Category Archives: Daily Life

Public Toilets Can Be Very Public

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of using a public washroom in a public park in Japan, then you’ll understand these pictures.

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The view from the urinal.

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The view from outside. I used the urinal in the middle of the doorway.

Some public washrooms in Japan are so public that anyone could walk by and see you taking a pee.

If you want to know something even worse, try using the public washroom at Kinomiya Station in Atami.  It’s unisex.  One wall has many urinals, while on the opposite wall are toilet stalls.  Men and women both use this washroom.  Also, the doorways are so big that the entire inside of the washroom is visible from the ticket gates for the station.  Anyone can see the men taking a pee.

Also, you may be surprised when in the public men’s washroom anywhere in Japan when a female cleaner comes in without making sure it’s empty.  And it seems no one cares if she’s in there, either.

How would you feel in this situation?

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Filed under Daily Life, Fujisawa, Japan, Kanagawa, Uncategorized

Kindness and Rudeness on the Way to the Nursery

I just had a mostly unpleasant trip to my daughter’s nursery.

It started off with getting on a full bus with no available seats. I was carrying my daughter, and several people looked at me. I stood near the back door for about a minute, then was pleasantly surprised when a young man gave up his seat for me. +5 points!

As I sat there riding the bus, the lady beside me got up at her stop. Keep in mind that I was sitting in the priority seat. There were several elderly people standing on the bus and the seat next to mine was the only available seat. Not one of them sat next to me. This could be for 2 reasons. First and probably the biggest reason is I had a toddler sitting on my lap. I know I avoid those seats. Second reason, and more unlikely, is that I’m a foreigner. This is that phenomenon that affects many foreigners in Japan, the empty seat syndrome. This actually never happens to me on the bus, so I’d say it was my daughter. The worst part was when one elderly woman spotted the seat, went for it, then noticed my daughter and I. She quickly looked away and stood a couple metres away from me looking around awkwardly. -5 points.

The bus ride continued when someone finally sat beside me. My daughter touched her and the woman said it was okay and smiled. +2 points.

Then a man across from us looked over and said she was cute. This happens a lot, actually. +2 points.

After getting off the bus, we were crossing at a crosswalk with an approaching white car traveling on a parallel course with us. He then suddenly turned directly in front of us without signaling, coming about 50 cm from hitting us. I got a good look at him. A middle-aged man with dyed brown hair, kind of mullet style, gold-rimmed tinted glasses, and lots of gold jewelry. There’s no way he didn’t see us. I was furious! -100 points.

Final score: -96

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Adventures at the Hospital

Jay Dee:

This shows a bit of an account of what it’s like to use the hospital system in Japan. Very annoying thing is that the first hospital we tried has an ER that closes at 11 pm. We were told not to use an ambulance unless it’s an emergency. Use a taxi. We did, and we wasted our time and money to go to a hospital that’s closed. We were quite fed up with that, so we did get an ambulance. Glad we did, because there was a possibility of a very serious medical problem.

Originally posted on Foreign Dad in Japan:

The last few days have been a blur.  So much has happened.

I should begin by saying that April had been one of the more difficult months for us, because Tomoe had caught a cold twice in the first half of the month, requiring us to take a lot of extra care of her.  She’d been to the doctor several times, had to stay at home with a very expensive babysitter on the weekends, and stay at a clinic’s nursery on weekdays that she had a fever.  Other times, she went to her regular nursery.  Halfway through the month, she was finally healthy again.  It was great to see her like that.  But then, on April 26th, we went to Costco in a rental car, and this is where the saga begins.

We’re not sure how she got sick, but after spending the day out shopping, Tomoe developed a fever. …

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Filed under Daily Life, Japan

Renting a car in Japan

On Friday, my wife and I decided that we’d rent a car to go to Costco, rather than take the train all the way to the Kanazawa store in Yokohama, dealing with the crowded Seaside Line and a sick toddler, and spending money to have most things delivered.  In the end, it cost us about the same, it was faster, and we could run around and do some other errands, such as take our daughter to the doctor for her stomach virus.

Well, we rented the car in the morning, and it cost us less than 4000 yen for a small car.  We got a Nissan March (could’ve chosen a Toyota Vitz, but I wanted the instrument panel in front of me, not in the middle of the dash) and it was lavender.  Since we were driving only a short distance, we didn’t have to fill it up with gas, and only paid a bit for the gas at the end.

So, when we rented the car, we had to show driver’s license and health insurance.  I have a Japanese driver’s license, so I can only drive in Japan!  They did a check on the car, walking around it to make note of any current damage.  Once all of that was done, we strapped in the baby car seat and went on our way.

