Gaijin Housewife in Japan

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

Sunday, 31 October 2010

We have a new member in our Family

Well, we have been waiting and finally yesterday was the day we could bring home our miniature schnauzer puppy. His name is Sebastian or "Basti" for short and he is gorgeous.

Here are some photos of him for you all:

My day now revolves around naps, play times and toilet training! But he's lovely so I don't mind. I feel like we are a couple of freshly minted parents, trying to figure it all out.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Some news this morning in Japan

Sometimes the news in Japan makes me laugh.

This morning on a news breakfast show, they had a story, on national TV, about how 3 Junior High School girls were caught with marijuana at school and shock horror, they bought it from someone they knew......where do they think most drugs come from? The media would have you believe it was from foreigners.

It is kind of nice that Japan is still a country where 3 junior high girls taking weed to school makes the national news, but then I saw another news piece. It was about door to door sales people that prey on old people living alone. They turn up and say "I'm here with a whole giant fish you ordered" and of course the person is sure they didn't order it, but they refuse to leave until they get the money for it. Other things include some unscrupulous companies sending things to people that they haven't ordered and then charging them for them because they signed for them.
It makes me ill that there are so many people out there who take advantage of elderly people who might be unsure of themselves or have trouble remembering what they have and haven't ordered.

But a big item of news today is that the rice harvest will be of terrible quality this year. Instead of nicely formed semi see-through rice, a lot of it is malformed and a cloudy milk colour. This is bad! But never fear one only need to put the rice in the fridge with cold water for an hour before cooking it to improve the taste. Whew! Rice Crisis averted.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Next we have the kitchen

My new kitchen is such a luxury after my tiny one in our apartment. We actually have cupboards that aren't full yet....though I still do have a box or two somewhere to unpack. Two people can be in there at the same time, heck 3 or 4 people even and you won't have to squeeze past anyone. Currently in Japan a kitchen that faces out into the living, dining area is all the rage. I also would have liked to have one but in order to fit it in that way around we had to build this part sticking out of the house which cost heaps and turns out we didn't need as I am quite happy with this style of kitchen anyway which is much more spacious and no need to squeeze past people. The bench was also raised a good 10 cms so that it is at "normal person" height and DH can now happily cook, wash dishes etc without getting a sore back from bending over, although he is now probably going to crack his head on the range hood as it is stupidly low. That thing on the far wall is a little computer that tells me how much hot water we have left in our tank, I can also run a bath that is the perfect temperature and amount of water from the kitchen (as long as the plug is already in), by pushing 1 button.

First thing about Japanese kitchens is the giant sink. It is at least twice as large as your average NZ sink. I really do not see why we need such a huge sink but getting a smaller one was going to be expensive so we just went with the very cheapest kitchen option available. Japanese people do not fill their sinks up with hot water and put all the dishes in there, scrub them and then put them in the drying rack. They soap up the plates that are there soaking, then just rinse them with running water. I kind of prefer this washing style now as I feel my plates are cleaner and dish liquid traces are mostly rinsed away - though I could be fooling myself.

We also have a tiny dishwasher which is pretty much the only size they come in. For two people it's just the right size but if you were a family of 4, I can imagine you would have to be very creative to get all the stuff in there.

Then there is the IH heater. It's an electric stove (with a whole 2 main burners and one tiny little one up the back - 4 burners? Who needs 4 burners? - I do when I'm cooking Christmas Dinner!) which is a newish thing in Japan where many people still cook with gas. These stoves don't work if you put an aluminium bottomed pot or pan on them. Turns out my favourite frying pans are now useless. But it does heat up super quickly and you can set a timer to turn off each element, you can do deep frying and it will heat the oil to exactly the right temperature  (not that I deep fry food in my own house, but you never know, one day my craving for fish and chips might be that strong). That thing under it is a grill specially for fish which I'm pretty sure I will use about twice a year. There was also an option to get an actual oven but for the price I am just going to keep using the portable microwave/oven I spent so much money on a year and a half ago.

