Awareness: vaccine

This week I along with one of my colleagues went to a clinic and got the winter flu vaccine. The winter flu is said to be exceptionally terrible this year and it requires, in some cases, an entire week off work- no thank you.

As part of the visit I had a chat with the doctors and I need further tests. The ironic thing is that one of my awareness topics (diabetes) is something I am now being tested for along with hypertension (high blood pressure).

The vaccine costs ¥3300 (regardless of insurance) and an extremely common side effect is a localised rash and fatigue, both of which I had.

I would recommend getting the vaccine if you haven’t already had it. Additionally, if your at a clinic, spend an extra ¥1000 and get a diabetes test.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Quick note, my laptop has broken (thank you window’s update) and is stuck in a boot loop, and my recovery disk broke, so posts may be slower or shorter for a time.

Christmas: special drinks, for children

Japan and Christmas are a wonderful match, especially when Japanese culture is added to the mix. Partying, even having a dinner party, is an expected part of any festive celebration but why should the adults get the special drinks- won’t anyone think of the children?

Okay this sounds weird but don’t worry children, the soda industry has your back. Firstly, these drinks are not cheap but they are covered in colorful plastic packaging with Doraimon and other characters. There is also Appletiser, which I do like but is still full of sugar.

People usually buy these drinks for either the Christmas party of for New Year’s eve/day celebrations at an extremely cheep 1000 JPY a drink (or 10 USD).

This section is also brilliant for the non-drinkers (me) wanting a social life- just a little one though.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Christmas: Pepsi?

December the month of xmas

Have a grape Christmas

Eve though it’s now December I still protest Christmas due mostly to the fact I’m in Japan. That does not mean I’m going to stop trying strange things.

Enter stage left: grape flavoured Pepsi. I know what your thinking, like OMG I can’t believe you bought that. But believe it or not it was really nice.

Imagine a mix of Pepsi and grape, it’s the ronseal of combinations. It’s refreshing and goes brilliant with ice. I don’t quite know how it’s a Christmas product but it gets my thumb up.

If you can do try it but if you can’t, you already know what it is like.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Opinion: why?

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.

Review: Books Arude

So many pretty books

Books arude is a hidden gem in the Minowanakamura district of Nabari or in Japanese 箕輪中村- which well off the beaten track for all visitors but for locals it is a well loved book store.

The store has a great range for a book store in the countryside but luckily for me it focuses not just on books bur stationary, games and seasonal -products.

One of the pleasing things about this store is the attention to detail, all rows of books, for example, are set up in such a way to dray your eye to the row ahead.

One of the main focuses for this book store seems to be books for learners i.e. books for elementary, middle, and high school students and more importantly books for the JLPT exam (which I have yet to sit….moving on).

The other focuses for this bookstore are magazines, short novels and stationary. The problem with this store is that it is isolated and, to be quite honest, once you have been to one book store, you have been to them all.

Do I personally like this bookstore, yes (it has books) and more importantly it local for me.

Alas, if would you like something a bit more unique or something just a bit, well, more- I would recommend going to a main bookstore (Maruhan) in either Nagoya or Osaka. This book store is good for locals but not worth putting you-self out for if you are either nor in Iga, Nabari, or located just inside Nara prefecture.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Opinion: it’s coming

On the 22 of November Frozen 2 is being released and I hate to say it but it does look good.

Regardless of this, the advertising and promotion has scarcely started but there are hints of its’ coming: case and point- Aeon.

What I love about this promotional stand is that it consists of just cakes and Japanese treats and there is nothing long lasting on sale.

What I enjoy the most is that its’ release seems mostly unknown or more likely is being ignored by my Japanese colleagues that have children.

When looking into the products in more detail, they are contain quite a few artificial ingredients and all are highly processed, high in fats, sugar, and calories. The impression this gives is along the lines of enjoy being lazy while eating all the calories. Nutrition and health are not as important as people buying the products (none of which were being bought).

Perhaps I was being a bit harsh- there are bottles of green tea that also are decorated with Frozen 2 advertisements, along with sweets, chocolate and ice cream- I have yet to see an action figurine prior to release. I guess that is to come and just before Christmas/ New Years’s in Japan (when children receive money to allow them to buy things with called Otoshidama [お年玉] ).

