Here is another example of Japan being really good at producing quality goods that are detailed and downright adorable.
Ikumimama no Doubutsu Donatsu, everyone! If you are lucky enough to happen upon one of these little shops, I highly recommend giving these delights a shot. Even for those foodies without a sweet-tooth, the taste of these donuts are very light, as the ingredients used are very raw; the eggs, wheat, salt, butter, and not a whole lot of processed chemical bits.
But enough about the nutritional facts, let’s check the spoils.
Handmade with smiles in mind, these adorable snackies are all shaped like animals such as cats, bears, tigers, penguins, and depending on the day and season, they also have a great selection of seasonal goodies, which you can check out on their website. https://ikumimama.com/
I’ve seen these shops pop up around Tokyo, and now I’m super thrilled to have finally found one in Osaka. If you come across it, just remember these words of Runa, “Give into the cuteness, feast, and be merry!”
Just arrived back in good, cold Chicago, and now a new foe has appeared: Jet lag.
“West is best, East is beast” definitely rings true with me, as coming home from Japan really seems to mess with my body clock. Jet lag usually keeps its hold over me for about 2-4 weeks, but I totally understand that it can effect everyone in different ways for longer or shorter periods of time.
This week, I’d like to share with you a few tricks that help me oust nocturality and get my body clock up and functioning again.
Drink water. If you’re anything like me, you may have issues hydrating after the 12-hour flight to/from Japan. Especially if you’re spending more time sleeping than drinking lately. I know this sounds elementary, but keeping hydrated helps me from waking up in middle of the night with desert-dry feet or a parched throat.
Stay awake all day. I KNOW this is not easy. But by all means necessary, drink tea, coffee, or whatever keeps you healthy and caffeinated to last the day. However, it’s really important NOT to load up on caffeine, especially towards the end of your day, when sleep is absolutely necessary.
Avoid sleeping in. Set an alarm. I know it’s not easy, but there is a lot of wisdom to be learned from “Early to bed, early to rise.” I strive to go to bed early around 9:00pm while I recover. Don’t figure, “Oh, I’ll just sleep until 3:00pm over the weekend, since I’m so exhausted.” This just makes it harder to adjust into the current timezone and easier to become nocturnal.
Stay social among the living. Another thing that helps me stay awake is with I’m surrounded with other people who are awake. Coming home to my big family has proven to be one of the greatest methods for staying awake.
Limit phone time before bed. I know we all do it, but sleep is more important right now than catching up on Netflix or Instagram. Some reconnection is good, but don’t let it keep you up until 2:00am. (If you’ve got a blue filter or something on your phone to help you with the harsh, bright lights in a pitch-black room, I’d recommend utilizing those, as well, since I know too much cellphone use at night generally makes me less likely to sleep as well. Just remember, “anything in moderation”, and health is your number one priority.
Get some light exposure. It’s very tempting to stay at home and feel the need to relax. But I’d also recommend a drive or just a quick walk outside or to Target or something to get your body some exposure to those fine, vitamin-D-filled rays.
Shower before bed. So I know in the West, we most of us generally take showers in the morning, so I tried getting back into that habit when I came back to the States. But what I noticed was as soon as I was done with my nice, hot shower, I felt relaxed immediately ready for sleep. If possible, try showering at night instead, to avoid those sudden napping urges.
Eat, but don’t eat too much. I know you missed that Chiptole, but sleep coma is real. ‘Nuff said.
To narrow it all down. Sleep, but not too much. Drink, and eat, but not too much. Stay among the living, avoid the late-night Netflix binges, catch some rays, and reset that body clock by staying awake.
Before calling it a day here, though, I definitely want to add that if you really feel like you need a nap, please nap. Just make it a quick one. If you ever reach a point when you get so tired, you feel sick or you might be nauseous (been there, done that), then please don’t overdo it, and get some rest. Again, health is number one. Be gracious when resetting that body clock.
If you have any other tips for getting over jet lag, believe me when I say they are greatly appreciated. (Help me!)
‘Tis the season for cherry blossoms! If you’ve heard of hanami, then you know it probably has something to do with family, friends, or punch-drunk salary-men picnicking under the cherry blossom trees.
