sense.
As with every year, every level of The Game, we gain experience points, venture out on side quests, rescue men and maidens, and imbibe on a touch of debauchery… and just like on screen, we watch our Healer get axed, the Sorcerer turns out to be a spy from your ex-best friend’s assembly, and your progress is totally lost because your cat decided, five months earlier, to vomit on your console. In short, life is not without its difficulties and successes.
2017 marked the first full year I have lived in Japan and along with those 365 days came numerous trials and tribulations. I caved to social pressure and created a Tinder profile and, much to my dismay and soul-deep inner knowledge, men suck no matter what their culture is or what language they speak. I found love, lost it, dealt with false pregnancy anxieties, and in the process, discovered the steel in my spine. I visited and paid homage to 8 castles and 3 major shrines and temples, thus enlarging my knowledge on Japanese history. In addition to my travels, I acquired an addiction to Japanese sweets whether they be waffles, pancakes, ice cream or traditional. Furthermore, in the vein of discovery, I unearthed 4 new cousins, their families and made two more friends this year.
On the flipside, I heartily struggled with my self-identity; wondering many times about my purpose on this planet (besides adding to its death), whether or not I should even exist, and that, cruelly, my demise would hardly be noticed for I hold no influence on anyone. In my darkest moments, I truly embrace the belief I am nothing more than a sack of bones taking up space. Most of all, the separation from the people closest to my heart has been the hardest on me and not a day goes by I do not think of them. Saying I miss them would be an understatement.
I am still attempting to riddle out my end-goal in life but then, I remember the future does not exist and I am only left with the present. Live like you are going to die tomorrow and if that is on the couch, comfy and cozy, that’s more than OK. Here’s to Today and less cat vomit.
Disclaimer: Any advice given or situations are from my own experiences. Please take what I say with a grain of salt when comparing it to your own situation.
When you type into Google “teaching in Japan” or “ALT jobs in Japan,” it may not cross your mind that you’ll be lonely. You can only think of all that fresh, juicy anime you’ll be able to get your hands on, or the delicious foods you can finally try that’ll knock the socks off an instant noodle cup. Japan! Temples, beaches, cute boys, adorable women, fashion, music! YEAH! You find a company you like and click that “Apply” button.
Now it’s time to buckle up and brace yourself for the ride.
Fast-forward to a month in. Everything is uncertain. You’re uncertain of your choice, you’re uncertain of yourself; so, you call your family and cry. You complain of the prejudice. You complain of the lack of friends. You complain about how the food isn’t what you thought it was. The strings of malicious words are non-exhaustible. Most of all, you’re lonely. Oh-so oppressively lonely.
Wait… what? “But Ashley, loneliness wasn’t on the agenda.” It never is. “How do I deal with it?” I’m still learning and searching for that answer myself. Ultimately, you have two choices: healthily or unhealthily. Do you want to save yourself from the agony your emotions will cause or tackle it head-on? As for myself, I feel it’s like walking a tightrope. Some days, I’m above my pettiness and others… well, I drown in it.
For the first 7 months of ALT-ing, I felt I was doing fairly well if I took out all the weekends I called back home sobbing. I was connecting with my school and connecting with my students. I was becoming a regular at many of the shops and even made a friend here and there. I certainly won’t knock my time in my original placement. However… but… a part of me kept listening to the niggly peanut gallery. The devil on my shoulder was getting louder. “You could have more friends. You could have more relationships. You could have more sex. All it takes is for you to log on. You’re a pretty girl. Think of all the attention you’ll be getting!” it would whisper.
Call it confidence or call it stupidity, but I listened to that voice and stepped into the world of online dating in Japan. Yeah, I know. I can already hear your scoffing and see your eye-rolling. Why couldn’t I have been stronger and found other things to put my energy towards? Well… the answer is “Loneliness will do that to you.”
Being in another country with this newfound independence creates a drug-like effect in your brain. You’re free. You’re away from the judgment of your friends and family. I mean, what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right? I can guarantee that there’s so much going on in my daily life that doesn’t end up on my social media.
