Tokyo Tidbits from the Eyes of this Towheads…

Hi there! So, I know it’s been a very long while since I posted. I swear I will try and improve. Sometimes I really get caught up in these long hours that I work here in Japan. My two bosses, Gus-san and Mack-san, are so demanding. When I want to quit my workday, they are adamant that I continue working all.night.long. I mean, I know that the work days are longer here but these two turd bosses just take up all my time. Honestly, they are a pair of honey badgers. Oh, you’ve got cool stuff like blog posts to do?  They don’t give a care.  But I am going to be better at getting posts out anyway.  I just might have to be quick about it.  The little one is probably already eating a cobra as I type…

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Anyway, I am thinking, every once in a while, that I am going to post a bit I think I will call ‘Tokyo Tidbits‘. This is a section where I will post random, unique, and interesting things that are decidedly Japan/Tokyo. Now, I have only just now reached the 9 month mark, so I am not an expert, but there are some really amusing things I have noted since moving to Tokyo that I would love to share with you. Let’s expand the Asian-knowledge part of your brain, shall we?…

Topic 1:   Tattoos

Did you know that tattoos in Japan are kind of taboo? I took my towhead kids to the public swimming pool this past summer and turns out that most, if not all, public swimming pools make sure you don’t have any tattoos before you enter the pool? Same goes for fitness centers. We joined a club and one of the questions on the application was literally, “Do you have any tattoos?” From what I understand it has to do with mafia members here and people feel uncomfortable when they see tattoos as they are associated with said gangsters. Interesting, isn’t it? I personally don’t have any, but many of my friends and family do. I just thought this was unusual when I was checked at the pool for ink. If you do have them, you have to hide them with a coverup or tape. So, if you are this guy…

AP NUGGETS MEDIA DAY BASKETBALL S BKN USA CO

…and you want to come visit and swim, you might want to pack a burka…

Topic 2:   Clicking Cameras

You know that one time when you saw a Justin Bieber lookalike and you secretly wanted a picture of him so you could post it on your Facebook page and write all sorts of witty comments about hoody vests, combovers vs. pompadours, and the art of staring all sultry-like into the camera.

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Alas, Tokyo makes this oh-so-fulfilling past time a little bit harder to participate in.  Because that shutter sound your well-practiced spy skills have taught you to silence, well, it just can’t be done on a Japanese phone.  There is no silence option on your camera settings.  Each and every picture you take will blare that shutter sound every time.  Honestly, it doesn’t bode well for those who appreciate a good stealth shot, but it actually has some really great intentions behind it.  This is so that sly pictures can not be taken without someone knowing.  For example, it makes taking an uber-creepy upskirt pic on the crowded train that much more difficult and noticeable.  I can get on board with that!!

Topic 3:   Men’s Handbags

Guys, if you tell me you wouldn’t benefit from carrying a MANdbag, I won’t believe you.  I can’t tell you how many times the towhead hubby has asked me to carry his keys, his wallet, and the odd inhaler during allergy season in my purse. Think about it.  You could put all your man articles in your own shoulder bag and have it at the ready!  But, I know better than that.  A lot of western men would not want to carry around what they deem a “purse”.  However, here in Tokyo, the mandbag is embraced and commonly used, and there is a real market for them.  Whether they range from a sharp shoulder satchel to a full-on, two-handled, snake-skin leather handbag that would make any Coach-devotee jealous, they are all over the place in Tokyo.  At first I just thought it was the chivalrous move of carrying your gal’s handbag while her hands were full. But, nope, it was kind of surprising to discover everyone has their own 🙂  I do like how fashion-forward thinking the men and the women are here. Could I imagine my hubby carrying one?  Well, I think he is more of a backpack guy, but if he ever decided to throw caution to the wind and give the mandbag a try, he would fit right in.

Topic 4:   Swip-Swapping R’s and L’s

Remember that scene in “A Christmas Story” where they are at the restaurant and the wait staff is singing “Deck the halls with boughs of horry.  Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra.”

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This was a Chinese restaurant as opposed to Japanese but still, they pronounced the R’s as L’s and vice versa.  We all get a kick out of it.  Hollywood possibly even plays up on this stereotype.  Well I am here to tell you, it’s totally true.  They are swip-swapped!  But, here’s the interesting part.  It’s not just the accent or confused elocution like people may assume.  Within the Japanese alphabet, the ‘R’s truly ARE pronounced as ‘L’s and the ‘L’s as ‘R’s!  So it isn’t bad pronunciation, it is phonetically the correct way to pronounce those letters according to the Japanese language.  (For instance, the character that is associated with the sound “ra” should be pronounced like “la”). So really, they are pronouncing it correctly according to their language rules.  I try and switch them when I remember, but it’s easy to forget since that’s the way I’ve been saying them since I started yapping.  Funny how the tables have turned.  Guess who sounds goofy now?  Araina and Lodney.

Towhead out.

