Gaijin Housewife in Japan

Bringing you every day life in Japan to your part of the world.

Friday, 26 February 2010

This Week's Ikebana and Doll's Festival Dolls

Yesterday was Ikebana day. It was such a beautiful day that I headed in the direction of my teacher's house early and went to the big park near her house for a walk. There were a lot of people doing the same thing as me.

This kind of Ikebana is called Nagere. It doesn't use a regular kenzan, you have to balance all the branches in the vase and use hidden techniques to stop them moving around. It can be very frustrating if you move the vase and the branches are not secure, the whole thing can collapse.
This particular vase is quite easy to use though as it has ridges inside which help the stems to stay put a little more.
We used peach blossom and Nanohana again. This is preparation for the test next weekend.  Today some of the blossoms have actually flowered which is great.

So here is what I did

And here is what my classmate did:

And here are both together, the photos are terrible today as we didn't want to move the arrangements for fear of them collapsing.

And here is afternoon tea. Today was a strawberry mousse cake and a frothy strawberry hot drink. 

Also, our teacher kindly set up her Doll's Festival Dolls for us to see. It has 7 levels which is the biggest kind. I always find it very impressive. All the drawers and things all open too. Flash!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Japan and skating mania

So far in the winter Olympics we have had extended coverage of Ski Jumping, speed skating and curling. Japan's curling team even has a snazzy name: "Crystal Japan". Since it is a reasonably obscure sport, hours and hours of TV has been devoted to explaining the intricacies of the game so that we can appreciate it more as there is nothing else on TV when they are playing. An interesting thing I saw yesterday, was that even one hair on the ice can send the stone in a funny direction, so whilst we are all sitting at home thinking we could do curling too, if we had a pair of slidey shoes and a broom, there is in fact a lot more to it.

Today, many many people in Japan will be glued to their TV screens to watch the start of the women's figure skating.

In case the rest of the world didn't know it, Japan IS going to win a gold and silver medal this time. Well one would almost assume that was true from the media coverage so far of the two main medal hopes: Mao Asada and Miki Andou. I didn't realise until yesterday that Japan has a third skater,Akiko Suzuki in the Olympics but she has been almost ignored as she is not a medal prospect and is not a photogenic as the other two.

On Monday we had extensive coverage of the men's figure skating when Takahashi won a bronze - thankfully.  I wouldn't want to be a Japanese medal hope that came home without a medal!

I am not a big fan of the skating myself, but yesterday I saw a fantastic clip of Plushenko skating to Tom Jones' Sex Bomb. It made me laugh. Here it is:

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Getting crafty...just a bit

 I am certainly not going to be the next "Charisma Housewife" but during our quarantine, I found I finally had some time to catch up on a few jobs I had been putting off. Things like the ironing....and some patching up.

I have a lot of merino wool tops that I love wearing in the winter. They are all ones that my mum has sent me over from NZ and have funky designs on them.

Unfortunately, somehow, some moths got at one or two of them last summer (when I was battling with bugs of all kinds and sizes, though mostly giant sized, every day). So I was devastated to find that one of my favourite tops had also been a huge hit with the moths. So after reading up on how best to deal with the holes, and considering my sewing skills are limited to buttons and hemming pants, I decided to go with iron on patches. I found some really cute and very reasonably priced ones from this shop on Etsy.

Then it was just a matter of getting a bit crafty and channelling my "inner designer" - who is usually either asleep or on vacation. The actual "ironing on" process was really really easy.

So I "salvaged" a top and a cardigan as best I could. What ever it was that ate my top seemed to enjoy the cuffs in particular so that was a bit tricky and I was unable to cover all the holes, but it is a lot better and favourite top should last a lot longer now.

So here is what I did using iron on flowers:

And here is the cardigan:

Obviously the placement is totally dependant on the holes so I think they turned out quite well despite it all. I actually like my brown top EVEN MORE now with the cute flowers on the wrists, so am very proud of self indeed!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Getting your taxes done

*I am not an authority on tax advice - this is just my info as I know it*
Today DH took an extra day off work to take me to get my tax return filed.
In Japan, if you are married(not sure what the rule is for single people, sorry) and earn under 1,030,000 gross/year, it is apparently tax free, regardless of your partner's income. (However if you earn 1,030,001 you have to pay tax on the whole amount, not just the income above the magic 1,030,000 - so the idea is to earn just a little less than the magic number or way more). That's about 85,000 a month. If your salary is regularly that, no tax will be deducted, but if it fluctuates or you only worked a few months but earned more, tax will deducted so you have to file a return to get it back.(Don't quote me on this! My facts may not be completely correct, appologies if they are not).
Today was our first time to do it so I was not looking forward to it at all. Sure enough when we got to the tax office we found a massive line of people. So we waited and after about 30 minutes we got into "The Room" which is a big hall full of tall desks so you can fill out your forms. When we got allocated a desk, the usher lady told us to wait for someone to come and help us get started.....10 minutes later no-one had come to help us as they were all busy. So I figured out it was a matter of snaffling one of the "Advisors" (not to be mixed up with the ushers) when they finished up with someone else. So finally we got some help. My case turned out to be a difficult one as on of my employers deems my earnings to be "sales" of my teaching serivces rather than a salary....whatever it is we worked it out and got the paper work finished. That is only half way there though as then you have to get it all entered into a computer.
I have to say that this really is a silly system. More than half of the people there today were retired people who wouldn't know how to turn on a computer let alone use one to fill out their tax return. Thankfully there are people there to help you with that....if you can catch one!