Without going into detail about that messy thing, I will tell you that life alone in another country is hard. Battling internally with myself has led me to question, has led me to doubt, has led me to self-hate, lowered self-esteem, a bad body image, and has led me to this ugly, clouded room of choices that look lifesaving but are actually there to hurt me. I am literally stuck within my own mind most of the time. “Ashley, you think too much,” you say. Yup, and I’m not ashamed of my problem.
I have discussed my issues with my friends and family attempting to find some kind of answer as to why. Why do I subject myself to this nonsense? This the advice I’ve received (as best as I can remember it):
You need a pet or someone to take care of
You need to ignore what everyone else is doing
It’s normal. Don’t worry about it
You should date more
Concentrate on your hobbies
Stop being so concerned about everyone else
Let’s address each of the points mentioned, shall we?
In regards to pets, I live in a LeoPalace whom of which doesn’t allow animals in their buildings. Whether it’s because of noise or because of filth, I cannot have one on the premises. I did sneak fish into my place though but they don’t have the cuddle component one would look for in a dog, cat, or bird. As for having someone to take care of, that has backfired miserably and I want no part in it.
Ignoring people is successful to an extent but keeping that up 24/7 is exhausting and once that barrier comes down, the world barges in. When I do this, I usually end up having an emotional breakdown. I’m surprised that there are less holes in my walls.
Loneliness is normal, yes, but bone-crushing, fatigue-inducing loneliness with a side of depression is not. It is especially not normal when you’re thinking of ending it all during one of these episodes. (If you know someone who is suffering from suicidal thoughts or are suffering yourself, please do not hesitate to call a friend, a family member, your next-door neighbor, some randomly dialed number, 911 [110 for Japan], or the Suicide Hotline @ 1-800-273-8255 [or for Japan, +81-035-774-0992])
I have way too many hobbies but this has worked a bit. Lately, I’ve been trying to develop a caricature art style and it’s been fun. I’ve also invested money in coasters with the intent to design embroidered Sailor Moon themed sets to sell to the hardcore anime fan. Unfortunately, remaining interested is a struggle.
Being concerned about everyone is in my DNA. For some reason, I’m always extending help to someone in some way. My heart is too big to not to. The downside to this is that I end up not taking care of myself. When I become worried over what everyone else is doing and thinking, it sends me into a funk that takes days to shake out of. I plummet right back into the Negativity Room. When I’m there, I don’t believe anything anyone says. I hear them but I don’t listen
I truly believe that rooms absorb our feelings. Being trapped in my apartment during the day or in times of rest when I’m not sleeping leads to ugly thoughts. I turn into this… awful, disgusting, vicious, spiteful, bitter woman. It becomes hard for me to relate to anyone or anything. I shut off. So, what do I do? I get out. I ride my bike to nowhere in particular. I take pictures of things I find interesting and share them on Instagram. I give my surroundings stories and characters. I let these small moments fuel my artsy-fartsy side and before I know it, I’ve emerged from the gloom renewed.
Loneliness is tough and it should be taken seriously. Most of all, my advice to you is to analyze why you feel lonely. Finding the reasons while help you in punching the emotion in the face. You and I are smart. We are valuable to someone even if that someone is ourselves. We can overcome this.
I had to stop and think about whether or not this was the first post of 2017 before realizing that I’ve already yammered on about something this month. Here’s another post that will drop your IQ a bit more. This will be a personal entry; a journey into my dilapidated mind.
Much like a good chunk of the people who inhabit the First World order, I suffer from anxiety and depression. How I yearn now for the times when I thought my darkest imaginings could go no further or farther. A word of advice that I can verify by experience: moving to another country point blank with no real direction is not for the faint of heart. I honestly feel there should be a disclaimer on these international job boards that reads, “Must be emotionally adjusted, have steadfast principles, work well alone and require no counseling.” Extroverts should have no difficulties.
I had been doing well lately in regards to all of this, I thought, until recently. Things have gone south for the winter and haven’t come back. It’s forecasted to be 13°F tonight, so I can’t blame them. I’m happy to announce, however, that I have a hunch about who’s causing my funk and am mad at myself for letting this person get under my skin. As Pink says, “…you’re just like a pill. Instead of makin’ me better, you’re makin’ me ill.” If you plan on hopping an ocean with your spouse or long-time significant other, good for you. If you’re doing this as a single person, you had best make sure your bridges are burned beyond ashes because when you are alone and not on solid terms with your emotions, you’ll discover how amazing your desperation makes you.
