Foreigner’s life in Japan – Part III: What it’s REALLY like

Walking in the streets of Japan, I am just another Japanese in the eyes of locals.

I still haven’t fully experienced what it’s like being a REAL foreigner here (I mean, a visible one… Because of my Asian background, Japanese people think I’m Japanese.. until I speak of course). So Azam (the only Canadian student at my workplace besides me) has always complained about being treated differently, though he is fluent in Japanese… He is taking the N1 Language test this year.

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Waiting… no more.

Haneda Airport.

As I am typing this, my mother is still not out. Her flight was delayed for several hours from 9:35pm to 12:15am!! This mean no more trains and we have to stay the night SOMEWHERE. Anyhow, will go to the Cathay Pacific counter to see if they are compensating us. What a great start to the GW. WIth the extra time, I could have gone to the after work party.. but gotta get rid of piles of things in my room, plus I should save the party $ for Kyushu. God knows how much I will spend, I already took out entire month’s salary =) Well, at least I got some time to clean my room (swept floor three times), cook, shower, watch some shows… a productive evening indeed.

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What happened to my report.

This is what you get when you fall asleep when typing up the conclusion of your report. Found out this morning- btw, my report was 15 pages long only. Lucky I did not overwrite the whole thing with rrrrrrrrrr (Google Doc autosaves too)... Anyway, at least it's finished now.

Because I did not finish my to-dos last night (report + clean room), I need to rush home to clean up, then go pick up Mom from airport…. so I can’t go to the afterwork party before GW T_T

2 more days till Golden Week!

To celebrate, I bought some cakes for tonight's dinner. The nan bread is from Mos Burger, pretty yum. (to be honest, I have no time to cook, so I buy =D )

Woot! Yeah, I am counting down… I am THAT excited, this is the longest holiday I have in Japan. I know it’ll be crowded, but I am heading to Kyushu, can’t be as bad as Tokyo right? I have been losing sleep every night, adjusting my Kyushu trip plan and browsing for hotels (I have booked them already, but I still want to look for cheaper/better ones). My wish is to stay at a resort with private hot spring in my room and Kaiseki-dinner/breakfast~ Haha, no, I’m just day dreaming.

Bad News – The overnight train that I wanted to take on the way back to Yokohama was already full. Apparently it is pretty popular amongst tourists and locals alike. And pretty impossible to get on unless you reserve well in advanced. Sigh, will I get to take it someday? Perhaps I will make a long weekend trip to Hokkaido sometime in July. 😀 Anyway, so for the last day of the trip, either we leave at 5 pm or stay an extra night in Hakata. Can’t decide, I wanted to stay longer for night view, shopping and Yatai… but an extra night means ~4000 yen / person.

Good News– Supervisor approves of my 2 “vacation” days… because this year’s GW, there are actually 2 work days in between. And I must take day offs in order to go to Kyushu… but apparently, the entire team will be off those 2 days, so haha, 2 extra holidays for me. Oh and I am not going to Beppu別府 (Not really interested in seeing hotsprings.. the colors are different, so what?), instead gonna go see 阿笨與阿占 live@ Cuddly Dominion.


OK, I should be starting on my coop report now.. I haven’t written a word yet, not even the title ;-P See what procrastination is? Oh, and I’m aiming to hand in to my supervisor tomorrow, meaning- an all nighter.. hopefully I won’t get distracted.

Useful Mac Tips for Japanese Language Learning

OK, using these tools doesn’t guarantee success in Japanese learning… look at me for example.

Anyway, one of the things that I love about Macintosh computers is the dictionary feature. You can look up definitions of words easily, via the application Dictionary (duh) or Spotlight search. But what if you are lazy like me and end up neglecting the application? Shortcuts!

What if you can mouse hover on words and with a simple shortcut , a pop up instantly shows up with definitions, pronunciations ? This is perfect! No more launching Dictionary and typing the word yourself.

Well, Google is always so nice and often translates the entire webpage to Japanese for you. But this way you won’t learn because all you see is basically grammatically incorrect English.