In the end it only took 2 hours from start to finish, even though my case was not completely straightforward and therefore we couldn't complete the computerised tax return ourselves.
I am very grateful to all the people working at the tax office who seemed to know their business today, and dealt with each (rather impatient) person calmly and in a friendly manner. And on the bright side, I get a tax rebate! Woohoo!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Day 1 in Quarantine

We are nearing the end of Day 1 of our quarantine. DH is doing well and I don't seem to have picked it up yet *crosses fingers and toes* I have been walking around with a mask on all day and have washed my hands about a million times. DH and I are sleeping in separate rooms - in the 7 years we have been together neither of us has been so sick to warrant this. But this time, I am in the lounge on the air bed. I had a cracker of a sleep last night though. I always sleep really well when I am snoring, jiggly legs or elbows in the face.
I do wish we had a spare room with a proper bed though I am enjoying the 42 inch TV from my makeshift one.

Today was filled with watching (and falling asleep during) the olympics. I did some washing, cooking and other housework. I also managed to ruin DH's yakisoba cup noodles slightly. But he ate it, crunchy still dehydrated cabbage and all. He is complaining that he has no sense of taste. Which is a good sign he is sick as he has a very very strong sense of taste usually.

So far, neither of us has tried to jump off the balcony which is always good, food supplies are holding and the weather looks to be a bit cack tomorrow so not too much trouble to stay at home. I am so lucky to have one job that involves working from home, as I am not allowed to go to my other work for a whole week, even though I am not actually sick myself. Thems the breaks.

So people, I hope you are all washing your hands and gargling regularly out there!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


I came home this afternoon to find a man in my bed. The man was actually my husband but I was very confused as to what he was doing in bed in the middle of the afternoon on a week day. He had a temperature of 37.8, which for someone like him who has a really low regular body temperature, that is really not good. So we called the doctors and they said that we should come in. So I drove DH to doctors and he was in the consultation room for ages which I figured was a bad sign. Then I got called in to have my temperature taken and throat examined and was told that I might already be getting it so was also given a prescription.

So now we are stuck in our house for the next 5 days pretty much. I am quite thankful for "Yoshikei" which delivers the ingredients for our dinner fresh every day. I am praying that since I got onto the medicine before any major symptoms showed up that I will not get it too bad though I have been feeling less than stellar this evening....
K and I have prepared for such an event by stocking up our hard disk recorder with episodes of 24 etc to watch and I almost forgot but the Olympics are on - what better excuse than Influenza to sit around in your jammies and watch it all day! Things are looking up!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Love is Blind

......But the neighbours aint.

This was a favourtie saying of my father's, and I never really thought about what it meant until at work on Saturday when we were having a Valentine's Day themed lesson and I saw the "love is blind"phrase again.

So does it mean you shouldn't snog at the letterbox?

or does it mean to make sure you close the curtains?

When they say love is blind, what does that mean to you?
Is it like beer goggles? (The phenomenon where everyone gets so much better looking and more interesting, the more alcohol you drink).

Just wondering....

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentine's Day is looking up!

Today is exactly 7 years since I "confessed" to my DH that I was so into him that I would be willing to stay in this country longer or at least a very long time if we got together. It was a rather shameful discussion and very unromantic way to start a relationship but I guess it helped us to get off to a good start where we both knew where we stood.

7 years later we are in a much better place than back then. Gosh when I think about what the first few months together were like it is rather cringeful (is that a word?). Lots of misunderstandings : Why won't you hold my hand in public?  Why do you have to keep your bike inside? etc. Some of those things (like the bike) are just my DH, others I think are very Japanese, or at least confusing for a NZ girl.
Of course we came to an understanding about a lot of things and we are very happy now, even with the non-observance of Valentine's day in our household.

I did finally get some chocolates though. Not from my DH but from his friend who had been away and brought back a souvenir that happened to be chocolate. So I am pacified.