As a rule now, for my sanity, I don’t date. I despise this ugly, horrible troll I become. I often laugh (and excuse me, Mom, for saying this), thinking I transform into my mother. For as far back as I can remember she would always badger me. “What time are you coming home?” “Who are you going with?” “Where are you going?” “What is the place like?” Nag, nag, nag, NAG, NAG! It got to the point where I would give her a slip of paper that had the man’s full name, the make and model of his vehicle, his license plate number and a phone number. The “you’ll understand when you’re older” remark haunts me. Long story short, I morph into this clingy, jealous, overprotective show-off that, because of several failed relationships I forced on myself and others, I think all men can’t stand.
I read an article a few days ago in order to try and grasp some kind of understanding of the complex feelings I’m experiencing, posted it to my company’s Facebook support page, and ultimately had one of the top dogs messaging me seeing if everything was OK. I really should watch my mouth. The article was saying that, usually, a fresh incident will trigger a kind of psychological defense and that’s why we start wallowing in the sadness, fear, and mental self-mutilation. Unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle with me and it all funnels down to one person. All it took for me to feel like this way was one picture of him on Instagram with a woman that wasn’t me. Like a childhood scar, all of my burgeoning issues that affect me now stem from that single, insignificant person. He was just like the others; the one relationship in my life that was so brilliant at first but has now rotted into this disgusting, decayed, putrefied lump of pain, self-hate, jealousy, toxic dependence and sexual frustration. A note: we are no longer together. We broke up in 2013.
This has led me to believe that my father is the only man in my life who can understand me. He is the only person I take comfort from. Unfortunately, my healthy (or unhealthy) connection with him has destroyed any resemblance of a chance an individual of the opposite sex may have with me. There are shoes on that front doorstep they will never be able to fill. This also has developed into a dilemma.
Will I always pine for my father and have this desire to be with him? I understand this might be getting a little weird, but I love my father. My throat chokes up with the emotion of it all and it’s a struggle to not cry as I write this. But would I throw away this fragile position I have here in Japan just so I can be close to him? It’s a question I have to seriously address. At this point, I can say I wouldn’t be sacrificing anything. All I would need to do is pack up my things, sell what I can’t bring along and that’s that. What’s waiting for me back home aside from family? It’s hard to tell at this point.
I always think about Eugene telling Rapunzel after she confides in him about her fear of the floating lanterns disappointing her and he says, “That’s the good part, I guess. You get to go and find a new dream.” That’s easier said than done.
Hello! And Happy New Year! In Japanese, we say, 「明けましておめでとうございます。」(akemashite omedetou gozaimasu) and is often shortened to 「おめでとうございます。」(omedetou gozaimasu). When you see a friend or a family member for the first time in the new year, you are required to say it. You’re also welcome to extend the politeness to strangers but it’s not necessary. No one has told me what happens when you don’t say it… It uses the same character as “bright.”
In the theme of the day, here is a bright, shiny, new post for you after a month of hitting the deck and kissing my ass (and sanity) good-bye.
I told you once upon a time you can find just about anything at 100-yen shops, right? First, we have organizers. My rolling dresser that I was storing my hair things on wasn’t cutting it anymore after I purchased a small bookshelf, so now I have something a little more handy and accessible. What’s awful is that I hear my mom in my head whispering to me, “Y’know you’re going to have to bring all of that back.” Moms always know best, don’t they? It’s a shame we don’t give them enough credit most of the time.
The white bucket-looking thing is my pseudo-trash can for the bath. Japan prides themselves on convenience and I’m right on board with it. Using the small trash bags (in another photo), this will provide me a place to toss and amass dirty, slimy, minty-smelling dental floss.
Next, we have a tape roller and refills. Japan is big on reusing things and will often charge less for the refills. You definitely know you’re paying for the plastic here. Next to the refills, there is a silver-ion air filter for my aircon unit. Part of the reason for my inconsistent blogging is because I came down with a cold. I’m striving to keep myself from further marinating in any kind of contaminants while I sleep by utilizing this item.
