HOW TO: Find organic/natural personal care products in Japan

You may have read a post on this blog a while back about how to find haircare products in Japan. I have yet to write a post about skincare and cosmetics, mostly because all the sources of haircare I listed also offer skincare, and I'm still looking into cosmetics (namely, face/foundation colors, etc).

For those of you who glanced at the title and may have thought, “this isn’t for me; I’m not into all that hippie stuff,” I hope that at least one of these resources may still interest you. Of course, some of you may also wonder why this is necessary, as most drug/daily goods stores supply more beauty and body products than anyone will probably ever need. No, most of the products are not natural or organic, though recently I have noticed a change and have seen more of these types of products being sold at regular stores. It gives me hope! Anyway.

I won't go into that argument entirely, but I do strongly encourage everyone to examine what they are using on their bodies, and decide for themselves if those are risks they want to take or not. To read up on what is used in Western products, the Environmental Working Group has a lot of information and rates ingredients on it's scale of possible harm, from 0 (none) to 10 (very harmful/toxic). Though some products in Japan use different ingredients, I've also noted many similarities as well. Nonetheless, it is informative and kind of fun to check out.

With that said, for those of you out there who love and prefer using organic/natural products, or even those that wish to try, and want to know how to find them in Japan, here's what I've got so far.

download a .pdf for "how to do a furikomi (bank transfer)"

Today I'm happy to announce a .pdf I created based off of a previous, and popular, post: how to do a furikomi (bank transfer).

Ever since writing that post, I have noticed "how to furikomi" and similar search terms are commonly googled, and thought that perhaps something more "portable" might be useful for those of you who either want a printed guide or an easier way to pull up the guide on your iPhone (or smartphone of choice).

Please let me know what you think - if it is readable enough for you or if you have any other feedback or ideas.

You can view and download the .pdf for "how to do a furikomi (bank transfer)" to your computer from Google docs here. Or download the .pdf here. (The latter works better for smartphones).


translate medical terms - part 2

I stumbled across something in The Japan Times today that was too good NOT to write about. I've already scheduled it out on Twitter, but wanted to write about it here as well. The Center for Multicultural Society Kyoto along with Wakayama Universisty recently put together a multi-lingual medical service website for foreigners in Japan (The M3 Mediated Multilingual Medical Communication Support System). They recognized a need among the foreign population, not just residents but also students and travelers as well. The idea is to enter your symptoms in your native language, and then have the option to print it out (or view on a mobile phone if with a QR code reader). Then you take it to show the doctor.

how NOT to get a diagnosis at the doctor

Not long ago I wrote a how-to for translating medical terms – handy if you are in a bind or without a human translator. Now, whether you go and try on your own or take someone along with you, I’d like to offer a few points from my own exasperating experiences.

I’ve read about others’ great experiences at the doctor or hospital, indicating no problems whatsoever. Good for them and good for you too, if you are also so fortunate (no sarcasm). Though not all of my visits were traumatizing, the good majority were. And just to clarify, I have gone to several different hospitals and specialist doctors over the course of two years. By several I mean at least once a month if not more, such as during my long stretch of labrynthitis last winter (full story here) - something that only my doctor in the U.S. was able to diagnosis after three months of trying to get a diagnosis in Japan (Shizuoka).

Another thing to keep in mind is that most of my visits are in and around Shizuoka prefecture, so of course things may vary depending on location (and probably much easier in Tokyo or another metropolis).

How NOT to get a diagnosis at the doctor

how to find hiking trails

Last week I provided a selection of resources for where you can find outdoor gear in Japan (easier than you thought, right?) Now that you're all geared out, with some sparkly new shoes (please break them in first) you wonder: now, where do I go?

Of course, it would be ridiculous for me to know every possible hiking location in the country - Japan might not be THAT big but still, there's lots of mountains...  Trails of all types can be found rather easily almost anywhere, for anyone, both traveler and resident, beginner and experienced - both on and off the beaten path. Though I suppose it wouldn't be a trail if it wasn't a beaten path? Ok ok, I hear the groans... *wink*

HOW TO: Find Outdoor Gear in Japan

This post is for all the outdoor (and wannabe) buffs out there. Though, those of you who are experienced (or even professional) outdoor enthusiasts, especially in Japan, probably have even more to add to this list. If so, leave it in the comments so I can add it.

