“I’m at about a level 4 right now… you don’t want to see me reach a level 5!”

It gets dark at 4 pm. It’s cold. Things that you expect to work are either frozen or broken. It’s cold. Things Japanese people do/ your life is annoying you. DEAR GOD ITS COLD!!! Congratulations! You have entered Stage 2 of the Culture Shock cycle. You know, the actually shock part of it all. Culture shock begins 3 months after moving to a new land and can last for 3 months. I could bore you with all the symptoms, but here’s the main one that sums it all up: you feel frustrated. Very. Frustrated. And that can make you angry.

The worse part of that that I found out is that there is no real good equivalent for “frustration” in Japanese. The closest I got to describing what I was feeling to my 1st year (female) supervisor and friend was that “I’m angry at myself for something I can’t do, a mistake I made, or misunderstanding someone, etc” Whew. That was a mouthful. If anyone has a better, shorter way to express that in Japanese, by all means let me know. But actually, Japanese understand the term “culture shock.” But then, you would have to admit you have culture shock. And God knows nobody wants to do that, right?

And I’m going to tell you exactly why it’s so bad for us. I said before that Stage 2 lasts from months 3~6 of living in a new land… which exactly coincides with the start of Hokkaido winter! Winter is long, cold, dark, and LONG but it’s not only that which makes us grumpy. When the sun sets before you can walk out to your car after work, you don’t get much of a chance to run into your ‘ol friend, Mr. Sun. Lack of sunlight causes a Vitamin D deficiency, which causes you to be tired and depressed. To put that into real life perspective, it’s why you think you’re ready for bedtime at 5pm. I know at least in the states, Vitamin D is added into our milk which helps keep the level of happy up. Japan does not. So that is 2 strikes against our sanity.

So what can be done about all this? Well, Vitamin D supplements for one. Exercise for another (it gives you more energy).

But the #1 best thing you can do to deal with culture shock is talk to someone about it. You might find it most helpful to talk to other English-speakers as speaking your native language will put you at ease and help you most clearly express your feelings (although you may find sometimes that Japanese nuance hits closer to your heart’s voice). Talking to people in your same situation might be most helpful, however, talking to someone else suffering from culture shock may exacerbate the problem. For example, during the few months I worked in Korea, every ALT I met (even ones that had been there for years) was perpetually stuck in Stage 2. Why? Because they were all in the same social group and when they got together all they did was complain about Korea! So if you are looking for the best people to talk to pull you out of your gloomy trench, your sempai JETs *wink* are your absolute best resource *grin* We’re waiting…

So talking about it, and then also a great big dose of knowing IT DOESN’T LAST FOREVER (or even that very long) are our best defenses against Stage Two. Knowledge is power, so knowing and accepting that’s what’s wrong can help you realize you are not crazy for thinking that you suddenly hate everyone and everything. And it’s best not to fight it. We’ve all got it, we’ve all been through it, and we’ll all get through it. Just try to enjoy the bumpy ride.

HOWEVER, if you are having trouble opening up to someone you know, did you know that support is available for you in Japan (in English!) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! Take a look!

Daytime: CLAIR Jet Line: 03-3591-5489

9am – 5:45pm Mon – Fri

Nighttime: AJET Peer Support Group 050-5534-5566 8pm – 7am Every Night!


Non-JET: Tokyo English Life Line: 03-5774-0992

9am – 11pm Daily

As you can see, there is never a time when there’s not some place to call!

For a little more personal, just as confidential, help, how about an English-speaking counselor? When was dealing with a personal tragedy of my own, I contacted with both of these guys and they are really great!

Via Japanese phone: Dr. Jim McRae, Clinical Psychologist (based in Tokyo), jmcrae@gol.com, prefers to be contacted by phone message at 042 636-5426

Via Skype: Roy Huggins, National Certified Counselor (based in Oregon), roy@alljapancounseling.com, http://www.alljapancounseling.com/

And, of course, for any problem in any situation, you can ALWAYS contact our awesome Hokkaido P.A. Holly Long!

Work Email: long.holly@pref.hokkaido.lg.jp

Work Phone: 011-231-4111 (21-229)

Personal Phone: 090-9528-2621

Cell Phone Email: ercasse@docomo.ne.jp

(I realize the way I wrote made me sound like I think I am somebody important that should be listened to… I am not. I am just a concerned/busybody oneechan with a nagging interest in wellness issues who has just been here way too long! ^^; So if you guys have any questions or critiques about what I wrote, please leave me a comment or contact me privately!)


A few of the many of hospitals/clinics in Hokkaido that provide Women’s Care

Listings are, in order: City, Name, Address, Hours, Telephone number
Redei-su Kurinikku= Ladies’ Clinic,
Uiminzu Kurinikku= Women’s Clinic
Places with *** mark claim to be able to provide care in English!

Tenshi Byouin***
065-8611 Sapporo shi Higashi kita 12 jou Higashi 3-1-1
Mon-Sat 8:00-11:00 am (closed on Sunday)
Wed, Fri 1:00-13:30 pm

Sapporo Ikadaigaku Fuzoku Byouin***
060-8543 Sapporo shi Chuuou ku Minami 1 jou West 16-291
Reception: Mon-Fri 8:45-11:00 am (closed weekends and holidays)
Note: This hospital is considered the best in Women’s Care in all of Hokkaido, the facilities are amazing. No appointment is needed, however, it is extremely busy and you need to bring a referral from your local hospital. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend going here for anything routine, only if you have a serious concern.

