Daiso – Everything you need. . . no seriously!


Daiso is a store here in Japan which is often described as the dollar store or the hundred yen store. The reason is simple, most items are sold for a mere ¥105. Occasionally you may find items which are slightly more expensive but in general ¥105 will get you anything in the store.

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So what can you get at Daiso? A more appropriate question might be what can’t you get at Daiso. Everything from kitchen supplies, stationary, clothing, shoes, food, gardening equipment, outdoor equipment, toys, tools, and much much more!

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Today for example I picked up 2 compact folding water bottles, a drawing pad, heavy stock drawing paper, zip ties, sponges, cleaners for my air conditioner, erasers, watercolors and fine tip markers all for ¥105 each. All right so today’s “haul” might not look like much but in the past I have purchased plates, cups, bowls, utensils and even all of my storage containers at Daiso. Still not convinced? Reusable grocery bags, curtains, sponges, bathroom equipment, UV sleeves, nail polish, hair accessories and sandals all in use throughout my house right now were also picked up at Daiso!

Where is Daiso and how can you get in on the ¥105 action? There are Daiso locations all over Okinawa. The one pictured above is an independent location in Ginowan however you can also find Daiso at some San A locations (like Ginowan Convention City). There are also other shops scattered throughout the island so keep an eye out.

Before running in and taking advantage of the amazing pricing please keep in mind that this is a yen only establishment. The only exception is EDY or if Daiso is located in a shopping center like San A so be sure to bring yen cash. That’s really all there is to know. So load up your pockets with all that yen you found in the back seat of your car and head over to Daiso!

Summertime Freebies – Japan’s way of making summer bearable.


Summer in Japan . . . . . well . . . . kinda sucks. (Especially if you’re in Okinawa!) The beaches are crowded, the streets are packed with traffic from tourists and oh yeah there is enough humidity to make you wonder how the people who live here long term haven’t developed gills. Doesn’t sound very pleasant huh? Well it’s not (I haven’t lied before and I am not going to start now!), but there are some fun things that do happen during the summer that can help keep our mind off the fact that we are living on the surface of the sun.

Back in Bean Town we used to call them “Freebies” but here in Japan they are usually referred to as a “Campaign”. Simply put a campaign is an opportunity for companies to push their product and consumers to get stuff. Sometimes it will be an item which is attached to your bottle of tea at a convenience store and other times it’s a display that looks a little something like this:

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As you can see this particular display is featuring Coke-a-Cola* as well as DVD’s. Other displays for various products this summer alone have featured child size backpacks, fans, cookers, oversized beer mugs, drinking glasses, hats, sandals and much much more.

Now, I’m sure you want to get in on this “Campaign” action so let’s talk about how it works. This type of display usually means that you are required to purchase a certain number of items before you are eligible to receive the free item. In this case it’s 4 bottles of Coke product  to receive 1 DVD. Take a look at the photo above one more time. See that happy family? If you look just below them you will see that the sign says 4本で1つ this means that when you purchase 4 you can get 1. This might vary depending on the particular campaign but it’s usually about 4 to 6. Now look again and you will see that list of Coke products that you can choose from (Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta, Aquarius and Green Tea). You can’t see it in this image but the other Coke products are off the the right.  Now all you have to do is decide what it is you want, put it in your cart, and pick the DVD of your choice. It’s really that simple.

This goes on throughout the year but the summer is the prime time for some awesome stuff!

 

*No paid endorsement.

 

Foremost Blue Seal Co. – More than just an ice cream parlor.


Big Dip is one of those special little gems that you don’t find too often here in Okinawa. I mean you probably already know that Big Dip has Okinawa’s best ice cream and a pretty good menu . . . but what most people tend to look over is that Big Dip (particularly Big Dip Makiminato) is in fact a historical location!

It all started in 1948. American forces were now stationed around Okinawa at many bases to include onewhich stood where Camp Kinser stands today, Camp Makiminato. Much like today the American diet called for dairy products, a need that Okinawa could not meet at the time. Foremost Co then entered the scene beginning construction on an establishment to house dairy products for the American military forces. Originally Foremost was restricted to only those who had base access. There was such a buzz that in the late 70’s (and what I can assume was a small amount of land reclamation) Foremost Blue Seal Co, the company we all know and love today, was born. Military, locals and tourists alike have been enjoying the high quality ice cream every since!