1. Look up definitions

No more BS and let’s see how to set it up… ( I learnt about this from my colleague today)

In the Terminal, paste in the command provided below.

defaults write AppleSymbolicHotKeys -dict-add 70 “<dict><key>enabled</key><true/><key>value</key><dict><key>parameters</key><array><integer>100</integer><integer>2</integer><integer>1310720</integer></array><key>type</key><string>standard</string></dict></dict>”

In System Preferences, go to "Keyboard" > "Services". Check the item "Look up in Dictionary" and click on the right end to customize your own shortcut. Mine is "Cmd-Ctrl-D".

You may need to restart your computer before this step (I didn't). Next, launch Dictionary... Go to "Preferences" and make sure "Japanese-English" dictionary is at the very top. If not, simply drag it up.

Now you're done. Just go to anywhere (websites, email, doc, etc) with Japanese words... You can hover on the target text (no need to select), hold down your preset shortcut. and the pop up will show up instantaneously!

2. Listen to it!

I’m sure many have known and used this Speech feature. I like this feature and use it quite frequently.

Open "System Preferences"> go to "Speech" > In the "System Voice" dropdown, make sure "Kyoko" (the female voice for Japanese) is selected. Also check the item "Speak selected text... key is pressed" below. You are free to modify your shortcut key.

If you don't have Kyoko installed, you can select "customize" from the dropdown menu and install the voice package. It around 300MB, I think... After everything is set up, you simply select Japanese text and hold down your shortcut. Kyoko would read it out with her gentle voice!

Another useful application is to let Kyoko (or any other voice) teach you how to read lyrics of a foreign song. For example, I have used “Yuna” to read out some Korean pop songs. If it happens to be a rap song, just adjust the “Speaking Rate” to “fast”. 😛

Oh, and try to use “Kyoto” to read English text… see what happens. I thought it’d just be English with Japanese accent, but…

–Again, the above tools can be applied to any languages that the Mac supports, as long as you’ve install the corresponding dictionary/voice pack. Happy learning!

Super Quick Delivery from Amazon JP

Ordered this early morning (3am) on Sat…. and it arrived on Sunday 10pm!

But I didn’t have time to pick up until today after work. Picking up parcels from convenient store is really simple… But it costs 315 yen extra, which I don’t mind.. at least I didn’t have to wait for the postman to deliver.

Loppi Machine at Lawson Convenient Store

Amazon would send an email after the package arrives the convenient store the buyer specified, on the email includes Order number and Confirm number. Just key those into the Loppi machine, and hand the receipt  to the cashier for payment. However, only small items can be delivered to convenient store and use the COD payment method. Which is why I hesitate to buy a rice cooker and foldable bike =( The delivery for small electronics items, is so fast and painless that I actually wanna get an external harddrive (my laptop keeps prompting about low startup disk space) and some electronic accessories from Amazon now… BTW, Loppi machines can also be used to book flights, concert tickets, museum tickets, etc. Actually, the Doraemon Museum, 三鷹の森ジブリ美術館, and SUMO matches all required ticket reservations via Loppi Machines. Yup, I wanna go see those three… but they need to be booked a month ahead. SUMO matches are live in Ueno from early May… I would like to watch, but tickets are very pricy… 3500yen is the cheapest, while the most expensive can easily go over 15000 yen! Also, we need to enter a draw for the SUMO tickets.. didn’t know it’s this popular (all of my colleagues haven’t seen SUMO live match before).

Unpacked Yoobao Power Bar (4815yen total)..

Size of my Nexus S, but half an inch thicker. It’s quite bulky and heavy. But i can’t complain about its 11200mAh! Comes with 11 connectors…

And I’ve already lost one of the connectors (Samsung, don’t really care)…. it dropped and got under my bed and I didn’t want to grab it (too much dust underneath). All I need are the mini-USB and the micro-USB anyway. It should also come with a AC power brick, but I couldn’t find it anywhere!! It’s stupid cuz I can only charge it from my laptop using USB now. I will leave a comment to follow up with the seller later.