Asahikawa Ikadaigaku Byouin***
078-8510 Asahikawa shi Midori ga Oka Higashi 2 jou 1-1-1
Reception: Mon-Fri 8:30-12:00 am (closed on weekends, national holidays)

Shiritsu Hakodate Byouin
041-8680 Hakodate Minato machi  1-10-1
Reception: Mon-Fri 8:30-11:30 am (closed on weekends, national holidays)

Kitami Sekijuuji Byouin
090-8666 Kitami shi Kita 6 jou Higashi 2-1
Reception: Mon-Sat 8:30-11:00 am (closed on the 2nd and 4th Sat of the month, Sundays, national holidays)

Kushiro Sekijuuji Byouin
085-8512 Kushiro shi Shin sakae machi 21-14
Reception: Mon-Fri 8:30-11:30 am, 1:30-3:00 pm (closed on weekends, national holidays)

Keiai Byouin***
080-0803 Obihiro shi Higashi 3 jou Minami 9-2
Mon-Sat 8:30-11:30 am (closed on Sunday)
Mon, Wed, Fri 1:30-4:30 pm

Ouji Sougou Byouin
053-8506 Tomakomai shi Wakakusa machi 3-4-8
Mon-Sat 8:30-11:00 am (closed on Sunday)
Mon-Fri 1:00-3:00 pm
Note: Please call before going

***Other Hospitals that can provide care in English (all in Sapporo):

Hokkaidou Daigaku Byouin

Hayashi Redei-su Kurinikku

Dokuritsu Gyousei Kokuritsu Kikou Hokkaidou Iryou Senta-

Sapporo Kousei Byouin,

Shiritsu Sapporo Byouin

JR Sapporo Byouin

Shakai Iryouhoujin Shadan Karasu Sapporo Tokeidai Kinen Byouin

Chuuou Byouin Medeicaru Kurinikku

Hokkaidou Shakai Hoken Byouin

Sapporo Matanitei Uiminzu Hosupitaru

Shinsapporo Uiminzu Kurinikku

Sanfujinka Yoshio Iin

Note: The website where I found the list of all these facilities, as well as English meanings to the hospital names is here => http://inhos.net/search/Hokkaidou/add_.html

A Girl’s Life and Love in Hokkaido

Greetings, newly minted JETs! When I heard they were looking for speakers for Sapporo Orientation, I jumped at the chance to do this workshop. The reason is that most of the stories that I tell to my friends have to do with being a young foreign female in Hokkaido. My dating stories alone are enough to fill a book; in fact, my friends said I should write one... Well, if not entertaining, it would at least be shocking.

Content that I have included is based on my own experiences living in Japan as well as 3 years worth of conversation and advice from Japanese female friends. Knowing me, I probably got flustered during the workshop, and either forgot or didn’t say several points I wanted to make. I have therefore written this “blog post” on several topics you might want to know about. So if you got a few minutes while in the bath or something, read it all the way through once, and if you want keep it for the parts you might want to jump to and reference later. In case you misplace this document, I have already posted it online to access anytime at https://ezoali.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/a-girls-life-and-love-in-hokkaido/, which I also printed on the other handout I gave you in the workshop. Hope you will find the information useful! 


Embarrassing Questions and Conversations

Every girl JET will go through this sometime, and it will probably be right at the start since you are now in the process of introducing yourself to a massive captive audience of co-workers, students, and citizens all vying to find out everything about you.

Let’s look at a few of these questions:

1. Do you have a boyfriend?

2. Do you “like” your co-teacher, co-worker, (insert any Japanese male in the room)?

3. What cup? (which is how they say what is your bra size in Japanese)

I don’t think I need to go into why, unless handled tactfully, the answers to these questions could get you into a tough situation. You can choose to answer honestly, but that could be awkward for others, wrecks your sense of privacy, and in some cases could cause your judgment to be questioned. You also completely have the right to say “none of your business” or “it’s a secret”, but that might make your new companion feel slighted and some people might not accept no for an answer, might hit you again with the same question later. So my recommendation for all of these is to use humor. In fact, start thinking for what to say now so you have them ready. Here are my stock answers that work for me.

  1. Yes, Hokkaido is so big I have about 100. It’s so annoying, they call all the time!
  2. Yes of course, he’s one of my 100 boyfriends.
  3. Mug-cups.” (Mug-cup is the Japanese-English word they use for “mug.” )

You will also get many unsolicited comments. Genuine compliments, ingenuine compliments, insults. Don’t be surprise, and handle them with all the grace and humor you can muster. But remember sexual harassment toward usis not tolerated in Japan, so if someone crosses the line with the perverted comments and you feel offended or unsafe, go to your supervisor, P.A., preferably someone that can get them into trouble for doing that.

Dating in Japan

As I said, I could write the book on this. I can’t tell you how many boys I’ve dated in 3 years here. No seriously, I can’t, because I’ve lost count.

You can and will find men that would love to date you, even in the countryside. But it is truewhat they say: Hokkaido guys are shy. Even if one is checking you out, he will look away as soon as you look back and probably make his way to the nearest exit. This can be disheartening to foreign girls who misread this behavior as“He doesn’t find me attractive.Correct me if I’m wrong when I say, foreign girls like and need a little assurance that we are cute before anything can take off.

