seven great links

A recent post on Problogger encouraged bloggers to try a certain 7-link post as a way to highlight previous posts. I’ve dug through what I’ve got so far to present my 7-link list to you. Enjoy.

1. My first post - ようこそ and welcome. This post sounds a lot more like my about page, but provides more back information. I remember how excited I was to get that post up on my brand-new sparkly blog.

HOW TO: Survive without a car in Japan

Perhaps this “how to” seems a little unnecessary, considering the vast array of impressive and reliable public transportation in Japan. Subways, rail and buses weave intricate networks through large metropolises. Shinkansen, or bullet trains, along with regular train networks connect most of the country. Even in smaller, but still large, cities, bus systems efficiently transport the population. When a regular bus system cannot be found, there are still more people who travel by bicycle or mopeds – as common as cars. And, let’s not forget the ubiquitous taxi. In fact, surviving in Japan without a car isn’t that difficult – unless perhaps you live out in the inaka, (i.e. country, sticks, boonies) far from civilization. Owning a car in a place like Tokyo or similar seems pointless, especially considering traffic.

You may think getting a car right away is the best idea, if you aren’t living in Tokyo or another gigantic metropolis. Ah, dear reader! If only you knew! Let me tell you how possible it is to survive without a car in Japan. That is, unless you really are truly out in the inaka where biking anywhere would take you DAYS and you are forced to live a hermitic life. Unless you want every day to be a pilgrimage, a car is probably a better option.

So, some possible ways to survive without a car if you so choose:

HOW TO: Arrange a Redelivery Online with Yamato (Kuroneko)

One of my first “how-to’s” on Surviving in Japan explained the online redelivery process for Japan Post. During my first month in Japan, my co-workers encouraged me to sign-up for online redelivery, eliminating the hassle on them to call and arrange it for me. Even though they smiled and reassured me they were willing to help out, something unspoken suggested that I should probably figure out how to do it myself. Not one to miss subtle hints, I sat down with my computer one evening for a fun self-teaching experience.

HOW TO: Create an online account with Yamato (Kuroneko)

Update (April 24, 2012): You can now request a redelivery in English online or via phone without an account on the English version of the site.

In order to arrange a redelivery online with Yamato, as I’ve written how to do over here, you’ll need an account. And so, instead of writing a nice introduction that makes you laugh until your side hurts (as much as I’d like to), I’ll just jump right in:

How to create an online account with Yamato

Step 1
Go to Yamato’s website. On the right hand side, click on create a new account (the green box where the red arrow is pointing).

Step 3
Enter your e-mail address (either cell phone e-mail or regular e-mail). Choose your desired password. Then click the large green button on the bottom right.

Step 4
The next page will say to check your e-mail (and list the e-mail you entered). Check your email and click the link that is sent to you. You will be taken to the following page in Step 5.

Step 5
Enter your information as indicated in the picture below. You'll want to be careful with name, as if you use romaji you should enter them as "full width" characters, so my name would be THOMPSON ASHLEY.

You'll also want to be careful with the address as the address numbers go in two different boxes. So if you're address was SOMETHING123-4, you'd put 123 in the first box and 4 in the second (all of this comes after you enter your postal code and click the gray button, which will automatically enter all the first part of your address for you).

Click 次へ when you're done.

Step 6 
You can change the notification options if you prefer (top box), but not necessary. The second box you can choose what type of member's card you want - choose the top option if you want a regular card.

If you don't want to receive other news mail from them, uncheck the last two boxes. Click 次へ to continue.

Step 7
Now confirm all your information (scroll down). After confirming all is correct, click the green button on the right. Click the button on the left if you have changes to make.

Step 8
That's it! The final page confirms you've finished. Now you're ready to arrange a redelivery online with Yamato (Kuroneko)

HOW TO: Find ibuprofen in Japan

This is for all those die-hard Advil fans out there, like myself. Though I try to use any kind of drug sparingly, at least once a month I find myself growling for drugs (I’m sure you can guess which “once” I’m referring to, ladies). And then I take two. Sometimes three. No matter how tough I am the rest of the month, I run to the drug cupboard with my proverbial tail between my legs.

how to make a hotel reservation online (in Japanese)

Last week I introduced you to the wonderful world of Japanese hotel plans, with a promise of how to make a hotel reservation online (in Japanese). Some of you mentioned your experiences and the ease of finding hotels, which is very true for major cities, heavily traveled areas, searching in English, etc. Perhaps you want to go off the beaten track a little bit, or even just try and find a few more (affordable) options. My secrets to finding a decent hotel typically involve Google maps, Rakuten (in Japanese), Trip Advisor, and sometimes just typing the name of the location with "ホテル" (hotel) in my search engine to see what comes up. (I don't typically stay at ryokan because the touristy ones are far too expensive - sometimes up to 100,000 yen a night. There are good ones out there, and good deals, but this would require an entirely different post to delve into).