Lastly, there is the filter for the exhaust fan I have above my tiny stove. That air filter is now firmly lodged in the darkness of a trash bag and awaits its fiery death. It caused me so much grief and prompted a panicked phone call to my ever-so-patient father at 1:30 in the morning Las Vegas time and a rapid skim through the manuals I never bothered to look at when I moved into this apartment. I swear he needs to be inducted into the Sainthood Hall of Fame. Thank you, Grandma, for raising such a wonderful son!
Boom! Cosmetics, smelly things and… my feet. I’m so sorry. I seem to have unintentionally subjected you to a profound horror. Excuse me.
In this photo, we have Disney themed oil blotting paper for my face, Halls throat lozenges*, hair elastics (since I seem to be running out of the ones I use to tie the ends of my braids with)**, shower caps, nail cream that I intend to use for cracking cuticles and crusty nostrils, hand lotion and a body cream I was hoping to try out as a facial moisturizer (a note to the people who are used to using soft water: Japan has NO soft water. Prepare for flakage). Oh, yes, and the aforementioned trash bags.
Snacks: cup ramen, cookies and popcorn. Last night, I got into the bag due to laziness in regards to dinner making and I decided that Family Mart definitely has better popcorn. It must be the oil (or they use MSG).
In the back, there’s a small box for sending packages. If you’re looking for much larger boxes, save the ones you get from Amazon or ask the post office.
Next is the Tupperware. The plastic used for these is relatively thin and I wouldn’t recommend microwaving them for too long even if the label says they can tolerate it. Use a plate and save yourself the grief.
Another miso bowl. Mini broom and dust pan (Remember: flakage. Every time I brush my hair, I shed this ungodly disgusting pile of human waste). Futon attachment for the vacuum. Vacuum bags. Crochet thread. If you go to a well-equipped 100-yen shop, you’ll find a decent selection of yarns and threads. They also stock various other craft goods for us folks who like to use our hands. There is an extra soft yarn they have that is oh-so-alluring and I’m tempted to buy it in a “Why not?” moment, but that’s how hoarding starts and my poor Japanese apartment can’t handle that kind of stress.
I hope you are well. I hope you aren’t sweating the small stuff and adding gray hairs to your scalp library. Breathe deep and be grateful for every moment you’re alive to experience. I’d like to think our thoughts and adventures will keep us company wherever we go after The Big One.
Happy New Year.
*If you’re used to the strong Halls in America, buy the black wrapper when you get here. Take my word for it. **Japanese hair elastics, if they are un–baubled, require you to tie them yourself. For the longest time I thought all of my female teachers and students were having problems with their bands breaking but after buying mine, I understand. You will, too.
Today has dawned cold and depressing. My feeling for having to work while my heart isn’t in it makes me harbor a serious distaste for humanity this morning. I can’t quite decide what has put me in such a mood, but I reckon it stems from the news of the election shining a light on my own shortcomings.
I feel very alone. I see people every day but can do nothing to connect with them on that specially personalized level. There is this overwhelming despair at having the ones that understand me the most being so far away. And usually, when I get like this, I run to my grandma. The environment she creates is so without judgement and pressure.
The first issue I have with myself is the language barrier. I’m so daunted by my lack of fluency. I know so little. Most days my self-discipline is non-existent. It’s easy for me to make textbook examples of sentences but near impossible to manage the expertise and flow of conversation without having to think and translate before I speak. Just yesterday I practiced writing some of the old grammar point I learned in college and had them checked. I did well enough but I can’t be communicating with folks via notepad and pencil. Funnily enough, I did just that today to explain to one of my co-workers my sentiments about Trump. My words to him were, “Holding onto my freedom is the most important thing, I think. When a president makes a decision, it takes time to trickle down. If war happens, then I’ll worry.” Conveying this in Japanese was mentally taxing. It makes me want to escape to the mountains and be a hermit.
