Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wifi services disrupted throughout Japan!

I am beyond frustrated!! Last year I joined Softbank to get “pocket wifi” which is mobile wifi (see the picture above). This little thing can support 10 gadgets at one time and it has been amazing….until a few days ago.  I woke up the other day, turned on my computer and then turned on my little wifi gadget. Nothing. It didn’t work. My husband spent an hour on the phone with someone at Softbank fiddling with things on the computer. Sometimes it looked like it connected but it wasn’t really connected.  Very strange since it has worked perfectly for more than a year.  I went to work which is in the same city and it worked absolutely fine when I used it on my laptop there. But that night at home, nada…nothing…zip! So, the next day we phoned the company again to complain. While my husband was waiting to talk to someone, he checked twitter and sure enough people throughout Japan were complaining. Still it seemed that no one at Softbank knew what was going on.  I was complaining to my boss about it and he said that there had been nothing in the news about it.

I went home last night and my husband said it had been in the news. Apparently, there is a Broadcasting company called “BS” (I know….WTH kind of name is that?) and they are making a new digital channel and it has completely disrupted all the wifi in Japan. Sometimes I can use it and sometimes I can’t.  Right now, I’m typing this in Microsoft Word instead of directly onto blogspot like I normally do as I’m too afraid of losing my wifi and therefore losing the post. I can’t believe it is ok for 1 company to be able to completely disrupt all the wifi in Japan because it isn’t just Softbank that is having trouble. Emobile and AU customers are also complaining. You would think that since they aren’t able to fulfill their end of a contract that we would be able to get out of it (all contracts here are 2 years) but apparently the contract we signed (which I can’t read so hubby signed it as it is paid via his credit card) says that they don’t guarantee service just that they will do their best. WTF?

So….I guess we will have to wait and see but this is absolute crap in my opinion. I can’t run my business without the Internet. Something will have to change or what will happen to wifi in Japan?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I'm in love with a Kombu snack!

Recently, I've been looking to get my iodine, iron,  vitamins and minerals from natural sources. So I looked into seaweed knowing it is high in iodine. You might think that because I'm in Japan I eat a lot of it....I don't. I hardly eat  it because I'm not crazy about the way most of it is prepared. Yes, I sometimes make dashi (soup base) with dried kombu but really....not that often. And yes, I eat maki sushi, but again, not that often.

About 2 weeks ago when we were at the supermarket we found a kombu (seaweed) and sesame seed snack. I bought it and loved it!  It is crunchy, slightly sweet and salty....absolutely delicious!  But, it was a very small pack and we wanted to find more so we looked on line.  The first thing we noticed is that much of it is made with sugar substitutes which I avoid for many reasons. We finally found one that is made without the fake stuff so we ordered it from a small company in Hokkaido.   It arrived and wow!  It is so delicious!!   Now the challenge will be to eat just a small amount a day cause this stuff is so delicious that it would be easy to just snack on it like popcorn!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My sushi ring was featured on!

Last week I was contacted by a writer for She was doing an article about sushi and crafts and the article came out today!  My ring is the 3rd picture. I was a bit bummed when I noticed they spelled my name wrong and there are  no links to the items they feature so a few of us that were featured put the links in the comment section.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's 11:30 pm so of course I'm outside with my hair dryer!

I can't believe it is already February!!  Speaking of is cold here. Really cold here. It's -2 degrees Celsius which might not sound cold for those of you from Canada and other cold places but whatever the temperature is outside is the temperature inside!!!  Which means when I go to take a bath....I'm naked in -2 degrees and when I go to bedroom is -2 degrees. There is no central heat in my part of Japan even though it is cold enough to snow.

Which brings me to the title of this blog post.  At about 11pm I decided to wash the dishes and so I turned on the hot water ....only there wasn't any. I turned on the cold water-no problem. I checked to see if the gas was working and again, no problem. So I knew the hot water pipe was frozen.  So I got out my trusty blow dryer, plugged it into the convenient outside plug and started to try to heat up the pipe. My neighbour apparently didn't have this problem as he was taking a hot shower. But I'm sure he wondered what the noise was because he peeked outside to see what was going on. I hope he has a hair dryer cause chances are if he doesn't leave the his hot water tap slightly running tonight, it will be frozen tomorrow.

