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Awkwardly clearing throat. Hey!

So what have I been doing in my blogging absence? I would typically say “nothing” but I actually have been doing some stuff. I’ve been baking a bit. I bought a bread machine and have made lots of bread. Lots of lumpy, weird bread, but it all tastes good so whatever. Last month Noji and I started jogging in the morning and we’ve logged 45km/28 miles already. We’ve watched a lot of TV. I think I’ve seen every L&O SVU from seasons 1-8 at least 3 times over now. That’s pretty much the norm for me, though.

Baking is fun and easy but cooking can go either way, especially when I read American-based recipes that are like “grab some quinoa pasta and kale from your local grocery..” and it’s basically a big list of stuff that I cannot easily buy. I mean I guess kale is sold somewhere here. Wikipedia tells me it’s called “keeru.” But if I can’t find it at Seijo Ishii, it might as well not exist. Anyway, mentally calculating the cost/effort involved in just getting all the ingredients I need for something and I’ve already given up. Japan is also not really health-conscious the same way that America is, less obsession with whole grains (bleached, thick slices of Wonder bread the norm), trans-fats (no full nutritional info on boxes so who knows what’s in what), no weird gluten free junk or agave nectar for sweetening or whatever. So the point of view is a bit different too.

Since moving here, though, I’ve come across plenty of resources to get me through a lot of the needs/wants from Back Home, which helps reduce the amount of crazy spending sprees whenever I set foot on American soil. If anyone is curious, these are my supplements to shopping here:

Food:
iHerb.com – (WordPress won’t let me link directly to it but that’s the address.) This site is a godsend, for reasons mentioned above– it’s got all the hippie-dippy American-style health food/supplements/beauty items that are missing here. What did I do without this site until now??? I’ve made two orders in like 10 days. 4 dollars for shipping to Japan up to 30 pounds, comes in 3-5 days. Prices are equivalent or cheaper than buying in America. Some stuff can’t be sent to Japan (flour, quinoa, ghee, pretty much anything with vanilla in it, some supplements etc.) but they’ll tell you when you try to check out. I have a coupon code for $10 off new customers (HTC502) which I’m guessing is what is making WP all pissy about linking to the site. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

572310.com – This is not import food but a Japanese site with bulk grains, dried fruits, nuts etc. including organic options. They have a good selection of different flours with the ash and protein content listed. It’s more on the expensive side but I like all the options, especially for bread baking.

We also hit up brick-and-mortar international groceries sometimes — Seijo Ishii and Kaldi mostly. Kaldi sells some delicious massaman curry roux in a box. FBC and The Flying Pig are options I’ve never used but have a better selection of more typical American-style groceries than anything listed above.

Beauty:
StrawberryNET – HE makeup, skin care, and perfume. I’ve used them for makeup and skincare and they’re not bad. They’re kind of like an online cosmetic outlet and have a lot of brands that aren’t available in Japan. Prices have gone up significantly since the yen weakened though.

iBeautyhouse – Same thing as SNET, nearly the same stock and price, interface is all in Japanese.

Cosme Cosme / Cosme Link – Local (Japan) Rakuten shops, HE cosmetics/skin care usually around 10-30% off Japanese retail. Usually ships next day.

Mariposa – Nail polish! Essie, Zoya, OPI, ORLY, Jessica, Nubar, lots of treatments and topcoats. Shipping is based on how many bottles but anything over 9,900 JPY is free shipping. I remember requesting a Zoya color that wasn’t on the website, so even if it’s not there doesn’t mean it’s not available. Looks like they’re now selling Butter London at a slightly inflated price.

e-yume USA – Also nail polish. Prices are more or less the same as Mariposa, stock is similar but I think Mariposa has a bigger range and maybe Mariposa’s shipping is slightly faster. I usually pick depending on the promotion running.

Nordstrom – A lot of American department stores ship internationally now and include shipping, duties, and taxes at check-out, so you don’t buy some leather shoes and realize you need to pay like 200 dollars in duties once they get here. Shipping is expensive (~30 USD?) but depending on what you’re getting it can be worth it (expensive bags? limited edition America-only makeup?). Not all brands are available to ship internationally but most are.

Everything else:

My mom – Anything I can’t get on the internet, I ask my mom to send me. :*

Alternatively, you can eat fish and beans and pickled daikon and live like a Japanese granny with no external wants in the world, but I unfortunately know how good ranch dressing is so that option is over for me. Am I missing anything?