Driving in Japan is a bit different.  Although the rules are mostly the same as in Canada, we have to drive on the left side of the road in Japan, with the steering wheel on the right.  This is actually an easy adjustment for me.  The only difficulty I have with the car is that the turn signal and windshield wipers are opposite.  Many streets are very narrow in Japan, and a big problem for me is blind corners.  Far too many of them!  And then there are all the people who stop on the street and turn on their hazard lights.  It’s not easy to get around those cars because they occupy most of the lane.  But otherwise, it’s fairly easy to drive if you have a car navigation system.  We didn’t get one.  Our route was quite direct, so we relied on my iPhone’s Google Maps app instead.

Parking is something I have to get used to in Japan.  In Canada, we’d normally just park in a space driving forward.  In Japan, everyone backs into a parking space.  Easy to get out, but not so easy to get in.

When returning the car, I drove back to the rental shop by myself.  For some reason, I find it easier to drive alone.

Renting a car in Japan is fairly easy, and some places will accept cash.  Most places prefer credit cards, though.  But since I don’t have a credit card, I need to find a place that doesn’t require them.  Where we rented the car, the staff was quite nice.  We’ll probably be renting from them again.  And now, some car pictures!

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Our car for the day, a lavender Nissan March. Yes, I left the wipers on when I turned it off.

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The March is a fairly basic looking car inside. The steering wheel on the right side is easy to get used to.

Have you experienced renting a car in Japan?  Share your experiences in the comments!

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US Navy flights during oshogatsu

The issue of the US military in Japan has often been a touchy one for many people.  Voices against them have been getting louder, mostly when one of the servicemen rapes or murders a local person, resulting in tightening control over the soldiers and imposing a curfew on them.  However, there’s something that is irritating a lot of people, even though the military isn’t setting foot on Japanese soil outside the base.

They are doing training flights or exercises over the central Kanagawa area, which is exactly where I live.  Atsugi base is nearby, so there are bound to be many jets flying overhead.  I’ve come to accept that as normal.  However, January 1st to 3rd is Oshogatsu, the Japanese New Year, and the most important holiday period in the country.  It’s a time spent quietly going to shrines and temples to pray for the new year.  Quietly is the key word.  Around here, and especially the Fujisawa and Kamakura areas with many big temples and shrines, there are thousands of people trying to pray and wish for a good year.  But with frequent booming roars of jet engines overhead, it’s got a lot of people furious.  You’d think they’d tone it down a bit to pay some respects to the local traditions. It seems like I get to hear a jet, plane, or helicopter over my home every 30 minutes.

For a couple of days, many people just want peace.

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Filed under Daily Life, Festivals & Events

How about some wind to go with the cold?

It has been a cold November and December so far.  From what I’ve heard, October was one of the warmer Octobers on record, while November was one of the colder ones.  The Japan Meteorological Agency is predicting that this winter will be colder than last winter.  Last winter was a cold one!  And then today, we had an incredible amount of wind.  Goodbye leaves.

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The wind was devastating to the gingko leaves.

It’s funny how the temperatures we’re getting now are cold to me.  In Canada, this kind of weather, averaging 9 to 14 degrees Celsius, would have been balmy at this time of year.  It’s been extremely snowy and cold in Canada so far this fall.  But here in the Tokyo region, we rarely get snow.  So why is it that I feel so cold?  Of course, today’s wind made it feel very cold.  But even when it isn’t windy, I feel very cold.  I think it has to do with the environment I live in.  This kind of weather would have felt cold in early October in Canada.  However, it would feel warm in December.  It’s all in how you perceive it.  It’s what you’re used to.  By this time, below 0 is the norm in Canada, so above 0 would feel warm.  However, we have yet to feel a significant amount of time at this temperature, so it feels cold.

But another big difference is inside the home.  In Canada, thanks to central heating and good insulation, it’s always warm inside. In Japan, homes are built to allow air to move freely during the extremely hot summer months, but they don’t seem to take into account that it gets cold in winter. No central heating, except in the north.  Poor insulation is a big problem here.  Some people have suggested that insulation isn’t used much here because of the humidity, but I don’t buy it.  Vancouver and Victoria are very humid for half the year, yet they have good insulation.  In the 5 years that I lived in Victoria, I had no problems with insulation.

Inside in Japan, it is cold. This can be alleviated by using kerosene heaters, electric heaters, air conditioners, or kotatsu (tables with heaters underneath).  Some people even have heated floors.  But I think one of the best things is to have some nice hot food, such as ramen, nabe, udon, or curry.  That’ll heat me up.

What do you do in cold winter months to keep yourself warm?

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Filed under Daily Life, Japan, Weather