The second issue is that I feel extremely unattractive and insecure. I have this impression that I’m considered ugly here by being awash by all of the smooth and completely homogenized Japanese. I’m grimly aware of my own lack of culture and it has me questioning myself. “What can I possibly give to these people?” I’m certainly not looking to revolutionize anyone. I just don’t want to be a part of someone’s dark and dank background; taken for granted.
The whole general idea is that I’m painfully mindful of my own insignificance and uneducated state. Or maybe it’s my drive to please and I say whatever I can to look smart. I just know that it’s embarrassing that I know less about my own country than the students I teach.
Winter clothes! You can easily purchase gloves (some with touchscreen capability), scarves, and neck warmers. One night was especially cold and, if you’re like me in that your nose starts carving Snot River down your face and you suddenly can’t remember where you left your ears, you’ll be on the lookout for something warm.
There’s nothing like knowing your grasp of the Japanese language can easily be beaten by a grade schooler. If you want to get a jump start on your kanji (漢字) practice, please use these books. They offer stroke order, Japanese and Chinese readings, and common words the characters are used in. Also, if you like Sudoku, they have loads of these. I’ve even been tempted to look on Amazon for more kanji textbooks/workbooks like what my students use. When all else fails, learn how to speak and ask someone where something is. There’s no better tool than to learn through association.
Some weeks ago, I purchased a Christmas tree from Amazon sans star. Now I have one plus smaller ornaments. I also bought a tinsel boa to brighten it up. This year, since I can’t be with my family, I did my best to capture what we couldn’t do for the last couple of Christmases (damn dogs). I can’t tell you what I’m going to do with the embroidery hoop and hot glue other than I’m working to make a present for my grandmother. Shh! Don’t tell!
The hyaku yen shops sure are wonderful sometimes. I wasn’t kidding when you find things you didn’t know you needed. It seems like every time I walk through the aisles, I see stuff that I didn’t know was there.
The first thing to address is the plunger. You will thank me when I tell you again how important this puppy will be in your life. It should go down as one of the Top 10 Essential Tools for Adulthood. Second is the plastic doo-dad next to the plunger. This allows you more space when you’re hanging things in your bathroom to dry. I figured I could use this for pants… or something. Anyway, you slap it into your showerhead holder and you’re done. Next, you can never go wrong with humidity absorbers. This time around, I was on the hunt for smaller units I could stick into my dressers. These are mandatory if you don’t want your shit to mold.
Also, glass cleaner. You’ll be surprised at how much of your bodily fluid ends up on your mirror when you’re consumed with nervous anxiety and are suddenly determined to rid your face of its blackheads and pimples. Oh, and make-up. I’ll never figure out how I got mascara smeared in two places.
The last item is a pack of hand warmers. You know those beans that get warm when you crack the package? I haven’t seen how long these last but I know you can buy some that work for up to 10-12 hours at the drugstore. When the weather turns chilly, you’ll thank your past self for buying them.
In this picture, we have drain cleaner/odor absorber. When you come to live in Japan, you will see garbage disposals are non-existent. Instead, there are food catchers that sit under the rubber lip in your sink. You will either have a kind of steel net or a plastic cup. I have the plastic option and it gets scummy (especially when I choose to live off of cereal and ignore my pile of dirty dishes). Next is the sponge. This allows me to clean my thermoses since my hand is sponge-‘tarded. Thirdly, there’s the spoon rest. I was simply fed up with wasting my paper towels and dirtying up my limited counter space (pfft, who am I kidding? I don’t have a counter).
The measuring spoons are closing in for the finish line! I recently purchased cookbooks so I can save more money by using ingredients that are in season and well… I quickly learned the difference between a teaspoon and tablespoon. Just so I could save myself from the guesswork, I bought these. Next to them are soup spoons. You’ll notice these are often used with Asian dishes. I don’t know why I didn’t use them sooner. Finally, there’s the spice shaker. I got this for my sugar so I wouldn’t make a mess trying to get it out of the bag I keep in the freezer.
In this final picture, the contents are self-explanatory. Since I’d rather use purified water for my drinking water for some stupid reason, I waste my money purchasing a bottle. I also happened to find some popcorn. That was exciting since I was craving it but don’t expect to find butter for it. You’ll have to go old school and pop it in cold stuff or use flavored oils. Be careful, though! Flash fires are serious. And because I tend to graze at work, I bought the noodle soups to hide in my desk just in case I couldn’t survive until lunch.
