Japan Diaries Day 17 – A Japanese Apartment


Halfway through my month-long trip to Tokyo in December, the weather was pretty lousy, so after passing a rainy night with pachinko slot, we found more indoor activities like the game center (my fiance’s favourite) and shopping (my favourite!). In this diary, I talk about Japanese apartments.



The weather was pretty lousy again, so while my fiance went to the gym I cleaned up the apartment and did laundry, as well as goofing off and watching some DVDs I rented. I also took some photos of the apartment, and I wanted to share them here because I think it’s important to know what a Japanese apartment really is like (not the anime or drama apartments, although they are sometimes pretty close) before you move there for study abroad, work, or whatever.

Japanese Apartments

Japanese apartments are small compared to US apartments, because space is at a premium. Tokyo apartments are small, but so are apartments in rural areas. Japan is an island, and to fit the entire population, apartments and homes tend to be more compact when compared to American homes. Continue reading

Japan Diaries Day 16 – Pachinko Slot/パチスロ


Halfway through my one-month trip to Japan in December, my fiance and I decided to give Pachinko Slot a try.



On Saturday we woke up to a lot of rain, and after a week spent traveling to Hakone and taking wedding photos, my fiance and I spent the morning watching movies we rented from Tsutaya and generally being lazy. When we finally couldn’t stand being indoors any longer, my fiance suggested we go to a Pachinko Slot game center called Million.

What is pachinko?

Pachinko games (パチンコ) look like vertical pinball machines, with a lot of small metal balls going through at one time. You exchange money for these balls and release them into the machine, and they fall down while being redirected by a bunch of pins. The idea is to capture as many balls as possible, and if you catch balls in the right place you can get a rush, which releases more balls. Pachinko machines are electronically controlled.

What is pachinko slot?

There are also slot machines, pachinko slot or pachislo (パチスロ) which are electronic, and similar to those seen at casinos in the US. You exchange money for medals, then insert the medals into the slot machine. Then you pull the knob to start the slots turning. You have buttons underneath the slot to pick when you want it to stop. That’s pretty much like Las Vegas casinos. Above the slots there is a video screen with an animated story related to whichever theme you’ve picked. My fiancé picked Tekken, and I took the Batman machine next to him. There are certain cues from the animated story that’s going on above the slots that tell you when you have a chance for a rush, and I still am pretty clueless about when the hints come up. Continue reading

Moving Forward


So, when I wantonly promised that I’d have more time for this blog, and maybe someday finally finish my diary from my trip to Japan last December, what I really meant was that I’d have more time for this blog once I’d gotten married, moved cities, found a new place to live, moved in, convinced the internet company to connect my internet, and started my new job. めんどくさいな。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。

Needless to say, once I finished grad school the ample free time I’d envisioned didn’t exist. Packing and moving has taken up the past few weeks (I’ve lost count to be honest), but I’ve finally got everything sort-of together. So, I hope to be able to write up more about my trip to Hakone (and the rest of my holiday) after things settle down a bit. Blogging takes up a lot more time than you think it will when you start a blog, and I just want to say how impressed I am with people who write on a regular basis while still having really interesting things to write about!

Thanks for your patience during my short hiatus! And thank you always for reading ^^

(PS. No, I didn’t move by boat, but I really like the Nippon Maru 日本丸 on my header as an image for travel!)

Goodbye, Grad School!


I passed! I successfully defended and passed my master’s thesis defense, which means I am now a Master of Science in Geology.

When I first entered graduate school, I thought that getting a master’s degree would be like my undergraduate degree, just with more specialization. I was wrong. It’s a very different world from undergraduate. Rather than just sitting in classes, doing homework, and taking tests, you are now expected to think for yourself on a whole new level. Continue reading

Japan Diaries Day 12 – Hakone Arrival


Less than 2 weeks into my month-long December trip to Tokyo, it was time to visit Hakone!



After getting fitted for engagement/pre-wedding photos on Monday, on Tuesday we were off to Kanagawa prefecture 神奈川県 for a honeymoon (shinkon ryokou 新婚旅行). No, we are not married yet, due to the fact that my fiance and I applied for a US K-1 visa. On a K-1 visa, he has to enter the country unmarried, and then we get married within 90 days once he arrives. But, since his arrival in the US will coincide with my graduation, I will be pretty busy doing job hunting, and I won’t have a lot of time or money for a honeymoon. So, a 3-day trip to Hakone 箱根 was our plan for an early honeymoon!


Hakone, Kanagawa prefecture

Continue reading

Japan Diaries Day 10 – Wedding Gifts & Phone Etiquette


Continuing my day-by-day diary of my month-long trip to Tokyo, Japan this past December. I spent Saturday with my Japanese friends from university, so Sunday we stayed at home ^^



I spent the whole afternoon and evening on Saturday at the reunion in Shinjuku with my university friends, so my fiancé and I slept in on Sunday. His parents were coming back from Hawaii that night, so it was our last day taking care of their house and the dogs. It was cold, so we spent the day at his parents’ house since it was warmer and we didn’t have to huddle around the small heater in his apartment. We watched TV, movies that we rented, and were just generally lazy.