The guys that will come at you first will probably be of A-type personalities and those with ample practice flirting with women(i.e. sort of aggressive). Therefore, don’t get desperate and use your women’s intuition just as you would in your home country. It’s probably better to rely on introductions by people you know, or date someone you’ve known for a little while, than pick someone up in Susukino. There’s a handy little thing called “goukon” which are dating parties where you can go to get to know people in a low-pressure setting. Ask a Japanese friend to form one or take you along next time they go, as a foreigner you will be the center of attention! And not to change the tone here drastically but, yes, there have been famous cases where foreign girls have been murdered by Japanese (and foreign) men in Japan that they went off alone with. The point is, as in any dating scenario, just proceed with caution and use your judgment.

If you decide to try dating in Japan, it may be up to you to stay on top of what’s going on and enforce communication. For one thing, it might be hard to find someone who speaks English, so the burden of speaking the “most common language” might be up to you. I can’t remember how many times I have been told by Japanese people that I’m lucky because “when they use different languages, couples fight less” but of course it is much more of a challenge than a benefit. Even beyond the language barrier, that famous Japanese vagueness can be particularly tricky in this case; a guy you went on one date with might consider you his girlfriend, while someone you have been sleeping with for 3 months may not.

Also, be aware that some Japanese men are just looking for a good time with a foreign woman (An easy way to tell? If they make a point of telling you which foreign movie actresses they like/ compare you to one of them), but if you are ok with that you can go for it. In that case, always have a form of contraception on you.Most Japanese men don’t carry condoms and will go on in without even stopping to ask you because they feel it will be fine if they get out before the finale. That is probably why 1/4 of marriagesin Japan are “dekichatta”=“we accidently did it (as in, got pregnant), which isn’t recommended but also not particularly looked down uponhere because it helps toward improving the country’s low birth rate

Also remember that any sex without a condom is unsafe sex when it comes to diseases!(more on this in the next section). The condoms you can buy at the convenience store are all of perfectly good quality, and they even market condoms with butterflies, leopard print, and other girly things on the boxes to attract ladies to buy them! I especially like to take them up to where a young female worker is at the register to show that it’s ok for girls take these matters into their own hands (NOT in my town I might add, do consider where you buy because if people know you, it will become the latest gossip). These condoms will be fine unless your guy is superduper huge. If you really need an upgrade, I’ve heard tellthat they sell XL size at Don Kihote stores.


My Japanese friend was just telling me the other day about how her friend got something after her boyfriend cheated on her. So they are out there, and it is up to you to take the steps to protect yourself!

HIVin particular is becoming a serious problem in Japan. In Sapporothe gay capital of Japan it is at epidemic levels in the homosexual male community. So hags,educate your… well, you know. Remember any sexual membrane contactor contact with infected vaginal and seminal fluid (even pre-cum) can pass the virus. If you have any concern or are just curious, free HIV screenings are available every Saturday from 4-7pm at Circle Sapporooff of Odori, which is fairly quick(it takes 1 week to get the result)and completely confidential. I’ve put the contact information for Circle Sapporo on the hand-out discussed during the work-shop. Foreigners in need of English explanation must make their appointment 3 days before coming so that they can get a translator ready for you. Also, keep in mind you must wait 3 months after the incident that may have caused you to contract the virus for the test result to be accurate.

You can get full STD screenings (Type C Hepatitis, HTLV-I, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Trachematis) in Hokkaido for a price (about 1 man yen) and HIV is particularly expensive and not completely confidential (the stats are reported to the government). So I would definitely go to Circle Sapporofor the HIV one… and also use a condom every time so you don’t have to worry about dropping the money to be tested!

Getting Yourself Examined Regularly

Every woman in their 20’s and 30’s should have an annual pap smear. Though finding a time to go might be difficult, and going to the clinic may take more time out of your day than it does back home, you shouldn’t let this go too long because it is important. Cost should be no excuse as pap tests are covered under our insurance. Pap smears test for early signs of cervical cancer, and an irregular pap result could also reveal the extremely common yet often undiagnosed sexual transmitted Human Papillomavirus (HPV). One of my Japanese friends didn’t get a pap test until she was 25, and it was revealed that she already had internal warts caused by HPV. You can also get HPV vaccines here for a price, but remember you must be under 30 years old and it does not protect against HPV contracted before receiving the vaccine.

Ok, so you want to visit the ladies’ doctor. First, you have to choose where you’d like to go. For most women’s concerns (pap test, STD screenings, birth control) you can just go to the closestpublic hospital with a gynecology department (“sanfujin-ka”), or if you wish you can go to a larger hospital or private women’s clinic (“sanfujinka byouin,”but the terms “women’s clinic” and “ladies clinic” in katakana are also used) in Sapporo or another city. If you go to a public hospital in a city other than your own, you may have to obtain a referral (“shoukai jou”) from your local hospital at the price of 2,000 yen. I’ve never heard of a private clinic that requires this.

As for the language barrier issue, there’s a list of 16 medical facilities in Hokkaido http://inhos.net/search/Hokkaidou/add_.html that advertise ability to provide care in English, 14 of which are in Sapporo (I listed all of these facilities from this website on the other hand-out). However, even if a hospital does not claim to have English-speaking staff, most doctors can speak and understand more English than they let on, at the very least they know the English terms for medical ailments that they had to know for school.

Here are the steps to going to get an exam.

  1. I can’t say with perfect certainty, but I know in general most places will let you come in without an appointment (“yoyaku”) the first time, but if you want to be 100% sure they can see you that day, please call ahead. If you don’t have an appointment, come as early as possible during the reception hours (“uketsuke jikan”) to get your name in early. Be aware that the wait time can be longer than you imagine, so go at a time when you don’t have to do anything pressing to do for a few hours.

