Sunday, June 29, 2008

It's gift giving season!

It's gift giving season here in Japan....summer and December. People often get bonuses at work and give gifts to people and of course....stores are more than happy to help! Thing is....some of these gifts are rather unusual.

Picture 1) oil. For me getting a package of cooking oil would be similar to getting a vacuum cleaner from a boyfriend...don't quite get it. But hey....a gift is a gift!

Picture 2) You pay more for the special packaging.

Picture 3) A wide shot of the gift section at a supermarket.

Picture 4) Beer!! That is probably a pretty good gift for some people and since Japanese men tend to drink every night this would be appreciated!

Picture 5) Meat...perfect for bbq season!

They also have fish, snacks, coffee, boxes with soy sauce and other sauces, gifts of sweets etc. Oh and people will give gifts of fruit....I'm talking a couple hundred dollars worth of fruit as a gift!! Giving fruit as a gift is really big here. Speaking of students will often bring in apples from famous apple places in Japan that their friends sent them or fruit from special places in Japan.....I'm pretty sure that in Canada we don't send each other fruit in the mail. You want fruit you go to the farmer's market or the supermarket but here people send fruit in the mail!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What a great day!

Well, today my honey and I went into Momochi (expensive area near the sea). We had a great day even though the weather was is "tsuyu" (rainy season) so we couldn't exactly get upset. Anyway, we went to watch "Indy Jones" as it is called over here and then we went to Hard Rock Cafe Fukuoka. My honey loves this place and I like it to...mmm....nachos! Later we went to Starbucks. Of course we went shopping and hit the "jackspot" as my honey has called it (instead of jackpot) at a store. Lately, we have had a hell of a time finding new stickers and memo pads. Every store we have gone to has had the same as the last one but today we tried a store we hadn't been to in a really long time et voila- Great memo pads and stickers!

So we took the train into the city and then a bus over to Momochi and I realized something that I just take as normal but not sure they do this anywhere else. When you are riding a bus and it gets to a red light, the driver turns off the engine. He/she also turns off the engine if they have to sit at a stop for a minute. It is weird. Of course they also have to tell you when they are going to start, stop, turn left or right etc. Basically the driver is talking all the time or the automatic voice is telling you the name of the next stop so it is pretty noisy but then you get to a red light and there isn't even the sound of the engine....hmmm.... Anywhere else do this?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How I got to selling stickers and memo pads from Japan.

Recently one of my best friends asked me "why did you start selling stickers and memo pads?" My first reaction was " jewelry business wasn't going well and mom was pushing me to sell on etsy or ebay...." but then I realized that the road here was much more interesting.

It's 1994-I graduated with a BA in Women's studies and decided to do my masters in sociology. I decided to stay at my university because my favorite professor could be an advisor for my thesis. I was also helping run the women's studies office, was the undergrad and grad representative on Presidential committees etc etc. I was really loving my life. I also became a T.A. which was fab. But....I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I thought about becoming a prof but the politics was not something I wanted to deal with. I basically was lost. I had a dream of opening a business (no internet back then)....I could imagine a big old house room would have a bookstore...another would have aromatherapy stuff...there would be a would be great. This was my dream-to have my own business.

Fast forward to Fall 2006-I finished the courses for my degree and I was really really struggling with the thesis. I changed it 5 times-partly because my one advisor and I couldn't agree on it. I was beyond frustrated. I realized that this degree was meaningless and I quit. The question then became what to do next. The whole time I was doing the degree I was also getting more serious about the business. I had some friends who were studying business etc and they were helping me plan things out. night (it was a Thursday) in late March of 1997 I was on the phone with my friend and I blurted out that I was leaving Guelph (where my university is) and the choice was between Toronto and Vancouver. Since I wanted to really enjoy my life outside of the business too, I picked Vancouver because frankly, it is a little piece of heaven.

So...I moved there in May of 1997. When I landed I thought I had arrived to the place that I would spend the rest of my life (little did I know I would move in a year). I didn't love my main job but that was ok because I was still working with the idea of opening a business. I then got a job teaching English-I really enjoyed it. Then I met a guy-he was a chef and a sailor!! His dream was to go the British Virgin Islands and start a business-well...since my business was going no where fast, I decided "why not?" He said he needed 1 year to prepare before we could leave. At that time,I literally heard a voice in my head say "go to Japan" might as well have said "go to Mars" because I had NEVER imagined moving to a foreign country that didn't speak English. But this voice would not stop.I decided I would go for 1 year to make some money and "find myself" while my boyfriend did what he had to do to prepare for our move to the B.V.I.

I applied and got offered the job I have now. I turned it down because it wasn't near Chiba where my friend lived. Then they offered me crazy jobs which I turned down. I got offered my job again and I took it as it felt like a sign from a higher power. That was the best decision I made. I came to Japan and 6 weeks later my boyfriend and I broke up. I spent the next 4.5 years wondering what the hell I was doing here. Then I met my honey.

