Things that make my life easier in Nagoya/Japan

There are a lot of great things about Japan that I love and I’m sure will miss them when we move back. But here’s an initial list:

1. The super customer service. People do their utmost to help you out even if they don’t speak English. If you think the States are the winners at this category, I say come to japan!

2. Safety is paramount! In any circumstance I feel secure, even with the suspended roads all over Nagoya, my gym’s pool at the 9th floor, car parks that look like scaffolding, etc.

3. Not being paranoid about having my belongings stolen. I saw people leave their bag on a chair to save a table and then went inside to order a coffee. What?! That’s unheard of! Bikes are never locked to a fence or a pole. They usually just have a small chain on one of their wheels.

4. There are toilets everywhere and in decent condition: metro stops, parks, supermarkets, stadiums, in convenience store, anywhere.

5. The convenience stores! As I already mentioned they are every 50 meters and they are multipurpose. You can buy food, knickknacks, print stuff, pay bills, make and get deliveries, get cash out, you name it.

6. Punctuality is golden!! In Japan you get early, not just on time! Transportation is always on time, stores open and close on time, people arrive at the time of the meet-up; you get the idea 🙂

7. You can get rid of your coins at the ATMs. You can just deposit the extra coins you have by dropping them in the ATM’s designated hole and that’s a wrap.

8. The food in the restaurants is delish and much cheaper than Europe! You can get amazing dinners for just 15EUR.

9. Everyone respects queues and there are plenty of them. You stay in line to get in the metro, to enter a restaurant, at the cross walk, etc.

10. Japanese want to hang out with you just because you’re a foreigner. It’s a win-win situation, they get to practice English and you hang out with locals!

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20 random things I’ve noticed in my first month in Nagoya/Japan

 

1. It’s very clean and neat. Haven’t seen one graffiti.
2. Everything has explanations with illustrations.
3. Almost no stray animals.
4. It’s all about safety!
5. No trash bins. You carry your garbage with you till you get home or to a convenience store.
6. Everyone bows and you start bowing too (for so many reasons).
7. Convenience stores every other block and vending machines like there’s no tomorrow.
8. Extremely polite people! And best customer service I’ve ever experienced.
9. You are not allowed to speak on your phone on the metro or train.
10. It’s bikeland but bike lanes are not clear.
11. People are not concerned about having their belongings stolen.
12. You get free water in restaurants.
13. You get chopsticks by default. You can get cutlery if you ask for it.
14. Public toilets range from the famous Toto toilets to the holes in the ground where you have to squat.
15. Many people go on metros and trains without holding on and not falling down.
16. The ground floor is counted as first floor.
17. Shorts skirts and shorts everywhere! No cleavage shown tough.
18. You don’t blow your nose, you hold it in 😦 or go to the toilet.
19. There are metro carts reserved only for women.
20. 24/7 Karaoke bars.

Sakura (cherry blossom) in Nagoya

The cherry blossom period is a wonderful time of the year when the city is covered in pink. For about two weeks the city completely changes. Everywhere you look people are frantically taking pictures of the cherry trees or out in the parks for picnics and I just had to do the same. So, I went exploring a few places of Nagoya that are famous for its plenitude of cherry trees.

First on my list was the Nagoya Castle which is a must see even without the cherry blossom.

The Nagoya Castle – used to be one of the most important castles in Japan in the Edo period. Although suffered significant destruction during WWII, it has been restored and even had an elevator incorporated. Now, it’s the city’s landmark and a must see on the attractions list for Nagoya. Side note: Nagoya’s symbol is a giant, golden fish, which you can see on top of the castle, as well as inside. (Location)

 

Second on the list was the Tsuruma Park, that I think is really pretty and pleasant even without the pink cover 🙂

Tsuruma Park – a beautiful Western & Japanese style park (Location)

 

Next on the cherry blossom list for Nagoya was the Meijo park, which was my favorite spot. In my opinion, it was the most beautiful, I felt like I was walking through a painting. The colors were so bright and bold. This park is bigger than the Tsuruma park and it was as well packed with people out on a picnic.