Friday, 12 February 2010


Yesterday was a public holiday here in Japan. So K and I both had the whole day off together, something very rare indeed. We splashed out and had lunch at Mamma Mary's, a slightly over priced chain Italian restaurant, which does serve nice food. We rocked up quite late for lunch about 2pm and they were full so we had to wait about 20 minutes. When we finally got a table, we were pleasantly surprised that we had our own "room". The people using the party rooms had all left so they started using them for regular customers and we were just lucky enough to get one which was fantastic as it was private and quiet, unlike the rest of the restaurant.

We came straight home afterwards as it was snowing harder and harder. We got home without any problems but when I looked out the window a few hours later everything was white.
This morning when we got up there was about 10 cm of snow, a record for this winter. Thankfully I don't have any work on outside of the house today so sloshing my way to the post box is as close as I need to get to the snow.

Now this Sunday is that very annoying little celebration called "Valentines Day". I personally hate valentines day. For those of you who do not know about the idiosyncrasies of Japan's version of Valentines Day, here it is.

Valentines Day is the day when females give males a present of (usually but not always) chocolate. This is not necessarily someone who is the love of your life. I have been made(by other female co-workers) to give my male co-workers chocolates on Valentines Day in the past, also called Girichoco, or a kind of "required chocolates" in Japanese. What annoys me is that I know there are many men in Japan who simply do not like sweet food or perhaps do not want to be seen as being a sissy and liking sweet food. So what's with the chocolate torture thing? For those who you know explicitly do not eat chocolate, there is always a tie or a pair of snazzy under pants. But the fact is that women all over Japan will be shopping for or even - wait for it - making their own chocolates (as in melting and putting it into molds kind of making) their own "hand made" chocolate.
Women do not receive anything on Valentines Day.
That happens about one month later on the skillfully thought up "White Day" on March 14th.
That is when men give women cookies/candy (not so much with the chocolate which most women love anyway?!?!) in return for the gifts they got on Valentines Day. So technically if you give 5 people some chocolates on Valentines Day, you can expect to get 5 gifts back on White Day as it is the done thing to give a gift back to those you have received one from. This (technically) ensures that no-ones feelings are hurt and that any romance is thoroughly sucked out of it.

So as usual I won't be doing anything for valentine's Day as my DH detests sweet food, I used to splash out on a bottle of wine for him so maybe I will buy him some beer... DH has also told me that if I want anything for Valentine's Day or White Day that it is "self service", which is how it is with birthdays and Christmas too. So maybe I will buy some nice chocolates for myself!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

This week's Ikebana

Hello everyone.

This week's ikebana is the same style as last week but using different flowers. Today we used snap dragons and roses.

This is what I made (well, kind of. My teacher had to rearrange some of it that wasn't right, but it's mostly my work).

This is what my classmate made:

Today we had a kind of custard bread for afternoon tea which was very yummy. I might have to go to the bakery myself and get some more!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


We won something good!!!! (if you will remember I tend to only win crap stuff or stuff like tickets to some marine world far far away that costs an arm and a leg to get there - not included in the prize either)

DH has been entering every competition that he comes across for some time now and we have had no luck what so ever. That is until Saturday, when he got a phone call to say that we had won a prize in a draw from the local housing plaza. The housing plaza is where all the big companies have their show homes and if you lurk around they give you all kinds of goodies just for having a nosey parker inside their house (I recently got some dish washing liquid, some baking paper, some kitchen and toilet cleaner wipey things, boxes of tissues - all boring house cleaning stuff but about 1,000 yen's worth so NOT to be sneezed at).

Anyway our prize is THIS!

I have no idea what one calls this in English these days, I want to say a TV stand?
Who cares.
Anyway, we don't currently have one of these, we are using a 30 euro coffee table from IKEA which is doing an admirable job but looks like it might chuck it in at any moment so a new TV Board (as it's called in Japanese) is most welcome!!!

Fingers crossed this is just the start of a rush of wins of fabulous prizes and riches!!!!

Touch wood etc.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Shufu is back! Last week's Ikebana

Sorry for the long absence. I managed to convince DH that we should go to NZ for a trip this golden Week - my first trip home in over 3 years! So that has meant lots of fluffing around figuring out flights, where we want to go and such.

Now that is under control I have some blogging to catch up on!

Last Week's Ikebana

We learnt a new kind of style that uses a special kenzan. Usually you use one with lots of needles sticking out which holds the flowers in place. This time we used one which has lots of holes in it. I didn't like this one at all until I realised what a great little thing it is- as long as the flowers are wedged in properly it will hold them at the perfect angle for you!

We used Amaryllis and "rape blossoms" according to my dictionary or 菜の花nanohana in Japanese which sounds nicer...For people who have never seen nanohana before, it does look a little bit like broccoli...

Here is what I made:

Here is what my classmate made:

4 days later the arrangelment looks quite different as the nanohana has continued to grow and has flowered. The amaryllis has also bloomed a bit.

No photos of afternoon tea as I forgot! Was too involved in eating it! Twas wonderful though.