Summer Update: What I’ve Been Up To & Why It’s Been Quiet


Things have been rather quiet here on the ONK Blog so far this summer and it hasn’t been without good reason. As most of you who have watched my videos in the past few months know the house that I was living in started quite literally falling apart. There were massive leaks, bug infestations and the ceiling starting collapsing.

In an attempt to resolve these issues we contacted the housing agency so that we could get a scheduled time for a maintenance crew to take a look at the house. This process alone, simply scheduling a date for them to come, took over 2 weeks. The reason was because the landlady didn’t want anyone working on the house other than her approved construction company. To boot the only way to arrange to have this approved company to our house was to first get in touch with the landlady who has no cell phone or landline. This meant that all requests and contact made to her had to be via Japan Post. . . . . snail mail. When the 2 weeks had finally passed we had a scheduled appointment for someone to take a look at the house. They came in and within about 10 minutes determined that there was a problem that needed immediate attention. This was then followed by 9 straight hours of construction work on the house.

When the construction crews finally left we were told that it could not be determined whether or not the house was safe to live in at this time and we wouldn’t know for at least another 2 weeks during which time the construction crews would be working 9 hour days removing rubble that had been falling from the ceiling for however many years. Of course I was not going to accept thing as an answer and informed the housing agency that they needed to find us a new place to live by the end of the weekend.

The weekend for me was horrible. Concrete dust that had filled my house made it difficult for me to breathe. I had a headache that lasted for days and I had begun to develop a cough. . . . only over 3 days. I had also not been sleeping because the house was so infested with bugs that we were literally waking up in the middle of the night because they were crawling on us of falling from the ceiling onto our begs. When at last Monday rolled around we had gone to the housing agency, this time with photographs and videos, to demand a new apartment. We also informed them that we would not be paying for repairs and/or cleaning fees as the house was currently being torn apart by a construction company. When the people at the housing agency saw the pictures they were disgusted. We had shown them piles of bugs that were gathering at parts of our house, the lines of them along the ceiling and of course the huge chunks of our roof that were now gone. Immediately they looked into our options which unfortunately was only one. That same day we went to look at the apartment and decided that we would be signing the paperwork.

We had to spend another week in our decaying house while preparations were made in the next one but it was a good opportunity to get everything in order so that we could prepare for the move. We did our best to gather all of our things, throw out what had become ruined because of the house (which was much more than we anticipated it would be) and then were on our way. We finally got our keys on Friday. The only problem was when we received our keys we were told that some of the things in the house (stove, air conditioners and fridge) might not be working properly. This would not have been a problem if we were told this prior to moving in but the housing agency kept this information from us until after we signed the contract.

Over the course of the next 4 days we slowly moved into our new apartment. It was a long and hard process to do on our own but we simply couldn’t afford to hire a moving company so we had to make due with what we had. Everything worked out well enough and finally we had everything moved in. Then we learned, the same day we moved all the cold items from the fridge, that it was not working. We called the housing agency and informed them that the fridge was not working and that we needed to have it repaired/replaced and we were swiftly told that if we needed it replaced we would have to replace it ourselves because the fridge, as well as all other items in the house, was not “part” of the house and therefore was not the responsibility of the owner. Of course this is not something that I was expecting. We were already having to pay out a number of bills because of a move that was out of our control and now we were going to have to purchase our own appliances. This was not good for our checkbook.

Pissed off and out of options I started looking for a fridge that we could purchase with our modest budget. We looked for something used but they were either too expensive or not what we were looking for. Then finally we decided that our only option was to go and buy something new. We went to every appliance store on the island and finally settled on a little fridge that was perfect for us and only about ¥20,000 which we could swing with our budget. The only catch is that it would take one week for it to be delivered.

The next week was one of the hardest I have ever had. Summer in Okinawa is bad enough but when you’re trying to survive without anything more than a cooler to keep food and drinks cold it is a huge challenge. We were eating mostly takeout and prepackaged foods which were making us both feel horrible because our diet usually consists of nothing but fresh foods. We were trying to get vegetables but because of the heat and humidity they would spoil in about a days time sitting on the counter in the kitchen. It was brutal. Then finally the fridge came. It was amazing! I was so happy that it arrived and I would not have to eat any more preserved pre packed junk. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . then it didn’t work. It wasn’t getting cold at all. In fact it was hotter in the fridge than it was in the house. It took us a few days to get the issue resolved because at the time there was a major typhoon coming through Okinawa. Nevertheless I marched over to the store and informed them that it was broken and it needed to be replaced. They were happy to replace it. . . . . but unfortunately there were no more in stock. I could either wait another 2 weeks to have one sent down from mainland or I could pick another fridge. The thought of living for another 2 weeks without a fridge made it feel like I was going to puke so I decided to go with the second option. . . . pick another fridge. The only downside to this option is that I would ultimately have to pay another ¥10,000 that I didn’t really have but it seemed totally work making financial sacrifices later.

