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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Cherry Blossoms: What you need to know if you want to see them


Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are a well known icon of Japan. They are seen in
Japanese art, cuisine, anime, photographs and even are depicted on the 100 yen coin.  The beauty and elegance of the cherry blossoms make them a must see for many tourists visiting Japan, however there are some important things that tourists should consider.

Japan's First Sakura: Close Up Blooms - Okinawa, Japan

The first thing that Japan bound tourists with the desire to see sakura should consider is that they do not bloom all year long and when they bloom varies depending on the location. Here in Okinawa sakura bloom as early as late December where as in Hokkaido they bloom as late as May. Of course other factors including weather can change the time when the sakura bloom.

Japan's First Sakura: Central Nago Park - Okinawa, Japan

Sakura don’t stay around for very long either. In most cases the flowers become fully bloomed about a week after opening and a week after that they will start to fall from the trees. Rain and wind can also factor in making the season even shorter.

Despite the challenge of getting to Japan for just the right time sakura viewing is well worth the trouble. The blooms are absolutely beautiful especially on a clear day. Here in Okinawa there are also a wide variety of animals which come out to enjoy what the flowers have to offer including bats, ryukyu white eyes, butterflies and bees. For nature enthusiasts this is the absolute best time to get out!

 

Jump Station Okinawa


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If you like anime or manga you’re not going to want to miss Jump Station Okinawa located on Kokusai Street. This small shop has a variety of goods including t-shirts, postcards and other great gifts featuring some of your favorite anime and manga.

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Prices at the shop are pretty reasonable especially for the one of a kind items which feature Okinawa related things like goya, sanshin and much much more.

IMG_4436If you’re in the Kokusai area and are thinking about picking something up for the anime or manga fan in your life then stop by! You’re sure to find something you’re looking for!

 

 

 

The Okinawa Zoo and Wonder Museum


Tucked away in an area known as Goya (not far from Gate 2 Street by Kadena Air Base) is the Okinawa Zoo and Wonder IMG_2577Museum. This is one of the many places that I have known about but for one reason or another never visited until today.

One of the main reasons for visiting, other than my quest to fulfill the needs of my inner child, is because I have received many questions about the Okinawa Zoo and Wonder Museum in the past few months. Most of the questions that I received had a very similar tone; people were concerned about the reviews and comments left on other travel websites. Although some were positive and expressed that the Zoo and Wonder Museum made a great day trip for the family others painted a pretty nasty picture of unhealthy animals in dilapidated cages. With such mixed reviews the only way to truly gain perspective on what type of experience the Zoo and Wonder Museum had to offer was to visit and see for myself.

The first thing you will notice when you enter the large (and extremely adorable) gate to the zoo is a decent size parking lot. Since I arrived right as the zoo was opening there was plenty of parking but it is important to note that as the day presses on the parking lot can fill up quickly. Once you have parked the car and gathered your gear follow the IMG_2473signs to the entrance which is down a large set of stairs (elevator is available). Once you purchase your tickets you’re on your way. At this point you have the option to visit the zoo first or the Wonder Museum. I strongly recommend (especially in the summer months) saving the Wonder Museum for the end.

 

Now that you’re in it’s time to determine the route you want to take. I suppose that if you visit during a time when there are a bunch of people it becomes very obvious which direction you are supposed to go but I was one of about 5 people in the entire zoo at the time which had me lost within about 100 feet of the front gate. (That’s right I’m not ashamed to say it.)

The Okinawa Zoo starts you off pretty easy with some of the animals you probably have seen around Okinawa to include flying foxes, osprey and buzzards. Down the path a bit are various monkeys, IMG_2502emu and even a bear from Hokkaido. The bigger most impressive animals are in the deepest part of the zoo to include elephants, deer, hippos (I really liked the hippos) and giraffes.

Near the end of the zoo itself is the petting zoo. This area has various animals for your kids to pet and play with including goats, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs and turtles. There was even a dog named “Chunky” but he had not come out to play so early in the day.

Once you’ve washed your hands you’re pretty much done with the zoo. At this point you can head back to the main gate and enjoy the Wonder Museum (extra fee), ride on some kiddy rides or just head out for the day.

After spending a good chunk of time enjoying the zoo and seeing all the animals (at least all the animals who were awake that is) I can say with confidence that those who made such negative comments about this zoo don’t have a leg to stand on. First and foremost it’s important to understand that the Okinawa Zoo is not Disney’s Animal Kingdom; it’s a zoo on the small island of Okinawa. There are animals in cages and enclosures made of concrete to withstand the harsh conditions that we get here in Okinawa. This is not always the pretties thing and can sometimes look old and beat up (much like every other concrete building in Okinawa) but everything was in good shape and most importantly clean. Another thing to note is that although the animals were not in the wide open spaces they may have in their natural habitat they are allotted plenty of space to move around.