Let’s just hope there is no song which will be repeated for months (although I can still enjoy let it go- when I want to listen to it and not being forced to).

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Blanchul chocolate mint bites

It’s time for another strange mint chocolate flavored review that I found while shopping.

These mint chocolate biscuit bites are made by Bourbon and are just that- a bite. However, when you first try them, you do get a great taste of Coco and mint accompanied with a plastic after-taste; which is not normal. After reading the ingredients, I can only assume that such an after-taste comes from the use of butter and shortening.

If this product was made within the EU, there would be a list of E-numbers a mile long. In Japan, however, you just get the full ingredient list. A tip for those who are health conscientious: if the ingredient is in katakana, it is probably something you should avoid. For example, マガリーン (margarine), and ショートニング (shortening) are heavily featured on the packaging along with ホエイポウダー which is whey powder. This product is fine and thus has a kanji (which was not used on this occasion) which is 乳清 which literally means pure milk.

Would I recommend the product- considering the fact that I did eat all of it, consuming a pointless 225 kcals- I’ll use the German word Jein (yes and no). It tastes okay but doesn’t leave an impressions and passes without comment.

For this product, try it if you want, but don’t expect to love it.

Thanks for reading and happy exploring.

Review: 芭蕉翁記念館 or Basho Memorial Museum

A extremely nice outside

While walking around Iga, I saw the Basho memorial museum and decided to visit and it was an interesting visit but I need to make my first warming:

If you are not proficient in Japanese, please do not visit.

The entire museum is in Japanese, both old and modern, and it the hall offers no help for non-Japanese speakers.

The displays did show some of Basho’s writings, along with pre-modern renga and haikai literature along with giving the modern Japanese equivalent nearby and was quite interesting. The problem was the display. Tickets cost 300 JPY and there is only on room which you can enter.

The books and small items on display were extremely good, better than they had any right to be. The concept of Basho is extremely important to Iga, as he was born in Iga. The park grounds do offer 2 more basho sites, which are a lot more interesting to look at.

Final thoughts, a good place to visit if you are good at Japanese. If you are not, consider purchasing a book or item- you will get more enjoyment out of it.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Product: Plus Balance

A short review of the “plus balance” health drink

A short review of a new health drink that has hit the market

As I was travelling to work, I came across a new health drink while I was looking for a tasty protein shake. As this new one had a good amount (8 g), I decided to try it and I have to say, its not bad.

Firstly, this was bought from Lawson and they offer the drink in banana and strawberry flavors. When opening the product, it looks rather like a milky coffee but without the expected caffeine hit- I was only slightly disappointed.

Surprisingly, it actually tasted like real strawberries and not artificial strawberries- which was a win- with a slight soy taste. The drink also contains added vitamins and minerals which I did like the idea of.

A slight negative was the amount of sugar in the product but as it was part of my lunch, I didn’t mind as much.

If you can, please check it out- I recommend it (as long as your not allergic to anything in it).

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Hattori stationary story

Review: Hattori stationary story

A small local business that caters to all needs

In Ueno-shi, Iga and within sight of Ueno castle (review to come), is a small shop with many hankos outside of it. The shop is located next to a cram school (塾 in Japanese), and opposite the city hall and it is a brilliant place to explore.

Firstly, they do have information available in other languages so strict Japanese in not required to shop here. Upon entry, you are greeted with a multitude of products- a small slice of heaven.

When you explore further, you can clearly see the displays of traditional Japanese stationary alongside more modern western stationary. The Japanese stationary is a brilliant display of materials for calligraphy with a wide choice of inks, brushes and paper/ writing boards.

In addition to the obvious displays, the back-wall is covered with small Japanese knickknacks of dolls, kami, and calendars- ensuring that the shop caters both to the local community and to tourists alike.

This is a shop where I have spent quite a bit of money as they have brilliant sketching supplies along with a lovely selection of traditional Japanese paper which is brilliant for gifts.

If you ever get the change, please do check this place out (and they currently offer a 50 yen off ticket for your second visit), I highly recommend it.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.