It took another 6 days to get the new fridge delivered and to my delight it worked just fine. I cold finally start getting my life back together! At that point I had to start focusing quite a bit on the foods that we were eating and the money that we were spending. Our usual food budget runs us at about ¥1000 per day but that had gone up to about ¥3000 a day without a fridge. On top of that I was sick for about a week because my body was literally detoxing from all of the nonsense that I had been eating for the last 2 weeks. It was horrible.

Thrown in a typhoon, tropical storm and some other little hiccups and you’ve got yourself all caught up with where I am right about now. As you might imagine I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend making videos or writing blog posts which is why there hadn’t been much up on the ONK side of the house.

So where are we going from here? I’ve got a new channel called YenniePincher that focuses on cooking videos. That posts new videos every Tuesday and Thursday. I also have an all new channel called Kitty Does Japan which is posting daily vlogs and other videos to come in the future as well. I will continue writing here but it might be a week or so before things get back into full swing as I learn how to juggle everything that I am doing right now.

Stay tuned and of course thank you for your support!

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Mysteries of the Trash Can Revealed: How to separate and put out trash in Japan


One of the many things that baffle and bewilder foreigners who are new to Japan is the process of putting out trash. Unlike other countries Japan takes disposal of trash and recycling very seriously. How seriously you ask? Well. . . . here in Japan there are approximately 9 categories of trash. Each type of trash needs to be cared for differently and is collected on a different day (which varies based on where you live).

Although it sounds confusing the process of cleaning, sorting and disposing of trash is really rather simple. In today’s post we’re going to cover all of the bases and talk about everything you need to know to get your trash picked up!

Trash Bags 

There are two main types of trash bags used in Japan. The first is your city-designated trash bag. This is a bag that can be purchased from local convenience stores and supermarkets which is printed with a design and logo indicating what city the trash bags are designated for. These trash bags come in 3 different sizes (small, medium and large) which can be used to dispose of most types of trash.

The second type of trash bag is a simple clear bag. These can also be found at convenience stores and supermarkets in your area. These clear trash bags are used for recyclable items such as cans, bottles, plant materials and so on. These bags come in a wide variety of sizes.

You will notice that only clear trash bags are used in Japan. This is to prevent confusion and insure that the appropriate trash is being thrown out on the appropriate day. White and black trash bags are not considered acceptable in Japan and therefore will not be collected.

Pickup Schedule 

To ensure that trash is picked up in the most efficient way possible each city has designated pickup schedules. These schedules can be found on some city websites or can be inquired about at your local city/town office.

Although schedules vary based on your location trash tends to be picked up anywhere from 4 to 5 times a week. This includes 2 days for combustable trash, 1 to2 days for recyclables, 1 day for non-combustable trash and another day for plant materials.

Combustable Waste

The most common type of waste is combustable waste. Combustable waste is, much like the name suggest, trash that can be burned. This includes kitchen garbage, vinyl/plastic items, styrofoam trays, rubber/leather items, paper scraps, clothes, CDs and other similar items.

Combustable trash, which is usually picked up 2 times each week, must be disposed of using city-designated trash bags. These bags should have the ability to close securely. It is also important to note that you cannot exceed the number of trash bags designated for your area for one collection day. For example in my city the number of trash bags per collection day cannot exceed 6.

Non-Combustable Waste 

Trash that does not burn is considered non-combustable and needs to be separated from other combustable trash. These items include cups, dishes, broken bottles, kettles, umbrellas, metal products, small-sized electrical appliances, batteries, incandescent bulbs, hangers and other similer items.

Non-combustable trash needs to be disposed os using city-designated trash bags.These bags should have the ability to close securely. It is also important to note that you cannot exceed the number of bags designated for your each for one collection day. For example in my city the number of trash bags per collection day cannot exceed 6. Unlike combustable trash which is picked up twice a week non-combustable trash is only picked up every other week.

Plant Waste 

Any type of trash that consists of plant material such as grass, leaves, small twigs and logs is considered plant waste. There are two ways to dispose of plant waste. The first is to gather it up into clear plastic bags. The second is to bundle it. If you are bundling your plant waste it should be no more than 1m in length and properly secured.

It is important to keep in mind that wood which has been coated with preservatives, such as plywood or any other treated wood, is not considered recyclable and should be treated as combustable or large-sized waste. Like other types of trash you cannot exceed the designated number of bags per collection day.