  1. Always bring your health insurance card (“hokensho”) and hospital card (“shinsatsu ken”) if you have it one. If it is your first time and don’t have that hospital’s card, they will make one for you.

  1. If it is your first time, they will as you to fill out a form regarding your reason for coming, allergies, and medical history. You will most likely need help reading the kanji, and if you give a puppy dog face some nurse will almost definitely sit down with you and help you fill it out (or fill it out for you).

  1. After that just wait, see the doctor, and pay at the end. If you received a prescription (“shohousen”), you can take it to any pharmacy (“yakkyoku”) to be filled, but many hospitals have one nearby that they usually send to.

The Pill

If you are on the pill at home, you should continue to take it in Japan. I know a girl who went off it when her supply from home ran out, and she gained weight and broke out badly for months.Going off the pill also throws your emotions into a tailspin, and you don’t need that on top of stress you are about to endure by living in Hokkaido (more on that later).

To get the pill, go to any local hospital that has a “gynecology department(“sanfujinka”). Don’t be shocked that everyone around youseems to be pregnant especially in a small town you might be the only one there at that time for the opposite reason. On the first visit, they will give you a pap test and cervical cancer screening. You will come back and if everything is ok, they will hand you a prescription to take to any pharmacy. Because it can take a little time (VERY IMPORTANT!) don’t wait until you are about to run out before you start looking into this. With your insurance, a 6 month supply is about 1 man yen.

They will probably not have your brand from home, but they will find you something comparable. Remember, during this time when you are switching birth control pills,don’t forget to use a back-up form of contraception for at least 2 months.

The Morning-after Pill

Japan has it, and you can get it. In an emergency, even on a weekend or during a holiday, you can look up the nearest women’s clinic, call and leave a message, and someone will probably get back to you. But I can’t promise that, so try not to get in the situationwhere it is a necessity.

Pregnancy Tests

Unfortunately, pregnancy tests at a hospital or clinic would not be covered under our (neither national nor JET) insurance. Fortunately, pregnancy tests are available over the counter at any pharmacy for (a low price). They have Clear Blue Easy, with English directions enclosed!


Abortion is safe and legal in Japan, and not at all uncommon. In fact, it is the most recommended route by counselors for Japanese school girls who find themselves pregnant. They go and have the procedure performed without anyone knowing and then they carry on with school as usual. It is recommended in Japan for abortions to be carried out at around 12 weeks of pregnancy, but can be performed by law up to 22 weeks. Almost every abortion is performed surgically; most medical abortion methods (“abortion pills”) are not yet approved in Japan and those that have are only used in extremely extenuating circumstances.The most common abortion method used is D&C (dilation and curettage).Legally, abortions can only be performed by an obstetrician or gynecologist, and usually a women’s doctor will hold both licenses (OB-GYN).You can get a first trimester abortion at a public hospital or private clinic and usually costs about 10 man (up to 20 man at some private clinics). Second trimester abortions are only performed in private clinics and can cost 30 to 50 man. You must pay out of pocket because our insurance does not cover abortions.Reasons for an abortion acceptable by the law are to preserve the life of the mother, to preserve the health of the mother, if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, or economic/social reasons. If you are married, the abortion must be approved by your spouse. I’ve also heard that having more thanone abortion in a lifetime is risky for the woman and her future fetuses.But then, one of my Japanese friends said that her friend had a few abortions when she was younger, and now is a happy parent… so I guess there are always exceptions? Finally, when seeking an abortion at a clinic, counseling is most often NOT provided so make sure you research for yourself and think about what’s best for you before you go. And if you need help, don’t hesitate at all to contact our awesome P.A. Holly Long for assistance (more on her awesomeness and promise of CONFIDENTIALITY later). Another great resource you can use is the Tokyo English Life Line, which provides a free, anonymous pregnancy counseling service in English (phone number and hours for this and other counseling help-lines are listed in the Mental Wellness section of the accompanying handout).

Feminine Care Products

Tampons and pads of all sorts are available, even at the convenience store(but same rules as condoms… only buy where you don’t care that everyone knows you bought them). It’s sort of silly because they will wrap them uptight like little presents when you take them to the counter so you won’t be “embarrassed” carrying them home. But if you are like me and have a certain brand that you likebest (Playtex Sport tampons!) you might want to have your mom or someone send them overto you. The same goes for make-up, face soaps, lotions, period medicine… they have it but maybe you’ll want to keep using your own.Like most foreign girls, Iconsider Japanese deodorants as useless but on the other hand, I like the make-up better here.

Mental Wellness

Living in another country by yourself is stressful enough, but Japan and Hokkaido in particular has its own challenges. For just one example, during working hours Japanese people are very serious and quiet, so you might find yourself in a bubble of silence for 8 hours a day, trapped in your own thoughts. That alone has driven me and other ALTs slightly nutty. But something I didn’t realize would be stressful before experiencing it was the fact that Japanese people do not touch each other i.e. hug or whatever very much, and after several months I began to feel mental strain and even physical pain due to lack of body contact.

In Hokkaido, the winters are long and hard. You will constantly be not quite warm enough, and the sun sets before you can even get home from work. That would be enough to get you down, but without sunlight your body cannot produce enough vitamin D, and it is not supplemented in the milk here. Because of this, I have even heard male JETs complain that they find themselves mysteriously depressed during the wintertime. Combined with first-year JET culture shock that will hit just as the winter is starting to become annoying, you might find yourself wanting to go to bed everyday at 5pm. Fixes for this that have worked include taking vitamin D supplements and, in all seriousness, exercising (even just a little). Feel free to give yourself little 20 minute power naps, but don’t sleep all the time! For body touch withdrawal, you can find someone who is comfortable giving you a hug or a back rub, or you can go get massages even at your local small-town chiropractor.