PS IT IS SO HOT, I CAN’T BELIEVE I GOT THROUGH THIS WHOLE POST WITHOUT MENTIONING THAT

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see ya later alligator

In February of this year, my grandma passed away. It wasn’t sudden or unexpected, I don’t know if that makes it better. I still didn’t feel prepared at all.

Last year, a few months before my sister texted me that something might be wrong with gramma’s lungs and I cried in the shinkansen (crying foreign girl = good way to avoid a ticket check), Noji and I had gone to California to celebrate our wedding with our family. There was no indication that anything was wrong with her then; 88 years old but she was as bright as ever, sharp, independent, mobile, and may have had too many margaritas the night prior to the party. In four months, when I saw her again, she was fully bedridden and in the wonderful care of my family and hospice. Still bright and sharp, but the shock was undeniable. I didn’t even know how to reconcile how so much could change in four months.

As a kid, my sister and I would spend Wednesdays at my gramma’s house. We’d watch TV and play on the classic Apple computer with the 10″ screen (loaded with a slot or card game for my gramma), climb under the coffee table which now seems too small for anyone to have fit into, eat cinnamon sugar toast and comb my uncle’s hair. As an adult, Christmases always included a trip to gramma’s for ham and scalloped potatoes and pink jell-o and other things that I didn’t necessarily eat but appreciated for their consistency. Noji is not exactly a thrilling conversationalist in English, but he’d always talk baseball with my gramma, who was a wiz with stats and a dedicated Giants fan. She had all the qualities I respect in a person: strong opinions, humor, and kindness. I think a bit trickled down to us.

In the last few years since I moved away, we would exchange letters and emails a few times a year and she would always let me know how much she enjoyed this blog– a word I never expected to hear from her lips (or pen). Mostly we’d just talk about the weather and how things were boring but good on our end, but it was a nice constant. I still keep them bundled under my bed. When I visited her in September of last year, I noticed a memo of our new address written in her beautiful, precise cursive. But she wasn’t able to write to us again.

It’s hard to have been so far away through all of this, and then harder to acknowledge how useless I would have been if I had been close enough to share any caregiving responsibility. Sad to ever think that when it was over, that she was in a better place or it was better that way– the injustice of the deterioration of a long illness, sure, everyone dies but if only all of us could die peacefully in our sleep! The unresolved emotions when I saw her last– at New Years, ever a slave to the Japanese work schedule– knowing that it was the last time I would see her, but being unable to say goodbye with finality, without insisting that I would see her again in May. But how can you do anything else?

Anyway, thinking of her, and my mom, and my gramma in Minnesota today. I wish sometimes time could slow down to reconcile the physical distance from my family, but I guess we make due.

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2013! 2013! 2013!

So the beginning of January 2013 marks my fifth year in Japan. My first memories of January 2008 are catching the flu all alone in my tiny hotel room, googling whether or not I was going to die. At the time, I was pretty sure this was some kind of precursor to death. I went blindly into the drugstore, trying to find some relief, and ended up buying Bufferin (aspirin, totally useless). My first week of school, I would come straight home from class and sleep until the next day, 18 hours. 4evr alone

Then I felt better thanks to BRON (my 万能薬) and my friend Jackie came for half a year to play and Japan was fun again! Right before she left, I met Noji (baton-touch). And I was never alone again! Happy Japaniversary To Me.

One thing Noji and I usually do in January-February is go to DISNEY. It’s the slowest time of the year for them because it’s cold and everyone’s all event-ed out from Christmas, so even on the weekends it’s pretty empty. The day we planned to go was not looking great weather wise (raining and 7-8 degrees Celsius), but we decided to take the chance and go anyway in our warmest clothes. It wasn’t very crowded but the first thing everyone does when they get into the park is get a FastPass for Toy Story Mania, so an entire park’s worth of people cram into the line. In the rain. Dripping umbrellas layered on top of each other, funneling rainwater onto whoever’s diagonally behind you.