It comes fully charged. Can be used as flashlight also. A button to check battery status… Pretty useful for travelling/hiking/camping.

What sucks is my camera cannot be charged using this! Even though it has the micro-USB outlet, it’s only for transferring photos only… Lame. But my Nexus S, Pink Phone, and Pocket-Wifi can all be used. At least that way I can stay on-line during my Kyoto trip and don’t have to worry about dying battery when listening to music. I will bring it to work to observe how it performs in the next few days… afterall, it isn’t cheap.. almost 50 CAD.


After work, I also went to shop for N-san bday(this wed) gift…

What I bought from Yokosuka chuo, ONE-PIECE soap bottle, panda earphones and strawberry neck cushion.

The soap bottle is for N-san, she loves ONE PIECE… And I bought the strawberry cushion for my nightbus rides in the near future (Kyoto and possibly Wakayama :D)

Also bought strawberries (some fresh fruit finally)… during grocery shopping. 500 yen for two packs.. the price is reasonable for the Japanese standard I guess.. I was actually gonna (but didn’t) buy 2 mini watermelons (fist size), also 500yen.  Anyway, notice on each pack of strawberries , the name of the producer/handler is printed. So I wonder if I can complain to that person if my strawberries aren’t sweet?

Sorry, this post isn’t about how I got lucky yesterday… because I don’t have much time today… hopefully it’ll be posted before weekend.

Bits and Pieces: …

A week goes by so fast, it’s weekend already. Phew!

I remember reading the Coop pre-departure document (see bottom of this webpage)…which says it’s typical for students to hype up during their first few weeks and gradually they would become homesick and depressed… I’ve survived for 2 months, woot! But I am already feeling a bit worn out from mental stresses.. There’s really not much of a cultural shock for me, since I’m used to Asian cultures. Living alone isn’t a problem either, I’m loving the freedom. However, language barrier is a big problem for me. Though my colleagues are all very nice and would translate their conversations for me as much as possible… and I would feel bad about it. The Japanese that I’ve learnt really only suffice for greetings, introductions and simple phrases. For instance, even if I could answer a question in Japanese, when the other person replies, I would be lost and confused.. Hence it’s mostly just one way communication. I’ve always wanted to try Yaki-Tori, but I hesitate every time I walk pass one… because I wouldn’t know how to order ! (and I’m sure the owners mostly likely can’ speak English) Guess I’d have to wait for somebody to bring me out for that *drooling* Don’t ask me why I don’t speak Japanese with my colleagues… it is impossible with all the workplace terms at my current noob level. I do, however, try to speak it here and there (though it may take me 15 secs to process a short sentence). At the end, I just feel disconnected from the outside world other than my workplace… Argh, I hope this feeling would subside eventually.

Anyhow, negative things aside… Here’s what I had for dinner after Japanese lesson in Yokohama.

Omelette Rice!! One of my to-eat-items. Looking at the 3d menu makes me drool now. How can eggs with rice have these many variations!?

I found a underground gem last night… On B2 floor of Yodobashi (a electronics store) around Yokohama station, there were many great+cheap restaurants- plan to try them all, one at a time =) I always look forward to my Japanese lesson, because I get to finally have decent meal other than Miso soup Udon!

Omelette rice here came with different sizes: SS, S, M, L. L is humongous- like 3.5 bowls of rice with 6 eggs. SS was just 1.5 bowl rice plus 3 eggs. Eating one L size omelette simply means one has reached their weekly quota for eggs. I ordered a dinner set for 1600 yen (not cheap, but well worth it… my average homecook dinner costs 150 yen). It comes with…

Onion soup, salad with ham, rasberry soda.

My baked SS sized Omelette rice (with loads of cheese+cream)... it was devine!

Thought I would not be satisfied with SS size, turned out I had to forced my last bites in… The cheese was just really heavy, but that’s how I like it =P

Ice-cream with fruits and yogurt

After such a fulfilling meal, I went taking a night walk in town… You know, just hanging at the few stores that remained open.

Will buy this before I come back...