If you are still depressed, you might need to seek more help. I did, when my ex-boyfriend committed suicide. Suicide is a major problem in Japan, with over 30,000 people succeeding per year. To translate that into something more understandable, I guarantee if you could ask everyone you meet in your Japanese life, several of them would have a personal brush with suicide whether it was a relative, a friend, or themselves (several people in my community, in fact, came forward to talk to me after they heard what happened). Workers in stressful careers such as teachers are also at high risk for depression, and if you pay attention you will probably even recognize 1 or more co-workers going through a mental break-down.

The point is, had my ex been diagnosed, we would have found he had textbook depression and would have benefitted greatly from counseling. But after he died, I’m the one who needed it to lead me through what I was feeling. For counseling, there are two different routes you can go. You can go to your local or closest big city’s (in case you don’t want anyone to know) hospital’s psychiatry department (“seishin ka”) and talk to someone there. Most Japanese doctors can speak or at least understand more English than they let on. But if you are feeling down, the best thing for you is to speak to someone who can understand you completely and give you clear advice. For this, sessions with a native English-speaking doctor or counselor is your #1 option. The bad news is there is no such person like that in Hokkaido. The good news is there are some living in Tokyo or elsewhere that are available for phone counseling. It can be a little expensive (I paid 6,000 yen per hour), but some doctors will base fees on your financial ability (because they are used to treating JETs and other ALTs). I have given you recommendations for two good doctors and their contact info on the other handout.

I have also listed other options for emergency and one-time counseling. The very good news is that between the three hotlines there is always someplace to call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is no reason to wait until it is intolerable, so call as soon as you need to.

Just a few (Safety) Tips

Actually I only have 1 major one: Lock your door! Just a month or so ago, a young nurse was stabbed in Chiba Prefecture after failing to lock the door behind her when she came home from work. Especially if you live in the countryside, everyone will know where you live, and even in a bigger city you will be so recognizable that people around will come to know where you come and go everyday. In my town, I live right in the center and everyone knows my apartment. One time a guy that apparently thought I was attractive came out of a bar near my house, followed my tracks in the snow, and knocked on my door (shiver). Another time, a group of drunk men came in the middle of the night and tried to open my door, and when they found it locked they shoved a slice of cheesecake in the mail slot. Children will also come and randomly pull on your door, I’ve had one come in my house while I was in the shower! So click the lock as soon as you walk inside, every time.

Another thing I can think of is, of course, be careful walking alone, especially when intoxicated, especially in Susukino. Recently, some women have been mugged returning home to their apartments in Sapporo. After a night out of drinking, have a friend go with you all the way to your house or where you are staying, or take a cab to the doorstep. The money is worth not having someone follow you there.

I do have one more piece of pretty good advice that I can offer any girl that comes and lives in Hokkaido: try to find a Japanese female friend who can either speak English or who will work hard to communicate well with you to always just be a phone call away at any time to help if you have a problem. This can be someone from your work-place or a female friend your age, but most JETs swear by some “Japanese mother” that they have somehow obtained. I’m certain that if you are receptive, there will be several nice Japanese ladies lining up to take you under their wing.

Well, this has gotten quite long. Having written all this, basically in one sitting, rather stream of consciousness-style, and having mostly focused on things I wished someone would have told me when I was at the point that you are, I have most indubitably left out something you might like to know. Hopefully we may have covered it during discussion time in the workshop (if there was any…) but if not, go ahead and e-mail me, I’ll try to help you find an answer if I can! Also, we are lucky to have an amazing P.A. Holly Long, who collaborated to help me gather as much accurate and specific information as possible for this workshop because she personally believes Women’s Health is incredibly important. If you find yourself in a situation in which you have important questions or need some assistance, contact Holly; she says she will do all she can to help! (Plus, she is bound by a confidentiality agreement, so don’t be shy!) Enjoy your time in Hokkaido, Girls!


Can’t we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars? ☆ いつだって僕を導くイチバンボシを信じて


{Note: As I enjoyed a long stay in Sapporo last week for the TRIPLANE CONCERT, I had little access to internet for blog tinkering. Therefore, please consider this blog to be written about 1 week ago.}

みなさん、これからアリーの、とてもいいバーのお薦めを伝えますよ!きっと、みんなは、北海道に住んだら、時々「新千歳空港」に行けなければならないでしょう。それから、北海道に住んでいないみなさんは、北海道に来たら、必ずその空港に行きます。その時に、時間があったら、一杯飲めたら素敵ですよね。千歳空港の3階, レストランの近くにある、The Earth(ザ・アス)は完璧ですよ。

A couple weeks ago, when I went to pick up my mother from the airport in Chitose (think of the Chitose-Sapporo relationship like Icheon-Seoul… you fly to the airport in Incheon, a smaller city, to get to Seoul…), I was feeling particularly emboldened. So before her plane got in, I lurked around the airport looking for some excitement. In one corner, I found a darkened bar called The Earth where several people were hanging out, and scouted some territory at one end of the counter and plopped myself down. I was the only foreigner there, but within half an hour I had made nice with all of the Japanese bartenders, 4 male and 1 female.