The one good thing about the bathroom being this makes sinking into the big Japanese tub filled with hot water an absolute delight!!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sayonara 2011! Hello 2012!

It's almost 2012 here...only about 4 hours to go! 

After Christmas, I spent 2 days cleaning the apartment. It's a tradition in Japan to clean before the new year. In Canada we call it "spring cleaning" and of course, do it in the spring. But we did it after Christmas since I was having a small party at my apartment. It was a good excuse to really clean the place....and now all the dust bunnies are gone!

So, Thursday afternoon 3 of my students came over for a late lunch (or early dinner).  It was a pot luck and it was yummy!  They brought cheese fondue, lasagna, pasta, "annin tofu" (creamy almond gelatin dessert), "karage" (fried nuggets) and I made garlic cheese bread, 3 kinds of party pinwheels (tortillas with cream cheese and other items rolled and cut) and a mix between a fajita  and a pizza (pizza style fajita?) and for dessert I made a kind of apple pie tortilla with caramel sauce and ice cream. Everything was so good!  They stayed and talked for about 5 hours. 

 But...sometime during the party my throat started to feel funny. The next day I was supposed to go out with my friend- I felt bad but I cancelled as I didn't know if I was getting sick. Sure enough...I don't know if I have a cold or a sinus infection but I'm sick. Thankfully I'm on holidays so I don't have to miss any work but it isn't any fun.

I think my body was trying to tell me to stop running around like a chicken with no head and since I didn't listen...bam! Sick! So....I have to slow down. In fact I haven't done much of anything except watch Columbo on TV. They are having 3 days of Columbo on the mystery channel-thankfully I love Columbo!

2011. Can't say I'm not happy to see this year end. It wasn't a good year for Japan or for me (4 deaths). I do think, to see the silver lining, that I have learned to appreciate life a bit more and that the "ordinary" is actually extraordinary. The simple things we do everyday are actually amazing. Life can change so quickly so we all need to see that there is beauty in the "ordinary" moments of our lives.

Well....I wish all of you a very Happy New Year!!

Sayonara 2011!  Hello 2012! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Ugh! I meant to blog before this...but like many (probably most) people December has been super busy!

Of course we have been busy with out businesses but I have also had 4 Christmas parties at my school-3 class parties (for the little ones) and then 1 big party for elementary school students.  I took some pictures....

First we have pictures from the big party.

We played a "guess how many candies are in the jars" game so the kids wrote down their numbers.

Then the older kids had a game where they had to write down words they could make using letters from this statement "Merry Christmas and happy new year."

Then they decorated cookies!

Then on 3 different days I had 3 class parties. I took pictures from this class party-my youngest students. They are so cute! And their moms came to  help and to play. They decorated pencil cases.

Yesterday, the 24th, we went to my in-laws for yakiniku (grilled meat) . There was a ton of food...lots of onions, cabbage, carrots, green peppers, enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon, different cuts of pork and beef and some seasoned chicken. We grilled it at the table and it was sooooo good!!

Today we went to Kristin's house for turkey!!  There were 3 couples and 5 kids. I met Kristin's friend Christine and  her husband and 2 children and I met Kristin's 3 kids and  her husband. It was sooooo much fun and the food was so delicious!  There was turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, a green bean casserole, sweet potato pie, dinner rolls, a crab and cream cheese dish, cheese and crackers, pumpkin pie, was fabulous!  We listened to Christmas music, sat around the table and got to know one another.  The kids were sooooo cute! They sometimes mixed their English and Japanese....did I mention how cute they are?!!   Well....Tommy loved my husband and since my husband is so tall, Tommy climbed on his back because he wanted to fly high in the I took some pictures.

 I have to say it was the best Christmas I have had in Japan!  I hope all of you are enjoying the holiday season!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My poor tree, new zabuton and I made a new friend!