Must have item for apple fan boy XD

BTW, the pink phone is my current cell phone in Japan (excuse the white sticker, which I didn’t peel off cuz I plan to resell it after use). It’s the only Android “free” phone available with a 2 year contract. OK, and it is just a piece of crap, honestly, NO HEADPHONE JACK? I didn’t expect this from a Japanese phone. However, the camera’s image quality I’d have to say is better than my Nexus S. =.=;; I barely use the phone anyway, mostly just for messages, web browsing (back up when my Nexus S ‘s battery dies) …

iida's InfoBar was my dream phone... but I was scared off by its price. It's an old phone and why didn't the price go down !!!

Speaking of my Nexus S sucky battery life… I was worried that my phones won’t last during my next weekend’s Kyoto trip. I wouldn’t be able to charge my electronic devices since I would not be staying in any hostels (mostly likely at a 24 hr MacDonald’s or Manga Cafe). So I made my first purchase from Amazon JP just now–

Yoobao Power Bank 11200mAh external battery... 4500 yen. Enough to feed juice to an iPhone for 7 times in one charge.

Since I’m usually not home ( and I don’t want the postman to come ring the bell again..), so I got it shipped to a convenient store downstairs… should be arriving on Monday. It would be really useful (if it works.. it’s made in China… not so sure about the quality), because my phone’s battery can barely last half a day with wifi on.

Clumsy me is back. This morning my phone’s off so the alarm didn’t ring and so I got up late for work… (got up at 7:10am, arrived 30 mins later than usual).

And going back home today… I somehow got on a wrong bus (can you believe that?), all the way to the Yokosuka Hospital… and I had no idea where I was (my pocket wifi’s dead), but I eventually got on a random bus that took me to a random train station.

It’s 3:51am now. And I may go to Harajuku ( to see Sakura @ Meiji Jingu temple)..  if I can wake up early in the morning… Forecast says it’d be raining tomorrow, again! Ugh!


Was watching the Hong Kong Chief Elective debate tonight, looping the funny parts over and over. It’s more entertaining than any Jdoramas or comedies. The candidates are retards, and the show itself is a JOKE. HK citizens don’t get to vote in the election anyway, is there even a point in having a debate… besides exposing their lameness? It’s worse than any chinese debates that I’ve watched or participated in. But again, politics is the same everywhere- there’s no real democracy. I just wish Hong Kong can hang on for another five years… although, letting the public vote does not guarantee electing a capable CE. After all, they all just turn into puppets overtime.

I wish it’s translated into English, that way the international community can also enjoy the show.



MC 仁:陪跑,但能夠帶動氣氛。可惜無提到政綱,只顧質問另外兩位-俾位佢地遊花園。主線講普選-講真,一切已成定局,何不放眼現在或是未來5年?平反六四是重要,但解決燃眉之急的種種社會問題不是更逼切嗎?也許,他也是一味懂得喊民主,卻無實際建樹。


Hong Kong is doomed, no matter who gets appointed “elected”. 香港人唯有自求多福。


Bits & Pieces: White Day and Work Strike

This is my latest creation: Frozen wrinkled Daikon (white radish)

Oh, and frozen expired tofu too.

I have simply bought too much food in my previous grocery shopping spree. Since I haven’t been cooking much in the past week, most food was just lying helplessly in the fridge… forgotten and expired. Some (even the pumpkin) became frozen.. Remember the grapefruits that I bought early last month? there are still 2 left… I cut one up this morning, barely any juice left. As I’m writing this, I suddenly remember the bananas.. they must have turned into charcoals by now.

Anyway, I tried to not be もったいない (wasteful) so I dumped all the expired goodies into my miso soup for lunch today. Tasted as good as they were fresh, except for the radish…. no matter how long I cooked it, it was still crunchy like those pickled ones you find the supermarket… Is it supposed to be that way? I was dreaming of those steamed soft melt-in-your-mouth radish with soy sauce.


