It’s official Christmas is absolutely everywhere every day. Today I saw a Facebook post about wamageddon and thought about the ease of getting through to Christmas day. I’m no longer sure about this.
Just before catching the train, I decided to get a nice fresh black coffee and it was given with a smile. I then looked at the cup- a Christmas cup.
After work I went to Aeon supermarket to buy a drink and while ignoring the Christmas seasonal displays with a practised ease, I started humming. I had unintentional started humming the music the store was playing which turned out to be a synthesised version of last Christmas.
It was then that I saw the signs above the sushi section, above the bento section above every section. The signs stated in perfect English, so I had no excuse about not seeing them, the words “Merry Christmas”.
I have moves to a country where many consider Christmas to be a strange foreign thing but its everywhere. I even asked my collegues if their children prefer Christmas or New Year’s day and all stated Christmas, due to the gifts they receive instead of money at new years (called お年玉 or otoshidama).
I believe November should be called pre-Christmas month as I cannot escape it. Please ignore the fact I bought a wrief and I immediately placed it on my door….. my annoyance still remains firm.
This is a post I’ve been thinking about for a while hence the 2 week wait since receiving the late ticket and this post.
Firstly a bit of background information. Everyone has heard the wonderful stories of German and Japanese trains never being late, always arriving on time to the second and arriving in the perfect position each time. This is simply fiction. Even if everything is fine, there will always be something that either delays the train or off sets it’s position.
On November 14 I was riding the JR line from Takachaya Station (brilliant name and they use the old Kanji for station 高茶屋驛) the problem was the train was running late. The problem was the last train to Nabari is at 2315,and I still had get to Ise-Nakagawa first.
An announcement came over the tannary and stated the train would be late. 15 minutes later it arrived.
I always had the image of train attendants handing out late tickets to commuters like confetti. This was not the case. I had to go to the JR officev at Tsu Station and ask for one. I got a brilliant look of ‘what the hell’ from the attendant before he reluctantly printed one off stamped it and gave it to me.
Ignoring the customer service skills, which left a lot to be desired, the impression left was of blame. They seemed almost outraged that I dared ask for it. Completely shatter my nativity why don’t you.
For those of you wondering, the lateness ticket or certificate of lateness is called a 遅延証名書 or chienshomeisho, a word that I cannot seem to remember. Japanese railways give them out (should give them out) to allow a person to prove they were late. Which is an even more troubling statement come to think of it.
I will be fair, I have ridden the JR line in Mie on multiple occasions and it has been delayed or late on multiple occasions as well. It’s not to say that they can’t be on time, but they choose not to be.
While shopping recently I came across this absolute gem. It’s called “Asobo ランド” or let’s play land. To play in Japanese is 遊ぶ which changes to the volition form 遊ぼうor let’s play in English.
This is one of those special products anywhere else in the world would be considered either inadvisable or be recalled so fast it would make your head spin.
A few of these products will just be reviewed on social media but they were nothing special. I will start with the holy grail of political incorrectness, a curry snack. This must be seen to be believed. Ready for it?
Dear God, where should I even begin? How about at the top? Firstly the Hindi used is a transliteration of the Japanese カレースナック which is a translation of the English phrase curry snack. Next the curry (I’m not avoiding the elephant in the room) which is a Japanese style curry with otherwise Indian themes.
Finally, the character. Please note this review will NOT sound especially nice. I will start with the turban, tradationally work by Sikhs in India without the gem in the middle which is more representative of the Pagri, a symbol of honor. Next, the art style looks like an India version of the black face cartoons from the early 20th century- which besides being racist are not representive. The curry is extremely detailed and to scale, which says even more about the character. Finally the ears; do I really need to say anything else? Moving on.
The product was quite tasty, with an exceptionally mild curry taste and a decent crunch. It was a good snack- disregarding the packaging.
The rest of the snacks were standard generic Japanese snacks.
The small milky hard sweets with the picture of the girl on the packaging were small milk flavoured bonbons. If that sounds disgusting don’t worry, they were. I love milk but the sweets tasted like rancid milk bonbons, a unique take on it. Do not try, or only give to enemies or people you wish to prank.