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Tokyo Towhead’s Take on Toilets…

Oooh, this will be fun! We get to talk about cans today. Cans of soda? No. Cans of sardines? Ewww, no. Trash cans? Hello, boring! I’m talking about the can can!  The porcelain throne!  Why in all that is holy would I want to talk about that?  Because, it is one of the things people ask about most when they find out we live here in Japan.  Believe me, I was curious too. We’ve all heard stories about what the powder rooms are like here.  And, to be quite honest, they are a bit different….in a good way.  Come, take a walk with me to meet my friend Tokyo John…

Here he is. He’s cute, he’s got a great little shape, and knows how to multitask.  Perfect, right?

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My John can do a lot of things.  He can open his lid and say hello…

He can also close his own lid (smart man!) and  open the second seat too!  What else is he capable of?  Well, he can self flush, light flush, oscillate, pulsate, spray, bidet, front bidet…ummmm, adjust his pressure, and dry the heinie! He is a real work of art! 😉

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In saying that, there is this option out there…you may have heard about it. You can find this in the parks and public places.  And, yes, this is a ladies’ water closet.  So, you know, there are those as well if you are so inclined or missed squat and leg day at the gym.

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I also feel it is my duty to enlighten you on what a Japanese shower is while we are on the topic of all things hygiene.  This is what they look like…

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It’s a separate shower and bath tub all in one room.  So splash around all you want in the tub, shoot, do a cannonball if you feel the urge, because the water will just go down the drain in the shower area.  It’s perfect for the mini towheads. You want to throw boatloads of water out of the tub onto the floor, do ya?  Absolutely! Go for it, sea captain! Because I am a fun mom…or it may be because it just goes down the drain anyway 🙂 There you have it, folks.  Enquiring minds wanted to know…

Towhead’s Tokyo Trek for Treats

I’ll tell you what I don’t miss while being here in Tokyo.  It’s ‘The Walmart’ 🙂  I’m not going to say they don’t have great prices.  They do.  And, I am not going to say they don’t carry loads of useful and needed items. Of course Walmart does, it’s their mojo.  Shoot, I used to work there in high school and met some of the greatest people I know there!  However, I gotta say I don’t miss the big discount retail shopping.  Rather, since moving here, we shop more frequently and more fresh since storage and freezer is at a minimum.  Which is actually just fine by me. Now, my wallet may disagree.  I swear she has a spasm every time we stop at the market (‘Yes, cashier, I will actually be buying this 12 dollar pineapple’) but I really dig that part of living in downtown Tokyo.  Plus, the arms get a great workout from hauling our vittles about.  And let’s just say, that pesky stroller in crowded streets becomes a whole lot more of a bosom buddy when you have to hit the store.  Now, the kid you have to carry to free up said stroller, the literal bosom buddy, that’s a whole other issue, but I digress. I am pretty sure the last time Towhead Hubby went to the store, he used the stroller as his cart.  Keep in mind, the kids and I were at home.  He didn’t look cray cray at all… :/

we don't know him

Now, after saying all that, Tokyo does have Costco.  And this Towhead and two of her Towhead gals headed there this past month to pick up some items, because you just can’t beat some of the prices.  You know the type of goodies; ginormous boxes of cereal, toliet paper, a gallon’s worth of pasta sauce… Anywho, when you go there, it is an all day excursion. One thing worth noting is, you have to go down an escalator to get to the store and the carts are at the top.  How does that work?  It’s a steep escalator with no steps (think people movers) that magnetizes to your cart and sends you both down to Costco (read: gluttony) level.  Then when you are done shopping, jump back on there with heavy cart and all, and you and 500 pounds of chow are back on top.  Towhead Helen can’t get enough of it.  She must take a picture every time like she’s onboard a Six Flags roller coaster.  God love her…

Towhead Leanne has a car (score!) so we could bring all our provisions home.  Otherwise, they’ve got delivery for a fee or you can cart your fodder home.  But, you know Costco sizes.  On the train?! Ain’t nobody got time for that!  So three ladies make a date of it and load up on Costco items…

ImageThat’s what back home style shopping looks like here in Tokyo.  And we were able to all fit back in on the way home.  Remind me not to play Leanne in Jenga.

Don’t get me wrong.  There is a discount retailer here in downtown Tokyo.  It’s called Don Quixote, it’s awesome, and we love to go there. Donki (which I think it’s affectionately called, maybe?) is in an area called Roppongi (among others) and it has 6 packed-to-the-gills floors full of Asian branded products.  Need an exercise ball? No problem.  Over there by the pantyhose.  Want fabric softener? Sure, over by the men’s underwear.  Looking for that french maid’s costume?  You got it! Down next to the Hello Kitty and Pokemon toys.  Say what?!  Believe me, it is a sight to see.  It’s whacked, packed, and If you come and visit, I’ll take you there 🙂

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Towhead Taking on the Talk and Translation…

The Hubby and I are taking on Japanese lessons. To date, I’ve actually had 5 lessons so far.  I’ve got the basics down.  You know, things like “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Please”, “Thank you”, “Your Welcome” and how to introduce myself.  We’ve also begun learning how to order food at a restaurant, days of the week, colors, and how to ask for something in a shop.  And, I’m not going to lie, it’s HARD.  But recollection and remembering are getting easier.  Until I get really confident in the language, though, I’m pretty slow.  But, I LOVE to practice using it when we are out and about.  Oh, I am 100 percent sure I sound like a goof, but how else do you learn?!  I just hope my speed improves.  It would be nice to not to take 1.5 years to order a coffee…

Rodney is doing well too.  Although, at the beginning (and I am 100 percent sure on this as well), he was switching ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.  When I called him out on that he said, ‘Oh, for sure I am!’  We’ll get there.