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Even at 10:30PM on Friday night Big Dip Makiminato is filled to the brim with families young and old enjoying a tasty treat.

Hint: Next time you enjoy a scoop of your favorite ice cream at a Big Dip location look closely to see if you can find a photo of the original Makiminato location. 

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Today Big Dip doesn’t disappoint still serving customers the same blue seal quality* ice cream and a variety of other foods which are sure to send any American back to their favorite drive-in burger joint in 3 to 5 bites. Big Dip also goes above and beyond creating delicious offerings that are American style with an Okinawan twist. One of those items is the “Okinawa Tacos Dog” a play on Taco Rice, an Okinawan Favorite, and the classic American hotdog. This dog features the fixings of a taco on top of a hotdog in a soft delicious bun. Sure it’s a little messy but it is delicious nonetheless. Finish off the meal with some ice cream created from the many delicious Okinawa inspired flavors such as Mango, Sea Salt or Purple Sweet Potato.

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If classic American is more your style you’re not going to want to miss one of the burgers Big Dip has to offer. Prepared just like my favorite drive-in back home these are actually grilled to perfection and topped with fresh vegetables between an again soft and delicious bun. If this doesn’t take you back “home” I don’t know what will.

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For those, like me, who take their desert seriously a simple scoop of ice cream might just not hit the spot! No need to worry because Big Dip has an assortment of pies, doughnuts and other classic ice cream sundaes to boot. Try a banana split, smoothie or pie topped with rich creamy vanilla ice cream.

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Pressed for time? You can still enjoy all the goodness that Big Dip has to offer. Not only are items on the menu available for take out but there is a large selection of ice creams in single scoop and cartons for purchase. There are also special ice cream pies during the winter holiday season (pre-order only).

At the end of the day sure Big Dip has great ice cream and food but they also offer a little piece of “home” which can be especially helpful for curing homesickness. And even if you’re not feeling homesick, who can pass up on a piece of pie that looks that good? Whether you’re here for a weekend or going to work here for a few years make sure Big Dip is on your list of things to do! 

*In America outstanding dairy products were often awarded a blue ribbon or seal. The use of this ribbon or seal in the company’s name and on signage today is an indicator to customers that they can only expect the best.

Where Ex-Pat Kids Go To Learn


A few days ago I got a pretty great question from someone over on the Facebook page which read:

Have you covered what kind of school options there are in Okinawa for expats with school age children? In the mainland, there pretty much aren’t any other than international schools that run upwards of $20,000 a year per student. Here’s hoping that there might be more available in Okinawa!

This is a great question!

A lot of people who come to Okinawa have school age children which ultimately raises the question of where they will attend school while they are here. Like many other things here in Okinawa the choices you have are greatly dependent on your status and financial capabilities. In this post I will discuss some of the schooling options out there and what parents as well as students who attend those schools have shared with me about their experiences.

DODEA Schools 

If you are a military member or are a DOD Civilian (working for the US government) you have the option of sending your child to a DODEA School (usually just referred to as DOD’s). These schools are located on the bases here in Okinawa which house families; Camp Courtney, Kadena Air Base, Camp Foster and Camp Kinser.

The appeal of DODEA Schools for a lot of people who I have spoken with is that they are prepared and willing to assist with the challenges of children who have parents working in the government/military (i.e. moves in the middle of the school year). They also focus have a curriculum based on American public schools which ensures that students will not have to suffer once returning back to the US.

Most all of the students I have worked with who attended DODEA schools enjoy their experience. Of course there are always going to be kids who struggle to make friends or fit in but there is an overwhelmingly positive response from (at least) the kids I worked with. Parents on the other hand seem to be mixed. Some parents are pleased with the learning experience that their children receive where as others do not think that it is sufficient and chose to supplement their child’s education or send them to private schools.

Homeschooling 

Ok so homeschooling is not for everyone but it is an option that many parents choose to take when they have the means.  As one might expect parents tend to be very pleased with their child’s learning experience when being homeschooled. Children on the other hand seem to be 50/50. Some are happy others feel as though they are missing out on something. It really seems to come down to the parent’s willingness to go above and beyond with the curriculum their teach their child. The children who were most happy had parents who exposed them to cultural activities.

