HOW TO: Find motion sickness medication in Japan

With all the shaking happening lately in Japan, particularly in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, many people may be experiencing some form of motion sickness (I know I probably would be if I was living in Tokyo...) In fact, someone blogged about it somewhat recently via the Wall Street Journal. Not that it is anything compared with those still living in evacuation shelters up north, waiting on food, supplies and temporary shelters, but some of you might be wondering what kind of medicine to get if suffering from motion sickness and related symptoms. Since Golden Week and summer will be upon us shortly, many of you may be traveling at some point, perhaps to volunteer, take a trip home or go on vacation.

For those unaware, I suffered from a six-month long illness over a year ago, called labrynthitis. It's a viral infection of the deep inner ear, which affects your balance. I couldn't walk or stand very well for months, and found myself nearly passing out or falling over if I stood too long. Let's just say riding in cars, on trains, or in planes was a horrible experience for me - one I had never experienced before as I generally don't have problems with motion sickness. It took months to get a diagnosis, and just as long to figure out what type of motion sickness medicine was the best to use and the most effective (I received varying types from doctors here and from my doctor in the US as well). So for those who do suffer regularly, I now understand your pain.

You can easily get over-the-counter motion sickness medication in Japan, and if you want something even stronger I would suggest seeing a doctor. As for what different types of drugs do, try doing a google search about motion sickness medication to learn more about the different types of drugs and why they are used - that way you can choose something you want or something similar to what you've used in the past.

HOW TO: Take great travel photos when you visit Japan

Who doesn't like taking photos when they travel? And Japan is no exception - especially for those of us who live here and still take photos on a regular basis! David, of is one of those folks - although he takes it a few steps further with his lovely HDR (high dynamic range) photos. He's here this week to offer some photography tips, particularly for those of you new to photography and wanting to capture some great shots while you're in Japan. - Ashley

So you want to score some great pics on your Japan trip. Great! I'm not going to give you a sightseeing guide (Kyoto) or tell you what you should shoot (Kenninji). Instead I'm going to give you some tips to help get you some really great snapshots instead of the typical boring ones that put everyone to sleep.


1. Learn your camera

This may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised. Many people buy a new camera right before a trip and just assume they can figure out how to use it. Well... You don't want to return from a trip only to discover every, single, photo is out of focus because you had the camera in "macro" mode the entire time, do you? (I've seen this happen. Seriously. Wasn't pretty.) At the very least, take the time to read the manual and practice a bit.


HOW TO: Find kale in Japan

Finally! At long last, I've discovered how to find kale in Japan. It seems as though it should be simple, right? You can purchase boxes and packets of 青汁 (あおじる, aojiru, green vegetable drink, often in powdered form) everywhere - in supermarkets, drugstores, specialty shops. Searching for "ケール" (kale) on the internet results in page after page of results for aojiru. And sure, aojiru is great, in all its dry, powdered kale glory. (For those that don't know, aojiru is also sometimes comprised of barley grass and other green type vegetation). Aojiru is great to mix in smoothies, with milk or soy milk, or just with plain water. I'm a huge fan of aojiru, but I figured with the prevalence of this magically healthy drink, finding actual kale leaves would be no problem.

青汁, aojiru
Not so. To date, I have yet to see kale in any supermarket, farmer's market (in my area) or online. I've tried other ways of searching, but to no avail. Until yesterday, when I thought to try searching again, but this time for "kale leaves" specifically, and lo and behold, real results! For the record, I found these two phrases the best to use when searching for real kale leaves online:

ケールの生葉  or  ケール生葉 

HOW TO: Find pollen counts in Japan

Today's guest post comes from Paul of Just Another Day in Japan, a blog full of interesting and useful tidbits about Japan and life here. Please do go check it out after you've read his post below!  -Ashley

It's that time of year again - the days are getting warmer and longer, the flowers are blooming, the pollen is invading our bodies like a hostile enemy force...

Ashley has already written a couple of posts about how to battle this enemy (how to beat hay fever in Japan; allergies in japan - how to deal), packed with useful terminology and treatment techniques, but today I'm going to share a method for gathering some intelligence on (pollen) enemy movements and positions.

Our main tool in this conflict is a useful website I actually came across in another one of Ashley's earlier posts, how to find out how fast your laundry will dry: Think of it as our special spy satellite in the battle against... Whew, this war metaphor is growing a little cumbersome - time to shed that and get down to brass tacks.

Here's our starting point, Don't get distracted by all the links or that big ad (Ooo, 83%!). If your Japanese skills are non-existent to minimal, don't worry - I'm gonna walk you through this.

First, click on 花粉 (pollen) in the second row of links right below the main logo. You can see it below circled in red.

Click on our friend circled in red to go to the main pollen report.

Pregnant in Japan: Resources

pregnant in Japan, pregnancy, Japan
Perhaps you know by now that I am indeed pregnant (21 weeks!) - so I've compiled a list of  pregnancy and childbirth resources (related to Japan) I've found helpful in the last few months, and then continue in the coming weeks and months with a series about my experiences.