Japan, being as rich in gorgeous landscapes as it is, boasts many outdoor enthusiasts. It’s not surprising to run into a group of old folks smiling happily as you and they traverse mountains. (How they do it, I have no idea.) The vast opportunities enticed me before I even left Seattle – I was going from one great outdoor playground to another (especially Shizuoka!). I knew I couldn’t bring all my gear, considering I was just trying to pack the basics (and NOT ship over boxes and boxes). I rationalized that the basics were all I needed to start with and the rest could be shipped later or bought in Japan.

Finding outdoor gear proved a challenge at first with my lack of Japanese ability, and not knowing how to search for it. Asking people didn’t get me very far.

So it was rather lucky that I happened across an outdoor store while biking around my town one day. Seeing Columbia and Coleman and all those other familiar brands was shocking – they have these brands in Japan? Yes, and quite common too, I eventually learned. The next two years in Japan led to even more discoveries and resources, which I’ve compiled for you here.

Fukuroi Fireworks Festival (袋井遠州の花火) - with photos!

Ask a Japanese person what epitomizes summer, and it's likely they might say 花火 (はなび、hanabi, fireworks). All summer long, but particularly from July to September, cities across Japan hold fireworks festivals. And coming from the U.S., I must say these fireworks are typically often much more spectacular than what you might see on the 4th. We could probably argue all day on where to find the best fireworks in the world, but even so, the fireworks in Japan are GOOD.
And no, this isn't a "how-to" post on fireworks or fireworks festivals, as you could easily find info on that elsewhere. My husband and I went to the Fukuroi Fireworks Festival (袋井遠州の花火) last night - generally known as one of the bigger ones in Japan. Fukuroi city, in Shizuoka, is quite near and dear to my heart, as it was my first home in Japan. And ironically enough, my old apartment was mere steps from where the festival is held. How convenient to just walk over to the park while everyone else trekked from around the prefecture by train and car, throwing their tarps over any free inch of grass. I happily sampled the festival cuisine - chocolate-covered bananas, candied apples, okonomiyaki, crepes, sweet potato fries - until I was stuffed. My friend and I sat and oohed and aah-ed with the crowd, as each burst of color, light and sound filled us with delight. We were in Japan.

how I study Japanese

A few weeks ago I wrote about some useful survival tools for anyone coming to Japan. All of those tools are, obviously, also very useful for Japanese study. Today I’m going to add more to that list, but under the specific title of “study.” Yes, I realize there are hundreds of blogs and blog posts and videos out there about the best way to learn Japanese, and I am not discounting any of them. We all learn in different ways. What I’ve listed here is what works best for me, as a highly visual learner who struggles with audio-type learning and prefers more interactive study.

*Please note I have not listed every possible source of study here, but only my recommendations. Hopefully you will find something useful in this list.

(My list of) tools for studying Japanese

how to translate medical terms (English to Japanese)

Doctor visits and medical issues can be a huge inconvenience in a foreign country, at least, if you can't speak the language. In Japan, unless in Tokyo or another large city, finding English-speaking (or any language other than Japanese, for that matter) is a challenge. Many cities do offer a list of resources for foreign residents, which include English-speaking medical professionals and translators (and I mean actual cities, rather than the small rural towns - I don't know how common English-speaking professionals are in rural areas). So, if you have a problem, you check the references and try one out (a gamble in itself) or drag along someone who can translate for you.

But what about things you might not necessarily need to go to the doctor for? Or, let's suppose one day you wake up and it hurts to pee. It REALLY hurts to pee. Where did this unimaginable pain come from? You take some drugs and try to find a comfortable position to sit in, even though your bladder feels like it's being crushed by your entire abdominal cavity. It suddenly dawns on you, "this must be a bladder infection..." Or, to be less crude more technical, a urinary tract infection.