照明がちょっと黒くて、ムードがいいです!スタッフも、みなさんすごく、いつもお客さんと会話しているので、私たちもすぐ仲良くなりました。オーナーの「とりさん」は、アリーにも、他の客さんにも、すごく親切です。それから「Kevin」と呼んでいる日本人のバーテンは、面白くてバーテンらしい方です。こいてんのは、優しくてかわいい「あゆみ」だった。次に若く見えるのは「なべちゃん」。彼は、かわい男子です。ラストは、初めて会った時1週間前に三重県から引っ越したばかりの男です。ニックネームは、まだ決まっていないですが、「My Best Friend」と、何回も言っていました。彼は、笑顔が最高、フレンドリーなベスト・フレンドです。アリーは今愛称を使ってたけど、The Earthに行くことできたら、みなさんの個性が分かると思っています。薦めたいドリンクは、バナナ味のフレッシ・フルーツ・カクテルです。バーテンは”こちらはいかがですか?”と勧められた時、あまりおいしくないかなと思っていましたが、本当はすごくおいしくて、リフレッシングでした!!!それから、The Earthのマティーニは、素敵です。My Best Friendが作ってくれた「桜」と言うマティーニは、特にプリティー・ピンクで、お酒がたくさん入っていました。今度、飲んでみてね、みなさんが待っていま~す。

When I asked them to guess where I was from, the first answer was the same as always: Russian. Especially is Sapporo, I get that all the time. There have been varying opinion on why. Some people say it’s my super white skin. Others say, Hokkaido’s proximity to Russia (I doubt this, as I’ve met many foreigners, and not even one was Russian). I personally think it has something to do with how I dress. Because I’m Caucasian, but wear clothes bought in Japan. I guess it is sort of assumed that Americans at least dress more casually (jeans, sneakers, North Face fleeces, etc), so with Japanese clothes backed up by other features like brown hair, blue eyes, and curves, Russian is the first thing their minds jump to. However, on that night, I guess since since we were in an airport, I got a plethora of exotic guesses, in fact, American was about the LAST thing they guessed. The order was something like: Russian, French, Swiss,Turkish (?!), Dutch, … but once I said “I speak English” they went to Portugal (what?), Australia, and Canada, before they finally got too embarrassed to guess any more. Once my mom got in, I brought her back to the bar, where we tried fresh fruit cocktails (I was incredulous about the banana one at first, but it was ah-AWESOME) and got special pretty martinis made from the bartender who just moved here from Mie Prefecture (who hit on me the entire time). They told me to come back whenever, you know, I happen to be hanging out waiting for a plane Which is probably more often than the typical person who lives up here.

空港と言えば、先月日本に戻った時、いいことがあった!飛行機の乗った時,偶然にJ-popのラジオ番組を探し、イチバンに聞いた曲は、「イチバンボシ」と言う歌でした。らないものだったから、ほとんど聞きませんでしたが、時々アナウンサーは”北海道出身の「TRIPLANE」です”と教えて、アリーも北海道なので、最後まで聞いて、気になりました!TRIPLANEの好きな所は、2つあります。1つは、もちろん、北海道から来たので、アリーはなんかプライドを持っています。本当に札幌らしい男性です。すすきので遊んでる男子っぽい。なんでかは分からないですけど、そう言う感じがする。それから、TRIPLANEのミュジック・スタイルも、好き。聞いたら、アリーのお気に入りの「バンプ・オブ・チキンだ」思い出しています。ボーカルがぜんぜん違うけどね。。。「ふじわら もとお」の声がザラザラだったので、TRIPLANEの「えばた ひょうえ」の声がとてもキレイ。そんなに気になったから、買ったCDの中にライブの広告を見つけて、10月29日に札幌Penny Laneでコンサートすると書いていたので、「よし!行くわ!」と思っていました。だけど、その広告をパパさんに見せて、”チケットをとるの、助けて貰っていい?”と、お願いして、パパさんは”アリーバカじゃない?受付も終わったよ、ほら!”と言っていて、”あ、本当だ”、「8月3日~8月10」と書いていました。でも、私たちもう一回インターネットで調べてから、違うまだ受付中のライブを見つけて、LawsonでチケットをGETしたよ!今週の金曜日、札幌のCaffeineでTRIPLANEを見に行きます!!それについてアップするつもりなので、また見てね^O^

Speaking of airplanes, I was in one last month and bored, so I started flipping through the J-pop radio channel. By chance I stopped at very last song on the playlist… and heard in Japanese that the band was from Hokkaido! I liked the song quite a lot, but forgot all about it until I found the title scrawled in the back of my kanji workbook. I then searched and saw their music video. I found out they were from Sapporo, I really did like them because it honestly felt like these might be some guys I would randomly run into in Susukino and crash their drinking party, you know, just some normal dudes (I mean, other than that, they were all wearing the same color scheme). The only disappointment is that they seem to waste their PVs doing “band videos,” meaning all they all are a string of shots of the band standing around playing their instruments in various rooms (a common annoyance that I experience even with my favorite bands). Then, I forgot about them AGAIN, until I saw a poster in front of a store in Sapporo Station advertising their new album being sold there. Since I don’t fight fate, I immediately went in and bought it. I now talk about them to anyone here that will listen, I figured we would all be able to get behind a good Hokkaidon (as opposed to Okinawan; I am coining this term!) band. Stuck in my cd was an advertisement for their show in Sapporo this week, however, ticket sales were already over. However, in searching for that, I found a different show they are doing NEXT week, and I already got tickets! Update next time!

