Friday, August 26, 2011

Only in Japan: convenience stores

In the States I think I can count on one hand the number of times I visited a convenience store each year. Since coming to Japan, convenience stores (Conbini) have become as much a part of our lives as rice. I think we visit a combini 3-4 times a week.

"Why?" you ask. Here are the 5 amazing things you can do at a convenience store in Japan.

5-Buy dinner
Yes, even in the states you can purchase food at a convenience store. Hot dogs and mystery meat floating in funky water, sandwiches from before the turn of the millenium. That's what I used to picture when I thought about convenience store meals. In Japan, many people use convenience stores like 7-11, Lawson, and Seico mart to grab a quick lunch. We do too. When we only have a little bit of time between classes around dinnertime, a conbini onigiri (rice ball) or 2 hits the spot.

4-Pay bills
In the states when we needed to pay a bill, we would write a check and mail it in with the invoice portion of the bill. But, Japan doesn't do checks, like ever!
Instead they take their bills to the local convenience store to be paid. Once a month, Stephen takes our phone bill down to Seico Mart near our home. It nice not having to worry about having stamps. And while he's there he can pick up dinner :)

3-Send luggage on ahead
Why go through the trouble to lugging your luggage to your destination when it could meet you there when you arrive? I had never even thought about this as an option before coming to Japan, but Takkubin services are commonly used here and for not to much Yen. to make it even more convenient, conbinis like Seico Mart serve as drop off locations for luggage delivery services. Although we have yet to take advantage of this yet, it's good to know it's literally right around the corner.

2-Buy discount movie tickets
Family Mart has a kiosk to purchase "dokodemo, itsudemo" (any where, any time) tickets for 300 Yen off the standard ticket price. Yes, Please!

1-Pay for online transactions
How do you reconcile a society that is largely cashed based with on that is all about technology? You want to make a purchase online, but many people (these gaigin included) don't have credit cards. Convenience stores to the rescue!
Many things from Plane tickets to Amazon orders can be paid for at the conbini. Recently we have had first hand experience with both of these services. Having done it both ways, I think I like the convenience store payment method the best.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Adventures in cooking: My first REAL lesson

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a sample cooking class I took with S-Sensei to stretch my language and my Japanese cooking ability. I had such a great time I decided to sign up for 6 real lessons.

My first class was yesterday. And rather than ease myself into Japanese cooking gradually like a sane person would do, I learned to make udon noodles and various side dishes from scratch! Turns out everything we made was actually pretty easy to do. The most complicated part of the class was receiving instructions in Japanese. I did manage to pick up some new language concepts and words.
for example,
when your cooking instructor wants you to cut the dough in half, she says "han-bun".
when she wants it cut in quarters she says "yon-bun".
one spoon full is "ippai,"
two spoons full in "nihai".

I was very glad I retained my new words from the last class. "Mazete" is the command to stir, "guru-guru" means to turn around and around.

The other girls in the class were fun to chat with too. One of the girls kept asking me what various phrases meant in English. It was fun to share what little I could with them, since I was usually on the other end of the "how do you say this?" table.

The meal? It turned out beautifully! After we finished cooking, the other girls in the class and I sat down to enjoy the works of our hands.

How did it taste?

Can you guess?

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Slice of Life in Pictures: Evening Service

Every Sunday night, between 7 and 9, our church meets downtown, near Hokkaido University, for evening service.

We hang out

We make dinner

We share a fantastic meal

and we study God's word is small groups.

If you're in the area, come on by and join us.
If you're not, please join us in spirit. :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Only in Japan: Trash Day(s)

Friday was trash day. Thursday night, we'd come home late from something or other, and if we were lucky, we'd remember to drag the can out to the curb. Most of the time I would wake to the tell-tale sounds of the garbage truck crashing and beeping down the street and roll over grumbling that we missed trash day this week. Oh well, there's still room in the can outside, we'll get it next week.

That was then, Before Japan. Now, our lives revolve around THE SCHEDULE and THE RULES. Trash day is no l day a week, it is everyday. And trash no longer is just casually tossed in the main garbage can, it must first be separated into categories and each type of trash thrown away on its specific day.

Before moving, I was made aware of The Schedule and The Rules, but I didn't know the full extent of the madness until we arrived.

The Schedule:

This is a picture of the garbage schedule for the year: color coded, and labeled. Why do we need this much detail in a garbage schedule? Just wait and see...
Trash must be separated into Burnable, non-burnable, plastic, recycling, cardboard, mixed paper and garden waste.

Plastics go out Mondays.
Burnables go out tuesdays and Fridays.
Recycling goes out Wednesdays.
Thursdays alternate between Mixed paper, garden waste, and non-burnables.
Cardboard gets taken to a collection site about a 2 minute walk away.

The Rules:

*Garbage collection is scheduled to occur each morning at 8:30, but will only every happen at 8:30 once in a blue moon, and only after you've gotten used to taking the trash down at 9. Usually on a burnable (smelly) trash day.

*You can not take trash out the night before. If you do, the crows will get to it and spread your garbage everywhere.

*You may not take your trash out the night before, even if your apartment building and a crow proof garbage cage. Why? Because it's the rule.

*If you forget to take down your garbage on the correct day you get to store it in your apartment until the next opportunity. Even if it's the 2nd week in a row you missed plastics-Monday. That's why you have a balcony, and a storage closet outside.

*If you neglect to separate your trash (and someone finds out) your bag will be left in the garbage cage with a red tag. You must then carry your trash back up to your apartment to resort and store it until the next opportunity. (Luckily, we've been spared the garbage walk of shame for the past 7 months.)

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