You’ve heard correctly.
To each person, hanami has its own different meaning. Some people prefer quieter, local areas, sharing a few snacks with their kids, friends, or special someone, while some people prefer to go out, get drunk, and get happy with a bunch of coworkers (depends how pushy their company is to attend, I guess). In general, everybody is just a lot happier, as they all break out of hibernation and get out to take pictures of their local sakura.
Things you can expect to experience around this week (give or take) of hanami are:
Seeing various food stands, selling takoyaki, ice cream, or mini castella cakes
Finding lots of random sakura pedals kind of scattered around the sidewalks
Getting some strong whiffs of sake/beer in more crowded areas
Getting some whiffs of other flowers that start blooming around this time
Seeing loads of different parks with their own festivals celebrating the season
A ton of birds, and some bugs starting to emerge into Springtime
Seeing lots of sakura-themed goods when shopping (probably the most impressive sakura collection I’ve seen so far is at Afternoon Tea. Check this shit out)
Seeing sakura-watching boats traveling up and down the rivers
Showing up in the background of tourists’ selfies
Just as quick as the season started, it’s already starting to end. It’s a shame that such beauty has such a short lifespan… But maybe that’s what makes them so beautiful? I guess the sakura means something different to each person, but to me, they kind of represent a beautiful, yet somewhat tragic similarity to life and life’s fragile impermanence. It makes me step back and appreciate things a little more. Makes me feel smaller and humbler in the whole scheme of things.
But then again, this could just be the long-awaited Spring talking, and making me feel all emotional.
Without further ado, I will now include photos of Sakuranomiya, Banpaku Memorial Park, Yodo River, Nara Park, and Osaka Castle – for your viewing pleasure. Although I’d recommend any of these places for next year’s hanami (if you can’t make it this year), I’ll leave that decision up to you.
Catching some early sakura at Banpaku Memorial Park:
Sakuranomiya (my top hanami location recommendation for you):
Quick factoid side-note: As you can tell by the many photos I’ve included, the five-petaled somei yoshino, yamazakura, are the most common and popular wild cherry blossom trees out here in the Kansai area. They look more white than pink and have a very soft, cloudy appearance, especially when the sun hits them juuust right.
So White Day, March 14th, has just passed me by. The day in which women receive a return gift from those they have given Valentine gifts to. Since I, too, participated in the Valentine gift-giving, this March 14th, I received some Mister Donuts from my wonderful boyfriend, who knows me so well.
This Valentine’s Day, I was fortunate enough to visit Osaka Hankyuu’s very own St. Valentine’s Day Chocolate Expo 2018. There’s not much else to say, other than “Holy chocolates, Batman!”
There were lots of hungry consumers, and there were lots and lots of glorious chocolate stands, all of which had a different theme to them.
For example, there were the “cute” styled ones.
There were “cool” themed car ones, which you could actually “take apart” and eat. Very creative.
There were “Godzilla” themed ones, the largest of which cost 7,560en (about $75!).
The most popular ones seemed to be the “sake chocolates” and the “animal” themed booth, which I had a hard time taking a picture of because of the extensive lines and crowds surrounding the poor stand and its very busy, underpaid part-time workers.
There were also very badass “outer space” themed ones, Foucher Olympus, and I’m telling you, I felt like the Chocolate King of the Cosmos, going back a second time to actually buy these (shameless Katamari reference). http://valentine.season-evt.info/foucher/
I’ve searched the web to try and see if you could order these, but all I’ve found is, “There are no more products found for this product”, meaning they’re probably sold out… Which sucks, because I would definitely buy these suckers again.
They had a very mature, kind of sophisticated taste about them, most of the flavors dealing with an alcoholic beverages, like brandy, vodka, and more. Very quality, creamy, and light stuff. If I can ever find a link that sells these, rest assured, I’ll be posting.
All in all, I had a fun time at the Expo, contributing to the heavily-marketed Japanese Valentine’s Day. I’ve noticed that, to Japan, Valentine’s Day is really money-oriented, rather than the more traditional Western representation of a “holiday of love”. (Taking it a bit further, White Day can also be observed as another “Japanization of Western culture”, as it created the day – pessimistically speaking – to make some more money.)
