HOW TO: Do a furikomi (bank transfer)

I’m going to assume you already have a bank account in Japan. And perhaps you signed up with GoLloyds to transfer money to your bank accounts in your home country, or you made some online purchases, or even have a bill that needs to be paid by furikomi (bank transfer). So now you are at the bank, panicking in realization that the stupid ATM doesn’t have a “transfer” button in English (usually only withdrawal, balance inquiry and deposit). I’ve been there, too.

HOW TO: Find haicare products in Japan

One of the 101 questions I asked folks while preparing for Japan was about shampoo and conditioner. Before you consider me vain, I asked at least 100 other more important questions first. I'd never been to Japan before - what were shampoo and conditioner like there and how did they differ from those in the U.S.? Considering different hair care products exist for a vast array of hair types, my assumption was that most of the hair products in Japan might be primarily formulated for certain kinds of hair (much like skin cosmetics). And my hair, being blond and fine, is particular when it comes to hair products.

Most people didn't have any answers for me. They listed off the common brands and said they are all basically the same. So I, being a bit OCD about preparedness, shipped giant bottles of shampoo and conditioner to my address in Japan. If only I'd known how unnecessary THAT was. So, for the curious, and for those wondering, "what will I use???" here's your guide.

make life easy – 8 tools for surviving Japan

This is not a post about learning Japanese. Nor is this a post filled with exuberant, detailed reviews of the following tools. However you WILL find some awesome e-tools to help you survive your first year (or two, or more) in Japan - unless you are super smart and have already mastered the language or have some super-ability to achieve fluency in less than a year. Even though I had a year of Japanese under my belt before coming to Japan, I instantly realized that I needed reference tools. And I didn’t want to carry around bulky dictionaries or cultural guides that everyone offered me. This is the age of e-books after all – I should be able to do everything on my computer or smartphone.

The following tools became imperative for communicating and trying to do simpler tasks without asking my co-workers to help me with everything. Hopefully they’ll be of some use to you as well (if you aren’t a Jedi-master of language learning).

Top 8 Survival Tools for Living in Japan (without much Japanese)

HOW TO: Have a "cheap" wedding in Japan

On the topic of wedding etiquette the past two weeks, what about if you are the one getting married in Japan? Overseas weddings are so exotic... So romantic, unique, and…. expensive. And a wedding in Japan? Might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but a viable option for current residents.

My husband and I (both Americans) got married in Japan. We wanted to have our wedding in Japan originally, though costs, the guest list, travel, honeymoon and time all played into our decision-making process. U.S.? Japan? Eventually, (after months of intense wedding planning from abroad), we realized plane tickets to the U.S. were far too expensive for us at that time. We chose Japan.

Surviving the Rainy Season in Japan: 40 tips

soft cream, JapanNow that the rainy season has arrived, what perfect timing to discuss how to survive this time of heat, moisture and sweat. And now, 40 ways to survive the rainy season in Japan:

1. Buy an air conditioner. Although, you may find buying a car is a better investment.

2. Try an electric fan (or two, three… or ten). Fans are a great alternative if you wish to avoid using an air conditioner, because of its harmful effects on the environment. *Tip: put a bowl of ice in front of the fan for cooler air.

where to chill out in Shizuoka this summer

Summer in Japan conjures up many images, particularly that of sweat and humidity. Or slightly more pleasant thoughts like festivals (matsuri) and fireworks (hanabi), and well, all the festival food (chocolate covered banana, anyone?) In any case, staying cool is always a goal, though a lofty one – that is, until you're sitting in chilly over-air-conditioned trains and shopping in frigid stores. Which leads me to this month's Japan Blog Matsuri topic: Hot Fun in the Summertime! hosted by Loco in Yokohama. *Oh, and I apologize in advance, but most of the links are Japanese sites - use that Google translate if you need to!

how much money to give at a Japanese wedding?

The recent wedding etiquette post “how to not make a fool of yourself at a Japanese wedding” brought about a lot of thoughts and experiences from fellow foreigners in Japan. Due to the slightly varying ideas regarding gift money, I decided to do a quick poll of Japanese folks on twitter to ask what they consider the norm. Interestingly enough, these responses also varied, but I pulled the consistencies from all the responses, both from Japanese and non-Japanese. One thing to keep in mind is that the gift money also covers the “meal fee” and gifts for the guests. Here are the results:

HOW TO: Find hydrogen peroxide in Japan

I don't know about you, but I hate mold. No, hate. Normally, I try not to use such strong, definitive words, but sometimes it seems that mold's mission in life is to torment me. It grows everywhere without abandon, laughing, when I take a shower in the morning. It takes over my newly bought produce, causing me to mourn in anguish as I fill our garbage bag with whole fruit and veggies. It even goes so far as to mount attacks against my body, causing my sinuses to produce much more liquid than what seems humanly possible, sometimes rendering me incapable of walking in a straight line.

I counteract it with what I can - antihistamines, nasal sprays, dehumidifiers, fans, vinegar, lemons, hydrogen peroxide, husband labor, machetes, grenades...

Mold and I are at full-out war.