Next time you are having lunch with your Japanese colleagues, and have one of those awkward moments where no-one has a good topic to tide over until the food arrives, try asking them their thoughts on the 1 yen coin. Half of them will respond that they never really gave it any thought (i.e. they could never think of not having it), and the other half will tell you that “you can’t just not make the one yen coin”. Dig a little deeper, and ask them why? It is here where you find deeply ingrained, and somewhat unfounded Nihonjin-ness come out – Japan is still mero-mero in love with their yen, and bringing up its abolishment brings gains us a little more insight into just how close the Japanese individuals are in their way of thinking when it comes to matters close to home (read this anecdote if you read Japanese, it expresses the sentiment of many people in Japan towards the 1 yen coin).
I will freely admit that I was clutching at straws as I tried to excite myself about our plan to visit a botanical garden built on an reclaimed island created by years and years of Tokyo rubbish. But – believe it or not – by the time I got home after sundown, I was really impressed with my trip to Yumenoshima (夢の島). My pocket was a mere 250 yen lighter for the pleasure and my son went to bed with a huge smile on his face. I could highly recommend visiting all of the facilities on Yumenoshima, but particularly the Tropical Botanical Gardens (夢の島熱帯植物館) was fantastic. It smashed my (low) expectations. The gardens are inside a huge hot house they are also perfect for a cold or rainy day when you don’t have anywhere else to go!
This incredible documentary is the first of its kind to air in Japan, with professionally commentated and chronologically compiled footage of the massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that was to follow. It is all in Japanese, but for those of you who cant understand the commentary, just watch it anyway. It is very well put together, giving logical sequencing of the mess which we all witnessed on the news and Youtube in the weeks after the event. Watch it, and witness the gut wrenching footage and interviews with people who lost their families and livelihood (even if you dont understand the language with your head, your heart understands the story being told). Much of the footage has previously never been shown before, and has been painstakingly sewn together into this shocking story, that helps with a deeper understanding of what really happened on that tragic day, March 11th 2011.
In part three of this series, I wrote a bit about travelling with a baby in Japan on planes. The big form of transport that I didn’t mention was cars. I’d never felt the need for owning a car in Japan until I had a baby but recently I’ve been starting to think that it would be a nice addition to the family. Besides the fact that it would make bringing nappies home from the local supermarket a lot easier, it would make domestic travel just that little bit smoother. We’ve been able to get around a reasonable amount with a combination of rent-a-cars and taxis when we haven’t been able to use trains (or boats or planes), but the reality is that it is just not as safe or convenient as having your own car with a fitted baby seat. Continue reading Daddy-san (part 5): Car Safety – the state of child seat use in Japan
For most long-term parents of children in Japan, there is little to consider when it comes to vaccinations. The Japanese government immunises the population against the primary diseases in Japan and so long as you’re here in the long-run then you’re not going to give it a second thought. Unfortunately, things are not so simple for families who shift to Japan in the first six months after their child’s birth. When we came to Japan six weeks after my son was born in Hong Kong, we discovered pretty quickly that immunisation schedules don’t conform to any international standard and continuing vaccination programs that were begun overseas isn’t straight forward. Hopefully this article saves a bit of stress of other young families that have recently moved to Japan. It’ll probably also be of interest to any parents keen to immunise their children against some diseases that aren’t part of the standard program for Japanese children. Continue reading Daddy-san (part 4): Immunising your child after arriving in Japan
My family is currently looking for a house to buy in Tokyo. Originally I was just thinking about buying near a park and a supermarket that had a decent stock of cheese and wine. For the simple reason that most of my friends live centrally, I was predominantly looking in the South-Eastern corner of Tokyo. However, after talking with a few friends, I’ve recently wondered if I should be looking in the opposite corner of the big smoke. How many of you knew that in less than a year (mid 2010), Keisei Railway is going to start a new express line that will connect Tokyo and Narita in 36 minutes? Yes, 36 minutes. How cool would it be to move seamlessly to and from Narita every time you visit home? I don’t know about you but the whole prospect of travelling to and from Narita depresses me so much that it generally takes a day into my holiday to get over the fiscal and mental pain associated! Clearly I’d had my head in the sand because the lovely little Ueto Aya (上戸彩) Continue reading Narita Sky Access (New Skyliner): Tokyo to Narita Airport in 36 Minutes – JR Narita Express Killer?
Ordinarily you wouldn’t assume that an article about travelling with babies has much of a Japan specific angle. Maybe it doesn’t. But the impression that I’ve received from friends and the on looking eyes of broader society as well is that it’s not that normal to travel with a young baby. Actually it’s not even that normal to take a young baby outside of your home for the first month (or more) in Japan. I have no idea what is “best for baby” but I’m more than happy to relay our experiences of baby travel and how much fun we were able to have without all of the stress that is apparently assumed when you’ve got a baby.
I figured that this is particularly relevant to other gaijin daddies out there who either want to take their child “home” to see their half of the family, or, if the child was born and lives outside of Japan, probably have a wife hoping to do the same. Continue reading Daddy-san (part 3): Travelling with your Baby
When in the mansions of Tokyo what do you do when you have a rogue neighbour who you just can not get along with? One that annoys you with their mannerisms, one that complains about your kids, one that gives you the shiroime (white eye) look in the elevator when you try to aisatsu (make small talk), or one that is all of the above (and just plain crazy). This, is what I have. Is it simply time to move? Do you guts it out and pretend it does not exist? Or do you confront the a-hole directly and try to rectify whatever it is that bugs you? Apparently my family gets on his nerves so much, that words such as “korosu-zou!” (I’m going to kill you!) being yelled from the window below has now become commonplace. Continue reading Crazy Japanese Neighbours – What would you do?
Did you sign your current rental agreement at the top of the market and wondering whether or not you should move houses at the end of your current contract? Would you be willing to stay where you are if you to didn’t have to pay an entire months rent (or sometimes two) to your landlord to thank them for renewing your contract? Or does it just really irritate you that it’s hard to compare one rental contract due to all of the unwritten customs in Japan? Either way, rental life is getting a little bit closer to being simpler thanks to a man from Kyoto.
It really frustrates me the number of heart-ache stories that I hear from friends who’ve been totally convinced by the Japanese mass media that their breasts aren’t good enough for their babies. Just as depressing are the number of stories that I’ve heard where mothers in Japan who had previously believed that breast is best, have been convinced by their doctors (after only a few weeks of trying) that they’re not making enough milk and switched to formula or a mix of formula and breast milk. Whereas 90% of Japanese mothers when surveyed before giving birth suggest that they want to raise their child on breast-milk, only 3~40% of them are still exclusively feeding their babies breast milk by their three month check up. That is lower than most countries in Asia, and is extremely low when compared even with Continue reading Daddy-san (part 2): Breast is best and don’t let your Japanese OB/GYN tell you otherwise