MOCHINAGE (rice cake throwing) in Nagoya

Yesterday, I got to take part to a pretty cool event – MOCHINAGE (rice cake throwing) in Nagoya.

What happens? The supporters (A.K.A donors) of the Shiroyama Shrineย we were at get to throw the rice cakes from the top of a scaffolding type of structure. The rice cakes come in white and pink, wrapped inย plastic.

On the ground, there are a lot of people waiting to catch as many rice cakes as possible. It is believed that the more you catch the more luck you will have.

Here’s a video that shows better what’s all about.

I must say it’s the first time I’ve seen Japanese so frantic about something. But also so much fun to see them out of their usual well-behaved way ๐Ÿ™‚

Last, this is me with my “luck”, that was donated to me ๐Ÿ˜€

???????????????????????????????

 

Advertisements

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 ๐Ÿ˜ฆ or go to the toilet.
19. There are metro carts reserved only for women.
20. 24/7 Karaoke bars.

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 gettingย the prescription,ย I was asked for how many days do I want the treatment. Iย 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.

20140404-104940.jpg

 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

20140404-105805.jpg

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus, it was funny to see that people were having bento boxes and chopsticks to eat their lunch, including us ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ –ย 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.

 

Discovering the Japanese food, loving the ramen

I’ve only been here a bit more than a week and I must say there hasn’t been one day that I didn’t try something new in the culinary department.

In Belgium, we loved having sushi and searching for the best Japanese restaurant, but nothing compares to the real deal. Almost anything I’ve picked here so far has been exquisite.

Friends back in Europe have asked me if that’s the only thing I’m doing. Well, not really, but I feel that experiencing the local food makes me enjoy this place more and more every day. On top of that, I’m quite a foodie.

So far my favorite dish here is the tantan ramen (top left). I love the spicy peanut flavor.

20140324-083531.jpg

A few days ago, we went to Yamachan which is apparently one of the classics here. It’s the place for chicken wings. Conveniently, every table has one of those button which you press whenever you need the waiter.

20140324-144451.jpg

I’ve never had wings like they do it here, but it’s surprisingly delicious. They have a bit of sauce and come with loads of salt and pepper.

20140324-084044.jpg

Along with those I had my fist go at a Japanese desert and I loved it. The pastry came filled with a caramel sauce with small pieces of peanuts, topped with very smooth vanilla ice cream.

20140324-084209.jpg

I'll continue to post about he amazing food here as I continue exploring ๐Ÿ™‚

A new beginning – Japan

We now live in Japan! We started a new and exciting adventure. We are not your ordinary couple, we’re a Romanian and Panamanian who met and got married in Belgium and now live in Japan. But this is what makes us interesting and fun and always open to new things, like moving to Japan for a few years ๐Ÿ™‚

We knew about it for a while and it gave us the chance (blessed chance) to prepare. We increased our traveling, spend more time with our dear family and friends and…just simply pushed us to focus on everyone and everything we wouldn’t have in Japan.

So, 2013 has been quite a crazy year. We spent almost every weekend traveling or seeing people or both :). We started Japanese classes and I had as many of my favorite delicious cupcakes as I could ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve done my reading, talked to Japanese, took Japanese classes and a few years ago (totally unrelated at that time) I’ve done my dissertation on Japanese management with a case study on Toyota.

All in all, I tried to be prepared for this move, but getting here, wondering through the city and going to the supermarket makes all my prep. fade away.

I’m experiencing a culture shock like never before. I’m enjoying it greatly but it’s also difficult.

On the one hand, I feel hopeful and happy that I get to start over. I’m joyful that I have the freedom to choose what I want to do, study Japanese, blog more, read more, look for other classes to develop new skills, etc…

I think it will take our relationship to a new stage since we have to relay more on each other to help us navigate through this big unknown. But also us as individuals will learn more about the world, ourselves and get immersed in a totally different culture.

On top of that, we get to meet new people, travel through Asia and see our friends from this side of the world. How great is this?!

Japan is a beautiful country with such a rich culture, extraordinary food and such delicious green tea. Its focus on quality, order and cleanliness are simply mind boggling to me. Everyone takes their job very seriously and they do their part faithfully. To the point that if you tip them they are offended since it means that you think what they make is not enough. From what I understood it’s very disrespectful.

On the other hand, it can be a lot of effort to start over. Settle in a new place, start from 0 with how many people you know, learn another language and so on.

I speak 6 languages, but that doesn’t make much difference as when I have to communicate here I’m just speechless and have such a confused face. Many times I can’t even utter the words: “Sorry, I don’t understand!”
It frustrates me that I’m so ignorant and I wish to re-start language classes asap.

I’m conflicted on feeling excited and feeling overwhelmed. I know I’m in my honeymoon period here in discovering everything and I will surely have lonely and maybe less excited days, but I stay hopeful that those will be only temporary days.

All in all, I’m feeling really blessed and I’m embracing this opportunity with all I can.

I added it my first picture in Japan to remember how happy I was when I had my first bowl of delicious ramen with my amazing husband in our home Nagoya, Japan.

20140321-174209.jpg