Many hotel sites offer some English version of their site, even if only a page. And while you may come across some decent deals in English, I would advise looking through the Japanese version of the site as well. (Sometimes you won't have a choice, if the site is ONLY in Japanese). I've almost always found better deals on the Japanese version of the site (again, not EVERY time, but most of the time).

The following how-to covers just one hotel site as an example. Of course, you probably all know that websites vary and the order in which they do things may be slightly different than presented here. Generally the steps are typically the same, but don't panic if a step on the site you are using differs from those below. Look at the kanji, compare and try to discern what information is being asked for.

All right, let's book a room shall we?

booking a hotel - just a little different...

This post is my entry for the July Japan Blog Matsuri, hosted by mokudekiru. The theme is ちょっと違う (Chotto Chigau) or “Not Quite the Same.

 Booking a hotel is relatively straightforward. You would think. Enter some dates, choose the number of nights, number of people, smoking or non-smoking and check your preference in the list of results – maybe a standard or regular room, or something fancier like a deluxe room or a suite. All very typical for what I am accustomed to as an American. (Can’t say I know much about booking hotels in other countries, as I haven’t had that experience yet, unfortunately).

My first few times attempting to book a hotel in Japanese left me a bit baffled, and not because of the language. While some Japanese travel and hotel sites offer standard choices, a good number of Japanese hotels I’ve checked out online (especially smaller and less Western types) present the process in what I might consider an unnecessarily complicated manner: a list of plans.

Allergies in Japan - how to deal

[Updated Feb 14, 2012]

Are you headed to or living in Japan and wondering what to do about your allergies? I know the feeling. Mold and dust mites plague me, which are especially hard to escape in Japan. My second Autumn in Japan managed to debilitate me while allowing a little virus to invade my inner ear – labrynthitis.

Labryawha? It’s a deep inner ear inflammation. Makes you dizzy, lightheaded and generally unable to move. Some people get vertigo and motion sickness. Anyway, that's all aside the point - you can read the full story here.

*Note: This post is about nasal allergies and rhinitis, rather than food allergies. Please also note I am not a medical professional, and if you have severe allergies you should seek a doctor’s advice and appropriate medication and/or treatment.

Allergies are quite prominent in Japan – with a large number of those suffering primarily from pollen type allergies. So if you too suffer from rhinitis, you will find a very allergy-friendly (so to speak) country in Japan. A few ways to deal:

Moving to Japan? Read this first

My days of packing for Japan were quite stressful, and my questions endless. I bombarded everyone I knew in Japan with a constant stream of questions (yes, worrying a little too much). I had NO idea what I needed or didn't need, and only few of my questions were every truly answered. I googled, read forums, bought books, and still found myself wondering even more. So, to anyone like me frantic for some answers, and to anyone about to embark on your own journey to Japan, wondering what in the world to toss in your suitcase, this list is for you.

You may also want to check out Packing for Japan Q&A for further information.

HOW TO: Arrange a home delivery

During my first few months in Japan, I realized I needed a new futon. Mine was flat, old, and had strange orange spots. No matter how often I hung it outside in the sun and beat the crap out of it, it was just, done. As I didn’t own a car, I walked 45 minutes to a home store, bought a futon, and carried it back. In my arms. Passerby, both vehicular and pedestrian, stared in a most indiscreet way. What was this odd foreigner doing walking along the road with a giant futon in her arms? It was only when I needed a futon pad later on that I realized I could ask for a home delivery (as that particular store offered it).

HOW TO: Find (good) deodorant in Japan

If you're coming to Japan, you will probably hear someone lamenting about the inability to find any "real" deodorant here. When I heard this before coming, I promptly bought a 4-pack of my favorite kind (which I still haven't used up, two years later). Yet, for those trying to save luggage space, unless you are REALLY attached to your deodorant, let me reassure you, it IS possible to get deodorant in Japan. And no, I'm not even talking about typical Japanese stuff, although chemically, it isn't really different from the stuff you're likely already using.

how to search the site

Hi everyone!

I recently organized and listed all the "how to" posts on the "how to..." page (link above). I hope this will prove to be an easier way of finding the resources you need, more quickly.

In addition, there is a list of "how to - categories" on the right side of this page. The monthly blog archives are also on the right side under this. Finally, feel free to do a site search if you still can't find what you need. But, the "how to..." page has every post listed! Let me know what you think.

Thanks all! Look for interesting new posts this week!

HOW TO: Return an Item (to a Store)

Ever wonder what to do with something you ordered or bought here in Japan, but realized soon after that it doesn't fit, or work, or something else undesirable?

I had this problem during my first years here, when I accidentally bought something that didn't fit or realized I actually didn't want what I had bought after a couple days. Every time I asked someone how I could go about doing a return, yes even those who speak Japanese, they didn't know what to do. They had never done it before, they said. Maybe it's just me, but I'm a buy it and try it kind of gal. And call me strange, but I'm also far too lazy to try on clothes at the store, and do my best to guess the size (which explains my inclination to shop online). Usually, these tactics are successful. But on the rare occasion that something just doesn't fit, (or you later decide you hate it, or maybe shouldn't have spent that much money on it), what to do?