And there you have it! If you have any questions, feel free to holler.
Hello, everyone! Today’s topic is 100 yen shops in Japan. Let’s go!
There are multiple videos on YouTube describing the shenanigans you can get into at Japanese 100 yen shops (１００円ショップ, hyaku-en shoppu). This is just one example from Sharla in Japan. Vouching for Las Vegas, there is no Daiso but we do have plenty of Dollar Generals and Dollar Trees. Both offer the same general assortment Daiso (and other hyaku-en stores) has. In Gotemba, we have several Daiso’s, a Seiryu, and the “orange” store that is a Daiso in disguise (literally called 百円ショップオレンジ, hyaku-en shoppu orenji). Sharla happened to go to her store during Valentine’s Day. All stores will have some kind of seasonal area and will also have larger or smaller sections depending on their location. Just yesterday, I went into the Daiso that was on the Express Way and was amazed at their fake flower assortment whereas the small one I usually visit only has, maybe, a 4-foot section smooshed in between the zipper pencil cases and home-smelly things.
Because I’m too afraid of disturbing the peace by making a video, today’s entry will give you an idea of how badly you needed these things without realizing it.
Walking into Orange, I was immediately greeted by a Costco-like display of snacks. Crunchy, soft, savory, sweet… they’re all there. They also have the largest assortment of instant noodles I’ve ever seen. Drinks, too, are abundant. Each store will have varying degrees in the amount of what they have. In comparison, the Daiso I frequent has a small cooler for common drinks while Orange has a whole wall; cold and warm alike.
One thing about Japan is that you’ll see American products with flavors that appeal to the Japanese palette. I’ve found green tea flavored Oreos and I have a friend that swears the sake flavored Kit-Kats are weird.
Condiments are numerous and highly varied. For common things like soy sauce, mirin, and marinades, you can easily find them at a 100 yen shop. You may also find oddities such as salad dressings and flavored oils. On this trip, I noticed they had small bottles of extra virgin. If you like to cook or bake, please consider looking for your ingredients here before you visit a full grocery store. Japanese recipes are designed to only feed 2-3 people. You won’t need much.
If you’re really lazy and don’t want to make your own curry base or clam chowder, guess what! You will find what you’re looking for here. There are different flavors, makers, spice levels… In this particular shop, you will find canned foods next to the available selections. Because I packed myself a care parcel full of canned salmon and tuna before coming to Japan, I’ve yet to really look through this portion. I’m going to assume you can find what you’re looking for because I have an acquaintance that recently told me about his dependence on tuna fish sandwiches (which reminds me! If you have a MaxValu near you, you can easily locate sweet gherkins if you dig pickles in your tuna). This is where you’ll most likely locate noodles and pasta sauce. Sometimes you might get lucky and discover tomato paste if you want to for that homemade flair.
Moving along, I was almost lured into the dangerous world of Tupperware. A whole wall was dedicated to the microwaveable vs. the non-microwaveable, clear plastic vs. designer plastic, ease of use vs. risking carpal tunnel, and one container vs. several in one pack. When in doubt, please use ceramic if you’re not sure whether or not what you’re buying can be heated. Some packaging will not provide an easy-to-read picture for us mentally hindered.
Again, before you buy something from a fancy home improvement store, please check with your local 100 yen shop. As you can see, there are a lot of utensils you can get to suit your needs.
Earning an ALT salary keeps these stores close to my heart. My mom will verify that I’m a Scrooge with my money until I absolutely have to buy something (or I want something). Then I’ll go all out to make sure I don’t have to do it again until next year.
Also, if you’re looking for Ziploc bags, you’ll come across them here along with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. It all really boils down to how much you’re going to use. I’m big on freezing the fresh vegetables I buy from the grocery store (which I highly recommend you do before prices skyrocket and your stock goes out of season).