However, when you think about it, gift-giving has ALWAYS been a big part of Japanese culture to begin with. And as a consumer, I think the products they deliver are very creative, and the holiday can be a lot of fun; especially the giving part. And with Mister Donuts, I mean, who can complain?
So, it’s time to get real with you guys for a sec. I know this isn’t as light a topic as I usually try to tone this blog to, but this time, please let me warn you about this fraud travel insurance I came across.
I figured I would need some precautionary health insurance during my 3 months abroad in Japan. And so per recommendation from my current American health insurance consultant, I went with IMG Global (International Medical Group).
My honest review is this: IMGLOBAL IS A FUCKING SCAM, FRAUD, AND THIEF. PLEASE GO SOMEWHERE ELSE WITH YOUR BUSINESS.
During the beginning of my stay here, I had a few health issues that worried me. Namely, a travel diarrhea that evolved into severe constipation and an inability to sleep and eat (I know; I should’ve drank more water on the plane and ate more yogurt, but now is not the time for regrets).
My wonderful boyfriend took me to see a doctor, who took some blood and prescribed me with some drugs. Here, I paid everything out of pocket, because the doctor wouldn’t accept the IMGLOBAL ID CARD that was issued to me.
In the mean time, I sent IMGlobal a quick email, asking a few tips on how their file claim system works, to which I received their reply WE CAN’T FIND your information. PLEASE RESPOND WITH YOUR CERTIFICATE NUMBER, INSURED ID NUMBER, AND ITS EFFECTIVE DATE AND EXPIRATION DATE.
That’s a lot of information to NOT HAVE on your client, but okay, resent them the email with all those little information bits they were unable to find. Finally got a response after a few days.
Here’s where shit gets really dicey.
After I was feeling a bit better, I sent in my claim on their useless-ass website on January 14th. They told me they would let me know once my claim went through the Claims Department.
THEY NEVER DID.
I checked the website TWO MONTHS later, just to see if the claim actually went through.
It did. I was NEVER INFORMED by IMGlobal. And it said on the website that they had DENIED MY CLAIM. They would cover $0 of my $80.17. News to me.
I have a right to submit an appeal, but on the “Submit Appeal” website, NO CONTACT INFORMATION OR DIRECTION WAS GIVEN.
I immediately send them a very polite email to the generic address I had been using, telling them that I NEVER RECEIVED A DENIAL LETTER, and ultimately asking why they had denied me (as I have the right to submit an appeal). I gave them the claim reference number, I gave them my ID number, and asked for a prompt response.
THREE DAYS LATER (March 6), I got a response (their responses, in general, are VERY SLOW, usually DAYS OR WEEKS LATER):
“Unfortunately we are not able to locate the claim in question. Please provide us with a screen shot of your online account so we can research this further for you.”
What the fuck.
I send them screenshots, I send them doctor’s receipts. I send them all my original documentation I had originally posted on their website, all in attachments on my response email. (March 9)
I get a response (March 12), saying “An Explanation of Benefits, detailing claim determination and/or additional information required, will be sent to the address on file and will become accessible online, once processing is complete.”
IT’S BEEN MORE THAN A WEEK LATER, AND NO RESPONSE FROM THEIR “CLAIMS DEPARTMENT”.
IMG is a THIEF, is NOT COMMITTED to its clients, and when you google it, just look under the comments sections to find more horror stories. One guy actually wrote that his wife got hit by a car and IMG didn’t pay a penny!!
I’ve been had. And it’s a really, REALLY annoying feeling. So from here on out, I guess I’ll try harder not break an arm or something while I’m out here, because you can bet your bottom dollar, that I’ll be paying for it ALL OUT-OF-POCKET, NO THANKS to IMGlobal.
Needless to say, I’ll be writing an email to my American insurance consultant shortly upon my return to the States, asking her NOT to recommend this joke company to anyone else. Buyers and international travelers, please be warned.
