Photo Diary – February 2017 | Nihonchique

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Japan has so many faces. This month, I was able to see another side of Japan, in a small island called Toshijima, in Mie prefecture. This was for work, but I felt so lucky to go out into nature and experience something that many tourists don’t get to experience. I also went to Ise Grand Shrine on that trip and it was one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to in Japan. You really can’t understand the feeling unless you go personally, so I highly recommend that if you get the chance, go check it out for yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

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Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka!

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Fox Statue at Sumiyoshi Taisha! 🦊

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伊勢神宮に参りました〜!⛩

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Mysterious Vibes at Ise Grand Shrine!

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Photo Diary – January 2017 | nihonchique

January  was a whirlwind of traveling for pleasure and for work. I went to see Kanjani8, went to Kyoto 2 times,  and made my first trip to Toba City in Mie. I want to keep up this pace for traveling to areas around Kansai and taking more photos, as it has been a form of healing for me and a way to direct my some of my energy into something that I have had an interest in for a while.

One of the most exciting parts of this month was starting my very first goshuinchō, or special stamp book that you can buy from shrines and temples. With this in hand, you can get a stamp at most shrines and temples that you go to, documenting all of the places that you have been to. January 2017 is the beginning of my journey to see more temples and shrines in Japan and travel more.

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Some of my favorite things ❤

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鳥羽はキレイ〜! Toba is beautiful!!

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Pearl Flower Brooch at Mikimoto Pearl Island!

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Another fun day exploring Kyoto!

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Aqueducts at Nanzenji in Kyoto!

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Photo Diary – December 2016 | nihonchique

December was a very busy month for me at work, so I didn’t post much. It got cold, so I was wearing coats full time since the beginning of the month, thus the dress and coat picture.

I went home to America from December 23rd through January 3rd, and it was special to me because I hadn’t been home for Christmas since 2012. I loved seeing the Christmas tree and having a restful time at home with just my 4 member family.

I posted my Instagram top 9 photos of 2016, and it was nostalgic to see the memories that I had throughout 2016, and it really did highlight some the best memories that I had during the year, including the NEWS LIVE TOUR 2016 QUARTETTO, Onsen (Hot-spring) times, and Fall leaves in Arashiyama. I look forward to documenting  2017 through photos, and I want to take some of those pictures and blow them up and frame them in my apartment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3年ぶりの実家過しクリスマス!🎄

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5 Tips For Moving Within Japan

Within the 3 years that I have lived in Japan, I have moved within Japan 2 times. Once from Kyoto City to Osaka Prefecture, and once to from Osaka Prefecture to Osaka City. When you move within Japan, there are a few things that you need to be aware of. I will be pointing out 5 of these things that will be helpful for people moving within Japan.

Tip #1: Calculate how much money it will take to move ahead of time

Moving within Japan can be expensive; having to deal with many different expenses that we are not used to as foreigners. While at the real estate agency, you should ask all about these various expenses you will have to pay before you submit the application, so that you are not surprised at how much it costs before you sign the contract. The real estate agent should be able to break everything down for you, including the real estate agency fee. If you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask them over and over again until you understand, because it is their job to make you feel comfortable with what you are paying for moving. Also, keep in mind that you also need to calculate how much it will cost for the actual move, meaning to move your things from one place to another.

Tip #2: Give notice on your current place at least 1 Month Before Moving

Most apartment rental contracts in Japan are 2-year contracts, but if you give notice 1 month before you move out, you are able to move with only paying the last month’s rent. If you move out with less than a month’s notice, there will be extra fees incurred, including paying an extra month that you will not be living there for.  Also, keep in mind that extra fees can also be incurred if you move out within 6 months from the beginning of the contract, but this depends on the specific contract that you sign.

Tip #3: Hire a Moving Company

Now, there are many different instances for this depending on how much stuff that you have, but if you have a significant amount of things to move or you are moving a long distance, then using a moving company is very useful.

First step is to call the company and get a quotation for moving. During this process, they will talk to you about all the options that you have. When you use a moving company in Japan they have a variety of options that you can choose from, from simply hiring the company to put your things into the truck, to having the moving company pack up all of your things into boxes for you, to even having them pack AND unpack everything for you. Every time I moved, I used the option of having the moving company pack my things up for me (it cost about 30,000 yen for that option), while I unpacked everything. I find this easier than having them unpack everything for me because I am not yet familiar with my new place to tell them where to put everything and want to unpack everything myself. If you do not have enough time to pack everything up before the move, then this is the option for you. I personally have used Sakai both times when I have moved within Japan. There is also a company called The 0123 that is also very popular moving company to use in Japan. Please let me know if you would like an post about my experience with Sakai!

Tip #4: Change your Utilities over from your old place to your new place

Utilities in Japan usually include Gas, Electricity, and Internet. Water is normally paid with your rent to the company that owns the building, but double check if it is or not. All of these utilities you can either call on the phone or change online. When I moved in September, I changed all of my utilities online, except for the Internet For Gas, if you live in an apartment with auto lock (where the entrance of the apartment has a security door) you have to be there when the gas company comes to read the meter for the last time and also to turn on the gas for the new apartment. (Note that not all apartment buildings have gas). Electricity and Internet do not require anyone to come to the apartment, just a phone call to turn off at your old place.

