Opinion: emergency coffee stat

You forgotten to get coffee, now what?

As with any coffee addict, I need coffee to function in the morning, noon, night, any other time I have missed. But what do you don when the coffee jar is empty?

First: DONT PANIC. Convenience stores in Japan have you back, there is usually a coffee machine or pre-done coffees in a hot fridge- the perfect drinking temperature.

As there are many opinions as to what constitutes a perfect cuppa, there are as many options available in pre-done form- I would always go for fresh though.

What would my recommendation be? I hear you didn’t ask, well it would be the black strong coffee from Family mart- it strong, good tasting and cheap.

The only problem you’ll have now is wanting another one- you’re welcome.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

“It’s cheap for Japan”

But is it though? A quick exploration of pricing in Japan

Money, Money, Money- not so funny after all…

Anyone who has either been to Japan or who lives here has heard about pricing in Japan. Many visitors either think Japan is extremely cheap or extremely expensive. Let’s look at that in more detail.

For the purposes of this article, please note the following conversions at time of writing:

  • 1 USD is 108 JPY
  • 1 EUR is 120 JPY
  • 1 GBP is 135 JPY

When you come to Japan, there are many things that you want to see and do and like anyone who has done their research you know exactly what you are going to do.

Upon arrival in Nagoya/Tokyo, you buy an IC card and load it with 5000 yen (500 JPY for the IC card and 4500 to charge it) to prepaiur you for your week there. You travel around the city and each stop costs around 150 yen one way- you make 10 one way trips a day. You see a vending machine and all the drinks are 100 yen so you buy a coke and a bottle of water. You try different foods dotted around town which totals 2000 yen. Next you decide to visit the sites, tickets cost usually 1000 yen each and you visit 3 sites. Finally, you decide to go to a cheap restaurant and get a set menu with rice, miso, and tonkatsu for about 1000 yen.

I have followed the itinerary above and using the total costs, it comes to 7,700 a day. This is a standard amount, and being in Japan for 7 days would cost 53,900 spending money with no gifts. Now this can be done so much cheaper, but this is an average. That 53,900 JPY is 498 USD, 398 GBP, or 447 EUR- which is not too bad as a holiday budget but let’s look at individual items a bit closer.

Instead of travelling to Japan, you live here instead, and you go to the supermarket to buy food, a common every day thing.

You decide to buy rice for 1000 yen, fresh fruit and veg- which sets you back 2000 yen and tofu for 50 yen a pack. That’s a weekly total of about 4000 yen (plus extras).

Which is 37 USD, 30 GBP, or 33 EUR- which is extremely cheap. To sum up so far, food in Japan is quite cheap- which is brilliant but now- technology, how does that fare?

Let’s look at technology to see how that fares.

If you were to come to Japan with your laptop and you realise that you have forgotten your HDMI cable, buying one from the shop would cost you 3000 JPY. Or you realise that you have forgotten your laptop and you go to a second hand store and buy an ‘ok’ one for about 40,000 JPY.

The HDMI cable is 27 USD, 25 EUR, or 22 GBP and that second-hand laptop is 372 USD, 335 EUR or 297GBP (and I’m talking about a 120 Gb, 2Gb ram note book)- which I’m sure that you’ll agree with me is expensive. Or how about you come to Japan and buy 2 switch games for 9000 JPY each (this is not the most expensive games either). That’ll cost you 167 USD, 150 EUR, or 133 GBP and considering in the UK, games are about 40 GBP each, that’s extremelyexpensive.

Finally a word of warning, Japan may be the country of technology and of robots but buying a piece of that will cost you. Food and drink may be cheap but buying lots of it does mount up.

SO that HDMI cable for 3000 JPY is cheap for Japan, it’s just not cheap for anyone else.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

The death of hyousatsu, name plates for homes


Hyoutatsu or name plates for homes are a common sight to see when travelling through Japan. Every house has one and it dies perform a vital role, for delivery services. But even these name plates are diminishing.

Most people only buy 表札 (hyou-satsu) when purchasing a home which leaves the millions living in apartments usually without one, defeating the purpose of them.

Additionally, with the prevelence of social media they have become a security risk (crime is rare but it still occurs in Japan).