Can/Bottle/Paper/Harmful Waste

Collected once each week are a variety of items to include what is known as harmful waste and also recyclables. Each of these items needs to be cared for and disposed of differently.

Cans made of aluminum or steel are to be rinsed out and put into a clear plastic bag. The same process is required for unbroken glass bottles.

Paper items are divided up into 5 separate categories including magazines, newspapers, cardboard, milk cartons and paper waste. Magazines, newspapers (including circulars) and cardboard are to be stacked and bundled using twine. Milk cartons (including cartons used for tea, juice and various types of sake) must be rinsed, dried, cut so that they are flat (instructions for this can be found on each carton). Once they are clean and dry then can be bundled. Finally is paper waste. This consists of paper used to make cake boxes, envelopes or packing paper. It is important to note that paper waste will not be collected on rainy days.

Finally is the category known as harmful waste. This consists of florescent tubes, mercury thermometers and lighters. These items should also be bagged separately in a clear plastic bag.

PET Bottles 

PET bottles, also known as plastic bottles, are a type of plastic bottle used widely throughout Japan. They have the familiar “recycle” logo with a number 1 and the letters PET located on the bottle. These PET bottles can be put in a clear plastic bag (either crushed or not) and are collected once every other week.

Large-sized Waste

Trash that is too bag for a city-designated trash bag or falls into a certain category is considered large-sized waste. These items require special attention and additional cost to dispose of. This includes items such as furniture, electronic pianos, bikes, window shades, tatami, carpet, futons, sheets, iron dumbbells, stoves, and oil heaters. 

To dispose of these items you will need to purchase special disposal tickets. These tickets can be purchased from convenience stores and supermarkets. Once the appropriate number of tickets has been purchased a reservation needs to be made to have your item picked up. This can be done by visiting your city office. Once the reservation date has been set ensure that you have your large item out on the curb by 8:00 (or the time designated by your city) on the collection day.

Items That Can’t Be Collected 

Like is the case anywhere else Japan also has a list of items that cannot be collected. These items include chemicals, fire extinguishers, compressed gas tanks, water tanks, motorcycles, tires, car batteries, pianos, automotive waste, TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, and personal computers. To have these items collected you will need to contact a private collection company.

Taking time to separate trash can sometimes seem very tedious. However, with a little bit of practice and this guide you should be a pro in no time! Also do not forget to visit your local city office for more detailed information about separating trash and trash collection schedules in your area.

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Pasta-sicle. . . . . Because that sounds delicious!?


 

 

Here’s the thing. . . . . . I think I’m a relatively adventurous person. There are very few things that I won’t take a nibble of, take a picture of myself eating, write about and then post on the internet. After all I am a YouTuber and a blogger. It’s what I do. But Japan being what it is there are always times when you find something and think to yourself “should I put myself through the misery of actually trying this just for a couple hundred views”? In most cases my answer is “hell yeah” but today I decided to simply pass.

 

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I present to you the Pasta-sicle. This tasty treat was greater by the Garigari-kun line of popsicles which are popular here in Japan. They are known for having delicious flavors like ramune (a type of Japanese soda) and last year’s corn chowder flavor. This year, however, they kicked things up a notch with the exciting and intriguing flavor of Napolitan. For those who might be unfamiliar Napolitan is a popular pasta dish here in Japan. Consisting of ketchup, onions and green peppers it’s far from “authentic” but somehow works. . . . . at least in pasta form. Whether all those flavors would be particularly delicious all wrapped up into a popsicle is a completely different story.

As if that doesn’t sound appetizing enough this stomach turning concoction also includes a special treat! Inside are bits of tomato gelatin. Oh yeah.

Sadly for the viewers and readers out there who would have loved to find out what this tastes like at my expense I decided to give the new cookies and cream Coolish a try and leave this pasta-sicle in the freezer. Maybe next time? Until then I encourage you to get out there and give this a try. Don’t forget to let us know what you thought in the comments below.

Yakisoba (焼きそば): So simple it’s ridiculous!


Yakisoba is one of the more popular dishes among foreigners here in Okinawa. 1525124_804517792896439_797604441_nThe reason is undoubtably because yakisoba is a pretty straight forward dish. In other words there is no element of surprise and you’re not likely to chomp down on an unfamiliar ingredient.

So what’s in yakisobaYakisoba consists of ramen style noodles, carrots, onions, cabbage and an optional meat of your choice. The whole thing is topped off with yakisoba sauce and can be garnished with a variety of other ingredients like katsuobushi, sausage and mayonnaise.