Hello, all! I hope you’ve been doing lots of things that make you happy. What’s one thing that makes me happy? (Don’t laugh.) Doing laundry.
As you’ve probably already guessed, doing laundry in Japan is very different from laundry in America, but not by much. My apartment doesn’t have its own drier, meaning I gotta go oldschool and hang my stuff outside on the balcony to dry. Which is fun and meditative, actually. Especially looking out over the nice, city view I have here on the 8th floor. Or especially while listening to music, or the TV on in Japanese for extra listening practice.
I want to introduce you to my meditative process that is laundry out here in Osaka.
The washing machine I have in my apartment is a Hitachi NW-6MY, so this tutorial will be showcasing this guy.
After tossing all (or most, whatever fits) of your laundry in the machine, it’s detergent time. I love the Ariel detergent; it has a distinct, fresh scent about it, and it’s mega affordable, too. Another cool thing with Ariel is that after buying a bottle, you can then follow up with buying bagged refills, which are nice and cheap.
For the Hitachi NW-6MY, you’re gonna put the detergent in this little slot here.
Then it’s time to start the machine! You’re gonna want to press Power Supply On (電源：切/入), and there should be a ding and the lights should come on the left side. Then hit the Start button (これっきりボタン：スタート/一時停止), and you’re good to go.
A quick explanation from the left:
Water Amount (水量), Wash (洗い), Rinse (すすぎ), Dehydration (脱水), Water Drain (お湯取). For 9 minutes, it will Wash. For 2 cycles, it will Rinse. Then for 6 minutes, it’ll do a Dehydration cycle, not unlike the American machines I used back in Illinois.
Sometime during the 2 Rinse cycles, however, here’s where I pause the machine to get my Laundry Softner in. The Pause button (これっきりボタン：スタート/一時停止) is the same as the Start button. Quick note: the Hitachi NW-6MY has an automatic lock everytime you close the door of the machine. So depending on the timing of the cycle, it might be locked, but just be patient, and it’ll unlock.
For softener, I use Laundrin’ Tokyo Laundry Softener. As much as I hate to admit it (my boyfriend kind of hooked me to this), it really does help get the extra smell out. Especially after the wonderful boyfriend had done some running or had futsal practice sometime during his day.
Again, the same place you put your detergent, just pour this stuff in there too. The amount doesn’t have to be precise.
Once the laundry’s done, the washing machine beeps a few times, letting me know I gotta take that stuff out to dry. This is the most time-consuming part, but depending on the weather, this is also my favorite and most meditative.
Also, see this cute, pink cat towel I got there? “It’s TAACHAN!” I bought this at my local Loft at Umeda, Osaka. It was on sale. I couldn’t resist Taachan. I found the link, in case you want to check out some more Taachan specials. ロフト・ターチャン検索
And now, enter the one-question Q & A session!
Q: Does laundry need to be done every day?
A: Almost every day for me, but definitely depends on the family, the size of their house, and size of their washing machine. I have a few working theories on this one, but here are my two-cents. First, the Japanese washing machines are a lot smaller than the American-made ones. Meaning that there’s only so much laundry that can fit. Meaning that it needs to be done a lot more often.
Second, because the laundry needs to be hung up outside, it usually takes up to a full day to get dry, wearable clothes, amiright? But depending on the weather or overall humidity, it can take longer, amiright? Meaning that they’ll be taking up limited space on the highly-limited balcony (or in and hung up around the limited space in my house), on limited drying racks, with limited clips and limited hangers. Meaning that doing laundry in advance is always a good move, anyway, so the new dirty stuff isn’t waiting around for space to open up.
Third, not all Japanese households do this (some of my host families did, but others didn’t), but after showering, my boyfriend uses his towel once and then immediately throws it in the wash. I prefer to hang mine up to dry and then use it the next day (I mean, how dirty can it get?), but regardless, and needless to say, with a towel-usage style such as this one, laundry tends to pile up really quick. Even with just two people in a tiny apartment.
Anyway, those are my two cents worth. I hope I was able to give you a peek into the laundry world of Japan with the Hitachi NW-6MY. Thanks for reading, I know this one was a long one.