I haven't blogged lately because I have been busy!  We've been busy with our shops which is great but we are a bit tired and therefore every time I sat down to blog, I just didn't have the energy. 

So...the title of the blog post starts with "my poor tree" and I have to say I'm still not happy about what happened. So about 2 weeks ago my husband emailed our landlord and asked them to please come and remove the dead bushes as they had started to fall down and my assistant who weeds our "garden", aka patch of dirt, wasn't sure what to do with them. It wasn't her responsibility or ours as they were put in by the original owners of the building.  They had been dead for at least 9 years but this year they started falling down so we wanted them gone. We never heard from our landlord but last Monday, while I was in the living room I could hear voices outside below. There were a group of 5 older people wearing hard hats and I was happy as I figured they were here to pull up the dead bushes. But...that is not all they did. They butchered one of our small trees, cut off one of our trees, cut off the neighbours tree and then really pruned our big tree. I actually went outside and told them not to cut it all off and apparently, they kept telling the older guy who was up in our tree not to cut too much off as she (IE me) didn't want too much cut.  It used to be that all I could see out of the side window in our living room was the tree rather than the neighboring apartment buildings which is how I like it. Now, I can see the damn buildings!  I just keep reminding myself that the tree will grow.  I really wish I had some more before pictures to show you but here are a few of both before and after.

This is our "garden" and now we have a blank slate to perhaps do something with. We would like to have some kind of wood deck or patio area for BBQs and what not, but in order to do that we need to build a fence or something in order to have some privacy. No one in our area has BBQs or spends any real time outside so I can only imagine people checking us out as they smell delicious food cooking and hear English being spoken. Also, on the other side of the "fence" (the short white metal fence) kids play there in the summer so definitely don't want to see them or have them watching us. We will figure something out.

Another bit of news which might seem like nothing but we just ordered these "zabuton" and I'm so excited! "Zabuton" are floor cushions. We live a very Japanese life as in we don't have a dining room table so we do everything on the floor in the tatami room/living room. I'm having some high school students over for a little party later this month and I was looking at our sad sorry excuse for zabuton and decided the party was a good excuse to buy some new ones. And really, ours are at least 6 years old and look it! They can't be washed and all the puffiness is gone. So, we went online and found these amazing zabuton. You get 5 in the set, free shipping and all for just under 4000 yen (about $55). The covers are hand dyed and 100% cotton and in "wafu" colors (wafu means "Japanese style").  We decided to get one in each color as I think it will make the room look lovely!

Other exciting news is that I made a new friend! Yes, I know that sounds if I don't have any but the truth is for us long term foreigners who don't live in a huge city, it can be hard to make friends...especially friends who plan to stay more than a year or so.  How we connected is also so ....funny for lack of a better word.  About a year ago or so, Connie from made a comment on my blog. She is an American married to a Japanese man and at that time she was living in Saipan but was planning to move to Japan. I read her blog and posted some comments.  She then moved to Japan but I wasn't sure where. While reading one particular blog post, I realized that she must live close to me because she mentioned the shrine in my city.  So, I emailed her and it turns that while she isn't in my city, she isn't far from it. She asked me if I knew Kristin who does live in my city. I didn't!  So, Connie told Kristin about me and Kristin and I got to emailing and finally we connected last Thursday and went out to lunch. I can't believe that she has been in Munakata for so long (I believe at least 8 years) and we have never run into each other! But we do have very different lives as she has 3 children so her schedule must be closer to a typical Japanese schedule whereas my  husband and I area almost opposite to most Japanese people's schedules. Anyway, we had lunch and then she drove us to the mall and we did a wee bit of shopping and then, as there isn't a Starbucks or nice coffee shop in town, we went to Mr. Donuts to chat some more.  I tell ya, old men stopped and starred at us! I mean, 2 foreign women in the same space....must be a convention!  Anyway, we hit it off and I have to say I'm thrilled to have a foreign friend who lives in my city! Oh and Kristin's blog is here.

So that is my news! For those who celebrate Christmas I hope you are enjoying all the preparations!! Have some eggnog for me!
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