Meijo Park – it surrounds the Nagoya Castle, so you get a great view of the castle. (Location)

 

Last, we went to see the row of cherry trees on the Yamazaki River. We were not disappointed, it has a great richness of cherry tress and wonderful colors. (10 minute on foot from Mizuho-Undojo-Higashi Station)

 

Practical Info

  • Sakura period in Nagoya 2014: 24th March – 6th Aril. To be up to date with just check out this link or any other that is reliable with dates.
  • Check out here a list of best spots for cherry blossom in Nagoya.

First three weeks in Japan – the wrap-up

A looot has happened in the span of the last three weeks. I’ve had ups and downs and all in all I’m still very excited. But here’s a summary of the more or less major events.

1. My first encounter with Japanese medication. As I usually do, I got a cold and was bed-bond for almost a week. So, I decided to buy over the counter cold medicine. Not sure how good of an idea that was. I ended up dozing of on the coach for 2 straight days, not remembering much of who called me, what we talked, etc. Apparently, I was told that’s what cold Japanese medicine does 🙂

2. My fist GP encounter. I found an English-speaking GP and got an appointment very fast. He confirmed I didn’t have allergies, which is very common this time of year in Japan. Not convinced about this since I constantly have a runny nose. Anyway, here you get a separate medication for each of your symptoms. Before getting the prescription, I was asked for how many days do I want the treatment. I thought that was strange.

Also, you get medication only for the exact duration of your treatment. It’s a smart way to avoid waste. This is done by the pharmacist and I was really impressed.

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3. My first escape pockets and kangaroo burger. As an expat living in Japan you will need every now and then to find escape pockets. What I mean with that is that you want to go to a place where you are closer to home, hear some English, meet other expats. So, this is what we did, we went to an Australian, English speaking bar and got non-japanese food 🙂

Second escape pocket was a Jazz bar that was the highlight of our week-end. We had live Jazz music and in a very cool place. Sorry for the picture quality, there’s so much you can do with a phone and a dark room 🙂

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4. Passed my first wave of culture shock. We are all aware that the Japanese culture is very different from the Western one, but it doesn’t hit you until you get here. In the first days I felt so lost and confused. Whatever you read and however much you prepare, it still doesn’t measure up to the real thing.

At this point, I am more at ease with my lack of Japanese and just do my best. I use Google translate on my phone, the little Japanese I speak and sign language 🙂 Starting Japanese classes in a week.

I must stress the fact that so far all the Japanese I have interacted with have been very kind and patient. On the other hand, the expats can be more unforgiving.

5. Subscribed to the gym. This was a 1.5 hour painstaking activity, due to the language barrier, but also because whenever you sign a contract here, there are so many papers to go through, explanations, options, etc. Anyway, today I can proudly say I have a card membership and I’m probably among the very few non-Japanese to attend that gym 🙂

6. Bought our fist dSLR Canon. So happy and so excited about all the great pictures we will take. Very important notice: you get the settings in English and it’s cheaper than Europe.

7. Sakura season! Enough said 🙂

 

8. Went to a first division Japanese football match (soccer). It’s quite a unique experience. Everyone is very civilised, bearly drink alcohol and the fans’ tribune is organized properly with a few guys spread out who lead what the supporters will sing or say next. The stadium was a state of the art, convertible one with so many toilets that you rearly have a line 🙂 Plus, it was funny to see that people were having bento boxes and chopsticks to eat their lunch, including us 🙂 Soaking in the new culture!

 

Practical Info:

1. The cold medicine I got is called Pabron S Gold.

2. English speaking GP: Satoshi Isobe. Address: Isobe Naika Clinic; 1-3 Shinsakae-machi, Naka-ku, Nagoya. Nichimura Nagoya Building, 3rd floor.2minuts from the dome.

3. The Red Rock Aussie Bar & Grill – http://theredrock.jp for expat hang out, kangaroo burgers and Australian meat pies

The Jazz bar is called Jazz Inn Lovely 🙂 – http://www.jazzinnlovely.com/

4. Japanese classes at ECC – http://ecc.co.jp

5. If you live in the center, I recommend this gym: La Grasse or Gold Gym.

6. As it’s the motherland of Canon, you can get a good deal on cameras both straight of the shelf or second hand ones. Same applies for lenses. I got mine from Labi – http://yamadalabi.com

7. The Sakura season is about 10 days to 2 weeks if you’re lucky, at the end of March. It’s beatiful, brings the cities to life.

8. Nagoya’s Football team is called the Nagoya Grampus.