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Once I was done with the zoo and found my unconventional way back to the main gate I figured I might as well check out the Wonder Museum. The Wonder Museum is an additional ¥200 for adults, less for children of course, and I have to say worth every penny. . . . although I have to admit I was a bit out of place being a grown adult without a child playing with the various toys and exhibits. After about 45 minutes of channeling my inner child (and resisting the urge to ask a nearby dad to take my picture in an oversized egg shell) I can only describe the Wonder Museum as a place where the line between science and fun is blurred. Sure there was some scientific reason that when I waved my arms various colors were created on a screen in front of my but it wasn’t important. . . . . I was watching myself dance in some sort of psychedelic light show! Groooooovy!

Worn out and knees aching it was time for me to head back home. By this time (roughly 11AM) the parking lot was full and there were many more people just entering. Overall I think this is a great place to spend the day. . . and you certainly can spend the entire day here if you wanted to. There is food, vending machines and even a theater where various shows take place throughout the year. If you’re here in Okinawa and looking for something fun to do one weekend why not give the Okinawa Zoo and Wonder Museum a shot!?

 

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!

Friendship Challenges When In Japan Long Term


There are always challenges when moving to a new country. However, when moving to a country so very different from your own, like Japan, the number of challenges you face increase. For those who live in Japan long term one of those challenges is making and keeping friends.

Friendship, like any other relationship, takes a lot of time to develop. Sure you might be friendly with someone on a train or at work but there’s certainly a difference between that and having that person that you can talk to and share experiences with. Developing these types of friendships living in Japan (or presumably anywhere else other than your home country) can be very difficult especially if you are a person who lives in Japan long term. There are many reasons for this but probably the biggest is because most foreigners who come to Japan are here short term and then move on to a new place. This is especially true down here in Okinawa where there is a large presence of US Military members who come and go every few years.

This can be hard on those of us who are here long term because we find ourselves saying “goodbyes” almost constantly. Just as you start to really get to know someone they find themselves whisked off by Uncle Sam or the appeal of a new adventure and we’re left here with the promise of staying connected through social media. It doesn’t take long to learn that you are not likely to be contacted again. It’s understandable, people move on, but it still takes a toll.

Another challenge that those of us who live here long term face when it comes to making friends is continuously having to explain ourselves. I am not sure if this is something that those who live on the main islands experience but here in Okinawa this has been a big challenge for me. From my experience the longer I live in Japan the less “from America” I become. Naturally this goes both ways because no matter how long I’ve lived in Japan, specifically Okinawa, I am always treated by those Japanese people I meet as though I just walked out of the airport yesterday. This usually makes me the center of attention, in a very side show freak kind of way, regardless who I meet.

Americans can’t figure out how I can sleep on a futon, eat a primarily Japanese diet and enjoy squid legs as a snack where as the Japanese people I meet can’t figure out how I can sleep on a futon, eat a primarily Japanese diet and enjoy squid legs as a snack. Regardless who I am with it feels like the worst kind of cultural exchange. Everything I do is unusual and requires some type of explanation. Sometimes it’s almost like you simply can’t be yourself because if you do something as nonchalant as ordering the goya chanpuru you will end up starting the “wow you actually eat that stuff” or “that looks disgusting” conversation.

There is no doubt that over time this can be difficult to deal with. A thick skin and incredible amount of patience is required in order to not find yourself in the middle of a restaurant exclaiming “of course they don’t have forks this is a sushi place” or “don’t call over those people that neither you nor I know so that they can watch me eat fried squid”. (Seriously this did happen to me.) Instead we gingerly explain that chopsticks aren’t that hard to use or smile as the old man offers to buy me yet more squid.

At the end of the day the reality of being in Japan (or anywhere else) long term is that there are going to be hardships in many areas. Finding and keeping friends is one of them. I am of the opinion that your personality will determine your experiences as will your location. Being in a place like Okinawa is not easy for a long term foreigner to make friends. I think this is because there are more people who are here by chance then by choice but that’s a topic for another blog post all together. I hope that this brief account of my experiences can give you a little insight on what you might expect or if you happen to be experiencing the same thing as I have at maybe some piece of mind that you’re not the only one.