Tip #5: Move in and Move out Notice to the Ward Office

When moving in Japan, you must submit a move out and move in notice. A move out notice is only for moving from one city to another, but you must inform the new ward office that you have moved into that ward regardless. This is important for foreigners because the ward office has to write your new address on the back of your residence card. You need your address changed on the back of this card so that you can change your address at places like your bank account, cellphone contract and even having mail sent to you. This basically becomes proof of your new address. You have to legally do the move in and move out notice within 2 weeks (14 days) of moving to your new place.

These were my 5 tips for moving in Japan! Please let me know in the comments below about your experiences moving within Japan or if you have any questions that you would like answered about Japan.

Get Your Chocolate Fix at Max Brenner Chocolate Bar!

For Silver week, my roommate Meghan and I ventured out to Osaka station to try out a new restaurant. Lucua Department store in Osaka station renovated and re-opened back at the beginning of April. Within Lucua 1100, a lot of new stores and restaurants opened up. One restaurant that opened up inside the newly renovated department store was Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. I have wanted to eat there since it had opened, but the lines were horrendously long for a very long time, but recently it has settled down and we decided to finally try it out!

 

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When you first walk up to the resturant, you can choose to either take out or eat inside the restaurant. The takeout menu isn’t as extensive as the eat in menu, but you can take out most anything except the chocolate fondue.

While we were standing in line, we looked at the menu and decided on the “Party Platter”, which included the famous European Fondue and Chocolate Chunks Pizza. We also each ordered the Italian Thick Hot Chocolate.

You walk up to the counter and order first and then sit down with your number at a seat of your choice. After that, the staff brings you your order.

 

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The inside of the restaurant was very chic, all in brown. The chandlers were a very nice touch! The window looked out into Osaka station and a great place to people watch.

 

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First item that came was the Italian Thick Hot Chocolate. I ordered it in Milk Chocolate while Meghan ordered it in White Chocolate.

 

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It lived up to it’s name, being very thick! The Milk Chocolate one in particular was rich, but the White Chocolate was a bit easier to drink I thought. You can also order it in Dark Chocolate as well, and next time I want to try that!

Then, the main meal arrived; The Party Platter! Max-Brenner-4

First was the Plate with the Chocolate Chunks Pizza, Banana Split Waffle, and Strawberry Hazelnut Crepe.

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Next, was the Chocolate Fondue. You can order it in Milk Chocolate, White Chocolate, or Dark Chocolate, but we opted for Milk Chocolate.

There even was a mini fire to roast the marshmallows before dipping it into the melted chocolate, making it taste just like s’mores, but without the graham crackers.

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The Marshmallow Pizza (Chocolate Chunk Pizza) was hard to cut because of the crust and was the richest out of the 3 of them. Most of the customers around us ordered the pizza in the half size, as it came with 2 slices. This and the Party Platter seemed to be the most popular items ordered from what I saw.

The Banana Split Waffle was delicious! My favorite part was the caramelized banana on the top of the waffle, which gave it an extra bit of sweetness. It also came with some ice-cream, that I believe to be toffee or caramel flavored.

I liked the Crepe the best out of the 3 desserts, as it wasn’t as rich as the others. I liked how the strawberries were inside the Crepe with the chocolate. The strawberries also helped balance out the richness of the chocolate and it made a great combination!

In the end, both Meghan and I were both full because the chocolate was so rich and we weren’t able to finish everything! Next time I go, I want to try the Mexican Hot Chocolate or one of the iced chocolate drinks that they have.

If you are a chocolate lover, I highly recommend Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. It has a good combination of different foods, all with chocolate of course! You also have the ability to choose what type of chocolate you want for most dishes, which is a nice touch. If you are in a hurry and do not want to wait in line, at least try one of the Chocolate Drinks to go. You won’t be disappointed!

They have 3 locations in Tokyo and 1 in Osaka. Click here for the Menu and for all the locations.

My Japan Story: The Beginnings| nihonchique

Japan. This country has been apart of my life since I was a child without me even knowing it. I grew up with watching Pokemon and sitting in front of the television before school in middle school watching Digimon, after school watching Beyblade, playing with Yu-Gi-Oh cards with the other children in my neighborhood and more. I was also fascinated with Spirited Away, the English title for the Mizayaki Hayto`s famous movie Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi that was dubbed in English by Disney. I remember seeing nothing like it at the time and being a bit scared, but fascinated by it, even just by watching the commercials for it. At that time though, I had no idea that these works were from Japan, it was just different from the typical cartoons in America at the time and I enjoyed it.

It wasn’t until a middle school classmate handed me the manga Fruits Basket in 6th grade that I finally realized that these works were from Japan. I read it and immediately became hooked, receiving more recommendations like Fushigi Yuugi and Jump manga like Naruto. I remember when I couldn’t sleep at night and I turned on the TV in my room to late night cartoons to find Inuyasha on. It continued to be come one of my all-time favorite Animes and what gave me my first real insight into what life in Japan was like. Through Anime, and Japanese dramas later on, I learned about Japanese culture, as they showed things like house life, Japanese school life, and more. I fell in love with the land of the rising sun through this and wanted to learn more.