 My first attempt using the IH stove did not go well. I stood there for 5 minutes pressing different buttons, wondering why it wouldn't turn on. There is a special "ON/OFF" switch on the front, see that black square on the right? It has to be on there before it will work. Then I proceeded to try and use my awesome Fissler frying pans but the stove refuses to heat up as they are aluminium bottomed- which they are. 20 minutes later I finally get out a special deep frying pan that came with stove and it works like a charm.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Japanese Room

Another point of interest is the Japanese style room. Some houses are built with no Japanese style room these days. I could happily exist without one. My idea of relaxing is lying on our very comfy 3 seater couch. DH's idea of relaxing is stretching out on a floor made of rice mats. So we were left with the dilemma of how to incorporate a Japanese room into our house without it taking up too much of our "western" living space which we need for our western furniture - it's not a good look to put it on a rice mat floor which is easily damaged. (BTW, no slippers allowed on the rice mat floor people as it damages the rice matting, another place you have to take your foot wear off)

Luckily the housing company we went with had a special design of house that has a mezzanine floor that can become a Japanese room. Underneath the room becomes a low ceiling storage area, which is perfect for storing things you don't need so often.

Our Japanese mezzanine floor with storage area underneath.

The room itself is only quite small but the glass barrier makes it seem larger

Looking from the Japanese room down into the living room, dining area and kitchen.
So now we not only have an interesting 2nd living space, we have an extra room for when we have lots of visitors or visitors that prefer to sleep on a futon than our spare bed. The room can be made private by lowering a screen the covers the gap and glass barrier (also good for keeping the heat in the living room in winter).

The Entrance

So today we continue with some photos of my new house.

Here we have the "Entrance" or "Genkan" in Japanese.

The Entrance is the border between the inside of the house and the outside. When you come in to the house, you take your shoes off and step directly up onto the floor boarded area.
Putting your feet on the tiled area without your shoes on is a big no no. It takes a while to perfect the art of putting on and taking off your shoes as often as the average Japanese person does. For many foreigners the "border" does not exist as I noticed when my sister came to stay.
Stepping down into the genkan and then putting your shoes on? Why don't you just go and walk around outside with no shoes on?! Oh wait, people in NZ totally do that. Need to get the mail from the mail box in summer time? No Shoes? No Worries. When my sister came to stay I also realised how anal about the whole thing I had become. It is not the end of the world if you get some dirt on the floor from outside. Really, it's not. This is the reason why I think many Japanese people keep their dogs mostly inside or mostly outside. Dogs don't wear shoes (usually, though I believe it does happen in Tokyo), so their feet get cleaned every time they come in from outside. I also often see people with their dogs in little push chairs or in slings. I can only imagine, so they don't get their feet dirty?

Anyway so here we have the pictures of our entrance. It is practically a room in itself with extensive shoe storage (no keeping shoes in your bedroom closet here), which also doubles as a place to display my flower arrangements to wow the visitors when they come. Notice how its quite a distance to the front door? Well, if I want to open the door to someone, I have to put on shoes to do it. Most people have a pair of "outside slippers" they use for that.
Looking at the front door from the hall way. Shoes waiting to be put on.

From the front door to the hallway. The step up marks the inside of the house.  No shoes allowed.
By the way, I think this entrance is actually quite small in comparison to many entrances I have seen in other houses. Some people use the entrance as a place to have a chat with neighbours. The neighbour drops by, sits down on the step but can leave their shoes on, and tea is served in the entrance, making it easy for everyone. Remember, sitting on the floor is still popular here - which why people are so worried about having a clean floor in the first place.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

By request!

Some readers have requested to see some photos of my house. It is still very much a work in progress, especially all the stuff we still have lying around waiting for me to decide where it is going to live from now on.

So I thought I would start of with something easy: The Bathroom

A Japanese bathroom consists of two rooms. The exterior room where you get changed, brush your teeth and peer in the mirror, along with an interior wet room. This wet room is a fantastic in that you can spray water everywhere, and not worry about ruining anything. Not so fantastic in that it takes ages to clean. All the walls, the floor, every nook and cranny needs to be scrubbed once a week to stop mold from growing. It takes a good hour to do that. Add extra time if your bathroom has the compulsory stool and bowl that Japanese sit on whilst they wash. The stool and bowl is banned from our bathroom since DH and I are perfectly comfortable standing up to shower.
The interior bathroom, the bath and then the shower area to the left

This is the exterior bathroom looking clean and tidy before we moved in

Our new bathroom has a neat bath cover, that keeps the bath water warm - like really warm. You could get in the bath again next morning if you so felt like it. However that also needs to be scrubbed down too.

