びっくりドンキー!

3 Sep

When I got here, I was surprised by what things ended up being the most important, so today I’m going to explain what you need to get by in Japan (especially the summer).

1. A good wallet with a sizable change pocket. Japan uses coins up to 500 yen ($6 US), so you can expect to get a ton of it. You have to be clever about spending the change too, because it adds up! Also, get ready to be buying everything in cash, because that’s very common here. I’ve heard it’s very hard to find places that take credit cards, so it’s good to carry at least a hundred dollars’ equivalent to cover your expenses (apparently most people carry around really large sums of cash on a regular basis). You need to make sure to locate an ATM that does international transactions so you can get more; I use a 7/11 down the street (side note: in Japan there are 7/11s, Lawsons, AM-PMs, and Circle Ks, which I think is infinitely funny)

2. An ICOCA card. This little bugger costs about $6 US and then you load it up with some cash. Then you put it in one of the outer pockets of your wallet and when you want to get on a train you just hold your wallet over a sensor. It reads it and takes out however much money that ticket would cost. If you take the train a lot, this is a huge time-saver. I’ve also heard you can use it at convenience stores (konbini). You can also buy a monthly pass that allows you to travel between two stations of your choice for free, and the information is just added to your card.

3. A handkerchief. In the sweltering Japanese summer, this is a must for dealing with the sweat (mine is made of terry cloth so it’s super effective). On top of that, many Japanese bathrooms don’t supply paper towels, so it doubles as your own personal towel.

4. A fan. This is incredibly useful in the summer. Everyone uses them, too, so you won’t look weird 🙂

5. An umbrella. Because it’s so sunny and hot in the summer and because a lot of people in Japan don’t want to tan, umbrellas are very very common on sunny days. If you don’t like being attacked by angry hot sun rays, this will be very useful. On a related note, they make a lot of things here to block the sun. For example, long gloves or sleeves to put on when walking around, and big covers for your hands/arms that attach to your bicycle handles. These things are everywhere. Here’s a small sample of the goods available at our local supermarket.

6. A water bottle. Please stay hydrated in the summer. If you don’t you will literally die. There are plenty of vending machines where you can buy water, but it’s great to have a reusable bottle. You can drink the tap water here, so you can just hit up any nearby sink for water. If you’re doing a lot of walking, you should drink Pocari Sweat. It’s like Gatorade but it’s clear and tastes a ton better.

7. Mosquito bite medicine. There are some nasty mosquitoes out there, and this little roll-on stick makes them stop itching and heal a lot faster. Mine is Hello Kitty, because Hello Kitty is awesome.

8. Easy-on, easy-off walking shoes. If you’re going to be living somewhere you want to be able to avoid the hassle of tying/untying your shoes every time you go into or leave your home. Slip-on shoes are for the win.

9. A reusable, fold-up bag. They give you bags for everything here, and believe you me, you’ll be buying a lot of stuff. If you want to be eco-friendly, carry this thing around and don’t let them give you plastic bags! When I first got here, I thought it was okay to say baggu wa irimasen, but “baggu” is kind of weird. The best thing to say is “fukuro wa irimasen.” (Speaking of bags, when you go to the supermarket and buy something, they put it back in your basket along with a bag. Then you proceed to a bagging area where you can get things put together at your leisure without holding things up. Never seen it before, but it’s super interesting.)

10. A dictionary and notebook. A dictionary is just plain handy, and as for the notebook, you’ll want to write down the words you learn. My notebook is mostly vocabulary and the names of foods that are delicious (anpan–bread filled with bean paste–and torayaki–sort of a pancake filled with cream or bean paste)

❤ you all!

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One Response to “びっくりドンキー!”

  1. Lys Murray September 3, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    Diane, this is so useful! It so vividly gives us the information we need to “see” your experience, and to begin to get a sense of the culture. Thanks for taking time on your Saturday to put this in writing (and photos) for us. Much love and excitement from DE-me.

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