Public Schools

Japanese public schools are an option for the children of ex-pats. Naturally the language spoken is going to be primarily Japanese so this is something to consider if this route is something you want to consider. This is also only something that you want to consider if you and your family are going to be in Japan long term.

I have not personally worked with any ex-pats who have enrolled their children in Japanese public schools but I have spoken with people who have tried. The main concern about signing an ex-pat child up for Japanese public schooling is that the curriculum does not match up with American curriculum. This is a problem as most families are only here for 2 to 3 years. Ultimately the child would suffer once returning back to the states because they may be held back. Again, this is what I was told concerned a parent who had done the research. Whether or not this is 100% true. . . . I do not know. I strongly recommend that if you intend to go this route you take some time to research both the Japanese and American side of things and evaluate what you want to do based on your particular situation.

Private/International Schools 

For those with the financial capabilities private or international schools are also an option. Here on Okinawa there are three main private/international schools which stand out: SantaMonica International School, New Age Academy and Okinawa Christian Academy International. These schools most always appeal to families who do not want to enroll in DODEA schools and because of their short stay won’t benefit from Japanese public schools.

All three schools mention an American style curriculum with the two Christian based schools offering Bible Study as well as the standard subjects. Japanese culture and language is usually incorporated in the curriculum as well.

Parents and students that I have spoken with who attended these schools usually have an overwhelmingly positive response. The only down side I ever heard over the years is that Christianity was not their beliefs but they attended anyway because it was better in their eyes then DODEA.

As you can see there are a few options for those families with school age children but the reality is that Okinawa is a very small place and naturally there are very few options compared to places like Mainland Japan.

So . . . . . Do you live in Okinawa and have kids? Where do they go to school and how do they like it? Also how do you feel about the learning experience that they receive. Please help others who are curious about this topic learn from your experiences by commenting below!

Another Summer in Okinawa


Summers in Okinawa are “hot”. At least that’s what most people say. In fact most people start complaining about Okinawa’s heat way in the spring months because they are new to the island and think that the first sign of humidity is the “worst it can get”. Unfortunately for them once June rolls around that’s when we start to see some real humidity and then come July we’re in full blown summer and THAT is when it can’t get any worse.

Okinawa’s summers are actually quite mild if you’re looking at temperature alone. We are mostly in the 80’s maybe in the 90’s and rarely in the 100’s. Unfortunately the numbers don’t say much at all about the summers here in Okinawa. The problem that we usually encounter is the combination of humidity and dew point. Here in Okinawa we’re usually at between 70 and 80% humidity on average (and by that I mean on an average night). Depending on some other factors we may find ourselves with as much as 100% humidity and I say that assuming that you understand I am not talking about when it rains. That alone might suggest some difficult conditions but then consider the dew point. Our dew point here in Okinawa is usually around 75 to 81 degrees. Put it all together and what do you get. . . . .

Have you ever heard the expression “air so thick you could cut with a knife”? I think someone who lived a few summers here in Okinawa must have come up with that phrase. All the above conditions make for this swampy thick hot environment here in Okinawa. It’s almost like you’re in a greenhouse or something. At times it is so hot that the air conditioners can’t keep up which is why (as well as the cost) we don’t run them as often as you might expect someone living in these conditions to. Even if you did run the air conditioning constantly it wouldn’t do much to combat the constant stream of sweat.

So how do I deal with the heat and humidity of summer in Okinawa? Well I could tell you that I have gotten used to it but that would be a complete and utter lie. In all the years I have been here I still find myself asking how the heck I got through this last year. The reality is that I do what I can to keep cool through other more “realistic” and cheaper means. I might use a fan in my home and rearrange the layout of where I spend most of my time in order to avoid some of the hot sun rays that peak in through the open windows. I also buy certain products like UV curtains and sprays to keep me cool. In actuality I find myself changing clothes at least 3 times a day and probably taking about 2 showers most days. I avoid being outside and like most people in Okinawa I take refuge in shopping centers when I want a nice cool blast of AC rather then putting it on in my house.

Either way regardless my efforts I find myself struggling through the two or three short months of summer before the fall rolls along. Then when fall is finally here I can’t believe I made it through alive. . . . then I wait for next year.