Last day of babysitting these girls – photo by kei


That day a package came for us from my future mother-in-law’s childhood friend. It was an engagement/wedding gift of high-quality beef. The family friend is a butcher, and so these were particularly prime cuts of beef. They also included sweet breads and a monetary gift. I was very thankful to receive such a kind gift from people who have known my fiancé since he was born.


Engagement/wedding gift of meat and sweet breads – photo by kei

My formal Japanese was put to the test when we called them to thank them for the gift. They of course were surprised that my Japanese was high-level, but of course I always think it could improve. I also learned an important lesson: you must wait for the other person to hang up the phone first if they are higher in rank than you, or elderly. Hanging up a Japanese home phone receiver to end a call creates a loud noise on the other end, so you wait for the other party to hang up first as a sign of respect. If the other party is elderly, you avoid hanging up first so that they don’t have to listen to the loud clunk in their ears. I hadn’t known the reason behind this before. Continue reading

Japan Diaries Day 9 – My University Reunion


It’s spring! The cherry blossoms are blooming and the weather is getting warmer, but I am still thinking about my one-month trip to Japan in December 2014. After getting a haircut and meeting up with my fiancé’s friends, on Day 9 in Japan it was time to reunite with my Japanese friends from when I studied abroad in Yamanashi prefecture.



I studied abroad in Yamanashi prefecture when I was an undergraduate, and honestly it was the best part about my university life. I always recommend study abroad to students I meet because I think it was a very important experience in my own life. Whether you study abroad in Japan or in any other country, I really can’t say enough about the benefits of studying abroad.


My university in Yamanashi prefecture – photo by kei


My university friends are from around Japan, but many of them ended up in or near Tokyo. Since I was visiting Tokyo, this made it the best place to meet up on Saturday. I really love the national train system, which makes getting around the country easy and convenient. Not everyone could attend, but I was happy that so many of us could hang out again, and some of my friends came from so far. It ended up being mostly the Japanese alumni and only one other American alumnus besides me (he lives in Japan).

We ended up meeting in Shinjuku at a restaurant called Hiryu’s, just outside of the west entrance to the Shinjuku station. It’s a nabe (鍋) restaurant, which is a hot pot, where you get to cook everything in a pan at your table. There are rooms available for reservation, so we reserved one for our large party. During December university clubs and work groups host bounenkai 忘年会, or end-of-year parties. A bounenkai is an all-you-can-eat type of banquet where you celebrate the ending of the year. The room next to ours was a bounenkai, and so we heard lots of toasts and boisterous stories coming from next door. Our gathering is a dousoukai 同窓会 or reunion party. Continue reading

Japan Diaries Day 7 – Medicine & Doctors in Japan


After not feeling so well on Wednesday, I was convinced by my fiancé to take it easy and hang out at his apartment on Thursday.



Since I still wasn’t feeling 100%, we spent Thursday watching movies, taking care of the dogs, and then we went to the drug store to get some medicine. When you travel to a different country, the medicines available are usually different than your home country. This means that the symptoms the medicines treat and the strength with which they treat them may be different.

Disclaimer: The following are my personal experiences and opinions, are not intended to be medical advice, and are not intended to treat or diagnose anything!

Usually, both over-the-counter and prescription medicine in Japan have a lower strength than similar medicine available in the US. If used properly according to dosing instructions, prescription medicine from Japan is effective and comparable to prescriptions in the US. I found that some of the medicines that I needed to go to the doctor for in Japan were medicines that were available over the counter in the US. They are also generally a lot more strict about legal prescription drugs in Japan than in the US. Illegal drugs? That’s a big no-no. Don’t even think about it because Japan is very strict about illegal drugs and you can be punished harshly. Continue reading

Writing Never Ends/最近ヤバイ忙しい


I’m preparing to turn in the first draft of my thesis to my professor next week, only to have him to tear it apart and make it bleed a red river of ink, but the weather is torturing me with spring-like warmth interspersed with snow that melts quickly away. Staring at my data and making arm-waving interpretations is difficult when the sun is shining and the air is warm.

It has been one month and nearly two weeks (yes I’m still counting) since I got back from Japan, but I still think about my trip every day. Remembering how awesome my vacation was makes the endless hours of staring at my computer bearable!

Leaving my fiancé was the hardest part, and between his job and my thesis work we haven’t had time to Skype or communicate much outside of e-mails. My fiancé suggested that I could concentrate better if we stopped writing e-mails too, but I told him that was not a good idea. In his mind, focusing on the task at hand and not being distracted is the best way, but I can’t go without breaks or without contact. Even just an e-mail makes it easier to keep going and to remember why I’m devoting myself to this even in the middle of the night: graduation and the next part of my life! Spending 12 hours a day researching and writing helps to make the time go quickly, but the time still goes pretty slow.

Now it’s time to spend my Friday night writing! (๑⁺᷄д⁺᷅๑)◞՞





Under the Weather/体調が悪い



I’m sick(๑-﹏-๑) Of course, it’s the busiest time at school so I got sick. Even though I feel bad, I must study, and it can’t be helped. I hope I get better soon!


I’m taking medicine, drinking tea, and sleeping a lot every day, so I’m taking it easy. I can study at home so until I feel a little better, I’m not going to school.

皆さん、冬だから風邪を引かないように体を気をつけてください! Everyone, please take care not to get sick because it’s winter!