The great thing about Japan is you’ll eventually need an umbrella or, if you ride a bike, a poncho. Because these umbrellas are cheaply made, I don’t recommend you use them if the weather is predicted to be very tempestuous. I’ve seen the horror they become as they hang forgotten, rusted, and bloated with old rain water on the fences by the freeway. Save up for a good umbrella. You can usually buy these at any home improvement or DIY store (i.e. Cainz Home, Jumbo Encho, D2, Seiyu [which is really a Target]).
As I cruised through Orange, I came across the gardening center. I didn’t even recognize half of what was available aside from the shovels and watering pales. More than likely, if you’re thinking of becoming an ALT, you’ll have a cramped apartment stoop that is only big enough to house your air conditioning unit. Secondly, if you hate bugs, I wouldn’t advise the use of plants out-of-doors. Resist purchasing that beautiful rose bush! Resist it! Do a little research on house plants instead that help with oxygen levels and act as bug repellent if you absolutely need a little green in your life.
Then we have the pet section. Most apartments will not allow animals, but if you happen to move and can bear leaving your pet alone for more than 8 hours most days, know that this exists for you. Puppy pads, leashes, snacks, watering bowls… I feel Japan is dog-biased. Unless you walk your cat regularly, you may have to take some time perusing what’s on the shelf.
In the next aisle over was the home improvement section. If you’re going to remain in your apartment, don’t go down this road. Most landlords will not tolerate redesigning and will charge you a pretty penny for the “damage.” Just don’t it.
Moving on, we have the bathroom aisle. Because baths are ritualistic here, you’ll find endless amounts of things to use. The numerous shoes, brushes, scrubbers, hair catchers, odor absorbers, shower caps, and bathtub heat shields will keep you occupied for a while as you debate whether or not you really need them. One thing I will highly suggest you buy is a plunger because Japanese plumbing relies on a reservoir. If you don’t think you’ll need to clean your drains, be my guest and find out what happens after several months. Lastly, Japanese water is hard. You can obtain these pumice-like stones that will chip away the deposits in your ceramic sinks and tubs.
If you intend to have friends over, it’s customary to provide a set of guest slippers for them to wear. Again, because your apartment is not your own, please save yourself and your floors (unless you have carpet) from damage and either wear your socks or slippers. You’ll notice most 100 yen shops have cushions. Although Japan is quickly upgrading its building codes, you may come across apartments that have tatami mats with low tables. Because I’m fortunate to have a table and chairs provided in my LeoPalace, I’ve never had to buy a cushion. Keep in mind they’re cheap. If you intend for your butt to develop a long-term relationship with one, please save your money and look elsewhere.
You’ll also stumble across wardrobe malfunction fixes and emergency stashes of ties, belts, and stockings here. I’ve never bought anything from this aisle but I’m glad to know it’s available. Orange apparently was hosting a black tie shindig that I wasn’t aware of.
Goodness! This store is huge! Up next, we have what I call “The Party Section.” Paper and plastic plates abound! You can also buy to-go containers here. I will not pretend to be ignorant of restaurants stocking up on these from 100 yen shops. (I’ll let you find out how much of a bitch they are on your own. Two things: “rubber band” and “grease.”)
Ah, yes! The seasonal section! As soon as Halloween was over, the Christmas stuff was rolled out. Ornaments, wall decorations, banners, bows… you name it. They’ll more than likely have it. This particular store had LED desk ornaments. I’m sorely tempted to buy a wreath or make my own and be that obnoxious neighbor. I’ve yet to see a large assortment of lights, though. Japan may not be big into decorating their houses. I know I’d love to have my little stoop sparkle and glitter during those chilly nights. You may be lucky to find greeting cards but don’t expect the packs of 20 or more like you can find in America or Canada.
If you discover your phone charger or stylus has mysteriously disappeared, you’ll be able to buy a replacement at 100 yen shops. Don’t fret about them being cheaply made. Demand is so high these for these things that the supply has brought the price down. Office supplies are also commonly available.
Of course, no amount of words or videos can replace your own personal experiences. I feel 100 yen shops are truly valued here whereas, in the States, dollar stores were reserved for the lower income brackets. Don’t think you are demeaning your worth by shopping here. Allow me to show you what you can find through my own purchases.