White Day in Japan was several days ago. As a tradition, guys would give gifts to ladies, as a return for the Valentine’s chocolates. It’s a custom that ladies at work would give chocolates to their male colleagues on Valentines day, to show gratitude. The Jap term for this is 義理チョコ. What I received from some colleagues… though I did not give them any chocolates :-<

Some chocolates from AB-san

Mamadors from O-san, they are just white bean cakes. They are bought from Shinjuku... Japanese really know how to do business.. with all these different "editions" of the same sweets.

Home baked cookies from Mayor-san.. he bakes way better than I can lol

Now I really wanna buy a oven, to bake things and share the edible ones with my coworkers. And I need a rice cooker too.. I am very sick of udon/spagetti now. With a rice cooker, I can finally eat Natto with rice and make congee once in a while too! Plus rice cookers save so much cooking time! A bowl of hot rice, Natto and some soy sauce can satisfy me!

Saw these on Amazon JP- I love how Amazon can deliver to convenient stores, so I can pick up after work.

炊飯器 3合 一人暮らし 1380 Yen! for a mini rice cooker

KOIZUMI ホワイト 1582 Yen! for a toaster oven

Can a 1000W toaster oven bake anything other than toasts??


Oh and also  on White Day, our office had a worker’s strike! It was rumoured to begin on Monday, but somehow got delayed.

So what is a strike really like in Japan?

It's 5pm and office was almost empty.

WTF right? Yeah, a strike in Japan (or maybe just in my company) is basically employees have to leave work by 5pm. Which is a normal time for North Americans to leave work (assuming arrive work at 9am). Plus, many employees here arrive earlier than 9! Some didn’t even want to go, as they had unfinished work. =_=;;

The higher people settled things fast too, people were back to their “normal” work hours the next day haha

So Canadian teachers who are on strike now.. consider yourselves “lucky”, because you don’t have to work at all(besides protesting on streets)!


Some random musings…

I am craving for steaks and pizzas recently. So one day after work, I went for a American restaurant, hoping for a steak fix. I saw they were advertising with gigantic posters of meat. I walked in and ordered the same thing.

I was stupid.. they weren't steaks at all.. they were just hamburgs (hamburger patty). Argh... and every bite was soft and oily. Portion was little too, each piece is half size of my palm! I needed something to rince the fattiness in my mouth and fill my half empty stomach... so I went for crepe afterwards -_- But yeah, Japanese love hamburgs. And I guess if I really want steaks, I'd better go to some fancy steak houses.

For my Pizza fix, I saw this All you can eat Pizza/pasta place in Yokohama the other day... They have many flavors, even sweet ones such as "chocolate banana".. can't wait to try!

Chicken-katsu set dinner at 大戸屋. Went there twice this week. Economical with good portion and I LOVE the plum sauce and sweet radish on top of the chicken. I'm usually stuffed after eating here.

When lining up to order at 大戸屋, the waiter usually ask how much rice the customer want. I didn’t know how to express different sizes in Japanese, but lucky me! The guy lining up in front of me ordered the same thing… And I copied what he said haha- “Omori 大盛り” If he was a girl, then I’d probably end up saying “Small bowl please” lol The bowl was big, but wasn’t filled… Useful meal size phrases I found on a site.

Although 並(nami), 大(dai) will works on most of the place, but others would depend on each restaurants.

  • For Small – 小 (shou), ミニ (mini), 半分(hanbun), 少なめ (sukuname), S (エス) …
  • For Normal – 並 (nami), 普通(ふつう), 中(chuu), M (エム)…
  • For Big – 大 (dai), 大盛り (oomori), 多め (oome), L (エル)…
    • For Special Big – 1.5盛 (ittengo mori) (sukiya invented it)
  • For extra Big – 特盛 (tokumori), 特大(tokudai), …
  • For extreme Big – 鬼盛 (onimori), (超)巨大盛 (chou kyodai mori), バカ盛り (baka mori), 激盛り (geki mori), メガ盛り (Mega mori), ….


Finally, I’m currently planning a Hanami(花見) weekend trip to Kyoto in early April. Night buses are cheap (7600 yen) round trip.. but all hostel rooms are full! !! I’ll try my luck again, if not I’d delay the trip for one or two weeks.. hopefully the cherry blossoms aren’t gone yet!