The caramel peanut corn chips were sweetened corn chips and were okay at best. They felt like a twinky i.e. you would only choose to eat them because you grew up with them. All in all, they were forgetable.
The jelly straws claimed that they each have a unique flavour, of which there was a hint but not much more than that. They were strangely nice, completely full of terrible ingredients, but tasty.
I hope you enjoyed reading and happy exploring. Check out the social media pages for a few extra products from this bag.
This blog has now 100 posts- many pictures and many details about my life in Japan. So let’s celebrate a little! This post is going to look at Nabari Dam in a bit more detail, a HOW2: for Place names and a product review as well. I hope you enjoy this 100th post and happy reading.
Additionally, on the homepage, there are 2 new sections:
A pictures in Japan section
A western calendar to Japanese era conversion page
Let’s start the post!
Full Review: 青蓮寺ダム Shorenji dam aka Nabari Dam
I have previously talked about Nabari lake and I have mentioned Nabari Dam in passing but now well look at it in a bit more detail.
Nabari Dam was constructed in response to the Ise typhoon disaster in 昭和34年 or 1959. Nabari experiences wide spread damage and thus the dams construction was finished in 昭和45年7月 or July 1970.
The Dam is 275 m long, 82 m tall which allowed the formation of lake with an area of 1.04 km 2 containing over 27 million m 3 of water- which is quite a bit.
Around the dam, there are signs which highlight the 5 main advantages of this dam:
safety: the dam allows Nabari and other cities down stream (Osaka, Nara) to remain safe in extreme weather
ecosystem: the dam provides a constant stream of water supporting life downstream
household use: allows a water supply to Nabari and other areas (from drinking water to bath water)
agricultural use: allows water to be used for rice farming within the Iga area comprising of 1,150 ha at 1.72m3/s
electricity generation: green electricity is generated
The slight problem with the dam is the road that was constructed along its’ top.
There is a single carriage way which requires cars to move the the side to allow them to pass. There is a lovely video of on my social media pages.
Along the lake side there are many parks, tennis courts and picnic spots and just above the dam is the viewing spot which is also known as the famous sakura viewing point- somewhere to go in April.
The views are spectacular and are well worth a visit for those in the area. With the amount of thing available (from sports, to eateries, to hikes, photo opportunities etc) I would definitely recommend a visit. Think of this place as a trip to a national park or just a larger park: plenty to do (including an Italian restaurant that is always booked nearby), plenty to enjoy and plenty of places to relax.
Just remember: take only photos and leave only footprints.
HOW2: Japanese place name ~ヶ丘
One thing that you need to be aware of with place names is the ending ~ヶ丘 or ~gaoka meaning “one hill”. Examples of this around Nabari are 梅ヶ丘、つつじヶ丘、桔梗が丘 etc. There are many examples across Japan but with the ending, you should expect extremely steep hills, that even cars struggle to climb.
The kanji is quite strange. ” ヶ ” is an ichi-dan counter used as a suffix to count objects and ” 丘 ” means hill- in such combinations as 丘上-きゅうじょう meaning hill top or 丘疹-きゅうしん meaning pimple (there are other combinations out there).
This was a fantastic view of Tsutsuji-gaoka just before my arrival at the dam. What you cannot see in this picture is the extremely tall hill that it is built on. Additionally, each settlement that can be seen in the distance is an entire other area- either Nabari city or small settlements surrounding it. The name should definitively be it’s warning when cycling or walking. You could argue that it should be つつじ山 instead.
The reason that you must be aware of its name is simple put: google maps. Google maps do not show you how steep the hill you climb are when using the app (they do during the planning stages on desktop).
The last product made me smile when I found it and that was a simple salad. In Japan vege salads refer to salads being made up of more vegetables than normal- which is a weird phrase now that I think about it. But to the rest of the world, a veg salad is (or at least should be) a vegetarian salad. My favourite was a salad bowl with massive shrimp on it stating vege salad.