It was cold but whatever gaman, gaman. It was an adventure. I had rainboots on, so long as my feet were dry it was fine. Then it started to snow around 11:30am. “Oh, isn’t this quaint, it’s snowing a bit! Snow at Disney!” Then it started to actually stick and then it snowed ALL DAMN DAY. And all the rides practically closed. And it wasn’t 7 degrees but .5 degrees. And it was too snowy and windy to walk beyond the American Waterfront or really do anything except rest quietly with hot tea until our FastPass time for Toy Story Mania rolled around. So we rode Indiana Jones in the morning before it started to snow, ate lunch, rode Tower of Terror 5 times in a row, rode Toy Story Mania, and then left. But the trains weren’t running properly so we sat on the crowded train platform in the freezing cold for 20 minutes before the train came. And then we walked home in the snow trying not to fall and Noji’s feet had been soaked for like 8 hours. It was a bit absurd at the time but once we were home and warm, we agreed it was a decent trip. I don’t think we’ll ever see snow like that at Disney (probably because I never want to go back unless it’s balmy and sunny).

Here are some pictures:




The cast was pretty energetic all things considered. One guy was building Mickey and Donald snowmen and there were tiny Mickey snowmen lining the railing surrounding the middle lake.
Noji died for a little while, grasping onto our last HotHands in his death grip.

Anyway, 2012 was not a great year in blogging for me so I hope I can be a bit more regular with my updates this year. And Sarah and I are going to revamp Feed Your Face and start blogging about all the crap we put on/in our face again soon. お楽しみに♪

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FOUR SEASONS

It’s a cliche on a cliche– the foreigner complaining about Japanese people insisting that it is quintessentially JAPAN to have four distinct seasons. Let me indulge:

Yeah, so everything is SAKURA in the spring, and PUMPKINS in the fall, but they’re barely distinct seasons. In Tokyo, there are like 5 nice days every year and they kind of come around what you would think of as “springtime” or “falltime” but the rest of it is either raining or a hot mess of left-over winter/left-over summer (i.e. the only two seasons). That said, I really like (the idea of) fall in Japan which is why we had my parents come visit us last year at this time. Leaves changing, persimmons, weird chestnut sweets, hotpot, staticy hair for months, so many HeatTech tops, freezing winds, Christmas music CDs turned on moments after Halloween ends: Japanese autumn, baby.

But it’s around this time of year where work becomes unbearable in its alternating sobusy/sobored and going home for Christmas is just around the corner that it’s so easy to get (dare I say) homesick (for family and Mexican food). Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, too, but it’s never worth it to do any of the foreigner-aimed special dinners because I knows nothing better than my family’s turkey dinner. Time to cry into my 64 oz of Skippy peanut butter (the only valid American way to express sadness).

Japanese has its own Thanksgiving: “labor thanksgiving day” on Friday but, like most all Japanese holidays, is not exciting at all. No turkey or anything. I think Japanese people reserve all the fun traditions and eating for non-national holidays so that they can concentrate extra hard on doing fuck-all for their precious days off. For the record, I am thankful for so much despite my almost constant complaining about basically everything. This weekend is Noji and my 1 year anniversary! (Whoa.) I guess I’m thankful for him, too.

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say ahhhh

So literally right after I came home from my whirlwind trip to California (my flight got in at 4:30am on Monday!), I started the work week and then after THAT was done, I went straight from work to the shinkansen to Noji’s family house for a 3-day holiday. First day was onsen (more naked baths with family), second day was Universal Studios in 95 degree heat, third day was Recovery, then back to the work week again.

So I was so looking forward to having a relaxing “back to normal” weekend with some good food, some shopping, and a little bit of sleeping in, but instead I woke up on Saturday morning to searing pain in the right side of my mouth. A canker sore ?? I looked in the mirror and my right tonsil had turned black and white. “This is probably not good?” we decided, and abandoned our post waiting for the delivery man to come (if you aren’t there at the time you specifically asked them to come back, do you get a black mark in your takkyubin records?) to go to the local ENT that had just days earlier told Noji the rattling in his ear was a huge spider who had taken up residence in there. Actually no, they told him it was nothing which is almost worst.

So we get there and the elevator won’t go to their clinic floor. WHY! We call them, no answer. Two old ladies come out and say “oh no, it’s open! oh the 2nd floor? I don’t know about that one.” Convinced it’s a fluke, we take the train one stop to another ENT that is open on Saturdays and they are also closed. It is at THAT point that we realize something is amiss (actually to be honest, I was still thinking “is there an ENT convention today?”) and our phones confirmed that it was the worst day that could ever exist: a Saturday national holiday.