Been raining alot lately.. if weather is nice tmr, I’d probably go to Akiba and Ueno.. to check out ricecookers and cameras for my bro.

Love at second sight.

In my last post, I ranted about how gross Mentaiko (明太子) was.

It's not you, it's me...

The way it looked, the way it tasted… Eating it with Natto was plain nasty, and I was sure it was all Mentaiko’s fault.

Coming home tonight, I did my usual brainstorming exercise on what to eat for dinner… and I saw the left over sac of Mentaiko. Damn, I thought, and it’s expiring today. I had a dilemma of whether to chuck it away or not. But it cost 250 yen! So 125 yen right here…. with this money, I can buy an item from 100 yen store with 20 yen surplus! OKAY, FINE. It’s like getting on a scary coaster, you just gotta do it.

Since I was trying to save money and had ONLY a piece of bread for lunch (130 yen! I hate counting how much I spend, it’s worse than counting calories…  ), my stomach told me I needed A LOT of meat, or carbs- which ever is available. I took out the only 2 packs of udon left in my fridge and gave Mentaiko a second chance..

Ingredients: One sac of Mentaiko, 2 packs of Udon, some Onion and Golden Needle Mushrooms

Cut up the stuff and fry the onions with golden needles...

Put the Udon in and squeeze out the Mentaiko (think milking a cow), don't waste a tiny bit! It's 125 yen!

Fry 'em! I have no butter, so I added some milk in... otherwise it would be too dry.

Voila! An easy 15 mins dinner... Mentaiko at its finest!

Thank god I had 2 packs of Udon… It was so savoury that I licked up the whole pan, just to not waste a single bit of fish roe! The udon and Mentaiko just complements each other! Since Mentaiko is already marinated and full of flavours, it’s not necessary to add any salt at all. I am in love with it now. Gonna buy more after I get paid and try to eat it in different ways. A few ideas I have now…

1. Eat with crackers/toast

2. Pan fry plain Mentaiko (inspired by the burnt bits on the rim of the pan, was sooooo good)

3. Mentaiko Tofu salad

After a good meal, gotta drink some plum wine, cheers 😀


Snow view from office.

WTF, I thought Spring was coming since it kind of warmed up last week. Yet it started snowing today!!! Not the flaky type too… Plus the strong wind, I almost froze to death this morning walking to the station… This must be a rare case because I saw many of my colleagues taking photos throughout the day. I hate snow, I just do.

A parking lot of bikes at a nearby apartment

Damn, I want a bike. The cheapest I see is 7000 yen...


Yesterday I went to check out a Foreigner Association close by the Yokosuka Chuo station. It was my lucky day! I was just gonna visit the office to ask about Japanese classes. I got there 5:45pm and there was a class starting at 6pm! Apparently there’s no registration involved… There were 3 students including me, and 4 teachers LOL And it cost only 1000yen for a term (3 months, weekly)!! So it’s pretty much private lesson and costs close to nothing. I checked out the schedules of other classes (different locations, but close by) and there are only night classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday. IS THIS PERFECT OR WHAT? I am busy on Wed (badminton) and Thurs (Jap@ Yokohama) anyway…  So I will go to ALL classes on those three days from now on! I swear I’m gonna work to hard on Jap.. and watch only Jap dramas XD

So one of my ‘classmates’ – a girl of from Shanghai… apparently, her husband works at my company too! He was an intern before and became a fulltime last year. They live in a dorm a block away from mine! She’s been in Japan for a year, and she can converse in Japanese. She said her husband did it in just 3 months!


Some good news,

  • My credit card application got approved, so I can soon pay bills with my Jap card (no need to worry about 2% transaction fee using canadian cards)
  • I MAY get paid on March 9th, so if I can survive one more week, it’d be all good (plus my supervisor said he would lend me $$)
  • Since $ is “no longer” an issue, I will stick with my weekend travel plans (Roppongi 六本木 for an interactive design exhibition, and Meguro目黒 for two museums: Parasites and Gajoen(雅叙園).