One of the things that I like about yakisoba is that it is simple to make, affordable and handles a few days in the fridge well making it the perfect meal to make in a big batch and enjoy throughout the week. It can also be customized to please even the pickiest of eaters in your family

Now that we’ve gone on and on about yakisoba let’s talk about how to make it so that you and your family can get in on the noodle action! As the title of this posts suggests making yakisoba is super simple. In fact for me the hardest part about making yakisoba is deciding whether I want to walk or drive to the grocery store.

Once you’ve figured out your preferred mode of transportation and arrived at the store it’s time to grab the ingredients that you will need. There are a variety of ways that yakisoba can be made but for the purpose of this blog post we’re keeping things super simple which means you’re looking for a whopping 2 items.

Item number 1 is noodles. There are a variety of noodles that you can purchase to make yakisoba but the type that I prefer come in a package that looks a little something like this:

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The reason that I prefer this type of yakisoba noodle is because it is cheap, coming in at under ¥200 per package, and easy to use. Each package includes 3 packets/servings of noodles and 3 packets of yakisoba sauce. This makes it relatively food proof and perfect for someone trying to make this dish for the first time. 

Item number 2 on the list is vegetables. As I mentioned above yakisoba usually contains cabbage, carrots and onions. You can go ahead and pick up each individually and cut down into bite sized pieces or if you’re in a rush (or lazy. . . . it’s ok , admit it. . . . we’ve all been there) you can pick up a bag of veggies that looks a little something like this:

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This little beauty is a bag of sliced vegetables that can be found in the produce section of your local grocery store. Although the packaging sometimes varies they usually include the same type of mix which happens to be perfect for yakisoba (or a variety of other uses) including carrots, cabbage, onion and in this case green peppers. One of these bags, which comes in at under ¥200, is enough to make an entire batch of yakisoba.

At this point you have everything that you need to make a basic batch of yakisoba. However, if you want to add something like chicken or beef you can do that. You can also choose to put in as much or as few veggies as your heart desires. Be creative!

Now that you’ve checked out and are looking at your receipt in amazement because the grand total was under ¥500 it’s time to get home and make the noodle magic happen! As “difficult” as searching for the ingredients was turning them into yakisoba is even easier! In fact it’s as simple as putting everything in a frying pan, adding a few tablespoons of water and mixing until the sauce is evenly dispersed and the veggies are cooked to your liking. The only additional step is if you decided to add meat to your yakisoba in which case you want to cook that up in the frying pan first then dump everything else in. That’s it. . . .  you’re done!

Once you’ve got the hang of making a basic batch of yakisoba you can go wild and enjoy the ability to customize it however you like. You can add more sauce, add more veggies or even garnish with a variety of delicious options!

 

 

 

Ikspiari: A shopping paradise in Urayasu


Ikspiari Shopping Center: Courtyard - Urayasu, Japan

Vacations are never 100% predictable. Take my last trip to  Honshu for example. Mother Nature decided to dump a few inches of snow on Tokyo and the surrounding area ultimately suspending operation of the Keiyo Line (in other words stranding me at Maihama station). Luckily I had a plan. Rather than doing some shopping around the  Yamanote Line, which I could not get to, I decided to spend the day enjoying Ikspiari.

Ikspiari Shopping Center: T.G.I.Friday's - Urayasu, Japan

Ikspiari is a massive shopping center located in the Tokyo Disney Resort just off Maihama Station (about a 3 minute walk). Throughout it’s 4 floors are boutiques, restaurants, shops and cafes with a little something for everyone with every budget.

Like other shopping centers in Japan there is a wide array of shops featuring everything from popular Japanese teen fashions to hand crafted leather handbags. There are also some familiar favorites for ex-pats like myself to include Lush, The Body Shop, Aqua Silver, Gap, Diesel, Tommy, The Disney Store and Coach. Paroozing these shops can take up the most part (if not all) of your day making it a great activity for a rainy or otherwise in climate day.

Ikspiari Shopping Center: Interior White - Urayasu, Japan

If all that shopping has you working up an appetite you’re in luck. There are handfuls of restaurants located in Ikspiari. From traditional pizza to T.G.I.Friday’s you can, again, find something for everyone with every budget. Grab a quick bite at the food court, take something from the grocery store back to your hotel or sit down for a table service meal!

Ikspiari Shopping Center: Interior - Urayasu, Japan

Aside from shopping and food Ikspiari also has live entertainment in the courtyard (this includes anything from cirque like performances to live bands) and even a movie theater! Show types and times vary so be sure to check the website or posted schedules for more information.

Regardless whether or not you are staying at the Tokyo Disney Resort spending the day at Ikspiari is a great way to shop, eat or even just stay out of the rain!