Updates of updates: Them Fancy Clothes アップデイトのアップデイト:お洒落着物、洋服

By chance, my mom had seen the Paradise Kiss movie on the plane when she came to Japan recently, and she said how much my dress for my friend’s wedding last month looked like Yukari’s (and also, like me, fell in love with Osamu Mukai… but I had also expected we had the same taste in men ever since John Stamos started to turn into a scuffy old Greek like my dad). Of course you who read the blog know, that was no accident. I actually got 2 dresses, one that matched the Paradise Kiss one in style (the single frilly strap on one arm), the other in color (that Sapphire blue*) that my mom bought for me (I guess no matter what age we are, our mothers still like to put their daughters in cute dresses). At the wedding, I opted for the purple with sunflowers, as it was still summer (like most Americans, I don’t follow sakidori**). I’m saving the blue princess one with silver for my next Hokkaido wedding. Who’s getting married next, ladies? Better hurry up! ;D







Speaking of sakidori, I saw a great example recently at Samani Town Hall… I saw 2 older ladies dressed up to go to a community circle meeting, both wearing kimono reminiscent of that snowflake pattern** that I like! As it is still autumn and the first snowfall is still more than a month away, it was a great example of “anticipating something before it happens.” As I was talking to her about it, she said that she expected “many others would be wearing the same kind (of pattern) today.” Ladies and gentleman, I give you… SAKIDORI!


 I think that I’ve so thoroughly taken these discussions so far that they are no longer interesting, and for that I apologize. So with this, I think we can consider all this fancy dud nonsense CASE CLOSED.


*Ezoali UPDATE: Sapphire Blue Dresses ☆アップディト!サファイア色のドレス☆

 **Ezoali UPDATE: *Yukata in a Taxi Cab* タクシーの中にある浴衣


Ezoali UPDATE: *Yukata in a Taxi Cab* タクシーの中にある浴衣

Well, of course I would find this now. I had just I sent to presses my post about Kyoto when I came across this article all about yukata (summer kimonos). And written in there was this:



You may remember, I called out my friend Kaji for public scrutiny for claiming you’d get a discount if you got into a taxi while wearing a yukata. And while if doesn’t explicitly list taxis in the article, it stands to make the whole concept quite plausible. Therefore, I’m convinced enough that I would feel comfortable repeating it to others.


By reading the article, I also learned other cool things about yukatas, for example, the old concept of sakidori, which means “anticipating things before they happen.” The article said, for example, if you wore a yukata with a cherry blossom pattern in time when theses flowers are in full bloom, it would“banal”(ooo, nice word). It would show much better fashion sense to wear it, say, one month beforehand. I also learned about a certain yukata pattern inspired by snowflakes that I was quite drawn to… However, I better watch it, because maybe wearing this pattern in Hokkaido (synonymous with “crap loads of snow”) would be considered “banal” as well.


On the subject of wearing kimono, my heart is divided in half. Of course, I think they are beautiful, and it seems to make the people around me honestly happy when they see me wearing their traditional clothes. But I just truly feel they don’t completely look right on me, because I am white. I usually feel that way about any foreigner dressing up and posing for pictures in Japanese attire, but recently I brought my nieces child yukatas and I have to admit, along with everyone else, that they were completely adorable. And I think my mom’s too, suited her looks and dignity beautifully. How about you guys out there? What do you of foreigners putting on traditional clothes of their host country: Tourist-y? Respectful? …?

着物ですが。。。みなさん、外国人さんが着物を着たら、どう思いますか?実は、アリーにとって、あまり似合わないと思っています。外人だから。でも、姪ちゃんたち子供の浴衣を着させると、(「私たち、喋喋みたい!」と、言っていたけど^^;)メッチャメンコカッタ。 それから、リンダママも、大人らし女性っぽいものを着て、思ったより美しかったです。みんなの意見は?どうでしょうか?。。。



As promised, here is Part 2 from my trip down to Kansai during my summer break. This time about Kyoto. It was actually my first trip there. I had been planning to go my first time in Japan, the exploratory trip I made before making JET back in January 2009. That time, I had gone to meet, who some of you may remember, Kaji, in his hometown of Kobe. While there we went to have a steak dinner (that would make it, yes, Kobe beef)… which, I’m sorry to say, I promptly threw up (I’m still sooo sorry about that, Kaji^^;;;). I had to stay in the hotel an extra 2 days recovering, thus canceling my trip to Kyoto. Not that I blamed Kaji at all… but after I heard he had moved to Kyoto for a job, I decided I would let him make it up to me by being my tour guide this time around. While in Kyoto, however, Kaji told me some things that were, frankly hard to believe, like someone just made it all up… Well, I’ll just let you judge for yourself!

Back in Jan 2009 2009の一月


 True to their natures, Osaka and Kyoto are like night and day. You wouldn’t be caught wasting all day at an amusement park or slamming fried foods on a stick in the cultural capital of Japan. As anyone familiar to Japan is aware of its temples and being the birthplace and home to almost all of Japan’s geisha culture (if you hear “geisha”, you should immediately connect it in your mind to “Kyoto”). Unfortunately, one of my worst traits is avoiding places other tourists go like the plague (I really should realize if other people go there, there must be a very good reason why I should check it out, right?) and on that hot, muggy holiday in the middle of Obon (the festival in Japan in which spirits of ancestors return to this world) when the entire country of Japan was off work and crowding tourist traps, I really wasn’t willing to have it.


