Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just A Few Things To Survive Summer (Natsu)

It is starting to get very hot and humid in Japan. It went from warm, to incredibly hot very quickly. I hear its supposed to become much hotter. We missed last summer which had record breaking temperatures. We are doing our best to stay cool.  Here are some things that people do/use to beat the heat:

Hand Towels (Hankatchi)

Small hand towels are very popular here.  Everyone seems to use one.  They are generally the size of a washcloth, sometimes smaller.  Not only are they convenient in the summer to pat your face and wrap around a cold drink, but they are useful year round because most restrooms do not have paper towels to dry your hands.

Japanese Hand Fans

I have seen many people using paper fans in the heat. Both men and women will whip out their fans when waiting for the trains, buses, etc. The folding fans are nice because they are compact. I always thought these fans were strictly for decoration, but they have a dual-purpose.


I've blogged about how everyone uses umbrellas here when it rains.  Many Japanese women also use a parasol, or sun umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun. They are a little smaller than regular umbrellas, sometimes frilly, and often times have UV protection in the material. The other day I even saw a woman riding her bicycle carrying a parasol. She was quite the multi-tasker.

Stick Close To Water

We will be spending many days here this summer.

To stay cool we've been taking advantage of many water activities such as:  going to the beach, going to the pool and going sailing.  We are very fortunate to be able to rent paddle boards, kayaks, boats, windsurfing equipment, etc for a reasonable price on base.  This weekend we are going to watch a friend's windsurfing lesson at the beach.  One certain family member really wants us to buy a windsurfing board ..... but I think we'll have him take lessons first.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Car Talk

You don't want your car to have this type of sticker on it!
 The van we purchased back in February has been working out just great.  When we bought it, we had until  June 2011 to renew the registration/JCI (Japanese Compulsory Insurance) which we thought was ideal.  Basically, we were able to shorten the Japanese car-buying process because the vehicle had months before it needed to be inspected and registration renewed.  We knew that the registration was due this month but failed to look at the exact date until we were pulled over at Main Gate the week before last.  Unfortunately, our registration expired 4 days earlier.

We were ordered to pull over at the vehicle inspection area and told that we would not be able to drive the vehicle on or off base. The car was impounded (we didn't have to pay, and it was not it a locked area) but we did have a nice yellow sticker placed on the front window and was only to be removed by base police.  This was a bit problematic at the time since I was supposed to drop Justin and the two younger kids off at school that day, volunteer, and go to lunch with a friend.  Needless to say, most of those plans went by the wayside.  I did end up calling a friend who lives on base to see if she could pick the kids and I up. 

I talked to a friend who told me the steps I needed to take to get this situation remedied.  Here they are/were:
1) Go to City Hall to get temporary plates (good for 5 days) so that we could drive the vehicle to get on-base inspection. 
2) After returning to base, I needed to talk to base police/security to have them remove sticker on the car so that I could drive it to base inspection.
3) I was able to get the car and drive it to get a base inspection.  The inspection was to take 2 hours and I was hoping it was going to pass inspection.
4) Vehicle DID NOT pass inspection.  Needs new front brakes and the parts do not come in until the following day.  Since we have temporary plates, we are able to drive around base and home which is good.
5) The next day I have to take car back in to get brakes done.  The parts don't come in until noon, but the car is ready for pick up by 3:00p.m.
6) A few days later, I have a friend who does LTO (Japanese DMV) runs for foreigners up to Yokohama.  I basically pay her fee, the toll fees, and all other fees for registering the vehicle.  Luckily, the registration is every 2 years.
7) After the LTO run, I gave the temporary plates back to my friend who will take them back to City Hall, go to VRO (vehicle registration office) to update our new registration and go to insurance company (all in the same building) to pay for another 2 years of JCI and to also add my oldest son as a driver onto our car. 

While this was a little inconvenient, it was no one's fault but our own.  I tried to laugh about it because it wouldn't help to get upset.  I'm just happy to be able to share all of the lessons we've learned/are learning with others.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Japanese Thingamajiggers

While we have had a most spectacular and eventful time in Japan, I must do a quick blog about Japanese Thingamajiggers.  According to the Urban Dictionary, a thingamajigger is something we call an item when we can't remember it's name.  In our Japanese home, we refer to anything that crawls as a thingamajigger (thanks to my youngest son).  Not using the "actual" name of the pest seems to lessen the visual picture we have permanently embedded into our head.

I wanted to ignore and believe that no thingamajiggers would ever invade our tropical paradise.  I thought that we were going to be the lucky ones that would just enjoy this nice, warm, and humid climate without any unwelcome house guests. Unfortunately, my fantasy was short-lived and we had a couple experiences worth sharing.

Last weekend, we had our first experience with a thingamajigger.  My youngest son woke up to a mukade, or centipede crawling on his hand.  This was quite traumatic, and we were fortunate that he was unharmed.  We were told that these critters bite, travel in pairs, and are hard to kill.  Justin found the thingamajigger when he returned from Tokyo, hiding in a box (they like dark places), under my youngest son's bed.  Needless to say, I had my Japanese friend go with me to store to find some Boric Acid powder.  This powder is supposed to be sprinkled around the perimeter of the house.  I bought the waterproof kind, so hopefully it will do the trick.  We are still unsure how this thingamajigger got into the house.  It could've come in with the laundry I hang out, or possibly, in a crack in the house. 

Example of gokiburi trap.
When I was buying the Boric Acid powder, I also bought gokiburi, or cockroach traps as a preventive.  Since these thingamajiggers like water, and food items, I placed them in various locations in the kitchen and bathrooms thinking I was on top of everything.  A couple nights ago we came home to find a large gokiburi walking around the room where the sink and washer/dryer are.  What the heck!  The thingamajigger was quickly removed from the premises and I'm hoping they will never return.  Many of these critters fly, so we have to be careful to close our doors when it's warm here.  I've also felt first hand the effect of the ka, or mosquitoes, which are out in full swing.  I will likely blog about them at a later date.  Until then, I'll be equipped with my potent bug spray and  wearing the mosquito patch! 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Trip To The Dentist (Haisha)

Card we use to check-in (at a machine) for appointments.
We were originally going to go to the Dental Clinic on base to get our teeth cleaned, but the waiting list was way too long (we were 100 out of 600).  So instead of waiting, we opted to try a Japanese dentist.  The Dental College outside of the base was recommended to us by our friend.  It's good that we had a recommendation because there are tons of dental clinics to choose from in town.

The process to see the dentist was pretty easy.  As long as I had my phrase book to help me get my/our needs across, everything went well.  Luckily, the pediatric dentist and the adult dentist we were assigned to both spoke Eego (English).  They were very professional, thorough, and made us feel comfortable. 

Most things were similar such as: waiting rooms, x-rays, etc, but the one main difference was that the dentist did the teeth cleaning.  The dentist used an ultrasonic teeth cleaner, a toothbrush with some tooth cleaner to clean my teeth, floss and then 2 types of damp swabs inside my mouth.  It was a very unique way to clean teeth, but it seemed to do the trick.

Along with teeth cleaning, the pediatric dentist was able to repair Cutter's permanent front tooth.  He chipped his front tooth the night of the earthquake (not related to the earthquake) after a bike accident.  The dentist was able to repair the tooth in one visit, and it looks as good as new.

Our records, etc go into these blue bags.