As I changed schools in 8th grade, I began to immerse myself in all things Anime and Manga, finding many friends at my new school with the same interest as well. There was even an Anime and Manga club that was founded when I was a junior in high school that I joined and went to when I didn’t have cheerleading practice. I had two loves in High School: Cheerleading and Anime/ Manga. When I wasn’t at school or doing schoolwork, I was either practicing with one of my 2 cheerleading squads or watching Anime/reading manga.

By the last year of high school, I began to plateau with the material I was consuming, in other words I was getting bored. I wanted something more, something “real”. Anime and Manga had given me a taste of what Japan was like, but I wanted to know more, I wanted to understand japan better. So, I started to research and I found musicals based off of my favorite animes, Bleach and Prince of Tennis and I was instantly hooked. Around that same time, I also found Japanese dramas, that were based off of Animes or Manga as well.

With these two, it gave me pathway to learning more about Japanese culture by introducing me to the world of Japanese actors and actresses. I began to learn more about the famous people in Japan and support them not as their characters, but as the actors and actresses themselves. It also began to introduce me to how the Japanese entertainment industry was structured as an agency system, which is far different than in America, as well as how many of these “Talents” cross between many different forms of entertainment, such as music, acting, modeling and more. High school graduation was approaching and my love for Japan just kept on growing and growing.

(to be continued…)

Working in a Japanese Company: Part 5 – Attention to Detail

Over the past few months, I have noticed a particular trend inside my company: attention to detail, which is something that I lack personally. It frustrates me to no end and sometimes I feel it goes against my very upbringing as someone from a western culture. Sometimes it can even be laughable at how detailed a Japanese company can get. I will give a few examples of some instances that I have encountered so far.

First up is my handwriting. I have known from a young age that my handwriting has been bad, but the people in my company never fail to poke fun at my handwriting. In Japan, having bad handwriting means that you don’t take enough time to write thoroughly. It’s seen poorly for the most part, but not in all instances. It just is an issue of attention to detail.

Second was a time I had ordered samples from our warehouse that  came in 3 big boxes. They were heavy, so I started to use my feet to slide them a bit over to the side. My boss saw this and said to me “Don’t touch the boxes with your feet. They are our products that we send to customers and it is disrespectful to kick them or to use your feet to move them”. I stood there puzzled for a minute thinking “… there are no customers here that would know that I had pushed the boxes with my feet…That’s taking it a bit far I think…” but then I  began to think and realized that he meant in general that it is disrespectful, even if the customer doesn’t  see it. Feet in Japan are seen as dirty in general, as they take their shoes off before going into the house and other places they want to keep sanitary. With this being said, touching things or people with your feet back in old Japan meant that person/ thing is lower than you, so I think this partially stems from that.* It’s also our feeling and respect that we have for our own products.

Another instance is the way that I stamp my hanko, or my own personal seal. In my previous post I mentioned that in a Japanese company, this is the equivalent of your signature, but it’s more than that in Japan. Every time I stamped my hanko and handed the paper to my boss for approval, he would take a look at it and turn to me and say “Your hanko is crooked, try and be more careful next time”. This happened time and time again, and I still was never able to get it right until very recently. I attribute this to that I didn’t use a hanko until I started to work in a Japanese company and don’t know the “etiquette”, but also that a signature isn’t as strict as a hanko is. Please let me know in the comments below if you would like me to talk about the hanko in general and how to use it properly.

The last instance was quite recent. I was preparing an envelope for my boss to take to a customer and I was in a hurry. I did not want to handwrite because my handwriting is bad and my kanji isn’t the best either, so I decided to print it out from Microsoft Word and cut it to a label size to put on the envelope. When I printed it out, since I was in a hurry, the edges were not straight but I pasted it to the envelope anyway. I handed it to my boss, who took one look it and told me to re-do it. I admit…. the first try was horrible, as the the edges were slanted horribly. I printed it out again and this time I cut it with a proper cutter, not by hand. I pasted it to the envelope again, and my boss tells me again it’s not acceptable. I looked at it and didn’t understand why; it looked perfectly straight to me. Both my boss and one of the ladies in the sales team looked at and agreed that it wasn’t done well, when I could see no difference. The sales lady, who deals with customers on a daily basis, then proceeded to fix the label for me all while telling me why it was wasn’t good to not make it properly. It was the same reason for the box issue above, it was about the feelings of the customer. My boss then asked me “would YOU like to receive something like that?” I admit, the first one I would have raised an eyebrow at, but the second one I wouldn’t take a second glance at it because it was such a small difference. At times like this, I see how the Japanese attention to  detail is both a blessing and a curse. What about you? What would you do if you received something like that?

What did you think about this topic? Do you have any thoughts regarding Japanese attention to detail? Let me know in the comments below and also tell me if this sparks any other ideas. Please give this post a like if you enjoyed it!

*Thank you to my wonderful Editor, Meghan, for this piece of information!

Go to Part 4 | Go to Part 6 (Coming Soon)