The salad was extremely good- all crispy fresh veg, a nice mix of oats and rice and a sort-of miso dressing (extremely Japanese) but went well never the less.
Strangely enough, there was no problem with this product- even with the Japenglish. Check them out in Aeon supermarkets.
Thank you for reading and here’s to many more blog posts to come.
As I have previously discussed, Japan’s interest in Christmas seems to have exploded since my time as a foreign exchange student just 5 years ago. It could be due to increased experience or perhaps a more enlightened world view, but Christmas is everywhere.
In know in the UK, Christmas has exploded onto the Zeitgeist with people already putting up decorations, listening to music etc. But there is one thing that most agree on: the Christmas dinner: the turkey (or other option), the veg, the stuffing, the company, the merriment and everything that I won’t be experiencing this year (perhaps also why I’m noticing Christmas things a lot more).
To the Japanese (most), Christmas doesn’t evoke the same feelings and even though it is regarded as a family day or an alternative Valentines day, companies are still looking to profit from this. Case and point Mos burger. Mos Burger is not alone in its’ advertising- KFC, convenience stores, every single supermarket etc are advertising their selections for Christmas day.
Amazingly, there are separate catalogs for the New Year’s meal and Christmas meal which considering these days are only a week apart is pretty amazing.
There is a slight downside to the special Christmas meals: the price. A 8 piece chicken meal with commemorative plate is a mere 4100 JPY (4000 JPY if ordered before December. The Mos Burger meal is cheaper but it only includes chicken and no extras but it is still 1375 JPY for the small (i.e. 1 person meal).
Will I be ordering anything at all this festive season? No. I will stick with my diet and save money (sending gifts back to the UK is expensive enough).
This is going to be a strange post, but how would you cope if seemingly the entire country operates on a 9-5 or similar time. What if your an early bird, or a tourist?
Firstly, this is something I have noticed across Japan, both in cities and in the country side- whether small green grocers or a national monument; Japan operates on Japan time. When looking at places to visit, you need to look at the closing time extremely carefully as there, as a rule, is a last admittance time and a closing time.
While this makes sense in a practical way- to allow workers to have a life outside of work (let’s leave salary men out of this one), having an entire city operate on this kind of time seems counter-intuitive. Osaka, for example, closes for lack of a better word at either 1700 for attractions or 2200 for most day operating restaurants. While there are certainly things to do an see after this, options are extremely limited.
Another example would be Axtos, the gym. Doors only open (regardless of when it closes) at 1000 and as an early bird this annoys me. Ideally, I would go much earlier at 0715 and complete my workout and be ready to start my day around 0930. What you must do, therefore, is to either take extremely long bike riders in the mornings (which I do), run (I need new shoes first), or start later. The problem with option 3, and taking into account the closing times of other shops in Nabari (smaller shops 1700), you’re suddenly left with less time and a lot of things to do.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Japanese parents are always rushing about and stressing about every little thing?
What does this mean for visitors to an area or tourists? Simply put PPPPPPP or proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance (please insert an expletive beginning with p). If you are planning a holiday, a long break or just a trip to the next city, check your locations either on google maps, or that companies websites- even I have fallen into the trap of “it’ll be open” and occasionally it isn’t.
Japan has a strange relationship with convience stores. Many are closing due to lack of business, may are changing their opening hours to allow the store to stay open and others are just opening: case and point: Family mart in Matsuharamachi, Nabari (松原町).
This store is, to be honest, located in a rather rural area with no footpath to the store, and it’s surrounded by small business and farmlands. In other words, not a viable business location (to my mind at least). But with its opening today (22/11/19) there were several higher-ups there to advertise the T card ( a point card or a credit card that collects points as well).
The problem with this is that everyone in Japan knows what the T card is and more importantly knows what services family mark offers. Ignoring this and enjoying the ‘new’ store, they offer something on opening day that is a little treat- the lucky bag.