Jetta Burger


Jetta Burger first came on my radar when I tried their amazing soft shell crab tacos at the C1 Gourmet Challenge back in November. Although we could not stop talking about how great they were we never had the chance to head over to the restaurant and test out other menu items because we honestly don’t eat out that much and Depot Island isn’t really one of the spots we frequent. Then today after realizing our favorite restaurant for special occasions, Double Decker, was closed we came up with the idea of giving Jetta Burger a try.

Jetta Burger: Exterior - Okinawa, Japan

To be completely honest we had a little bit of trouble finding Jetta Burger. We knew that it was in Depot Island but weren’t quite sure where. The labyrinth of colorful corridors with countless boutiques and shops honestly didn’t make our search any easier until we finally decided to go up the spiral staircase which popped out right at the entrance. 

We were immediately greeted by the staff, a young and fashionable guy with a great English vocabulary, and asked to seat ourselves. Once inside we dove right into the extensive menu which featured everything from burgers to tacos to burritos and more. The countless delicious options made ordering incredibly challenging. If money (and calories) were no option I would have gladly tried everything on the menu because it sounded and looked so good. Finally we made out decisions.

Jetta Burger: Teriyaki & Egg Burger Set - Okinawa, Japan

Rusty had the Texas Burger which was a combination of a 100% beef patty, egg, bacon and cheese with fresh lettuce on a soft bun. The combination was “phenomenal” according to Rusty who couldn’t put it down.

On the other hand I went for something more creative, the house special which included a 100% beef patty, avocado, crisp lettuce, chocolate sauce and peanuts. Yes you heard me right “chocolate sauce and peanuts”. 

Jetta Burger: Specialty Chocolate & Peanuts Burger - Okinawa, Japan

Despite how strange the combination of chocolate, peanuts and hamburger sounds together I have to admit it was quite amazing. The sweet rich chocolate sauce with the roasted peanuts made a great compliment to the rest of the burger. The flavors weren’t overbearing either. It wasn’t as though each bite was as though you had plopped a chocolate bar down on your burger.

Jetta Burger: Nachos - Okinawa, Japan

As a side we also ordered some nachos (I’m a sucker for nachos) which were what I would describe as “loaded”. They were absolutely amazing and made with the most crisp chips I have ever had. They were so crisp that even under all the toppings only 1 of them was slightly soggy. . . . now that’s what I call a good chip!

The prices at Jetta Burger are competitive coming in lower than some of the other burger joints on the island. A basic burger came in around ¥700 to ¥800 with the addition of fries and a drink being around ¥250. The sides on the other hand, like the nachos (¥800), did get a little pricy but were offset by the lower cost of the burgers.

Overall this was a great place and I will definitely be going back. The prices weren’t bad, the people were great and the atmosphere kept our eyes wondering throughout the meal!

 

It’s a man’s . . . . holiday: Valentine’s Day in Japan


Romance and the smell of chocolates is filling the air. . . . . must mean that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Like many other holidays that are celebrated by both Japan and the United States there are some interesting differences.

Although you can find chocolates, cookies and cakes the one thing about Japan’s version of IMG_5422Valentine’s Day that is different is who gets them. Here in Japan women give gifts of chocolates and pastry to men including love interests, co-workers, bosses, friends and family members. 

(Don’t worry ladies you’ll have your chance to receive lovely treats from the gents on March 14th. That’s a holiday called White Day when the roles are reversed but the concept is very  much the same.) 

Like in the United States department stores, specialty shops and bakeries around Japan jump at the opportunity to show off the delicious confections and other fun treats. Often times the wide variety of products are shown off in large displays like the one depicted at the local San A Ginowan Convention City in Okinawa.

IMG_5423With mountains of chocolates and sweets available how on Earth is a someone supposed to decide what to get? Luckily there are a few guidelines that can help you make your choice. For those men in a woman’s life who are not a love interest there are chocolates called “giri-choco” or obligation chocolate”. These are the chocolates given to co-workers, bosses and other men who may be involved in your everyday life. In general these giri-choco are smaller, less expensive chocolates.

For the love interest a woman might buy more expensive, elaborate chocolate or even make treats of their own. These are called “honmei-choco” or “prospective winner chocolates”.  Although that translation might not be the best  I think the idea comes across.

In more recent years there is a new trend of women exchanging chocolates with their girlfriends on Valentines Day and has been given the name “tomo-choco” or “friend chocolate”.

Whether you want to confess your love for that hunk at work or share the love of chocolate with your friends department stores, grocery stores, bakeries and confectionaries around the island are bound to have what you’re looking for!