I know many of you have given birth in Japan and have very different experiences, so I want to invite you to please share whatever you feel comfortable sharing - if you wrote some blog posts about your experience, feel free to post a link to them in the comments. Hopefully we'll be able to provide a nice variety of information for other soon-to-be mothers (and fathers).


Childbirth Education Center  - Run by Brett Iimura, who provides information and birthing classes to the foreign community. Based in Tokyo, but she will be conducting classes by Skype now (yay!) and was very helpful to me when I sent her an email asking if she had any recommendations for birthing facilities in my area - as I was having a pretty difficult time (more on that in a later post).

From the Sempai: Nadia of Ethical Nippon

This "From the Sempai" post is brought to you by Nadia of Ethical Nippon, a blog focused on fair trade and ethical living in Japan, and one I've personally found to have some great thoughts. Even if you aren't sure about the whole sustainable, ethical thing, her tips may come in handy to any newbie in Japan.

- Ashley

Albeit brief, my time in Japan (and continuing interest) gave me enough insight to impart a few wise words to the newly arrived in Japan, of which I expect a good few are common knowledge, nonetheless…

1. Top tip: never tip!

A friend of mine made this fatal error after receiving Japanese style customer service, i.e. extremely attentive and helpful to the point that they will physically walk you to the furniture shop you asked directions for, then carry your chosen table back your apartment.

This was not quite the case for my friend, but the service he received was of the highest level and deserving of a small reward. As is the norm in many European countries and the USA, he offered a tip, which was refused. He persisted in his offering and left the shop to then find the old Japanese lady from the shop pursuing him down the street and forcing the tip back into his hands.

Now I think we can all deduce the moral of this anecdote…

Q&A: Eye makeup remover in Japan?

Q: I am yet to find a good waterproof make up remover in Japan. I used L’Oreal’s make up remover before but due to its cost here in Japan, which is three times more in comparison to other countries, I decided to go for a bit cheaper option. I bought a Shiseido one, but it doesn’t work that well for me and doesn’t do a good job at removing mascara.

I was thinking, they must have a good make up remover here because Japanese mascaras are known for their toughness and staying power and local women and girls seem to use mascara a lot so they must have a good and strong make up remover…


HOW TO: Find cheese in Japan

Most expats in Japan know how difficult it can be, at times, to find cheese (and I don't mean the Japanese types of cheese). Even when you do come across something like cheddar, it's often more expensive and smaller in size than a giant block you could easily buy in the U.S., for example, for the same price. (And I'm sure size and cost of cheese varies by country all over the world). Strangely enough, ever since I got pregnant, minus the three weeks of smoothies and saltines, I've been craving various American-type foods (which I don't normally crave very often). Lasagna and enchiladas especially. Ok, so those aren't inherently American, but who are we kidding, how much food can the U.S. claim as its own? Aside the altered versions of food from other backgrounds... the kind of food that means "comfort" to me - like my aforementioned lasagna).

Now, both of those meals require a decent amount of cheese, and specialized in the case of ricotta cheese for lasagna. I can easily find cheddar, bagged parmesan and similar cheese at my local supermarket, though the amount of cheddar is quite small and costs around 500-700 yen. One of the closest import stores actually carries cheddar (and various other cheeses you won't find at a local supermarket), and the cheddar blocks are twice as large and only cost around 400 yen (or more depending on the brand you get). Ricotta is impossible to find locally I've found (if different for you, please share below). One of two nearby import store carries ricotta, though for a hefty price at 900 yen (250 grams). Needless to say, lasagna will not be a frequent meal in our home (but it was worth it then).

Before we talk about how to find the cheese you want, let's go over some cheese terminology - that is, Japanese translations. Note: I did NOT include every possible type of cheese in this list. I'm not a cheese connoisseur by any means, but I figured these were more or less commonly eaten. And no worries, cheese names are typically written in katakana, so if you can make out the sounds, you can (usually) easily find the cheese you are looking for.

what are your favorite Japan food blogs?

Someone asked me earlier today on Twitter for some Japan and Japanese food-based blogs (in English, with recipes). Granted, when you first come to Japan you may not know what to do with the variety of new ingredients (unless you had access to them in your previous location). Of course, there are also plenty of ways to locate food you're familiar with to make a wide variety of recipes.

Homemade sourdough whole-grain pancakes...

In my experience, I have found myself hardly limited to what I can make here. Yes, some recipes cost a bit more than what I may have spent on them in the U.S., but overall, I've found a happy medium. My husband and I cook not only Japanese food, but a wide variety of other cuisines, with a special focus on natural/healthy/organic. (My RSS food blog list is so. long.)

So, I'd like to introduce to you some of my favorite Japan food blogs, and if I miss any of your favorites, please share them in the comments! (I know there hundreds and hundreds of food blogs out there, and many more food blogs covering restaurants and the like, but for now, let's just focus on those providing recipes).