These bags are extremely common in Japan especially around anything seasonal (New Year’s, Golden week, Obon etc) and whenever a store opens. The sign stated that over 1000 JPY worth are products were in the bag for just 600 JPY and being the month of trying new things, I had to buy on. One of the big wigs knew English as well he told me: “Japanese luck lag. Very, very discount”. It was extremely nice of him to try- so thank you. Moving on to the product.
My mystery selection came in a bag marked lucky bag or 福袋 and inside was a rather nice selection.
The first thing to note is that all of the products are family mart branded products- which are also the cheapest treats they offer (but not the healthiest though) but that is not to say they are the worst- some of my selection was a welcome Friday treat.
Firstly, the 2 cakes (the Baumkuchen and the waffeln didn’t last- they were consumed within 5 minutes of this picture (ignoring my diet for the moment). The ingredient for which is everything you would expect in a mass-produced product.
The salt popcorn is standard popcorn- nothing to write home about and tastes exactly how you would expect; moving on. The chocolate peanut bites were nice but forgettable- they’re sweet, crunchy, nutty and at least they’re cheap.
The nicest products from this selection were the crystallized pineapple and the green tea. These are items are something I would actually buy because they are a small treat and relatively healthy. However, these products together are about 300 JPY.
You may be wondering about the instant ramen: I an not going to consume it because a: there are a tonne of ingredients, b: include shell fish (I cannot stand the taste) and c: I have some self-respect (some).
Was it worth it? Price wise yes I can see why someone would buy this. Would I recommend this: jein. If you have not bought a similar bag in the past it is worth the experience. If you have, don’t other wasting your money- just buy what you want.
The tag line reads: a third of people are unable to see this advertisement.
There is a weird theme in Japan which rarely surfaces, and when it does it almost needs to be celebrated and that is weird media.
This is most noticable when googling Japanese game shows, or seeing strange pages of manga or viewing weird anime but it can make its’ way into newspapers.
The advertisement is nothing special- as you could expect it just talks about their products. But here’s a challenge (if you can understand any Japanese), please look at the image and try to make out what is said- either what kana you know, what kanji or if you can read the whole thing. It shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes- but your eyes will not thank you for this experience.
One of the ‘key sites’ in Nabari is the heavily advertised Natsumi temple ruins but what is it all about?
This review will just look at the temple grounds (or what remains of them) not the museum that accompanies it (mostly because it was closed when I visited).
Firstly the site, it is a beautiful site with a brilliant view of wider Nabari, which is in full autumn mode. However, there is something sad about seeing the remains of a much larger, and historically important site. The site was excavated in 平成2年 or 1990.
A popular excavation method in Japan (after the archaeological dig is over) is to place a marble block at the point where the foundation lay. The idea is to allow you to form a visual of what once was. But, it never quite seems to work- you get an idea of the scale of the site but none of the majesty or enormity of what once was.
There is some information about the temple dotted around the ruins, but this information is slightly unnecessary- the information just highlights the size of the construction- giving the dimensions of the temple. There was only 1 sign on its’ history- there may have been more within the museum but that is yet to come.
The site dates back to 894 CE (or AD) and the main temple was a 3 story pagoda that lay within Iga Province and it was famous as a center for learning and for health.
Iga Province or 伊賀国 an exceptionally old style of dividing Japan which was first referenced after 680 CE (天武天皇9年) and was Incorporated in and became Mie-prefecture in Meiji 5 （明治5年 or 1872).
The site is much smaller that it once was and the world has changed around it- but people seem reluctant to allow it to pass into the pages a history without showing the importance of what once was. While slightly harsh, as what remains is extremely scenic, and while it was an extremely important temple which was commissioned but the emperor at the time, none of its majesty remains- it is not even a shell but perhaps a shadow of it once was.
I hope that the museum will tell more of its’ historical significance and give more of a reason why it was resserected but for now my review is as follows:
It’s a nice (quick) walk and it is interesting to see how the Japanese preserve their ruins and archaeological sites but if you are not interested in these things or are looking for a longer walk, I (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) recommend looking and exploring elsewhere. Will I go back? Yes, (I do exercise in the mornings after-all and its’s a nice site) but I cannot recommend it as an attraction.