Friday, May 29, 2009
The Yen is an easy one to figure out against the dollar as I have mentioned before. The kids caught on very quickly. The '100' Yen (~$1) comes in the form of a coin and the '1000' Yen (~$10) as a bill. But because we are in Tokyo and because the 100 Yen is a coin - we use it like a quarter - or so it seems. The kids want a gumball from the machine? Sure here's a 100 Yen. It doesn't seem to be worth as much because it's a coin. And we use the 1000 Yen bill more like a dollar - crazy.
It's a little strange to send your kid off to school with their club/activity fees in an envelope. 'Nick, make sure you give that 20,000 Yen to your teacher.' Gulp. I once found an envelope on the ground with about 35,000 Yen in it. Fortunately, it was an English speaking family who wrote a name on it and said it was for Kimono pics. I figured it was an International School close by and got the money into the right hands, but that's what I am talking about! No one has lost any money yet. I'm just the one who makes the costly mistakes like buying a rice warmer instead of a rice cooker. If I had written down every time I made some purchasing mistake I would flip out, whether it was food that wasn't what I thought it was or hey, how about the nail polish that didn't have a price, but I thought 'How expensive could it be at this drug store?' It could actually be about 21 dollars. Ahh!!!
We have also learned that exact change is appreciated. The cashiers don't seem to mind as I count out my Yen - Yen by Yen. And you know you are in Japan when you hand them the equivalent of 100 dollars when in fact you only need to pay 10 dollars that they won't rip you off. Early on I would often just hold out a handful of change and let them pick out what they needed. The good and trustworthy Japanese.
We definitely are a bit more aware of how much money we are spending since we aren't dropping the plastic all the time. A perk of cash verses credit however is that there is no credit card statement to 'report' how I spent my money... Yeah, Jack, I must have spent A LOT on groceries this week, mostly on butter I think ;)
Thursday, May 28, 2009
There are an amazing number of convenience stores, 40,000 in Japan to be exact. Combini is the Japanese word for convenience store which actually comes from the word convenience - since the 'v' isn't used here, it's replaced with the 'b' and then just shortened up a bit or something like that. The ones most commonly seen every block or so include some familiar ones from the states and some new ones: Lawson, am/pm, Circle K, Family Mart and 7- Eleven. Why would I mention something that is so similar to the states? Well, we are able to accomplish quite a bit at these little shops and I learn everyday the endless amount of services that they provide. These are our favorite 10 things to accomplish at our Japanese 7-Eleven.
10. Observe the business men in their black suits at lunch time line up along the magazine rack and read comics
9. Make copies on the copying machine with a little help from the cashier to read the buttons - green does not necessarily mean 'print'
8. Get cash
7. Pay utility bills
6. Add money to the balance of the phone calling card
5. Use the Pasmo (public transportation card) to pay for purchases since nobody really uses credit cards here - ever.
4. Buy ice cream and candy - Coolish, an aluminum pouch filled with ice cream with a screw off lid and limited edition flavors of Kit Kat - these go fast!
3. Buy some onigiri for lunch - rice filled triangles with tuna, salmon etc...wrapped with nori and many other healthy lunch/dinner options that I haven't tried - yet.
2. Buy baseball tix or concert tix
1. Drop off the dry cleaning - Jack's lucky find - cheapest deal in town !
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Glad I didn't throw that one out.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
In this shop I was trying to mix and match some bowls and when I went to pay, the guy shook his head and said, 'No, only 5' I was like, 'huh?' I looked at the other gaijin and they gave me the knowing look of 'yeah, good luck trying to figure out what he's saying.' When I didn't put back my items and continued to browse he brought another guy who spoke some English and he sort of explained that I had to buy 5 of the same thing, no mixing. That was common in a lot of other shops - this does cater to the restaurants, so it makes sense, but I didn't want 5 of the same, so I left. I managed to find a few that let me buy just one.
My main goal for this particular trip was to purchase a chef's knife and have them inscribe my name in Katakana on the knife. One of the three guys spoke pretty good English, otherwise I don't know what would have ended up on my knife. I'll have to ask the kids if it says what it is supposed to say. Initially one guy said ' Two alphabets only' So I thought - okay my initials. But I hate my initials, BM, I usually put BSM, but that clearly wasn't going to fit. So I write BM down on a piece of paper for them and the men all look at it laugh about something - they couldn't be laughing at the meaning of my initials could they? I told them I wanted it in Katakana. "Oh......" they said and then chatted away, back and forth and finally English speaking man says - ' Too long in Katakana' as he sounded it out. So I settled for just the 'M' I think.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
During this 'Golden Week' at preschool all the dads are picking up and dropping off except for Jack as he prefers to save his vacation days for our longer trips. Our kids all had school being in international schools, so it made sense for him to be at work. It's also much easier when you are the only one in the office. I, myself, celebrated by lying in bed with some nasty stomach bug. The illnesses here are different, can't quite explain it, just different which makes it a little scary. I am slowly returning to an actual functioning human being. I had to resurface as two days in bed = an unrecognizable apartment. One of the days that I spent in bed Connor was home with me and I later learned he had Vanilla Wafers for lunch (no, they don't sell them here, we shipped those in). Poor child. He wasn't complaining though.
To recognize Kodomo no hi the kids in both schools created their own koi no bori (carp streamers). And of course, the curse of the middle child, I only have photos of Kate and Connor, but not Nick. When I asked him why he wasn't in the picture from school he told me that was the day he was home sick. Oh well.
Connor's class created a giant carp streamer. They are usually completely immersed in their art. I only remember that Wednesday is Art with Miss Shioh because he comes home with multicolored jeans, paint in his hair and a shirt that will never be the same again even after the full body smock. They have a great time.