When I met my honey I had not only this teaching job but another job at a nursery school that paid $50 an hour to teach kids on Saturdays (plus I worked 2 other mornings there for not quite that much per hour). The money was fab but since the nursery school was almost 2 hours away I had to get up at 5am on Saturdays and I am not a morning person so this was really hurting me but there was no way I was going to quit because of the money. Well....I got laid off because they were changing things around. I cried. Then I decided to open an online jewelry business since I kept getting comments on my jewelry (I only bought online since Japan is crazy expensive and has nothing exciting to offer-not my style). honey and I started that business but it was NOT really working the way I imagined because I had to rely on my honey to do most of the work given the language barrier. So....after about 6months, I started my etsy business because I could be in control. It took off so we shut down the jewelry business as my honey found it stressful to have his job (crazy Japanese hours) and do the jewelry business and I didn't like the feeling of dividing my time between the 2 and besides, my etsy business was doing great!

So that is the long answer to a simple question. It isn't the business I thought I would own. It is in a country I NEVER thought I would move to. It is using something called the "internet" that was not around when I first had a dream of owning a business. But all of this....all the things that led me here is what makes life so exciting. I believe in having goals and dreams but keeping my heart and mind open to possibilities.....that is how I got to selling stickers and memo pads....because I had a dream to own my own business. I couldn't be happier!

Monday, June 9, 2008

It was the size of a small child.....!!!

UGH! I can feel summer coming. I can also "see" summer coming! By that I mean insects....lots of insects. The title of today's blog is a slight exaggeration.....ok....I was at work and walked into the bathroom and on the wall was a spider bigger than my hand (and thick and not like a normal Canadian spider)....I kid you not! I froze...backed out quietly and got my boss. He is the designated bug killer or at least, remover. Even he was freaked by the size of this one. There was no killing this thing (btw-they don't kill spiders in this country and they get upset with me when I do...people happily have them in their house as they eat other bugs etc but my view is if it is in my house it will die) because it would have been like killing an animal. So I'm holding the bathroom door open and he has a mop and he basically pushes it out the bathroom window. UGH!!

When I came to Japan it was in July and it was the first time I saw a fact I saw 6 of them in my apartment my first night. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well that night. I couldn't kill them since I was beyond freaked so the teacher I was replacing, killed them. Thing is, I grew up with the idea that cockroaches equal a dirty house or a Vancouver alley (the only place I'd ever seen them in Canada). But this is Asia and it is normal. Thankfully I only get them about 3 -5 times a year and I'm now a pro at killing them. My 6ft 5 inch honey can't kill them so it is up to me.

Ok...I might have grossed you all out so I will stop!

Friday, June 6, 2008

We hit 10,000 sales!

Well, last night it happened!! We officially hit 10,000 sales!!! Thanks everyone!! We made it to 5,000 March 11th so in just over 12 weeks we doubled it!!!

When I first started my etsy business I hoped but couldn't really imagine hitting 5,000 in one year but in just about 9 months from our first sale, we hit 10,000. Looking back to when I first opened in August.....I was nervous and had no idea what I was doing I just knew I needed to do this as my jewelry business in Japan wasn't working out the way I wanted. We had opened an online jewelry business and I had big dreams but because of language issues, I needed my honey to do soooo much of it and he just couldn't cope with it and a demanding job. My mom was pushing me to sell on ebay or etsy. I love ebay for buying but the thought of selling didn't feel right for me so I chose etsy. I started with chiyogami paper I had at home that was new and I wasn't using and I bought a few other things. It took me about 3 weeks to make my first sale and 5 weeks after that to sell my first hundred. It just took off after that.

When I look back to the day I started this I never imagined that I could quit Fridays from my job. I couldn't have imagined that in less than 1 year it would allow my honey to stay home and work on this business with me and that he wouldn't need to get a job after he was laid off. We are very blessed. This business is a lot of work but it is soooo much fun and I have "met" lots of wonderful people. Thanks everyone!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A walk through fairyland

I just had the perfect walk. I got home from work around 8 pm and it was a fabulous night-a wonderful cool breeze, stars in the sky-the perfect night for a walk. So, I went and got changed, got my honey and off we went. We walk the back roads in this "inaka" (countryside area) so we could hear the water flowing, the wind in the bamboo, frogs croaking etc. Then suddenly near the flowing water we could see little lights-lots of little fireflies. It was amazing! We watched these ones for a while and then continued on our walk. We walked by a little mountain covered in bamboo and through the bamboo we could see tons of fireflies deep in the forest-(this will sound weird) I felt like I had been transported to some fairytale and I was in a magical forest watching was surreal! Then we got to an area of rice fields which are divided by flowing water and on the banks of this "stream" were plants and a few trees and tons of fireflies. Standing there with the moon and stars, the cool breeze, the sound of water , my honey beside me watching these fireflies I realized that this was one of life's perfect moments!


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