Friday, March 23, 2012

Favorite Places To Shop in Japan

Japan has a ton of places to shop.  They have a good variety of both chain stores and privately owned businesses and superb customer service.  Here are some of our favorite places:

You can't miss the big green and white sign.

Nitori  ニトリ

The closest store we have to us is located in Kurihama.  Its about a 20 minute drive, is easy to find, and has a lot of parking.  This store has decent prices and reminds me a lot of Target in the U.S.  The store has a good selection of housewares, bedding, curtains, and furniture.  We ended up buying all the boys' desks here and they were reasonably priced compared to other places in town.  This has been a bonus for us because the yen rate has been pretty low since we arrived in Japan.  Many people I've talked to in Yokosuka still don't know about this store.  Check it out if you get a chance.  You'll be happy you did.

They just opened a 5-story store up in Ginza in Tokyo.

Uniqlo ユニクロ

This clothing store is popular and has locations in Asia, Europe and The United States.  It has very simple clothes and reminds me of The Gap.  They have good sales, many locations, "some" clothes that fit Amerika-jin and best of all, they take credit cards (Visa and American Express).

My favorite purchase from Uniqlo this winter!
100 Yen Shop 100円ショップ

The 100 Yen Stores here are the best.  They have many where we live.  The other day Justin took me to one on Blue Street that I'd never been to.  You can find similar items like at The Dollar Tree back home, but I think that some of the dollar stores here have nicer products.....especially if you go to Daiso next to The Mercure Hotel.  They have some great dishes, treats, baking supplies, party supplies, curtains, etc.  These stores are worth going to especially if you're a visitor to Japan.  If you want to go on a fun field trip, there is a 5 story 100 Yen Store in Machida.  You'll usually never leave these stores empty-handed.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Remembering March 11th

Last weekend was the 1st Anniversary of Japan's earthquake and tsunami.  Everyone took a moment of silence at 2:46p.m. to remember all those lost and affected by this natural disaster.  While I feel like our lives were full of uncertainty and unknown for days and weeks following the earthquake, my heart truly goes out to the Japanese who lost everything on March 11th.

We recently watched the documentary called Japan Tsunami:  Tales of Terror.  This documentary showed amateur videos of survivors filming the tsunami.  These people literally saw the tsunami sweep their towns away before their own eyes.  It was completely devastating to watch on film, and cannot imagine seeing it in person.  I commend the Japanese survivors who lived to tell their stories, and for trying to move forward with their lives.

The survivors could not begin to move forward without the help from their own countrymen, and other concerned parties around the world.  I am thoroughly impressed by the people we know in our own local community who have taken part in clothing drives, fundraisers, and forming their own group to help support people affected in Tohoku.  I've blogged before that I am part of a group called Helping Hands for Tohoku.  This group was started by a Japanese lady who I met after the earthquake.  Her commitment to helping people affected by the disaster is on-going.  The group's original members were wives of the military community, but the group has branched out and now has members outside of Japan.  Providing even the basic necessities (soap, shampoo, towel, etc) means so much to survivors who had few, or no belongings when they were forced to relocate.  I am so proud to be a part of this group.  Thank you Masako-san for being such a tireless leader. 
Book about the military's mission post earthquake/tsunami.

I also want to say thank you to all the people who were concerned about us last year.  We do appreciate your emails and Facebook messages.  Just know that new friendships and other support systems were available to us during the crisis.  We continue to be happy to call Japan our home.  We look forward to being involved at some point in the cleanup efforts up north.  This is one of our family's goals for 2012.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Girls Day or Hinamatsuri

A collection of Hina Ningyo (Girls Day dolls).
Japan celebrates Girls Day, or Hinamatsuri on March 3rd each year.  Although its not a national holiday, its meaning is significant.  As infants, girls are given Hina dolls as a custom to promote health, growth and happiness.  This year, I was invited to Tokyo to have brunch and attend a Hinamatusuri exhibit at Meguro Gajoen with some American and Japanese ladies. 
Sunday Brunch at The New Sanno Hotel.

The company, food and doll exhibit were wonderful. We went up some 100 stairs (total) at  the exhibit with our slippers on to see the various doll collections.  Because taking pictures wasn't allowed, its hard to express the detail and beauty in these dolls.  Traditionally, the dolls are displayed in a 7 tiered fashion atop a red covering called hi-mōsen with the Emperor and Empress on the top tier and musicians, and other attendants on the subsequent tiers.  Everyone is displayed in traditional clothing dating from the Heian period which was from 794-1185.

I learned that each region in Japan has different looking dolls, and some regions display their dolls in a different order.  Some dolls were also dressed very ornately, while others were dressed simple.  It was very nice to have the Japanese ladies with us to translate and explain the various types of dolls and their significance.  I had another great day, and experience in Japan
Keepsakes from Hinamatsuri.