In exchange, I always pick some weird, off-beat place I read a paragraph about in a guidebook and get hell-bent on going to. For example, the time I went to Kobe, I forced poor Kaji take me to this 50ft tall cloth fish sculpture in the middle of the night, just because. This time, I chose an unpopular temple with a zen garden that metaphorically portrays the flow (river) of life. Though incredibly moved myself, I’ll assume most of you are probably not interested in my wapanese search of Enlightenment, so I’ll spare you the details. If you are interested you should read about here, or just ask me (just so you know I DID read the English tour pamphlet cover to cover). Of course, it ended up being a headache getting there, it took at least 30 minutes by bus from Kyoto Station. During that bus ride, Kaji suddenly sat up and pointed out the window “See that taxi?” The cab was red and had a 4-leaf clover mark on the top and sides. Apparently, as Kaji explained, like 99% of the taxis in Kyoto have 3-leaf clovers, so it is very rare to be able to see one that has 4. Since it was about 8:30 in the morning, I was incredulous that it was so unusual. But just as he said, though I very conspicuously checked every red cab that passed on the street that day, I didn’t see any more 4-leaf clovers.

その変わりに、ガイドブックで調べました。「大仙院」と言うお寺の説明を読ん気になりました!あそこの日本庭園は人生に例えられるとよびました。素晴らしかったけど、結構遠かったです、京都駅からバスで30分ぐらい掛かりました。乗った時、急にかじさんは指を出した “Do you see that cab?”「そのタクシー見えていますか?」って、車に四つ葉があったクローバーが書いていました。彼は、そういうタクシーが少ないのだと言いました。大抵三つの葉のマークが書いているそうです。まだ一日目朝8時半だったので、これをあまり信じていなかったです。でも、かじさんっていた通りに、一日一生懸命探したけど、それから三つ葉クローバーばかりでした。

Did I mention the heat was awful? No, it was GOD AWFUL. All of Kansai gets pretty hot in the summertime, but Kyoto is basically a basin surrounded by mountains, so all that heat and humidity just SITS there in it. People are just constantly sweating from the time they step out in the morning until they bathe at night. So I shouldn’t have been so surprised to see everyone, even businessmen, with towels stuck up under their shirt collars. It was so hot everywhere, I almost couldn’t take it, but everyone else seemed so calm and resigned… I guess they’ve just gotten used to it.


Another thing that I realized is, Kyoto is very proud of being Kyoto. And despite subtlety being an virtue of beauty, I didn’t find this fact to be subtle at all. As Kaji pointed out, commercial giants such as McDonald’s and Starbucks must contend to abandon their corporate colors and match there signs to the surrounding brown marquis in order to open stores there. Also, while much of the rest of Kansai conformed to western escalator riding etiquette (stand on the right, pass on the left), Kyoto people still stand on the left (which, amusingly, I saw was a shared confusion among foreign and Japanese tourists alike).


Despite what I said before, I DID actually ask Kaji to take me to Gion, where the geisha live, train, and hang out. I’m sure there was some place that geisha perform for tourists, but because most real geisha-ing only occurs after dark in exclusive shops reserved for men with the cash, I knew the chances were slim for me getting in to one of those parties. So we just looked around and got some famous Kyoto green tea ice cream. Because that night was the famous Daimonji Festival, there were a lot of people out dressed in yukatas (cotton summer kimonos) and jinbei (2-piece numbers, think of a very light, colored karate outfit tied by strings instead of a belt). Kaji told me that in Kyoto, if you get into a taxi looking like that, you get a discount. Well, I’ll believe it when I try it, but guess its good that they won’t let all those pretty girls keel over from heat exhaustion on the streets or in subways from their restraining kimonos. We did actually see geisha, by the way. A few young meiko running around, and one of the highest level, in fact (you can tell the difference because her make-up was noticeably super whiter than others around). I saw her ahead, 3 or 4 people helping load her and her more-expensive-than-my-life black kimono into a big shiny, black cab. Kaji hadn’t noticed, so I tried subtly send him message… by slapping and pinching him. I realize afterward that I probably annoyed the pretty lady morethan if I had just told him in English to look forward…I’m such a tourist.

Geisha? Not really, it's Satoshi Ohno from the Japanese boy band ARASHI アリーの好きな舞妓、嵐の大野くん!!!


In Gion, I had a choice between 2 Kyoto specialties for dinner, an eel dinner or herring soba, since the latter was Kaji’s personal recommendation I decided to go with it. You could tell it was “real” herring soba, he said, because the herring was on the bottom under the noodles. But, I mean… if they were posers what would keep them from just putting it underneath? But have to admit, it was totally delicious. For you foodies out there, the sweet fish was a perfect match for the slightly salty, strongly-flavored soup. But I digress.


The last thing we did was go to see the Daimonji Festival, which is a one-of-a-kind festival known all throughout Japan. As I said, Kyoto is surrounded by mountains, and during the festival, forest-fires (I know, right?) are set in the shape of various kanji characters and shapes to help the dead return to the spirit world at the end of Obon. We almost died ourselves, however, as once the fire was set, the cheek-to-cheek crowd was going nuts and I literally nearly got squashed. While it was very cool, when shown a picture, most Samani people said that, from far away, it didn’t look any better than the kanji made from red strings lights that my town lights on our cape every year to advertise our summer festival ^^; Samani: Where no place is better than home.


Samani's "Fire" Kanji 様似の”火”祭

Kyoto's "Big" Kanji 京都の大文字

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