Let’s suppose there is only one Suzuki family living in Ise (impossible since the surname Suzuki is like Smith in the west) and they inform the world they’re going to Guam. Well done for them, but their house is now at risk and if a criminal happens upon this, you have a problem.

Another issue is that they make people easier to find. Have a western surname in katakana? You can’t exactly stay hidden (it does stop the door to door Mormons though).

What to take from this post? A word of caution, if you have a hyousatsu (even in the west) be careful with security.

Thank you for reading and as always happy exploring.

Ise City, cooks kitchen

When coming to Ise city, one thing that most forget is food. I know that this seems like a basic requirement, but it is often overlooked.

Just 700m away from Geku (外宮) is a small curry restaurant, which is unimpressive to look at on entry. With a tired Irrashai (いらっしゃい) a friendly atmosphere is open to you.

There is a reasonable selection of food items from shrimp, chicken, pork curry to plain old rice, the menu is not big but it is good.

In addition to excellent taste, prices are very good as well- 650 yen for Chicken Katsu, miso soup, salad, and rice.

The only problem is the lack of a drinks menu- but there is free water. But when in Rome (or Ise in this case)…

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

The problem with learning Japanese at University

For those that have been bitten by the Anime and Mange bug, or those who have fallen in love with the idea of Japan, studying Japanese at university and moving to Japan may be a no brainer but let me ask you one question- if your dream is to move to Japan, what will you do to live?

If you answer is a half-hearted teach or a depressed groan with translation escaping your lips, you may want to rethink your study plans- unless you want to be caught in the ALT/ English conversation school cycle.

Why do I say this? Because of one reason, I’ve seen it happen many times. Japan is interested in internationalisation, at least international communication- it is one reason why there are so many English conversation schools and why so much emphasis is put on English education in the school system. But understanding Japanese is not required for these jobs. All teaching is done via emersion with the Japanese teacher acting as a translator if needed.

Did you see the issue with that last paragraph? Japanese is not needed. This is further compounded with one issue- in order to acquire a visa, ANY degree is accepted.

Let’s say you want to escape the ALT cycle in Japan, and you have studied Japanese the problem when you look for jobs is that most jobs for foreigners in Japan are looking for a specific skill set. Did you degree include programming, engineering, biology, chemistry or anything scientific? No?! You are then looking at entry level jobs or office work.

But what about translation, you may ask. Most translation jobs in Japan require experience in the field you want to enter i.e. medical experience for medical translation, law experience for law translation etc.

What’s the solution? Another degree (this is the option I took)? Or perhaps (if you can) change your degree focus slightly (cultural anthropology or international relation and Japanese etc) to something that includes another skill set. If you don’t and translation doesn’t excite you and nor does being a pronunciation parrot, you’ll be heading back home within a year or be spending even more to fix a mistake.

What do you think? Any suggestions or advise?

As always happy exploring.

Crocks the new fashion trend?

The ‘unfashinable’ item from years past makes a comback?!?!

Think of any brand of shoes you know. There are the must haves, the sports shoes, the ‘I must be seen in these’ shoes, the ‘I need them for work shoes’ and crocs. The unspeakable item from years ago returns and is making a comeback.

The design has never turned many heads in the western worlds and to some extent it has never needed to. They are hardwearing, comfortable and extremly long lasting. There has been a line of chief crocs and it can been seen on many a person who spends hours on their feet each day.

Even for fashionistas, designers such as Pleasures, Christopher Kane and others have attempted to bring a new insight into the world of crocs- but to many it is still seen as a childish and ugly shoe.

But with Ariana Grande rocking a while pair with socks, there is a revival (finally) in the western world, but that’s never been a problem in Japan.

Japanese fashion has always been different- what may be fashionable in the UK and the USA, could be (and usually is) seen as fashion don’ts. But there is one thing to be aware of in Japan, fashion is usually prefectural and sometimes varies by city!

But crocs are worn by all across Japan for several reasons- with the most important being comfort. In Japan, you can go for a short walk to the shops (at least 30 minutes), walk to the bus stop (20-40 minutes one way), walk when you arrive at your destination and be required to remove shoes at school, the office, temples, clinics etc.

For these problems crocs are the answer and will always be the answer for many in Japan. (just don’t try and buy 30cm sized crocs- they don’t seem to exist)

As Always, enjoy exploring cultures.