One year in Japan

So that flew by. Doesn't seem possible but it's already been a year since my arrival. And what do I have to say about Japan? Truth is it's like living on another planet most of the time. Many pleasant surprises but many disappointments too, watch for my I Love/Hate You Japan series. 

I like to think I've used this year to work on me-things I never had the chance to before. But I'm lazy too and I'm pretty sure I just got lazier over the last year. You know that saying "When you want something done, ask a busy person"? I'm the opposite of that person now. 

In an attempt to give myself some credit anyway, and do an annual check-in of sorts, here's a list of things I have, and have not, accomplished in the last year.

Goals I've reached:

+ Lived in Japan (okay, there's a LOT to that one all on its own)
+ Learned how to travel in Japan
+ Lost weight and got in better shape
+ Learned to cook fish (sort of)
+ Posted more here in blogland
+ Bought a good camera

Goals I could possibly still reach:

+ Read lots more books
+ Watch most of the movies on my lists
+ Build shelves in the kitchen
+ Learn how to use my new camera
+ Visit Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and/or Cambodia
+ Travel to Hawaii or Guam
+ Spend more time in Tokyo and Kyoto, and travel more around Japan

Stuff I wanted to do but now I know probably won't:

+ Really learn Japanese (no thanks, I don't have a decade of my life to spare, and I just don't care that much)
+ Ride the bullet trains all over Japan (shinkansen are only affordable for people with tourist visas, I have a resident visa so it's significantly cheaper to fly)
+ Watch more than three of the scary movies in my lists (I'm turning into a wuss)
+ Learn about Japanese gardening (what was I thinking? I'll never be a gardener, in any country)
+ Establish genuine friendships with Japanese people (it seems they'll never stop gawking like I'm an exotic zoo animal)

Things I had no idea I'd be doing here:

+ Building Wordpress websites
+ Living in a home that's one step away from camping
+ Learning so many difficult truths about Japan
+ Having a hell of a time finding anything well-designed
+ Watching way too many TV shows

I'll try to remember to check back in here once in a while – but can't make any promises.

Geisha in Flight by Shohei Otomo via Imgur


I Love You Japan

I've been trying to come up with an idea for short posts about living in Japan. I decided I'll try to quickly write about one thing I love or hate about it. And because I'm trying to stay positive about this living-on-another-planet experience, today I'll start with something I love about Japan. (These will NOT be things hipsters rave about upon return from their wabi-sabi zen vacations.)

Today's subject: Safety.

Not from typhoons, earthquakes, radiation leaks, or tsunamis. I'm talking crime. Japan is ranked the safest country in the world. It's incredibly safe here and it's pretty amazing to know in an absolute sense that I'll never be gunned down in the street randomly or otherwise. Unless I start mixing with the yakuza gangs, it's just not going to happen. Sure there's some crime but when it does go down it's a very big deal, like when that teenager recently strangled a classmate. Total outlier and a HUGE deal!

Point is that murder, robbery, home invasion, reckless driving, these things simply don't happen like they do in other countries. Women can walk around most city streets late at night and not worry about anything. I don't have to lock my car or house and if someone nicks my bike at the train station? Chances are it will be back the next day. People care more about society as a whole than themselves as individuals, and everyone watches out for each other. I love that about Japan.

Lost in Translation (great film) stencil via deviantART


Escape to a Tiny London Flat

Okay, I'm spoiled. In August I spent ten days in London, one of my favorite cities. After almost a year in Japan where I'm a total freak-of-nature-mutant-alien-outsider, it was amazing to be somewhere I don't scare the shit out of everyone because I look "just like their favorite zombie comic book character". (Awesome.)

Unwanted Japanese fame aside, I'm all about renting apartments when I travel. It's less expensive than a hotel and I get a much better sense of a place when I pretend to live there. (Uh, take-out anyone?) Besides, I have a short-term rental apartment so I consider this research and development.

Hahahaaa. As if.

Anyway, in my travels I've used Arbnb, VRBO, Homeaway, and private rental companies but this time I went with One Fine Stay, a new company letting homes and apartments in London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. I was impressed by the way they present properties, their styling and photography.

My spouse was there for work (officially) and this lovely little studio apartment in the middle of swank Chelsea is where we "lived". The flat is small but charming and was perfect for two. The wee kitchen is a converted closet but has a window, an under-counter fridge, a two burner stove and even a half-sized dishwasher. (No dishwashers in Japan, so this was decadent.)

The bathroom was luxurious, considering my Japanese bathroom is utter utilitarian sadness. (I hate it.)

One Fine Stay is still a young company, and our stay wasn't entirely problem-free but overall the flat was comfortable and the staff was responsive (if sometimes slow) to our requests. A staff member meets you there to get you set up and they even give you an iPhone, a major advantage when navigating a foreign city.

Maybe it was the time of year or global warming or the influx of Russian gangster money or being surrounded by the English language again but London was just what we needed. It was a smashing holiday and now I cannot wait to go back.


Long Awaited Punkrock

I get excited about a few certain events. Film festivals. Overseas travel. Ikea opening a store in my city. The arrival of fall. Food truck Wednesday. A Transformer movie without Shia LaBeouf. Shit like that. I don't talk music much here because film is more my thing. But then Rancid announced they're finally coming out with a new album and there's no way I can contain myself about this. Yes, my favorite East Bay punkrockers are back. And we only had to wait six years since they released Let the Dominoes Fall – but hell, I'd have waited 20 years.


When I live in Helsinki

I will live here. I hope Finnish designer Joanna Laajisto won't mind when I boot her out of her apartment.

Are these floors realistic for two big dogs with dark fur that flies off them at a spectacular rate? Probably not. Do I care? Nope.


It's a lot of white. For those long Scandinavian winter nights. So where IS the fireplace? Whaaat, an actual flaw? It cannot be.

The back room must be where they threw all the stuff they didn't want in the photo shoot. 

Damn this understated kitchen. 

I've probably pinned this rosemary-plant-and-wood-boards-on-marble-counter photo at least seventeen times. 

In truth I'd be happy if I could just steal these black coffee mugs and the shiny espresso machine from a few photos up. Not that I'd know how to work it.

(Sorry, I mentioned my caffeine problem in my last post. Addiction is real, people.)

Bay windows too? Stop. Just stop.

Photos by Mikko Ryh√§nen via Living | Seen on Desire to Inspire