It’s been a lovely holiday break, but it’s time to get down to writing in this New Year. Last year was all about getting to Japan. I’ve done that, so it only makes sense that this year should be about writing.
I think I’d like to start off this year’s blog posts by talking about some things I’ve learned to miss in the short time I’ve been in a foreign country. Before you all get mad at me, I’m not going to include things like my family and my dog. Obviously, I miss both of those things. This is a list for the things you don’t realize that you’ll miss. Obviously my list is different from other peoples. I did plenty of research before coming here, but you can never find everything. So, without anymore explaining, here we go. In ranking order…..
- Soup Stock
This is one I didn’t expect to miss. Actually I didn’t ever think I’d be in a place that I couldn’t find this, but here I am.
You know whole section of the soup aisle dedicated to all manner of broths and stocks. It has beef broth, chicken broth, chicken broth with half the salt, organic broths, stocks with vegetables added, stocks made just from vegetables, and many other varieties I don’t care to bore you with. That doesn’t exist here, and I didn’t realize how many recipes I regularly made required that most essential item until I get it any more.
Thankfully you can get a chicken bouillon substitute, so I can still make pot pies and the like. Beef broth, on the other hand, is still something I simply cannot get. I’ve looked in several specialty stores. Not a single bouillon cube has presented itself to me.
God I’d kill for some poutine right now, but you know what you need to make poutine gravy? Do you? Beef broth!
- Buffalo Wings
I blame my husband for missing this food at all, but I do. You can get chicken wings here. They’re delicious. They’re equally as delicious as many things I’ve ever eaten, but most places make the same sort of wings.
Maybe it’s not fair to say I miss wings so much as I miss the sauce. I miss walking into a Buffalo Wild Wings (yes, lame, I know) and choosing from a list of twenty or more different sauces. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
- Un-throttled phone service
Yeah this is totally a first world problem. I’m aware of that. I’m aware of the fact that I was spoiled with my fancy unlimited un-throttled data, but I miss it. Here you get to choose how long your high speed data lasts. I have 5g, which doesn’t last long. For those first glorious gigs the speed is blazing and amazing. After you get through that, it’s not so bad. As you use it, and the gigs start piling it gets slower and slower and slower until you’re lucky to load a webpage at all let alone in a timely fashion. Yes, I’m lame for complaining about this.
- The Library
I am a professed book worm. Everyone who knows me even a little knows that. One of my greatest simple pleasures is wandering aimlessly among the stacks. I love the smell and even the look of all those books waiting for me to read them. This isn’t quite so awesome when you can’t read all of the books your wandering through.
- Food Variety
I love Japanese food of just about every kind, but there is a certain amount of sameness that’s unfortunately prevalent. All of the food is very good, but it’s unfortunately varied. One nice thing about being in the States is that if you want Irish-Mexican fusion in a gastro-pub you can find it. That is in some ways one of its downfalls but whatever. Growing up being able to just go find anything has definitely spoiled me.
Well ok, technically Christmas still happens here. After some thought though, I’ve decided that Christmas in Japan is a bit like St. Patrick’s day in America. It’s an excuse to play around with a culture that you like, but which ultimately is borrowed and have some fun.
I think it’s great that Christmas cheer and spirit is being spread around, but being here and seeing how it’s celebrated has lead me to reexamine exactly what the Christmas holiday is. In short, it’s our equivalent of the Japanese New Year which is a time to go home and spend time with family. That unfortunately means that Christmas has become our New Year for the Japanese people. You know, that holiday where you go out and party?
This sort of Christmas celebration rings very hollow especially since Christmas Eve is the focus of all the craziness and not Christmas day. On Christmas morning, when Adam and I ventured out, nearly every single Christmas decoration had been replaced by those for the New Year. The only remaining decorations were those still in the process of being taken down. That was weird.
- Cheap Beer (That won’t give you a headache that can slay a walrus)
For some reason I cannot begin to understand most likely having to do with food standards laws and the price of importing resources, beer is not cheap. What’s more amazing is that everyone seems to drink a lot of it.
A cheap beer here is generally around 350 yen ($3.50). The places that sell beer for those prices aren’t plentiful and they usually only exist for people just wanting to drink a lot of cheap beer. Not my kind of thing really. Generally most other places start their beer prices somewhere around 550 yen and go from there. That means that a cheap beer is usually around five bucks if not more. Better quality beer generally starts somewhere around the 1000 yen ($10) range and goes from there. If you’re going into an import bar, the prices can really get prohibitive.
The strange twist ending in all of this is that alcohol is strangely cheap. Good whiskies and scotch sell here for nearly half the price I’m used to seeing in the States. People drink that here, sure, but overwhelmingly people drink beer high prices and all.
- Well insulated spaces
This thin directly contributes to number one. Most buildings in Japan are built of concrete. It’s cheap and easy to replace or rebuild. In a culture that has as many earthquakes as it does, it makes sense. It is not, however, a good way to make warm buildings. Add single paned windows, sliding doors, and wooden floors into the mix and what you have, my friends, is an ice box.
My apartment has a great heater. Unfortunately, running it can be a bit of a drain on the electricity bill, and, due to the lack of insulation, it only takes about forty five minutes for the temperature to drop ten or more degrees.
The cold cave effect is wonderful in the hot months though so there’s that at least.
- Being Warm
Yes, living in Texas for the last five years has ruined me a bit for cold weather, but I grew up a hardy northern girl. We don’t get cold like other girls. At least, that’s I though until I moved to Japan.
Normally winter is a mad dash, in warm clothing, between one nicely warmed space to another. The only real time that you have to really deal with the cold is getting in or out of your car or if you have to do something outside for longer than five minutes.
In Japan, there is very much a heat it only if you are using it mentality. You know what, that makes perfect sense. Save energy only heat the spaces you use. That’s a great mentality except that every conceivable space in between is the same temperature as, or sometimes actually is, the outdoors.
Most days you will see me, every student, and every teacher shuffling very quickly to their destination in search of heat. I often feel like a bug hunkered down, running for the warmth to survive. It’s not pleasant.