This Week's Ikebana

Today I went to my first Ikebana class since we moved to our new house. My Ikebana teacher's house is a 10 minute walk away now instead of a 30 minute drive. So I decided to be healthy and to walk there. It was a nice walk and enjoyed having a look at all the houses.

Today we practiced for the test which is next weekend.
Today we used a kind of petrified grass, chrysanthemums and some bleached fern.

So this is what I did:

This is what my teacher did:

And this is what my arrangement looks like in our new entrance!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Check Out CNN Go!

Today I noticed a lot of traffic coming from CNN Go.

Then I remembered I did an interview about being a housewife (or in my case, trying but not really doing a great job) in Japan for La Carmina a few months back.

Stop by and have a read here if you like.

Pretty exciting stuff.

The other person she interview was Wendy Tokunaga! Wendy and little old ME! For those of you who don't know, Wendy Tokunaga is a kind of celebrity in the non-Japanese women married to Japanese men world. And then there is me, who started this blog to battle boredom in the sticks of northern Japan whilst I tried to find employment. I  thought I would at least try an document my attempts to become a "carisma housewife". Still working on that. At least now I have an actual house to be a housewife in!

So by popular request, hang in there for some pictures of the new house: We shall start with the most important room - The Bathroom.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


Hello Everyone

It has been a busy last week or so. It all started last Monday when we started moving to our new house, followed by the very late arrival of the movers on Tuesday evening (not afternoon). We had a lot of full on days carrying things up and down stairs. Then on Wednesday we (even DH pitched in) went back to our apartment and gave it a good clean out. (When DH handed back the keys at the inspection, they said we didn't need to have cleaned it so well...)
Then Thursday I was up at 4:30am and off to Tokyo to meet up with my sister who had arrived in Japan a day or so earlier with her partner. They survived a whole day and a half in Tokyo alone and were really thrilled with how friendly everyone was to them when they were lost/confused.

On Friday and Saturday we did a lot of stuff that must be done when one visits Japan: Go to a 100 yen shop, do purikura (fun photo booth), go to a sushi train or revolving sushi, eat gyuudon (stewed beef on rice), well just generally do a lot of eating. My sister commented that she had never thought of Japan as somewhere to come for the food, but she would definitely come back just for that.

On Sunday DH and I drove them back to Narita airport and then headed off to IKEA to get some much needed furniture. We finally bought some real dining chairs (though only 2 as that was they were a bit pricey) - we bought our dining table 4 years ago and until now have been using some random plastic folding chairs. The chairs aren't assembled yet, but boy am I going to like sitting on them when they are!

So yesterday was a normal day again. But first I got up really early to put out the trash. I didn't know what time the rubbish truck comes so I kept an eye on it and then they didn't show up until lunch time! Now that is great! Lets hope it is always so late. Then I had to go next door to pass on the "Kairanban". The kairanban is a kind of neighbourhood newsletter that comes around every few weeks and must be read and then passed on to the next neighbour as soon as possible. People who are slack about passing it on get on the black list in the neighbourhood (or so I am told). I had to wait until 10am before I could go over to the neighbour's because showing up before then would be rude, I thought. Turns out no-one was home so luckily avoided having to talk to them. The problem there being that they are never home and we haven't been able to go and formally introduce ourselves and give them our gift.
So far we have completed over half of our introductions to the neighbours, and so far all the neighbours have been friendly. So far so good.

So how is living in a real house going? I can't believe I ever lived in that cramped apartment now! We are still getting used to some of the gadgets (eg the IH cooker) and as soon as everything is put away in its proper place, I will be very happy here I think. It is so much quieter here, no noisy cars coming and going, no screaming and yelling from the little girls next door and no screaming baby downstairs. Fantastic.