Maybe, after time, we can read the important things like…

Prescriptions (which one was 2 times a day and which was 5 again?)…

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Or, our utility bills (I really wonder how much water we used when I forgot to turn off the ‘auto fill’ button on the bathtub- otherwise known as deep-end-of-a-pool)…

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Or, the cable remote…

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Again, we’ll certainly get there.  We are getting better and better everyday.  Not that there aren’t moments of ‘lost in translation’.  The other day we finally made it to Ginza, a truly fab shopping area of Tokyo.  It’s the kind of place I would love to be dropped off at and left there to fend for myself for literally days on end.  Seriously, Rodney, I swear I would come home eventually and be just fine. I could totally make a temporary home for myself out of my shopping bags.  It’s all good.

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Anyway, we were taking a cab back home and Rodney realized the driver was asking if I was Heidi Klum.  Rodney kept saying “Hai (yes)” because he didn’t realize what he was asking till later on.  Must have been the blond hair and sunglasses.  Very flattering and all, but one things really concerns me.  We were getting behind the wheel of a blind man…

Towhead out.

Why This Towhead Thinks Tokyoites are Tubular…

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Hi! Towhead Alaina here.  In one more day, we will have officially been in Tokyo for a month from when we touched down in Narita Airport.  One month in and still more or less living out of our suitcases while we wait for our sea shipment of furniture, toys, and the rest of our stuff to arrive.  I’ve racked my brain to see what of our stuff I have missed most.  Oddly, I haven’t missed too much.  I like living with less and the temporary furniture, bedding, and kitchenware does the job.  But if I could have one thing right now that still hasn’t arrived, I think that one thing would honestly be the boppy for the baby.  Why didn’t I throw that in my bag?  Now, granted, the stage of life we are currently in makes me answer that way.  If our kids were older or we were DINKs, however, I maybe, just maybe, would have answered my new Michael Kohrs bag out there on the boat somewhere….

Now, on to subject. Why are the Tokyoites I have come into contact with after a month so tubular?  Because they are intrinsically kind and considerate. Like, all of them.  Here are a few examples:

A couple weeks ago, my family of towheads walked down to Tokyo Bay.  Since we were just out exploring and wandering around, I wasn’t wearing my most comfortable shoes.  So on the way back home, I noticed my heel was a bit bloody from rubbing against my shoe.  True to little boy form, my 3 year old wants to see my boo boo.  So I show it to him, of course, while we are waiting to cross the street. After crossing the street, I feel a slight tap-tap-tap on my shoulder.  It’s a Japanese lady handing me two bandaids. I was so floored by her thoughtfulness I forgot how to even say the one Japanese word I actually know really well, Arigato gozaimasu, thank you!

There was also the time when Rodney dropped money on the floor of the cab and the driver went out of his way to make sure he got it back, or the story our friend Josh tells of how he left his bag on the train (with two laptops, an iPad, and a wad of cash equivalent to multiple Benjamin’s) and when he went back to get it, it was still there, intact.  Or, the way people here make a special effort to engage my babies.  Ooh-ing, ahh-ing, tickling, giggling, making them smile.  It’s really a breath of fresh air.

Last observation.  It just might be my favorite one.  And, I mean it as an utmost compliment.  The Japanese people love to (what Americans call) ‘geek out’.  They don’t mind using big expressions or gestures, dancing in groups at the park, making dorky peek-a-boo faces for the little ones, and even conducting morning synchronized stretch sessions to music at work. (It’s a real thing, people! Like an office exercise flash mob.  Ask the hubby.  He does it!)  They have a real exuberance and enthusiasm.  No one is too cool for school.  And, I love that.

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The Tokyo Trek Begins…

 

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Konnichiwa! Welcome to Tokyo Towheads! I’m glad you are here! This is a blog about my family and our coming adventures as towheads in downtown Tokyo.  Now, I can’t claim I’m an expert on where to visit when in Tokyo or even be used as a guide (yet!), but what I am hoping to accomplish at this point is to, first, make this blog a place where my family and friends can go to see what shenanigans we have been up to.  And, maybe, with time, be a resource to others (those from the States like us, and even those who are not!) who are moving to Tokyo without knowing very much (by ‘very much’ I mean nothing) beyond the very basics.  So far, we are a few days off from being here a month. Okay, we’ve been here 26 days if you want to be a techni-weenie. So my brain is not full of useful information yet (I’m not gonna lie, I had to look up the spelling of Konnichiwa). But maybe soon it will be.

In the meantime, take the Tokyo Trek with us…