By then it was like 1pm and to find a doctor that is open on a Saturday (or worse, Sunday) past then is hard enough, let alone make it a holiday, so I got some crap at the pharmacy and we retreated. I knew an ENT that was open on Sundays that was on our train line, so we’d just get there when it opened. My left tonsil was slowly but surely joining in on the fun.

We didn’t exactly get there when it opened (20 minutes later) but that was enough time for 23 people to check in before us. Basically every Tokyoite who, like us, couldn’t go on the Saturday holiday, was there and mostly with children. We got there at 10:20am and waited for three hours. The doctor was a low talker and had a mask on so I have no idea half of the stuff she said to me except “this is a bad case” on account of the fact my tonsils were a gangrene purple color which I guess isn’t a good sign.

After that I had to inhale some weird smokey medicine through this machine straight out of the 1960s and then I got a crap-ton of medicine. It cost about 3000 yen (38 dollars). I always like to go home after a trip to the Japanese doctors and see what kind of “haven’t-been-used-in-2-decades” medicine they leave me with, but this time I got:

Cravit (wikipedia tells me a not an all alarming: Levofloxacin (Levaquin (U.S.), Tavanic (E.U.), and others) is a synthetic chemotherapeutic antibiotic of thefluoroquinolone drug class[1][2] and is used to treat severe or life-threatening bacterial infections or bacterial infections that have failed to respond to other antibiotic classes.)
Mucodyne (for mucus! clever naming)
Tranexamic acid capsules (this is for the swelling I guess but supposedly it stops blood loss? I hope I don’t have any of that.)
Mefenamic acid (pain reliever. Wikipedia tells me a cool fact: Mefenamic acid decreases inflammation (swelling) and uterine contractions by a still unknown mechanism.)

Anyway, I hope I feel better tomorrow. After all, IT’S MONDAY (!!!).

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OLYMPICS

Noji and I met right before the Olympics in Beijing 2008 and now here we are again. We’re on an Olympic schedule. Nothing like bonding over gymnastics and equestrian!

This year, the time difference means all the good stuff is on late at night, so we’ve been staying up late and DVRing stuff, but Japan typically only gets excited for the events that Japan is good at, which means hours and hours and hours and hours of judo and swimming and men’s gym. But mostly judo. I think I finally know some of the rules (“Why did he just get 101 points??”) but Japan has lost nearly all their matches and for the first time ever, no Japanese men won gold. An American women did though! America has my olympic nationalism all riled up though. U-S-A U-S-A

Anyway, July flew by and now it’s August, insanely hot and muggy like every horrible summer here. We’re about twice as far from the station as we used to live so it’s exhausting to do pretty much anything (besides online shopping!). Next week we have a week off, but what is there to do in 95 degree weather in a walking city? (Catch up on blogging, of course.) There’s such a small percentage of the year where the weather is nice, it’s one of the things I hate most about Tokyo. I don’t remember NY being this hot…

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ty-ty

Unsurprisingly, our place is literally no more unpacked then when I made my last post. Things have been busy!

Last week we had a three-day weekend, which for 4 years running, we’ve spent in Gifu with Noji’s family. It usually becomes a Noji Birthday Celebration but this time we had a tinier reason to go back: BABIES! Noji’s brother’s wife had a baby last month, so it was time to pay a visit.

To be honest, I was kind of dreading it. I’m not really a maternal person, babies kind of freak me out. I didn’t want to have the “when are YOU planning on having kids?????” convo that would inevitably come up. ahhhh what if they make me hold himmmmmmmmm various selfish thoughts etc.

There’s something about mixed-race couples that seems to get people even more obsessed with babies. Half babies! Is there anything better! Mixed Race Babies Are The Best! As though our entire relationship is only legitimized by the potential cuteness of half babies. Erikas and Kens. When we waited for Noji’s parents at the airport with their Japanese tour guide, he spent most of the time showing us pictures of HIS half babies (now half adults) and going on about the wonders. “Handsome, isn’t he? Beautiful, isn’t she? You should try your hand at ’em too.” nudge nudge HALF BABIES

Anyway, we ended up only got asked about babies once and no one made me hold the baby and the baby was very cute but mostly just cried and wiggled. So it was not that bad! Then we all went back to work forever and ever and never had fun again.

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